Cat push­ing on No. 9

Read­ing be­tween ju­di­cial lines re­sem­bles is­sues with the very el­derly

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­ — Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky. His an­cient cat does not re­quire a state in­ter­ven­tion.

You could call it an echo of the hu­man con­di­tion, wrapped up in an an­i­mal story. Think “Watership Down” or “Free Willy.” Heck, think “Wind in the Wil­lows.”

I’ll tell you this: I won­der in amaze­ment about the way noth­ing lights up the me­dia quite like a pet story. A her­maph­ro­dite cat? Wel­come to ev­ery pos­si­ble web­site. Burned dog? Stray who makes it home af­ter a mov­ing jour­ney across the con­ti­nent? It’s the stuff of click­bait ev­ery­where.

Such is the case of Cin­na­mon - a kitty now crop­ping up on pet care web­sites world­wide.

But what’s in­ter­est­ing in this lit­tle pet story is the sliver of self­aware an­thro­po­mor­phism that slips into a court judg­ment about the treat­ment of Cin­na­mon, a 15-year-old Si­amese cat in Vic­to­ria, B.C.

“The facts are not much in dis­pute. Eva Liv­ingston is the owner of a 15-year-old Si­amese cat named Cin­na­mon which from her early years had a dif­fi­cult life,” wrote Jus­tice H.W. Gor­don in a late-De­cem­ber ver­dict.

What was in dis­pute was the ques­tion of whether Liv­ingston was fail­ing to care for her pet.

“On a visit to a ve­teri­nar­ian, the ve­teri­nar­ian ad­vised Ms. Liv­ingston that Cin­na­mon was in poor con­di­tion, with arthri­tis, res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems, di­ar­rhea, blocked nos­tril, de­hy­dra­tion with weight loss and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing teeth. Var­i­ous treat­ments were rec­om­mended and ad­min­is­tered by both the ve­teri­nar­ian and Ms. Liv­ingston. My as­sess­ment of what I heard and draw from the ev­i­dence is that Cin­na­mon was in a con­di­tion not un­like many of the very el­derly in the hu­man end of the mam­malian hi­er­ar­chy.” (I pause here to point out only that Jus­tice H.W. Gor­don’s age is un­clear.)

“… Ms. Liv­ingston, hav­ing in mind what the ve­teri­nar­ian had rec­om­mended, her as­sess­ment of Cin­na­mon’s level of com­fort and abil­ity to cope with cer­tain treat­ments and in con­sul­ta­tion with a trusted pet store, con­tin­ued to com­fort and treat Cin­na­mon with­out fur­ther vis­its to a ve­teri­nar­ian. The ve­teri­nar­ian had ad­vised Ms. Liv­ingston that Cin­na­mon was un­likely to live past Christ­mas of 2014. She was still alive at the date of the last hear­ing. Cin­na­mon would not only eat very lit­tle but many of the foods she was of­fered she could not tol­er­ate or they had other side ef­fects, again some­what anal­o­gous to many el­derly peo­ple.”

Then, we cruise gen­tly into com­par­a­tives that might just be a corol­lary to the ques­tions of as­sisted sui­cide and end of life care: “In short, Cin­na­mon was long past her best-be­fore date and Ms. Liv­ingston stated her phi­los­o­phy was that an­i­mals should not be put down but be al­lowed to live out their lives nat­u­rally while be­ing made as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble.”

Fol­lowed, of course, by the in­ter­fer­ence of a good sa­mar­i­tan, who we might take as a sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the nanny state.

“On June 1, 2015, a passerby of Ms. Liv­ingston’s house spot­ted Cin­na­mon in the yard or next to the side­walk and thought Cin­na­mon was in such poor con­di­tion that he or she should take her to the lo­cal an­i­mal con­trol fa­cil­ity.”

Cin­na­mon was, of course, in hard shape. Liv­ingston was charged. She was sub­se­quently ac­quit­ted of the charge.

And Cin­na­mon? She ap­par­ently stum­bles on. Big ques­tions, ad­dressed in a small sleek cat­shaped form.

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