Reading the news this morning, I admit I shed a slight tear. What got to me was the story that Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized. Admittedly, I’m not a horse racing fan, although the Kentucky Derby looks like the place to be the first Saturday in May, however it’s a sport that’s not my cup of tea. What got to me is the way a horse like Barbaro is looked at more as a commodity or an inanimate object than a living a breathing animal.
I admit, the Derby winner’s story caught my attention from the get-go. I found myself constantly checked for updates, cried a little back then (which is odd when I didn’t cry when my father died), and wanted Barbaro to be saved.
The horse looked to be out of the woods until a couple of weeks ago when he suffered a number of setbacks prompting Barbaro’s owner to take him down.
As callas and unaffected that I am most of the time, having made fun when younger about the “glue factory, this story struck me hard. It seems the older I have gotten the more sensitive I have become about animal rights.
Trust me, I’m not a fanatic like PETA or any of those loons that try to shut down cattle ranches and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but for some reason I think about the feelings of the animal and if in fact they know what’s going on. While I love my steak and my fried chicken, I admit I’ve thought more and more of eating more like a vegetarian (my mother always wanted me to eat my vegetables growing up), although I don’t think I could realistically do it though.
I think part of my feeling and my affection towards Barbaro comes that as I get older I think of my own mortality. When I was younger I never thought of death, and when famous people died, I had no emotional attachment. Death really didn’t mater to me then. With the death of the Kentucky Derby winner I think of my own pending death, which I hope doesn’t come for a long, long time, although when it does come it will be too soon – even if I live to be 100.
The death of Barbaro only reminds me of what a disposable society we live in. I guess we’re the Wal-Mart generation where everything is replaceable and easier to replace than fix. For some reason, I don’t know why, but I find myself wondering what is going through that horse’s mind? Is the pain so severe? How would anyone really know? Is it a mercy killing or just a killing of convenience?
I remember not long ago throwing rocks at stray dogs that wouldn’t leave me alone or get into the trash. Then I tried to put myself in their proverbial shoes. They just want to survive as I do. I can’t really blame them. I blame their owners or whoever was responsible for being irresponsible with their care of these animals. As a cat owner, I would probably be considered an over-zealous dad who spoils his “kids”. I anyone looks at them crazy or with the intent of distain, believe me there’s a confrontation in store.
In fact, one of the neighborhood cats got hit by a speeding car in front of my house this summer. It was about three in the morning and my neighbor was directing traffic around the cat that was in the middle of the road with streak of blood behind it on the pavement. The neighbor didn’t know what to do, but didn’t want the cat to get run over further. We got a basket, carefully put the cat in the basket and I drove it to the animal hospital. The cat was still alive, moaned a little and tried to move. I held it (a him actually) down and tried to comfort it until I got the hospital.
Once getting there I waited around to see what the prognosis would be. I toyed with the idea of just dropping him off. I thought better of this because of the Wal-Mart generation that we live. If nobody was responsible for the cat, why help him I figured they thought. They asked me if I wanted to be responsible for the cat. I said yes, even though I knew I couldn’t take in another feline. They told me his prognosis was good and how much it would be and I agreed to treatment. When they asked me for a name for the cat I replied, “Lucky”. This cat was lucky I came along or he would be road kill for sure.
After an obnoxious amount of payment to heal Lucky (almost $2,000 which I could luckily afford), I took the cat home to heal completely for week.
Once Lucky got his medical clearance I took him to a friend’s farm. Lucky cried all the way in the car and my heart was breaking. Once I got to the farm, I brought the car carrier into the barn and opened it. Lucky stepped out looked at me and walked over to one of the horses in the barn. He then went to the pasture, turned to me and appeared to nod in approval as if to say, “I can take it from here.” He then jumped the fence and went to play in his new yard. Expensive, I know, but I felt better as a person for it.
That cat was indeed lucky, Barbaro not so. I still can’t figure out how one can put a monetary value on the life of a pet or an animal such as a horse. Barbaro made his owner and many people that day in May millions of dollars. Once he was no longer a moneymaker, he was a burden.
Barbaro’s injury in captivity makes me wonder what happens when a horse in the wild breaks his leg. I’m sure race horses aren’t the only ones to fall and break a leg. Do they commit suicide in the wild from the pain? Do the horses around him put him to out of his misery? The reason Barbaro was put to sleep was because the owner didn’t want to deal with the issue or continue spending money for the vet bills.
The exorbitant amount vets and human doctors charge is another issue to deal with as well. My impression is people become doctors or veterinarians for the money and not to fulfill their Hippocratic oath. Instead of fixing or healing a pet, it’s just easier to put it to sleep and coax the grieving owner to adopt another pet, unless they’re really willing to fork over a lot of money. Not that I’m taking a pot shot at vets, one of my closest friends is a veterinarian, and he actually cares about the pets he sees. What got me to use him was the glowing way his clients spoke of him. He was a no-brainer to pick from. Others I see as after the almighty dollar. Kill off the sick pet and get another one, there are plenty out there, they seem to be saying and thinking.
The reality is it’s just not that simple. I’ve seen one of the most hardened news writers I know almost breakdown in front of me when he had to make the decision to put his beloved rottweiler to sleep. He had already forked over thousands of dollars to save his “child”, but there really wasn’t much hope, and honestly he was going into financial ruin over the matter. So you can’t tell me or anyone else to turn off our feelings and hit the switch. It’s just not that easy. If it is, then you’re a bastard, and hope you’re watching if someone pulls your plug somewhere down the line.
The story of Barbaro has touched millions of lives such as mine who monitored the Derby winner’s prognosis since that tragic day at the Preakness. I can’t believe I felt such emotion over a horse I never saw race. With the horse’s death a part of my youthful idealness died, something I never thought would. I have been touched. And as cliché as it may sound, I hope we’ve learned a lesson from all this, or reevaluate our ideals and motives.
– Wm. Alexander
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