I believe all life is valuable.
Not just mine and yours.
But also that squirrel that clucks at my dog every morning, the llamas I hope to meet when I travel to Peru this winter and the numerous animals I know I’ll never get the pleasure of seeing with my own two eyes.
It’s the relationships I’ve had with animals from an early age that has led me to this belief.
The day my parents brought me home from the adoption agency, I was also adopted by one of their cats. Despite my grandmother’s warnings, “That cat is going to suffocate her!” and my mother’s relentless efforts to keep it away from me, Mickey Mouse, as I later named her, would not leave my crib.
As ridiculous as it may seem for some, my 17 year relationship with Mickey Mouse has been one of the most pivotal in my life. As a little girl, she was my best friend, my dress-up doll and my only comfort from scary dreams. No matter the ridiculous hoops I put her through, like throwing her into our pool to “really” see if cats could swim, she always came back to me. She taught me forgiveness, loyalty, how to care for something more than you care for yourself and was my introduction to responsibility.
She also taught me how to say goodbye.
When my mother made an appointment for our poodles, weakened by cancer and old age, to be put to sleep, I chose to go over to a friend’s house and play instead of spending their last few moments with them. It was just too big and sad for me.
When Mickey’s mom Stormy was nearing her end two years later, we put her in a bassinet in my father’s den so that she could have peace away from all the other animals and two rowdy kids. Mickey always got along just fine with her mother, but they were cats. They weren’t close like the human relationships I knew.
One day I went into my dad’s den to check on her and to my surprise found Mickey curled next to her in the bassinet. She stayed there the whole day. And a day later, Stormy died. It was then I understood that the best way support someone, no matter what the event, is to just be present.
It’s that experience and a litany of others that led me to believe animals are individuals. Just because they do not express themselves like humans, think like us or clutter their lives with our activities, does not mean their lives carry any less value.
Shortly after Mickey turned 18, her health rapidly began to deteriorate. While her spirit was the same as ever, her body was failing her. When my mom and I decided to end her suffering, I didn’t hide away at a friend’s house. I was at her side at the vet’s whispering “I love you.”
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