In addition to being an animal activist and vegan, I have worked with disabled people for 15 years, and people sometimes ask me if there is a connection between animal advocacy and my work with disabled people. I think it’s a philosophy that I share with other vegans: that justice is for all sentient beings, whether they have two legs or four or are feathered, furry, or scaled!
Justice and compassion don’t need to be things we reserve only for others of our own species. After all, all living beings want to be happy and enjoy lives free of violence and pain. In fact, the very nature of compassion is not to be prejudiced but to help those suffering who may need our assistance.
I often think about a young girl, Amber, whom I met when I first started my job as a disability worker. Amber was 11 years old at the time—she had Down syndrome and was an only child. She knew that I had a cat and often asked to see the picture of him that I carried in my purse. After deciding that she, too, would like a cat, her mother and father agreed. In a matter of days, I accompanied Amber and her family to a nearby animal shelter so she could select her new feline friend.
After careful consideration, Amber picked her cat—a 4-year-old named Snowball who, just as her name indicated, was white as snow. Snowball seemed shy but purred when Amber petted her. The gentle cat had been at the shelter for a few months—because she was totally deaf and needed to stay indoors because of a bout with skin cancer, she was having trouble getting adopted. Amber’s parents were concerned. Would Amber be responsible for Snowball? Did they want an indoor cat? They encouraged Amber to select another cat who might be “less maintenance” and could play outdoors.
But Amber was adamant that Snowball was the cat for her. Her father wasn’t convinced. “What’s so special about Snowball?” he asked. Amber replied, “Just like me, she’s different. We both need someone to give us a little extra help.”
Moved by their daughter’s observation, her parents relented, and Snowball found a forever home! I bumped into Amber’s mother in the supermarket not long ago. She told me that Snowball had passed away the year before, at the ripe old age of 17. She told me about the special bond that Amber and Snowball had shared for 13 years and about how caring for a cat had helped her daughter come out of her shell. Perhaps Amber knew that Snowball, like herself, just needed a little extra help and love along the way.
Posted by Samantha Pulsford