caring can be a privilege
I think it’s a privilege to take care of another individual, especially if the individual is of another species.
In Papaya, I see someone who’s excited to be around me and Asma, who loves her Chube and cilantro (and Bean, her partner), who lives life as best she can despite having limited use of her back legs (and a continuous level of discomfort/pain) after a sudden sickness.
Her needs and wants in life are simple. But, she’s not on auto-pilot. She thinks. She gets curious, annoyed, angry, and happy. She has preferences.
It’s easy to dismiss any other animal as not thinking or feeling, especially if you’re on the lookout for animals that use the same facial expressions and vocalizations and other body language. Even when it’s evident in chimpanzees, gorillas, and other primates in general (some of whom are also able to learn human sign language, grammar and all, and have similar social interactions as humans), it’s still not good enough.
Of course, many humans fumble around with what’s anthropomorphizing, and some people will accuse me of it, as if they can get into any animal’s brain and know exactly what they’re perceiving. We can’t even understand what another human is thinking and feeling at any moment. We have to ask them, if we can’t read it from their expression. But what does it matter? We’ve taken each other as slaves (still do, all across the world) and labeled our slaves as “animals” to justify the act. We’re xenophobic and violent.
Whatever the case, I do have the privilege to see the individuality of other animals. I’m grateful for that, and for the chance to give a handful of these outcasts good, safe homes for the duration of their lives.
When Papaya got sick a few months ago, it was during a trip to DC, when she was boarded with the other bunnies. That first night back home was scary. I was convinced she wouldn’t make it through the night. So I thought Asma and I should let her out during the night, and we’d take shifts sleeping on the ground so that she could be near us if she wanted. (I woke up with with a bunny sleeping near my feet, so I can safely assume she did want that.)
She didn’t die. In fact, she seemed a little more energetic and alert. As the days progressed, we spent as much time as we could with her. With each day, she got stronger and stronger. She never got full use of her back legs, but she zoomed around as much as she could.
Watching her get better was inspiring. I know we were the spark she needed to get better. It may not have been a conscious choice, but humans know from experience (and unfortunately, through experiments) that having a positive mindset is often a big factor in recovering from sickness and keeping in good health. This potential goes for all mammals and birds, at the very least.
We’re her family, and she loves us. She seeks out our attention, follows us around, and grooms us. She’ll settle down and get comfortable wherever we are. And as much as there’s a privilege in caring for an individual, there’s a privilege in being able to build trust with an individual too.
I am very lucky this little old lady trusts me.
Happily bonded for life to Asma (Maryam). Ape-Father to 12 wonderful children. Loves the East Bay. A little punchy. A lotta leftist.
Lucky, and thankful for that.