The song of the pig

They laugh, they dream, they don't tell porkies. So why are we such swine, asks Jeffrey Masson Three years ago, my family and I were visiting Auckland, New Zealand, when we heard about a pig who lived on a beach. This pig was famous: schoolchildren came to visit, she had been proposed for mayor, and her neighbours were fiercely divided between those who thought a pig living on the beach was a bit of magic and others who feared she would devour their children. We found the beach, but Piglet, as she was called, had moved to a macadamia-nut orchard farther north. To cut a long story short, we met her guardians and wound up buying a house on that very beach. We heard many stories about this amazing pig who liked to go for a swim early in the morning when the sea was at its calmest and who enjoyed having children sit on her side, as long as they gave her a tummy rub before leaving. She was immaculate, well-mannered, sensitive, intelligent, and kind to strangers. When we finally met her, we could see that you could not ask for a better neighbour or ambassador for farm animals. Her emotional life was particularly near the surface. She always let you know what she was feeling; most of the time it was obvious from the smile on her face, especially when she was swimming or playing with her small human friends. But there were more mysterious aspects to her as well. She was sensitive to music and liked to hear the violin played. She especially seemed to enjoy music on the beach at night when there was a full moon. One of her guardians took a picture quite recently of her making the sweetest sounds during a night of the full moon, as if she were actually singing to the moon. The picture of Piglet singing is photographic evidence of her special affinity for music, water, night and moon. It is another reason to believe that many animals ' pigs foremost among them ' may have access to feelings that humans have not yet known. Perhaps if we listen carefully enough to the songs that Piglet and her cousins sing at night to the moon, we may yet learn about emotions that could bring us a new and utterly undreamt-of delight. An old English adage claims: 'Dogs looks up at you, cats looks down on you, but pigs is equal.' There is some truth in this. Pigs are more or less the same size as human beings and resemble us in many ways. Their organs are so similar to our own that pig heart valves are used to replace human aortic or mitral valves. There is a quite wonderful quotation from W. H. Hudson, the great naturalist who lived for some time in Argentina, that perfectly describes the pig's attitude towards us: 'He is not suspicious or shrinkingly submissive, like horses, cattle and sheep; nor an impudent devil-may-care like the goat; nor hostile like the goose, nor condescending like the cat; nor a flattering parasite like the dog. He views us from a totally different, a sort of democratic, standpoint, as fellow citizens and brothers, and takes it for granted that we


understand his language, and without servility or insolence he has a natural, pleasant camaraderie, or hail- fellow-well-met air with us.' The fact that pigs will become extremely friendly with human beings, given half a chance, is something of a miracle, considering how we treat them. Perhaps pigs themselves are aware of our resemblance and so regard us as cousins. Handled with affection, even an adult pig might well become as friendly as a dog who has always lived with the family. One has to wonder why the pig came to be despised by both Jews and Muslims. Was it its flesh that was distrusted, or the pig itself, as an animal? People have usually believed the former, claiming that because pig meat was so easily prone to spoiling and trichinosis, the consequent human diseases led them to avoid the meat. But the late F. E. Zeuner, an expert on domestication, rejects this view, pointing out that pork is no more likely to spoil than any other meat in a hot country, and in any event there are tropical islands where pork is the main meat eaten. He proposes a human interpretation. Nomads would once have despised the settled farmers who bred pigs, and that feeling in some way transferred to the animals themselves. It is undeniable that we share a great deal in common with pigs, though people have been reluctant to acknowledge the similarities. Like us, pigs dream and can see colours. They are sociable. (On warm summer nights pigs snuggle up close to one another and for some reason like to sleep nose to nose.) The females form stable families led by a matriarch with her children and female relatives. Piglets are particularly fond of play, just as human children are, and chase one another, play-fight, play-love, tumble down hills, and generally engage in a wide variety of enjoyable activities. As Karl Schwenke points out in his classic book In a Pig's Eye: 'Pigs are gregarious animals. Like children, they thrive on affection, enjoy toys, have a short attention span, and are easily bored.' He reports that when pigs were put into a small pen, as they are on most farms, 'their world was instantly narrowed to each other, the food, and the sty, and as they grew, their world became smaller and smaller. The tedium of their existence soon became apparent: they were lethargic, exhibited ragged ears, had droopy tails, and rapidly acquired that dull-eyed glaze that swineherds associate with six or seven-year-old breeding hogs.' One can witness the interaction and affection when pigs greet each other, snout to snout, sometimes with love grunts ' soft, open-mouthed greetings given when a pig is feeling amorous, or maybe just sweetly affectionate. Pigs can also be cliquish: an older new arrival may not easily find acceptance. Like humans, pigs are omnivores. Though they are often fed garbage, their food of choice would be similar to our own. Kim Sturla, of the Californian animal sanctuary Animal Place, tells me that when she offers her pigs mango or a head of broccoli, they will always take the mango. She explains that they have a sweet tooth, and a pastry will


always win over a healthy vegetable. Remind you of somebody? They get easily bored with the same food. They love melons, bananas and apples, but if they have had them for a few days, they will set them aside and eat whatever other food is new first. We don't often associate pigs and cleanliness but, if permitted, they will be more fastidious in eating and in general behaviour than dogs. When offered anything unusual to eat, a pig will sniff at it and nibble gently. Many people have found it disconcerting to look into the eye of a pig. One gains the startling impression of another person looking back at you. Pigs have small, rather weak eyes and appear to be squinting, as if they are trying to get a better take on the world. They seem often to wear a wistful look. Dick King-Smith, the author of The Sheep-Pig (turned into the much-loved film, Babe) and who used to be a pig farmer, once said: 'Many times I've looked into a pig's eye and convinced myself that inside that brain is a sentient being, who is looking back at me observing him wondering what he's thinking about.' When I recently visited Carole Webb's Farm Animal Rescue in Cambridge, I was introduced to Wiggy, a gigantic male weighing nearly a thousand pounds. As I came into his stall, he was busy picking out soft hay with which to line the straw in his self-made bed. He grunted when I walked in, looked up, and fixed me with his eye. It was uncanny, like meeting a person in the street whom you feel you know but cannot place. I looked away for a moment, embarrassed by the naked intimacy of his glance. Juliet Gellatley, in her book The Silent Ark, describes visiting a factory-farm shed where she saw a large male boar, 'his huge head hanging low towards the barren floor. As I came level with him he raised his head and dragged himself slowly towards me on lame legs. With deliberation he looked straight at me, staring directly into my eyes. It seemed to me that I saw in those sad, intelligent, penetrating eyes a plea, a question to which I had no answer: 'Why are you doing this to me?' ' If we are to consider pigs as sentient beings with intelligence and a full range of emotions, perhaps we should feel guilty when a pig gives us that look knowing he will soon be off to his death. This is an edited extract from Jeffrey Masson's The Pig Who Sang to the Moon (Jonathan Cape, '17.99). ' Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson 2004. From Books First, '14.39, plus '2.25 p&p (0870-160 8080). Masson is a Freud scholar and psychoanalyst The ones that got away Pigs have touched the imagination and drawn the sympathy of the British before. Only this week a wild boar made the headlines when it broke for freedom at Cinderford, in


Gloucestershire, and vanished into the undergrowth of the Forest of Dean. But the most famous porcine escapers were Butch and Sundance ' the 'Tamworth Two' ' who escaped from an abattoir in Wiltshire in 1998, swam a river and went on the run. Eventually they took cover in a thicket and refused to come out. Even the slaughterman, Jeremy Newman, who sighted them five days after the breakout, admitted: 'You can't be sentimental in this, but I say good luck to them. I reckon they got more sense than we have ' they showed a lot of initiative when they escaped. As soon as they caught sight of me, they made off as fast as their legs could carry them.' After they were finally recaptured there were hundreds of offers to provide Butch and Sundance with a safe haven for the rest of their lives. They now live in an animal sanctuary where they need never again fear the slaughterhouse. The entire escapade was made into a film last year by the BBC, starring Kevin Whately, Emma Pierson, Alexei Sayle and John Sessions.

The Story of Ugly by: Wyandotte Animal Group <> May 1999 Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and shall we say, love. The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye, and where the other should have been was a gaping hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot has appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner. His tail has long been lost, leaving only the smallest stub, which he would constantly jerk and twitch. Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby striped-type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, even his shoulders with thick, yellowing scabs. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one UGLY cat!!" All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around feet in forgiveness. Whenever he spied children, he would come running meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If you ever picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.


One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbors huskies. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. From my apartment I could hear his screams, and I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end. Ugly lay in a wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front. As I picked him up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. I must be hurting him terribly I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear-Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring. Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled-scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion. At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain. Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly. Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me, I will always try to be Ugly.

What Wings Are For: The Story of Heart By Kay Evans from United Poultry Concerns

On Christmas Eve 2003 I drove past a Perdue chicken shed and saw the doors open, which meant the chickens had been taken away to slaughter. I went in and found a few living chickens huddled in small groups and many dead chickens. I gathered up what I thought were all the living ones and put them in my truck, but I continued to hear peeping inside the shed. I followed the peeping to a very small, almost featherless chicken


huddled under a larger dead chicken, and I brought him out too. I drove straight to our vet’s office feeling that a few of these birds were suffering beyond recovery. Four were euthanized, leaving me with ten chickens. At home I settled them in with our other rescued “broiler” chickens and brought the little, nearly featherless one inside with me. The next day I took him to my mother’s house, where my sister named him Hearty, because she said he must have a lot of heart to survive as he did. It is remarkable, especially because, as the majority of the chickens in the sheds grow bigger, Perdue raises the automatic feeders and waterers higher from the floor in order to starve out the birds who lag in growth. I didn’t think Hearty would live, he was so stunted. His feet were really big and his head and body were small. His only feathers were on top of his head and the quills at the ends of his wings. Since it was cold outside, he stayed in our bathtub on soft towels at night and on weekends. We wanted him to fit in with the flock, so on the first day the weather broke, we put him out with the other chickens, but he nearly died of even that much cold, so I put him under my shirt, against my skin, until he was warm. On weekdays he came with me to my job on campus, and I took him outside several times a day, into the yard in front of the building. I’d walk around slowly, and he’d walk behind me, peeping the whole time. Hearty make a lot of human friends that way. Everybody who saw him liked him. His feathers gradually came in and he acted very proud of them. He seemed to spend more time preening them than do most of the other chickens. As the weather warmed, we moved him into a small pen with a large hen who had been saved by the Eastern Shore Sanctuary from a broiler breeder operation in Maryland, and this worked well. On cool nights, they both came inside with us. Hearty liked to get underneath the hen as much as possible. He would cuddle up with her and peep because he was still a baby and wanted his mother. He liked to be picked up and cuddled, and he loved grapes. One morning I found the hen had died during the night, and Hearty was huddled against her body, peeping just like the day I found him in the Perdue shed. So we moved another hen in with him and they kept each other company. As Hearty grew bigger, I shortened his name to Heart, and he was befriended by our dog, Jill. But in March we knew something was wrong with him. He would come over to be picked up, but as soon as I lifted him, he began struggling to breathe, no matter how gently I tried to hold him. I got a small basket so I could move him to different places in the yard, but even lifting him just briefly to put him in the basket caused him distress. His early starvation in the Perdue shed had taken its toll on his developing kidneys and liver, and he had developed the fluid accumulation in his body cavities known as ascites.* I was never able to pick him up after that. Instead I would go into his pen and kneel down and cuddle with him as best I could and talk to him. Heart died one Saturday afternoon in mid-April, less than four months after coming to live with us. I held him then and snuggled his body like I used to, and we buried him wrapped up in flowers.


*Ascites syndrome is a disease of the cardiovascular system in young broiler chickens resulting from forced rapid growth and oxygen-deficient mechanical incubators and confinement sheds. The strain on the heart and lungs to supply the body’s abnormal oxygen requirements, combined with low oxygen and polluted air in the production environment, causes high blood pressure, weakened heart valves, and leaking blood vessels. The birds are usually found dead on their backs with bloated stomachs reflecting the accumulation of blood vessel fluid in their body cavities. A clear description of the ascites syndrome process appears in UPC President Karen Davis’s book, Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry, pp. 94-96

The Rhino With Glue-On Shoes

Vets share their wild animal stories Santa Cruz Sentinel, Isaiah Guzman, October 17, 2008 Can eels get depressed and lose their appetite? Take one away from its favorite bartender and apparently it can. That's just one of the unique stories in world-renowned wildlife veterinarian Lucy Spelman's new book, "The Rhino With Glue-On Shoes," a compilation of true stories from her and other wildlife vets. Spelman, the field manager of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Africa, spoke on Thursday evening at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center to kick off the center's fall lecture series. "We don't always think that you can have that kind of connection between a person and a fish," Spelman said, "unless you're a fish owner." ** Formerly the director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and a consultant for the Discovery Channel, Spelman also spoke at length about her work with mountain gorillas in Africa. Her studies are showing that the animal's health is linked to human and ecosystem health. The animals, of which only 750 remain worldwide, share 98 percent of


our genes, according to Spelman. She's positive about the species' outlook but worries about the effects of war in Congo.

The Long Road From Exile ... Run Forrest Run printer friendly, larger print version Oh but for the the day we are civilized and do not banish breeds Good evening all... Until now, the story of Forrest and Kane has been told in verse thru emails and phone conversations. Unless you were there... I guess some of the mystique is lost in translation. Being in the infant stages of anti BSL and the world of bully's... this was a life altering experience for me. It is my hopes to convey this experience the best way I know how... video. For you veterans, many of the images will be all to familiar and "home". Returning to Southern California.. . I knew the experience had to be shared with others, and with no further ado, I present to you: Run Forrest Run... The Long Road From Exile. com/watch? v=J2BGRvdy2JQ Sincerely, Chef David Edelstein

by Ken White


Special to The Examiner 08/13/2002 I frequently am asked to answer a question that has no answer: When is it the right time to end the life of a loved animal? It's a legitimate question, but a lousy part of my job. I first faced this question with Hamish, the much-loved dog of my roommate, 20 years ago. As is so often the story, Hamish went, in what seemed like moments, from an amazingly happy, goofy pal to an old friend in obvious pain. Suffering from cancer, he got to the point where every motion was labored, his nights endlessly restless. Still, he continued to smile when he heard his name, and to sigh with that wonderful full body sigh when he was held. It was not my decision to make -- to end Hamish's suffering by ending his life -- but I don't think I would have been any better at it than was my roommate. Every time it became clear that he was suffering, one more procedure was suggested, another treatment option looked worth trying. A good hour seemed to erase a day's discomfort. We loved him, like each of you now reading these words loves somebody sniffing your feet or rubbing your elbows. The nightmare of his illness, although only weeks long, was an eternity. Finally it was clear that Hamish didn't just hurt, he was in real pain. There was no relief available. No more drugs, no miracles, no happiness left. Finally, it was clear that we had waited too long. I went out and bought him a pepperoni pizza, extra cheese, and fed him by hand, his head on our laps, his smile reminding us of who he had been, the Hamish of before. On our way to the doctor we stopped at the beach, Hamish's favorite place. Unable to stand on his own, I ran with him in my arms. We chased some waves, splashed a bit in the surf, and then sat quietly in the sand for awhile, this wonderful dog and a few of us who had been lucky enough to know him. All of us, including Hamish, I think, knew what was next. The veterinarian gently gave the shot into a vein on Hamish's front leg. We held him as he went. Surprisingly, his dying was without drum roll, without thunder. His death was peaceful. As we watched him and cried, it was clear that we had waited too long. I know little more today about the best "how" and "when" to decide to humanely end the life of someone we love. I do know that, in all sorts of ways, it is a gift we are responsible for giving to the animals who give us so much, and that avoiding the decision -- as understandable as that is -- is selfish. I also know that there is probably never a right time, and that each time I've made the choice I've wrestled afterwards with questions such as "Did I wait too long?" or "Did I act too soon?" The decision has to be made with the animal in mind; that is, we should have been thinking more about Hamish and less about how much we would miss him, how much his


absence would hurt. Knowing that he's not the kind of guy to hold a grudge, I stopped feeling guilty. Mostly, then as now, I feel happy to have been with him. I remember Hamish as he lived much more than how he died. And I know that everyone loved lives forever, perhaps in a literal way, and surely in the hearts of those who love them. Ken White is president of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, now in its 50th year. Its programs include adoption, wildlife rehabilitation, education and advocacy, community outreach, and animal control, including rescue and investigation. White is one of three writers whose columns appear in The Examiner's weekly Animal Kingdom column. Email:

Sid's Story It was the last day of a self funded trip to Sri Lanka in 2005, and my friend Morag and I were feeding the strays near our hotel before flying back to the UK. Suddenly a gangly flea ridden dog staggered towards us collapsing at our feet. We had never seen him before, but knew we had to get him to the vets quickly. The dog had been badly beaten by locals and his front legs appeared broken. Part of his paw was also severed. The dog sensed we were his last hope and as we rushed him to the vets we decided to call him Sid. As well as his injuries, Sid was infected with Dirofilaria Repens, a serious disease in dogs which is transmitted by mosquitoes. He was emaciated, dehydrated and covered in ticks and mange mites. In view of his neglected state, the vets were cynical about Sid's chances of survival. But we decided to give him a chance of life and paid to keep him there for as long as it would take to make him well again. We had little time before our flight home, but before leaving managed to give Sid his first ever bath, gently removed the ticks from his ears and fed him a hearty meal and some fresh water. We gave him a final hug as we left and Sid howled pitifully. He broke our hearts and we never thought we would see him again. But this courageous dog pulled through and we decided to bring him back to the UK. It was an emotional journey, but Sid's battle for life was not yet over. During the first month of his quarantine he started passing blood from his genitals. He had a large Transmissible Venereal Tumour (TVT) missed by the Sri Lankan vets. The quarantine vet refused to administer the chemotherapy (Vincristine) to cure him and tried to persuade me to have Sid put to sleep. But I refused because I knew about this disease from my work in Sri Lanka, and the treatment is highly effective. After some harrowing


weeks, my own vet agreed to help Sid and fortunately his premises met with DEFRA's approval. Animals in quarantine are strictly regulated and any movement outside the quarantine premises has to be authorised by DEFRA. The veterinary costs for the chemotherapy and transport to the vets were huge and this was in addition to the hefty quarantine costs, all funded from our wages. Sid was also found to have a tick borne disease -Ehrlichiosis, which had also been missed by vets in Sri Lanka. But, despite everything life had thrown at him, this brave boy sailed through all his treatments and is now healthy, although he remains disabled due to leg injuries.

A Mother's Love...
by Karin Morrison Last month, on a very hot day I noticed that the bird feeder was empty. It holds about 5 pounds of birdseeds and needs to be refilled every three days. I was not in any hurry because I felt that the birds could find bugs to eat, due to the warm weather. What I did not think about was to refill their water dish, which was a large, deep iron pot, setting on a metal fence pole. When I finally remembered to do so, I found a dead female cardinal, with a grasshopper in her mouth, inside of the pot. When I looked closer, I noticed 2 small dead baby birds underneath her, dried to the bottom of the pot. At first I was puzzled, but quickly got the sad picture. The babies must have flown into the empty pot, but could not fly back out. The pot got too hot from the sun and the Momma bird was desperately trying to feed her babies, who had died from the heat. Finally the Momma bird died as well, because she refused to leave her babies, still with the grasshopper in her beak. This little bird was braver, more faithful, than any human I ever saw and made me feel very ashamed and small. And if anyone ever tells me that animals don't go to Heaven, I can tell them honestly that they are totally mistaken! I KNOW for sure, before any human will ever enter the gates of Paradise, this Momma bird will beat everybody there...EVERYBODY I only wish I would have done my job and filled the pot up with water sooner. I might have been able to prevent her and her babies suffering and dying.


LITTLE GIRL TORTURED Written by: Steve Irwin Jan. 2000 In 1997, on a balmy still September night in the tranquil Australian bushland of the Northern Territories Tomkinson River (near the township of Maningrida), a gorgeous 16year-old girl named Annie is alerted to the dull mechanical thud of a vehicle heading her way. Feeling nervous and a little insecure, Annie quietly slips into her home and listens. The noise of the oncoming vehicle is piercing and threatening in her normally quiet peaceful harmonious Aussie bush home. It keeps coming louder and louder, closer and closer. She waits and listens anxiously. Her nerves and adrenaline heighten to a point where she cant take it any longer. She has to look. As she takes a peek, a bright spot light temporarily blinds her. Completely confused and dazed she's not sure what to do. Before she can react, a searing pain strikes her in the neck as two long sharp barbs of steel penetrate deep into her flesh. She reels in pain back into the security and familiarity of her home. Tearing at the barbs deep in her neck, she feels the strain of a cord running from the barbs to the vehicle and male voices of excitement. Four desperate adult men pull at the cord as they shout, "We got her. We got her. Hang on to her. Keep the strain on!" They tug on the cord knowingly. Those men know she cant get the barbs out and its just a matter of wearing her down and dragging her to them. Struggling and resisting with all her might, the poor helpless girl is dragged to what she fears is certain torture and death. Exhausted, breathless, totally blinded by a spotlight that's right in her eyes, she is so weak she can hardly move, so starved for energy and air she's virtually frozen in fear and pain. Being dragged by the neck from her home is so traumatic; she doesn't feel the noose go around her head. Exhilarated by the hunt, revelling in the thrill of the chase and amused by the fight of their prey, totally oblivious to her pain and fear and without remorse, the men mercilessly pull her into the vehicle. They gaffer tape her legs together; tie her arms together behind her back; tape her eyes shut and have her mouth gagged. Very, very happy with their prey, they head for their hideout. The most beautiful of girls is bound so tight that she goes from numb to excruciating pain, yet unable to utter a sound. Almost totally incoherent from cramps and searing pain, she hears the men shout, "There's another one. Lets get her!" Whack they drive in the barbs and reel another in. She's even younger and barely an adolescent, easily manhandled, bound and thrown in the vehicle. 'Imagine poor little Annie's nightmare and torment as she lies in pain and fear when they pull up.' The men manhandle her to a dusty old shed; throw her on the ground and mill around smoking and laughing for what seems like hours. Then she hears it! Sssskkk a rifle is loaded and cocked. Annie feels the cold steel of the barrel touching her head. "No not there, you have to shoot them here one man exclaims." "Here?" the other man questions. "Yeah. That's it, now angle it up towards her brain." "Yeah, that's it" he directs. BOOM! Her torture and torment is finally over but while she's still twitching, they skin her.


No one mourned the death of Annie. No one will shed a tear at her passing or even remember her. No one cares that Annie died so horrifically because Annie was a crocodile. -Steve

Just A Dog by Richard A Biby, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma From "The Versatile Hunting Dog" NAVHDA's Magazine; February 2006

From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog," or, "that's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog." Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog." Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day. If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phrases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise." "Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. "Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person. Because of "just a dog", I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. "Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day. I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog", but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a man or woman." So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog" just smile... because they "just don't understand."

Written by Nancy Campbell after a particularly trying week at the vet hospital where she works. Feel free to pass it along, but she asks that you include her name.

It's Just a Bird
If it were my brother, I'd find an allergist to help him with his allergies, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If it were my sister, I'd find the best laser eye surgeon so she could see again, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If it were my mother, I'd hire a staff of oncologists for the disease that is stealing her away from me, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If it were my father, I'd find the best orthopedic surgeon to enable him to walk again, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If it were my husband, I'd hire every medical professional necessary to put him back together after that terrible accident that almost took him away, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If it were my child, I wouldn't skimp on health care, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird.


If it were my best friend, I would go with her to the doctor, every day that she needed me to help her through the worst pains in her life, taking off work if necessary and putting my own needs aside, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. If any member of my family were dying, at that moment I would pull out all the stops and do whatever was in my power to save their life, no matter the cost. But they tell me; it's just a bird. Just a bird. Just my friend. Just my family. Please my bird no matter the cost.

It Makes A Difference
"Loren Eiseley tells the story of a writer who is vacationing in a hotel on the coast and decides to take a break from his work by strolling along the sandy beach. In the distance, he spies a person whom he believes is dancing, and is so intrigued he investigates further. As he approaches the "dancer", he realizes it is a young man and he is not dancing, but throwing objects from the beach into the ocean. He gets closer still and discovers that the man is picking up starfish from the beach, where thousands have been stranded by low tide, and is throwing them back, one by one, into the ocean. The writer asks the man why he is undertaking such a task and the man replies that if he does not, the starfish will certainly die. At this the writer scoffs and informs the man that there are miles and miles of beach and tens of thousands of starfish and he can't possibly believe that what he is doing will make a difference.


The young man pauses and gives thought to this observation. Then, picking up another starfish from the beach, he tells the writer as he throws it back into the water... "It makes a difference... to this one."

Science "Some time ago, a scientist was filled with joy, because he taught a fly how to do figures. The scientist told other scientists to come and have a look. And so they came...The scientist asked the fly :"Four times four?" And the fly tapped 16 times with its little paw. Then he asked :"One plus one?" And again the fly gave the right answer. This went on for some time and every time the fly gave the correct answer. After a while, all the scientists returned home...completely amazed. "Now", the scientist who was left behind with his fly, thought..."Now for the next stage of my experiment." And he started pulling out all of the fly's little paws. As soon as he pulled them all out he asked the fly again :"Four times four?" Unable to do anything, the fly just laid motionless. Again the scientist was filled with joy and said to himself :"See!? I knew it...A fly's ability to hear is in its paws!"


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