Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere. Here I explore the realm of the human-animal connection, with a decidedly feline-centric ambience. Even the title, Lifelines, encompasses the kitties!
From a story in The Independent UK in March 2016, this sweet tale is worth sharing again…
Today’s most heartwarming story is brought to you from a beach in Brazil. It’s the story of a South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
Retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman, Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011.
Joao cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.
After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave. “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” Joao recalls.
And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. He spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.
For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the year with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile.
It’s thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.
“I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me,” Joao told Globo TV. “No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up.”
“Everyone said he wouldn’t return, but he has been coming back to visit me for the past four years. He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February and every year he becomes more affectionate as he appears even happier to see me.”
Biologist Professor Joao Paulo Krajewski, who interviewed the fisherman for Globo TV, told The Independent, “I have never seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. When he sees him, he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”
And, just like that, the world seems a kinder place again.
…you have to go out on a limb.
Or so I heard once upon a time from a ballsy author named Shirley MacLaine. Perhaps you’ve read some her stuff.
I learned it for sure just this morning from a ballsy little squirrel intent on getting her num-nums.
For the last several weeks of this fall harvest season, the squirrels have been very busy rooting around and munching on the bud casings from the crepe myrtle tree outside my breakfast nook window.
They seem not so much to be gathering and storing for measured dispersal during the leaner winter days to come, but rather fattening themselves up here and now, ’cause, well, carpe diem, and all that, right?
Not only are they living for today, but they have no qualms with engaging in “high-risk” behavior to get what they want.
Seeing the spindly limb dipping and bobbing as she makes her way to the bounty at the end, I am curious to see if it snaps under her weight.
It does not.
Perhaps she knows instinctively what load a certain branch will bear and how far she can push her explorations.
Apparently, Ms. Squirrel feels very confident in what she can and cannot achieve…
She knew that perching on the flimsy limb would be too precarious, so she did what any self-respecting squirrel with a Batgirl fixation would do—she suspended herself upside down and munched to her tiny heart’s content!
My a.m. lessons today from Nature show me that sometimes to get what we really want, we have to take chances, calculated risks, and be willing to push the boundaries of what we think we can achieve.
And that in some circumstances, we have to be willing to suspend our current beliefs and see things from a different perspective.
In hanging up our outmoded ways of thinking and seeing the world, we open up to new vistas that we would never have noticed had we not been pushed to the (apparent) limits of our capabilities.
What limbs have you been considering scaling to reach your desired fruit?
Where have you been staying on solid ground and playing it safe for too long?
What new insights would a 180º shift in viewpoint reveal about a specific situation?
Tonight, I was reminded of the following poem by 20th-century poet Edmund Vance Cooke (June 5, 1866 – December 18, 1932). At the age of 9 or 10, I came across the poem in an anthology entitled “America’s Best-loved Poems” in my well-read mother’s bookcase.
For a fifth-grade class assignment, we were to memorize a poem of our choice and recite it to the class. It is still emblazoned in its entirety on my brain, some 45 years later.
This would be my first time “performing” solo in front of an audience. It would also be my first time having people cry because of my performance…
…But it was not my last…
I dedicate this poem to all our 4-legged brethren who still, to this day, are sacrificed in “the name of science” (more like in “the name of beauty products.”)
We called him ‘Rags.’ He was just a cur,
But twice, on the Western Line,
That little old bunch of faithful fur
Had offered his life for mine.
And all that he got was bones and bread,
Or the leavings of soldier grub,
But he’d give his heart for a pat on the head,
Or a friendly tickle and rub
And Rags got home with the regiment,
And then, in the breaking away—
Well, whether they stole him, or whether he went,
I am not prepared to say.
But we mustered out, some to beer and gruel
And some to sherry and shad,
And I went back to the Sawbones School,
Where I still was an undergrad.
One day they took us budding M.D.s
To one of those institutes
Where they demonstrate every new disease
By means of bisected brutes.
They had one animal tacked and tied
And slit like a full-dressed fish,
With his vitals pumping away inside
As pleasant as one might wish.
I stopped to look like the rest, of course,
And the beast’s eyes leveled mine;
His short tail thumped with a feeble force,
And he uttered a tender whine.
It was Rags, yes, Rags! who was martyred there,
Who was quartered and crucified,
And he whined that whine which is doggish prayer
And he licked my hand and died.
And I was no better in part nor whole
Than the gang I was found among,
And his innocent blood was on the soul
Which he blessed with his dying tongue.
Well I’ve seen men go to courageous death
In the air, on sea, on land!
But only a dog would spend his breath
In a kiss for his murderer’s hand.
And if there’s no heaven for love like that,
For such four-legged fealty—well
If I have any choice, I tell you flat,
I’ll take my chance in hell.
Clicking on this news story—about the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, FL—I take in the scene depicted and immediately begin to cry.
Not a soft tear down my face as I think about these majestic beasts whose natural lives were cut short by human hubris, but sobbing in my hands crying.
Why do certain pictures of animals—wild and domestic—cause me to become overwhelmed with emotion which spills over into my hands?
Why have I chosen—out of necessity—to refrain from watching most animal videos—from their life in the wild to their heroic deeds to silly pet home videos?
In many of these images, the animals are not being mistreated; rather they’re often being treated with love and respect by humans, but still I’m moved to tears.
My heart breaks for the plight of animals on this planet. Dare I say more so than for my own kind.
The lion above probably has a good life…is fed well…has a comfortable place to sleep…is safe from predators—man.
But when I see a magnificent creature such as this lion sitting on a stool, bending his will to man’s…for what? Human entertainment? Showbiz?
Horses getting pulverized in battle scenes in a Hollywood blockbuster movie…a cheering crowd amazed by captive cetaceans jumping through hoops…pets dressed up like human babies…and lions and tigers sitting on bar stools.
Some months ago, I went to see Alice Cooper in concert. Not my first time…I had previously enjoyed his over-the-top macabre showmanship for what it was.
But in this show he brought out an albino python. The crown went wild.
I was not amused. I began to tear up.
And I realized what it was that upset me so when I see wild animals “used” like this:
They did not give their consent.
It’s bad enough we use all parts of them in death for our own purposes, but to take their dignity while they still live and breathe…well…
It touches something deep in my core.
Maybe because it’s the plight of all us here on this planet?
Maybe we’re all just animals jumping through hoops for the entertainment of others who have “power” over us?
Sometimes the lions lunge or lash out and take back their power, along with a pound of flesh.
Who could blame them?
I know I’m not the only one; perhaps you, too, are moved to profound emotion when it comes to seeing our furry, finned, or feathered brethren doing things against their nature for human amusement and entertainment?
Yesterday I was going through my computer folders, collecting numerous creative and writing pieces for the portfolio I’m compiling for my new freelance writing site, Word Play…Putting Words to Work.
I came upon a flyer I had created in a series of comic-strip-like ads covering animal welfare topics (adoption, pet ID, shelter fundraising) triggered by a contest the Humane Society of the United States ran back in 2011.
I realized I had never posted this particular strip on spay and neuter…so without further ado, here it is, followed by its companions in the set. Enjoy!
Perhaps you were saddened recently by horrific stories in the press about humans taking the lives of our beautiful, majestic animal brethren merely for sport.
But, please don’t spend another precious moment focusing on all the ways our four-legged brothers and sisters are mistreated by humans. You’ll drown in the dark abyss of horror, grief, and rage.
Instead, focus on all the beautiful ways that animals interact with us…share love with us…and one another—and have that be the reality you and I live within.
We can find the inhumane kind of news stories all day long.
But that is not the only story that is being played out here in this realm.
If you want to be a part of another kind of story, then all you have to do is observe and appreciate Nature.
Our animal brethren are not just predators and prey…
They possess emotional intelligence just like (most) humans do. They love and grieve and play and care for one another.
To honor our animal brethren’s Love instinct, I’ve compiled these photos of them lovin’ on one another—all species, genders, genuses.
Can’t we all just get along?
It was Sunday, a day like any other day. It was close to noon, and I was working at my computer in the breakfast nook of my kitchen. From where I sit, I look straight out a large picture window into the neatly-manicured yard of my next-door neighbor’s home and out onto the well-maintained homes of the rest of my neighbors in this pleasant, quiet, suburban community.
Suddenly, in my left peripheral vision, I spotted some movement that was different from the usual rustling of leaves and branches from the warm summer breeze, or from frolicking squirrels on the hunt for grub.
I spied the baby fawn I’d seen a few weeks before—who could barely walk with its mama—behind the shrubs under the neighbor’s front window, gently exploring the flora smorgasbord before him (or her). I thought, “Ok, he’s here with mama,” as they browse and enjoy the enticing grocery aisles of our planted landscapes.
I grabbed my camera and snapped off several photos of him standing, then sitting. Mama was nowhere in sight, and after he just kept hanging out there for a while, I got a little concerned. Did they get separated? Was he abandoned, orphaned? Did she get struck by a car and die out on the busy road just outside our peaceful enclave?
He lied down and groomed himself, all the while his little nose was in constant up-and-down motion, taking in his new environment. I wanted to go out there and speak to him gently and send him love to let him know “it’s ok,” but I refrained. Sometimes his eyes grew sleepy, but I didn’t see him lie his head down to sleep…until later…much later.
He had now been there about two hours. Not knowing anything about the habits of wild animals, of prey animals, of white-tail deer, I intuitively felt this was a learned or instinctual behavior he was exhibiting. If he was lost from mama, then he knew to stay put and she would soon find him. (Maybe this was all covered in Disney’s “Bambi,” but I haven’t watched that in over 40 years!)
I quickly went to work with my trusty electronic encyclopedia—Google—and searched for “baby deer separated from mother.” Oh, the plethora of information and education at my fingertips! Yep, this was a common occurrence, happening every day in woodlands and neighborhoods across the planet, between mama does and their baby fawns.
Before the fawns learn the “flight” instinct and can keep up with their running and leaping herd mates, they are “bedded” each day for several-to-many hours, while their mothers go out foraging for food and to replenish their milk supply. The babies know to stay very still and quiet, in the same spot, and the white spots on their coats help to camouflage them further from predators. Mom stays away to keep the predators away.
And so often, well-meaning, but ignorant humans will interfere and “rescue” the fawns. They will try to feed them milk or call animal control or wildlife rescue to come “rehabilitate” them. And very often, these fawns will get very sick and die.
Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.
Armed with all this new and fascinating intel, I still checked in on him through the window constantly. I checked outside my other windows throughout the day to see if mama was nearby. I said prayers for his safety and pleaded for mama to come back for her baby. Even while knowing this was common wild animal behavior, my well-meaning human hubris tried to “correct” the circumstances with entreaties to the nature spirits!
Still more time passed, and the afternoon shadows were growing longer. Where was mama? So many deer and other wild animals are killed up on the busy roadway just beyond the wooded border of our neighborhood. Each day, you see the now dark, sun-scorched blood stains that are strewn across the lanes in a forward-motion pattern (sorry). Could she have met her end this way? Was he orphaned and didn’t know it? I flashed back to a poem I wrote many years ago after seeing a dead, stiff raccoon on the side of the road:
Not knowing why
Unaware their fate
As time goes by.
While hunger cries
Hearken maternal calls
Little ones heaving sighs.
Bringing no relief
Sniffing the ground for crumbs
Chewing on a leaf.
Crying out in pain
Future looking bleak
Will Mother come again?
Watching cars go by
No one stops; no one cares
She’s left alone to die.
Decay sets in
Young ones never told
Mother’s never coming again.
© Linda Tenney
A couple of times in the late afternoon and near dinnertime, I saw mama in my backyard or the neighbors’ yards, near the canal. She was there and I was relieved! “Now go to your baby, mama, he’s been there for six hours and he’s hungry and getting weak!” I could see her full udder swaying beneath her, and that made me feel better, too.
All in good time, dear, impatient human!
Dusk was here now, almost dark, it was about 8:30 p.m. and once again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement out by his bed. This time though, he was running around the corner of the house! Mama must be here, yippie!
I quietly opened the blinds on my dining room picture window, and beheld, as if staged just for my delight, the baby fawn suckling on his mama’s underside! Yay! She stood stock still while he nursed. It was amazing to witness right up close.
As he continued to drink, she cleaned up his “swimsuit area,” to ensure he stayed scent-free, again, to ward off those deadly predators.
As nightfall finally and fully overcame daylight—a full eight and a half hours after it all began—mama doe and baby fawn ambled their way together out back, beyond the canal, beyond the golf course, perhaps, into the woods, to spend their nighttime together…hopefully snuggled next to one another for warmth and comfort!
P.S. Today, baby fawn’s temporary bed lies empty.
P.P.S. This last photo is one I took on July 1, 2015, eleven days before the “bedding” day outside my window. How could I have known then that I’d get to “know” them so much better!