I had a somewhat difficult childhood, given the fact I was raised by wolves. Lost and alone in the wilderness of an Essex park, my only choice was to learn from their wily canine ways in order to survive. I say raised by wolves, although actually it may have been more of a brief babysitting. And the fearsome wolves that I encountered on that fateful day may have been a pair of quite friendly dachshunds. But their natural instincts to help a small boy, separated from his anxious parents for almost fifteen minutes, says a lot about why dogs are considered man’s best friend. I’ll never forget Dotty and Dennis the dachshunds, or their kind owner who helped me make the arduous half-kilometer trek back to the picnic area where my parents were finishing the last of the sandwiches and pop. I learned a very valuable life lesson that day: if you want to enjoy sandwiches and soda pop, don’t wander off in a daydream after listening to Peter and the Wolf ninety seven times.
Of course there have been cases of children actually being raised by wild animals, including cats, apes and in the case of Ivan Madeupavich, by a family of squirrels. They say he almost went nuts (sorry) but later enjoyed a career as a tightrope artiste and daredevil before dying in a groundbreaking tail transplantation procedure that went horribly wrong. Fortunately the donor squirrel survived and I believe they made a heartwarming Disney movie about it.
I guess I always felt close to animals. Having two younger brothers with habits that would make a monkey blush probably helped. Pets didn’t stab you in the back, call you nasty names or rat on you to your parents. Sure they weren’t very good at football (apart from Nobby the hamster who famously turned pro and later died from a cocaine and booze overdose) and they did poop all over the place and rip up the furniture. But they were, for the most part, good friends and I valued their support and their help with school homework, despite my dismal grades.
When it comes down to it, animals can be empathetic, intelligent, unselfish and nurturing. In fact in many cases they put us to shame with their devotion to the common good. We have for centuries treated them as dumb beasts, but modern science and common observation has increasingly shown them to be anything but.
It’s a curious phenomenon witnessed in most ‘civilized’ human societies that those animals we deem pets are adored, pampered and protected, while those equally smart and lovable ones we have labelled ‘food’ have very few rights or protections. Anyone who extends the circle of compassion to include them is labelled a radical crackpot hippy weirdo and derided by kind, pet-loving fellow humans for their ‘extremism’. Extreme compassion? Now that is nuts.
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Still we are slowly evolving as a species and we do treat our animals rather better than we used to. Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular as people become concerned with the huge environmental and health burdens of meat production or the fate of the fifty billion plus animals slaughtered each year by the factory farming industry to provide ever more meat for overfed western city dwellers, so that they can die young from obesity, strokes and heart disease.
You wouldn’t dice a dalmation for dinner, or cook kitty for Christmas, so spare a thought for all those poor turkeys, ducks and other hapless creatures. They rather like living too and if you spare their lives, the great goddess of animals will bless you with a long, healthy and happy life. Possibly.
Now please excuse me as it’s time for my walkies.
©Text copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.