Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals

May

05

Pain

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The past few weeks have been quiet – unusually quiet for me. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything to do – quite the opposite. It’s just that I have been forced to take it easy.

Like many other people I have injured my back. Two of my discs have herniated and are compressing a nerve in my leg. Once the actual diagnosis was made and appropriate painkillers prescribed, my life became a bit easier and my spirits lifted considerably. Before that I was depressed, mega depressed. The constant pain was just so wearing and even the simplest activities were so difficult – even putting my shoes and socks on my left leg was impossible. I was so thankful to have Kelsea to help me with those chores but then she broke her arm, poor baby and I was back to square one.

It really couldn’t have happened at a worse time but then, that’s life for you. If it was summer, I wouldn’t really have that much to do but no, we are heading into winter. This means handfeeding twice a day, rugging and un-rugging of horses and filling the pens with straw. It also means less daylight hours to get things done.

BUT things are gradually getting better. I am still being very careful because even though I am not in pain, I know the discs haven’t healed properly. Basically, whilst my left leg is still numb I can be pretty sure that there is still a problem. So I am doing what I need to do but very carefully. Instead of stacking the wheelbarrow with all of the animals’ feeds I am making three or four trips. I am learning that sometimes things just have to take a little longer than I’d like. More importantly I have been forced to accept the fact that I am not invincible.

I think we all probably believe this to a degree. Just before I injured my back I had two truckloads of mulch delivered. I was planning to put it into different pens that have become boggy with all the rain. Now conservatively speaking, there would probably be about 20 tonnes of mulch sitting there and I would have moved it with a shovel and wheelbarrow over the course of a couple of weeks – I have done it before.  Now I’m thinking “No wonder you have back problems you idiot”. I’m not 20 anymore. I’m not even 30 anymore and yes I am beginning to comprehend that. It’s a sad moment though, when you realise that your body isn’t as forgiving as it once was.

I do worry about the future and whether this will reoccur. With my lifestyle I simply can’t afford to have a permanent problem. I suppose nobody can though. It certainly makes me realise how much some people have to accept – chronic arthritis sufferers, quadriplegics, motor neurone disease, the list is endless. How do these people manage to accept these disabilities and the pain, discomfort and restrictions they place on their life? And how can they not want to blame someone or become bitter?

The whole experience has also caused me to reflect deeply on the helplessness of animals. The first night after I injured my back I went to bed in moderate discomfort. An hour or so later I was awakened with the most incredible searing pain in my leg. Nothing would stop the pain. I ransacked every cupboard in the house trying to find some codeine as paracetamol didn’t work. There was none. I was acutely aware that this was an entirely new level of pain, one I had never encountered before, and I have had three children. It was an unrelenting pain that caused me to cry out in pain. Poor Marlee was quite beside himself (although everyone else in the house slept through blissfully unaware). As I paced up and down the lounge-room my thoughts turned to the millions of animals who suffer such pain but are unable to help themselves. Although my pain was intense, I knew that in a few hours when the doctor’s surgery opened I would be able to get something to give me some relief. I knew this would not necessarily be the case if I were an animal.

We have forced animals to be dependent upon us yet so often fail them in the most appalling ways. Livestock are brutalised, almost unquestioningly. Even when we do question, we are quickly hushed with the words ‘it’s my livelihood’ or ‘economically viable’. Who can forget that image of the Brahman steer in the Indonesian slaughterhouse with the broken leg being kicked and beaten, eye gouged and water poured up his nostrils in an attempt to make him stand and walk to his death.  Injured animals are routinely carted with no pain relief to abattoirs to make their ‘owners’ a few bucks rather than being euthanized where they stand. Companion animals are often left to suffer sickness and injury rather than receiving veterinary treatment because the ‘owner’ can’t afford it (yet many can still afford to go to the pub on a Friday night or buy that packet of cigarettes every day). 

I don’t actually think I need any more incentive to fight on behalf of the voiceless but it seems that I have received a calling card. And so I am here again, writing and imploring you to think of and act for those who cannot speak for or help themselves.

I will leave you with a story that touched my heart but one that I have buried deep inside me…

Some months ago, some friends and I took our kids on a trip to see the Glow Worm Tunnels in the Blue Mountains – not far from where I live. We came across a kangaroo sitting on the side of the dirt road. My friend stopped her car and got out to take a look at him because it seemed odd that he didn’t move off the road. A few minutes later I pulled up behind her. We approached him cautiously as he was a male and we knew that if he felt cornered, he might act unpredictably. He didn’t, he just sat there. As we got closer we noticed his eyes were completely covered in green pus and he was literally skin and bone. I realised then that he was completely blind and had probably been so for quite some time. It was a hot day so I ran back to the car and got some water and a bowl. He drank over a litre and it was obvious how desperate this poor creature was. We told the kids to pick some grass and they set off in search of some. This was quite scrubby bush and it took some time to find anything. But slowly they returned, one by one and he ate what they offered out of their hands, thankful for a feed which he had been unable to find for himself. While he was eating, I looked closely at his eyes and realised that his eyeballs had actually ruptured. I felt absolutely sick to the stomach imagining the pain that the poor fellow was in.

The sick kangaroo

The sick kangaroo

I also realised that this animal, out of sheer desperation had actually stood on the side of the road in an attempt to get help. It was difficult to leave him but after giving him more water and leaving grass within his reach, we noted his position and drove off. When we had mobile reception, we rang WIRES and about half an hour later when I returned home I received a phone call from a wonderful compassionate man who had organised for a vet to accompany him out to the kangaroo. He asked if he could call me if they couldn’t find him and whether I go back and help them. I agreed but never heard back from them.  They obviously did find him and deep down I knew what the outcome would be. As devastating as that was, I felt relieved that he was no longer suffering.

Animals may not be able to communicate verbally but like that kangaroo or the farm animal staring at us lifelessly through the bars of a cage, they still ask for our help. We need to listen to them with our eyes and our ears but mostly our hearts. And we need to respond, for the simple fact that they unlike us, cannot help themselves. 

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

 

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
John Bunyan

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