To Kaylee (today will always belong to you)

May 11th, 2014 10:54 am by Kelly Garbato

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I think I miss Kaylee more today than I have in the past four months combined. Mother’s Day was always her day; a time to honor her and reflect back upon what might have been done to her and her babies. Today doesn’t hurt so much because I have two fewer kids this year, but because one of them was a mom who’s no longer here to celebrate with us.

Wait, that’s not entirely true; Kaylee is in my heart, where I’ll carry her, forever and always. No wonder it feels a little heavier today than usual.

I hope that – somehow, somewhere – one or more of Kaylee’s great-great-grandkids are having a wonderful Mother’s Day: soaking in the sun, enjoying lots of belly rubs, maybe even doing a lawn dance or two. I like to think that they look like her, all lumpy and marshmallow-like, with crazy snaggle teefies (but no dental problems like grandma!) and stubby nubs for tails (but all natural – docking isn’t cool!). I wish I could meet them, someday. Maybe I will. Maybe I already have. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Go find someone you love and give them a hug from me.

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Bittersweet Mother’s Day Kisses & Vegan Birthday Wishes, Redux
May 8th, 2011 2:29 pm by Kelly Garbato

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This morning, I woke to vomit in the bed. Kaylee vomit, to be exact, which makes the situation slightly less bad than it might otherwise have been. (Also, it helps that it wasn’t on my pillow. Yes, that has happened. To Shane! Muahahaha….)

“What’s the diff?” you’re probably wondering; “Puke is puke, is it not?” Actually, there’s a 50-50 chance that I can match a pile of vomit to a dog – or at least one of my dog-kids – based on its content: Peedee likes to steal and nom on my earplugs, Ralphie is a grass and dirt eater, and during the spring and summer months Kaylee turns into a decidedly non-vegan bug hunter – but that’s beside the point. Kaylee vomit – and mishaps involving bodily fluids – is different ’cause it comes from Kaylee. Sweet, sweet Kaylee, who’s suffered so much in her short life – yet harbors not one resentful cell in her entire being – and with whom it’s impossible to become angry. At least, not for more than a split second at a time.

It’s difficult to celebrate Mother’s Day without also mourning for the billions of nonhuman animals whose reproductive systems and maternal instincts we exploit for our own gain: “laying” hens, “dairy” cows, “breeding” sows, and so on. For many vegans, it’s those females farmed for food who have come to symbolize motherhood hijacked and corrupted on Mother’s Day. But for me – a vegan who’s only visited a handful of farmed animal sanctuaries, and has yet to befriend and know a cow, hen or sow on a personal level – Kaylee is the representation of motherhood subverted.

Today I’d like to republish a piece I wrote for her last Mother’s Day. Every word rings as true now as it did then. More so, even: during the last two years, I’ve been struggling with some minor but chronic health issues. Whereas the other dogs – as much as I love and adore them – oftentimes add to the stress with their constant demands for attention and occasional doggy outbursts (bark! bark! bark!), to the point that I sometimes have to hand them off to Shane … not Kaylee.

While I long to comfort, coddle, pamper her – as a down payment on the debt humanity owes her for the pain she and so many like her have endured at our hands – so often, too often, it’s she who takes care of me. Rarely does she ask; never does she take. Most times, she is content to lay beside me, graciously accepting strokes and kisses; laments whispered. She is unflappable in her devotion and, despite all that she’s been through, manages to exude a sense of calmness. Of peace and pleasure, long delayed.

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Always soft but steady in her presence … my rock, made from marshmallows. She keeps me sane.

Happy mother’s day to all the moms in the world: human and non, biological and adoptive, same and cross-species, of all genders, ages and orientations. I hope you have a compassionate and peaceful day! And to those who are separated or estranged from your mother(s), my heart is with you.

P.S. My birthday is tomorrow, but my wish remains the same: live vegan, or at least as vegan as your life circumstances will allow.

 

Bittersweet Mother’s Day Kisses & Vegan Birthday Wishes
May 9th, 2010 12:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

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This Mother’s Day, I think of Kaylee. Kaylee, the dear, sweet, mild-mannered, infinitely lovable old(er) lady we adopted three and a half years ago. Kaylee, my baby girl. One of three. Seven, if you consider those loved and lost.

This morning, as I cuddled Kaylee in bed, silently wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, I thought of her – and her own babies. In her Life Before Us, Kaylee was not spayed. Nor was she fed, housed, vetted, or otherwise cared for. Her body – large, mushy, misshapen – tells the tale of babies birthed, nursed, and…what? Oftentimes – and especially on days like these – I reflect upon this question. Where are Kaylee’s babies now?

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What do they look like? Short, stocky, white and mushy like her, or…more like their father, wherever he may be? Do their butts wiggle like hers, in anticipation of a meal, a treat, or even just a bowl to lick? Do they experience the same insatiable hunger as their mother, whether for physical or emotional nourishment? Are their barks, so infrequently voiced, characterized by the same pained (at times bordering on hysterical), wookie-like roar of their mother? Perhaps, dog willing, their life circumstances have not fostered within them the same fears that drive their mother.

Have the humans they encountered on their life’s path shown them the kindness and compassion that Kaylee has known from us – or have Kaylee’s babies only seen the cruelty and neglect that marked her own Life Before Us?

Where are Kaylee’s babies now? What became of them? Did they live into adulthood, find partners of their own choosing, and start canine families of their own? Does Kaylee have grandbabies (great-grandbabies?!), scattered throughout the Midwest, rising from a peaceful night’s sleep and celebrating the new day, so beautiful and promising, perhaps pressed up against the warm, cozy bodies of their own people, just as their grandmother is now doing?

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Or have Kaylee’s children fared worse than their mother? Was Kaylee even allowed to nurse her newborn pups – however many “litters” she may have had – before they were taken from her and given to other human families…families who prefer puppies to adults, because they’re “so much cuter,” blank slates to mold, shape and (eventually) discard?

Perhaps, unwanted and inconvenient, they were dumped on the doorstep of the nearest pound: the “luckiest” pups, adopted; the others, euthanized killed. Maybe the day- (hour-?) old babies were simply drowned in a pond or toilet, tossed out like so much trash. Possibly Kaylee’s humans took no notice of her pregnancy, and she and her babies were left on their own, to freeze or starve to death in a dingy backyard, in the depths of winter or during the cold, lonely night.

As I gaze upon Kaylee – into her deep, brown, trusting eyes – I wish desperately that this is not the truth of her existence. I hope she also had a Life Before Them, as well as a life after; that the situation from which she was rescued was just a temporary blip in an otherwise happy and peaceful being. I hope she knew, loved and nurtured her babies, every bit as much as I do her.

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Watching her with Rennie – the perky little piglet to Kaylee’s mama sow – I know in my heart that Kaylee would have been – no, was – a wonderful mother, for however long the humans in her life allowed her to be. Kaylee is kind, patient, gentle and loving; I am sure that she loved and protected her babies fiercely. Her children would have been lucky to have her. I know I am.

I wish I could bring Kaylee’s babies back to her; every mother deserves to know her babies, to raise them on their own terms, and to see them off into adulthood when the time has come…naturally. (Canine, bovine, porcine, human – it matters not. A mother is a mother is a mother.)

Failing that, all I can do is mother her, and let her mother me. She is at once my baby and my second mother: dependent, as all domesticated animals become when we humans “master” them; but also loving, nurturing, maternal – almost obsessively so – like any good mother.

I hope that Kaylee carries her babies in her heart (so large a heart it is! both figuratively and, sigh, literally.), since she could not keep them by her side.

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Happy Mother’s Day, my Kaylee. Dream sweet dreams of your babies today – and may they dream sweet dreams of you.

 

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