But forget the great minds for a moment. Consider your own experience. Here’s an episode from mine. One of the goats was limping. I suspected hoof rot and called the vet. It turned out that she had stepped on a nail.
In order to make that determination, we first had to coral her. Goats are happy to follow you but they do not like to be chased and grabbed. How many people does it take to coral a goat? The answer turned out to be six. We finally got a halter on her and pushed her against the fence of her paddock to keep her still and balanced.
Dill, our young steer, rushed over at the commotion. From the other side of the fence, he licked her and nuzzled her until the procedure was over. After the goat was released from the paddock, she ran to Dill and they snuggled together. Taking a page from Forrest Gump, I thought, “He is not a smart steer, but he knows what love is.”
So I sheltered the raccoon and gave him food and water while he healed. Raccoons love eggs, and we’re always looking to pawn them off. It took some convincing, but the vet gave me some antibiotics to put in its food. News travels fast around here. Some folks weighed in. Shoot it. If you feed it it will keep coming back. It will kill all your chickens. It will give your children rabies.
Every morning it looked a bit better. After a week or so, I opened the gate in the evening. In the morning, it was gone.
Some time later I was walking near dusk with the flashlight on the forest trail. The beam caught a pair of eyes. It was a raccoon without a tail going about its business, probably hunting for a mouse or a toad.
Suddenly I teared up. We always tear up before we know exactly why. Upon reflection, I suppose it was out of sadness and sympathy for the plight of animals past present and future – for the horrible burden that all sentient life bears.
There is nothing more we can do but commend it all to God’s care, but still I found myself yearning for a day that would never arrive this side of the Jordan – a day where the lion will lie down with the lamb. Perhaps there is a bit more we can do; perhaps we can make our little kingdoms as peaceable as we can. Perhaps, per St. Augustine, this is our whole business in our common mortal lives.