Due to my son being an only child with little perspective on living with siblings- friendships, fights and loyalty, my husband and I adopted mans “best friend” with the hope it would become Jonah’s “little brother”. The big hope was that our gorgeous red and white cocker spaniel rescue dog was to would teach my son the responsibilities of caring for another dependent being. We had images of my son walking and feeding our new addition to the family.
What actually transpired was far from my vivid imagination. Flynn gravitated to me – I became his world and he, my shadow. Irrespective of my mood, Flynn was always happy to be with me and tail wagging to prove his point.
Being a rescue dog from an abusive environment, Flynn arrived at our home, skittish and fearful. It was clear that my sweet Flynn with his honest spirit had been subject to tsa’ar ba’alei chayim : the infliction of unnecessary pain on animals. Whenever I would offer my hand to pet him, his eyes would squint and his face would jerk, weary of a strike.
My Flynn with his expressive eyes, beckoned me to love, hug and protect him unconditionally. Flynn became my “baby”. Rather than Flynn becoming another sibling for my son, he became my toddler who needed all my attention and would reciprocate with loyalty, hugs and kisses.
Then it was almost two and a half years ago, that my husband and I were sitting around the Sabbath table with a roasted free-range chicken in front of us for dinner that I was struck with an epiphany. Looking at this headless chicken in its full form with the legs and everything intact, made me think of Flynn.
I asked myself, “How can I eat an animal and simultaneously live and love an animal?” I was definitely a product of our society, disassociating the head with the animal, not connected to a fellow mindful creature I was about to eat, but Flynn changed that all for me.
Before Flynn, I did not think too much about tsa’ar ba’alei chayim nor the innocent chicken living in cramped quarters, pumped up with hormones with the sole purpose to be my dinner. It took Flynn’s gentle soul, my fellow companion to teach me that we are all connected to living creatures.
Suddenly eating this chicken became extremely unappetizing, and I just could not eat it.
My interspecies relationship with Flynn eventually raised my awareness that vegetarianism is life affirming. This was characterized by abstaining from all animal eating, embracing a vegetarian lifestyle related to gratitude for our animal kingdom, rather than entitlement and ownership.
Although I adopted Flynn from the harsh treatment of living with an abusive owner, Flynn in turn adopted me as well. He taught me that we are a part of nature rather than apart from nature. Flynn’s innocence and sweetness evoked a compassion for embracing cohabitation and respect for all animal life that I am grateful and has forever changed my life.