Last night, I arrived home with three dear friends who helped me host a day-long animal advocacy conference in Oakland. It was an incredible if not exhausting day, and we had only 20 minutes to rest before needing to head out to treat the staff and speakers to dinner.
Three of us went into the house, and my friend Amanda came in a couple minutes after us — distraught. Our little deer Pious was lying in the corner of the house just at the base of our front stairs by the door. He was dying, and I hadn’t seen. This little guy who was born in April suffered an awful injury in early June that I’ve spared you all from seeing. It was very difficult to bear witness, and it was even more difficult that (after consulting with several wildlife rehabbers) he was past the age where fawns can be taken and treated. A few weeks old, yes. Over a couple months old, too difficult for a number of reasons.
And so I appointed myself his guardian, providing him with — as always — a quiet place, a lot of water, a salt lick — and monitored him to see if there ever came a time where I COULD intervene to ease him of any unnecessary suffering.
Last night was that night. We sent some of our group off to our dinner to meet with the rest of our party, and I immediately began making calls. I’m so grateful to the non-emergency dispatcher who, when told of the situation, voiced her compassion and concern. She sent out a call to Animal Control, and within an hour, he came out to relieve Pious of his suffering.
I feel so grateful that Pious chose to die in a location visible enough for us to see him so we could help. Yes, I realize that free-born animals die all the time and “it’s part of nature,” but I believe where and when we can appropriately intervene, we should. As humans, we impose our lives on animals in every way and intervene in ways that negatively affect them all the time, so I have no compunction about what some would consider “interfering” with nature when it alleviates unnecessary pain.
I am so grateful the animal control officer who came out hasn’t yet suffered from “compassion fatigue” as so many do in his profession. He was gracious and kind as he tranquilized Pious and brought him back to animal control to give him the gift of a painless end. I’m sad, but I’m so relieved that this little guy doesn’t have to struggle anymore. He was such a fighter these last two months, and he worked hard to keep up with his mother and brother, even after his lower limb atrophied and fell off. It was very difficult to watch, but in bearing witness, I was able to help indirectly — if not directly in the end.
The animals we live among are our fellow residents. And today I just want to honor one we have lost. He has a name, and he will be remembered.
This morning, I’m leading a walking tour from Jack London Square to Lake Merritt of the history of animal protection in Oakland in the last century. Many before me have borne witness to suffering and intervened (and continue to intervene) to help our local animal residents as well as those beyond our borders. And when I come home, I’ll make sure the water is fresh and the salt lick is in place for all who share our neighborhood.
(I’m including a photo of Remus and Romulus, two fawns born just a month after Pious, who are absolutely adorable and grace us with their playful, curious presence every day. I have only videos of Pious, and they’re too difficult for most people to watch. He was beautiful.)
Many thanks to the kind Animal Control officer who supported Pious through his transition.