Archive for Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Animals bring out the best in humans

August 12, 2004

Once again we have enjoyed a few days of Colorado weather in which even the days have been cool. It hardly seems like summer should be over and school about to begin. The rains that came so frequently this summer along with the cool days have been deceptive, and even the chrysanthemums on the side of the house are blooming. Everyone is telling me, "Oh, pinch the buds off or they won't be pretty this fall." But I thought "What the heck, let 'em bloom," so I opted to let them have their way and now even the flowers are looking like fall.
I went to the lake recently and spent a week with family. We took along my grandson Grant's new puppy so now we have not only the three G boys but also a new member of the family named G.G. (for Grant and Gee Gee). The name was Grant's idea and very original, I thought. Well, G.G. has stolen all of our hearts, and Ace the corgi, who lives in the home of the other two G boys (Gabe and Garrett), has a right to be at least a little miffed.
He has enjoyed the spotlight for the last two years until this upstart Cairn terrier pup forced him to make room for a rival. He is good-natured about it, unlike Walkie the cat, who is having none of it. The puppy wants to run and play, but Walkie is holding her own as well as her own territory with lots of catty "Thh-Thhing" plus a few warning swats.
G.G. is still too young to know that she is not positively adorable to everyone including Walkie, so she keeps at it much to the aggravation of poor Walkie, who has taken refuge in the recesses of the basement -- down amongst all of the stuff in the storeroom.
All of which brings me to the love affair our culture seems to be enjoying with pets. Some time ago I read a book by P.D. James called, "The End of the Pier," which may prove to be prophetic -- at least among our animal lovers.
It was a gloomy look at the future where our "seniors" were sent off on a barge at sunset somewhere into the unknown with the band playing "Nearer My God to Thee." The young generation, which was to be the last (because by now all of the population had become infertile), were in restless pursuit of pleasure since there was no longer any thought or need for teaching responsibility.
Meanwhile, the churches were baptizing new puppies and kittens, as it seemed the animals were the only ones left who could reproduce. I should have warned you it wasn't a pretty theme, but it did call to mind that practice among so many young married couples now who get a cat or dog before considering children -- sort of a practice run. We see them often in their SUVs holding ice cream cones for their dogs and having conversations about how upsetting their cat could lead to a possible neurosis. (Of the cat, no less).
However, animals can also bring out the very best in us as children take on the responsibility of pets thus learning hands-on to care for other living things. It is so much easier than sharing or caring about a sibling.
Consider the number of young people from Eudora who belong to 4-H and who competed with their animals at the recent Douglas County Fair with great success, judging from last week's Eudora News.
Residents of nursing homes are often soothed and comforted by the presence of animals. We used to take our dog to visit my mother at Presbyterian Manor, and all of the people there wanted to hold or pet her. She loved it, and having memorized my Mom's room number, she would proudly lead us to her room whenever we visited.
She is now somewhere around the age of 17 and is no longer able to jump into her chair by herself, but she still has her days even though both hearing and eyesight are also failing.
In a recent column in an area metropolitan newspaper, C.W. Gusewelle wrote about how well his dogs get along with both of the family cats as well as the birds that frequent a bird feeder close to where the dogs take their daily nap. Seems the birds move among them without any notice being taken by the dogs.
He uses their mutual respect as a comment on the way the more superior species of animal (we humans) are not able to be nearly as tolerant and respectful of each other as his animals.
He writes, "We have begun to conquer space, and with it time and distance, have conquered much of the natural world, though brutally in many cases, and conquered many of the most terrible diseases. Our triumphs are impressive, but one victory eludes us. The most frightening thing we human beings have so far failed to conquer is our own ungovernable nature."
I would like to think that P.D. James' novel is just that -- a novel -- and not a vision of things to come. As for Gusewelle's version of animal harmony, while it begs the Biblical case of "lions and lambs lying down together," it seems a bit idyllic -- at least within my own experience.
However, when I see the tolerance and love in the eyes of a pet I wonder if they, like small children, aren't closer to the mystery of life's real meaning than we are. After all, C.S. Lewis, philosopher and author as well as a bit of a cynic, believed even animals had a soul and that we would be reunited with them in the hereafter.
Personally, I would like to believe this is so, considering I might then get a proper count of all the strays I dragged home when I was growing up.

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