Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The happy story of Charles the traveling cat

A brief newspaper story – only bad news gets the big column inch count – related the story of Charles the traveling cat. Months after his human (a.k.a. “owner” – ugh!) thought she had lost him forever, Charles, who lived in New Mexico, turned up in Chicago.

Somehow, he had “escaped” from his house while a friend of his human was taking care of him. (With friends like this . . . !) That was the last anyone saw of Charles for 8 or 9 months – until he surfaced at a shelter in Chicago. There, staffers learned he had an embedded ID chip, found out where Charles was from and contacted his person.

She was ecstatic to know her cat lived. But . . . she couldn’t afford the round trip air fare to pick him up and bring him home. The story gets better: Hearing of the woman’s plight – she in Albuquerque, Charles in Chicago – a local man traveling there for a wedding offered to pick up the cat and bring him back.

End of story. Let’s just assume all this came to pass and there’s been a happy reunion in Albuquerque.


And on that happy note – a major departure, I know, from many of the posts here – this blogger announces a vacation, effective immediately. (What time could be more apropos than “the dog days of summer”?)

After writing 200 posts in about 15 months; after too often feeling like a scold; after suspecting I was too often singing to the (too-small) choir . . . time out for R & R! Back next month some time.

Till then, I hope we'll all think about animal rights and do right by animals. (And if you've just found this blog, please dip in and read and comment.)


P.S. Can’t resist citing one more science story about animals, written by Natalie Angier, of the NYTimes. Yesterday she wrote about why we find some creatures unsightly, even if they aren't threatening to us. In a lesser writer’s hands, this story -- “A Masterpiece of Nature? Yuck!” -- could be dull. Not so with Angier! Check it out:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spider with spirit of derring-do

Perfect timing: Just as Time Magazine comes out with a cover story about (non-human) animals’ intelligence,* I engage in combat, or at least a battle of wills, with a spider. And I don’t know who won.

Getting into the bathtub, I noticed a spider at the end near the shower, and thought, “I’ll save you from drowning, Spider.” Easier said than done. I lifted the spider from the bottom of the tub to the side corner, thinking s/he’d escape up the tile wall and away from the water.


Instead, as I showered, s/he started back down the tub side toward the drain. A suicidal spider?

This time, I re-caught the spider and put him/her a distance away, on the side of the sink, again thinking s/he’d climb the wall. Wrong.

Instead, by the time I’d showered, the spider was climbing up the side of the sink, away from the drain, then sliding down toward it again, and trying the ascent somewhere else. Up and down a few more times before I was dressed enough to gently wrap this free-thinking adventurer in a tissue and head downstairs to the front door.

Once on the front porch, I shook the tissue out over the ivy bed, but – truthfully – didn’t see the spider heading down.

Maybe s/he had long since escaped my good intentions and found another place in the house, while I was in transit, to hole up – or to do more death-defying stunts.

* “Inside the Minds of Animals: Science is revealing just how smart other species can be – and raising new questions about how we treat them,” August 16, 2010


Saturday, August 7, 2010

'Animal rights' defined

What is meant by "animal rights”?

The following statements (with italics added) are excerpted from a book* by Lee Hall, lawyer, teacher, advocate and legal director with Friends of Animals.(Hall is pictured here at a demonstration against horse-drawn carriages in Philadelphia earlier this year.)

"Animal rights is the development of respect for the interests of conscious beings in living on their terms rather than under human dominion. . . . is not a list of things we give, but an attitude of respect. . . . Animal rights, as distinguished from the extension of humane welfare provisions, is fundamentally an issue of justice. The more justice prevails, the less charity is needed. Thus, the guiding principle here isn’t to help them, but to aspire not to interfere. At essence, it would mean their privacy from our intrusions. . . . It is, at essence, the repudiation of violence, of seeing others as instruments to our ends, of taking advantage. . . ."

* Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror (Nectar Bat Press, c. 2006)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Animals at the Barnes

Fittingly, for a blog about animals, this post is an overview of animals in art -- the art, that is, at the Barnes Collection in Merion, PA. By now, probably everyone who has a nodding acquaintance with art knows of the Barnes, so we won't go into all that here (except to recommend the movie "Art of the Steal," the sad story of the Barnes' undoing).

On a recent day trip to the Barnes, I decided that, among zillions of other things to see, I'd look for animals in the art. Although often distracted, I did find enough animals represented to cause me to wonder whether Dr. Barnes actively liked animals, and animals in art, or whether they simply came with the territory.

Henri Rousseau probably checked in with the most animals in his work there --unsurprisingly, since he is known for his jungle scenes. His menagerie included a monkey, a bear and (in a more domestic setting) a rabbit having a meal. The bear, shown towering over a nude, was being shot in the back by a slit-eyed man hiding in the underbrush. So the nude would be safe -- or would she?

Two figures with goats; horses of tragedy by De Chirico; Utrillo's baby dog or dog baby -- anyway, a rendering of his black and white companion at ease; Bonnard's image of a woman and her dog at the table. At least two cats figured in pictures. A sinuous black cat stretched up to look into a white bathtub ("Bath tub and cat" [c. 1944], a reverse painting on glass by Angelo Pinto, 1908-1994) and finally and more traditionally, a woman held a cat in her arms.