I called him “Dusty” because he was found among the debris in a slaughterhouse yard, so weak from starvation and disease, he could barely stand without locking his hindlegs together for balance. I picked him up for $100; just a two-year-old registered Arabian nobody had cared about, on his way to someone’s dinner table.
The veterinarian who checked him out after he arrived in safe quarters told me not to “waste” my time. The horse was so badly malnourished and nearly fatally ill that I would simply be throwing money away. pppIn the top photo, you can see Dusty in his death-ridden days, draining mucus, high fever, skin and bones. We had to be careful moving him; if we nudged him too quickly, he would fall down. The large photo on the right shows Dusty a year later, shortly before he was adopted by a young girl who had forty acres of green grass to give him and a heart full of love.
Still, I wonder if I will have the strength to watch these animals come and go in my lifetime. Like you, while I’m reading and writing, photographing and rescuing, feeding and sheltering, educating and feeling, all those things we hold in great esteem are passing us by: the earth, the sky, the waters, the animals for whom we fight. I watched a child playing on a swing in a park the other day: he was delighted as he glided to and fro through the air, laughing the way only an innocent child can laugh and I thought: My heart is breaking so that one day, because of my work and the work of others like me, your life will be a better one than the one you’re headed for now. I’ll sacrifice “fitting in with the crowd” and sharing every experience the modern-day lifestyle offers most Americans, and enjoying — to the fullest extent, without haunting memories of species depletion, toxic waste disposal and drift-netting cruelties — a walk on the beach, so people, one day, might just treat one other and all those others who deserve it solely on the grounds that they exist, a little kinder along the way.
In the end, we won’t make a difference in this great challenge before us. Oh, yeah, sure, we’ll ease the suffering along the way — for those few like Dusty; I mean, in the scheme of all this, all these billions who suffer, a few is all we can hope to save. The greatest problem of our times is the overpopulation of our species and not one of us has the time, amidst the killing and the suffering of animals alone, to even begin to solve that monumental and terribly complex dilemma. We’ll slow down the inevitable, but I believe, from what I’ve seen in my work for animals in the past thirty plus years, that things will have to get much worse before they’ll get better. And, in a sick kind of way, I guess that’ll be a good thing. When CNN reports — over a warm dinner before our 35-inch color television sets — that the last living rhinoceros has died, will we care then about the endangered species’ run toward extinction and take definitive action to save, say, the elephant?
Get over it, a friend of mine encourages me. Come join the living. You deserve the life you’re fighting for for others. Take it while you can. The rhino and the elephant? They’re history, no matter what you do now. Have you heard them? the naysayers? Do you hear them now? They’ve painted — and created — this ugly picture for us (and they are probably right), so there are days we think about bailing out. But there’s no way to turn away. It’s humanly impossible. Only ignorance is bliss and our eyes have been open too long.
As long as our work makes a difference to somebody — and it has (to many somebodies, ppp and just a few here in this issue) — then there isn’t any reason to set down the torch, not even in the vast approaching blackness of Armageddon. What kind of life would we be living, to know all that we know, and turn our backs? What kind of human beings would that make us? And not that we do it because our conscience tells us to, but because it’s the only thing worth doing, the only path to a whole human being. And because it’s the right thing to do: to work for justice, no matter how elusive it is and has been and may be.
We’ll continue to stand on some patch of untouched beach and look toward the setting fiery sun as some kind of symbolic message from the future, and a bird will pass, silhouetted, against it, reminding us — because there is no escape — that, despite it all, it is better to do something, even if it’s futile, even if it’s small in the grand scheme, than to do nothing at all. It makes a difference to somebody.
We are hopeless romantics in a hopeless romance. I love your heart and your soul and your work. And your company.