My mind has been hijacked today, but I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I don’t really talk about it much on this blog, but I’m rather introverted. People tend to not notice that about me in person, but maybe that’s because I don’t meet that many people, lol. One of my defining strengths is empathy, which makes it easy for me to figure out what people need me to say to them. So even though social situations to me feel draining and awkward, from what I’ve been told, most other people walk away thinking that I’m bubbly and sweet, and only realize that I’m quiet or weird after they’ve known me for longer, lol. That’s a funny concept to me as I sit here on my couch in the almost-dark, typing into the backend of a blog that I don’t bother sharing with my real-life friends. In my head, I’m a tangle. A kind tangle, but not necessarily an involved or super-friendly tangle. That empathy, you see, is tempered with a fair bit of realism, and though I believe in goodness in people, I don’t get my hopes up.
But animals never lie to you. They are very clear. I’ve spent my life surrounded by animals of all kinds, and have never been lied to or hurt without provocation. I did get bitten in the face by a particularly vicious little mongrel, but I was four years old, and probably poked him. Later his teeth all fell out, and I’m not sorry about it. Around the same time in my life though, I kicked a kitten. I swear I was a nice kid, even though this makes me sound downright evil. Anyway, right after I kicked it, the kitten ran straight up to my bedroom and took a dump on my pillow. I DESERVED that dump. My poor pillow didn’t, but that’s beside the point. That vindictive little kitten taught me two of the finest lessons I’ve ever learned. Number one, don’t piss off a cat – you’ll regret it. Number two, take care of your fellow creatures, and they’ll respond in kind.
Growing up, my family had a ton of pets. People knew my mom as that crazy lady who spoke to animals (I once watched her whisper a snake off of a beam in the ceiling and into her hands, so she could take it outside. Creepy, but kind of cool.) Whenever someone wanted to get rid of a puppy or litter of kittens or even a wild creature that they needed off of their property, we’d end up finding it tied to our mailbox or in a box on the front porch, or occasionally in a live trap at the end of the driveway. The house I grew up in wasn’t fully completed, so wild things would also get in through the attic – bats, wasps, snakes, bugs, squirrels, raccoons, and birds all ended up in the house at some point. Once I found a huge glistening beetle under my pillow. Another time, it was a snake curled up in my windowsill. I’m still terrified of wasps, from stepping on them so often on the stairs, and if you’ve never been sprayed in the face by a stinkbug hiding on the bathroom faucet, count yourself lucky. At one point, we had 3 dogs, 8 cats, 4 geese, a turtle, a cockatiel, a parakeet, and hundreds of fish, along with “pet” deer, an opossum, and multiple raccoons who visited nightly for the grub my mom would put out. I love animals, and though it’s something I would have gotten on my own, I’m profoundly indebted to my Dr. Doolittle of a mom. She showed me that the smallest steps sometimes make the biggest impression, and that though animal voices are smaller than our own, they matter deeply.
It’s probably her fault that I have so much empathy for my human brothers and sisters, because I have double that for animals. I love my cats as much as my boyfriend, and I love our office dogs more than my coworkers (save for one coworker that’s pretty awesome and pretty much on par with the dogs ;-). Isabel is the first thing I’d grab in case of a fire, and I’m prepared to be scarred for life if she fights me on my way out of the blaze. That’s why all of the news about the tornado in Oklahoma has just been cutting me to the core. The story of the elderly lady, holding her dog and hiding out from the storm, who was then flung about when the tornado destroyed her house, that just kills me. Thank the gods that the dog came out from the rubble during that video (if you haven’t seen it yet, watch the video here and have a hanky ready). But what if he hadn’t? I can’t imagine holding my pet, praying for the best, then living through not just being battered and tossed about by nature but also knowing that she was right here in my arms and now she’s gone? I’m crying right now. It’s just too much.
Over five years ago now, my best friend, my cat Matthew, disappeared from outside my house. He was my first and last indoor/outdoor cat. He was six years old at the time, almost seven, and though I was relatively sure after a few months that he must have been run over and thrown away, I was never sure. I searched for years. I still drive through the neighborhood with the weird hope that I’ll see him happily sunning himself on someone’s front porch. That not knowing is a killer. It’s what many pet owners and pets are going through right now in Oklahoma. Some pets will be dead, or gravely injured and buried in rubble. Others, many others, will be alive but unable to share their vital information with searchers. Indoor animals that weren’t wearing collars, unlucky animals whose microchips haven’t been updated, birds and rabbits and guinea pigs whose owners would never in a million years have thought they’d get loose. I actually saw a ‘found’ post about folks who found a parakeet today, and another ‘lost’ post about a couple who lost two small burros. They need our voices to get them home.
That’s why I’m so thankful for the social media efforts, and for those who’re on the ground right now, fighting to reunite animals and their human friends.
All day long, the news from Oklahoma flooded my social media channels. I have friends in the state, and though they were all lucky in this case, it’s still harrowing to imagine what their friends and family might be suffering now. The animals are what’s on my mind right now, though. Thinking of those bonds severed, maybe forever, is heartrending. It reminds me of Hurricane Katrina all over again, and brings back so many bad memories of the days after I lost Matthew. But back in 2005 we didn’t have the social media connections that we do now; there wasn’t even that strong of a lost pet community even a few years ago. Today we’re in a much better spot, connectively. Luckily, lots of animal rescue organizations are putting good effort into reconnecting pets and loved ones, and I spent the day sharing organizations and posts on Facebook, hoping to help in a small way.
I have this app on my iPhone called “Transform Your Life.” Every day, it gives me a reminder, something to think on throughout the day in an effort to be more aware. It’s a lovely program, and free. This morning I forgot to check the quote of the day, but later in the afternoon I took a look and had to pause for reflection. The quote is by my personal hero, St. Francis of Assisi, and could not have shown up on a better day. I had never seen it before today, which makes it even sweeter:
“Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it. If you have people who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have people who will deal likewise with their fellow humans.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Tomorrow I’m going to figure out how to better serve in this catastrophe. In the mean time, though, please check out these websites. Share via social media word of mouth to help share the lost & found animals they’ve come across, please. Help everyone find their loved ones.