I went to the grocery this morning just four minutes after it opened, and it was a pleasure cruising down the aisles by myself. I only planned to buy essentials – eggs, the four different types of milk we consume, bananas, Dave’s Killer Bread Thin-Sliced with 21 Whole Grains and Seeds*. Somehow those items morphed into $184. What the even heck? I can’t keep buying all this food if people are just going to eat it.
*Have you had Dave’s Killer Bread? Dave Dahl is a recovering meth addict who spent 15 years in prison for assault and robbery before having an epiphany and joining the family baking business, where he started baking the best bread ever made since, like, Jesus days. It’s so good.
Anyway. On the way home, I was driving the speed limit in my neighborhood and a white pickup truck was coming towardme on the opposite side of the road. As he approached, two squirrels ran into the street and did that little juking thing squirrels do – stop, run one direction, stop, run the other direction, stop, eat a nut. I lightly tapped my brakes in case
the stupid squirrels couldn’t figure out what to do, but the pickup truck guy just kept coming. One squirrel ran in front of me to safety; the other one tried to follow, but the front left tire of the truck just caught him, and he was left flailing and flopping in the middle of the street with his eyes open and blood coming out of his mouth. I know this because I had slowed down, and after the squirrel was hit, I stopped. I slammed my hand against the steering wheel, and shouted, “NO, NO, NO, YOU FUCKING IDIOT” at the truck driver, who was long gone.
Traffic started backing up behind me, and I weighed what to do. The squirrel would die, I knew that. Should I figure out a way to hasten his death? Should I comfort it? Should I rush it somewhere?
Living in Florida means driving past a plethora of road kill every day – raccoons, possums, armadillos, even the occasional snake. I swear, I feel a little pang every single time. But to not even try to avoid a squirrel? To not even care about causing a living thing with a brain to endure pain and suffering before death? I was so goddamn angry, maybe because that squirrel was about the same size as each of the puppies I’m raising in my living room. But I didn’t pull over. I slowly drove off, watching other drivers avoid the thrashing animal. I felt sick. What could I have done, really?
I’m tempted to go on a rant about how squirrels are quite intelligent, and can feel pain. They communicate with each other. They go through elaborate hoaxes pretending to hide food so predators won’t know where they’ve stashed their winter supplies. But I’m not going to do that because the stupid man in the stupid white truck DOESN’T FUCKING CARE and it makes me want to kill him, which isn’t consistent with my point here but COME ON, MAN.
You want to know why I’m raising nine puppies in my dining room (which is also my living room and my kitchen)? Because it needs to be done. Because I believe all suffering is bad, and we need to do what we can to alleviate it. Because my ability to help stop human suffering is limited right now, so I’m doing what I can to erase what pain I see and avoid causing pain when possible. For me, that means loving a dog who needs a soft place to land. For you, it might mean inviting a lonely old man to dinner. Or it might mean something as simple as being 10 seconds late to wherever because you slowed down in order to avoid hitting a goddam squirrel. Shit matters, people.
Listen, it’s just a squirrel. A stupid silly squirrel. There are thousands of them in my neighborhood alone. Only now, of course, there’s one fewer.
For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
Happy Good Friday, people.