moaWMU6I remember where I was 16 years ago today when I learned what began happening at 8:46 a.m. in the United States. And I remember where I was the next few days: watching the news coverage in disbelief, trying to make sense of the never-before experienced. Now, Hurricane Irma has been having the same effect on me. I have watched the never-ending news coverage of another catastrophic event — feeling out of control — seeking information that will ensure safety, holding on to the stories of hope and life.

Flamingos to the rescue, or rather, the rescue of flamingos came to rescue me from scary news overload. A large flock of pink flamingos being led to safety gifted me with a cotton-candy-colored story of hope. Their salvation setting might have been one of the many zoos challenged to survive the storm. Or those flamingos on the move could have been cooperating with the Busch Gardens rescue plan to ensure that its 12,000 animals were in safe locations overseen by a “zoological team.”

“What about the animals?”
I was soothed to imagine that, if there is a rescue plan for the animals, there will be an adequate rescue plan for the humans. We elect legislators to be our “human welfare” team, leading a society for the common good.

During the 2016 Louisiana flood that covered 31% of the homes in nine parishes (counties), thirteen people died. In the many conversations I have had with friends and family about that awful event, one story is always told. Caught on video was the courageous action of a man who went into dangerous flood waters to rescue a woman from her sinking car. Her rescue accomplished, the woman implores the man to rescue her dog.  The man dives back into the dangerous water and comes up with the dog. Broadcast widely,this true feel-good story showcased human caring expressed in determined courage. Would the story have gotten the same coverage — or the man the same accolades — if, after risking his life to save the woman’s, he had then chosen not to risk his life again to save her dog?

“What about the animals?”
People call their pets “baby” and give them family-member status. A rescued puppy challenges us to go, therefore, and pull out all the stops to courageously care for our human family members. We might have to dive deep and get wet in our determination to make family ties.

Today, 55 cats and 10 humans who inhabit the Hemingway House in Key West survived what could have been a deadly storm for all of them. Good news! As I write this — yes, I’m still watching the news coverage of the storm — a beached dolphin is being urged back into the water in an attempted rescue. At this point, the dolphin and humans are working in opposite directions.

“What about the animals?”

Update: The disoriented dolphin has gone back to sea, perhaps to become one of the hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales and sharks killed each year by fishing for seafood. What if the news story had instead concluded with the stressed-out dolphin being killed and filleted for a seafood feast on the beach? In some places, cats and dogs might be on the menu. In Switzerland, it’s legal to eat your own pet.

Finally, a statement from Texan Dickie Vest, about efforts to aid the animals stranded during Hurricane Harvey’s flooding: “We know that thousands of pets and the people who care about them have been dealt a terrible blow by Hurricane Harvey,” Vest said. “[But] cattle are also suffering, and substantially so.” Vest is the senior medical director of the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, a Texas-based animal sanctuary. He expresses concern — without a hint of irony — that cattle standing in brackish water “creates a life-threatening crisis for them.” It’s as if he doesn’t realize what outcome those cattle are living (briefly) for, deep in the heart of Texas. Hearts go out to an individual head of cattle suffering during a hurricane. Indeed, that one plus 14,000,000+ of their cattle friends are raised for slaughter each year. For us.

“What about the animals?”

Perhaps the one rescued animal’s adorable face bears to us a message from the many:

Flood animal wisdom for the salvation of God’s earth and all her sentient beloveds.

Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor serving in Nashville TN.  She is a contributor to the RevGals book, “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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