Will we ever learn to respect all life?

Respecting life is about a whole lot more than showing compassion to other people.

Respecting life is about a whole lot more than showing compassion to other people.

Never before was I as interested in the lives of halfway strays as I have been in the last couple months. Halfway strays, by my own definition, are animals raised by owners who were never fit to own them in the first place.

From my kitchen window I watched as two of the most beautiful pups I’ve ever seen grew up, raised in the most peculiar way, by a bitch that had not produced them. Their real mother was a Pit Bull that was never particularly interested in caring of her own pups.

The odd thing was that the surrogate mother earlier been the unpredictable type. She growled and barked at everyone, never mind that you had lived next door long before she came into the picture. It didn’t matter that I used the same route every single day; there was no getting familiar. Prior to discovering her maternal instinct she would race after children on bikes, chase anyone who dared run past, and frantically bark at the wheels of moving vehicles. The only time her playful side came out was when she played with her Pit Bull friend.

And then the pups arrived. Trust me, there’s a purpose to all of this. Be patient with me and let the story unfold.  From the Pit Bull’s litter, two pups survived. And they were without a doubt among the most beautiful I’d ever seen. “The Twins,” I’d call them, even though they were clearly not identical. They were elegant, independent and carefree, and brought about changes around them of which they were not aware.

The Twins grew up gleefully rolling around in the grass, nipping at each other, completely unaware of what St. Lucia had in store for halfway strays, or, for that matter, stray animals in general. As the months passed the pups transitioned from the sweetest you could ever imagine, to jumpy and vulnerable, scarred by life, in some ways, literally. Their love and trust for people quickly faded, and one of the two grew to be fearsome and unapproachable, while the other remained as sweet as could be.

Life progressed and the first of the two had her first litter. Thirteen in all, as my younger brother and I discovered. Her affectionate nature made her an easy mother, but things were everything but peaceful from that point as the other dogs took it upon themselves to bring that number down to one more manageable, likely considering things were hard enough as they were, with just so many of those raw crab delicacies to go around.

There was nothing the first-time mother could’ve done to prevent the four other dogs, including her adoptive mother from feasting on her pups. In no time at all the number had dwindled from 13 to three, to two-and-a-half, considering one of the three was physically deformed after having been saved by its mother from being a dog’s dinner. Survival of the fittest, that’s what it was all about. The injured pup didn’t live longer than a couple weeks more; neither  its mother.

I’d grown accustomed to watching the lives of these animals unfold from my kitchen window, and was devastated to learn that one of The Twins had been run over. Another of the clan had also disappeared. Now there were three, excluding the two now orphaned pups.

It’s strange the way things happen, and in this situation there was no way I could’ve predicted what came next: the surviving twin slowly but undeniably took the pups under her wing. It was a twist of fate that seemed somehow preordained. The pups looked exactly like the previously ferocious living twin, down to their black and white
spots, and there was no way anyone who hadn’t been watching their lives unfold would’ve been able to tell otherwise. Life went on for the halfway strays, as it should for us all. They made their circumstances work in a way that came naturally.

I couldn’t help relating this dog getting run over, to my own experience, losing a pet I loved in the very same way. I thought about how little people seem to value the lives of animals, particularly on this island. I recalled being on a public bus en-route to Saltibus, when a dog got in the way of the hurried driver. Rather than slowing down, the man plowed straight through, running over the animal without hesitation. The sickening thud was followed by what sounded like the dog’s body scrapping against the underside of the bus as passengers inside raged.

I looked back but all I could see was darkness. The evening had already settled in, but I knew this was an experience I’d never forget. The driver remained unapologetic, and his was not an attitude I hadn’t encountered before.

Even more than just respecting the lives of animals, I thought about how different life would be if people could make that one step toward respecting life in general. Surely, caring about animals would make it easier for people to feel compassion toward fellow human beings? Human compassion extended from every person to every living being in this world. Certainly that would be the route to a more peaceful planet!

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