I finished reading Wesley the Owl and I can't believe how good it was. I wrote a short review for it over in my goodreads bookshelf, but that definitely didn't do it justice. The book was beautiful, and so much more than a memoir. It brings in themes of science versus spirituality (and how the two actually go hand in hand, if you look at it from a certain perspective) and brings everything back to the Way of the Owl. The Way of the Owl has a lot to do with loyalty and emotion and respect, which are things that people need for all living creatures, not just other human beings.
Stacey O'Brien broke into the world of writing with this book, and although it sometimes shows I think that just makes the book all the more heartfelt and honest. She's not worrying about making the story masterfully crafted, or making it mean more than it is. The book is about her relationship with Wesley the owl, and the relationship is a beautiful one. If course, when it came time to describe Wesley's demise, I read the words but tried to speed through it as fast as I could, so that I would be able to stop crying asap. At that point, I felt that Wesley had taught me almost as much as he had taught Stacey, though of course that's impossible considering I only knew him for about 250 pages, and she had 19 years to fall in love.
I've never liked stories, even the most fictional ones, where animals are in trouble. I for some reason have no problem with it when people are in danger. I think this has a lot to do with conscious decisions. We decide to wage war (over what? Land?) and gun each other down. We waste precious time and energy designing the best ways to kill each other, when we could be putting a LOT more effort into efficient energy, understanding each other regardless of...well...everything..., etc. Now, I'm not at all pretending to understand how the intricacies of government run, or the ins and outs of politics. I do like living in society where there is a government in place and I think that we have been living in a time and place for centuries now that to decide against one would be foolish. However, I wish we didn't. I wish we could all get along without a problem, that we could let each other live in quiet harmony, share cups of sugar and loafs of bread. I wish no one would feel the need to steal, or commit any crime against another human being. I wish we could live more like our "lesser" animal societies do.
I'm not a fool. I know that animal societies are not all fun and games. There are wars against tribes and survival of the fittest and it's all very savage. But where's the harm in that? If you're too weak to keep up, why SHOULD the rest of your tribe slow down and risk getting hurt or running out of food? I'm sure that's some kind of weird philosophy that someone's going to point and me and be like GOD YOU'RE SUCH A MARXIST (I don't understand philosophy, either...) so whatever. Call me what you like. It may just be the living situation I'm in right now, but I don't think it's fair for the strongest member of the pack to have to support everyone else. Either learn to keep up or learn what it means to be left behind. Your fate is in your hands, not mine.
Anyhow. Back to the animal movies. I hate animal movies, for the most part, because I know they're going to begin or end in tragedy for the animals that I fall for the hardest. I can watch Finding Nemo in pieces, but not all at once. I can listen to The Lion King soundtrack all day long, but not the stampede music. And fuck if I'm going to watch that scene. On the flip side, I love Inglorious Basterds.
There's just something about animals getting hurt, even if they're bringing it upon themselves, or the causes are natural, that kills me every time.
This all got worse in spring 2009. April 2009. April 3, 2009.
That's when Blue went away. I was at Goucher, and I knew he was sick and when my mom was calling me a thousand times I knew why but I didn't want to hear about it. So I didn't, until late in the day. It was almost better that I wasn't there because I just couldn't handle it. I had to sit and say goodbye to SamWise the summer before, and it was all very abrupt and just sucked and I can't keep writing about it too much because really, it's not even something I can describe. So when I knew Blue had gone, too, I was almost (selfishly) glad I wasn't there. The only regret is not getting to say goodbye ever to him. Sure, I said it in prayer and thanked God he wasn't stuck here, on Earth, sick and in pain anymore. Because animals don't let you know when they're sick and in pain. In the wild, that would be their undoing. So my last memories of Blue are of him looking slightly older, a little thinner, but still in good spirits and...
It's been two years now. I've tried so hard not to think about it that I can't remember much. Just that he was there, and then he wasn't. I remember, of course, as we often do in situations like these, all the things I didn't do. I remember the times I pushed him out of my cereal bowl, the times I yelled at him for pooping on the floor, the times I didn't want to go out in the cold to walk him. I remember how terrible he smelled when he got sick, and none of us knew why.
I remember how gentle he was around CJ when she was home, and then I can't help thinking of when CJ left, too.
This is a dangerous path I'm on, but it's one that I really wanted to write about. It's a path I think about every time I consider getting a new pet. I have four parakeets at home that I hate not taking care of. I want them with me, I want to sit with their cages open listening to them sing. I get mad when they screech at each other, but I think I've learned from Stacey that they're just imitating what they used to hear Sarah and I do, which was scream pointlessly instead of just talking.
All of these pets relied (or still rely) on me, and any other pet I bring into my life will do the same. I think about all of this when I think about Buster, and I want to do right by him everywhere I did wrong by Blue. Of course, I do this sometimes to a fault when I slip him scraps of my food and take him everywhere with me in the car. But he's so small, "portable" may as well be in his name. And unlike Blue, Buster knows what it's like to truly be cast out in the cold and literally unloved. Blue should have been treated like the Knight that he was, instead of just like a dog.
I think one of the reasons I like Jer's family and his house so much is the animal presence. Even though it gives me allergies like whoa, I just love being there. The animals run the house, they're members of the family rather than an "other" presence, and that's how I want my pets to be. His whole family loves the pets like I've never seen a family love pets before. They really try to understand the way that the pets love and feel and why they act the way they act. They concede that the animals have a full gamut of emotions and can be just as easily depressed or excited as we human beings can. It's not only human nature to think and feel and react accordingly, it's animal nature, too.
Stacey talks about how Wesely brought spirituality into her life in an almost tangible way, how she could look into his eyes and see the vast expanse of the universe, and how it made her feel her place among the stars. My pets have done the same for me, but none so powerfully as CJ did. Regardless of the circumstances by which CJ came into my life, or the ones by which she almost was taken away, she was a gift from above. It was the most tumultuous, hopeless year ever (yes, moreso than the year that would follow) or would have been without Ceej. She brought tranquility, she took care of me when everyone else was more willing to abandon or scold me. She reminded me that there was something more than me at stake, and that there would always, eventually, be a tomorrow worth waiting for. She showed me what happiness and joy looked like in a time when those elements were literally vacant from my life. These are the kinds of things that only animals can do. People worry. People hold back. People have to take care of themselves before they worry about the girl who has given up on taking care of herself. CJ never did those things. Blue never did those things. Buster will never (really) do those things. CJ was perfect. People may always have flaws, but CJ was perfect. She showed Willow Bird exactly the same amount of care and respect that Blue showed her.
At the end of the day, losing a pet is one of the worst things in the world. People who don't understand this... I don't understand them. Taking a pet into your home, regardless of what kind of pet, is like having a kid, in my opinion. You are telling this creature that you're going to take care of it, no matter what. You're going to make sure the animal is comfortable, well fed, taken care of, happy. And in turn, the pet will thank you. You abandon that pet, and the pet knows what you've done and will never forget. They're incapable of forgiving. It's not that they don't want to forgive you, but they can't trust that you won't slip up again. (and really, if we all treated each other this way, don't you think maybe things would be better? I bet if we were all less forgiving, we would be less likely to abuse each others' trust. There's no REASON to treat another human being in a less than exemplary way. Try treating EVERYONE exactly the way you want to be treated, and see if anything changes.) I'm not saying that this is something I practice, but it sure is something I strive to practice. I certainly don't go around violating other peoples' trust, I would hope you'd be willing not to violate mine.