Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The story of loss and grief in the animal world

Some weeks ago, a female dog in my office premises had lost the only puppy she had. Her pathetic cries and whines that filled the air all day and night were too painful for a human heart to process. I was told that she had even refused to eat when people brought her food. She was found wandering around the office, wailing and barking especially in the direction she had seen her puppy being taken. We had to ultimately locate and request the person who had taken the puppy to return it. The reunion instantly sparked a special glow of love and affection in the eyes of the mother-dog who had been running around for days to find her lost puppy. It was a very emotional moment for those of us who witnessed the entire scene. For those who humanize animals, it was the story of a heartbroken mother and her lost child.

Another female dog had once brought her two little puppies for what looked like a casual stroll along the road in front of my house. Unfortunately, one of the puppies accidentally got under a garbage truck that had just arrived and got crushed. The helpless mother-dog watched from across the road as the driver’s helper jumped down, picked up the dead puppy, loaded it into the truck and drove away. The agonizing reactions of the mother-dog thereafter were very painful to watch. She was so restless and kept running along the road from one point to another and back, barking and wailing at any car that passed by especially in the direction the garbage truck had gone. She was certainly devastated as we could see through her behaviors. It seemed that even the other surviving puppy could not be a consolation for her at that moment. Although she frequently returned to attend to her surviving puppy, she kept on running around like a crazy person, probably with a hope of finding her lost baby.

This motherly instinct in the dog reminded me that even animals have emotions and that they are capable of loving their babies like human beings. The above two stories are a gentle reminder that when we pick up a cute little puppy from the street to adopt it as a pet or kill innocent creatures, we need to think of the agony and pain their loved ones have to go through in their absence. We must know that many animals are emotionally sensitive like humans and that they would also feel the pain like us when their loved ones are snatched away from them. In Buddhism, we believe in the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and in the process, there isn’t a single animal that has not been our mother. This means that if our mothers had showered us with such unconditional love and care even when we were born as animals, the belief that we must treat all animals like our parents makes a lot of sense. If animals could ever talk, I am sure all of us would cry when we hear their stories. Although the stray dogs are becoming a public nuisance in urban centers today, the ways in which those heartbroken mother-dogs reacted to the loss of their babies really touched my heart. I am sure we must find more peaceful ways to live with them in harmony.

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