Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do We Value Wounded Animals More than Wounded Humans?

I couldn't possibly make this argument any better than Cindy Franks, whose op-ed column appeared in the Dallas Morning News last week.

"Standing on my front porch in the middle of a summer day, I heard the bone-crushing, fender-bending thud followed by the sharp high-pitched yelp that could only be one thing. Struck down by a cruel hit-and-run driver laid the beautiful, caramel-colored body of someone's BFF, without a doubt critically wounded."

"A second driver quickly pulled to a stop just past the crime scene. She timidly walked toward the wounded animal, obviously willing to assist. Upon her touch, the animal raised its head and instinctively bit the good Samaritan on the arm. Stunned, the woman retreated to her car nursing her own wound, most likely regretting the gesture of kindness."

"Another driver pulled to the roadside and walked toward the animal, carrying a lightweight blanket. He wrapped and lifted the 50-pound-plus pound dog and gently placed her on the grass above the curb so as to not sustain further injury. He then hurried back to his idling car, probably feeling a good deed had been accomplished."

"About the time I reached the dog's side, yet another driver appeared at the curb. "I know a vet that will take this dog right now, do the necessary surgery and keep her until the golden retriever rescue can make arrangements to place her in a care facility to recover fully," he said. The dog would eventually find a new home, he promised."

"Walking slowly back toward my front door, I wondered how different this story would have been if it were a person in need of this kind of intervention. I was thinking especially of the drug- or alcohol-addicted, the abused, the mentally ill, the homeless. Who has the plans to see them fully recovered and sent to a new, loving home?"

"I know why I was pondering this. It was that trip downtown I made recently. I visited the Dallas Farmers Market, where the abundance of homegrown fruits and vegetables was glorious. Most people were like me, on a field trip in search of the finest tomato or sweetest peach, but I began to notice others – people with haunting, hungry eyes and filthy, mismatched clothes. That's when I realized I was a stone's throw away from the $21 million, state-of-the art homeless shelter called The Bridge. But if The Bridge was as successful as I had heard, why did these lost souls look so forgotten?"

"A quick look at The Bridge website back in my comfortable home told me that the desperate multitudes are not required to seek substance abuse treatment. The ones who do seek it, however, are likely limited to a two-week residential stay in a treatment facility not offered at The Bridge."

"Two weeks? Then what? Are they cured? What good is a bed, a meal and some counseling if a gaping wound is present? That would be like sending our wounded dog into the vet for a meal and bath."

"Having researched this a lot, scouring dozens of North Texas websites for treatment centers, I've realized that addicts are no longer capable of helping themselves. They have lost their will and purpose in life. They
cannot make the choice to hoist themselves up and snap out of it any more than the wounded dog could get herself to the vet. But for people, personal freedom and privacy laws prevent intervention."

"If our rehabilitation opportunities are brief and services are no more than a system of expensive revolving doors, it is no surprise to see people of all ages struggling to survive. Addiction is a progressive, chronic, recurring disease that screams for medical attention before becoming fatal. The incapability of saving one's self does not negate the need to be saved."

"At the risk of oversimplifying my observations, I wonder if addicts would be better served if they had just been born golden retrievers."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tending an injured animal (human or otherwise) is not a valid comparison to tending the abused, dejected or otherwise chronically ill. It is a rare (thankfully) occasion when a human who is struck by a car or otherwise severely injured is not tended to immediately. Indeed, the greater the injury, it seems, the more attention the person receives. But countless animals of all types who have chronic or hidden conditions are ignored by us every day. Consider the stray cat who is perpetually pregnant, or the stray mutt with mange. These animals are likely to be treated no better than the homeless we pass in the underpasses. If the "nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members," (Gandhi), then it is no surprise that our animals are treated no better than we treat each other.