Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Same World, Different Perceptions

The article I'm linking to today, The Six Most-Mind-Blowing Animal Senses, is on a humor site ( That doesn't mean the facts stated aren't true; it's just written in a humorous manner.

What makes this article special is that it points out that animals practically live in a different world than we do. People are still hung up on the idea that animals don't have minds, don't have souls, without realizing how different their bodies are and how those differences naturally result in different expressions of their minds.

The topics covered in the article are:
  • Vampire Bats Have a Map of Your Veins 
  • Catfish Are Giant Swimming Tongues 
  • A Narwhal's Tusk Is a Huge Sensory Organ 
  • A Spookfish Can Hunt and Keep a Lookout Simultaneously, With Mirrorvision 
  • The Mollusk With Eyes Made of Rock 
  • Dolphins Use Holographic Imaging to See Inside You

Just think how different the world seems to these animals.

Different is not inferior.

Friday, August 03, 2012


A recent article in The Washington Post, titled Mild Kingdom: Wild Animals, a Life of Captivity, and the Future of Zoos, has a lot of good ideas in it, enough to fuel a lot of commentary, but one thing jumped out at me:
"By managing nearly every part of an animal's life, the zoo is able to re-create enough of the culture of the wilderness for a wild animal to live comfortably."
Using the word "culture" in reference to the way animals live their lives represents such a breakthrough in the general public's mindset, that I wonder if the author is even aware of the deep ramifications of using that word.

She goes on to describe the common failures of releasing captive-raised animals to the wild, speculating that the time spent in captivity somehow changes the animals.

But natural populations of animals do have their own cultures, with knowledge handed down from generation to generation. We learned long ago (see Born Free) that predators need to be taught how to hunt. What is changed in captive-raised animals is that they are raised without their native culture, and somewhat a part of human culture.

The cultures of animals in their native habitats are unknown and mysterious to us because animals live with different sensations than we do and this naturally results in different expressions of their culture. For one example, our remarkably insensitive noses blind us to much of the information that's out there, whereas some animals explore their world primarily by scent.

We may think a tiger lives a largely solitary existence. But with a world of scents availble to him, the tiger may feel connected to his relatives and have relationships we are unaware of. And it is only a very recent discovery that elephants communicate via sounds that we consider below the range of hearing. Communication is key to a culture, and we simply don't know all the various means that other animals use to communicate.

The article describes many ways that zookeepers are awakening to the intelligence and mental needs of the animals in their care. A lot of the process depends on a willingness to discard old human notions and begin to really, truly pay attention to the animals. If we could teach everyone that each animal in fact comes from its own culture, a rich and vital culture, with all the subtleties embedded in our understanding of the word culture, think how much better the world would be.

I'll keep on saying it: If the human world could adopt the idea that intelligent life is indeed all around us, and approach animals with that mindset (instead of the mindset that humans are the only intelligent life), ultimately life itself would be better for every species on the planet. Including humans.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cat Daddy

There is something special about Jackson Galaxy. This became clear to me watching the first season of "My Cat From Hell" (the first season shows seemed to convey more emotion than those that followed; I can't tell you exactly why). Helping people to understand their cats better is a noble and necessary task, and this man can do it. People need to listen to him.

His book takes a surprising (to me) form: it is one long confession. I wanted more about understanding cats. Yes, there is a lot of that here, but the book is about Jackson Galaxy confessing his life, a life of an addict. He tells it well, the realness is plain, and he tells it the same way he talks, very engagingly, so it's easy to keep turning the pages. But I wanted something more, something to delve deeper into the world of cats. Still, I kept reading.

And then there it was. On page 270. The ultimate confession. The confession that tells all in one sentence. A sentence that is sped past in the drama of the dying cat, not to be returned to at all in the pages that follow. The confession that, if it were the focus of the book, would be laughed at by the world because it changes the world. It changes the very roots of our beliefs, the foundations of the way everything is done. It is the confession I have been trying to make to the world for a decade or more. I've been dancing around it on this blog. I'm still afraid to come out and say it.

I am not going to spell it out because I'm still afraid of the effects of saying it. I've told you where it is in the book (page 270, hardcover edition); you will either recognize it for what it is or you won't. But it is the ultimate game changer for the world. Jackson Galaxy knows this. I know this. Many other people know this as well. The whole world needs to know it.

Jackson Galaxy gets cats. He wants to relieve their suffering by helping other people to get them, too. People need to read this book. My personal desire is to take that sentence on page 270 and expand it into a book in a way that the world will understand even while it wants to reject it out of hand.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Losing an animal, and our grief

Some time back, I wrote about receiving a ... you know, our language is so poor in this area because no one ever talks about these things. I will call it a "spirit communication" from a tiger who had been put down. She and I had been friends, even though she was afraid of most people. Because of what I wrote, I've been asked to say some more on the subject of our beloved animals passing, and the grief we feel.

I am not an expert animal communicator. In fact, such incidents happen to me only when I least expect them, taking me totally by surprise. So I'm going to quote some from the book Animals In Spirit, by professional animal communicator Penelope Smith. These excerpts have been edited by me for brevity and clarity, and I sincerely tried to not change the meaning of what was said.

This first is from animal communicator Kat Berard, after 'seeing' her horse after he died:
No matter where you are, they are with you. They will let you know this in some way until you get the message. Love doesn't die. The connection isn't broken just because our beloved companions shed their physical form.
From a cat who had been killed by a dog:
Know that I am at peace. I am in a beautiful space of oneness. In this realm, the birds sing cheerfully, the sky is blue, the sun is warm, the air is fresh and full of good smells, and everything is so peaceful. There are other spirits here, cats, and dogs, and other large and small animals, and plenty of humans. We are all transparent to each other. That is, we can see through and be with each other in any way we wish. There is no danger, pain, frustration, or misunderstanding. It is indeed heaven--what Earth would be like at its best, in pure harmony with all beings.
I'm sorry you suffered and blamed yourself for my death, but I was meant to leave. I wish you acceptance that brings peace, instead of misunderstanding that brings suffering. I love you and appreciate the great life we had together on Earth. It all seems so perfect to me now. I see exactly how and why I lived, and the perfection of returning to my spirit home. All is well. Let it be so with you. I wish you the peace that I feel now.
From another cat:
Remember my bright eyes, for this will help us connect. If you think a thought to me, I will hear it. Listen for my thoughts. I may come to you through images and feelings, so relax and trust them. I whisper thoughts into your ears at night and at dawn.
Animal communicator Jacqueline Smith says: Animals usually communicate comforting, loving messages after they pass on. From a dog who had to be put down:
We are together as one energy is with another energy, and therefore we are oneness. The actions of the past do not affect us here. No forgiveness is required because there is nothing to be forgiven. You did exactly what needed to be done at that moment in time. It was perfection. Do not hold onto those moments any longer. They do not serve you. Move away from that kind of thinking. It's done. Be here now and forever in the present. Enjoy today and tomorrow. Enjoy it again, for it will be another today. The past is no matter because it is always now.
And from another dog who also was put down:
The end of my body-life moved me into this experience which is where we all are in between our physical experiences for as long as we choose. Your helping me get here is of no consequence because I would have found my way here eventually, as all beings do. It brought me great peace to be released from a body that no longer functioned properly. I am grateful for your assistance.
And this is from a snake, appropriately named Wise One:
Death is no more than an exhale. There is a rhythm and a cycle to all life: spirit becomes form becomes spirit. And so it goes. To grieve for the passing of the form is to miss the magnificence of the spirit. There is eternity in all of us. We have no beginning and no end. We are so much bigger and more beautiful than any of us could ever imagine. When someone who is dear to us dies, there is a particle of light that leaves our heart and a particle of light that also returns. We are part of each other. This exchange is our gift of love to each other.
There are many aspects to death. Humans focus only on the death of the body. There is much more to death than this. Death is a passage from one realm of being to another. The transition is fluid, gentle, and easy. The shifting of form comes naturally to all life. Only humans resist it because they fear the unknown. Death comes to all of us. It's the gentle one who awaits us at the end of our journey. We release ourselves into its loving presence and awaken to the magnificence of our expansive selves.
Kat Berard said, In general, when you ask a departed animal 'what can I do to honor your life?', the answer is 'Live life fully, love yourself more, find bliss, and help others.'

I recommend the book Animals in Spirit: Our faithful companions' transition to the afterlife to anyone who needs some comfort after losing a beloved animal.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Q and A Time

I simply had to post this question here. It so beautifully illustrates how this one person is re-thinking the whole subtle conditioning that we are all subject to. We are all taught to create mental boxes to categorize the world--but how many boxes should there be? Are the boxes even valid? This is truly a great question. My answer is probably insufficient, but it's a start.

Are insects, shellfish, plants, fungi and microorganisms part of the reincarnation cycle? Humans obviously are part of the cycle. so are the big animals like wolves and turtles and I think amphibians are part of the cycle, since I once read a short story of a person being reincarnated into a snake. but I'm not quite so sure...since its hard to think of being reincarnated into a snail the same way as being reincarnated into a snake. Neither is being reincarnated into an anchovy the same as being reincarnated into I'm not sure if amphibians and fish are part of the cycle either...and i think birds are part of the cycle..not sure... 

It is only human vanity that ranks one form of life as higher or lower than another.

All life is loved by the universe. All life has its role, has its happiness, has its love.

Do not separate yourself. Do not denigrate any form of life.

We are all One.

It is only human vanity that ranks one form of life as higher or lower than another.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The First Re-Introduced Lion Cub in Kora (Kenya) in 24 years.

The following is adapted from the WildlifeNOW! newsletter:

Mugi, a 5-month-old cub, joins the ranks of Elsa and Christian, iconic lions 'reintroduced' to the wild. In the 1960's and 1970's, "Born Free" and "Christian the Lion" made the George Adamson and Tony Fitzjohn's successful lion reintroduction program world famous. Battling unfriendly headwinds and rampant poaching, the program was shut down in 1989 and Tony Fitzjohn moved to Tanzania to rehabilitate Mkomazi National Park. With Tony's departure and George Adamson's subsequent murder, the famed lion reintroduction program was shut down and the Kora lion population suffered a similar fate with lions all over Africa - making them yet another endangered species struggling for survival.

Tony Fitzjohn and Bugsy, ca. 1985.

Over 20 years later, very few lions reside in Kora National Park. In 2011, the Kenyan Wildlife Service asked Tony Fitzjohn and his team to come back to Kora to restore the natural habitat - additionally, he is restarting the famed lion program. Today, the Tony Fitzjohn-George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust (WildlifeNOW) is back in Kora, working in partnership with the KWS to restore KORA National Park to its former glory!

Over the past 30 years, Tony Fitzjohn and his team have shown continued success in breeding and reintroducing endangered animals back into local African ecosystems. The highly successful Black Rhino Program and the African Wild Dog Program in Mkomazi National Park (Tanzania) exemplify this outstanding work.  In Kora, orphaned lion cubs will be rehabilitated and introduced back to the wild.  The rebirth of this program is exhilarating news for lion conservation in Kenya and for Kora in particular.

Your Donations Make Lion Rehabilitation Possible. We are thrilled to be working with lions in Kora again. But we need your help! This program cannot succeed without your financial support. Please give generously to WildlifeNOW and help us make the KORA lion program a cornerstone in lion conservation and preservation in Africa.

Tony Fitzjohn - Founder
The Tony Fitzjohn / George Adamson African Wildlife Preservation Trust, 'WildlifeNOW'

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Whales Beach Themselves

The late Dick Clark wrote in his last post in his blog: "We are constantly surrounded by sound. In a modern world, we are exposed to millions and millions of sounds, both pleasant and unpleasant, on a daily basis. Sometimes it seems enough to drive a person mad..."

Indeed. And in comparison to other species, we are not even particularly sensitive in terms of sound. We can tolerate sounds up to 130 decibels (dB) in loudness, although lower volumes will make us deaf sooner or later. 130 dB is called the threshold of pain. The decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that adding 10dB to the loudness indicates a TEN TIMES increase in the power of the sound. 140dB indicates a power level TEN TIMES louder than 130dB.

We know that marine animals rely a great deal on their hearing. We know that whales can communicate over tremendous distances by using sound.

Now consider an innocent-sounding little blurb published recently in the Washington Post:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to allow oil and gas companies to conduct seismic mapping surveys of the ocean floor along the Atlantic coast, a significant step toward allowing offshore oil drilling.
Seismic mapping is a technique that employs such equipment as air guns, water guns, and "boomers" to create sound waves loud enough to vibrate the ocean floor. This means creating sound waves that measure 250 dB. 250! That is 1,000,000,000,000 times greater than the "threshold of pain"! (That's ONE TRILLION times the sound power.)

Illustration of seismic mapping from the EPA web site.

A seismic survey takes about two or three weeks and can span hundreds of miles of ocean. Imagine being caught in an onslaught like that. Your entire body is vibrating beyond belief. Your eyes and ears explode. The ocean has become a hell-like environment.

Beaching yourself is the only escape from the torture.

Even at a distance from the source of the sounds, it has been observed that it is much more difficult for the animals to find food. They may even abandon their traditional habitats.

The BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should have been our wake-up call to move away from oil. Instead, we're engaging in more destruction. Why? Because it's only animal life that we're torturing.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Fearless Fagan on TCM this Friday (4/13)

The real Floyd Humeston with FaganThis Friday (April 13), Turner Classic Movies (US) is showing a forgotten little gem of a movie titled "Fearless Fagan". It's the somewhat fictionalized version of the true story of a man, Floyd C. Humeston, and his pet lion. The man and his lion are very happy together until the government intrudes by drafting Humeston. What can Humeston do with Fagan during his stretch in the Army?

There are two things that make this movie special. Number one, that's Fagan playing himself in the movie. And his social skills are such that his scenes are much different from the typical Hollywood animal movie of the 1950s (or the 1960s, or the 1970s...).

Also special is the performance by Carleton Carpenter as Floyd Humeston. He actually interacts with Fagan and really seems to enjoy him. The first time I saw this movie, since I didn't know who Carleton Carpenter was, I thought it was Humeston himself with Fagan. Carpenter is that good, and so is Fagan.

DVD cover
Click this text to see the description of the movie on the TCM site. It's on at 9:30 AM (ET), so I hope you have a recorder to catch it. It's worth catching. Update: I just found out that Warner Brothers is making the movie available on one of their manufacture-on-demand DVDs. This DVD has no region code, so even if you're outside the US, you can see the movie if you want to. Click the picture at the right to go to

Carleton Carpenter as Floyd Humeston with Fagan
(One thing not explained in the movie is Fagan's nickname, "Fearless". Fagan was so at ease around people that -- when his story hit the press -- he was not disturbed by the loud popping of 1950s-era flashbulbs. This led one photographer to dub him "Fearless Fagan".)

Saturday, March 10, 2012


If you're a religious person of the Christian faith, Easter should be the happiest time of the year, representing the apex of the entire faith.

If you're an animal lover, Easter is a very sad time indeed, because you know that many, many people buy live chicks and baby rabbits for their children as Easter presents--and just a few short weeks later some of these animals -- the ones that survive that long -- overload animal shelters all over because the kids are tired of them.

Chicks are messy. Bunnies bite. And unscrupulous sellers sell these animals at far too young an age. "Happy Easter, little Mary, here's a live toy that's going to die on you."

I know anyone bothering to read this already knows this. But we need to educate everyone that buying live baby animals like they're toys is a stupid, cruel thing to do.

I've made some bumper stickers available. But mostly I hope everyone can be brave enough to say something face-to-face if you know or meet anyone who is about to perpetuate this cruel tradition.