One of the first things I wanted to do after leaving my parents' home was to have my own dog. When my sister's dog Dolly had puppies, I jumped at the chance. I named her Cinnamon. I worked tirelessly to get her to obey my verbal commands. She became one of those dogs attached to an imaginary leash. She would never think of going into the street, even if a cat or squirrel were on the other side. She would stand at crosswalks dutifully awaiting my command that its okay to cross. She was always small, so for ten years she slept above my head on the top of my pillow. That's how close we were.
When I lived in Washington, D.C. the children in the neighborhood called her Canela. We were inseparable. Whenever I appeared on the street alone, everyone would ask, "where's Cinnamon?"
In 1979 I shared my apartment with a roommate. One day Cinnamon began to limp. Within a short time it became very difficult for her to walk. I took her to a vet where she was diagnosed with a spinal injury. I took out a loan to pay for a delicate surgery to repair her spine. I bought a kennel to keep her confined until she finished therapy to teach her to walk again. I was very dedicated to her recovery. One day I returned from work and Cinnamon was not there. A note was left on the dining room table. "There has been an accident. I have taken Cinnamon to the animal hospital."
My roommate had been making spaghetti. Against my directions, he had let her out of her kennel. He tripped over her and poured a pot of boiling water on her, burning 75% of her body. When I arrived at the hospital they warned me she was in a coma and would not respond. I leaned over her and spoke her name. She opened her eyes for about ten seconds and the fear I saw broke my heart. That evening I called my mother, because that's what one does at a time like this. She tried to explain how Cinnamon would be better off out of pain, without suffering. But I could not imagine a life without her. I sat down, closing my eyes, sending her my love, letting her go. A few moments later the hospital called to tell me Cinnamon had just died.
In the middle of my grief a neighbor came to me to tell me he had witnessed my roommate kicking Cinnamon down the stairs some months before. Of course I blamed myself for not seeing who he really was. I blamed myself for not being able to protect the most important living being in my life. And for the last 35 years I have carried this secret in my heart. It is such an important part of who I am today. For some reason, on the treadmill this morning, the universe decided to make me face this past. So now I'm writing it down and releasing it. I will advocate for innocent animals as long as I draw breath into my lungs.