Showing we care

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Not quite sure why but World Animal Day crept up on me; maybe it was the careful stealth of its approach – like a cat stalking its prey.

Anyway, here it is. Today, 4th October, is World Animal Day, chosen because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. Perhaps we should remember, too, that the Pope chose Francis as his name in honour of St Francis.

So, why do we have a world day for animals? In short, to get people involved in getting a better future for animals.

The lives of animals are profoundly affected by the actions of individuals, businesses, and nations.  It’s therefore essential that, as sentient beings, their rightful status as recipients of social justice is established and translated into effective animal protection.

And it is at this point that I feel it is necessary to state my utter distaste for the recent comments made by Princess Michael of Kent when she said that animals do not have “rights” because they cannot pay taxes.

WAD-horse-2_editedSpeaking at a literary festival in the UK, she said: “We’re always hearing about animal rights. Well, I’m a great animal lover, and involved in a lot of conservation, but animals don’t have rights. They don’t have bank accounts, they don’t vote.

“We have an obligation to animals but to say they have rights? You only have rights if you pay your taxes. You earn your rights.”

As a self-professed animal lover who once hand-reared a cheetah, Princess Michael seems to have missed the point. She is saying that as animals cannot do certain human things, they cannot enjoy the same rights as we do. But they surely do have animal rights; they are sentient creatures and they need to be cared for with kindness and fairness as well as being provided with all they need.

World Animal Day organisers say: “Through increased awareness and education, we can help develop a compassionate culture which feeds into legal reform and social progress to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures.  A world where animals are recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.

Hopefully, increased awareness linked with better education, for both adults and children, will gradually but steadily WAD-fox-2_editedinfluence attitudes of people towards treating animals in the humane and compassionate way in which they deserve and to which they have a right.

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*As writer of this blog, it is necessary to make it clear that I am in favour of the humane treatment of all animals but am not a vegetarian. I have years of experience in agricultural journalism and believe that animal farming for the provision of meat can be carried out with compassion and kind treatment. I am, however, opposed to the killing of any animals for their skins, furs or any other parts. Similarly, I reject the need for the use of animals in laboratory testing of cosmetics or any other product developed for mankind. There may be justification for limited animal use in the field of medicinal research.

Caring through love not duty

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High above New York City on the viewing gallery of the Empire State Building.

To misquote a well-known Shakespearean saying about greatness: some people are born carers, some people learn to be carers while others have the role of a carer thrust upon them.

In the case of my carer, the last one is most definitely true. Not that my carer thinks that what she does is any more than any loving wife would do but Lisa has to cope with quite a lot – which she does exceedingly well, without complaint, and usually with a smile. And this is despite her having diabetes and a touch of arthritis.

She says she does it out of love not out of duty.

Actually, we both had to laugh when we looked at the requirements for her to claim the UK’s Carer’s Allowance benefit. It says she has to provide at least 35 hours of care a week. Oh, if only it was so little. She provides me with many more hours of care than that. In fact, she rarely goes out leaving me at home alone; and it is almost unheard of for me to be allowed out by myself. And I do mean ‘allowed’ as while, in most cases I have the final say, where my health is concerned Lisa is in charge.

Care covers a whole multitude of things that most able-bodied people take for granted, such as preparing my food, cutting up meat so that I can eat it easily because I cannot hold a knife and fork at the same time, helping me to shower and dress, getting my wheelchair in and out of the car, wheeling me about, and physically supporting me if I try to walk a few yards using my walking stick.

And that does not include extra washing of clothes and/or bedding if I have an accident involving problems with my waterworks. Then there is responsibility for my medication, ensuring we have enough of each one, preparing correct doses and making sure I take the correct tablets at the proper times.

At home, although our new home in Spain is suitable for wheelchair use, I do not yet need to use one indoors. Instead, I get around by supporting myself on furniture and the occasional grab rail. Sometimes I fall and Lisa has learned not to rush to help. If she is in another room, she just calls out to ask me if I am all right. A negative answer or no answer at all would bring her to my side in seconds.

One thing that is remarkable about Lisa is that she married me knowing that I have MS when her only previous experience of the illness was her grandfather and he, it seems, chose to be a sufferer not a fighter.

As my wife and carer, Lisa has to cope with so much, day and night, seven days a week. She has to contend with my occasional outbursts of frustration, my impatience when something won’t go right first time and, sometimes, my determination to do something that I am no longer physically able to achieve – that usually ends in a fall. I often joke that the floor and I are on very good terms as we spend so much time together.

In the ‘CAN do’ attitude to life page on this website, Lisa says I am her hero because “He truly amazes me every day. I don’t think I know a more positive person.” However, in truth, she is really my hero, or heroine if that word is still used today, for all she does both seen and unseen by others.

Lisa is my love, my lady, my life, my very best friend and my carer. She knows that I have a positive outlook on life but she is my strength when I am weak, my support when I am in danger of falling, and, above all, the most wonderful person in my whole life.