Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 14 - 30 Days of Thanks: Animals

As I sit here typing with a warm, fuzzy cat asleep on my legs, I can't help but be thankful for animals.

My cat Harley is 14.5 years old, and I've had him since he was a kitten. He's my little buddy. He meows incessantly when he knows it's my bedtime to get me to go upstairs to bed. He also meows incessantly to tell me when he's found a centipede somewhere in the house. He still plays catch and chase with balls we make for him out of aluminum foil. He freaks out when he sees us pull out our suitcases because he hates when we leave him or change our routines.

Harley's usual spot on the couch
Harley brings our little family a lot of joy. R adores him, even though Harley has avoided him more than interacted with him. I love how he always has to sit on my lap or legs when I'm on the couch. And, Harley keeps A company in the wee hours when the rest of the house is asleep. I'm thankful for this tiny, fuzzy member of our family.

I'm also thankful today for all animals. If you've ever watched Nature on PBS or the Life series on Discovery Channel or the BBC's Planet Earth series, or spent any time with animals or observed them, you can't help but be amazed by them, by their fortitude and adaptability, by their beauty and their interconnectedness with other species and with the Earth itself.

I can't possibly do justice to the entire animal kingdom here, but I do have a special place in my heart for two species in particular: manatees and elephants.

Manatees are so gentle and trusting and curious, which has unfortunately contributed to their status as an endangered species. Because they increasingly have to co-exist with people, they are often injured or killed when struck by boat motors or by ingesting fish hooks, fishing line, and trash.

Source: Miami New Times, "Record 429 Manatee Fatalities in 2009," 1/7/2010
Sometimes when I visit my mom in Florida, we go to visit Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, which shelters and cares for injured manatees. The first time I saw them up close as they were fed whole carrots and cabbage leaves and alfalfa, I cried. It kills me that these gentle animals are at risk mainly because of human beings and our thoughtlessness.

Elephants also have this effect on me. Their matriarchal society and their behavior that shows their love and caring for one another are incredible. The other night, I caught the end of "Echo: An Elephant to Remember" on Nature. I'd seen other films in the past about Echo, but this was a tribute to her after she died, a look at how her family is surviving, and how her family developed. One of the most touching parts was a look back at Echo's son Ely, who was born years ago with crippled front legs. Ely kept trying to stand despite his poor crumpled legs, and after three days with Echo's caring and encouragement, he did! Ely would have died if hadn't managed to stand up because he couldn't reach his mother's milk otherwise and wouldn't have been able to keep up with the herd. When this show was filmed, Ely was an adult male and had left his family previously, like male elephants do. But when the rains came after a long drought, Ely found his family again at the river and tenderly touched tusks and trunks with one of his sisters. There were many, many examples of these elephants helping each other, protecting each other, mourning and grieving for family members who had died.

Like manatees, elephants are in danger, largely because of human beings. As our need for additional space and resources increases, we encroach upon these animals' native habitats and come into conflict with them.

When I observe animals and the natural world around me, I feel closer to God and appreciate his amazing handiwork more. Manatees, elephants, and all animals are an integral part of the Earth's design. When something happens to one species, others are affected in unforeseen ways. I believe if we take care of the natural world, we're also taking care of ourselves and of God's beautiful creation.

These two organizations are doing important, wonderful, and fascinating work to save manatees and elephants:
  • Save the Manatee Club - You can provide support by adopting a manatee. My friend Rob adopted a manatee (Dana) for me as a Christmas present one year. It was one of the best presents I ever received!
  • Amboseli Trust for Elephants - This organization funds the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, which was founded by Cynthia Moss, the researcher who has been studying elephants in Kenya for years, including Echo and her family.

What animals are close to your heart?


sandwhichisthere said...

the honesty of animals is endearing. They are up front with everything that they do. They may want to cuddle with you, be patted or scratched by you, be totally indifferent to you, or want to eat you but they are always honest about their thoughts.
Animals never say "How are you?" not caring whether you live or die or say "What a really nice job you did." secretly thinking "How can I get credit for that work?".There is one animal that really scared me.
We were at the Franklin Park Zoo and we went to see the Timber Wolves. One wolf just stood and stared at me. It did not blink or gaze away, it just stared and I was sure that it was thinking "A nice Merlot would go good with him.". Yet the social interaction and behavior of wolves is admirable. They are also fond of young humans, young tender humans.
I agree with you about the elephants. I remember watching a show about their reverence for the bones of the departed members of their group. That they are slaughtered for their teeth is an abomination. To think that Beethoven is played on their teeth is also,

Kristen said...

Dad - Your comment about the wolf reminded me about that movie "Never Cry Wolf" and the "Sand County Almanac" book you lent me. In the book, it was fascinating and incredibly sad to read about how people didn't think twice about killing off all the wolves. But when the wolves were gone, there were too many deer, which ate everything on the mountain, leaving the soil prone to erosion. Each species is here for a reason, although I think that's debatable for mosquitoes. :-)

sandwhichisthere said...

God invented mosquitos because there were no lawyers at the time. He needed something to suck the blood out of every living thing.
I am glad that you enjoyed the book. I thought that you would. The quantity of empathy that you have is astounding.
The same thing happened in the Rocky Mountains when the government put a bounty on mountain lions and most of the deer starved to death during the following winter. There were so many deer that they ate all of the food available to them before the winter was over. I often think of that incident whenever I see a parking lot being paved. The Earth is only capable of producing a certain amount of food.An asteroid may have wiped out the dinosaurs, asphalt may wipe out the human race. Thus speaketh the Curmudgeon,

Anonymous said...

Oh, sweet Harley! Flake is next to me as I type. So thankful for her! xoxo