As a veterinarian in private practice, I am privileged to work with creatures who possess a dignity that humans can only hope to attain. While we as a species are starting to realize how ignorant it is to compare nasty people to beasts, we are only beginning to glimpse the actual nature of animals. I could not possibly improve on the precision and beauty of Henry Beston’s words:
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
While I did not grow up with pets, I was raised to have reverence and respect for all animals. Since childhood I was taught to love animals I would never own, sometimes never even see except in pictures. Starting in the fall of 2016, I have been writing a wildlife column for the quarterly West Coast Veterinarian magazine on issues ranging from interaction between pets and wildlife, to the perils posed by abandoned telegraph wire to moose and caribou.
Certain individual animals will live in my memory for as long as I have one. I was honoured to meet this mother dog on a trip to Ahousaht First Nation as a volunteer with the Canadian Animal Assistance Team, and to write about her.
In the fall of 2016, seemingly out of the blue, my husband and I adopted a rabbit from the SPCA. As children, we were both familiar with meat rabbits whose lot was to languish in cages and whose passivity we mistook for their true nature. A rabbit with the latitude to express itself is a wonder to behold, as long as you bunny-proof the home first. While I continue to love dogs and cats, there is something fundamentally different and deeply humbling about earning the trust of a prey species. Since this new member was added to our family, I have become aware of the limited knowledge about rabbits among my own profession. This article, published in Veterinary Practice News, sums up the situation. Rabbits: the New Underdog. To help bridge the gap between demand for and supply of veterinary care for rabbits, I launched a petition that was sent to veterinary schools in North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. It is summarized in this article.
I have saved the worst, and the most urgent, for last. There are tragedies that never receive the coverage they deserve because they are, quite literally, hidden from sight. In this case, they are hidden in the wilderness of British Columbia and the Yukon. It has been the position of forestry officials to claim that abandoned telegraph wire no longer poses a threat to wildlife because it has already fallen to the ground. However, the reality is that much of it is still well above ground. The problem is so widespread that, without the federal government’s support, any grassroots solution will be inadequate. petition to clean up abandoned telegraph wire