ST wasn’t feeling well today, so she left after the quiz. Which meant FN and I were left behind to do the cat dissection on our own. She wasn’t up for it, but I thought I better at least try. Which is a bit of a turnaround from my post of before.
With all the drama around choosing the stream for next year, I’ve been trying to open up to the idea of further dissections. If I want to challenge myself, I need to push my boundaries a little. This does not mean I cannot be respectful around our cats, and treat their death (and contribution to my knowledge) accordingly. So I opted to try the dissection myself today. It went better than I expected – mostly because the skinning had already been done. But our cat also has a very large bruise on her side – likely the reason she died. That was a little tricky to work around. And then I needed to cut through some of the muscle sheaths, and the muscles themselves. Since I wasn’t sure if I was doing it correctly, and because I was feeing a little grossed out, I decided not to continue. I am very proud of myself for trying. But I don’t know if I’ll try again.
I am not sure if I am disappointed or not at the fact that it is getting easier. In some ways I wish it wouldn’t – I become desensitized and am no longer as concerned. I don’t wish for death to become commonplace, or for a lack of respect to enter in. We shall see how things continue.
I’ve been thinking more about my reaction to the dissection this morning. I felt tired for the rest of the day, sometimes feeling quite withdrawn, and sometimes feeling more like myself. Once I got home, I gave in to the lethargy, possibly some self pity, and the general ‘traumatization’ as my roommate put it.
I did not have such a reaction to the dissections from last semester. In fact, I was quite rude to the squid that I cut up. F teased me about it, and I responded with, what’s the matter, it’s already dead? But the beings we dissected last semester where all alien to me. I have never seen one living. Especially the horseshore crabs. They look like creatures from a science fiction film.
But yet I am upset at today’s behaviour because of death. I have clued in to the reason why – the cats are the first real dead being I have been forced to acknowledge, and even examine. Even when Trix passed away on New Year’s Day, I only looked at him long enough to tell he was dead and to put him in a bag for burial. I felt as though it would be wrong to look at him in detail. Like it would be disrespectful for others to know I was curious about his being dead. Perhaps the giddiness and high energy of today is just the others’ way of handling their curiousity – by joking and making light.
Trix’s death was tidy, and put away quickly (although I have not yet buried him, since it the ground is frozen). Being confronted with the stiff, wet, preserved, smelly bodies of the cats in class forces me to look at my feelings around death. I would be further traumatized if I had to look at my cats in that way – empty of life, static. I am uncomfortable with Death. Not for the sake of those who die, but instead my own sake. (After all, we are all selfish beings – the world revolves around our own egocentric view.) I would bemoan the loss of those who die, for how they make me feel. For the comfort of their presence in my life. If that presence is removed, I would be sad.
And I am not always certain what to do with my sadness. My emotions are confusing to me, buried deeply in my ‘psyche’ or what ever I should call it. I am getting better at understanding and acknowledging my emotions and how they effect me daily. I think that is partly why I did not fight my reaction today, but let it have control, let it happen, and dare I say, even embellished it a little. For someone who dreams less in words, and more in feelings, you would think I would have a better grasp on my daytime processes. Nope.
We began our dissection of the cat in vertebrate zoology today. It made me question what we do in the name of science, the pursuit of knowledge. If our society valued other beings more, would we still perform such dissections so routinely?
For one girl in my class, it is her third time. She is not bothered by it at all, despite having her own cats as pets. Thankfully she is also the one doing the actual dissection. But why do we assume it is okay to do such things? Just because the animal is dead? Does the body have no meaning/value after death? Is it related to how we view death as well? That in a mainstream, Christian dominated society, what’s left behind on earth after the soul gets to heaven doesn’t matter anymore?
If our society were different, would we still work on real animals, or would we have developed some sort of plastic anatomy models we could look at and learn from?
Yes, technically, learning about mammalian anatomy is interesting. But must we learn in such a casual and empty way? It seems as though there is a void of compassion, or a lack of respect for what the form used to be, if that makes sense. Since the animal is dead, shouldn’t it’s body be free to return to the Dark Mother, to be decomposed and recycled, as all energy is recycled in the universe?
It felt pretty horrible to watch people trim and cut, and some classmates took photos with their cell phones. Why you would want a picture of a preserved cat on your cell phone is beyond me. One boy was going to show it to his girlfriend, since it looked like her cat. If it were me, I don’t know if he would still be my boyfriend after that. The smell was terrible. Not only the preservative (they use formalin now, since formaldehyde is carcinogenic), but also the disinfectant spray that we have to clean the tables with. I hate Cavicide. It’s a horrible distasteful spray that smells and gets stuck at the back of the throat. But we have to use it in all the labs. Ick.
I am very grateful that I am choosing to work with soils, plants, and other forms of life. I could not be a veterinarian, or even a park warden. Of course, now that I am writing this, I remember killing bacteria earlier in the weak. Why is it okay for me to heat fix microbes, but I can’t dissect a cat? Talk about the value of Life in all its levels of magnitude. Perhaps that is a post for another day.