And now I have my own small, sad—but significant—story.
When my parents first moved into their current house in north Texas, there was a lot of excitement. They looked forward to a barn with horses and the small-town living that would allow for us children to wander freely around the neighborhood, the woods and the nearby creek. As a five year old, I was thrilled at the idea of having an upstairs room—and lots of pets.
I come from an animal-loving family. The presence of furry (or scaly) friends was a constant reality for me. And, no matter how many dogs, cats, iguanas, turtles, horses, fish or hermit crabs we had, every loss was a big one.
That said, there are always favorites. Ugly but loving, our mongrel bitch Anubis had a sweet way of grunting responses when we spoke to her, turning flips of excitement when we turned on the lawnmower, and patiently tolerating the many young children (and their tendency to dress her up in costumes). She survived being hit by a car when we were in middle school, though she lost one of her legs due to a bad veterinarian. She didn't chase the cats, and even though she only had three legs, she was a brave guard dog.
The one major problem with our house in the country was the country road. Privately owned, it was in constant disrepair. And the neighborhood could never agree on a fair and proper course of action.
It was only this past month, 17 years after we moved in, that the first real progress began in fixing the feet-deep potholes.
Not surprisingly in Texas—as increasingly across the country—the construction crew that came out two weeks ago was entirely Mexican, and completely English-deficient. But, my parents figured, the management could communicate. So it didn't really matter.
But it did. Because of the drought Texas is currently experiencing, our horses, Dancer and Majid, were being kept in the front pasture. It runs along part of the road, and therefore gives the workers a clear view of the animals as they graze, roll and go about their horsey business.
Imagine my parents' shock and anger when they realized that the construction workers, when they should have been working on our road, were instead intentionally frightening the horses into a great frenzy of galloping, rearing and cries of alarm!
Seeing the danger of this situation (the horses could hurt themselves any number of ways), my mother went out to the front pasture to calm down them, especially Majid, the jumpiest of the two. After about an hour of soothing noises, special treats, petting and generally comforting the horses, she finally got him calm.
The Mexican workers could see all of this as it played out—their machines and dumb behavior working the horses up, and my Mom working so hard to calm them back down. But as soon as she turned from Majid to walk back to the house, one of the workers climbed up in one of his large machines and honked the horn—just to frighten the horses again.
As if this weren't enough, however, later that day, my Mom was driving my sister to work when they saw Anubis' body in a ditch down the road.
Not only had our old pet been struck and killed, but the workers—the only people who had been on the road that morning—hadn't even felt the need to report it to anyone in neighborhood. Instead, they left her in a ditch as if she were nothing but road kill.
Immediately, my Dad called a halt on the road work. He made the whole crew sit idle until an English-speaking manager arrived, and he could explain what had been happening.
What kind of person thinks that frightening animals and their owners is funny? I can't imagine.
What if Anubis could have survived?
What if, instead of Anubis, one of the many small children had been hit by the machines?
I think of this especially because of a story that my brother just brought home from Mexico after spending last semester there. One of his friends saw a small boy run over and killed in the street. But, because no one wanted to get in trouble with the police, and (according to my brother) because of the Mexican machismo attitude which isn't supposed to show emotion, no one stopped to help. No one called the police, or ran to get the family—the good Samaritan, my brother said, gets pinned with the blame.
Needless to say, the word has gone around our neighborhood. Everyone is keeping their pets (and their kids) in the backyard.
Another bit of America enriched by immigration.
When my father was demanding answers from the construction site manager, his only response was: "Well, they [the workers] must not have been around horses before."
My Mom replied: "You don't need to have been around horses, all you need is eyes and a brain."
But eyes and a brain can't make up for the kind of cultural difference that would leave a beloved pet dying in a ditch—or, scaling up from microcosm so tragically provided by my beloved old mongrel, destroy a country.
Athena Kerry (email her) recently graduated from a Catholic university somewhere in America.