Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Family Members Left Behind

A disclaimer note for those visiting: Those who know me know that I am as shaken and heartbroken as the rest of the country about what has befallen our brothers and sisters in the southern states at the hands of Katrina, but I have purposely kept my blog Katrina-free thus far. As a blogger friend of mine so perfectly put it, “I know that everyone is talking about everything going on in New Orleans, so I'm going to let them.” That said, the following entry is simply a string of thoughts on a small piece of the effected population of living things. Please don’t lecture me on my small-mindedness and lack of compassion for my fellow human being because I write of dogs. Thanks in advance.

I love my dog to a ridiculous degree.

No, I’m not one of those people with an extensive wardrobe for him (though I’d love to put kerchiefs around his neck, if he wouldn’t wriggle them off and eat them). I don’t take him to Doggie Daycare while I’m at work so he won’t be lonely (though I probably would if I could afford it). He doesn’t have his own monogrammed velvet cushion to sleep on (he doesn’t need it, as he sleeps in our bed with us). But he is my oldest son and I love him to the nth degree. From the time he was a seven-pound pup to his present-day seventy-pound, circulation-cutting loveable lapdogness, he has been the furry peg of my heart. He is my baby. He is my cherished.

Five minutes of that damn Oprah made me cry the entire 20-mile commute home yesterday, and sporadically off and on through bedtime. She was talking about an angle of the Katrina situation that somehow, I’m ashamed to say, hadn’t even crossed my mind.

As rescue workers go in to help people get out, the refugees have been forced to leave their dogs behind.

This simple statement put a vice grip on my heart that is still in place. I know many people will say, “They are animals. They can fend for themselves.” I don’t think that’s necessarily true. They are animals, yes, and animals have been known to survive nicely without human intervention. But these are domesticated animals, dependent upon their human families to care for them and help provide for their needs. They don’t have the ability to take to the wild, particularly conditions in which thinking, reasoning humans are lost as to what to do as well. They need their people. People who were forced to leave them behind, alone and without a star to guide them.

Some agencies are now going in and helping to get these poor pets to safety and reunited with their families if possible. But there are so many, and even I, a woman who prefers the company of animals to most people, had somehow overlooked this unspoken epilogue subplot.

I know some of you will think I’m a loon for saying this, but I would not leave my dog behind in the mess there. My husband can take himself and my son to safety and shelter – I will stay behind and be there with my beloved pup and help him scrimp and survive until someone came along who could help us as a package deal. I know I would be risking my own life and health. But I love my dog, with all my heart. And he’s counting on me to keep him in safe hands.

I realize that things don’t always happen neatly. I realize maybe my husband and I would be separated, and I’d be forced with a decision to choose either getting my son to safety alone or staying with my dog and jeopardizing my son's well being. Obviously, I would have to choose my son. But please don’t make me say it out loud, because with that I’m saying that I’d abandon my sweet dog. And I can’t even bear to think about it.

The story was illustrated with a distant shot of a small dog, sitting on one of three or four empty lawn chairs in the center of the mess. He sat on his haunches, looking, scanning, with the persistence that only a loving and faithful pet can possess. His ears were perked, but the look on his face showed confusion, hurt, and lonliness. He searched and searched the sea of faces, but couldn’t find his people.


Michael Lehet said...

We always had pets growing up (i'm petless now) but it had to have been terrible for people to make that choice.

I saw an article where someone was boarding a bus to evacuate and they took the dog out of their hands and made them get on the bus, I can't imagine.

Bougie Black Boy said...

yeah -- i, being absolutely single, and family 600 miles away from me for years always ask myself what is precious to me right now. very insightful.

sidetrack said...

There's something about undying faithfulness and the infinite suffering of animals and all of nature that I can't think about for too long or I think I'll implode with sorrow.

Thank you for your regular visits to my blog and for your encouraging words. You're a lovely person and a touching writer.

Bainwen Gilrana said...

I lived in Florida when I was a kid, and there was a time we had to evacuate for a hurricane. It was only a Category 1 (Hurricane Elena, 1985), and it didn't even come onshore where we lived, but we didn't know in advance what the storm would do, of course. So when the call went out to evacuate, we went. The designated shelter for our neighborhood was a middle school several miles away. We went out through the wind and rain, cautious through soggy streets, but we had to leave our dog at home. He wasn't allowed in the shelter.

My cousin and I cried and cried all night, worried that our dog would be washed away by the storm. I was 8 at the time. She was 6. But I think if I had to leave my pet behind and evacuate again, 20 years later, I would cry just as much.