28 August 2008

Patricia's Dilemma

Have you ever watched the movie Sophie’s Choice? Do you remember how you felt when Sophie had to make that one horrendous decision when the guard tells her to choose which of her two children has to die?
That was a gut wrenching movie, one that I swore I’d never watch again. And one I hadn’t thought about in years until today, which brings me to my own dilemma, and sadly a choice.

Here’s the thing. The city has decreed we have too many cats. And I quite agree. I’ve been trying to find homes for the outdoor kittens for months now, but haven’t had any success. Now the city tells me that if I don’t find homes for them by the 1st of September, they will confiscate all my animals (the two dogs and three other cats) and euthanize them all.
There is no room at the shelter, it seems and all animals that come in get a 24 hour chance at adoption, and then they’re killed.

I am a Buddhist. I am not a great being, but simply an ignorant student who asks her lama way too many questions. Likewise, as a Buddhist, I take my spiritual contract very seriously. One of the precepts or rules for ethical behavior, states not to kill. I am going to have to do this. Although it will be by proxy, I am still handing over the kittens to the pound where they will die within 24 hours.

This is certainly not an acceptable situation, and my insides have been torn up by it. I can’t sleep. By 2 a.m. I find myself wandering through the house like a ghost. I can hardly eat. My meditation practice which I enjoy so much has ground to a halt. My productivity as a writer and as an artist has dwindled down to nothing. So I sit watching Bette Davis movies, alternating between raging against the neighbor who turned me in and deep sorrow that I have to do something that I find utterly sickening. Not quite Sophie’s heart wrenching choice, but an excruciating one anyway. At least to me.
I have gone to every rescue agency in my area begging and pleading for someone to take them. I have put ads in the papers, gone to online rescue agencies, talked to people both on line and in person. One or two people have actually come by but once they see that the kittens are black and a bit nervous because they’ve only been handled by my husband and myself, they change their minds and leave empty handed.
And now, while they’re playing and tumbling around in the yard, they have no idea that their lives are about to come to an end.

And here I sit, with my mind caught in an endless feedback loop. I cannot kill. I cannot turn the distasteful task over to someone else to keep me from having to turn them in. If I don’t I will forfeit my dogs and the other three cats as well as the kittens outside. I cannot find homes for them. All avenues are exhausted. I’m exhausted. I am suffering. I am causing suffering. I will cause even more suffering before the month is out.

It would be best, I suppose to get the task done and over with. To put them in the crate and take them to the pound now. But I cannot bring myself to do it. Not while there are still a few days left. I will continue to try to find homes for at least some if not for all of them. In the meantime the kittens are outside playing in the bright morning sunshine, oblivious to how short their lives are, how close death is, and how the person whom they love and look up to is about to snuff that life out.

I understand how these city ordinances have come about. Since animal hording is becoming a problem in this country. But we don’t hoard animals. We simply have some extra outside kitties who keep the mice population down. We would keep them if we could. But we cannot.
And the feedback loop continues.

The only comfort that comes from this situation is that as a Buddhist I also believe in impermanence. Everything is temporary. Nothing literally nothing, not even the universe will last forever. So after the first this too will end. It won’t end prettily and I’m sure I’ll have a few unkind words to say to a few people before the day is out. And afterwards, I know I will never be the same again. But it will be over. And I can see a story arising out of this situation. Like a phoenix.
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