Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dining Spectacular at The Tusk and Bristle
















So, little did I realize while Carol Eiswald, owners of The Tusk and Bristle Pig Sanctuary, was showing us their animals last Sunday that her husband had another treat awaiting us.
Up to this point I thought our visit couldn’t possibly get any more entertaining, what with Suzy the warthog nuzzling me with her soft nose and with the beardies snouting in on everything. Just when I thought I had experienced the best of the best, the Eiswalds put a bigger, grander maneuver into action.
I must say: both Edgar and I were stricken still as moss by the sight.
Before even Edgar or I could hear the droning of an ATV hauling a mini-manure spreader-like contraption behind it, the pigs heard it and recognized it immediately as their ticket to food heaven. That’s right. Though the Eiswalds have a couple of ATV’s, the pigs know the sound of the particular one that delivers their afternoon produce from the local grocery stores.

Four days a week Jim makes produce runs to four different large chain grocery stores. Sometimes he’s driving in two-foot drifts; other times he’s racing to pick up the next load of donated produce before it wilts and begins rotting in the summer’s heat. Either way, the round trip turns out to be 75 miles. But when he rolls into the driveway, most of the pigs sense he is carrying a load of goodies. After the Eiswalds go through the produce to make sure no plastic or other inedible material is amongst the food, they load it into buckets, taking a couple of bucketsful and dumping the produce into the ATV’s spreader. Then, Jim climbs into the ATV and enters the pens.
And the pigs begin to assemble like church-goers on their way to communion.

Edgar and I stood transfixed as Jim shouted from his ATV, “Here we go! Watch them come and get it!”
It was a show unmatched by any in Las Vegas. Before Jim came with the produce wagon, we had been standing in the middle of a several-acre pen. Suzy and the beardies were snuffling the ground, and a few pot-bellies were hanging around the area. But when Jim shouted for us to watch, it was only a few seconds before we witnessed the showstopper.
One by one a pig came into view: one from behind a tree stump, another from behind a bush, a few stepping from a Quonset hut. Taking it all in, my head was spinning like Linda Blair’s from The Exorcist. To my right marched Miranda, a huge white Yorkshire pig, and at her side high-stepped a medium-sized pot-belly pig. Farther in the distance I could make out other pigs, some with long snouts, other bristly, red-haired things, strolling toward us. To the left came another group of pot-bellies, and among them a spotted, long-haired, wattle-throated Kune-Kune, said to be the kindest miniature pig alive. I whipped around, hearing footsteps behind me, and a large black farm pig named Bohdan trotted past, eager to claim his head of lettuce or, better yet, a banana.
As nearly a hundred pigs gathered, they all headed, noses pointed into the wind, toward the ATV and its wagon spewing goodies. No fighting over competition for food ensued. There was no squabbling, bickering in pig language something like, “Get away! The apples are mine. YOU EAT THE CAULIFLOWER!” These pigs had table manners far nicer and cleaner than many humans I’ve seen eating, including myself.
For the umpteenth time that day, my hands flew to my mouth. “Look at them all!” I gasped.
“Holy cow!” Edgar said, his mouth gaping. “I never saw anything like it!”
I couldn’t help thinking about how different this pig feeding was from people feeding, say, at the local restaurant. Sometimes, when we eat out, I can hardly hear myself think, let alone carry on a decent conversation with my company. People are laughing, talking loud to each other; they’re yelling into their cell phones; kids are screaming, demanding attention; music is competing in the background; and plates and dishes are clanking; all is noise and chaos when humans gather to eat.
Not so with these pigs. I was amazed at how orderly they lined up across from each other at the line of food dropped onto the ground. I was awe-stricken at the quiet, except for the contented grunting from the farm pigs as they chose which of the produce to taste. Ordinarily, I would have expected complete confusion and battling among creatures usually thought inferior to us humans. But these pigs exhibited manners only taught by the likes of Henry Higgins. Miss Vanderbilt, herself, couldn’t have done a better job though, I must admit, the pigs had no tables upon which to put their elbows.
Time after time Jim hurried back to the barn to load up another batch of goodies, and time after time we watched in awe.
Such a complete mix of animals eating alongside each other was enough to make me think about how careful most humans are about the company they choose. But the pigs knew no discrimination. Queuing up to the “plates” were pigs huge, and alongside them were mini pot-bellies. The Russian wild boars and Eurasian boars and red boars gathered amongst the farm pigs and the Kune-Kunes. What a delight to witness.
It just wasn’t fair, I reasoned, after the pigs had eaten the last of the bananas. Some were even walking away with sweet red peppers in their mouths. It just wasn’t fair that I could only witness this once in my life, yet the Eiswalds could enjoy the spectacle every day of the week.
No—it just wasn’t fair, I decided as a pig walked past me with half a cantaloupe in his mouth. I smiled and gave Carol thumbs up--in stereo.

A Gift from Tobias

Never underestimate the intelligence of a pig.
Here's a short video of our visit to The Tusk and Bristle. While we visited the pig sanctuary in up-state New York, we were accompanied on our walk amongst the pigs by Suzy the warthog and Tobias and Ellie Mae, the Bornean bearded pigs.
These three wild pigs loved our company, mine, in particular. In fact, Tobias so appreciated my belly rubs and my friendship that he presented me with a gift. Now, he couldn't go to the mall to buy me perfume or anything; he had to make do with what was available.See in the video what he gave me. Doyou detect a note of shyness as he presented me with his gift?
I don't think I ever was given a present that I appreciated more.
Tobias is my new boyfriend.
video

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wonders of Warthogs

Many years ago while visiting the San Diego Zoo, I had the sudden urge to jump into a wild animal pen and cozy up to the critters, who, to my mind, exuded the most vibrant personalities, curiosity, and quirkiness. I wasn’t particularly interested in the monkeys, who, between tagging each other over the boulders, hunkered down to play with themselves or scratch fleas on another’s back. But, at this particular animal pen, Edgar almost had to hold me back from jumping amidst them.
The critters inside were African warthogs.
With faces full of bristles, over-grown side-burns, and knobs and tumor-ish growths all over their faces, anyone unappreciative of porcine particulars would have thought them hideous, deformed, entirely un-handsome. But I, with my penchant for anything swiney and bristly, became immediately enthralled with them. What creative force could have dreamt up such a fantastic creature proportioned so strangely, out-fitted with a cacophony of facial structures: thinly-sparsed, stringy hair, four knife- tusks, and various shapes and sizes of “warts” that, considered together, most humans would only regard as unfashionably eclectic? If ever, during the formation of the world’s creatures, God or Goddess had a chance to flirt with surrealism, hog-architecture became that moment. To me, a warthog reflects its creator’s humorous, thoroughly extreme, side. After designing more conventional creatures, the Goddess must have yawned, taken out her Bohemian headdress, and created, to my delight, the warthog.

While Edgar strictly forbid me from climbing into the warthog’s pen that afternoon in San Diego, I had never forgotten that feeling of synchronicity between the warthogs and me, for while I had no compelling physical excesses as did they, I certainly was non-traditional in my thinking and sometimes extreme in my behavior. People, similarly, tended to be either attracted to me or repelled by me. And how fitting was their physical design for such creatures that seemed, like me, at once quirky and lovable, reflecting intelligence and inquisitiveness alongside athleticism and laziness. Their looks and their personalities matched like stilettos with a mini-dress. The odd-looking warthog seemed to teeter, as I observed them in their relationships with each other, between pushiness and acceptance, friendly nudging and bad-ass attitude. They were, at once, schoolgirls and gangsters—demure yet ruthless. They were moody: ferocious one moment, playful the next. They looked like animals yet bore (excuse the pun) human traits. They reminded me of me; therefore, I loved them.

Last Sunday I finally got my chance to converse with and experience the aura of, not only a warthog, but also a whole range of other swine species: Bornean bearded pigs, Russian wild boars, Eurasian boars, red boars, pot-bellies, and farm pigs. Amidst this swinal throng I was the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy enjoying Munchkinland—twirling and swirling amongst the pig populace, laughing and singing amid the fantastic landscape of porkers, totally enthralled in this newly-discovered pigdom..

I was fortunate enough, years ago, to have become friends with Carol Eiswald, who, together with her husband, Jim, have their own private pig sanctuary, The Tusk and Bristle. The Internet has a way of connecting like-minded people, and pig people tend to seek each other out. Through numerous emails, Carol and I became friends. When Carol sent me photos of Suzy the warthog lying stretched out and asleep on one of their living room’s leather chairs, I knew I had to visit--my big chance to cavort with a warthog. I couldn’t wait.
Edgar and I arrived early this past Sunday morning, and Carol and I hugged at the airport as though we had known each other for a century. We drove to their sanctuary, and I was so excited to meet Suzy that, like a little kid, I could hardly stand still. I was close to peeing myself, I was so ecstatic to be in the midst of such company—human and pig. Carol finally asked if I’d like to meet Suzy.
“Are you kidding!” I said. “I have been waiting years to meet your warthog.” Y
Carol smiled, the large kid hopping at her side. Then, she pointed a finger at me. “I’m warning you; you’re going to get muddy. Suzy is in this pen over there with her cohorts, the Bornean bearded pigs, Tobias and Ellie Mae.”
We walked into the woods surrounding their home. I said, “Will they come to us?”
Carol laughed. “Oh, I’d say so. They enjoy people. The beardies can be a little rough, but all three are exceptionally sweet.”
The Eiswalds have adopted and rescued approximately 100 pigs of varying breed, and they roam their wooded property above Syracuse, New York. Miles of fencing run through the 35 acres of piney forest, some separating the more aggressive pigs from the more mild-tempered ones. I couldn’t see where one pen ended and another started because the fencing followed the natural landscape amidst the pines, hills, and brush. No rectangular pens under the scorching sun existed here. All was integrated into the environment. Except for the paths created by the food-bearing ATV’s and those used by the Eiswalds to visit their pigs several times a day, one would have thought she was simply hiking somewhere in the Poconos.
Carol and I walked through a gate, and Carol called out, “Suzy! Where are you? Soo-zy! Tobias! Ellie!” I peered through the brush for a glimpse of the wild pigs, and I didn’t have long to wait. Suddenly the bushes off to the left crackled, their branches breaking under the force of something terrific, and Suzy the warthog came galloping up to us.
My hands flew to my mouth, eyes wide open. She was beautiful! Though she was hardly larger than a spaniel, her body was solid muscle, with that sinewy look of a hardened Olympian. Yet she was petite, delicate-looking. She had tiny, goat-like feet, very nimble and quick to navigate the rocky ground. She had hardly any body hair except for a bristly mane—of sorts—that was gray and resembled a teenager’s mohawk. But it was softer, more sparse and flowy that a guy’s hair-strip. It started right behind her head, continuing over the top of her body, finally disappearing at her hind end, where it transitioned into a two-foot long bare tail tipped with a pouf of hair.
Together, Suzy’s face and its matching personality truly bowled me over. Even though I had seen warthogs before, I hadn’t seen them up close and personal. I was about to experience a lifetime of entertainment in just a few minutes. After Suzy greeted her human mom, she trotted right over to me. Suzy was no shrinking violet when it came to welcoming strangers. I squatted down to meet her, and she pushed the beardies aside, skittering to a halt right in front of me--nose to snout.
“Oh, wow!” I laughed, steadying myself against a nearby tree. I was speechless. Suzy’s enthusiasm had almost knocked me over. She continued to smell and poke my face with her petite snout--friend or foe here? she had to be thinking. I was so flattered; she thought I was just as special as I thought she was. I sensed it within her intense curiosity with me, her need to really “get in my face,” and her desire to stay, planted, at my side. Suzy liked me.
I, too, probed her face as a blind person would, for Suzy was a very tactile, palpable being. Just seeing her and observing her behavior couldn’t explain her entirely. I had to touch her face, run my hands all over jaws, snout—everywhere--feeling the flatness of what we’d call her forehead and down the length of her nose. I clasped her tiny, feminine ears and stroked her five-inch tufts or beards on either side of her jaws. She was a living work of art and her creator the most imaginative of artists. Totally awe-stricken, I felt the tiny bumps I supposed to be her “warts” that were beginning to erupt all over her nineteen-month-old face.
I gasped as Suzy snuggled my neck. She made very tiny chirping noises that sounded much like a baby raccoon’s, and those chirps were very quiet, as though she were thinking and analyzing me and talking to herself about me. I put an arm around her neck and held her close, whispering sweet something’s in her ear, and I marveled that this wild being was accepting me as a friend; she was trusting me to be kind to her. And though her eyes were smaller than those of a farm pigs’, I recognized the human element in them--even in this wild thing--that I had long ago recognized in the domestic farm pig.
Suzy didn’t have me to herself for very long. Tobias and Ellie Mae, the bearded Bornean pigs, wanted in on the deal, and they weren’t nearly as delicate as Suzy was in their greeting, even though I would not have called Suzy’s introduction all that restrained. The bearded pigs had the perfect handshake with their ten-inch snout. Together, both Ellie Mae and Tobias said “Hello” in their own way, with their long snouts sporting beards the likes of Santa. The ant-eater-like noses were checking me out everywhere: my jacket pockets, my face, my knees, my shoes. They planted dabs of snout-mud all over me, but I didn’t care. They were hardly content to sniff my face and have it returned with a simple hug and pat on the head. No--the beardeds were as athletic and lithe as Suzy, but even though one was a female, the overall impression I had was that they were not nearly as feminine and soft-hearted as Suzy. Even Ellie Mae was pushy, nosing my arm as I tried desperately to take Suzy’s and Tobias’ pictures. Every time I thought I had a good portrait shot of one of them, one of the beardies nudged my arm and ruined the picture. But they were having fun with me—probably sniffing out my own pot-bellies from home and our cats and horses, too. To them I was an interesting mélange of scents.
After the formal introductions to Suzy, Tobias, and Ellie Mae, the seven of us went on a walking tour of the sanctuary. Suzy and the beardies followed us like dogs, trotting alongside as we went from one pen to another visiting all kinds of pigs, from pot-bellies to huge farm pigs to other breeds of wild pigs. What amazed me, too, was how well all the different breeds of pigs got along together. I didn’t see any evidence of porcine racism. Of course, some were slower than others, and Suzy checked everyone out as soon as we entered another gate. But we heard very little fussing between pigs, and when we did, it qualified more as a moment of irritation than any kind of real battle.
Before we knew it, one hundred pigs trailed behind us, aside us, in front of us--some walking, others trotting. We were as much entertainment to them as they were to us. And I felt a curious sensation that I had felt once before while scuba diving in Grand Cayman. This same feeling of oneness with the pigs had gripped me before while diving with a huge school of horse-eye jack. At once, while I knew I was different from the fish, I felt as though I was accepted as one of the school. Here, too, though I knew I was different from the pigs, walking amongst them, I felt like one of the herd. On our walk through the sanctuary, there were no distinctions between humans and pigs. We were creatures simply on a hike together.
What people who are not used to the company of pigs don’t and, possibly, can’t understand is how human-like these animals are. Because pigs have the intelligence of a three-year-old child, they are able to express emotion that people can understand—“speaking” in over 32 vocalizations. They can be shrewd and are easily capable of out-thinking a dull-witted person. Readily they engage a person in play and have a sense of timing that compares to a good comedian.
What is most human-like, however, is a pig’s eye. Every person should look a pig in the eye, and that person will be forever changed. In that eye resides honesty, questioning, evaluation of the thing being seen. The eye cases a person’s motives and sums her up fairly accurately and just as quickly. The eye is kind, but like a human’s, it can be a bit suspicious until it makes a discovery either way. Long lashes border the eyelids as the eye itself turns, darts, stares, and evaluates within its socket, the whites of the eye revealing emotion itself. But if a person stares long enough into a pig’s eye, she will see an individual there in the iris, in the pupil, in the closing and opening of the lids, in the flash of the white. She will recognize an intelligent, perceptive, friendly being within the orb
She will see the human within the animal.

I will never forget my experience at Carol’s The Tusk and Bristle. Though the farm is not open to the public, I was fortunate enough to meet many of its guests, the most captivating of whom was Suzy.
video

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Piggy Resort and Spa in Pennsylvania























































Many vacationers may have stayed at a Hampton Inn and Suites before, but I’m sure they’ve never been afforded the royal treatment as many pet swine have had while staying at Ross Mill Farm Piggy Resort and Spa. This specialty “Ham-ton Hotel” sports spa facilities equivalent to the most luxurious of those created for humans. The guests, however, are all pigs—yes, real porkers—pot-bellied pigs that don’t put up a stink at this place.

Not only does Ross Mill Farm Piggy Resort and Spa cater to the spoiled swine pet, who may be staying while his or her owner is on vacation, but this farm, located outside of Doylestown, PA, also serves as a transitional home between homelessness and acquiring a regular, long-term home with caring and informed human companions. For instance, Ross Mill’s owners, Susan and Richard Magidson, together with the organization, Pig Placement Network, offer assistance to people looking to re-home their pigs or adopt a pet pig. In addition, they supply educational information to adoptees to better serve their new porcine partners. PPN and Ross Mill Farm even help people deal with problem porcine situations in order to facilitate the pig’s staying in his or her home. For people interested in becoming a companion person for a new adult or young pig, Susan assists with easing both the human and the pig into a compatible and loving relationship.

Susan says about PPN and Ross Mill’s role in helping those wanting a pet pig, “Sometimes a person will want to adopt a pig but has no idea that pigs need to be able to play and run outdoors. Pet pigs are mostly indoor pets and use a litter box as cats do. They need careful feeding and wise snacking. Fattening goodies are unwise choices because pigs gain weight so quickly, so adopters need to know to feed a low-calorie pot-belly pig feed soaked with plenty of water. And, of course, people need to check their zoning laws and have access to good veterinary care—all before taking a pig home.” Susan says, “I try to help people with any and all problems because we want the adoption process to go as seamlessly as possible-- we want the person to feel comfortable and somewhat expert in pig care so that the pig doesn’t end up in an adoptive situation again.”

A trip to the Magidsons’ “Ham-ton Hotel” is inspiring. Outside the main lodging runs the main street-path separating the rows of single-dwelling pig homes and properties. Some swiners at Ross Mill prefer outdoor living; they’re more the camping type, but their facilities are no less attractive than those residing in the complex’s main inn. In the newly built lodge, rows upon rows of pig rooms line the perimeter of this “hotel for hogs.” Eighty of the 150 pigs housed on the property belong to Pig Placement Network and have come there after being rescued. Most all of them find themselves in a re-homing situation that, until they find that ideal human who finds them irresistible, pampers them with respect, friendship, and love.

Any visitor interested in meeting a prospective adoptee will find themselves in an atmosphere where pigs come first. From her office in the lodge, Susan networks with people needing assistance adopting or re-homing a pig. Young pigs play and sleep at her feet as Susan works, and outside her office, a few pigs walk the aisles exploring and meeting others of their own kind. Occasionally, one hears snorting and squeals from two pigs arguing over the same blanket, but in a building that houses up to 70 pigs, this is a rare event. More often one only hears quiet and an occasional contented grunt muffled beneath a quilt.

Withinbn the lodge, pet pigs visiting Ross Mill Farm Piggy Resort and Spa have use of a veterinary treatment room for minor surgeries and hoof trims. Another room is the Piggy Spa where vacationing swiners enjoy scented baths, ear and eye cleansing, and even whole body massages. No luxury accommodations are too good for Ross Mill pig guests.

Ross Mill Farm Piggy Resort and Spa is in the business, not of rescuing pigs, but of re-homing pigs, vacationing pigs, dieting over-weight pigs, and providing pig-sitting services. Susan’s and Richard’s goals emphasize educating prospective pig owners in the quirks and needs of caring for a pot-belly pig so that the animal becomes appreciated and never has to be surrendered to a rescue.

Ross Mill Farm and Pig Placement Network gladly receive donations as well as supplies like blankets, dishes, soaps, cleansers, Clorox, shovels, rakes, and a supply of carrots and grapes. Check out both websites: http://www.rossmillfarm.com/ for a pictorial farm tour and http://www.pigplacementnetwork.com/.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Truth About Rabies--Boiled Down

One morning about five years ago a stray cat appeared, starved, on our front porch. He was desperately thin, with a rangy coat; he had an anxious look in his eyes. The first thought I had was that he must be incredibly hungry. So, I ran for a can of cat food, but, for some reason, he wouldn’t come near the dish. This was one frightened cat. That’s when I decided to offer him a small dollop of food from the end of my fingers. He looked at me, searched for an escape route, and backed slowly away—very leery. But I was a good human, I thought. I had to show him I was not like all the other humans he has likely come across in his life.
This was a young cat—a teenaged, skeletal-skinny feline. He trusted no human. I lowered my eyes, crouched down to his level, and held out my hand with the food low enough so that he didn’t feel threatened.
Suddenly he leaped at my fingers, grabbed the spoonful of food and with it a good chunk of my hand. I stood up, howling. In his frantic attempt to get the food, he had accidentally bitten my hand. I went inside, stopped the bleeding, and put on a band-aid.
Later in the afternoon I went searching for the cat. There, behind the house underneath a hemlock it lay dead. I scooped him up in a shovel and buried him in the woods. Poor thing—hadn’t had much of a life.
I looked at my hand and wondered.

“No. I’m certain he didn’t have rabies,” I said to my usually calm doctor. “Well, I don’t know for sure, but he was just so starved, he accidentally bit me. Yeah, I know it wasn’t the smartest thing for me to do.”
In minutes everyone around me--husband, parents, doctors—were freaking out. They were worried I might have rabies. I assured them the stray was just emaciated and hungry, that he didn’t appear to be rabid, and that it was my fault for doing a stupid thing like trying to feed him from my fingers.
My doctor talked to Edgar, and, together, they decided I should dig up the cat’s body, cut off the head, and send it to a lab to be tested.

“Where did you bury the cat?” Edgar said, a shovel in his hand. I knew what he was about to do, and I didn’t want the poor cat’s body being dug up and then decapitated.
“I’m not telling you,” I said firmly.
An argument ensued, one in which I was given a choice: send away the cat’s head or go through the series of rabies shots—those awful ones they give in the belly or something. I said, “Well, you’re not going to find the cat cause I’m not telling you, so I guess I’ll have to get the shots.”
“I can’t believe you!” my husband said.
“Yeah, well. That cat was just emaciated, maybe sick with something else. I don’t think he was rabid. But we’re not digging him up.”

So, off to the hospital we went. I was escorted to a chair within the ER, and the nurses and doctors stared at me and talked behind their masks as though I had some sort of pox or something. I stared back: they didn’t understand country life, me, or struggling felines thrown out on the street to fend for themselves. They didn’t know I was certain I hadn’t been bitten by a rabid cat. Let them stare and gossip—I didn’t care.
In a few minutes I had the first of probably around thirteen or so after-exposure anti-rabies injections—in the arms, not the belly. They were no different than allergy injections—didn’t hurt, no reactions. The worst part was the driving time to get the shot.

I never did get rabies, but my stubbornness could’ve taken my life.

Today, several years after this event, I read an article about rabies. I’ve summarized the most important facts here. These facts aren’t the usual hysterical advice garnered through the Internet. These facts have been gathered by the American Veterinary Medical Association. I’m going to keep this list salient and short.

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nerves, and then the brain of an infected animal. It is usually transmitted by a bite. One rarely can get the disease simply from having an open wound contacting a rabid animal’s saliva.
Only mammals get rabies. Birds, fish, reptiles amphibians do not. The main rabies carriers are skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes, and foxes. The reason cats are the most risky of the domestic animals is because most cat owners usually don’t vaccinate their cats for rabies. After the cat, rabies occurs next in dogs and cattle but rarely in horses, goats, sheep, swine, and ferrets.
Rabies vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep. And wildlife can be given oral vaccine.
Signs of rabies in dogs, cats, ferrets: fear, aggressive behavior, massive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, and seizures.
Humans are not at high risk if they vaccinate their animals, stay out of the way of suspicious-looking wildlife, and, if bitten, submit to the rabies series treatment.
Steps to take in dealing with rabies:
Get dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and livestock vaccinated.
Avoid letting unvaccinated animals roam free. Let unvaccinated pets enjoy playtime outside that is supervised, caged, and spay and neuter pets to prevent roaming.
Pick up garbage and other foods lying around outside—foods that may attract raccoons and other wild animals.
Don’t go near a nocturnal wild animal who is exhibiting strange, erratic behavior during the day. Call the game commissioner.
If someone is bitten by a suspicious-acting unvaccinated domestic pet or a strangely-behaving wild animal, see a physician as soon as possible, and follow his or her advice. That advice will probably be to go through the treatment program for rabies, the injections of which—from my standpoint—were no different than having a bunch of flu shots. If the animal who bit someone is a pet, officials will likely just order home quarantine for ten days.

The most significant thing anyone can do to avoid another’s contracting rabies is to vaccinate pets and livestock.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bad Dog Days During Flight: Owners Beware!

All dog owners, particularly those of bulldog-type dogs, should be aware of shipping these animals through the air. In "DVM Newsmagazine" (September 2010) the article, 'Short-nosed dog breeds more likely to die in flight' by Rachael Whitcomb, says, "Half of all dogs that died on commercial fights over the last five years were short-nosed breeds, like pugs and English bulldogs, according to the Department of Transportation."
Here's more information from that article: In a study running from 2006 to 2008, Continental Airlines had the highest number of animal deaths (53 deaths) followed by Alaska Airlines (31 deaths) and then American Airlines (23 deaths).
Two million pets are transported by air in the US each year, and in 2005, for the first time, airlines were required to file monthly pet mortality and injury reports. From 2005 to 2009 122 dog deaths occurred. Out of those 122 dog deaths, 25 were English Bulldogs and 11 were pugs. It appears that breathing problems and other genetic problems may have contributed to the Bulldogs' and pugs' dying. One should note that most of those deaths occurred while the animals were in the cargo hold rather than in the passenger cabin.
The Department of Transportation advises anyone who wishes to fly their pets to first get the animal checked out by a veterinarian.
Since Continental's 53 dog deaths, the airline had put an embargo on carrying bulldogs, pitbulls, and American Staffordshire Terriers. However, in 2009, Continental is allowing puppies of those breeds to fly in temperatures below 85 degrees.
People thinking of flying their pets should also check out Animal Airways, which offers in-flight vet services, and the average cost is $99 each way. Not too bad to insure the well-being and safety of the animal.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Part Five: Lost But Not Forgotten

What the people in the cars were thinking was anyone’s guess. One thing they all did realize, however, was that there was a wild buffalo in the middle of a road with a woman dressed in a very silly outfit, yelling and gesticulating in its face. They weren’t getting out to help for no amount of money.
And what Gay was thinking as she ran after Buffy, who, then, skipped out of the road to join Scotty in Edgar’s parents’ vegetable garden, was, “Why aren’t any of these people in all these friggin’ cars helping me herd the buffalo and the steer back into their pasture? What’s the matter with everybody?” For at least fifteen minutes Gay first ran after Buffy, and Buffy, prancing lightly into the air, leaped away and galloped on tippy-toes up through the garden, mangling tomato plants and zucchini plants as she went. With Scotty right on her heels, he plunged, not nearly as light on his feet as she, clomping at a gallop, over the garden. Then, spying a particularly lush patch of grass, they both stopped to eat.
Gay was frantic, running another quarter mile to get to the patch of grass at which the two stopped. Meanwhile the cars and trucks, many of which she had noticed as she raced past them, sat stock-still. And most of the pick-ups had men in them—MEN! Why in the world wasn’t anyone helping her round up the animals? Were they afraid? She couldn’t believe no one would help, but she didn’t have much time to ponder the questions.

In an effort to keep weight gain, a hereditary trait born to most all of Pennsylvania Dutchmen and women, to a minimum, Gay had long ago taken up running. Daily she put on her sneakers and headed out along the woods where Edgar kept a mowed path for her to run and ride the horses. At last her stamina came in handy in a practical sense: for chasing down escaped animals. The main trouble was, with very little effort the two animals could bound away as soon as she ran up to them, and while their steps were three times hers, they covered more distance with less effort. Herding them on foot seemed futile: why would they ever go back into their comparatively barren pasture when all this wonderful grass was outside their pasture. The task was daunting.
By some stroke of luck, however, Gay charged up to Buffy, arms out and spitting syllables Buffy found distasteful, “Git awt! Sh—sh—sh—shh! Sh—sh—sh-shht! Sh-sh-sh-sht! Go on! Get back!” Buffy obviously didn’t liked being “shushed,” and she, with Scotty lumbering behind, finally trotted indifferently into the pasture with Edgar’s father closing the gate behind them.
When the auto audience saw the animals finally locked into their pasture, Gay got a horn-blowing ovation from the cars backed up on Cherryville Road. Drivers tooted their horns, and Gay heard a couple others cheer. Exhausted, Gay raised an arm to acknowledge their support then disappeared, acutely aware of her silly garb, behind the farmhouse until the traffic had disappeared. She locked the animals out of the pasture with the torn fencing, and that evening Edgar fixed it.
Buffy continued to leap the fence a few times a month, and each time Scotty barreled down the fence so that he could be with her. But the neighbors and travelers in this area, ones that used the road regularly, soon got used to driving slowly on that stretch of Cherryville Road where on any day Buffy could be standing in the road or out in the middle of an unfenced alfalfa field. The Balliets received many nonchalant calls from people on their way to work, “Your buffalo and steer are standing by the side of the road again. They must’ve escaped.” And then Gay and Edgar would go down to the farm and herd them back into the pasture.

Over the years of Edgar’s being a large animal veterinarian, he has had some clients finding it difficult to pay. Their resolution: give us another animal we don’t need in exchange for services. So, under these conditions we received a llama as payment. So, Edgar brought home Larry the llama, put him into the same back barn stall that Scotty and Buffy adjusted in, and in two weeks he let Larry out into the field. By now Edgar had begun supplementing the pasture grass with feeding hay morning and evening.
Larry immediately latched onto the only remaining sheep, but shortly after being let out into the pasture, he found himself the victim of two bullies: Scotty and Buffy. By then, Scotty was sporting two two and a half -feet-long pointy horns. He was a huge animal, weighing well over a ton, and he knew to use his horns to his advantage. Lar;ry had a taste of Scotty’s horns on many occasion. If Larry happened to be in Scotty’s way in the barnyard, Scotty shook his horns at Larry, and the llama scooted out of the way. Because Larry was the weakest of the animal family, he was the one the bigger animals picked on—no different from diffident kids being picked on by the school bullies.
One morning Edgar had gone across the street to the barn early in the morning to throw hay to the animals. He heard a high-pitched whining coming from the back stall. He ran, opened the door, and found Larry pinned in the corner, Scotty looming over him. Larry had sat down in a submissive posture, and Scotty was brandishing his horns in a threatening manner, warning Larry not to move or he’d give him a good poke.
Edgar yelled, Scotty turned to look, then Edgar took the pitchfork and waved it at Scotty. “Hey, ya big bastard!” Edgar yelled as all 2,000 pounds of Scotty squeezed out the barn door. “Let Larry alone!” Edgar decided then and there to get Gay another present—this one for being a wonderful, tolerant wife—a donkey.
From another client who had some trouble paying his veterinary bills, Edgar received a donkey, an animal, he had heard, likes llamas. Edgar’s reasoning for accepting the donkey was because Larry needed protecting from Scotty and Buffy. So, one day a mammoth jenny was delivered to the farm and put into the pasture with Scotty and Buffy. At this point Scotty and Buffy were the royal keepers of the jewels: the pasture. Each took turns calling all the shots and deciding pasture decorum for the one lone sheep, Lois, and Larry. Of course, Larry and Lois, had absolutely no rights in Scotty and Buffy’s pasturedom. But the tides turned immediately when Sophie, the donkey, arrived.
Sophie was a yearling when Edgar brought her to the farm as Larry’s bodyguard. Immediately the llama and donkey became good friends, and, as well, Scotty and Buffy didn’t care for the donkey, who would have no funny business and who could have cared less who thought he or she was boss of the pasture. Sophie was her own boss.
One day while Edgar was working in the barn, he heard Larry’s pitiful wailing, and, figuring Scotty was bullying him again, he ran to help. But Sophie had gotten there first. Sure enough, Scotty had Larry pinned in the corner, and he was shaking his huge horns at him. Sophie galloped into the barn and, seeing Larry cowering at Scotty’s feet, went immediately to Larry’s defense. She ran into the stall and turned around. With that Scotty turned his huge, concrete-block head toward her, and “BLAM!” her back legs shot him a double-barreled kick to the forehead.
Edgar watched, shocked. For a second Scotty just stood there, and in another second, he simply dropped to his knees. Edgar had no bell to ring as they do in the boxing matches, but for sure Sophie had knocked him out for a few seconds. Minutes later Scotty got up. Then, on shaky legs, he lumbered out the barn and headed to the pasture. Never again did he pick on Larry. Sophie had fixed his head right.

Buffy, though she didn’t pick on Larry and so didn’t get into any tussles with Sophie, busied herself leaping the fence. Her habit became so routine that Edgar decided just to let her go. Several times he watched her leap over, eat for an hour or two, and then she hopped back over the fence to be with Scotty. On the other hand, depending on Scotty’s neediness to be right alongside Buffy, he either did or didn’t plow through the fence. One time Buffy’s escape even hit the local newspapers with an article entitled, “Where the Steer and the Buffalo Roam.” Edgar spent many days fixing and re-fixing fencing.
One evening Scotty and Buffy had escaped their pasture for the last time. This time someone had called the state cops. Gay’s father and Edgar managed the herding, though dusk had already settled, and darkness was rapidly descending. Gay’s father, Ralph, was the first one on the scene: Scotty and Buffy were a half mile from the farm—still on Balliet farmland—but far from the pasture where they belonged.
When the cop car pulled up, and the officer saw Ralph, a man in his late sixties, yelling and waving his arms in Scotty’s face, the cop said, in the bravest voice he could muster, “I think he’s gonna charge.” With that he took out his revolver, and Ralph said, “What do you think you’re gonna do with that gun?”
The cop said, as Scotty watched him intently chewing grass, “He looks like he’s gonna charge. If he does, I’m gonna shoot.”
“Listen, asshole—this steer is not about to charge anybody. He’s just having a good time eating grass. Now, go find something better to do, and my son-in-law and I will get this critter back in his pasture.” Probably relieved to be dismissed from that job, the cop got back in his car and drove away. Hours later, after the sun had set, Ralph and Edgar finally got the two escapees back to their home.
That incident was the back-breaker. The phone was always ringing, “There’s a buffalo and something else really big and red-headed standing in a field without fencing.” So, Edgar arranged for Buffy to go back to the Game Preserve. Though Scotty was devastated to lose his buddy, he eventually adjusted. Buffy rejoined her old herd at the Game Preserve and began having lots of buffalo babies.

Scotty was always the pensive type, so characteristic of bovines in general. As he got older, he was content to lie in the shade under his mulberry tree and chew his cud. Lois eventually died as did Larry. Edgar had another burro given to him as payment for a vet bill, and the burro, Benji, bred Sophie, and together, they had Thumbelina. Scotty learned to accept Sophie and her entourage, but during his last years his was king of the pasture and kept mostly to himself, except for accepting hand-outs from people visiting the farm and dog biscuit treats from Edgar and his father.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Part Four: Lost But Not Forgotten

In the next several months, Scotty’s horns were even larger and more spiked, but, just because he was growing into a big boy didn’t mean he was as strong in spirit. Besides Edgar’s dad talking to him, he just seemed lonely—standing alone in the middle of the pasture, the two sheep each other’s company across the field. Scotty’s loneliness precipitated another present for Gay for her birthday in May.
On her birthday of May 23, 1986, Edgar again prodded Gay to take a walk down to the old farmstead. She knew something was up—another animal of some kind, most likely. She mentally prepared herself: Could it be a kind of fowl this time? Perhaps a goose or a few ducks or maybe a swan or peacock, which Gay had hinted she’d like having?
But no feathers did this present wear.
When he opened the door to the same stall wherein he had first introduced his wife to Scotty, she gasped. It wasn’t fowl, that’s for sure. It was small, just like Scotty had been, but it was not another Scotty. It was something far more exotic with black, tightly curled hair. And behind its low-carried head, a small lump protruded on its back.
“Okay,” Gay said, staring at the creature before her, “I give up. What is it?”
“She’s a buffalo,” Edgar said, smiling as grandly as when he had shown Gay Scotty. “How do you like her?”
“A buffalo? What do we need a buffalo for? Mowing grass again?”
“As a friend for Scotty.”
“What if he doesn’t want a buffalo for a friend?”
“I think they’ll get along fine. They just have to get used to each other, you’ll see.”
“Thanks for the birthday present. Sandals would’ve been more practical.”

Buffy, too, had come from the Game Preserve where she had been part of a herd of twenty-some buffaloes. Edgar discouraged our trying to tame her—buffaloes were instinctively wild and fairly untamable. After acclimating the buffalo to the back stall for a week, Edgar decided to let her out with Scotty. The sheep were already way out in the pasture, and Scotty was in the barnyard sniffing at the last dribbles of hay. His horns were still just five-inch stubs, but he had taken over as king of the pasture. The sheep were peasants in his kingdom.
Edgar opened Buffy’s gate, and the small buffalo roared out of the stall, head down like a battering ram, and skipped down the ramp and into the barnyard where Scotty, eyes wide, took one look at her, spun around, and barrel-assed right through the barnyard gate. He ran as fast as he could to the safety of the sheep. Buffy hadn’t meant to chase him; she had only wanted to run and be free. When Buffy stopped in the barnyard to take in her surroundings, she just stood there, pawing the ground and sniffing it, evaluating her environment and the animals she would share the fields with.
Though Scotty’s initial reaction to the alien caused the destruction of the barnyard fence, once he found that Buffy was no threat, they quickly became friends. And, then, once friends, they became inseparable buddies, walking the pasture together, coming into the barn in the evening together, basking in the sunshine together. They had grown so close that they were virtually inseparable, like a couple of closely-planted sweet potatoes grown into one another.
Though buffalo may look lethargic, tankish, with hardly energy to move let alone jump a fence, they are hardly sedentary or clumsy. As Buffy got older, looking every day much more like a TV buffalo, with that big, blocky head, the small muzzle and large expanse between the black eyes, and as her hump grew larger and her rump smaller and more compact, she became more athletic as well. Now, with a Scotch Highland steer, two sheep, and a buffalo munching all day on the pasture, the grass was becoming thinner and scarcer. Suddenly the grass on the other side of the fence was looking much tastier.
Seeing the lush grass on the other side of the fence got Buffy devising her escape to greener meadows. One day, in an effortless manner, she leaped the fence. She flew through the air and over the barrier with the agility of Mikhail Baryshnikov. Seeing her hopping the fence, Scotty was, at once, both impressed and agitated; his buddy had left him. Scotty was so afraid of being left behind he backed up, put his huge head to the ground, and charged the fence where, beyond it, Buffy was gorging on the high grass. He bashed into the wooden fence, and it gave way under the bull-dozing weight of the Scotch Highland steer. Once through the fence, he and Buffy stood for hours grazing in never-before-grazed-on grass—until Edgar’s dad went for his daily walk. When he saw the fence down and the animals on the other side, he ran after them, trying to get them back into their pasture.
Knowing that far tastier grass lay just feet from their own scruffy pastures, Scotty and Buffy didn’t want any part of going back. They much preferred munching the virginal grass. Panic-stricken, Edgar’s dad ran back to the house to call his son for help, but Gay was the only one home.
“Buffy and Scotty are out of the pasture!” he yelled into the receiver.
“I’ll be right down,” Gay said. Only a week before, Gay had had liposuction done on her hips grown so large over the years she looked like a pack llama carrying two overstuffed sacks. Now, trim and slim, no longer wider than she was tall, she was recuperating at home while the bruising and pain dissipated, and her doctors had ordered her to wear a nasty-looking surgical garment. Though the doctors also ordered her to take it easy for at least two weeks, rest she would not have—not with a buffalo and a Scotch Highland on the loose.
Gay had been dutifully wearing the long-legged white surgical girdle she was to wear non-stop for at least two months, and she wasn’t about to screw up the surgery by taking it off in favor of cooler-looking duds. So, overtop the girdle, she slipped on a baggy pair of pink shorts that happened to be handy, threw on some sneakers, and bolted out the door. She ran down the driveway to the country road bordering their property, the dividing line between her in-laws’ farm and their place. She stopped dead as she saw the road backed up with traffic—a road upon which only a few cars passed every few minutes. Everywhere cars were stopped dead in each direction.
Then, feeling very much exposed and vulnerable in her white knee-reaching surgical garment with baggy shorts over top them, she ventured out into the middle of the road. Down Cherryville Road and across from the old farmstead’s house, Gay saw Buffy was standing in the middle of the road halting traffic like an employee from a PennDot road crew. The only thing she lacked was the flag, but, being a buffalo, she didn’t exactly need to get anyone’s attention. Every car was stopped dead. Buffy’s faithful partner, Scotty, stood a few yards away munching plants in the Balliets’ vegetable garden.
Forgetting all about her strange, semi-hospital-looking apparel and the fact that her doctor would’ve had a hernia knowing she was running back and forth, up and down Cherryville Road after a buffalo, Gay raced down the middle of the road toward the wild beast. While Edgar’s father held open the pasture gate for them, Gay flew at the buffalo, hooting and hollering, her arms flailing, trying to scare Buffy back into her pasture.
What the people in the cars were thinking was anyone’s guess. One thing they all did realize, however, was that there was a wild buffalo in the middle of a road with a woman dressed in a very silly outfit, yelling and gesticulating in its face. They weren’t getting out to help for no amount of money.
And what Gay was thinking as she ran after Buffy, who, then, skipped out of the road to join Scotty in Edgar’s parents’ vegetable garden, was, “Why aren’t any of these people in all these friggin’ cars helping me herd the buffalo and the steer back into their pasture? What’s the matter with everybody?” For at least fifteen minutes Gay first ran after Buffy, and Buffy, prancing lightly into the air, leaped away and galloped on tippy-toes up through the garden, mangling tomato plants and zucchini plants as she went. With Scotty right on her heels, he plunged, not nearly as light on his feet as she, clomping at a gallop, over the garden. Then, spying a particularly lush patch of grass, they both stopped to eat.
Gay was frantic, running another quarter mile to get to the patch of grass at which the two stopped. Meanwhile the cars and trucks, many of which she had noticed as she raced past them, sat stock-still. And most of the pick-ups had men in them—MEN! Why in the world wasn’t anyone helping her round up the animals? Were they afraid? She couldn’t believe no one would help, but she didn’t have much time to ponder the questions.

In an effort to keep weight gain, a hereditary trait born to most all of Pennsylvania Dutchmen and women, to a minimum, Gay had long ago taken up running. Daily she put on her sneakers and headed out along the woods where Edgar kept a mowed path for her to run and ride the horses. At last her stamina came in handy in a practical sense: for chasing down escaped animals. The main trouble was, with very little effort the two animals could bound away as soon as she ran up to them, and while their steps were three times hers, they covered more distance with less effort. Herding them on foot seemed futile: why would they ever go back into their comparatively barren pasture when all this wonderful grass was outside their pasture. The task was daunting.
By some stroke of luck, however, Gay charged up to Buffy, arms out and spitting syllables Buffy found distasteful, “Git awt! Sh—sh—sh—shh! Sh—sh—sh-shht! Sh-sh-sh-sht! Go on! Get back!” Buffy obviously didn’t liked being “shushed,” and she, with Scotty lumbering behind, finally trotted indifferently into the pasture with Edgar’s father closing the gate behind them.
When the auto audience saw the animals finally locked into their pasture, Gay got a horn-blowing ovation from the cars backed up on Cherryville Road. Drivers tooted their horns, and Gay heard a couple others cheer. Exhausted, Gay raised an arm to acknowledge their support then disappeared, acutely aware of her silly garb, behind the farmhouse until the traffic had disappeared. She locked the animals out of the pasture with the torn fencing, and that evening Edgar fixed it.
Buffy continued to leap the fence a few times a month, and each time Scotty barreled down the fence so that he could be with her. But the neighbors and travelers in this area, ones that used the road regularly, soon got used to driving slowly on that stretch of Cherryville Road where on any day Buffy could be standing in the road or out in the middle of an unfenced alfalfa field. The Balliets received many nonchalant calls from people on their way to work, “Your buffalo and steer are standing by the side of the road again. They must’ve escaped.” And then Gay and Edgar would go down to the farm and herd them back into the pasture.

Part Five coming tomorrow.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Part Three--Lost But Not Forgotten

This author hopes this memorial may awaken readers to the horrific practices of animal farming and factory farming and that, together, people will demand their government pass laws to safeguard these animals who have only suffering to bear on their way to the slaughter. Each one of us must bear the shame the farmer refuses to bear, for we are of the same species, and we are the consumers that demand the farmers to raise these animals. But we can unite together by passing humane laws prohibiting farmers from treating these animals abominably.
I encourage each reader to demand our government enforce laws protecting these animals when they are born, give birth, are raised, and transported to the butcher. The least any consumer of meat can do is assure that a doomed animal is treated with respect and kindness before it is killed. Not only does the meat-eater owe this to the farm animal, but he owes it to himself as well, for if he cannot respect and protect an innocent animal, then he cannot respect himself or another human being. At the very least he should help the farm animals so that he can save himself and humanity.

The author has included here, in memory of the billions of farm animals who give their lives for the human dinner plate, one animal, the author’s own, who escaped a horrible existence and an early death.

One Who Lived to be Buried and Remembered

Species: bovine—Scotch Highland steer
Name: Scotty
Born: 1985
Died: 2005
Human companion: Edgar Balliet, III, VMD

One Christmas morning in 1985 after they had opened a few presents beneath the tree, Edgar asked his wife to go along down to his parents’ farm to feed the two sheep. The day was crisp, a thin layer of snow lay on the ground—a beautiful morning for a walk. When Gay and Edgar stopped at the barn, and Edgar began throwing hay and feeding grain to the animals, a strange sound erupted from one of the barn’s back stalls.
Gay looked questioningly at her husband, and then a huge smile erupted on his face. “Here--I have another Christmas present waiting for you.”
“Oh, boy! Let me see. What is it?” Gay said, bouncing like an excited kid.
Then he motioned to the far stall, opened the heavy door, and introduced the animal. “Gay, meet Scotty.”
Gay looked, tip-toeing to the open door, and she saw a younger version of something she didn’t recognize. The animal stood as tall as and as long as a golf cart. His head looked cow-like, but what was puzzling was his coat. The baby animal had bright, long red hair.
“What is it?” Gay said. “He looks like Sasquatch.” The calf looked at Gay and bellowed. He sounded like a baby steer.
“It’s a Scotch Highland bull calf,” he said, smiling widely. “He’s your Christmas present.”
“Thanks,” she said. “Just what I’ve always wanted. Wouldn’t a pair of snow boots have been more practical?”
“Well,” he snickered, “I really did get him because he was going to be auctioned off by the Game Preserve and probably bought for meat. Since he was born at the Game Preserve, and I’ve been his vet since he came into the world, I didn’t want to see him butchered. And, anyway, I really needed another animal at the old farm here to help keep the grass down. Two sheep don’t do the job. Hey, you remember the Scotch Highlands over at the Game Preserve—the two red, long-haired cattle? Well, those were Rosie and Brutus, Scotty’s parents. He was to be auctioned off in September, and I told Tony I wanted him. I bought him for fifty bucks, and he’s been at the preserve waiting for Christmas Day.”
Gay looked at the calf dripping with long, red dreadlocks, and said, “Hey, that was a steal. Can I feed him something?”
“Well, he’s pretty wild—not too used to people yet—been out on the range for some time and isn’t really used to being hand-fed. We can try to tame him while he’s penned up in this small stall for a couple of weeks.”
So, all bundled up in his puffy winter jacket, Edgar sidled over to the young steer with a grain scoop full of oats. He crouched down to make himself look little and unintimidating, and the calf snorted, his hot breath steaming when it hit the frigid air. Then, in a few minutes, with the smell of the oats lingering, the Scotch Highland bull calf took a couple steps closer. Minutes later he was eating from the scoop.
Though he wasn’t ready then to accept another person into his stall, he tamed up well enough in the next two weeks so that Gay could go inside and hand-feed him, too. At that time, her first reaction, as he licked the oats from the scoop, was, “Geez, he stinks. Smells sort o’ sour.”
“Yeah, cows and steers always smell that way. It’s their rumen and ‘cause they chew their cud,” Edgar said.
“Other than his bad breath, he’s kind of cute. What are we going to do with him?”
“Nothing. Let him live his life here as a pet. He’s my lawn mower for the pastures here at the farm.”
Just the year before Edgar had purchased the old Balliet farm from his parents. While his parents then became renters in the house they sold to their son, the farm was his to maintain, and that was just fine by them. Edgar and Gay had built their house across the street in a patch of woods. They also built a barn and seven horses, so having two properties to keep up was quite a task. Scotty’s helping with keeping the grass down in the pastures at the old farmstead would help with the chores.
For the first three weeks Scotty wore a calf halter so that if he escaped from the pasture, he’d be easier to catch and lead back to the barn. But it wasn’t long before his big hairy head out-grew it. By that time Edgar was fairly certain Scotty wasn’t going to try to escape the pasture, so he took off the halter.
Over the next several weeks Scotty tamed up pretty nicely. Edgar’s father visited him on nice days when Scotty was on pasture, and knowing that people always had snacks for him, Scotty trotted up to them and put out his big tongue, which, like an elephant’s trunk, wrapped itself around the tasty morsel. And from the first that tongue served as his own built-in dishrag. He used it to clean his mouth after eating, and he used the tip of it to clean the boogies from his nose. “Oh, that’s really too gross,” Gay would say as the tip of Scotty’s tongue disappeared into his nose.
“Well, he can’t very well use a Kleenex, can he?” Edgar said in defense of the little guy.
Scotty loved any snacks: lettuce leaves, carrots, apples, and even dog biscuits. And, in just a few months’ time, he was perfectly tame and friendly.
At four months old his horn buds were just starting to peep from his head. Scotch Highland cattle are known for their long horns that stretch, between the points, to four feet. At six months of age, Edgar thought it best to castrate the bull calf. So, he retrieved Scotty’s baby halter and stuffed Scotty’s head into it. It was way too small, and his red hair stuck straight out from the tightness of the out-grown halter, but Edgar popped him a little sleepy juice in order to castrate him. Though Scotty was cute and personable, keeping him as a bull might turn him into a real butthead. A few minutes later, using the Berdizo cattle castrator, Scotty was castrated.
With his manhood removed, Scotty became a more sociable animal within a few months’ time, and he definitely preferred the company of people over the two sheep in his pasture. Edgar’s dad fed him biscuits on his daily walks around the farm, and Scotty always followed behind like a pup, walking right up to him, nudging him a little from behind until Edgar, Jr. turned around, gave him a knuckle-rub to his forehead and stuffed another biscuit in his mouth.

Donnie the Duckling

Oh, I'm one proud mom. The duckling my husband, Edgar, and I found while walking along the Walnutport Canal last Sunday is in love with his new mommy. And I love him back.
The more I think of it the more I believe someone may have dropped Donnie off at the canal with the best intentions: so that he could be free and cavort with other ducks. Perhaps someone who was passing by the "duck stand" at Tractor Farm and Supply decided to liberate one of the many baby ducks for sale, but the savior didn't realize that Donnie would need a mother for protection, warmth, and lessons in survival. Late summer is not the right time of year for ducklings: Donnie's presence was an aberration.
But he's safe with us.

Each time I've raised a wild creature, I've come away from the experience a more fulfilled, more energetic, more thoughtful person. I regain perspective on life and what really matters, as well a things that don't: not the gorgeous shoes at Bloomingdale's, not the Cache dress, and not the lip-smacking Southwest cheesesteak at River Walck Saloon, though it is very tasty. When people and animals spend time together, all the other, man-made, unreal stuff pales in comparison. Time spent with an animal reinstills values like trust, honesty, and self-appreciation. My pets love me for myself; therfore, I love myself.

I am so lucky to have found Donnie. He is the ducky equivalent of Li'l Ralphie, who we found in his most needy moment, too. As we have saved Li'l Ralphie and Donnie, so the kitten and the duck have saved a part of me. We have buoyed each other. They are both alive and thriving because of us, and I, at least, have another dimension, another perspective, to my already multi-faceted personality.

This duck adoption has afforded me another talent: I can speak duck language. I'm a duck whisperer. How do I know I can communicate with ducks? Well, Donnie eyes me intently when I stoop down to offer him food, which he doesn't take unless I begin to tap on the floor where the grain lies. Tap, tap, tap--my finger stumps the newspapers beside him. "Come on, Donnie," I say in a ducky whisper, and I tap some more.
He regards me, head bent to the side, concentrating. And not a second or two later, he is pecking alongside my finger. "Good boy," I say in a soft whispy voice.
In the swimming pool I act like a mother duck would: hunker down with only my head above water so that, in case he needs me, I'm right there. And, like a human kid, he swims away briefly but always, within seconds, checks in with his human to ensure that his world is okay. Then, away he goes, but never more than a foot away, and then he returns to the mother ship again.
Today when we went to the pool, I taught him how to catch dead bugs on the water's surface. Donnie has keen eyesight, for sure. I set him down about a foot from me, with the floating bug between us. Frantically, Donnie paddled back to him hu-mom, but he couldn't help noticing the bug. BAM! he hit it just like that, and then it disappeared down his throat.
"Good boy!" I whispered to him. I was so excited, but I didn't want to frighten him with loud cheering and applause. So, the afternoon we spent together in the pool-- Donnie a bit above water level standing on my right shoulder with me gliding slowly around the pool looking for dead insects.
Donnie is amazing: he's intellligent, he's fast, and he trusts me to do the right thing for him. It's pretty enlightening how, in less than a week, my own life has grown because of this little duck. Leave it to an animal to restore self-worth, trust, honesty, and goodness just when human fellowship has tried to rend these qualities worthess. Nothing refurbishes a battered soul like the uncritical friendship of an animal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Duckling swimming in pool with his humom.MOV

Part II--Lost But Not Forgotten

Statistics show that 50 million cattle and calves are slaughtered in the U.S. for food each year. Each American consumes approximately 80 pounds of beef and veal. Cattle have just as mind-numbing and suffocating lives as those of dairy cows. Many of the male calves, stolen from their mothers and placed in veal crates, are never allowed to nurse from their mothers. Veal calves are forbidden to touch the ground with their feet or lick minerals from the ground because the veal farmers fear the absorption of iron may taint the ultimate product: white meat, whose cosmetic appeal comes from an animal kept anemic.
Humans would certainly not enjoy a life lived in an anemic state, and neither do veal calves, forced to live their short lives with iron-poor blood. Such calves feel weak and too tired to do little more than lie, wasted, in their compartments. Calves allowed to develop as nature intended would have energy to romp and play with pasture mates, not wither away in a tiny box The only escape veal calves find from their prison-cell is when the tops of their backs hit the ceilings. Only then are they released to the slaughter.
So, too, the piglet, born on a concrete floor to a mother deprived of straw for making a nest and unable to stand up or turn around in the farrowing crate, is viewed by the farmer as an entity to be processed, not appreciated for any inner spirit or personality. The moment he is born he begins his journey at the tender age of three weeks when he is put into a iron-barred nursery. At six months of age he is moved to a growing, then a finishing pen, and then, shortly thereafter, it’s on to the slaughterhouse. In that six-month lifespan, the pig is reduced to an aberration of what nature intended him to be. His teeth are cut out; his tail removed, and he is fattened under artificial lights in a building rife with disease. Sick with salmonella, gastric disturbances, and arthritis, all causes of overcrowding, the market pig never sees the light of day.
The pig, morphed into a monstrous version of his original self, cannot recognize any part of himself that resembles a pig: a curious, talkative, playful, ingenious, and clean animal. He is unable to muster any visage of himself as an honest, intelligent, protective, independent and happy spirit. All he has available to know himself is that which is reflected back to him in the other pigs sharing his tiny prison-pen. He sees himself in them: physical wrecks, so heavily muscled they can hardly move, with no tails, few teeth, and eyesight dimmed from lack of sun and stimulation. Sadly, he sees himself in them: lethargic, bored, dazed by their world’s lack of stimulation, neurotic, and consumed by dread--from a life so unnatural, so hard, so cold, and so unkind.
Raised as though he had a dollar sign tattooed on his back, a market hog never asks his farmer for a kind rub on the cheek, a scratch to the belly, for a pig, who possesses an uncanny degree of intelligence (pigs are as smart as a three-year-old person) understands he has been bred to be eaten, though he avoids thinking about this at all costs. A pig’s only consolation lies in the short-lived social climate created amongst his fellow doomed pigs with whom he shares a tiny box as a home--with whom he nudges and offers a friendly scratch, with whom he shares his daily meals, and with whom he communicates the same fears and regrets. When he comes of killing age at six months--at what should be the happiest, most playful time of his life--his enthusiasm for warm days and cloudless skies is literally sliced short--his neck draining his life-blood onto the floor where millions had bled before him.
Farmers deny the pig any equivalent human traits of personality, curiosity, intelligence, playfulness, sociability, and affection. Stripping the pig of individuality and feelings absolves the farmer of guilt: the guilt accrued from the mistreatment and butchering of a being that, in many ways, resembles his fellow humans. For an animal so similar to man in body mass and with organ systems characteristic of people’s, so much so that pigs sacrifice their own aortic valves for ailing humans, farmers and all those associated with this animal’s dispatching treat them no differently than a vegetable to be processed.
Chickens, too, just like pigs and steers, lead horrific, short lives in large, windowless sheds housing 25,000 broilers. Eating from trays worked by computers so that the food and drink are always at the chicken’s head height, the birds consume all day long without benefit of fresh air or sun. Packed so closely together, they are denied normal chicken habits: rolling in dust to keep parasites away, pecking the ground for grubs, insects, and sprouts. They are denied any behavior natural to a chicken: roosting in a tree, running in the outdoors, socializing with roosters and other hens. And after only one month of silent gorging, all 25,000 of them are slaughtered.
These chicken sheds are unknown to most people. Chicken farmers keep these sheds under tight wraps. Should anyone happen upon one and open the door, he’d see the sea of white animals, hear the equally shocking silence, and catch his breath at the suffocating odor. And he would be ashamed at the suffering his species has caused another.
Anyone can see these chicken sheds from the road as he takes a ride into the country. They usually are part of a farm including a nice farmhouse, a decent barn for some cattle or pigs or even horses. But in the back in a secluded area of the farm sits a long, usually green, aluminum-sided rectangular shed wherein thousands and thousands of birds languish. One should be on the lookout for these buildings--no less than huge torture chambers: long buildings with no widows, with giant fans on either end of the structures. Passing such a structure should make a person think about the feathered lives inside, lives that lack life as it was meant to be, life as it lacks any joy or freedom.
Not only do our farm animals receive no burial at all, but their bodies never can lie at peace in one piece. An animal’s body in the slaughterhouse, finds its way to a packing plant where its legs, rump, ribs, and other body parts are cut, quartered, and sectioned into manageable pieces. The pieces are then processed and packaged and distributed all over the country. One pig’s front ribs may be consumed by a family in Dallas, TX while the same pig’s back ribs may be eaten by a couple in Bangor, Maine. So, while a decent burial for a farm animal is unlikely, the idea of its finding solace somewhere as a single body is totally inconceivable. Taken to the final stage of the processing, one pig’s body, after being consumed by fifty or more people, would be expelled from those people in even more infinitely different places, finally finding their resting place in the myriad sewers and septic tanks below the many homes and apartments within many different towns and cities of many different states.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Part One--Our Farm Animals


This chapter was pulled from my ms. THE CELEBRATED PET: HOW AMERICANS MEMORIALIZE THEIR ANIMAL FRIENDS because editors insisted a farm animal didn't qualify as a pet. I supposwe that's true but only because they've never been given the chance. The first two sections of this chapter are factual. The last two are factual as well but funny. I will post this chapter in aproximately four parts. Today is part one. I hope that all of you will look at your dinner plates with a bit more compassion and appreciation for the animal who sacrificed his or her life. And my personal request to all my friends is to refuse pig meat, as I have, out of respect for a species that humanity has treated with complete disregard. Thanks everyone.



Lost But Not Forgotten


Species: bovine, ovine, porcine, avian.

Names: none

Born and Died: daily

Human companions: none

Our Farm Animals

Though this book pays tribute to the dear and beloved pets that share Americans’ lives, this chapter honors those animals processed by the small farms and the factory farms. While our dearest pets who have played with us, conversed with us in hard times, and slept beside us or in our laps, deserve special tribute at their passing, the farm animals are dispatched with little empathy, understanding, or caring by humans, let alone any remembrance of their having existed at all.
This chapter pays tribute to the millions of farm animals who are maltreated, abused and tortured on their way to the slaughterhouse: the 205 million pigs killed each year for American appetites; the steers; the dairy cows; the billions of fryer chickens and egg-laying hens, as well. Americans need to honor, too, the lambs, the veal calves, the ducks, the geese, the rabbits, and the goats, all who sacrifice themselves to our dinner plates. These animals, in their journey to the slaughter, race to define themselves within their doomed group. They find a part of themselves amongst each other because that had never been allowed the opportunity to show people how charming, endearing, and affectionate they could be.



Farm animals occupy a unique and frightening place within American society. As unique beings with blood pulsing warm in their veins, they breathe and react like humans, their specialness evident in the pure magic of life itself: the complexity of cells organized to operate bodily systems, and the innate divination of instinct and desire. When a calf and mother nuzzle each other, humans remark on the emotional depth of the maternal bond. When a pig squeals for help, onlookers marvel at his brothers and sisters who come running to assist. Like humans, farm animals have feelings and sensitivities that astute humans can recognize.
Though most farm animals are mass-bred, raised, and grown; each, given the opportunity, possesses a unique personality with quirks, needs, and a desire to live life as evolution defined him. The farm animal, despite the factory farms’ reducing him or her to anonymity, is an individual; each and every one is a character, though his number be “34712” or “58703.” The numbered tags hanging from a steer or pig’s ear mean nothing to him because as he lives his days, which are numbered as well, he tries, under the poorest circumstances, to communicate, play, and nuzzle other animals bearing identification tags just like his own. He knows nothing other than to be what he is—a feeling, sensitive, discerning, and gregarious individual. The farm animal is the truest representative of an existentialist because he defines himself as he knows himself to be, not as humans have defined him as an object destined for the human dinner plate.
Many Americans view farm animals, not as individuals with species-specific needs and goals, but as they wish to see them. From the human perspective their value lies, not in their companionship, not in the conversation they could have with us, if given the chance, but only in their relationship to our taste buds--for their presentation on dinner plates everywhere, everyday, every hour, every minute. A situation in which people view a living, breathing, sensitive animal as a commodity or a thing to be consumed is frightening, not only to a minority of humans, but more so, especially, to the animals who suffer by that blurred vision. If people cannot understand or fathom other values for a farm animal other than as a producer of sirloin or rib-eye steaks or chops, then we become devalued as the intelligent, sensitive beings we have historically defined ourselves as. Our limited understanding limits ourselves as a super species.
Among all the animals humans may associate themselves with, from domestic pets, to carriage horses, to zoo animals, to miniature farm animals that can share people’s laps and pillows, the farm animals are the most unselfish of all—sacrificing themselves for human appetite. From the day they are born in the factory farm or even in the rural farm their end point to the slaughterhouse and to our plates is, from the human perspective, their only value. Farmers, despite sharing fleeting moments of sensitivity and conversation with these animals as they grow and live alongside them, deny the animal’s personality, their reaching out for attention, and their need for touch. The farmers deny the feelings of the farm animals because to admit these gentle beasts have feelings and endure suffering that would make most of us cringe would be too shameful. Denying the suffering is avoiding it. Avoiding it dismisses the shame.
One farm animal who suffers terribly during her lifetime is the dairy cow. Unlike our domestic pets who bark and meow for treats and attention, the dairy cow seldom complains she would like more time than just a day to spend with her calf. Her calf, no sooner has she given birth and licked its face dry, is whisked away after the first twenty-four hours so that the milk, meant for her baby, can be drunk by people. Then, instead of her calf suckling on its mother’s soft udder as human babies suck at their mother’s breasts, the cow stands for hours, enduring the hard, metal edges of the vacuum-robot, a sucking machine powered by computers.
Yet the dairy cow endures, deprived of her newborn which all her instincts are urging her to find and protect. She does not complain, not because she doesn’t want to call out to her calf, but because it is discouraged by a stick, a shovel, or an electric fence. Neither does she look to the dairy farmer for attention--to be stroked on her head or scratched behind an ear--because she already has felt the human’s detachment, and she can feel the numbered tag in her ear.
The dairy cow, treated as a commodity the day she fell from her mother’s womb, has only the habitualness of her life to rely on: every year having her baby taken, producing ten times more milk than that intended for her calf, bearing the dull ache of an udder with mastitis, and hobbling lame to the milking stalls. Her only relative calm is being able to stand next to and touch the nose of the next cow as their udders are sucked dry. Only the ritual, the sureness of the daily suffering, the sucking out of the udder, offers the dairy cow a perverted feeling of dead calm. The tedious, demeaning routine of dairy life becomes the only balm in the cow’s world. And so each day repeats itself, practically, predictably, habitually, until when she has ruptured herself delivering her fifth calf, she is dragged off to the slaughterhouse.