When I hear about an animal liberation, especially of dogs, I can't help but look for my two little girls, and think about the ordeals they have survived. Lisa, who was taken from a dog fighter, is my youngest. When she first came into my home, she had never been outside of a cage. She crawled around fearfully, belly close to the ground, and shrieked in terror at every moving thing that was not a dog (and many non-moving things, such as plants, tables, and umbrellas).
Natalie, my older girl, was so scared inside of her cage at the pound that she refused to go out with anyone for a walk. It did not matter that her cage was covered with feces and urine. It did not matter that the outdoors promised green grass and bright sunlight (even if only for a few short minutes, as the dogs at the Chicago pound were only taken out for walks by the infrequent volunteer). Her body and mind were so scarred by abuse that she wanted only to be left alone. Strange scars, the width of a person's hand, ran down her spine. And the slightest sound would cause her to collapse to the ground, ears drawn back and eyes closed tight, at the horror that was surely to come. The world was a harsh place, she had learned, and the only way for her to survive was to cower in a dark corner, cower in a dark corner and hope that no one would notice her weakness, her paralysis, her fear.
Those of you who have visited my home know how much my two little girls have transformed and grown, from those earliest days. Lisa is an endless ball of confident energy -- greeting every new person at the door and barking and growling constantly, to get attention. Natalie, though less outwardly social, is a profoundly loving little girl, and an incredibly sensitive one too, to her father's emotional fluctuations. She never ceases to amaze me, in recognizing when I've had a down day, and how she can make all the sadness go away, just by placing her little head on papa's knee.
When I hear about a liberation, I can't help but think of my two little girl's experiences, and imagine the same for the animals who have been rescued. Life as a "thing" for human use is grim, whether in a laboratory, farm, or circus cage. And the thought of even a single innocent animal -- a single child quietly crying in the dark corner of a cage -- sends me rushing to my own little girls, to ensure that they are safe. To ensure that they are ok. To ensure that they are no longer haunted by the terrors that haunted them, when they first came into my life.
But as I hold them tight, and they offer me soothing kisses and face rubs, as if to remind me, "Papa, remember, those times are over, and we are ok...." as they jump and play and lick my face, and remind me that their lives are now filled with comfort and joy... I also imagine the feelings that are felt when an innocent animal, unjustly imprisoned and tortured, is finally safe, happy, and free. Those of us who have lived through dark times, and struggled to survive in dark places, know that there is no feeling more beautiful in the world, than the feeling of liberation from fear. It is, all at once: miracle ("Could this really be true? Am I really free?"), redemption ("For so long, I suffered. For so long, I wished I could die. But now I see that my struggle was worth it!"), and catharsis ("The world was sadness and fear. But suddenly, it is beauty and light!"). It is a feeling better than any other. Better than any feeling that the universe has ever felt.
So when you are down or afraid, remember to hold tight to those you love most. They will give you the inspiration to say and do things that would otherwise make you afraid. Hold tight to the activists you believe in, and who believe in you. They will give you strength, and empower your voice beyond its narrow individual reach.
But most of all, hold tight to that dream, that vision, that feeling. That feeling of liberation from a dark and scary place. It is a beautiful feeling, and one that we must share with the rest of the world. And if we hold tight to it, it is a feeling that will sweep over the world, like so many other dreams of liberation, in one unstoppable cascade.