Early this morning, our little cat (Sarah) chased and caught a young squirrel. The girls were eating breakfast and I was sipping my first cup of coffee when I heard the little squirrel yelp. Nathan (who had already been outside taking the garbage out) burst through the door screaming...."Mom! Sarah caught a squirrel....Sarah caught a squirrel!!" As I put my coffee down and moved toward the door....I said a quick prayer that I would know how to handle this. I knew this was not going to end well.
Once outside, I noticed that I was not the only one surveying the situation. We have two other cats that decided to make an appearance too. This was horrible! The poor squirrel was obviously hurt and scared. It was bleeding from the ear and one leg seemed to be injured. All three cats hovered like vultures as the squirrel tried to escape. But, his poor little body was not going to recover. Nathan was hysterical! He kicked and screamed at the cats and kept begging me to get a box so we could take the squirrel to the vet! I tried to gently explain to him that the little squirrel was hurt badly and that we would not be able to save him. He was insistent that we take it to the vet. I again tried to explain that it's very expensive to take our animals to the vet and that this squirrel was in a lot of pain.
I prayed again, "God, please help me explain this to my son and please get Dan's attention and tell him to COME HELP ME!!" Nathan physically stood between us and the front door. He was NOT going to let us go outside. He was sobbing hysterically and kept telling Dan and I that we were mean and that he didn't like us anymore. As Dan went outside to (ahem) take care of the squirrel, I sat Nathan down and tried again to explain about the "circle of life", the food chain and then lastly....nature in general. None of this was working! I then tried a different angle....I mentioned that the squirrel was hurt badly and the more he tried to move and get away because of his fear, the more he was hurting and that it was the right thing for Daddy to help the little squirrel along to his eternal reward. ****just in case anyone was wondering....I NEVER mentioned anything about the squirrel going to heaven so I stayed away from that whole theological issue****
It was at that moment that my son posed a question to me that stopped me in my tracks! He said..."It isn't fair mom....what if I was suffering, would you kill me too to stop my suffering?"
This was not a conversation that I wanted to have at 8:45am on a Saturday! How do you explain this to a very emotional 9 year old? The only thing I could come up with at that very moment was that we (humans) were made in the image and likeness of God and that made us different and more important than the animals. As an adult, I know the difference between a suffering squirrel and a suffering human being but it's awfully hard to explain that line to a young child who only sees a cute furry little squirrel.
I finally got him calmed down enough to understand that this was something we had to do....but he still thinks that we are mean for killing it and burying it. For many hours he was very quiet and introspective. Why was this so hard for me? I keep second guessing myself...thinking that maybe we should have taken it to the vet....maybe it would have survived....maybe I could have nursed it back to health!
All I know for sure is that I had a LONG talk with my cats this afternoon! They are no longer allowed to chase or catch ANY squirrel or squirrel-looking animal.....EVER AGAIN. They need to stick with smaller, less cute things like lizards and roaches.