Why do some people feel the need to distance themselves from life around us? I’ve heard people say, “I’m not an animal!” Then I have to wonder, “So what are you? A plant? A mineral? Something else?”
Thinking that humans are something else, something removed from and even better than other living things, is dangerous. Knowing that we are animals too connects us to the Earth. We are more likely to be compassionate toward others when we understand this connection.
I think birth and death are two instances when we feel the strength of this connection. People “oh” and “ah” when they see babies, whether they’re baby humans, baby birds or baby crocodiles. Let’s face it, babies are cute, and they entice a feeling of protection out of most of us. Death. I cannot think of any other time when I’ve seen animals demonstrate their feelings more clearly. When they play, when they mate, when they teach their young…we can say that all of these actions can be attributed to instinct, but I can’t say the same about death.
Three instances immediately come to mind:
Driving home from the store one day, I saw a red-winged blackbird swooping away when cars drove past and then immediately return to the road. As I drew closer, I saw another red-winged blackbird dead on the road, hit by a car. I drove past and wondered, was it a mate, a child? Although I was already running late, I called my husband and told him what I had to do. I returned and removed the dead bird from the road. I didn’t think I could live with myself if I let another bird get hit because it was in mourning. As I removed the now lifeless carcass to the tall grass on the side of the road, I noticed many more red-winged blackbirds watching me from perches within the grass.
Years ago, I noticed two baby raccoons on the side of the highway, waiting next to their dead mother. It was a Sunday, and I didn’t know who to call. I felt helpless. Now, I know to call the non-emergency police number. Did you know they have a key to the local humane society and will drop off animals during non-work hours? I don’t know that they’d do the same for a wild animal, but I’m sure they know who to contact.
Yesterday, I noticed two squirrels in the other lane of a local street. One was dead, hit by a car. The other’s actions spoke clearly, “Get up! Chase me! Get out of the road!”
It concerns me when I see dead animals on the side of the road. I understand that it is not always possible to avoid an animal, but I also understand that some people think it’s fun to try and hit them. Why don’t they recognize their connection to other life? Why can’t they see that this hurts them as well as others? What if it were two baby humans instead of raccoons, and their mother had just been struck down? Would those same people drive on by? What if it were a teenager skateboarding in the road? Would those same people try to target him with their car? I think not, but is it really so different?