Thoughts on animals and how we “keep” them.
A few years ago, my daughter really wanted a pet frog. On her 6th birthday, we headed off to the pet store and found a really interesting frog, a fire-belly. He was green and black with a flaming orange underside.
We picked out all of the necessary components: a terrarium complete with every plaything and climbing apparatus a frog could hope to enjoy in a glass cage. He moved into our home, happily hopping around. I dutifully ran out each week for live crickets, his meal of choice.
Of course, my daughter lost interest in the mundane aspects of daily care and the frog became my deal. Every day I would feed him a few crickets and watch him eat. The longer I stared at his perfect frog habitat, the more depressed I became. All I could see was the walls he was trapped within.
This weekend I spent some time at a country fair. There were beautiful displays of vegetables and crafts and every kind of farm animal. I pet the calves, listened to the mayhem in the chicken coop and watched the pigs compete for their dinner.
I took a seat to just watch the pigs. They were locked in small pens, two pigs to a small enclosure. They were pushing their snouts through the bars, trying to steal their neighbors dinner. Adorable scene. But all I could see was the bars. And remember our frog.
I have always felt the cruelty of locking something up. My dogs want to roam the neighborhood but they aren’t allowed. My frog just wanted to hop free in a straight path but he was in a glass cage. The pigs just wanted to move and grab some dinner but were restrained by bars. I can’t help but wonder if we should be doing this. It feels wrong.
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” —William Faulkner
On a hot August night I did it. I stood in my kitchen dropping crickets one by one into the terrarium and decided I couldn’t watch the frog trying so desperately to hop free of the cage anymore. I reached in and picked him up and walked outside. Placing him gently on the grass in my backyard, I sat down and watched him hop happily away.