Click on any of the thumbnails below to view a larger picture and read an excerpt from the book.
Click on any of the thumbnails below to view a larger picture and read an excerpt from the book.
Chapter 10: "Jim Bob"
Momentarily all of us had forgotten a horse's natural fear of liquid things, that to them their reflection in a pool seems like a pit that could swallow them. That's why our horses always balk at a puddle and refuse to cross creeks. It is no different than a bottomless abyss to them. In time a trainer can condition that fear out of them, but their natural reaction is to panic.
But might I have underestimated Jim Bob's intelligence? Perhaps his fear at the sight of the bloody pool was not, as I had thought, the fear of falling down a pit in which vile things squirmed. Perhaps Jim Bob's realization extended beyond the superficial, beyond the physicality of a "hole." In fact, could he have realized he had narrowly escaped death, a fall into a pit more solid and final than that of an abandoned well? Who was to say if the animal understood death? Beyond the meadows of alfalfa, mares with his foals, visions of oat suppers, the gentle touch of another horse and the friendship of a human being, did he see reflected in his own pool of blood a blackness which only humans give themselves credit for understanding?×
Chapter 20: "Beauty Goes to Hollywood"
Weeks passed, and I had forgotten completely about Harvey's and Beauty's trip to California until one afternoon a jet flew overhead while we were delivering a calf at a neighboring dairy farm.
That's when I thought about Beauty and his first plane ride-Beauty, black glasses in place, relaxing in a cushy chair in the first class section with an appetizer of fresh milk and a plate of stewed killies before him. Stretched out in the plane seat listening to "California Dreamin'" playing on his Walkman earphones, he was a picture-lightly tossing the fishes into his mouth, with Harvey and Lucinda sitting proudly beside him.×
Chapter 26: "The Guy With the Boat"
Edgar put the stethoscope to Ronnie's lungs and listened for quite a while. Then he released the bird back to its cage where Ronnie straightened his feathers. In a few minutes he was sitting calmly on his perch as if nothing had ever happened.
"I don't know, Ralph. He seems sound as far as I can tell. His lungs and air sacs sound fine, and his nares have no discharge or anything. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with him."
With that Ralph started to cough again, and we all became silent waiting for the spell to end. Then I heard it again, and this time so did Edgar. A tinny gasping sounded, and then a round of delicate sneezing echoed from the bird cage.
Edgar looked at me, and we both looked at the bird. Ronnie was coughing or, rather, making coughing noises. Then there was silence, and the bird paced up and down on his perch, his wings out at his side. He had a look of concentration on his face.
Edgar motioned to Ralph. "I'd like to do one more test on Ronnie. Could you just cough one more time?"
Ralph looked puzzled but complied, treating ius to another round of hacking and spasms. And then the steely hiccups came again, and we could all hear and see Ronnie's solo as he imitated Ralph's coughs in miniature.
"There! That's his cough! That's why we brought old Perdue here-for a lousy cold that he's fakin'?" Ralph smiled sheepishly, and Annie rolled her eyes again. Edgar and I laughed.×
Chapter 28: "A Buffalo Calf"
I leaped forward. Finally, I had my chance to help.
Little did I realize, however, that under my feet lay a nasty ice patch. Lurching forward with the heavy chains and winch in one hand and with the bucket of water in the other, I flipped off that patch of ice like a rocket from a launching pad.
One leg stretched to twice its length as it whisked from under me like an elusive skateboard. And that leg pulled behind it the other leg. It all happened in a kind of slow motion, my body parts falling like dominoes. I did a classical pirouette into the air that ended in a body slam onto the ground. The imprint was no snow angel as the snow spurted out in a puffy halo large enough to resemble a meteor hit.×
Chapter 36: "A Web of Mingled Yarn"
In the course of our veterinary practice, while meeting a variety of wondrous characters animal and human, I've discovered that "web of mingled yarn," that concept of life about which Shakespeare wrote. He felt, as Herman Melville conveyed in Moby Dick, that a healthy philosophy of life should embrace a mixture of feelings and attitudes, the gray areas between black and white. This grayness enriches us as people, for if we perceive life as a mingling of yarns, a harmonizing of polar ideas, then we have learned to accept, in some ways, all beliefs.
Yet so many people align themselves to only one thread, closing their minds to the other fibers that make up the tapestry of life.
Society must hold that farmer, any farmer or person deriving a living from animals in any way, accountable for the reasonable comfort of his animals, be they cows, pigs, chickens or any zoo or circus animal. Ultimately we are all responsible, however indirectly, for the plight of these animals. We all are responsible for an animal's suffering at the hands of the livestock dealer and zookeeper, for we create the "public demand." We demand the mink stoles; we demand the veal parmigiana; we demand lower prices on the meat and dairy products. We demand that animals entertain us; therefore, we should be accountable for any neglect of these animals.×
Chapter 37: "Swine So Divine"
Truly, pigs are exceptional associates. And for someone who enjoys good food as much as I do, a pet pig is a talented consort, a veritable, versed restaurateur. For sure, there is no eating alone when one is surrounded by pigs. And if a person dislikes sharing any food, the pig will soon correct that miserly behavior with a lesson in generous comportment. They will eat almost anything, but they will not wolf down a wad of edibles as one might think, but instead carefully taste the first bite to see how delectable it might be. With the verdict out, the pig will stand and muse upon the treat. Then, having decided that nothing else in the world tastes quite so good, the animal insists on more. Then starts the vocalizing. Like a wind-up toy, the demand for more begins, "Whree-ee-ee, whree-ee-ee, whree-ee-ee!"×
Chapter 45: "Misty and His Guardian Angel"
We humans usually sense danger through our eyes and ears. We can sometimes see an automobile accident about to happen or hear a strong wind threatening to topple a tree. We can recognize approaching disaster listening to an argument between friends or hearing an explosion. But we seldom smell danger. It was through the sense of smell, however, that I could feel more poignantly a strange, even eerie, anxiety about this pony's condition. The pony, tossing in the straw from side to side to relieve the pain, roiled up odors sharper and more pungent from the rending. And there was a foreboding, an unexplainable apprehension about this bubbling cauldron of smells. I was used to the quiet odors of a barn, not a fulmination of them.×
Chapter 7: "Spirit Food"
One day we set out to attend what promised to be an uneventful case-a bull with a stiff hind leg. We parked in Bert Biechy's gravel driveway before his multicolored, multi-cornered house. For several minutes we waited in the truck and contemplated all the chicken houses, tool sheds, machinery sheds, the springhouse, the outhouse, the doghouse and general storage buildings. When no one appeared, we drove to look for Bert, our equipment bumping and rattling, slewing and banging against the truck bed. We stopped with a lurch as a large figure emerged from the doorway of one of the shacks. Slowly he started towards us, but I could not appreciate the man's size at that distance. Only after he had approached the truck, thus providing a comparison to something nearly as large, did I realize just how big this person was.
Bert looked to be about six feet tall by three feet wide. His belly, like a giant fleshy teardrop, fell from a barrel chest and flowed over his belt. A white T-shirt struggled to cover the moonish expanse. Bert strode toward us, tugging and pulling at his recalcitrant shirt which, at three sizes too small, was stretched to its limit. The effort was seemingly unconscious, the habit of every day and every hour. First, he pulled on one side, and the T-shirt obligingly covered that side of the stomach. But that caused an equal reaction on the other side so that the shirt accordioned up around the bulbous entity. Then that side received a tug that made the other hike up once again. Finally frustrated, Bert let go the shirt whereupon, with a pop, the edges of the tee flipped up like a window shade.×
Chapter 9: "Lurking Around the Corners"
There was the horse, swallowed up to its waist by a deep hole. The only parts visible were the animal's head, shoulders and two front legs which lay stretched out in front of him on the wood porch floor. The rest, as if he had been bi-sected into two pieces, hung hidden somewhere below. How did he get into this predicament?
What did his poor legs look like down in that cavern? Had he cut them open in the fall! And were they bleeding? Was it possible they were just dangling by a sinew? Had the fragile leg bones been broken or snapped in two? Just what would we find down in that hole no one knew or could conjure?×
Chapter 2: "Lowell Comes Home"
There are many who view a pig's physique as a source of humor. I saw Lowell's shape as delightful and pleasing to the eye. He was the epitome of round-all circles and plumpness. He had a round rump, round belly, circular jowls, rounded ears, and spherical nose. A more curvaceous animal I had yet to meet. Though some people regard a pig as an ugly animal, from an artist's perspective and mine, he is as beautiful as a round and fully-packed as one of Renoir's bathers. Often, I stood nearby contemplating his physique, as though appreciating a sculpture in a museum. Lowell was a truly sensual creature-an artistic delight.
While I learned a lot about my pig friend in those first months, I discovered a great deal about myself, too. A very valuable lesson was learned to savor every bite of food and relish it to the last crumb. In fact, from Lowell I learned to taste my food first before gobbling it up. Lowell was never so quick to get his dinner in his stomach that he neglected to savor the flavor. Each bite was deliberate, mused upon, and contemplated. Lowell did not eat like hogs have been mythologized to eat; he ate appreciatively, pensively, like a gourmand sampling the finest repast.×
Chapter 5: "Pig Philosophy"
Not only is Lowell's presence valuable for the company it provides, it is also a reminder that what is important to any being is its own presence or its own beingness. A being's presence-his or her mass and the mass's uniqueness (consider the weight of the body parts, the quirky drift of an eye, the crooked knuckle of a finger, the texture of the skin)-speaks to the importance of the individual. Indeed, when two masses of a body touch, not only are comfort and strength mingled between the two, but the parts of the whole, the individuals, become acutely realized as well. First and foremost, the presence of being should call to mind the individual and the needs of the individual.
So, quid pro quo, pig presence summons the idea of the conducting of one's self, or being, existentially.×
Chapter 6: "Lowell Positioning"
My pig also shares this sense of the imaginative, the creative, for Lowell is ingenious at figuring things out in an original way-like the way he connives for food. Now, dogs are smart, but they can't hold a candle to a pig. If one asks his dog to jump over his stick for a bone, the dog, once coaxed and shown enough times, will eventually perform the trick. But very seldom will a dog perform the trick without being asked, in anticipation of a future reward. Lowell, however, reasons. He projects himself into the immediate future, in a way: he performs something he knows will provoke me to respond. He offers a trick that will result in his immediate benefit, i.e., getting food. He is a swine psychologist, so to speak. In essence, this ability is proof that a pig is imaginative, shrewd, and resourceful in devising ways to get what he wants. He knows that if he does something awe-inspiring, he will receive a treat.
One day he demonstrated his ability to envision the future when Lowell performed his pirouette (as he usually does, to the command of "Baryshnikov"). Thoughtlessly munching a pretzel, I was thinking of something else and forgot my table manners and did not share my snack with Lowell. It was awhile before I realized that my pig was trying to get my attention. By performing without a cue, he was reminding me, in his ingenious way, not to forget about him. There, spinning round and round, twirled Lowell, hoping the trick would trigger a treat.×
Chapter 3: "Lowell Grows Up"
Reluctantly, I got out the snow shovel. From the barn I cleared an ample path for my pig to traverse. After twenty minutes, I had created a snow-free walkway to the garage, so I called Lowell again.
The pig appeared in the barn doorway. He was already frowning, but he was checking out the bare spot in front of him.
"Come on, Lowell. I cleared half the snow from the driveway. All you need to do is walk." Then I made smacking noises with my lips, a ploy that worked every time. If I acted as if I was eating something, he would come for sure. He didn't want to miss out on any snacks, regardless of the snow that clogged his path.
After a few seconds he figured out that he had a clear path to the house and headed out on it, but he complained the entire way, glaring at the offending walls of snow on either side of him. He burped, chirped, and whined in rhythm to his march into the garage. When he finally reached the garage door, he audibly sighed and must have thought himself a hero with another obstacle overcome.×
Chapter 18: "Our Pig Family"
When Ivy Mae had been in our pig family for over a month, I knew that my initial decision had not been wrong. Ivy, like the other two, was a delight. Ivy was a pig-child and played heartily. When I did my morning run, she ran, full tilt, behind me until I feared she might run through my legs and cause me to fall flat on my face. Then I stopped dead, and the speeding piglet streaked between my legs, like a runaway train through a canyon. Then, she abruptly spun around to check me out.
To this day, the pig-child plays and laughs and communicates much like a human one. She mumbles to herself as she walks through the yard, and she greets me with open mouth, saying, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, you're here; oh, oh, oh, I'm glad. Oh, oh," she talks to herself and me, holds lengthy conversations with the other pigs, though she does discuss things more intimately with Lucille since Lucille offers girl talk.×
Chapter 6: "Lowell Positioning"
The second-to-last act to Pig Newton, who was dressed as a frog in a pond. His owner pulled him down the runway in his pond wagon-its high sides painting with green lily pads and mud. Pig Newton sat comfortably and quietly in his homemade swamp-mobile as the crowd went wild. With their cheers reaching a crescendo, Pig Newton sat up a little higher, proud of his froggy status.
For his part, Pig Newton acted his frog part perfectly. He wore a green cape with toad-like markings, and on his head he wore a headband with two big froggy eyes. What a picture he was! I burst out laughing. As his owner pulled him off-stage, people clapped and yelled for more-he was clearly a favorite and a possible winner of the costume contest. And Pig Newton loved every minute of the attention.×
Chapter 14: "Famous Pigs"
Martini was a handsome hog. He wasn't just your standard black and white pot-belly-he was as pink as cotton candy with only an occasional black Rorschach design scattered here and there along his back. He was the cleanest, shiniest piece of hog flesh Edgar and I had ever seen. And his attitude was so matter-of-fact, so non-plussed, despite his probably sensing that he was about to be tossed on his back for hoof trimming. This, I thought, was an animal unaccustomed to being treated like a king. He had probably never had a moment's worry or bother. In fact, he probably had a far better life than many Americans. After all, he had all his meals prepared and served to him in front of the television; he never had to endure extreme heat nor brave snowstorms; he didn't even have to work for a living. It was the kind of life that all pigs deserved.
Martini was living proof that pigs are existential creatures. In fact, Martini proved Sartre's idea that "existence precedes essence." That is, pigs do not necessarily have a pre-ordained essence of "piggishness" that defines them. Once one is born a hog, that swine is not bound to pork existence-no, not if he refuses it and lives against it. On the contrary, as with many people, a pig is defined by the life he leads, by the acts he comes to be known for. No one could convince Martini that the definition of "pig" was a dumb barnyard animal whose only worth was to become meat for human consumption. That was an insulting doctrine he would not abide. And he didn't.×
Chapter 20: "Party Pig"
Although I didn't know the details of Lowell's dreamy thoughts, I could tell by his body language that his mind was working overtime. His eyes had become slits, and his mouth was curled up into an anticipatory grin. I could well imagine Lowell's dream: giant platters of steaming roast beef piled high on lightly-toasted croissants, all topped with a sensual, dark, mushroom gravy that dribbled thickly down the side of the sandwich, pooling in the platter, and over-flowing onto the serving table. Not only did the meat and flaky crust of the croissants tempt the palate of my smiling dream pig, but so did his imaginings of the pommes de terre accompanied by French-cut green beans in a garlic sauce. If that alone didn't precipitate my swiney friend into hog heaven, then imagine his delight with the Swedish meatballs: lapping each meaty ball into his mouth with the grease and creamy sauce leaking down his chin. I pictured Lowell wearing a grin and the bib decorated with every kind of food stain and sauce imaginable as he reached for the grand finale, into a plate of Italian cookies.×
Chapter 8: "Lowell"
"Well, since I've cut back on my work schedule, Lucy and I go to the beach outside Port Elizabeth, about ten minutes from where we live, for her daily constitutional."
Visions of great white sharks danced horrifically in my head. The species was noted for its man and woman-eating predilections.
"We always swim in a tidal pool there where there's no threat from sharks." She drew another photo from her shirt pocket. Lucy was swimming, submerged to her neck, in the sea. "As I said, the regulars at the beach know Lucy by name.
"The beachies simply go crazy over her! And Lucy definitely thinks they are all there purely to see and make a stink over her. Crowds gath-er to watch her swim in the tidal pool, and they talk and play with her like they've never seen such a wonderful creature in their lives. She's the talk of the town."
"That's great PR for pigs, then, right? Folks in South Africa might be more inclined to have a pig as a pet in their life after meeting Lucy."
"You might think so, but I doubt itâ€”not in South Africa. Oh, no, I don't think so," Ivanhoe said with a sly smile. "It's far different from here in the States. In South Africa there are no associations or rescue centers for pet pigs. And people don't educate themselves before they commit to owning one. When they find out what owning an animal this smart takes, they just set them loose in the middle of the city or in the country and let them fend for themselves. Things are not the same for pigs in my country as they are for pot-bellies here. What these aniÂ¬mals have to endure is shameful. But Lucy is my girl. She's my best friend.×
Chapter 16: "Fairyland"
Bobby carried himself rather stiffly, assertively, as though someone had just taken him over to the air pump and blown his chest up like a tire. Yet his demeanor was not at all overblown or pompous. In fact, if anything, I liked him at once, especially his grand smile that pushed his large face out into many hills and crevasses, just like a cabbage patch doll. His face, in fact, looked quilted, the result of the puckering and wrinkling from all those laugh lines.
Bobby's face was well marked with laugh cracks: at the corners of the eyes, under the eyes, from the nose to the corners of his mouth, along his forehead. Days, weeks, months, and years of laughing and smiling had formed permanent fissures on his face. When his face relaxed, the cracks still remained, though the skin in between didn't puff up in pillows.×
Chapter 17: "Fancy"
"Let's go! Cue her for that canter!" Gale cried. Then, not even thinking that I should just stop the horse and get off, apologize meekly and admit I couldn't ride a toilet seat, let alone a horse, I cued Fancy for the canter.
Like a spring bursting from a broken toy, she leaped into the air. Instead of gripping harder, my body reacted by shutting itself down.
My guts sank, loosening from the body wall, and lay in a heap next to my bladder while my arms and legs loosened and hung from their joints-the white flag of surrender. Worst of all, my eyes involuntarily closed, pitching me into darkness.
"Gay, don't fall apart!" Gale commanded. "Stay with her and look where you're going! Don't go forward! Sit up straight-don't grab her neck!"
My heart heaved, and my guts liquified as I grabbed for her ears- an albatross around her neck. I was a dead weight, clasping her gullet in a death grip. But I could not let go despite Fancy's strangulated snorts. The white-water canoe mutated into a runaway go-cart, to whose wheel I helplessly clung. Finally, I opened my eyes only to see my nemesis, the beckoning ground.
Fancy plummeted around that pasture and banked into the turns. Her head was stretched out straight from the shoulder, and there was no way to stop her in her frenzied flight. I could only pitch and heave aboard her, my arms clinging around her neck.
"STOP HER! PULL BACK ON THE REINS!" I heard a voice from the sky boom. "GET OFF HER NECK! SIT UP STRAIGHT OR YOU'LL. . . ."
CRUNCH! I hit the ground. The world went black.×
Chapter 21: "Pedro"
Edgar pressed along the length of the coronet band which ran around the top edge of the hoof. Then I heard a strange POP! like a cork out of a wine bottle.
"Oh, my God!" Sue yelled, and she turned away, her hands cupping her face.
"What happened?" I said, straining to see around Edgar while still steadying Pedro. The donkey hadn't flinched at all, yet from Sue's exclamation it must have been awful.
"Sue, take Gay's place beside Pedro. Gay, run to the truck. I need bandaging material. This foot can't touch the ground, or everything'll get infected."
Sue ran to my side and put her weight into Pedro to keep him braced against the barn. Tears were streaming down her face. What could have happened? I ran to the truck and pulled out the canvas bag containing all the bandaging materials: gauze pads, cotton wraps, Vetwrap, adhesive tape, and scissors. Then I rushed back to where Edgar had Pedro's leg propped between his legs.
When I looked at it, I was stunned silent.
He was holding a bloody stump-a leg without a foot. Then, as if suddenly struck to consciousness by the horrific scene, I screeched, "WHERE'S THE HOOF?" I couldn't take my eyes off the spectacle. Never in all of Edgar's practicing veterinary medicine had I seen anything so uncanny, so disturbing.
Edgar didn't need to answer, for I could see the hoof lying on the ground next to him-a tiny casing for a tiny donkey foot-unattached to the animal it belonged to. It was surreal. What should have been a living body part, a covering for an appendage, was instead a separate, non-living object lying on the ground innocuously, like a bowl waiting to be filled with a few pansies, or like a discarded, reptilian body part, a snake skin or a severed leg that might magically grow back. But Pedro's hoof would probably never grow back again.
Edgar held the leg with its bloody bottom between his legs. He looked up at me pathetically and helplessly. "It just came off in my hand," he muttered weakly. He, too, stared at it as if it were some queer apparition, not quite of this world.×
Chapter 14: "Josip and his Circus Tigers"
How unfair it seemed. I had been set up by the protestors to expect some kind of neglect, so I approached the first line of tiger cages half expecting to see some indication of abuse. Careful not to get too close to the large cats, I appraised their living conditions, whether they had food and drink in front of them, whether their cages were clean and safe. I assessed their body conditions-athletic, not ribby, not fat. I analyzed their body language for a clue to their overall condition: relaxed body positions, quiet tails, normal set to the ears, eyes not in slits, content expressions. Finally, I would be able to tell a lot about their treatment from how they interacted with their owners.
Shortly Edgar and a middle-aged couple walked over to where I had become mesmerized before a cage containing two tiger kittens. The young cats rolled and played together, nipping and pulling on each other's loose skin. Edgar introduced me to the trainer, Josip Marcan, who had lived most of his life in Frankfurt, Germany, and his American wife, Cheryl. Josip had been a veterinarian at the Frankfurt Zoo for seven years before he decided to work exclusively with tigers. Then he came to the United States, met Cheryl, and started a private tiger ranch in Ponce de Leon, Florida, on the Panhandle, where they continue to breed, raise, and train fifty to sixty tigers. Their vocation revolves around the tigers they lease out for different events: circuses, TV commercials, movie stints, and safari parks.×
Chapter 5: "Jim's Saga"
I gasped at the sight before us. The inside of the truck was stuffed like a roaster turkey to the very brim with tools of the farrier's trade. I giggled, and Jim hoisted himself onto the tailgate, pulling at a piece of iron that stuck from the bottom of the twisted mass of metal and wood.
He jerked on the metal leg, but it wouldn't budge, entangled in a jungle of grinders, vices, steel shoe punches and pritchells, storage boxes, and other horseshoeing paraphernalia. "Had a little accident with my other rig the other day," he began as he pulled again on the stubborn iron appendage.
I peered inside and could make out only a few of the familiar tools that had always been so neatly organized inside his silver horse trailer. The former trailer had neatly stored the anvil and forge, each in its proper place on opposite walls. Then, along the walls on three racks hung row upon row of silvery horseshoes and aluminum and steel bar shoes. In storage drawers were the pads, lead, borium, and numerous files. Along the back side had rested the belt sander alongside the bench grinder and electric drills. At the other corner sat the threader for drilling and tapping shoes for screw-in studs and caulks.
With a flick of a switch, Jim had always had a fire glowing in the forge fueled by the acetylene and oxygen gas tanks. From the forge, smoke and fumes exited safely and neatly through the pipe he had retro-fitted through the roof of the trailer. There in the forge he roast-ed the shoes like weiners, flipping them periodically and stirring the hot coals with the metal tongs until the shoes were hot enough to be shaped to the horse's foot. So, too, had the anvil easily rolled out on a tiny buggy so as to make hammering the shoes an easy task. The process flowed smoothly, quickly, as he flipped the malleable shoes onto the anvil and back into the fire again. It was all so handy, so orga-nized, so ordered.×
Chapter 2: "Guy Barry"
Guy Barry was a plumber by trade. I knew right away that Guy must specialize in leaky pipes and plugged potties simply by the level of his "crack exposure."
At first light, setting out to catch the lambs, Guy began a battle with his denim drawers, which gravitated with each step toward the ground. But his efforts to hitch up his pants were hardly "No proplem" as he regarded most everything in his life. In fact, the slippery jeans were foiling his ability to catch the lambs. Once the jeans let loose, Guy found himself in a "no-win" situation. While he reached with one arm toward a scared sheep, his other arm was pulling on the waistband of his denims. Consequently he had succeeded at capturing neither. Obviously the crack had the upper hand. After fifteen minutes, we still had no lambs to vaccinate, castrate, or de-tail. Edgar waited patiently as Guy flailed about the pen, one hand gripping his pants, the other weakly grasping the air around the elusive sheep. "Need some help, Guy?" Edgar finally offered.
I had respectfully avoided staring at Guy's butt fissure as he plum-meted amongst the sheep. With each lunge at an animal, his pants crept lower and lower, threatening to slide off and expose him in the "altogether"-dodging naked amongst the animals like a Sumo with-out his loincloth.
So, instead of focusing on the gluteal cleft, I glanced toward the cobwebbed ceiling. But my curiosity was stronger than my self-disci-pline. Shortly my attention toward the barn loft faltered, and, despite my attempt at self-control, I peeked.
With complete abandon I turned toward the speeding cranny. In just the short time that I had diverted my attention from it, it had lengthened to twice its original size. A grin erupted on my face, and I stifled myself, for I imagined the three-inch crack to be smiling at me. I burped a gig-gle, then felt immediately embarrassed for Guy and irritat-ed with myself. But I couldn't turn away. I was fascinated with it.
The chasm continued to grow and widen like a section of the San Andreas fault. Again I suppressed a giggle, concentrat-ed dutifully on a rusty horseshoe hanging on the wall, and then caved in, turning back to the sneering slit. The crack had magnetized me; I was obsessed with it. After one desperate lurch after a wily lamb, Guy stood straight up and with a look of frustration yanked his waistband skyward. Again I turned away so as not to add to his shame. Yet, much as I empathized with his sit-uation, I still had the sadistic, perverted, but very human urge to enjoy both his gaping butt crack and his embarrassing predicament.×
Chapter 18: "Pig Immersion"
Perhaps animals and humans would not become family in my lifetime, but I was sure it would happen sometime. As Miss Piggy grunted alongside me, her body rocking against mine, I was certain, too, that the first efforts would come from the animal world. They would be the initiators. Animals were so accepting of humans, so forgiving, so non-judgmental many times more so than humans are with each other. If an animal had the assurance he would not be hurt, then he would make the first step toward familiarizing himself with the human species.
Left to the animals, if humans abandoned their predatory behavior, we would simply be another species on Earth, not one to fear but one to live with and beside, to live in peace with, in cooperation with, and in mutual respect with. Animals and humans could live synergistically.
Though humans are far different from animals, our needs are the same, our fears similar. Rather than setting us apart from each other, those differences only make us more similar to each other.
It may take thousands of years. Even then, depending on the human species, it may never happen at all. But seeing the cosmic family becoming reality in the hard work of our veterinary friends and clients, the caring of the circus people, zookeepers, those involved in animal exhibits worldwide, and the media promoting the naturalization of animals and people, not to mention my own close family of animals, I have every confidence that this reality can be realized on a wider scale.
The animals are receptive, so must we be.×
Jeff, Amos' father, had fashioned a large wooden stage out of plywood and set it in front of the DJ's station. From a cardboard box Amos' father took a toddler's basketball hoop and net and screwed it onto a foot-high pole. Then he took out a toddler's grapefruit-sized basketball.
On cue, Amos, still wearing his whirlybird hat and red-checked kerchief, hopped onto the platform, and Jeff rolled the miniature basketball in front of him. Immediately Amos opened his mouth wide and grabbed the basketball with his teeth. He took three steps and, with a flip of his head, lobbed the ball through the hoop. We all clapped, and Amos turned "down court" for another demonstration.
The next time Amos missed the shot, but his father made him try again. Jeff said, "We know you can do it, Amos." And Amos snatched the ball between his front teeth, walked up to the foot-high hoop, and slam-dunked it right into the hole. "Good job, Amos!" Jeff shouted.×
"Okay," I said, licking my lips. "Let's see how Minchi likes his new home." I tugged on the lead rope, and Minchi moved forward. I led him to the open barn door and offered him the view inside.
Minchi peered inside the darkened stall. He sniffed along the edge of the stone step that he would have to navigate to get inside, and then, just like that, he hopped over the ledge and into the stall. I was amazed. In a moment Minchi had decided for himself that, indeed, this would be his new home. There was no need for coaxing or cajoling. He knew a nice, dry, well-lighted place when he saw one. This was a home he could grow to love.
Paula crouched next to Minchi as he sniffed the barn floor. "I believe he likes it in here," she said, stroking his damp back.
"I know pigs, and let me tell you, thereâ€™s no going back to that garden as far as he's concerned. Heâ€™s in ecstasy here." I paused, watching Minchi enjoying his home. "Look at him. He loves it."×
Goober still pulling on my pockets. Goat lips straining. "Okay, but Goober and Cuddles are goat-handling me out here. They're pesty. They don't want to miss the action inside." What are you doing, Goober! No! No! Stop pushing against me-losing my balance--falling into the gate. It's going-falling-crashing into the barn. Lurch for it-can't let it fall and let the animals out. Get off me! Goober! You're too heavy! No! Panic mode. Must grab gate and regain balance. Can't let the others out, or we'll have a mess. "Oh, no! Get back, Goober! Get back, I tell you!" Want inside with my herd. Want inside with my herd. Gatekeeper pockets unworthy, uninteresting-dry kleenexes, no mints. Want inside-be with my herd. Want inside barn. Pretty strong gatekeeper. Can't topple her. Definitely agitated-my forte.×
Willie claimed that child's rocking chair as his own. While we watched the evening news, Willie sat upright in the seat. Depending on where he put his weight, the chair jerked forward; then it swept back. Willie didn't quite have the rhythmical motion of a rocking chair perfected yet, but he was learning. Someday his erratic rocking would smooth out.
Willie was also as timid and unpretending as a senior citizen. This old youngster was not "in your face" as Kurly, the kitten-child was. Rather, he was a sweet, artless soul who tried not to intrude or boss his way through our household-neither with us nor with the other house cats. He was content to lie quietly in the background or on his rocking chair until summoned. Then, when I called, he yelled back in what sounded very much like an old lady's screech. "Ra-a-ah!" he cried, and the phlegm gurgled in his throat. "Li'l Wh-willie!" I called, and he answered in a happy, crackly, moist voice, "Ra-a-ah."×
Lulabelle was completely surrounded by children.
Like a magnet, the pig had drawn a coterie of perhaps ten youngsters-some kneeling, others squatting, still others sitting cross-legged on the floor. Where had all the children come from? Only moments before it was just the raven-haired boy. Now an entire horde of young people surrounded Lulabelle. They draped themselves all over her: petting, cooing in her ears, nudging up against her with their faces. To be sure, there hadn'st been the usual din of frantic voices that usually preceded children into a room. The kids had simply materialized in a quiet and mysterious way.
What magic was at play here? Had Lulabelle, the presence and the essence of her, somehow lured each child from the depths of the building, from the section of pop-up books and Harry Potter books, to my book reading area? Had each child wandered instinctively toward the only really natural, artful being in the whole store? Had they sensed another innocent in the area, one just like them-a being who was honest, who reacted instinctively and passionately-who acted without inhibition just as they did?×
I closed my eyes, and while the rest of the house cats were milling around my ankles, anxious for me to get on with the feeding ritual, I reveled in the head-butting that had become my best friend's daily mealtime habit.
Bump, . . . bump, . . . bump, she went. I stayed bent over as Wendy bopped her head into mine. Then, with each butt she squeaked, "Mi-ya, mi-ya, mi-ya." I felt bump, . . . bump, . . . bump again. I opened my eyes and smiled. Wendy was definitely on a mission, so insistent was she. She butted, let out a "mi-ya," and paced away. Then she reversed, came toward my face again, and I saw it way before she bumped me again: the wrinky nose, as I affectionately came to call her wrinkled nose. On her reversal and as she was gearing up for another bang into my forehead, I saw the nose wrinkles pucker. Then, with the two parentheses encircling her nose, she strolled toward me, dipped her chin, and hit me with her forehead. She yipped in triumph and turned away for another go 'round.×
Dave pulled the front door open. But it was not two or three dogs that greeted us. No--not by a long shot.
No sooner had I stepped into the foyer than I became swamped in a sea of dogs. A waterfall of miniature dogs came bounding, cascading down the staircase, heading right for me. I closed my eyes and braced myself for the hit as the animals flowed toward me faster than a cataract. Then I opened my eyes. There were neither two dogs nor three nor four nor five dogs. The river of animals was uncountable in its deluge. This was a virtual flood of canines, the end of which looked nowhere in sight. I grabbed onto the banisters with both hands as the first mass of dogs washed around my feet like an ocean wave. Then just as I thought the wave had settled, another stream of animals came roaring down the staircase towards me.
"Oh, my God!" I blurted, steadying myself against the stair wall. "I don't believe this!" I laughed. "One dog, huh?" I was flabbergasted. The happy canines, all breeds of the mini-terrier and Pekingese variety, flailed around my legs, hopping, skipping, their tongues lashing and flapping at my knees, their barks high-pitched and hysterical×