Animal Reflections

The last couple of days I've been reflecting upon humankind's protectiveness of animals. I'm speaking generally, of course. Obviously there are many people out there who aren't kind to animals at all and that kind of ties into what I'm saying. But the trouble we'll go to, even for a wild animal, is remarkable.

Last year, for instance, a black bear found its way into the river in Charleston. (It's not a stretch to imagine this situation because, although it's "downtown" Charleston, it's a relatively small, valley area and it's bordered by woodsy areas on all sides.) So while Black Bear is making his or her way to the river bank, the police come along and stop traffic so the bear can safely cross the road. I'm sure all involved were excited at the sight of a bear crossing the road in broad daylight and were happy to watch the bear climb the hill to safety. By the way, if you're city folk and can't imagine why people would be happy to see a bear headed into a woodsy neighborhood, black bears aren't like the bears of northwest United States. Unless in a highly-exceptional situation (like protecting a cub, being approached when wounded, etc.), a black bear tends to act kind of like a giant raccoon. They like to get into the trash, tear some stuff up, and usually run at the sight of a human. (The instances of black bear attacks are increasing with housing expansion but that's another story. The point is, don't try to make them your pet and it'll probably all work out fine.)

Here's the sad example I'll throw in the middle to kind of buffer it:

Yesterday I was turning onto Route 119 from Lucado Rd. and I saw, to my right, a deer which appeared bedded down right there in the gravel. I'll call it a "she" because of the relative sizes of the head and body...making it likely a female. I pulled over and called 9-1-1 and told them the deer was either injured or trapped (and freaked out) and that either way, help was needed. You might think a 9-1-1 operator would scoff at such a thing being classified as an emergency but he said he'd send someone (and by "someone" I knew he'd be calling the DNR's field unit). So as I sat and waited, the deer tried to get up and run away. Without going into graphic detail, it became clear that both of her front legs were broken. She made it to the other side of Lucado and collapsed at the hillside.

I realized that the deer could probably not be saved (because their front legs are very spindly and personality-wise they're not going to cooperate during healing) but I also realized that she didn't appear to be injured other than the front legs. I called 9-1-1 again and told them, for sure, what was wrong with the deer and that she probably needed euthanized because her injuries wouldn't provide a timely end to her suffering. (I didn't say it like that but instead spoke mostly in short phrases forced through tears.) And then I sat and waited, not wanting the deer to make it out of sight and not being able to simply drive off. (I was afraid she might make it far enough away to bed down and, therefore, suffer much longer.)

Many, many people stopped. Many had seen the deer on the side of the road and had come back around the neighborhood to check on her. Several stopped and asked if I had called, or to tell me they had called, 9-1-1 and to ask how the deer would be helped. People were very concerned about this animal even though the relationship between deer and humans is sometimes sketchy. (Deer will eat up your garden and your flowers and jump right out in front of your car...which can cause human injury, too, or thousands of dollars in damage to the vehicle.)

More time passed and the after-school traffic died down. I waited in my van across the road, about 20 feet from the deer. We both seemed resigned to the situation, and she stared at me and I stared at her and there we just sat and sat. About 45 minutes after I first saw the deer in the gravel, I saw the DNR officer's truck pulling around the turn. He told me he would either "put her down" or help her if he could. That was my signal to drive away and I did.

So the deer couldn't be helped, but it wasn't for people not caring...and it wasn't for people not being willing to help. Had it been possible, I'm positive someone would have had her in their Volvo SUV headed off to the emergency veterinary hospital just down the road.

And then there was the time the combination of roads and animals and people turned out to actually improve some lives. Just a few days ago, a small, confused Beagle wandered onto I-64 and became trapped...and terrified. Motorists stopped along this 60-to-70 MPH stretch of road to try and help the dog. They called 9-1-1 as the scared dog ran back and forth across the road. Somehow the Beagle escaped injury until police arrived. And what did the police do? I know you can guess. They stopped traffic on I-64. The dog took shelter under a truck where the police were able to grab it. Yesterday the Beagle's picture was on the front page of the newspaper and, of course, people were lined up to adopt it.

If you've watched Animal Police, or even just your local news show, you've probably seen the lengths we'll go to to save an injured or neglected animal. You've probably noticed some decently-harsh sentencing for people convicted of animal cruelty (even though some may consider it humans' place to reign over animals and treat them how they wish). So what does it say about society when so many of our members would spend so much time, so much effort, and so much money to help creatures they don't even "own"? And what is it about animals that cause us to get our protective backs up maybe even more than we would for the guy next door? I think it says our instinct is to protect those we feel are weaker. Or maybe its because animals live lives of relative innocence and they lack human sins. Food for thought, no matter what.


emuues said...

Here's one of my all time favorite quotes on the subject. Enjoy.

Tina said...

Beautiful. :-)

My favorite part:

"They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time."

Deadpan Alley said...

Did you see the follow-up article about the puppy?

Tina said...

Aw! I hadn't seen that. What a nice turn of events...except for that second picture where she lets the dog kiss her on the mouth. ;-)

Blog in the Ointment said...

And this is why I LOVE you Tina. Thank you for reminding me of the wonders of humanity all around. These examples point out some of the intangibles about WV that I love. We are a river of conflictions - schools shut down for hunting week around Thanksgiving, how many people stopped to check on that doe?

Beautiful. I love it.

dklion said...

Love the blog Tina!

I was just thinking about this very thing...there is a big inconsistency in human behavior though...we will go out of our way to help an injured animal, but then turn around and kill animals for sport...I'm no hunter, but I'm not a vegetarian I'm as guilty as others...but I'm just sayin...