Category Archives: Animals

You Might Be A Redneck If…

If you’re from the U.S., you probably know that this is the famous hook the comedian Jeff Foxworthy uses in his comedy routine (“If you’ve ever mowed the grass and found your car, you might be a redneck.  If you’ve ever taken a beer to a job interview….”)

The kindest definition I’ve found of redneck is “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”.  Which is actually the most accurate.  But the common usage is from Miriam-Webster, which defines it as “a white person who lives in a small town or in the country, especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive”.

I had this conversation today with Yard Guy, who is a certified redneck, only by virtue of being from the South and having a blue-collar job.  He has no objectionable opinions, is not a racist, and is one of the most environmentally conscious people I know.  He probably has little formal education, but as far as I’m concerned, that makes him smarter than a lot of people who do.

I told him I was going away for the week of Christmas, so he said he’d be sure to ask his Mama to keep an eye on my house (she lives around the corner).  Also, my next-door neighbor, Kathy.  While we were on the subject, he noted that his Mama and Kathy have become cranky and hard to deal with in their older years (both of them are about my age, and both are widowed).  I said that probably they were spending too much time alone.  He wanted to know why I’m not like them? I said, because I work.  I’m out almost every day.  I deal with the public.  He said, oh, yeah, well there is that.

While we were on the subject of dogs, he informed me that Mama now has a second dog, which like the first dog does not really belong to her, but to his niece who also owns the first dog.  The first dog is a pitbull mix named “Vicious”.  I swear I am not making that up.  The important thing here is the distinction between “keeping” and “owning” a dog.  It’s the same thing as “living” somewhere and “staying” somewhere.  You get mail at one place (where you live), but you don’t actually live there.  You “stay” somewhere else.  Got it?

Yard Guy went on to say that he hates Vicious, who once tried to attack him, and only failed because he happened to see her coming out of the corner of his eye and swung a Weedeater at her.  He told Mama that if Vicious ever actually bit him then he’s going to kill her.  He said he would patiently go to his truck, get his pistol, and shoot Vicious dead in Mama’s back yard.  Just so you know, Mama.  She said, oh surely you wouldn’t.  He said,  surely I would.

And I believe him.  And he can legally do it.  If I had a gun, I would do the same thing, as much as I love dogs.  So you see?  Yard Guy and I are simpatico.  We think alike.

Yard Guy asked where I was going.  I said, North Carolina, where I mostly grew up.  He said, you grew up in North Carolina?  So you’re a redneck too?  (Well, technically, you can’t be a redneck if you’re from North Carolina, you’re a hillbilly).  I said, I was born in Tennessee.  He was like, well that cinches it.  You’re a redneck.  Who knew?

Then he was off and running into a story about a friend, originally from the mountains of North Carolina, who hates it here.  There are just too many people.  The friend has three little daughters, whose favorite food is frog legs, or whatever else Daddy can catch.  Yard Guy and I are not that impressed.  We’ll eat deer meat (and as far as I know, he’d probably kill it himself), but seriously…feed the girls a Happy Meal once in a while.  Branch out.

While we were chatting outside, my dog Pippin was inside whining furiously.  He “knows” Yard Guy and wanted to say hello. I let him out and Yard Guy and Pippin spent a little bonding time.

I love the South.  The few years I spent outside it, I missed it warts and all.


Ask The Language Lady

The journalist Dave Barry once wrote a weekly humor column for the Miami Herald.  Periodically he would do a column called “Ask Mr. Language Person”.  In these columns, he would answer alleged questions from readers (who I’m quite sure were totally fictitious).  For the purposes of this post, I’m slightly co-opting Dave’s title of Mr. Language Person, but all my examples are real.

First, from an ad seen on email: “Annette Funicello dies from symptoms of multiple sclerosis”.  Is that right?  Does a person die of the symptoms of a disease, or does one die of the disease?  Perhaps one always dies from the symptoms of a disease, since if a disease had no symptoms, you couldn’t die of it, could you?  The Language Lady confesses to being mystified about this one, and any help is welcome.

Most Grammar Nazis have particular pet peeves, such as the misuse of  the words “their”, “there”, and “they’re”.  Generally, The Language Lady (henceforth known as LL) just cringes and moves on, and has no particular abuse she singles out as being more or less acceptable.  Also, with auto-correct and auto-complete on cell phones and computers, even the most scrupulous Grammar Nazi can fall prey to misspelling and usage errors.  Correcting people who make mistakes is misplaced when it might not even have been the fault of the user, takes too much energy, and besides, it’s rude.

That said, LL corrected someone on Facebook in the last week or so.  In LL’s defense, here is the backstory.  A Facebook friend of a friend type of friend (as opposed to someone you actually know, who is also your friend on Facebook) took one of those quizzes, called something like “How Well Do You Actually Speak English?” and aced it.  In a comment, she remarked that she was especially proud of knowing when to use “who” versus “whom”.  LL was highly amused, since she already knew this person has it totally backwards.  In common speech, it actually would be very rare to use “whom”.

Last week, on a post by LL, this person misused “whom” and LL corrected her.  Was LL just in a particularly snarky mood that day?  It wasn’t the misuse that got on LL’s nerves, it was the bragging and being wrong.  LL forgets the content of that particular comment, but subsequently this person posted a photo of a crying child with the caption “This is my niece ‘Janie’, whom didn’t want her picture taken”.  (LL left well enough alone, having already been rude once.)

The end result is that this person is no longer speaking to LL, and here is the difference between this person and LL.  LL would much prefer to be corrected, rather than continuing to make a damn fool of herself repeatedly.

But this is the one that takes the cake:  also seen on Facebook, a post with the caption “Shameful.  Baby birds are ground up alive to make Hellmann’s mayonnaise”.  It’s accompanied by a drawing of baby chicks being forced into an open jar of Hellmann’s, with blood dripping from the mouth of the jar.  What this SAYS is that baby birds are an ingredient in Hellmann’s mayo.  Right?

What they MEANT is that an ingredient in mayonnaise is egg.  In an egg-producing operation, male chicks are useless, because well, they can’t lay eggs.  (Of course, a few must have escaped, since without male chickens, there would be no baby chicks, male  or female.)  Actually, of course, you have to keep some male chickens around, because hens get old and eventually stop laying eggs, so you have to have males to make new female chickens.  But for the most part, males are destroyed at birth.

In this case, The Language Lady learned something.  Not that ground-up male chicks are used in mayonnaise, but that it’s possible to sex baby chicks at birth.  Large operations use chick sexers.  (Q: “Hello, what do you do for a living?” A. “I’m a chick sexer for Hellmann’s.”)

In closing, The Language Lady would like to thank her readers, without whom she might be reduced to chick sexing, while slowly dying of the symptoms of bird flu.

Got Milk?

This refers to an ad campaign in the U.S. showing various celebrities (and at least in one case, the Mona Lisa) with white “mustaches” from drinking milk. With gusto, you assume.
I am a milk freak and have been since I was a child. Had I been permitted to, I would have drunk (drank? drunken? drinked? Making it up as I go along here) milk with every meal and every snack. But I was only allowed to drink milk at breakfast. For lunch and dinner, my choices were sweetened iced tea and sweetened iced tea. For snacks, I could have Coca-Cola.
I still find this puzzling. My mother was a registered nurse and had to know that milk is much healthier than tea or Coke. The only thing I can come up with to explain it is that milk was more expensive.
I wasn’t permitted to drink coffee at all, ever, but that was mainly because my mother didn’t like it and we never had it in the house. She made it for my father, but once he moved out, that was the end of coffee in our house.
So I developed an addiction to Coca-Cola. My first semester in college, one day I realized I was drinking 6 Cokes a day. So, I just stopped. Don’t ask me how I managed to do that.
Then I developed an addiction to coffee. With cream and sugar. The only time I’d tasted it (from my father’s cup), it was black. It dawned on me that I didn’t live at home anymore so I could drink anything I liked! One day I was at work, and realized that I was using like 4 packets of sugar for a 6-ounce Styrofoam cup of coffee. I was making syrup. So I just stopped that too.
I wasn’t addicted to Cokes or coffee, I was addicted to sugar. I still drink coffee…two cups every morning, black…but almost no sodas at all. I might drink half a Coca-Cola once a year. The carbonation is strangely refreshing. I drink ginger ale about that often.
Back to milk. I still love it and drink it at every meal, unless I have to try to act elegant and drink wine instead. But it turns out, I’m a mutant. Only 70% of the world’s population continues to produce the enzyme lactase after childhood, and it’s required in order to digest milk, whether it comes from your mother or from a cow or a goat or a fill-in-the-blank. It also turns out that people with extreme Northern European ancestry (Scandinavia, the British Isles) are most likely to continue to produce lactase (90% probability). People of African or Asian descent have only a 10% probability.
I knew about lactose intolerance in cats, which I learned the hard way. I once rescued this little feral kitten from the streets of New Orleans (“Erin”), who wasn’t weaned and didn’t know how to eat solid food. So I added milk. He snarfed it up. Once he began eating the solid food, I quit adding milk. Later on, I decided to give him milk as a treat and he was the very definition of sudden projectile vomiting. It was very impressive. Halfway across the room.
But it isn’t just cats…it’s all mammals. I can think of a lot of good evolutionary reasons for this. For one thing, it encourages the baby mammals to become independent and start eating other things, and if necessary, to go out and hunt for them. (Mom will not always be there.) It lets the mother rest and build up reserves for the next baby.
I’d like to mention that I had another cat who got sick and I fed her baby food meats mixed with rice, on the advice of the vet. While I’ve never tried canned or dry cat food, baby food veal is really yummy stuff. I hope PETA isn’t reading.
But lucky me! I can still drink milk and eat ice cream to my heart’s content.

Excuse Me? Communication in a Cube-Free World

My workplace is “open plan”, by which I mean, we don’t even have cubicles, much less doors. We used to have cubicles, but I removed them. Granted, we have no privacy, but we didn’t have privacy with cubicles either. It was just an illusion.
All our office phones are cordless, so that if you need to have a private conversation, you can step outside.
I can’t remember who pioneered this door-free, cube-free office environment, but it was Apple, or Microsoft, or Google (who can keep them straight?) The idea was that it would foster more spontaneous communication, and therefore more creativity.
In my office, there are anywhere between two and five people ranged at desks here and there. There is enough space to work in comfortably, but if a sixth person comes in, say, a customer, you start to feel a little squeezed. It’s quite amazing how we seem to have these personal boundaries.
So last week, one of my employees received a phone call at the office, just before he was to get off at about two P.M. Remember the cordless phones? This would have been a prime time for him to take advantage of that. Here’s how his end of the conversation went:
“5:00 P.M.? Sure. That sounds great. I’ll bring the canola oil and the garlic.”
Once he hung up, I waited about a minute (timing being everything)and said to no one in particular, “Don’t you want to know what the other person is bringing?” Everyone in the office erupted in laughter.
He said it was for fishing. He and his friend were going to dip the bait worms in a mixture of canola oil and garlic to remove the human smell.
It took me about 10 more minutes for that one, but I eventually asked how it was that fish could smell. He said, okay fish can’t smell, but they have gills, and they take in oxygen that way, so there’s a possibility that they can sense humans. I looked at him blankly, and he said, Okay, I read it in a fishing magazine. It’s an experiment, okay?
I take away two things from this: I bet next time he remembers to take the phone call outside, and fishermen are the craziest and most superstitious group of people in the world.

The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

In my experience, holidays are not all they’re cracked up to be. As an illustration, I thought I would tell this story.
The house next door to me is apparently cursed, at least as far as dogs are concerned. I’ll just focus on the residents prior to the current one.
It was a young couple with a little girl who was about 4 years old named Kaylee. They also had a female dog they claimed was a Mastiff. Not. The dog was brown with a black nose, maybe about 70 pounds, my best guess is pit bull/Boxer mix.
They had a swing set in the back yard for Kaylee, and would let her outside by herself…with the dog. The dog was very protective of her and very gentle with her. It was sweet. I can’t remember the dog’s name so I’ll call her…Alice.
One day Kaylee thought it would be fun to open the gate and let Alice out for a romp in the world beyond. Looking out the window, I saw Alice running down the street and went to notify Kaylee’s parents that she was loose. I got about halfway up my driveway, when Alice started back to her house. She caught me there and began stalking me back down the driveway.
Every step I would take backward, she would take a step forward. My goal was first to just back up enough to get back inside my fence. Then I thought maybe I could just back up enough to open the gate and let my Rottweiler out. I didn’t want him to get hurt, but I knew he would win this fight, and I needed his help. But I was too far away even to do that. I had no weapon, no defense.
So I called out to Kaylee, who was giggling up a storm, she thought this was a lot of fun. I said, Go get your parents. I asked twice and she kept giggling. Poor little thing, it wasn’t her fault. Finally, not sure how this was going to play with Alice, I screamed at Kaylee GO GET YOUR MOTHER NOW! Yelling at Kaylee hurt her feelings and she started crying, and ran in the house. Within seconds her father came tearing out of the house, grabbed Alice’s collar and apologized over and over again.
This was in the summer, and before winter, they got another smaller dog, which they claimed was some sort of toy breed. It was black and curly haired, and probably weighed about 30 pounds. My best guess was Chow mix. What was wrong with these people?
They were straight up Florida Panhandle rednecks But they seemed to need their dogs to be sort of fancier breeds than they actually were, which I thought was poignant.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day that year. The father went deer hunting very early in the day and brought a deer home, which he cleaned in the back yard. (What!?) He left all the parts he didn’t want in the back yard with Alice and Curly Black Not-Toy dog.
Apparently it was their turn to host Thanksgiving because a bunch of people showed up. All of them were told not to go in the back yard. But two little boy cousins dared each other. (“I’ll go in if you will!”) The minute the 9 year old who had been dared walked into the back yard, Alice launched and bit him in the face.
So everybody there spent Thanksgiving in the Emergency Room. I know this story because the father shared it with me. He told me he was going to have to put up Beware of Dog signs and didn’t want me to feel threatened. Really?
He never did put up signs, and moved away very soon after that. Happy Thanksgiving.

A PIg In A Poke

Hello, Dear Readers!  I’ve missed you!

Buying a pig in a poke is a much more descriptive way of saying “caveat emptor”.  In other words, if you’re going to buy a pig in a poke ( a sack or bag), look inside to make sure there’s really a pig in there.  It could be a dog or a cat.  Or, if you’re French, you may be buying un chat en poche, a cat in a pocket.  So the work “poke” has a noble and romantic origin.

Sometimes people buy pigs in pokes on purpose.  You’re enticed to buy some item with the promise of a “mystery basket”.  A $25 value!  When you get it, it contains a box of crayons and a plastic flower.  I don’t know why, but this is clearly a very successful marketing tool.  The allure is the mystery, or the “getting something for nothing”.  Remember being a kid and begging Mom to buy a particular brand of cereal because there was a toy inside?  Collecting box tops and sending them off for a secret decoder ring?  We want to possess the secret.

This brings me to the issue of adopting pets.  When you adopt a kitten or a puppy, or God Forbid, buy one from a pet store,  you are always getting a pig in a poke.  You have no idea what it will grow up to be.  Even if you buy a pet from a responsible breeder, you still have no idea.  You have better clues, because you know the genetics involved, and you can observe the behavior of its relatives, but you could still get the one with one tiny mutation that turns out to cause some disease or psychosis.  The black sheep of the litter, so to speak.

If you are a responsible pet owner, you recognize this on the front end.  Pet ownership is a commitment you make before you ever know how it will turn out.  And you keep it and take care of it no matter what.

And that brings me to Toko.  Toko is the little kitten I got on July 3rd, when he was about 8 weeks old.  Toko is now almost 5 months old.  You may remember that I named him after the Tokoloshe, little demon spirits of the Zulu tribe.  How prophetic that’s turned out to be.

Toko has not quite made the connection between me and the regular food delivery.  He is not a cuddler.  He’s independent to a fault, and is a brave explorer.  He’s quite the instinctive hunter (take so far:  one baby snake).  He has shredded my forearms–my reward for picking him up.  And yet…he’s getting there.  He recognizes and associates me with safety.

This morning, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was Toko, sitting on the windowsill, looking at me…from outside.  Yikes!  So far I’ve been successful at keeping him in the back yard, but all he has to do is climb the fence or climb a tree and jump down on the other side.  I rushed out and saw him sitting on the walkway, practically trembling.  He had bitten off more than he could chew.  I called him, and he came right to me, and I scooped him up.  Just purring then.  No shredding.

Toko is like a Rottweiler in cat’s clothing.  But I’ve been there, done that too.  It took the Rottweiler three years to decide I was okay, I don’t think it will take Toko that long.

Toko is hyperalert, and very smart.  For instance, he’s teaching himself to read.  Upside down, even.


Laika the Space Dog

A second-generation friend of mine on Facebook posts, nearly every day, a “This day in history” post, which I always look forward to.  (By second-generation, I mean, a friend, in this case a cousin, of someone I actually know.  In a few rare cases, I’m friends with the friends of people I don’t know, Facebook having re-defined the definition of “friend”.  Well, that’s why they call it social networking.)

So, yesterday, July 20th, in the year 1960, the U.S. recovered the first living beings to have orbited the earth.  Two dogs.

But first there was Laika.  Laika was the first living creature to orbit the earth in a spacecraft, Sputnik 2.  Other dogs had been sent into space, but suborbitally. Laika was launched into space on November 3, 1957.  No matter what happened, Laika was never coming back.  No matter how long the craft orbited, there was only enough oxygen for 6 days.  The scientists had taught Laika to eat food pellets and the plan was to feed her a poisoned food pellet before the oxygen ran out.  If the craft had fallen out of orbit before the oxygen ran out, she would have died anyway because the craft was not designed to survive re-entry.  (It eventually disintegrated on April 14, 1958 upon re-entry.)

The official explanation was that the plan had been activated.  Laika was euthanized on Day 6 before the oxygen ran out.  You gotta love the official explanations of the Soviet Union.  In fact, what really happened is that there was a malfunction of the cooling system and Laika died from the heat 6 or 7 hours into the orbit.  I guess they didn’t know about this malfunction in time to euthanize her before she fried.  The true story wasn’t revealed until 2002.

Here are a few quotes from the Wikipedia article about her (which for a Wikipedia article, seems strangely accurate–they actually cite sources).

“Before the launch, one of the scientists took Laika home to play with his children.  In a book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine. Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote ‘I wanted to do something nice for her.  She had so little time left to live'”.

“One of the technicians preparing the capsule before final liftoff states that ‘after placing Laika in the container and before closing the hatch, we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage, knowing that she would not survive the flight'”.

Finally, “It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space, expressed regret for allowing her to die.  ‘Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us.  We treat them like babies who cannot speak.  We shouldn’t have done it.  We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog'”.

At the time of Laika’s death, I was only 7 years old, and totally unaware of it. But her death sparked a huge outcry (there was resistance to it before that, but Laika’s death created more awareness).  I remember in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s, there were bitter debates about the use of animals to test new medicines and cosmetics.  Cosmetics?  As late as 1993, I had an argument with my cousin, an officer in the U.S. Navy, about the use of dolphins to seek out mines in the ocean.  He said, is it better to lose one dolphin, or a thousand human beings?

That was a good question. It still is a good question.  Today, 20 years later, the Navy is phasing out its use of dolphins, and the U.S. is phasing out its use of chimpanzees for research.  Technology has surpassed the usefulness of these animals.  But back when we didn’t have such sophisticated technology, was it okay then?  It seems to me that Laika’s trainers and handlers found it an agonizing decision.

Toko the Baby Cat

After 10 days, Toko is starting to look and act more like a miniature cat, as opposed to the clumsy cartoon version of a kitten.   My guess is that he weighs about 1 1/2 pounds now.  His body is longer, and he’s more coordinated.  He is starting to exhibit cat instincts, such as, he just ate a bug.  What a joyful occasion that was.

When I’m home, he sleeps in my purse.  When he’s awake, he is either eating or playing like a maniac.  A maniac on drugs.  He’s learned to be patient and lie in wait for something in motion to pass by.  Such as, my feet.  When I get close enough, he leaps in the air at least a foot.  This is pouncing behavior, and he’s learned the part about leaping up in the air, just not the part about landing on the target.

Food is currently an issue.  I’ve been feeding him dry food moistened with a bit of a product called Catmilk, made by Whiskas.  It’s essentially a substitute for cat mother’s milk.  It’s 98% lactose free, and lactose is the problem cats have with cow’s milk.  In my infinite wisdom, I decided I would start to wean him off that, and bought him canned cat food to mix with his dry food.  He did not seem to recognize it as food.  I’m amazed.  What part of salmon flavored stuff mixed with real (!) tuna flakes do you not understand?  And what part of some little beetle-looking thing looks tastier?

He may not have recognized it as food, but the other cat certainly did.  To his 1 1/2 pounds, she weighs 15 and advanced on him and his food bowl like Godzilla.  Followed closely by the dog, whose motto is, if she can eat it, I can steal it.  Eventually, we have to come up with a new operational feeding plan around here.  At the moment, Toko isn’t big enough to protect himself or his food, so I have to hang around and guard him while he eats.  This is very annoying, because I could be wasting my time in so many other important ways.

Toko is a Mackerel tabby, the most common kind, and I like that.  The patterns on their coats are unique, like zebra stripes.  Fakesister said, they named a cat type after a fish? Allegedly, it’s because the stripes on the body look like fish bones, and they have a pattern of stripes on their foreheads that look like the letter “M”.

Here is a link to all you ever wanted to know about tabby cats.






And Never The Twain Shall Meet

This is not a post about Rudyard Kipling, but about dogs and cats who are twain if I ever I saw one (or two, as the case may be).  The occasion is, I have a new kitten.  His name is Toko (short for Tokoloshe).  Since I’m so knowledgeable about both cats and dogs, I predicted that the current inhabitant cat would be thrilled, because she is very maternal and loves to groom.  I predicted it would take the current inhabitant dog a while to warm up to the kitten, helped along by me frequently saying “NO!  Don’t do that!”

Instead, it’s been the opposite.  The dog’s attitude is, Whatever.  This is Day Two.  The current cat spent yesterday in hiding from the moment Toko peeped, and today has progressed to eventually coming out of hiding to hiss at the kitten, then returning to hiding.    You know, since I’m so knowledgeable and all, I got this completely wrong.


Toko, the peeper.  In this photo, he is sitting on his catnip mouse, in case it tries to escape.

On a second note, there is a viral video going around on YouTube and Facebook of the police shooting a Rottweiler in California.  I’ll spare you the video.  But here is the narrative:  dog owner is walking his dog, while blasting music from his car and taking cellphone pictures of the police who are trying to barricade a house across the street.  They ask him to turn down the music and stop taking pictures.  He doesn’t, so two officers start in his direction.  He puts the dog in the car, and voluntarily turns around to be handcuffed.  Then the dog jumps out of the car, perceiving his owner to be threatened.  (You put your dog in the car with the window open?) The police shoot the dog several times when it appears to be attacking, and the dog appears to be seizuring in the street after being shot.

As the owner of a Rottweiler in the past, I can say that you have a special responsibility when you have one.  They are very territorial and protective, and you have to take extra precautions when you have one.  Which includes not putting your dog in the car with the window open.  This guy knew his dog would react this way, and maybe he thought it would be fun to watch the police be “scared” of his dog.  How ignorant can you get?  The police did not kill his dog, he did.  Of course, he says he is going to sue them.  Good luck.

Let’s return to the happier subject of Toko.  I deliberately brought him home on the afternoon before the July 4th holiday so we would have bonding time and that part is going well.  He follows me everywhere, purrs when you pet him or pick him up, and I’ve discovered what it takes to wean him (I thought he already was, but he isn’t).  I forgot how much fun it is to have a kitten.




Reading With Fakename: Lawrence Anthony

Lawrence Anthony wrote three books.  In order they are “Babylon’s Ark”,  “The Elephant Whisperer”, and “The Last Rhinos”.

Anthony was a South African conservationist who started his career in the insurance business, moved on to real estate, then more or less in mid-life, he purchased a 5,000 acre nature preserve called Thula Thula.  Thula Thula sat on one side of numerous other nature preserves owned by the Zulu, and he made it his life’s work to be able to “drop the fences”, creating one gigantic nature preserve that would come close to creating the kind of space in Africa that wildlife used to enjoy.

The politics of negotiating with the Zulu, as well as with the various competing conservation agencies were mind-boggling.  It’s a miracle any animals are left alive in Africa.  In between these efforts, he is hands-on taking care of a number of wild species and fighting poachers.

His books are a bit out of order.  The Elephant Whisperer should have been first.  This was his life’s work, at Thula Thula, and  the other two are excursions he made from there.  Babylon’s Ark is about saving the Baghdad Zoo, shortly after the U.S. invasion.  Once the largest zoo in the Mideast, by the time he got there, there were only 35 animals left.  The others had either been blown up, or captured by the locals for food.  Some of them had eaten the others.

The Last Rhinos is similar.  He learns that the last wild population of Northern White Rhinos is in an abandoned park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been in a civil war for 20 years.  There are only 15 animals left, but he knows of 4 captive Northern Whites in a zoo in the Czech Republic.  He hopes this will be enough to keep the sub-species viable, though it is highly unlikely.  His attitude is, “We have to try”.

I read The Elephant Whisperer last.  This is where it all began for Anthony.  One of the first things he does is take in a semi-rogue herd of elephants, nine individuals in all.  If he doesn’t take them, they will all be shot.  He wants them to be wild, but it doesn’t work out.  Contrary to popular opinion, he grasps that he must make “friends” with the matriarch, Nana.

As the matriarch goes, so goes the herd.  In fits and starts, he does it.  He makes friends with Nana’s Deputy Matriarch, Frankie.  At night, Frankie is in charge because Nana has developed a cataract in one eye.  He makes friends with Mnumzane, the aspiring alpha bull who is really too young for the role at 14.

At last he begins to disengage.  More babies are born and the herd is becoming wilder.  Yet they seem to have an uncanny sense of when he will return from traveling and gather at the fence to his home compound.

On a lighter note, Anthony introduced me to the word “tokoloshe”.  I’m thinking of adopting a little feral kitten, assuming the owner will give him up.  That remains to be seen.  She was very keen on the idea when he was first born, but now he’s three weeks old and has his eyes open.  His mother has moved him to the back porch where he can be picked up and cuddled regularly.  My cat (and my dog) are getting old.  I’d like to have this little guy.  My cat is the most maternal being on the planet, and would make him feel at home.  Stormy the current cat would cuddle and groom a mouse if it would stand still long enough.

So if I do get him, I’m naming him Toko, short for Tokoloshe.  Tokoloshe is a Zulu word for little demon spirits that come out at night to do mischief.  The example Anthony gave is that the Zulu keep their beds up on bricks.  If you don’t, the Tokoloshe crawl under your bed at night and jump up and down, just to wake you up.  There has never been a better name for a kitten.

But back to Anthony.

In March of 2012, Anthony died of a heart attack at home.  That night, and for the next week, the elephant herd silently gathered at the fence before his compound.  They knew.  You can see this vigil on YouTube.

It doesn’t matter what you ascribe this to–they knew.  It’s a phenomenal sense of smell and hearing, but it’s more than that.  Somehow there is emotion there.  When you see elephants handling the bones of their dead, you know there is something more going on there than we understand.