Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time to take a break

This will be my last AnimalBeat post. I had hoped to “make the world a better place” for animals with this blog – reasoning with readers, effectively persuading and converting through sheer “rightness.”    

It didn’t happen. AB didn’t even attract steady readers, as far as I could tell, except for drivers of horse-drawn carriages. Dubious distinction: I did get their attention!

I could go on forever with blog posts about animal issues that interest, sadden and often enrage me, but without numbers of readers and some positive re-actions, there was no point. So a couple months ago, I decided to call it quits on May 30 – exactly three years from the first post in 2009.

But that couldn’t happen either. Soon after my April 16 post about Harry’s birthday, I saw that Google will soon change everything about the system I had so laboriously learned to use. I can’t go through that again – and still need numbers of readers if I’m to do any good.

Besides, after almost 440 posts, would I be saying anything new? 

So, my thanks to anyone reading this post and others before it. I invite you to try, where I’ve been posting entries about pets since last fall. 


(The poem that follows was reprinted from today’s Writer’s Almanac []. It seemed like a fitting last poem here.)

How to Foretell a Change in the Weather

by Ted Kooser 

Rain always follows the cattle
sniffing the air and huddling
in fields with their heads to the lee.
You will know that the weather is changing
when your sheep leave the pasture
too slowly, and your dogs lie about
and look tired; when the cat
turns her back to the fire,
washing her face, and the pigs
wallow in litter; cocks will be crowing
at unusual hours, flapping their wings;
hens will chant; when your ducks
and your geese are too noisy,
and the pigeons are washing themselves;
when the peacocks squall loudly
from the tops of the trees,
when the guinea fowl grates;
when sparrows chip loudly
and fuss in the roadway, and when swallows
fly low, skimming the earth;
when the carrion crow
croaks to himself, and wild fowl
dip and wash, and when moles
throw up hills with great fervor;
when toads creep out in numbers;
when frogs croak; when bats
enter the houses; when birds
begin to seek shelter,
and the robin approaches your house;
when the swan flies at the wind,
and your bees leave the hive;
when ants carry their eggs to and fro,
and flies bite, and the earthworm
is seen on the surface of things.

(from Flying at Night, Copyright symbolUniversity of Pittsburg (sic) Press, 1985)  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EASEL @ the Farmers Market

There's news of all sorts in the animal world, so much of it that it's hard to summarize.Let's start local with the EASEL adoption day last Saturday at the Trenton Farmers Market. (Luckily, we missed the drenching Nor'easter by a day, and had to "endure" only bright sun and gusty breezes at times.)

The best part, as usual, was how the dogs seemed to relish being out of the shelter and into the bright light of day -- meeting people, looking around and being the center of attention.

Another highlight: the two dogs from Alabama, of the 4 or 5 who were transported from there to New Jersey to escape a kill shelter. The story of their travels will be told later. Suffice it to say here that they were dear dogs, a mix of hound and another working breed I forget, with wonderful markings and seemingly lovely manners.

One, "Dixie," was a 3-month old puppy, and darling. The second one was adopted before the 5-hour stretch ended. (His new family is shown in the photo.)

Lots of EASEL people there, and a pretty good turn out of others interested at least in meeting the animals. Some 20 cats were in the county van, able to see out and be seen. No kittens yet; they're still too young.

The bottom line: 2 cats and 2 dogs adopted, for 4 fewer shelter animals in the world. That can only be good!

So now EASEL will continue with weekend adoption events at pet stores in the area -- schedule on the website: Come on out!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy birthday, dear Harry!

“A model of excellence or perfection” – how fitting: the word “paragon” is today’s word in A.Word.A.Day ( Today is also Harry Summers’ seventh birthday.

As indicated in earlier posts – probably last year at this time! – Harry was our first ever cat, nearly seven years ago. Because we were so taken with the tiny, shy orange fluff ball, we converted wholly and happily to cats. (Before long, Billy Summers joined the family, but that’s another story, probably re-told every February 3).

Harry was a “rescue cat,” probably twice, although his exact birthplace was hazy in the telling by Deb, the woman who advertised Harry on Petfinder. Maybe somewhere in Hamilton, maybe in her own backyard – it was never clear.

What was clear: he was adorable. And very, very shy of people, giving us the idea he may have been a feral kitten. Whenever we visited him that summer, on the screen porch in Trenton, he got as far from us as he could. The other cats there were fine with people; not Harry.

Deb even suggested bringing Harry into her house for an extra week, to socialize him more. That was a good idea, although once he came home with us, he was still elusive for awhile.

And, until the first vet appointment, Harry was also still a girl, or so we all thought. The vet’s disclosure – that “Orangina” wouldn’t work for a name because we had a male orange tabby kitten – caused us to re-name our new kid.

“Orangina, “Harry,” the sex and name make no diff – we love him! Happy birthday, grown up pussycat, regal Harry!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Animal advocates in perPETual motion

It must seem some time to animal advocates, friends of homeless animals, pet partisans -- call them what you wish -- that fundraising and "pitching pets" are never-ending activities.

Take EASEL Animal Rescue League for instance. On Saturday April 21, Easel is sponsoring a five-hour pet adoption event at the Trenton Farmers Market. Some 20 cats and a half-dozen dogs from the Ewing Animal Shelter will be there between 10-3, ready to be adopted and taken home by their new families.

Then, less than a week later, on Friday, April 27, EASEL will sponsor "Casino Night" at the Trenton Country Club, with proceeds benefiting the animals.

EASEL members -- all unpaid volunteers with lives to lead, jobs and families -- put in tremendous amounts of time for the good of animals -- cats and dogs mostly. While other people may be stretched out on the couch watching TV or even getting chores done, EASEL volunteers are all over the place, thinking up ideas for ways to help animals and carrying them out.

Which is all so impressive, so notable.

If you or someone you know is looking for a pet -- a dog or cat or kitten -- consider stopping by the Farmers Market (960 Spruce St, Lawrence) this Saturday. Wonderful prospective pets will be there. Right now, except for the Ewing Shelter, they are homeless, but they'd love to lose that status.

Stop by to say hello. . . to make a donation. . . to adopt a pet, or all of these. You might also visit the EASEL website -- -- which is terrific as well as informative.

Help EASEL help animals find loving, forever homes.

(Please remember: visit for a mix of info and opinions about pets!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Welcome back, Jeoffry

(Today’s post is borrowed-in-admiration from The Writer’s Almanac for April 11. Part of a longer poem, "Jubilate Agno,” written in the 18th century under unusual circumstances, this fragment is about a cat. I’ve long been charmed by Jeoffry the cat – and hope readers will be too. [Another section appeared earlier in this blog.] A little info about poet Christopher Smart follows the fragment.)

Fragment B: For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
the spirit.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

April 11 is the birthday of poet Christopher Smart, born in Shipbourne, England (1722). After experiencing a religious awakening that convinced him that he was a prophet, he began praying and preaching in the streets of London. He tried to follow the Biblical injunction to "pray ceaselessly," dropping to his knees whenever the spirit moved him. This embarrassed his family, who put him into an asylum, where he wrote the two poems for which he is best known: "A Song to David" (1763) and "Jubilate Agno" (first published in 1938), which includes the section praising his cat, excerpted above.

(Blogger’s note: I doubt the accuracy of the contraction “he’s” in the sixth line starting with “For.” Doesn’t seem very 18th century to me. Calling all English language specialists, who may know either way.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

What we don’t see doesn’t hurt . . . animals

For animals, the basis of “animal welfare” is simply staying alive. But for countless animals, simply staying alive is difficult to impossible to do.

Only consider the billions of animals – you read it right, billions of them – killed every year to be eaten by humans. For them, NYTimes columnist Mark Bittman argues that “animal welfare” means we should be aware of the “torture” animals go through on the way to being slaughtered.

Because people eat animals, and some are erroneously convinced they must eat meat, innumerable animals must die. And in the process, they suffer unimaginably.

Bittman, with whom I’ve had issues earlier in this blog, seems slowly to be gaining awareness of just how horrific the system of meat production is – initially horrific for the animals involved, of course, and then for the people involved, who are isolated from what happens to the animals.

In a column last month titled “The Human Cost of Animal Suffering,” he wrote about a book whose author was exploring “the normalization of violence.” Not only do most people not know how animals are “processed” into food, but many of the workers involved are also isolated from those horrors.

Not seeing the “process” – which presumably would horrify them and prompt them to protest – helps people tolerate its continuation. And not seeing it, they continue to eat “meat” – i.e., dead animal tissue, which resulted from animal suffering.

“Distancing and concealment” in imprisonment, war, torture, deployment of drones and other sophisticated weapons allow “impersonal killing” to take place over and over again. Bittman says “we should look more carefully at how we raise and kill animals” because “when we all know the system, we’ll be even more eager to change it.”

This whole problem would disappear if people stopped eating animals. But Bittman’s not going there. For now anyway, he’s proposing only to raise and kill them in more humane ways – as if that’s not a contradiction in terms.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Unthinkable future for elephants

Elephants are “on the edge.” They’re in serious danger of becoming extinct. After centuries of poaching, culling, starvation and habitat loss, their numbers have dropped from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand.

The current condition of elephants was discussed March 27 on an NPR program, “Here and Now,” from WBUR, Boston. The scientist who spoke about the plight of elephants was G. A. Bradshaw, whose book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity (Yale University Press), was published in 2009.

To obtain elephants’ tusks for ivory jewelry and bric-a-brac, some poachers actually use hand grenades to wipe out whole families at a time. Nor does it end there. Close-knit and emotional, with strong family ties, elephants also have elaborate grieving practices for those who die.

Baby elephants lose the mentors they need when adults are killed, and all survivors are traumatized by the noise, bloodshed, death. They show distinct behavioral symptoms like those of young people exposed to war and genocide, who witness their elders and others around them being killed. Overall, the fabric of elephant society has broken down.

Speaking with the show host, Bradshaw indicated that the trauma elephants have experienced is irrevocable. It passes through the generations. Violence leaves scars on the bodies and brains of victims.

Worst of all, she said, local extinctions of elephants could lead to total extinction – which, she thinks, could happen in 20 years.

Unthinkable and unbelievable, is this future also unstoppable?


(photo from New York's Natural History Museum)