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|
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|
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?