Saturday, February 04, 2012

society for the prevention of cruelty to animals

Being the awesome and involved mother that I am, I went with Elphine on a little field trip on Wednesday to the SPCA in Ithaca. Wow. Talk about the hilton of SPCA's....I don't even know how to complete that sentence. Each dog has a private room and the cats have little sort of condos with gorgeous big windows and climbing structures. The animals receive up to date and thorough dental care--we watched a cat sleeping peacefully while having its teeth cleaned and a cavity drilled--not to mention medical care. The dogs are walked and played with individually every day and the cats are petted and played with. Each room had the name of whoever payed for the room and a quote by that person about some particular animal they loved in some kind of hip font. The front desk was modern and pristine with ultra modern fancy chairs so the person coming to consider an animal would be comfortable and feel happy.

"We work really hard," said our guide, "to place our animals in a forever home."

As we went round and looked at everything she often spoke of an animal's "forever home."

And me, in my sarcastic nasty way, kept thinking all the time
1. so many babies deserve a 'forever home' but never manage to see the light of day. No slick beautiful individualized birthing center for them. No birth at all in fact.
 2. so many people around the world would love to have these nice rooms to live in--clean, bright, food, water, medical, dental care.

Now, of course, as a political conservative, and a christian (oh shoot, those should have been put the other way round, oops) I don't for a second begrudge all the lovely cats and dogs at that nice shelter the lovely and wonderful care they're receiving. And I'm delighted that they are all adopted and they avoid so much suffering. Except that the whole place, what with it being Ithaca and all, just breathed an air of moral superiority. As far as I can see, animals, in the west, are a thousand times more valued than people. I speak hyperbolicly of course. It's probably more like two thousand times more. We pour money out like water for our animals. Me included. I spent 400$ once for a cat ultrasound of all things for a cat that then died.

"Animals are so special" our guide said, "they love us and accept us and are always happy to see us when we come home."

Well, that's true. And people can be rotten mean. And turn out badly. And cost a ton more money. And not be happy to see us when we come home. Maybe I've been reading too much Mark Steyn lately but it just seems like as a society we've given up. We're not interested in the work. We want a warm cuddly to see us through our days but can't be bothered to relate to other people in a meaningful way, to care for one another through the difficulty and mess of human life.

"What should you do" the guide asked toward the end, "if you see someone being unkind to an animal?" The girls in the group thought about it and decided it would be good to tell a grown up.
"That's right," said the guide, "or you can call the police, because its against the law to be unkind to an animal." She gazed at us meaningfully and paused to let the full weight of this important message sink in. My own child is very interested in the law. This impressed her very much. I don't think she was planning to be unkind to an animal, but the threat of the law will certainly bring her in line. Of course, other times, we've talked about how the law allows us to kill babies before they're born, just because we want to.

I didn't bring it up on this occasion. We went home thinking about that future day when we will convince Matt to let us have a puppy, because dogs and cats are wonderful and we love caring for them. But more than that, let me just buck the cultural trend, I love the church because in the church people struggle to relate to one another and care for one another and do the hard work of building relationships even when its very painful and hard. And we don't need money or fancy stuff or nice fonts, we really only need Jesus who comes into the middle of it all and gives us himself.


Anonymous said...

This is a thought-provoking essay. It intersects in places with many thoughts I've recently had in Ithaca where we have just had our 8 year old cat saved from the brink of kidney failure by the good Cornell vet hospital, who then trained us to re-hydrate and medicate her so we can prolong her life considerably. I haven't been in the SPCA but have dropped into their storefront operation in the Triphammer Mall where mainly cats are on display, in effect, to hasten adoptions and raise some funding.
Thinking about why exactly Western people have developed this asymmetric relation to pets, often to the unjust exclusion of other people, I have concluded it is a bad fruit of the pushing of sacramental and Catholic practise out of our social life (of course a Cornell education may do this, in spades). The huggable, responsive animals are in place of people we are no longer encouraged or often permitted to touch or caress daily from societal disapproval, even including one's own family members. In the Latin societies where much more interpersonal embracing and the like are smiled upon, one doesn't see so many pampered pets - though of course, one may see miserable, starving neglected dogs and cats. St. Francis had a very pervasive effect on the Western world partly for his 'inter-specific' gifts of relating to animals, for a good reason. It makes people really happy to save animals, as well as to save people, and it's 'acceptable'. So I think it is crucial to emphasize God wants us to do BOTH, not one to exclusion of other. No prominent personage demonstrates this better than Benedict XVI, famous for the straggle of cats that followed him as Cardinal Ratzinger in the Vatican because he fed them scraps and nursed their wounds, and more recently as pope for requesting at a major official Sunday luncheon before it was served whether some of the pasta might be set aside to feed starving local cats afterward.

jeanie said...

---And we don't need money, or fancy stuff or nice fonts, we really only need Jesus who comes into the middle of it all and gives us Himself....
perfect perfect perfect.
I have only been able to meet you once when we worshiped with Good Shepherd, but it seems like I have known you and your family forever. Thank you so much. God Bless you.

Dr. Alice said...

Reading this, I was suddenly reminded of an old Doonesbury cartoon set in Vietnam. An American and a Vietnamese meet and have some sort of conversation about animals - I forget the details, but it has something to do with the Vietnamese eating dogs and cats. As the two characters part, the American thinks: "They eat pets! Savages!" and the Vietnamese thinks: "They feed animals and let people starve! Savages!"

I thought it was one of his better cartoons.

Kat said...

It used to be only the San Francisco ASPCA that was so fancy and "modern." It got many write-ups, so now every pretentious area strives to be just like them. I wonder how many animals could have been fed, rather than put down (and contrary to popular belief, most ASPCA and Humane Society shelters *are* kill shelters.) if they didn't have TV's in the rooms... Two of are cats are from the SFASPCA, and I also think it gave them Ideas of how they should be treated. LOL

I do hope that the "be unkind to animals" is your own summation, and not what the ASPCA tour guide really said. The dog thinks I an being very unkind to him whenever I give him a bath, but it's not exactly illegal. He would totally call the police on me, if he had opposable thumbs, though. Well, maybe he wouldn't, but the cats would. They have no loyalty. ;)

The other half of at least the "caring for the needy" portion of it can be partially laid at the feet of the Welfare State. Since the perception is that the ASPCA takes better care of these animals and/or tries harder to get them adopted than your average city pound, the donors think the need is there,m and donate and support them heavily. But as Romney himself said this week (giving the Democrats so much fodder) the government feeds and houses the poor humans, so the perception is that there's not as much need to donate your money toward those things. They also don't put commercials on television all day and late night long, with sad and dirty American children to the soundtrack of Sarah McLachlan , telling you how much these children need your help. All the commercials or talk show spots I do see can come up with is how many American children are "in danger of becoming hungry" which really does make the need sound a lot less pressing to me.

It being illegal to harm an animal but not a fetus (unless someone other than the mother harms it, and then it's murder) comes from the "modern" laws sitting next to the old laws. And yet, very few people see the hypocrisy of it. Or at least admit to it, with NOW and the ERA, etc screaming so loudly.

MomCO3 said...

This is such a wise, important post. Thanks you, Anne.

Leigh said...

Loved this post! You put my thoughts into much more eloquent words than I could have found! I work as an adoption consultant and am a mother today because a woman I never met did NOT choose to abort, but instead chose a family to give her child what she could not.

I am grateful every day to those women who make those two sacrifices: the temporary sacrifice of their body to sustain another of God's creation and the on-going sacrifice of being selfless enough to want what is best for the child instead of what they want for themselves.

I wish some of the luxury cat-condo funding could find a way to help us save our children.

Anonymous said...

Your reaction is perfectly normal, and it's not because there was any begrudging the animals anything, but a reaction to the lacking of the same cognizance of the right to life and respect for innocent human life. It's great that the life of animals be cared about, but by the same token, Christians speaking out about the need to celebrate human life, are mocked, and that innocent human life is denigrated. What I know I feel when I've had a similar reaction, is that those who claim to care so much about animals, or others, but don't care about innocent human life, are completely disingenuous.