All living things deserve respect – Metro US

All living things deserve respect

I didn’t kill him — but because of me, he’s dead.

I tried really hard not to hit him — I swerved, slowed down as best I could without jamming on the brakes for fear of being rear-ended, and I didn’t feel that sickening bumpity-bump.

But when I looked in my rear-view mirror, he was in the middle of the road, his tail sticking way up high. I couldn’t stop to check or move him due to heavy rush-hour traffic. And the next day, when I passed the same spot, it was obvious he had never moved.

I’ve never hit anything else in my life and it was an awful feeling. It hit me deep in the pit of my stomach.

I asked around — seems many people who drive have hit at least one squirrel — that includes people who have lived in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa — and they’ve never forgotten the incident.

Years ago, when my brother was learning to drive, my parents let him take the wheel for the normally two-hour jaunt to cottage country. The trip took almost twice as long, according to my memory, but I was young and probably very bored. Just as we were pulling into the home stretch, two road curves away from our destination, and as the black country night enveloped us, my brother hit a small, darting raccoon.

He was devastated. It really shook him to his core. I don’t know if he killed it, or just hit it, but my heart went out to my brother. He should have been full of teenage pride and accomplishment that he had done really well at getting us up north in one piece. But his achievement was clouded by a chance encounter with a four-legged nocturnal bandit.

Squirrels, raccoons, mice — all cute to look at, but usually considered household pests, not pets. I’m not saying we should go around looking to exterminate these animals, but most of us don’t have the same relationship to them as we do with other domestic pets.

Frankly, what makes this so difficult is I am an animal lover and a vegetarian. In fact, when my beloved 18-year-old dog was dying, I couldn’t bear to leave her alone at the vets overnight, so I took her home with me, attached to her IV, so I could keep a vigil by her side during her last few hours.

The point is, I want to raise my children to be humane, and respectful of all living things. I teach my toddler to be careful not to step on ants, and to not be afraid of spiders.

I will somehow have to use this unfortunate incident of the squirrel’s demise as a lesson for them, and for me, to be ever as watchful and careful in all our actions. And especially when driving.

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