Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gallery of Heartbreak

image from google

Your big African paw
pushed up against
the wire of your cage,
you, who should be running free
across the wild savanna, 
and your eyes - your eyes -
so sad and questing,
having lost all their wonder,
rip my heart asunder.

Though you have never
experienced freedom,
still you know 
that something - everything -
is missing
as you grow.

Two full-grown lions
penned for months on end
in a trailer
break my heart
all over again,
while their "owner"
says parting with them
would cause him 
too much pain.
Inhumane. Inhumane.
How can humans
be so inhumane?

A leopard and a tiger
are walked
on a chain,
and sad bear eyes
are crying in the rain.

At the exotic pet auctions
crocs and venomous snakes
in plastic bins
are bought by
daddies for their little boys.
The daddies puff their chests,
make their little boys tough.
The snakes are bought
as thoughtlessly
as toys,
and for daddy
not ever
big enough.

"Baby cougar, two weeks old,"
the auctioneer cries.
My heart sinks:
where's the mother
of this furry little guy?
They say
there are more tigers 
in Texas
than in all of India.
And their eyes,
I cannot bear
the look 
of anguish in
their eyes.

An elephant dances on 
a polished tv studio floor,
dull-eyed monkeys
do rote tricks,
then pretend
to be asleep
to make the people laugh,
(those who do not weep.)

Between those who
want the "right" to 
keep them
and those who 
seek to protect 
the animals' right
to live wild,
the animals themselves 
are caught 
in the net.
There are no 
easy answers

"There are no happy endings
for the big cats,"
the safety officer says.
"They go to a zoo,
or are shot,"
as if that
is that.

They tell us we should fear them,
these creatures of the wild.
But I have  known
they've more to fear
from us,
ever since I was
a child.

Kids, I am watching the documentary The Elephant In the Living Room and it is breaking my heart. (Warning to Shay: stop reading now!) Both sides of the question of domestication of wild creatures are presented. On either side of the equation,  the animal ultimately suffers. There are no happy endings for them, taken out of the wild, into houses they ultimately cannot remain in. Their eyes pierce my heart. These beautiful creatures were never meant to look so sad. 

The main story told in the documentary is that of an old fellow in the southern States who, in poor health and with serious back issues, was given two lion cubs to cheer him up. He fell in love with them, of course, especially the male cub, Lambert. We pick up the story when the Animal Safety Officer pays a visit to the man, to see what state the animals, now fully grown, are in. Lambert had escaped the inadequate pen and the man was forced to "temporarily"  house the two adult lions in a horse trailer - this went on for five months and, at the end of this (appalling) period, the female gave birth to four cubs, one of whom died soon after birth.

Now the situation was even more urgent, and the Safety Officer mustered some friends to help to build a holding pen for the lions. The pen was small, but was the best they could do. It became obvious, given the man's health and the lions' crowded pen, this was not going to be able to continue for long. The owner resisted letting them go because he "would miss them too much".

The safety officer, trying to be proactive and hoping the owner would change his mind, phoned all over the US but no one could take two adult lions and three cubs. On a routine  visit to the owner and the lions, the safety officer witnessed (and it was caught on film) the horrible death of Lambert, in the small enclosure, his groans of distress heartbreaking as he convulsed and died. Somehow faulty wiring had caused an electrical charge to run through the wet muddy pen for fifteen minutes. Lambert had been electrocuted. He was four years old.

(This scene about did me in.)

Now the owner finally agreed to let the others go. The officer called in a personal favor, and the mother lion and two of her cubs were loaded up (one of the cubs died of unknown causes before moving day), and were taken to a lion sanctuary in Colorado where, for the first time in their lives, they would not be in a dirt pen, but free to roam a hundred fenced acres, with other lions, unconfined, to feel, for the first time, grass under their feet.

As happy an ending as was possible for these three lions, at least. But there are so many countless others owned by people who do not believe animals have consciousness, emotion, intelligence and awareness, all of which they do (more so than many humans, I often think.) The image of Lambert, groaning, convulsing and dying in his small muddy pen, I will add to my Gallery of Heartbreak "for all the beasts and the children".


  1. Okay, I took your warning and thank you for including it. But i read the poem and the same sorts of things bother me tremendously. Creatures all want their lives as much as we want our own. And by "lives" mean not just breath, but the chance to do whatever it is they were born to do. Humans still far too often think of animals as property, something to do with as they please, without a thought. I don't think it is just simple cruelty...I think there is a lack of imagination and empathy at work. In any case, that stuff just breaks my heart.

  2. I know, Shay. I was writhing in psychic agony while Lambert was dying. I told the unintelligent human who “loved” him “It’s your fault.” It was excruciating to watch - FIVE MONTHS INSIDE A HORSE TRAILER. F-ing hell. Their eyes – their consciousnesses – their utter sadness.

    The HUGE covered (hidden) auditoriums where thousands of snakes, in plastic Tupperware, were being given to little boys – including venomous snakes , pythons, boas, hooded vipers, you name it. And the daddies, encouraging their little guys to feel tough about owning one.....Yikes. There was a little monkey with eyes crazed with fear. THIS SHOULD ALL BE FREAKING ILLEGAL. It drives me insane, not a very long trip in this old world some days.

    DEFINITELY a lack of empathy, on a huge scale.

  3. I agree, 'trafficking' animals is really inhumane. Sometimes i wish they had a voice that would let them assert their independence. I wish they could say that they're not OUR pawns. If only they had a voice.

    Thank you for sharing the sad plight of all these so called 'exotic' animals. I'm glad that there are people like you out there somewhere in the world, trying to counter those hordes of greedy men who would stoop to selling animals.

  4. It is heart breaking. We humans have taken so much of their land away. We expand and cover their lands with our concrete so that we can live in luxury having taken away their hunting grounds, their breeding places and their homes. As the highest in the food chain, sometimes I am disgusted by what we humans have done to other creatures who have as much right to inhabit this worlds as we do. I hate the way that (mostly in America) people seem to get such pleasure out of 'dressing' up their pets (dogs and cats) or, painting them in bright colours because it makes the owners laugh or pleases them. These dogs and cats are not supposed to wear clothes, no supposed to have their hair dyed or nails painted. It goes from bad to worse!
    This story is heart breaking Sherry. The sale of this type of animals ought to be banned all over the USA and prevented from happening. I include circus acts in this too. It's all inhumane (to me) and simply to make money, nothing more.

  5. The plight of animals in captivity is ongoing, I know, and as you say there are no easy answers. Your words bring much to light. Thank you!

  6. since they're born free, they should live free as well.we wouldnt need zoos if we could stop poaching,encroaching on natural animal habitats etc.but then again, rotten as things are, its highly unlikely that things would improve for animals unless there's some radical change in human nature.

  7. Sherry, tears are welling in my eyes. I couldn't bear to watch that sad documentary. I like your poem as tribute to their suffering. I weep.

  8. This is so sad and my heart breaks for these animals. They should be free to roam, and away from us. And would people please stop buying exotic pets...its a shame and degrading that a market is there ~

    Thanks for sharing this Sherry ~

  9. Sherry, I share your empathy for caged creatures which should be in the wild. The image of the lion about did me in; the descriptions of the documentary as well.

    But your poem captured your depth of feeling for all creatures in Creation. As a practicing Christian, I find it appalling that so many pseudo-Christians believe we are "anointed bosses" of the rest of creation. It was not God's intention that we wreak havoc on the earth through such activities; if one believes any of Scripture, we were meant to be stewards and treat all earth and its inhabitants with love and kindness. Thank you. Peace, Amy

  10. I saw a grizzly bear at the Calgary Zoo this summer...he really wanted out. He really looked out of sorts.

  11. Sherry, I can feel your pain. So many humans are worse than any animal. I can't imagine sitting there and watching the lion die..The abuse of animals has to stop!!

  12. So sad--a few summers ago I watched a lion in a tiny cage so small it could turn around or stand up. (The owners were settig up for a circus--I was driving by)-it struck me as tragic and sad, and your poem fits well the emotions I felt. A lion for sure should not be caged.

  13. You brought it out loud and clear, Sherry! Caged and penned, all against the law of nature. A beautiful verse and all the more dramatic with your summary.


  14. So sad. So true.

    And we call these "Conservation of wildlife".

    How I wish we found a better way of giving these animals freedom.

  15. I couldn't get through your poem without breaking down in tears. The plight of these animals, part of the web we all share, is indeed heartbreaking and doesn't seem to end...ever.

    I also cry for all the 'domestic' animals....I have 14 cats, some geriatic, and they are all loved by me. I feed (and raid the colony when I can) 12 more, because the people there...even when I buy them food for their cats, refuse to feed or water them. I believe they sell the bags of food I give them.

    There is no justice for animals. Period. They suffer because of our ignorance.

    Domestic or wild, we should hang our heads in shame.

    Lady Nyo

  16. So very sad, Sherry. Animals DO have feelings, and it is so sad when people use them for their own selfish reasons and do not take into consideration the heart and soul of the animal....

  17. Sherry this is just too sad. I am so sorry for our inhumanity. Will we ever grow in our knowledge, in our caring, our respect for the "other?" Thank you because you care.

  18. This brought tears to my eyes. So sad, so cruel, so horrifying.


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