Culture vulture

Tinkerbelle got lucky
Like anyone else who reads the newspaper, Culture Vulture has been following the Terri Schiavo case with morbid interest or, more honestly, morbid self-interest. One cannot truly contemplate the horrors of the situation without placing oneself in the position of each of the familial participants in the tragic scenario.

Surely anyone can relate to the parents’ desire to wish for their daughter’s recovery and their denial of all the scientific evidence saying that after 15 years in a severely brain-damaged vegetative state she will never recover or even be conscious. And most people can relate to the husband and legal guardian’s desire to end the protracted suffering or needless extension of a loved one’s life that should be allowed to take its natural course to disengage itself from the mortal realm.

Without written or recorded evidence of Schiavo’s own wishes, we can only guess what her chosen course of action would be, but I see no reason to doubt her husband’s statement that she did not want to be artificially sustained if she ever wound up in the state she is now in. That’s the kind of intimate stuff married couples talk about, and it’s not something that one would be inclined to lie about.

For the record, Culture Vulture would rather be treated like Tinkerbelle then Terri Schiavo. Tinkerbelle was a 39-year-old elephant that was a star attraction at the San Francisco Zoo for many years, until she became crippled by a degenerative bone disease and damage to her feet caused by many years of being confined to a concrete cage. Elephants’ feet are not adapted to dwelling on hard, abrasive surfaces, and eventually the heavy pads that serve them well in nature break down and peel away if they are not given some relief from the harmful surface.

Eventually, when the crippling and pain of Tinkerbelle were so obvious that she could no longer be kept on public display, she was lucky enough to be placed in an animal shelter that provided her with a more suitable environment and a steady supply of painkillers to soothe her ravaged feet. But the damage had been done, and last week Tinkerbelle collapsed, unable to walk because the bottoms of her feet had peeled away and to walk would have meant walking on the exposed bones. She made no further attempts to get up after her second fall and was euthanized when it was determined that the damage to her feet and bones was excruciatingly painful and irreparable.

In a dubiously soothing side note, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle Tinkerbelle’s penultimate day was a good one. “She was trumpeting in the bath, playing with her toys and eating like a little pig,” said Pat Derby, the founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, which runs the Ark 200 refuge where Tinkerbelle spent her final days.

So, just in case it’s not perfectly clear, I’d like to state without reserve that should Culture Vulture ever become incapable of satisfying the public desire to watch me perform, I would like to be sent to a facility where I will be pampered and cared for until such a time as I am incapable of self-sustaining action, and at that time, if I am incapable of communication of any sort to the contrary, I would prefer to be euthanized in as gentle and loving a way possible.

It doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.