Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dignity of One's Being

Each night after I give my disabled rabbit Woodstock a bath, I admire how as he dries off on the sheepskin mat, he manages to struggle to his feet. I help him balance, but otherwise, he is keeping himself up on his own strength. For the first time in weeks, thanks to acupuncture and chiropractic care, he is now able to groom himself. As I watched him do this last night, I thought how happy he must be, how it must feel to be able to do rabbit things again. I mused, everyone has the right to the dignity of his or her being. That means animals too.

Of course, animals have no concept of abstract concepts like dignity, even as they exude it in their natural behaviors. Even when Woodstock couldn't move and he would lie all day in the same position, he never outwardly displayed signs of misery--he simply adapted. Yet watching him intently lick his back paws, I felt certain that he was one very relieved and happy rabbit to be able to exhibit the behaviour his kind always engages in (rabbits are very clean animals, obsessively so.) We should all be so fortunate when we find ourselves near the end of our days, perhaps disabled, or physically challenged in such a way, that others will let us keep our dignity by helping us help ourselves. If we see ourselves as normal and we feel good about that, we will fight on. Just as my rabbit Woodstock fights so hard every day. He feels good enough, he feels rabbit enough to do so. When we are stripped of our dignity, when we no longer feel human, what truly is left of ourselves?

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