Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP Cecil, et al . . . & the making of animal advocates

Cecil the lion, whose cruel death has dominated recent news, and deservedly so. Like so many animals, lions are endangered, their numbers steadily dropping. Not even Cecil’s protected and studied status were enough to save him from a throwback big-game- hunting . . . dentist. An ignominious end of a majestic creature by a far lesser creature. Isn’t that too often the way?

And yes, the elephants and rhinos, poached almost out of existence for their tusks and horns. The lure of money breeds still more lesser creatures, who have no sense of history, no compassion for fellow beings and probably no regrets. It is an awful world when money talks, as it does so often.

Cecil’s death was wrong and horrible. But so are the deaths of billions of chickens, raised only to be slaughtered, and often tortured on their way to that. Unlike Cecil, who at least had a (short) lifetime in a natural habitat, chicken on factory farms do not. It’s seen as a great humane victory when corporations agree to enlarge their cages or – wonder of wonders – allow them to be “cage free” (which often still doesn’t mean in the sunshine or able to do barnyard things chickens have done for eons).
Pigs, known to be intelligent and social, may have the worst of it: “purpose bred,” they are seen as nothing more than potential food. Were pigs ever allowed just to be born and live out their lives?
And on and on. So yes, R.I.P. Cecil, only the most visible right now of all the world’s animals who are mistreated, abused, tortured, slaughtered, eaten.  


And this related thought: Animal advocates often wonder how most other people seem able to ignore the short, horrible lives of so many animals at the hands of humans. During the last month or so, when I’ve missed going regularly to the animal shelter to care for the cats, I’ve realized how that can be.

Frequent proximity to animals in need, such as the shelter cats, increases my wish to help them. The more I help, the more I want to help. Maybe “vicious cycle,” as negative as that phrase sounds, describes it. It’s like being (voluntarily) caught in a spiral that keeps growing. More contacts w/ animals leads to more thinking (worrying, brooding . . .) about them, and a firmer resolve to do more.
Innocently breaking that pattern by freeing myself on weekday mornings has had the effect of cutting down on the time I spend thinking and worrying about the animals I’m not seeing as much. Reading about the shelter cats, in Yahoo and email, has less of an effect on me.  

Transfer all that to humans at large. In general, they don’t see animals in pain or desperate straits and they don’t physically work to make a difference for animals in need. So whatever they hear or read on the subject is much more abstract and more easily forgotten. They probably have a store of good-sounding platitudes to get through a conversation about animals in need, and move on to something more pleasant and less demanding.

So to turn people into more sensitive animal advocates on a practical level, it may take somehow putting them into a live situation where they must see and hear and take positive action . . . which as I said above, can become a habit that keeps growing.    

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vacation separation & pink eye

Painful family separation

Trauma time: travel without Harry and Billy, our cats (a joke of a way to say it, since we’re their servants!).  Anyway, time for a seashore weekend ~ and the 2 Summers boys will board at their vets’ and have their check ups while there. Not what they’d choose to do!  

Change stresses cats, who prefer to stay home with all their traditions and comforts, and their people (as in us!). To have to live in a metal cage, albeit padded w/ towels and blankets . . . they say no thanks.

Worst part of all: both boys have known for days something is afoot. Our voices and patterns are different, and clothes are laid out here and there. The suitcase’s appearance proves that everything they feared is true. The only question is, when. They know they’ll be caught and loaded into carriers, then driven to WTAH. But when? And so they’re ready to run at our first suspicious move. And run they will, even though the inevitable (catch) will happen.  

Once there, Harry grimly settles in for the duration. He doesn’t attempt to charm or win friends in any way, with the result that he’s thought of as unfriendly (and he may also take a swipe or two. . . ). Billy the lovebug is wholly different: he’s reach-out friendly, making the most of it -- accepting attention and building a reputation as the sweetie he can’t help but be.

Next Monday morning, we’ll pick them up and the rest of the day will be a family reunion. It can’t come soon enough.


Not pretty in pink . . . eye

This month I learned that “pink eye,” which till now I’ve only heard and read about, means bloodshot eyes, gunky and crusty stuff, especially in the morning, and a punched- in-the-eye look. And it doesn’t feel so hot either.

In other words, I have pink eye, in my left eye -- which prevents me from using my contact lens in the only eye where I use one for monovision. It has also prevented me from swimming laps this week, although we’ve been getting ready for our weekend away, so there wasn’t really time.

But speaking of laps, and the pool, I’m assuming that’s where I got pink eye, though I have no idea how. I wear goggles and shower after laps. . . who knows. Lower resistance, I guess.  

And meanwhile, our court’s being repaved, which has prevented easy access to the car, parked in the next court over. It will be good to escape the sound of jack hammers and the sight of orange cones and dug-up debris all over. And the Summers boys will be saved from the incessant noise. In a big way, we couldn’t have timed this getaway better.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cloudy allegory, 'sunlessness,' pool bliss

Is there an allegory here somewhere?

Above, to my left, a large dark cloud hovers over the pool and its surrounding trees. Seeming intimidated, the sun peeps through occasional openings before being obscured again. From the gray bubble-cloud, a scattering of filmy pale clouds break free and move across the sky toward a huge, bright white cloud, pulling them to itself, draining the dark cloud of any remaining light. Then, still darker but somehow diminished, the threatening cloud moves away, and the day, now afternoon, becomes sunny.  


'Traditional' torture isn't necessary

It wouldn’t take long to break me down. No classic instruments of torture would be needed for a bloodless victory. Just withhold sunshine. Day after gray day without sun, and I’d crack fast. Even in the pool, where I love to be, I perk up when I can tell the sun just came out. I’m swimming laps when suddenly the patterns in the water are sharp, lined in yellow. I feel warmer, more energetic and ‘can-do.’ Without the sun, whether in or out of water, I may dutifully do what’s needed – but it’s not the same.   



On my back, I watch a dark smudge
move across the gray sky --
an early warning system
for the storms to follow --

What do I care, already wet,
contentedly lapping up and down,
a manatee wannabe?

Esther Williams: so yesterday!
Now I want water creature-ness,
to move smoothly through
my own medium.

--July '15


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Life without mirrors . . . & elephants

“How simple life becomes when things like mirrors are forgotten.” – Daphne duMaurier

Imagine how wonderful it would be to have no mirrors – no reminders of what we don’t like or need to fix or want to hide from. No idea of what to powder or touch up. No periodic checks on (fill in the blanks). No worries about what we look like now . . . compared with 10 minutes ago, or less.

Imagine the time we’d save, not to mention the worry and self-consciousness, if  judgments about us were based on our brains, our humor or friendliness, . . . in other words, the parts of us that are comparatively permanent. 

“How simple” – for sure.  >sigh!<


It is possible that in our lifetime, African elephants could go extinct. Painful as it is just to say that, the very real possibility it will happen because of human greed and cruelty is far worse. These awesome and majestic animals may disappear from our world simply because they have tusks that some crazies will kill them for, to sell to other crazies who will make them into ivory trinkets.

A piece of ivory jewelry or an ivory statuette is nothing more than the symbol of a innocent elephant who was brutally murdered for those tusks. No ivory tchotchke in the world is worth taking an elephant’s life.

And yet, the demand continues so the murders continue. Nor does it stop there. The deaths of adult elephants invariably means the creation of orphaned baby elephants, creatures who lose their mothers – and the wisdom and culture they traditionally receive from them during their years together.

Now, finally, the media is filled w/ stories about the elephant poachers, the orphaned babies, the so-far ineffectual attempts to halt poaching and redirect the craze for elephant tusks, and ivory.   

The largest land mammals in the world, African elephants are intelligent, family-oriented and family-dependent. They directly affect their landscape as seed dispersers, influencing forest composition for other species. But now, elephant populations are in crisis, w/ as many as 30,000 killed annually to feed demand for the illegal ivory trade, as the World Wildlife Fund ( and other animal welfare organizations report.

Elephants are in extreme danger. The danger is so severe that if current poaching rates continue, elephants will go extinct in our lifetime,” according to the Humane Society International (

The facts and numbers are there. The warnings are clear. But it’s also clear that no one and no government is doing enough, fast enough, to stop the slaughter of African elephants.   


Monday, July 6, 2015

Near-perfect pool day, pit bulls, maundering

In the swimming pool described last time, today was just about perfect. Why? Mainly because the sun was shining most of the time and besides that, the water temp was 81. The lap lanes weren't crowded or clogged by swimmers slower than I, and in fact for the first time this season, I spent most of my time in the "medium" (speed) lane. It was the kind of day -- the combination of variables -- that made me feel I could go on and on, long past my 9 round trips for a half-mile.

A family member used to say "one day at a time," and today I thought "one lap at a time," without working toward a number goal or worrying about whether I'd make it. So finishing 4 round trips meant nearly half-way -- if I cared about that, and then by 7-1/2 there were just 1-1/2 to go -- but who was counting?! Nine came easily.    


A daily online treat is looking at The Dodo (, an all-animal site with short stories, images and videos about animals around the world. Since it began, a couple years ago now, I'd estimate, it has clearly been against Sea World and creatures like orcas and dolphins in captivity. I agree with that -- and with another campaign I think is underway: always showing pit bulls as lovable, "sweet," long-suffering dogs. They may be all those things; in fact, I hope they are, unlikely as it seems.

But since pitties have been the object of breed-specific legislation that stereotypes and assumes the worst of them, affecting where they might live, I say, go Dodo! Help balance all the false assumptions about pits with frequent stories about what wonderful dogs they are. If this is reverse discrimination, fine: call it affirmative action.


A neat word: "maunder" -- 1. To talk aimlessly. 2. To walk aimlessly.

Some people and some days are meant for maundering.


Friday, July 3, 2015

PS to intro, pool overview, an aphorism

I neglected to say in the first entry that this will be a no-frills blog: mostly text, long and short, with little concern about including images. It won't be letter-perfect, but sketchy, "drafty" and ruminative. It will be frankly 1st person, in contrast to the 2 earlier, 3rd person blogs that focused outward, on animals. I may be the only reader here, and that's OK.

One recurring subject here will be swimming at the community pool where we go on weekdays -- weather, water temp and other commitments permitting -- to swim laps. Earlier today, it was announced that this is the 7th week of the season, and I was amazed to hear that since this is just our 2nd week. But I think that count included a few weekends-only before schools closed and the pool opened daily. Then frequent rainy days and various other reasons kept us from getting into the water till the week of June 22.

It's a beautiful pool -- especially empty or w/ just lappers in the water! There's also a separate baby pool and a diving pool, besides the wading pool attached to the Olympic sized "main pool." The numerous chaises, chairs, benches, pavilions and tents are set in green lawns w/ lots of tall old trees. No wonder day camps come here, as well as numerous regulars once it opens to the public at noon (after 2 hours for lappers and maybe baby pool stuff too; not sure). The noon "parade" is fun watching, esp. the camp kids, marching in with their giant backpacks, wearing every bright color imaginable. They quickly line up to buy food -- which is surprisingly varied and good here -- then they often walk past us as we dry off in the sun, typically carrying french fries, sometimes navigating the grass and talking w/ friends while dipping their faces into the irresistible fries. No one has tripped yet.  

Aphorism:  a terse saying embodying a general truth or astute observation expressed in a concise and witty way. -- As I age into my own infirmities, I gain sympathy for others'.