Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Barbaro, 2003-2007

When a domesticated animal dies, there is always grief. The difference between the sorrow in a home that's lost a family pet and the mourning for a Kentucky Derby winner is one only of scale. Barbaro was a famous animal who suffered a life-threatening, life-taking injury before an audience of millions. Barbaro got a front-page obit in the New York Times, his death led ABC's nightly news yesterday evening, and he's mourned by millions. Somewhere last night, children mourned the loss of their cat with equal pain flowing from the same mysterious wellspring inside OUR species.

Many many people feel for animals with the pure illogical passion of true love. Almost everyone in the horse racing business does. If you saw Barbaro's vet on TV last night, you know Dr. Dean Richardson expended every erg of his being to save his patient, and was wracked with grief that he'd failed. Alice and Hope Gee, who don't care a fig for racing, were saddened to hear of Barbaro's death. To them, he was an athlete dying young, and the fact Barbaro had four rather than two legs was irrelevant to the central idea of his tragedy.

Since human beings kill and eat animals, sometimes even after treating those future dinners as pets, our deep affection for other animals is a confounding fact of our nature. I know it's inside me. I voluntarily took on the inevitable passing of a beloved pet, and since Blackjack is 12 now, the bill for that decision will be coming due. Doesn't matter. I'll never regret the choice. Why? I dunno. Perhaps if I had a million years and a million philosophers to help I could come up with an answer.

I know this. The love people have for animals is one of our species most redeeming qualities. If we ever lost it, human beings wouldn't be worth keeping around, either.


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