21 May 2006

Inspired by Animals

I Protect Animals
Sunday 21May06 9:01pm

When I was growing up I never spoke up for myself. For one, I was too
scared to. But mostly I tried to be the perfect child to balance off
all the trouble my brother got into. And when my step-sisters were in
my life I felt that I was considered the inferior child by my step
father and my mother. I coped by thinking, writing and spending my
time with my animals. We always had an assortment of animals in our

My dog Smokey was part Collie and part German Shepherd. He was born on
my fifth birthday.

He was my best companion for 16 years. When I was little and scared of
the dark I awoke many a night to find him checking on me just as I
stirred and his presence always made me feel protected. He would climb
into bed with me if I asked him to.

We left him behind with friends when we left for British Columbia for
part of the year when I was in grade three. When we came back to
Montreal we saw him scratching at our front door as my mother paid the
cab fare. He turned and looked at the cab and came running over wagging
his tail and talking. He went from whining to howling as he ran around
us telling us he missed us or he was glad we were back or better yet
giving us shit for leaving him.

When we moved above a pizza place that year and things had turned
violent with my mother's boyfriend Frank, I hugged Smokey daily.
Sometimes for hours I'd put my arms around him and he would rest his
head on my chest, never moving away until I did. I was calmed by his
heartbeat. Sometimes I felt that he was the only way I received love.

As a teenager when the rules of the house got particularly strict
because in my step father's humble opinion, they had to make sure I
didn't come home pregnant, Smokey was my get out of jail free card. I
would take him out on walks for hours. I would go to the park where my
friends hung out or show up at a friends house and people who didn't
like dogs loved Smokey.

I may never have spoken up for myself but because of Smokey I spoke up
for my animals. My step father would tease or kick the cats when ever
he was mad at my mother. I would find this anger inside of me that knew
no bounds and feared no one and I would speak up. I told him that the
animals didn't deserve that treatment. They didn't know that they
should hide because he was mad. They were defenseless and what kind of
person picked on a defenseless animal.

I knew the gift that animals gave us.

It didn't really stop my step father but something shifted inside me.
It made me a little braver to speak my mind once in awhile and it
brought me to 16 years old and a readiness to go toe to toe in battle
with him. For two years my stepfather and I fought and I won the
ultimate battle. I knew I'd never let a bully of a man beat me like the
men that beat my mother.

As an adult in my own apartment I adopted Saki, my black cat from the
Humane Society. She hated being in a cage so much that she pulled her
hair out from her backside and her tail. For her whole life I vowed
that I would never leave her in a cage for more than a night. I always
said, "See you later," when I left the house so that she would learn
that it meant that I was coming back.

Saki was my companion who loved our evening ritual of chasing my hand
under the pillow before we went to sleep. I swear that cat understood
what laughter was and deliberately did things to make me laugh. She
was grateful for being rescued from the Humane Society and was super
affectionate. If I asked her for a kiss she'd press her lips on mine.
She placed her paw on my hand and looked at me when she wanted me to
pat her. She sat on my desk when I was writing.

She knew my schedule and if I pressed the snooze one time too many and
fell back into a deep sleep she would meow into my face until I woke
up. When I was suffering from depression she cared for me. She never
let me sleep alone and always had a paw touching me.

When I had Saki for a year my boyfriend Jeff and I were discussing
moving in together. We discussed what our expectations were so we had
an idea of what the other one was thinking. At one point he said
flippantly, "You'll have to get rid of that cat. I don't like cats."
It took me days before I blurted out, "If I have to choose between you
and my cat, I don't know who I'd choose."
"You'd choose the cat," Jeff said.
"Well yeah, I was just trying to be nice about it."

I kept my sweet Saki who was to become the cat I described and Jeff and
I never moved in together although we didn't break up. He came over
one time and pushed Saki the ever friendly personable cat away roughly.
To his surprise, I said, "Be nice to her. This is her house not yours."
He was never mean to her again.

I got 17 years of love from Saki. My relationship with Jeff wasn't half

When she got ill I took her to the vet and discussed my options. If it
was just a mild illness I would do all that was possible. If it was
something major, I would put her down because staying caged at the vet
would be too stressful for her and like being back at the Humane
Society. Obviously there was no way to communicate to her that she was
only in the cage to get better I would never be selfish enough to do
that for a few more months with my beloved cat. But I'd cross that
bridge when I found out the results.

Of course it was serious. She had kidney failure. The vet that called
me with news was different from the one I'd left Saki with. She gave me
the news while I sat at work and promptly talked over me about the
treatment that she was going to start Saki on: forced feedings,
intravenous fluids. Saki would have to stay at the vet for at least a
week... blah blah blah.

I finally got my bearings and said that I would pick up my cat that
evening after work and keep her for a day or so to say my good byes and
I'd bring her back to put her down as discussed with Justin, the
original vet. This woman basically called me cruel and how dare I give
up on my cat the moment she got a little sick. I told her that I
rescued this cat from the Humane Society and I vowed I'd never let her
spend more than a night in a cage. Since she was a cat and not a human
I had no way of communicating with her why she was in a cage. How could
having her feel like I've abandoned her be beneficial to her health?

"Well it's like giving a baby a needle you can't tell the baby what's
going to happen,"she said.

"You're comparing my cat to a baby? When's the last time you stuck your
baby in a cage?"

I was crying by the time I said, "If you can guarantee that my cat will
live for 10 years I'll do it. I want her to live to be 27."
"Oh I'm sorry I can't even guarantee a year."
"And you want me to cause her undue suffering, put myself thousands of
dollars in debt and you can't even guarantee me a year? How can I say I
love my cat and put her through that?"

I sobbed so much at my desk that my boss called the vet back and gave
her shit.

When I picked Saki up the paper work had in large block letters,

I brought Saki home and after she paced and chatted for a half hour,
she spent a sleepless night as she roamed around the house aimlessly. I
called in sick to work the next day and spent the day with my girl. I
tried everything to get her to eat. I gave her a raw egg. I gave her a
cooked egg. I gave her the juice from canned Salmon; baby food; fried
garlic, butter and Parmesan cheese (one of her favorites). She didn't
eat. At 3pm that afternoon she climbed back into her carry case and
went to sleep for the first time since I'd brought her home. I stared
at her and felt that she was telling me that she was ready to go.

I brought her back to the vet. Justin came out from behind the counter
and asked, "What's wrong?"
"She's ready," I said.

He brought me into the room and explained that he'd take her away to
give her medication to calm her before the process would begin as most
pets seem to sense that they are going down and freak out. He told me
about all the needles that she would get and that when he got to the
blue liquid, that was the one that would end her life. He took her away
and came back almost immediately saying that she was so calm he decided
not to give her the meds.
"I've never seen a cat so calm before during this," he said.
"I know, I told you, she's ready."

As Justin started the process I told Saki over and over again, "See you
later. See you later."

I held her after she died. I held her and touched her and talked to
her. I said, "See you later," one more time and I left.
I will never respect people who hurt animals. They give us a silent
unconditional love and all we have to do is be nice to them. They help
sick people feel a little less pain and care for us when we are

I don't care for the cliche about the single woman with her cats as a
pathetic image. Our animals have been more dependable than any human
being in our lives.

Living an Inspired Life

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