Symbols of Whats Right with the World
By Kendra Kerman
Pessimistic and cynical by nature, I wondered if I
could come up with ten things to be glad about. It was easy! You should
Kinship Circle (www.kinshipcircle.org)
is my way of keeping up with all the current animal issues around the
world. By signing up with the free service, I get a ready-made letter
emailed to me about three times a week, along with contact info on
to send it. So instead of hearing about a poor kitten that got barbecued
and feeling helpless and sick about it, Kinship Circle enables me to
quickly act, and be heard. Of course this doesnt mean that I
blindly print the letter provided and sign it, but it is enough to
get me started,
to explore the issue at hand, to edit the letter to my style, and to
know where to send it.
The dedicated woman behind Kinship Circle is Brenda Shoss, who, in
her words, comes from a family of big-mouth liberals who possess a
basic intolerance for abuse of the innocent. It took her time
to evolve to where she is today. Before, when her activist mother gave
her a subscription to PETAs Animal Times for Chanukah, Brenda
fumed, Couldnt you just give me a nice little sweater?
Since then, shes had her own epiphany, and shes put her
natural skills as a passionate writer to good use. Its a
lot of work, she admits of her goal to end the suffering of animals
everywhere, but Im obsessed.
Chip Here in Missouri, we have more than our share of puppy
mills and dog fighting. Thats why my heart sank when I heard
the latest puppy persecution story. Chip, a four-year-old Westie, was
own business when a woman visited his home with her six children. She
left the kids unattended with Chip, and one of the toddlers reportedly
antagonized him. After giving her a warning nip, Chip eventually bit
the child. The bite required two stitches. Though he had never done
anything like it before, the angry mother demanded he be put to death,
and refused to accept responsibility for leaving her children unattended.
(She even left her other five kids with him while she took the injured
girl to the hospital.)
Chip was taken into custody and put on death row. Westie Rescue of Missouri
launched a desperate campaign to spare his life, and hundreds of people
joined the cause. Death seemed imminent. Westie Rescue refused to give
up hope, despite the estimated 95 percent chance he would be executed.
At one point, the court suggested the small rescue group cough up $350,000
for liability insurance for the little white dog. Miraculously, an agreement
was reached, and Chip was freed. Within hours of being released, he
was on his way to Alabama to meet his new family. As soon as he crossed
the state line, the muzzle that he was required to wear was removed.
BookCrossing My homes best feature is the built-in bookshelves
that flank the fireplace. When viewing the house before we bought it,
I scoffed at the sparse figurines lined up on the shelf so neat and
orderly. As soon as I moved in, I crammed the shelves to overflowing
with volumes of glorious books. As the famous quote by Erasmus goes,
When I get a little money, I buy books; and, if any is left, I
buy food and clothes. Like most book fanatics, I struggle with
the good problem of where to put them all.
Finally, I came across a marvellous solution. BookCrossing (www.bookcrossing.com),
a free book-lovers community, is like a worldwide book group.
Ron Hornbaker, one of the founders, credits his schoolteacher parents
for giving him the book bug, and his mission is to spread
the (written) word. The concept: instead of stashing books after reading
them, register them online, then release them out in the wild for others
to discover. I have a trunk full of books on hand ready for release,
and enjoy the challenge of matching the book to the location, e.g.,
placing the book Finding God: Ten Jewish Responses near a synagogue.
And maybe, just maybe, someone might log onto BookCrossing and let me
know theyve found my book. If not, theres always that mystery
of wondering where the book is now, and whether it is having more fun
than I am.
Gertrude McFuzz Oh, the Places Youll Go! Dr. Seuss
wrote oodles of childrens books in the 60s with some
timeless messages. The Lorax was an environmentalist who spoke for the
trees. Horton the Elephant held his own against societal pressure, never
wavering from his conviction that a persons a person, no
matter how small. And then theres Gertrude McFuzz,
one of my favorites. Gertrude McFuzz should be required reading
for any woman considering breast implants. Vain Gertrude is a bird unhappy
with her one tail feather, and wishes she looked more like Lolla-Lee-Lou,
who, with two feathers, is better endowed.
One droopy-droop feather. Thats all that she had.
And, oh! That one feather made Gertrude so sad.
Wanting her tail to grow, she seeks a doctors advice.
Tut tut! said the doctor. Such talk! How absurd!
Your tail is just right for your kind of bird!
Gertrude persists, and finally he tells her of a pill-berry vine. Although
the berries taste terrible, she gobbles them down. She sprouts lots
of feathers, and things get out of control. Before long, she finds herself
weighed down with a large, unwieldy plume. In the end, after a lot of
plucking, Gertrude, once consumed with envy, learns to be content with
her one cute feather.
Soybeans Dear Food Diary, here is what I ate this week: a club
sandwich with turkey slices and bacon, barbecued riblets, chocolate
milk, chicken stir-fry with edamame, and burgers galore. It all tasted
great, and it was all soy. Some vegetarians live happily and healthily
on rice, beans, vegetables and tofu. Not me. Im a meat-substitute
junkie. Oh, I eat my share of rice curry, but I thank my Morningstar
for the soybean. Versatile and nutritious, the little oil-rich seed
has been around for thousands of years, originating in China. A complete
protein, processed soybeans (tofu, tempeh, soymilk, etc.) help prevent
heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other life-threatening illnesses.
Its easier than ever for me to get my facon (fake+bacon) fix,
as Im finding Veat, Amys, Boca, Silk and other delicious
products in more and more grocery stores. That must mean Im not
the only one buying these honest-to-goodness happy meals. And the variety!
I had no idea I missed Bratwurst.
Mockingbirds On a busy road I found a fledgling mockingbird,
flattened out on the hot pavement, but still weakly flapping her wings.
I could have said, Aw, poor thing, and kept on driving,
but instead I pulled over. I gently scooped her up and got back in the
car. She was overheated and in bad shape, but not visibly injured. I
didnt really know what to do, so I just drove home, which was
two hours away.
She had all her feathers and a stubby little tail. She was mostly grey,
with white stripes on her wings, and the longest legs! She had bright
little black eyes, and scowled at me a lot.
As I started doing research on the Internet for what to do, I put her
out on the screened-in back porch, because I knew she didnt like
being indoors one bit, and would probably appreciate some fresh air.
As she cheeped and nervously hopped around, I became discouraged. Every
Web site I came across said, DO NOT TRY TO CARE FOR A
BABY BIRD. Contact a wild bird rehabilitation center immediately. Most
baby birds die without professional help. Just as I started looking
up bird rescue groups, I noticed a chorus of chirping outside.
Amazingly, professional help had already arrived! A mockingbird couple
heard her distress cheeps and came to her rescue. They flitted around
her and fretted, and tried to figure out what to do. Finally, they
her over to a secluded bush and began feeding her! This incredible
the little orphaned out-of-towner under their wing.
All day long I watched as they tended to the baby, whom only hours
before was all alone and moments from death. Now, I dont speak mockingbird,
but as they flicked their long tails and fussed over her, I could plainly
hear, Are you comfortable? Do you need more to eat? Dont
worry; well take care of you. Were right here.
By the end of the day, the little bird felt happy and secure enough
to move beyond the distress cheeps. She sang and preened. So did I.
Jane Goodall She might deny this, but Jane Goodall is perfect.
Period. Have you ever seen her exploits smeared all over the tabloids?
Jane Goody Two Shoes Denies Involvement in Forest
Flo Fed Up: Get Out of Gombe, Goodall!
rest my case. An animal lover from birth, she first became enamoured
with earthworms, and tried taking them to bed with her. Her mother
her they needed the earth, so she dutifully toddled them back out to
At age 26, accompanied only by her mother, Jane travelled to Gombe
Stream Game Reserve in Africa to study chimps. Remarkably, she had
training, not even an undergraduate degree. (In 1965, she received
her Ph.D. in Ethology at Cambridge University, but she credits her
dog Rusty as being her first instructor on animal behavior.) The study
ended up lasting over 40 years, and at 68, shes more active than
ever, travelling the world to educate millions on the plight of chimpanzees
and their vanishing habitat, and of course, how similar they are to
A vegetarian, she only eats enough to keep going. While conducting
her research in the forests of Africa, she oftentimes became so absorbed
in her observations that she would go 16 hours on coffee and a handful
of raisins kept in her pocket. Her books chronicling the chimps complex
lives, In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window, read like soap operas
set in a forest, full of sex, violence, family feuds, drama
and tenderness. That this amazing woman has found inner peace in such
a frenetic world inspires me to believe I am already on my way to find
my own Reason for Hope.
Mr. Rogers I cant mention Jane Goodall without also bringing
up her male counterpart, Fred Rogers. Instead of devoting his life to
chimps, he has spent his life focused on our own little primates. Since
1954, he has been a beloved television neighbour to millions of children,
using puppets, music and comforting words to help children grow up embracing
their uniqueness. But he is much more than a television personality.
He is also, among other things, a musician, writer, child behaviorist
and Presbyterian minister. A vegetarian for many years, he believes
that like many other values children get from us, compassion
is more likely to be caught than taught.
If youve ever wondered if his calm demeanour is just an actwell,
its not. He is fantastically sweet and sincere, and best of all,
he likes you just the way you are. Grown men have wept in his presence,
overwhelmed to meet the man who taught them so many years ago that its
all right to cry. In his reassuring, gentle tone, Mr. Rogers tells us,
If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of
those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even
dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting
with another person.
The Young Except for the food she occasionally filches from
the cats bowl, my two-year-old daughter Zinnia has never eaten
an animal part. Ninetieth percentile for height, seventieth percentile
for weight, and vibrantly rosy, I can only laugh when I hear talk of
how vegetarians are wan, malnourished weaklings.
I admit itI shamelessly use my vivacious gal pal as an educational
tool. I cook cruelty-free meals and bring them to her daycare. I put
her in T-shirts that say, Love Animals, Dont Eat Them.
When we are out in mixed public (omnivores and herbivores), and she
reaches for a piece of meat, I tell her sweetly, No no, honey,
dogs eat meat, not people.
Since we share our house with six other species, she is definitely
grasping the concept Live and Let Live. Still, she has a lot to learn.
It breaks my heart when, for example, she gets her foot tangled up in
a cord and says to me, Im like an elephant in the circus.
(Dumbo is the saddest Disney movie ever; Bambi is a comedy in comparison.)
I know that someday, Zinnia will realize that elephants dont belong
in chains, and she may well be instrumental in the liberation of elephants
from circuses. Either that, or shell run off and join Cirque
du Soleil to get away from her nutty mother.
The Old The other day, on my lunch hour, I took a shepherd-mix
puppy from the Humane Society to a local nursing home for pet therapy.
I have never felt so popular in my life. Everywhere I went, dim eyes
lit up at the sight of mewell, all right, at the sight of the
puppy. Even as the celebrity escort, I felt like a star. Here, a cast
Una, a lovely woman wearing a pink duster, who once lived in Saudi Arabia
with her dashing Air Force officer husband;
Ray, hard of hearing and confined to a wheelchair, who went door-to-door
selling bibles in order to support his family during the Great Depression;
Mildred, one leg amputated due to diabetes, raised ten children and
made a quilt for every one of her 23 grandchildren;
And finally, Woody, an 89-year-old dog lover with the same name as my
dear grandfather who died one year ago.
I sat with Woody on the sunny porch, supporting the melancholy puppy
in his lap. With every stroke of her soft fur, he pulled memories from
the air. Face tilted up, eyes closed, he recalled for me all the dogs
hed known throughout his life. He told me about his children,
and showed me the various blurry tattoos on his arms, confiding hed
have more of them if it werent for his wife, Ruby. A fine
woman, fine woman, he exalted.
As the puppy drooled on his pants, I gently picked a flea off one of
his paper-soft hands and listened to him reminisce. The three of us
sat together like that for a long time.
Kendra Kerman is a writer in Columbia, Missouri. She is happy
with her one tail feather.