61. Sticks and Stones (03/2013)
When the tension gets too much or when there is a severe blow to the body and something snaps, it is sometimes the living tissue we refer to as bone. Skeletons don’t break spontaneously unless there is some underlying weakness or pathology. A traumatic fracture is accompanied by damage to the softer supporting tissues like tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Bone heals well when the pieces are aligned and immobilized. The callus is often stronger than the original continuity because of increased thickness in the area. The same is not true of muscles, tendons and ligaments and other tissues, which take longer to heal and often remain weaker where they were injured. When we have erred or overexerted, sprains and strains with their associated pain remind us to favour the affected area for the delicate, spontaneous process of repair to occur.
A broken bone in a large or wild animal means almost certain death if left to fate. Recently when something unnatural snapped bones in both legs of one lanner falcon, a team of responsive humans came to his rescue. This raptor, normally the epitomy of airborne speed and grace, was unable to lift off, and calmly allowed caring intervention, from the species that break down and patch up life in the most chaotically inconsistent ways.
Early morning roadkill sighting: a kudu bull with both forelimbs smashed by a vehicle traveling at high speed in the night leaving him flailing along the verge where his majestic horns became entangled in a barbed wire fence. There, clinical shock, nature’s blessing, laid him to rest where his serene world had been so violently disrupted.
In spite of his devotion, a dog can be a target of displaced anger. Sometimes the beatings cause fractures such as occurred in a six week old puppy that presented with a broken back after a neighbour had allegedly thrown it against a wall. The thud and screams were heard but evidently only visual witness is valid for making a case in this case. The permanently turned blind eye juxtaposed with unwavering canine loyaly was poignantly highlighted by a courageous child who graciously made the laudable effort to seek the right help.
Neighbours often have a lot to answer for: In one instance a beloved cat who roamed a little further than usual one day, extending his own boundaries, found himself caught at the ankle in a gin trap meant for some other equally unsuspecting creature of the earth. The bone shattered on impact and during the ensueing struggle skin, tendons, nerves and blood vessels were severely damaged. Miraculously this individual got free with his foot still intact suggesting that someone in the know actually released the iron jaws.
The hallmarks of abuse are clear as broken bones. Emotional scarring also physically alters the body and brain permanently. Physical or psychological trauma can be observed in all our domestic animals as fear, manifest in different ways depending on the personality, veering from excessive timidity to outright aggression. One painful incident can inflict a lifetime of torment, and a lifetime of suffering results in numbness, a lack of feeling, inability to engage with the world, a dysfunctional withdrawal as blatent as a suppurating wound visible in victims, and reflected in perpertrators: human and non-human animals alike. The healing lies in recognition of the insult and activation of the compassionate instinct through uninhibited verbal and non verbal communication. The solution is a commitment to non-violence in thought and action, which is acknowledged and respected by all living creatures.