To say that I’m heartbroken is an understatement. Bug was a sweet, shy little Himalayan Dwarf rabbit (all white, with grey paws & tail, & pink eyes); and Sage was a poofy American Fuzzy Lop (all dark grey, with black face and black droopy ears). I adopted Sage when he was 1 year old and he was my first pet since I lost my childhood dog (a fabulous little Yorkie named “BB”). A couple years later, he bonded with Bug at the kennel I’d left him in while I was away on practicum. How could I not bring both best buds home? That was nearly 4 years ago…
Both were adult bunnies now, and Bug was already moving into his senior days of life. He’d developed yet another GI Tract Stasis infection (rabbits can’t cough up hairballs, so everything they eat passes through their systems; it makes them particularly prone to material backing up in their gastrointestinal tracts), and he wasn’t eating or drinking properly. Sage had contracted a respiratory infection — lots of sneezing (very bad sign for rabbits), and he’d begun to gag, seize and gasp after any given round of multiple sneezes. These episodes went from once or twice a week to multiple times a day.
I’m sure there were many more things I could have done for my furry friends if I had the financial means to do so. Vet fees are expensive. And both bunnies were very sick.
The thought of putting Bug and Sage to sleep had been rolling around in my head for days, but I couldn’t really bring it to the forefront of my brain. Sage would hop up to me and touch his nose to my ankle (“I love you” or “You’re mine” in rabbit-speak); or Bug would sit back on his little haunches, lick his paws and diligently give his face and ears a wee bath. How could I hurt my friends???
But the reality was: I was already hurting them. For all of my love and good intentions to help them get better, my delay in easing their suffering caused them more pain. Perhaps it was only days; perhaps it was weeks. In rabbit years, it may have felt like an eternity.
I’ll spare all of you the dreaded details of the trip to the vet & subsequent events; maybe I’ll share those in another post. Suffice it to say, the shock threw me into a tailspin. Once one decides to put an animal friend to sleep, it’s normally a quick process because, as humans, we can’t live in that amount of adrenaline for long waffling back and forth with this kind of decision.
I’ve been a part of ongoing conversations and action groups aimed at evaluating how Christians are truly helping “the least of these”. Part of helping the least is deep, earnest repentance of how we — as Christ-followers — have tried to “help” who we have defined as “the least”. We have labelled, judged, and then responded to the needs we helped create.
It’s not all bad news. Christians have been living in community and helping, giving and receiving since Christ! However, when we begin to uncover how sending bins of free clothing to struggling communities overseas has perhaps flooded local clothing markets (right out of business), we begin to see the need for doing things in a radically different way.
Were the people donating the clothes bad?
Likely not. 🙂
Were their intentions evil?
Far be it from me to understand the intentions of any person, but my guess is no. In fact, there was probably a lot of love and concern sent with those clothes!
But even love and concern can’t override forms of help that continually place people in poverty… oppression… reliant on crisis interventions rather than long-term restoration/resurrection. Sometimes we help in such ways because we’ve always done it in those ways; sometimes we do so because these ways are still needed at specific times and in specific places (causing confusion); sometimes we keep doing so because we feel a wee bit superior, and we like it (but that’s another level of conversation).
My point is: it is agonizing to discover that we might be a part of the suffering we are trying to heal. It’s not easy to see; even our love and concern, like my love and concern for Bug and Sage, can blind us from taking gut-wrenching steps towards what’s truly needed — towards the most loving thing.
I won’t get over Bug and Sage’s loss for a long time. I’ve been blessed by the messages and comments people have sent me so far. There’s lots of support, and lots of love. We know animals perhaps don’t replace people as far as our people relationships go; but just ask any person with a disability reliant on a guide dog… a police officer paired with a canine partner… a addict seeking healing through animal therapy at a horse ranch… a single person needing living companionship each and every day… any person needing unconditional love… and you’ll meet people who understand the sacred place animals have in our lives.
Our attempts at help will always be broken in this crazy giant global village, until Jesus brings restoration. There are no perfect solutions, and we will hurt one another in our genuine attempts to love one another. But, even in our imperfection, there is wisdom. We learn. We grow. We see how past ways of helping are now not only hurting, but becoming the very causes of the hurt we’re trying to heal from.
But we can change.
We can see things differently. Let’s seek to uplift, love in the hard spaces, and be with one another. Rather than racing to cover a plague with bandages, let’s choose to see the deepest needs — even if that means realizing we, ourselves, are contributors of pain — and become imperfect, messy contributors of healing and love.