“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — supposedly Mahatma Gandhi said that. (Isn’t this picture of him great? He’s drafting a document at Birla House, Mumbai, August 1942. My novel-writer side can’t help but wonder if he knew that writing longhand enhances creativity — and I bet intelligence!) First off, he didn’t….
Second off, if anyone said it, is it true? I love animals and have followed a vegetarian diet for years. All the same, I’m definitely nowhere near a saint, particularly given my now-and-again deviations into the hypocracy of eating fish. My father was wicked to his family, yet tears rolled down his cheeks when he heard that local geese were slaughtered. Hitler and was a vegetarian for the last part of his life. And he adored his dog, Blondi…
What I know for sure is that when I see someone acting kindly toward an animal, it makes me feel like there’s a soul somewhere within their despicableness…
Scratch the last paragraph — that was just my lazy brain leaning on clichés to please you with niceties, gentle reader. It was my typing falling into well-worn grooves of platitudes. Really, if someone is mean and shows neither remorse nor interest in reforming themselves, if people around them erect the scaffolding to sustain their meanness… well… Delving into morality is too lengthy to weave into this post.
Here, look! My fingers have switched gears to copy this for you: a paragraph from wise and poetic Kathleen Rooney’s latest novel. She was a Happiness Between Tails guest to tell about her amazing Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, and then to tell us about her newest tale, Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey. Her Cher Ami book is written in the style of first-person characterizations of various humans and Cher Ami, a true-life heroic pigeon who saved many World War I soldiers’ lives.
The most dazzling chapters are those through Cher Ami’s eyes. I’m about halfway through the book and am most recently awed by this bit of feathered philosophizing. Cher Ami thinks this about the soldiers:
“Sometimes they renamed animals as different animals. They called the canned corned beef in their rations “monkey meat” and referred to their body lice as “shirt rabbis.” They’d pick the insects off one another, comparing themselves to apes grooming in some great gray zoo. I could tell that many of the men felt terribly lonely, helpless and estranged from their fellow soldiers, but they were never alone and never powerless thanks to all the life that depended on them, the lice and the rats and the mice. Each man was the miserable monarch of a kingdom that squirmed with vermin, one that consisted of the dirt and the bit of sky each one could see from the dirt of their feet in their boots, of their boots in the mud — a kingdom all but indistinguishable from a grave.” An excerpt from Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney, who also wrote marvelous Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
So okay, I’m not one to dwell on whether ”God,” the kind with a capital “G,” exists. But the fact that Dog spells God backwards in English — isn’t that an interesting metaphor for how even the worst dirtbags among us can experience the love of a dog? (Here’s a post where I dip another toe into that conversation.)
Dogs… their lives are far far too short!!!! They get better and better with age, more perceptive of our needs, more adoring of us, and ready to kiss us for our slightest kindness. Just the other night, my husband mistakenly called our current dear doggie by the name of one of our two dogs who passed away — when? yesterday? two years ago? — either feels not much different at times (a bit about that here and more on it here). My heart goes out to a good friend who sweet Bambi-faced furry girl passed away recently… In these times of the COVID pandemic especially, our pets do so much for us. It’s no wonder that more folks are adopting furry family lately.
Tribute to a Family Dog; In loving memory of Clifford, 2001-2015
Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia, a.k.a. The Gulf Coast Poet
Your spirit is enthusiasm!
When you wag your tail,
your entire body shimmies.
You leap high into the air
to catch popcorn in your mouth,
drool at the dairy drive-thru,
anticipating your ice cream cone.
You swim far out into the lake,
to fetch a stick…
and swim back to fetch again.
You run alongside a wheelchair
that travels eight miles an hour,
keep pace with kids
on rollerblades and bicycles.
When I come home from work,
you greet me at the door,
all four feet in the air!
Friendliness is your persona!
You show open-hearted affection
for family, friends, neighbors…
and kindly strangers.
Grandmothers are your favorites…
The feeling is mutual!
The vet, when you are boarded,
locates you in a run where you can
greet all those who come and go…
You are overjoyed!
Your aura is love!
Love radiates from your eyes,
shimmers from your wagging tail.
Love is you resting near us,
ignoring the sassy new cat,
not snatching the Thanksgiving
turkey cooling on the countertop.
Somehow, you know we’ll share.
Love is barking at things
that go “bump” in the night.
Love is wet kisses, warm cuddles,
and sharing group hugs.
Empathy is in your soul!
You have a silly smile,
know family members by name,
understand most of what we say.
You talk to us with
We try really hard to understand!
You are happy when we are happy.
You comfort us when we are sad.
When we are injured,
you lick our wounds.
Petted and praised,
you know you are loved!
Tell us — what are your thoughts about the bonds between humans and the rest of the creature world? Or about anything else you want to discuss?…