In the quiet of my room, I do not hear the sirens blaring or dogs barking. I cannot see the walls that surround the unlikely fortresses on an island of sand and tourists, nor the cats that stare from beneath the bushes. But I know they are there, and just that fact makes me sad. I didn’t know they were there when I first arrived on the island, nor when I entered my shiny new house on the hill over-looking the city. But one day, while I was out exploring behind my house, I saw them hidden just at the base of the hill, nestled in a small valley out of sight from the world…the penitentury and the animal quarantine center.
I had been looking over the valley at the neighboring mountains when the alarm rang from below. Echoing off the canyon walls, my eyes instinctively traveled to hence the sound came, now loud and clear. There amongst the red dirt and blue sky, barbed wire dotted the tops of the secured white facility, running into the small towers that stood guard over unwanteds, criminals the world wanted to forget. Watching as best I could from my perch, I waited curiously to see if there had been a jail break or fight in the yard. But there was nothing…just the steady siren sending a message to someone somewhere that all was not right within the walls. Nearby, businesses crowded an industrial complex. Cars sped down the road just in front of the prison as if it were simply not there. No one seemed to mind the blaring sound that still wailed from within the walls. With a heavy sigh, I continued on the path I had begun in the direction of the city.
The sun now rose high in the sky and perspiration dotted my forehead as I caught myself from stumbling down the steep incline in front of me. If only there were a breeze, surely the path would be more enjoyable, I thought. A cat scurried across the path before me and as I came upon it, I found several sets of eyes peering out from under the brush. I had never seen a group of cats congregated in the middle of the day, and as sweet as I said, “Hi Kitties,”I felt uneasy as their stares urged me to move on. Having only taken a few steps beyond the unfriendly felines, I got the first notion that up ahead something unusual was occurring. My steps quickened as the first barks grew in volume. Was there a hunting club nearby? I wondered. But, of course, that would be silly since there was nothing on the island to hunt.
As I rounded the bend, a site that I will never forget came into view. Stopping in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat as I froze in utter surprise. The sound grew as one after another dog joined in chorus, as if calling me to rescue them. Before me rows and rows of brown outdoor kennels lined the floor of the valley, each with its own chain-linked outside area. The hair lifted on my neck and then the tears welled in my eyes. How could these poor dogs be forced to live like this, a voice inside me shouted. I realized that I had found the island quarantine center.
Suddenly my feet were moving quickly across the now paved road that ran along the hillside. Pushing myself up and away from the animals, I rounded the bend and headed home in almost a sprint as the howls and barks chased me from behind. Not until I was half-way home did the sounds fade within my ears, and I slowed my pace for the rest of the climb back home. Reaching my door, thankful to be home, I heard a new siren belt its way up the hill, and I quickly opened the door and escaped inside my walls of silence.
Leaning against the counter, my labored breathing settled to a steady pace as I shook my head in confusion. How could two totally opposite facilities be sitting next to each other, one that housed animals that people adored and loved and couldn’t wait to have in their homes, and one that house a different kind of animal that no one wanted and hoped would never be released? And as I stood there in my quiet kitchen, I suddenly realized that the cats were unbelievably caught between the two opposing sets of animals, for they must have escaped the quarantine but had no one to love them. I moved to my patio window and looked out across the valley. From my view I could not see the two facilities below me, but I could see the cats scurrying past my yard in search of something I knew not what. I pulled the blinds not wanting to see.
And yet, here I sit in the quiet of my house, the sounds of sirens and barking dogs lost in the darkness outside. I know that somewhere a cat awaits someone to love, a dog barks for its owner and a prison mate wonders if he will ever be free… and me, I am imprisoned by that which surrounds me. For I am a tender heart, and knowing that each of these animals suffers makes me no different than them.
Author’s Note: As an animal lover, I encourage you to help through donations or volunteer activities at your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter. You might even find a Quarantine facility nearby that needs your help too. For more information following the links below: