Possible trigger warning: Animal Cruelty. Subject and mild description only. No photos.
I saw the photo on my Facebook feed. I ticked it “Hide post” because I couldn’t bear to look at it. Then I unclicked it because something inside knew I’d want to see it again, to write about it. And so, this morning I went back to FB in search of it… and it was gone. Probably for the best.
You’ll wonder what it was. Well, let me tell you.
He was curled and cowering in the corner of an easy chair… by the side of a busy road. Waiting.
The caption said he was dumped with the chair that smelled like home. He believed his people would return – of course! as they always had – and so wouldn’t leave that spot to find food or water. They estimated that he’d been there a week, give or take.
I have often talked about photos that share hunted, mutilated and tortured animals… especially when shared simply for shock value. I detest them! A hunter with a deer is bad enough… a large game hunter with an elephant trunk, so much worse. Animal advocates have laughed in my face (and called me a coward) when I say I don’t need to see photos of pigs to slaughter, a beaten donkey or starving walruses at an “amusement park” to know what’s being done. They say people need to see what we are doing to animals. I get it. I just don’t agree. Especially for people like me.
But back to the photo of the dog on an easy chair, starving to death while waiting for someone to come “home”.
IT HURTS JUST AS MUCH as any of the other terrible photos I’ve described.
Here’s what happened when I saw it: I got goosebumps, my stomach dropped, and It felt like a stake through my heart. My eyes immediately welled with tears. I felt for the dog and BECAME the dog… knowing what it feels like to wait for someone who is never returning.
Yes, I am an empath. Yes, I feel things deeply and personally. And yes, it stays with me for minutes, hours… days and years. Yes, for real.
Mixed in are my experiences… and there are the things I don’t talk about often…
The California desert was notorious for roaming strays and dead pets along the roads. I don’t know why… but it’s the truth. It was almost like a dumping ground. Plus, with the good weather, cats were almost always outdoors…. dogs, too… with large expanses of property, many without fences. I saw more dogs chained up outside than anywhere else in the world. You can imagine that if they get loose, they’re running as fast as they can. Away. Anywhere but the stake in an empty yard.
My first husband was not an animal lover. Inconvenient interlopers like pregnant cats or stray dogs who showed up at our door (because the rest of us were animal lovers) sometimes went missing. Sometimes he told me he took them to the humane society. Later, I found out they went to another neighborhood instead, or worse, out to the dry river bed.
Like I say, it’s still a difficult subject even decades later.
He didn’t believe in vaccinations or vet visits – they were just lowly animals to him. They could fend for themselves. (I suspect the person who left that dog on the easy chair thought the same.)
I have my own place within the narrative of the entire situation. I know this and accept responsibility for my part in it. Innocent animals are my weakness. I should never have allowed ANY pets into the family, once I knew what he was capable of.
Instead, I grew an armor. I had to, to survive.
To the children, the pets “ran away”… one of the very few times I went along with the lies, to save them hurt. Through the years, as they got older, they were able to have pets because they took over all care. Their father, to his credit, realized he’d done wrong and began to do better. That’s what life is about, I suppose, learning from your mistakes.
As for me, the armor is off. I’m with a man who loves animals as much as I do. Our cats have first and last names, nicknames and personalities that are appreciated. They have warm beds, vaccines and are fixed so that if they happen to get outside (they’re 100% indoor cats) they won’t get pregnant. They are family.
And so I feel deeply when I see posts like the one with the little dog… both from a “who I am” and “what I’ve witnessed” perspective.
I ache because I’m an empath. Also, because I’ve lost pets I loved to someone’s cruelty. And because I know what it is to wait for someone you love to return… and they don’t.
In the meantime, this blog post has been more cathartic to write than I expected and for that I am thankful. I am now able to move from the place of pain and anger to appreciating that the little guy was found and will heal. And then he will move another home where he’ll be loved FOREVER.
Note: I also tell myself that my first husband is gone, along with all the animals who crossed his path. No more suffering for any of them… and I include my first husband in this. I know his story well… and am far enough removed to realize… he waited for many years on his own easy chair. People are the way they are for reasons many of us will never understand. But this time, I do. And for that, my heart breaks for him, too.