Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The Devil Inside" by Efren Calero Sanchez

"Every Single One of Us has a Devil Inside."

INXS, Australian Rock Band.

Cats don’t always land on their feet.

During sunny afternoons the cat laid on the fresh dirt. It was the perfect opportunity to catch it and experiment with its flexibility and skills of landing on its feet as well as its ability to walk on two feet like a wheelbarrow. I used to spend some weekends with my maternal grandmother, and there was a cat. It really like laying on the sun, and it would change position every now and then to warm up its flexible and furry body under a mango tree where there was no grass but a cool patch of dirt.

The mango tree was the entrance to my grandmother’s garden where she planted roses, vegetables, and flowers. There was always some type of scent from her garden and vegetables. She used the tomatoes and the squash to cook delectable concoctions. I can’t remember the color of the cat or its age, but I can remember playing with it and finding out that at some point it felt hurt, and it sure did let me know. Holding its back legs up and making it walk like a wheelbarrow was the way I played with it, until it was able to free itself from my firm hands either by wiggling or clawing, and run away. I couldn’t catch it anymore.

Another way of discovery was to toss the cat in the air with a twisting motion and watch it turn in the air trying to fall on its feet. It would be successful sometimes, but not always. After many repeated experiments I was able to discover that the cat didn’t like it, and sometimes it would make noises that expressed pain. When the cat would hiss at me as I got close to it, I realized that, although it couldn’t speak to me, it was telling me to stay away. The way I interacted with it was not welcome. It took me all this time to understand what my aunt would say to me when I played with the cat.

“If you treat the cat like that, it’s not gonna like you anymore!”

I always responded, “Look! It likes it.”

She would continue, “You’ll see…”

Cold blooded reptiles.

Another experience that helped enable the paradigm shift in regards to animal feelings occurred in the backyard of my childhood home. In the far right corner of the small flower garden was my laboratory, protected by a half brick wall where nobody could see me. I experimented by injecting “potions” into small reptiles such as lizards and frogs. Then I observed how they reacted to it. In the absence of my parents, I went into the medicine cabinet and collected a series of ingredients and tools for my experiment. Since my mother worked at a hospital, I had access to syringes. I then proceeded to boil the ingredients on the kitchen stove to create a potion. I would proceed to catch small reptiles in the backyard and inject them with this potion and trap them in a box or pot to watch them react. Sometimes it would be immediate, sometimes I would leave them there and come back later or next day to see what happened. I quickly realized that most of them died or went missing. The thought of their family member waiting for them at home made me very sad since I couldn’t do anything for them.

Both these experiences made me realize that just as people have feelings and families, so do animals. And although the cat couldn’t tell me that he didn’t like to be tossed in the air or the lizards and frogs didn’t ask me not inject them with random mixtures, their reaction spoke louder. As an adult I am very sensitive to animal cruelty in lab animals and using them for entertainment such as fighting dogs or racing greyhounds. Although I acted wrong towards animals early in my childhood, I don’t blame myself much for what I did as I was merely experimenting with my environment. However, I don't look back at those memories of my sadism without feeling twinges of embarrassment and remorse.