Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Dignified Death

Yesterday afternoon a crested pigeon flew into a  glass window on the farm where I live and broke its neck. Our huge black, King Kong of cats, Scotchgard, instantly leapt towards the poor creature but was swiftly diverted by a pack of screaming women who wanted to check if the bird was still alive. It wasn't. I quickly picked up its body and swaddled it in a towel, hoping our initial triage assessment was wrong and that it was merely stunned. I put the bird in our sports room and closed the door so that no inquisitive animals should take it upon themselves to wander in. Needless to say, when I looked at the bird again, I could no longer deny the reality when confronted with full blown rigor mortis. It got me to thinking about its burial. I know that some people will toss an animal's body haphazardly into the trash, but I think otherwise. I firmly believe a human, bird or beast should be allowed a dignified death.  I believe it should be honoured by going into the ground to become one again with nature, which was indeed what happened to my poor pigeon who was buried right outside my office window.

It also got me to thinking about a writer who had a huge impact on me both as a teenager and as an adult – Oscar Wilde. His short stories were, and still are, amongst the most beautiful soul-centred ones I have ever read and they still inspire me and make me weep every time I reacquaint myself with them. My little crested pigeon reminded me of one of those stories – The Nightingale and the Rose – (warning: spoilers ahead!) a story about a nightingale that sacrifices her life to create a red rose for a young man to give to his love who in turn rejects him and the flower he bears. In a fit of pique, the young man then willfully tosses the rose into the gutter where it lies with the dead body of the nightingale getting trampled by horses and carriages and passersby. 

So this is a lament for all the broken bodies of animals labeled as road kill, for the poor dumped pets out there who die carelessly and without compassion, and for the wild creatures that die inhumanely at the hands of the unsympathetic few.

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