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No Hope

If anyone is not convinced that, somewhere, a seal has been broken and we are full-on in the middle of the actual Apocalypse, here's proof.

According to CNN, a baby zebra (they say ZEH-bra, by the way) in the UK that was born in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, has died after being frightened by local fireworks set off by neighbors to commemorate a national holiday. The baby, unfortunately named Hope, was spooked by the fireworks and ran, panicked, into the wall of her zoo enclosure, dying "immediate(ly)" from injuries sustained. 

If there's ever been a better metaphor for this particular moment in time, I can't think of one. Election didn't go your way? Awww. Favorite watering hole can't stay open past 10 PM? Damn. Zoom Thanksgiving?! Terrible!

But next to whatever you're grousing about right now, hold this up: An adorable baby zebra NAMED HOPE committed accidental suicide running into the wall of her cage because the fireworks people were shooting off to have one tiny sliver of celebration in their pandemic-soaked lives scared her literally TO DEATH.

What do you even say about that? It just may be the worst sentence I've ever written, or contemplated writing. I've lost people I love. I've seen heartbreak. I've gotten chest pain thinking about 250,000 Americans dead of COVID. But come on, a baby zebra scared to death? 

Put a fork in me, I'm done.

***

Sensitivity to sound is a real thing, especially but not exclusively in animals. When my daughter was little she was very sensitive to loud noises and it would often ruin otherwise wonderful family time for her. I remember one time at a local church carnival when she was a baby. It was a really nice weeknight. We walked around, got cotton candy, played games and went on the little-kid rides. It was in many ways the perfect evening until, toward the end of the night, we passed in front of a booth with a pop-the-balloon-with-a-dart game. The noise startled her, and made her cry.

Later, at home, we were trying to relive the better parts of the evening but my daughter seemed to remember the loud noise, almost exclusively. She was barely a toddler, too young to be willfully trying to make us feel bad, or being cynical for no good reason. The noise scared her, badly, enough that it had overshadowed all the nice parts of the evening. We didn't understand it then. I barely understand it now. 

Thank God she wasn't old enough to run into a fence.

Side note: Apologies to my daughter for using her as a teaching aid in so many of these posts. And apologies to my son for using him significantly less. I'm not sure how, but I  feel bad for both things.

***

We had a Golden Retriever named Casie. That's not a misprint, it's for some reason how we spelled "Casey." I wasn't around when Casie showed up, so I was not able to advocate for a more mainstream spelling until it was too late.

Casie was a rescue. We got her when she was six years old and I don't remember what kind of abuses her past included. Like I said, I was not there during her first few months and I try not to dwell on the specifics of anyone who could possibly find it in themselves to abuse a dog. Especially one as awesome as Casie. 

Like most Goldens, she was loving and fluffy and became part of the family immediately. She loved napping (points from me) and I don't think she ever had an accident indoors. Maybe I've forgotten, but if so it couldn't have happened more than once or twice. She died from cancer, again not unusual in Goldens, and her decline was quick enough that I don't believe she suffered too terribly.

That's how I remember it.

But the one thing that made Casie a pain, her absolute single character flaw in an otherwise perfect puppy package, was her thunder anxiety. Thunderstorms were terrible for her. She would cry and try and dig into the wall and floor: behind the sofa, in the powder room, anywhere that made crazy sense to her. She would be completely unresponsive to petting or hugging or cajoling. It was impossible to comfort her; we all tried. Again and again.

Fireworks were the worst. The Fourth of July would be a nightmare for her. When we left the house we would lock her in the smallest, darkest inside room to try and minimize her fright. When we stayed home we would try in vain to comfort her. Nothing worked. It was heartbreaking.

We looked at Thundershirts, marketed as a way to help calm dogs with this affliction, but never pulled the trigger. After I read about the tragedy involving poor Hope I started thinking about Casie and wondering if the cottage industry had grown any since then. I mean, we used to dose one of our former cats, a disgruntled tabby named Garfunkel, with Rescue Remedy to curb his tendency to express his almost-universal disapproval with urine. But honestly, that never worked.

A quick Google search showed Thundershirts remain popular, along with this lovely accessory for the stressed puppy. I don't know if it works but I will tell you it's a must-have if your dog has landed a role in that all-canine community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. Sing it with me: "Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset. Swiftly go the fleas..."


Today's pooch has access to pretty much everything a stressed out Gen X-er uses, including Melatonin and - of course, because why not - hemp based products. This company specializes in a variety of CBD based products that, "works naturally with your pet’s biology to reduce their stress without diminishing their personality." I am instantly skeptical of this claim. I mean, I know the difference between CBD and THC; I've attended the TED talk. Nonetheless I have never had difficulty identifying a human being who is under the influence, versus not, according to their personality. I'll bet you a new chew toy I can easily spot the fur baby who's hitting the weed to chill out. 

Sure, it starts out just during thunderstorms. You just need a little something to take the edge off. Then it's once in a while after a bad day. You see the rolled up newspaper and you think, "This guy again! Better go hit the KRADLE." Pretty soon you're rolling up just to get out of the dog bed every morning and then again to fall asleep at night. 

Now you know why dogs sleep 20 hours a day.

***

Getting back to the story out of Great Britain, I guess the saddest part about the zebra's tale is there is no villain. That's what we always look for, right? Someone to blame. That in and of itself is sad - I don't think we were always this way. But certainly the recent trend has been to blame someone for every bad thing that happens. In this instance assigning blame would be hard or, at the very least, undeserved. There's no evidence the people shooting off fireworks bore the animals any ill will. In fact larger fireworks displays common on this holiday ("Guy Fawkes Day") were canceled to help keep citizens from assembling in crowds. Celebration of the holiday became another casualty of the COVID world in which we all live.

So some neighbors, wanting to feel good about something, set off the rockets from their backyards. Socially distanced, modest, tiny pockets of family looking for a little taste of what life used to be like. 

And then this happens.

There are no villains here, I feel secure in saying that. But part of me wonders if the UK is as far gone as we are here in the States. Because if this happened on a little farm a few miles from me I can imagine, in crazy explicit detail, the arguments that would erupt. One neighbor would say the other should have been more mindful of the surroundings and considerate of others. Then that neighbor would respond it's his land and no one can tell me what I can and can't do on my land. 

And just like that, the saddest story ever, the story of the dead baby zebra, would vanish into the politically charged cesspool that has become our lives. Suddenly being pro-zebra or anti-zebra would be everything anyone needed to know about you, certainly enough information to put you in a red box or a blue box.

I can see it in my mind, so clearly. This is what life without Hope looks like.

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