Friday, August 22, 2014

Experiencing the Inherent Worth and Dignity of All Beings

Reflections from Three Unitarian Universalists

Holly - A Cat

We had our beloved tabby cat Holly for 21 1/2 years.  For a number of later years, we followed a nightly ritual.  After supper, as I did the dishes, my husband would nap on the sofa.  Holly would jump up and join him.  After my settling in my chair opposite, Holly would raise an eyebrow, jump down and come over by me to jump in my lap.  Then we would read together, with stroking, for an hour or so.  If the portable heater was on, she would gradually stretch out fully, like a rag doll, across my lap.  I loved her so and miss her still, ten years next year. - Donna Estry

Tanya Tissues - A Dog

once had a dog named Tanya Tissues. I was quite young then in what should have been my kindergarten years. My mother, her girlfriend and I lived on the streets of Sacramento. We were in and out of motels and drug dealers' houses, hospitals, and battered women shelters. We found Tanya Tissues in an abandoned lot - glued to the rear of a Rottweiler.... they had been copulating and seemed to have gotten stuck. She looked so terribly embarrassed and upset. My mother found a hose and blasted the dogs with water until they were able to separate. (I'm uncertain as to the logic behind this move, but in those days, my mom could do no wrong). Once the affair was over and the two were disjointed, Tanya followed me from then on out.

My mother was/is an IV drug addict and the company we kept was less than angelic. When she would nod out, or tweak out and vanish, Tanya Tissues was quickly at my side,  nudging my arm, whining until we would lie down and cuddle. When there were fights or I had been intruded upon by her 'Johns' or fellow using acquaintances, Tanya Tissues was always there to try and protect me or to comfort me afterward. She learned eventually, like me, that we had to sit quietly when violence ensued, or we would be included. So Tanya and I would go on glorious adventures through dumpsters and alleys and warehouses. You name it. She always started the lead by pawing at whatever door was keeping us in their company. 

I don't recall how I came up with the name Tanya Tissues. Perhaps because she acted as a tissue box for me in times of crisis? However, this is unlikely as I don't think I was that capable of analogy at that ripe age, but was rather quirky and imaginative, a trait we both learned would get us out of any fix.

Tanya Tissues eventually became swollen with what I imagined were her old friend, the Rottweiler's young. My mother said she would take Tanya to get an abortion and be back within a few days. I was later told that the abortion went badly and Tanya Tissues was in heaven with John Lennon (my favorite musician at the time). Ever since these events, animals, both real and imagined (imaginary pets), have held a higher status in my mind than any list of friends, family or species. - Tristan Paul

Trinity - A Dog. Sirius - A Cat. Animals on Farms 

A dog that I and a former boyfriend had adopted together died suddenly in an accident 2002. Our dog, Trinity, was only three years old at the time.  When my friend called me at work to tell me about the accident I was devastated.  I was too upset to stay at work and got a ride home.

After mourning for several hours I finally fell asleep.  When I woke up my newly adopted cat, Sirius, was curled up in my arms.  While he was an affectionate fellow, this was highly unusual and he had never done it before.  I truly feel that he knew I was grieving and had tried to comfort me at other times when I showed signs of distress.  His sensitivity to my emotions and desire to comfort I feel is dignified and very appreciated on my part.  

Our close connections with our companion animals who clearly show caring behaviors are just one way to experience the inherent worth and dignity of animals.  I've been vegetarian for almost 20 years, but fully opened myself up to the reality of the lives and deaths of farmed animals, so similar to the dog I grieved for and the cats that I love, and went vegan in 2010.  I feel that rejecting the commodity status of sentient animals is the greatest way I demonstrate that I witness the worth and dignity in other living creatures and to have a smaller environmental impact on the earth we share with humans and non-humans alike. - Sara Andrews