Yesterday while walking to work I saw a squirrel get clipped by a car. The little creature wasn’t killed but was left in the road writhing and wriggling. It was agonizing to watch. Cars passed by, swerving to miss the squirrel. Other pedestrians didn’t seem to see what was happening.
I spotted a man’s ski glove sitting in a bush. I put it on and during a lull in the traffic went and picked up the squirrel. I placed him on a pile of leaves by a tree and he lay still at last, panting hard, his mouth open and his eyes half closed. I didn’t know what to do.
Once when I was very young, a sparrow fell into our fireplace. By the time my father got the bird from the fire, it was badly burned. My parents took the sparrow up to the kitchen and had a murmured discussion. I stood behind them agitated, shifting from foot to foot. My father took a heavy-handled knife from a drawer and smacked the sparrow sharply on the head with the handle. I started screaming “What are you DOING??” My mother turned around and said gently but firmly “This is the right thing to do. It’s too badly hurt. We’re stopping its suffering.” It was one of the rare times I saw my parents work as a team and I knew with certainty that they were doing the right thing.
But I didn’t have a heavy-handled knife or even a rock to put the squirrel out of his misery. I don’t know how to wring an animal’s neck and was afraid of botching the job. I said a prayer for the squirrel and encouraged him to go to heaven. It occurred to me that my looming over the squirrel was frightening, not comforting to him. So feeling helpless, I stood up and continued on to work.
Should I have found a way to kill the squirrel or is it better he died in his own time? Would it have been kinder to have left him in the road and hoped a car finally hit him? Is it possible the squirrel recovered? I haven’t gone back to the spot to see if he is still there (I can’t bear to).
What would you have done?