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Rescuing each another

The inter-connectedness of life is especially poignant when one species saves another species. Here are some moving stories of people saving non-human animals, of animals saving animals, and one of a cat making life better for an autistic girl. All found on the wonderful site,  The Dodo (



The fisherman who saved a bald eagle. Watch Dan Dunbar, fishing near Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island, rescue an eagle swimming in the ocean. The eagle looked tired (plus, they don’t normally swim). In an un-selfconscious video with thumbs covering the lens some of the time, and some self-deprecating humour, Dan uses his other hand to scoop the bird in a net and allows it to rest aboard his boat, although he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with his “fishing partner.”


980xturtleMouth to mouth resuscitation of a turtle. David Steen, a herpetologist working in Florida, saves a turtle who had become trapped underwater for too long.

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James and Bob update no.2

James and Bob. Photo: Clara Molden, The Telegraph

James and Bob. Photo: Clara Molden, The Telegraph

I’ve written about former heroin addict and street person James Bowen and how his finding and caring for an abandoned cat saved his life, in two posts:

 The love of a cat (July 10, 2013)

James and Bob update no.1 (July 29, 2014)

My friend Françoise, in Belgium, wrote me recently to say she is taking her time reading the latest book by James Bowen, released this month in the UK as “A Gift From Bob: how a street cat named Bob helped one man learn the meaning of Christmas.” As a writer in The Telegraph said, the title is “cheesy, but so what”–people were lined up around the block at Waterstone’s to buy a signed copy.


Lineup for James and Bob, Waterstone’s Books, London, October 10 2014

BA25008B-39A6-4847-9120-BC425279D514-2722-000001A70CD8795E_zps7b3f20a3Peter Stanford, writing in The Telegraph, begins:

It was pouring with rain but still they queued round the block outside Waterstone’s in London’s Covent Garden. So many that the bookshop staff decided after two hours to impose a cut-off. They’d come from Jersey, Germany, even San Francisco. Most bore gifts – cupcakes, toys and hand-knitted scarves…

And which giant of literature had prompted this outpouring of adulation on the day the publishing industry calls “Super Thursday” because it is when all their big Christmas hopefuls land in the bookshops? A long-haired former rough sleeper and his faithful feline companion.

Link to the full article

And James now has a website (click on image to go there, but do return!)

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.44.54 AMI’m going to risk The Telegraph telling me not to copy too much of their article, but until I can get my own interview with James, this will have to suffice. Stanford writes:

“The first time I saw him,” says James, “he was sitting on a doorstep near where I was living in north London. He gave me a curious gaze and I said hello. That carried on for three days until I knocked on the door to see if that was where he belonged. The people who answered looked at me as if I was mad.”

So Bob – James named him after a character in US TV drama Twin Peaks – came up to the flatlet where James was struggling to get his life on track and keep off drugs. He discovered a weeping abscess on Bob’s leg, took him to an RSPCA vet and ended up with a £22 bill. “I only had £30 to my name. I paid up and then gave him the antibiotics. Then, one morning, he followed me on to the bus.” An odd couple was born.

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Therapy Dogs

This summer and fall I made two short documentaries about the St.John Ambulance therapy dog program. This came about when I first approached Tanya King, a photographer specializing in fabulous pet portraits, about filming her doing a session with a cat. But cat portraits, it seems, are rare; more common are dogs getting their pictures taken, which is a bit of a surprise given the thousands of cat videos and cat images online. When Tanya suggested I film her shooting not one but twelve dogs for a calendar, I jumped at the opportunity. (Click on the video’s outward arrows button to enlarge.)

SJA has now produced both a wall and a desktop calendar, which can be purchased from their store.


Following this shoot, I became interested in therapy dogs and began interviewing and following several volunteers. Obtaining permission to shoot in senior citizen’s facilities wasn’t easy, so I had to limit the interviews to those elderly who were cognitively able to sign a release. One of those interviewed, Ginger, passed away shortly after this interview, age 97.




All my new found Buddhist pacifist vegetarian mindful meditative contemplative live and let live philosophy, which I have been practicing this year, took a hit tonight when, just before bedtime, a moth flapped around my face. Eww! I leapt out of bed. Pumpkin leapt off the bed. And the chase was on. Would I get it, and trap it in a glass with a piece of card underneath, and set it free? Or would I let Pumpkin hunt it, give her something fun to chase, antidote to the humdrum of apartment life?

Pat Miller, of Peaceable Paws, in an article from the Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals, writes:

Feline critics often point to a cat’s predilection to catch, play with and kill small animals without actually eating them as proof of feline decadence.  Without dwelling on the point that some humans regularly engage in somewhat similar behaviors, there are two  answers to the age-old question of why cats don’t always eat what they kill: hunger, and instinct. Hunger is one factor in a cat’s prey drive, and if food were in short supply she would undoubtedly consume her kill.

Cats also hunt simply because they know how, and because the opportunity presents itself.  When something rustles in the grass, or a bird hops past on a nearby driveway, the mighty hunter switches into autopilot mode; crouch, tense, tail twitch, wriggle and pounce.  Only after the unfortunate victim has ceased struggling does the cat perhaps stop and think – hmmmm, I’m not really hungry now, am I?

Image courtesy Wikimedia, click for original file.

Image courtesy Wikimedia, click for original file.

While I get upset by an image like this, one furry animal eating another (and debated whether to put it in this entry or not), it is Nature’s way. My Miss Pumpkin is a hunter, but without any opportunity to exercise her instinct to catch prey.

From Cat-It Design, the food maze.

From Cat-It Design, the food maze.

What I’m realizing, with Pumpkin, is how much she needs that alternative to “hunting” – activities that mirror the hunt. One thing I’m going to try, prompted by this article by Maris Munkevics on his Pet-Happy website, is a puzzle for dispensing dry food. Now I feed Pumpkin mostly wet, but she also has some dry food in a small bowl which I place atop her cat tree.

Food hunting provides exercise that your cat will enjoy. It’s wild! Food doesn’t magically appear on plates. Animals, including cats, have to hunt it down. It usually accounts for the majority of exercise done by cats. Indoor cats can try this, too. You could hide small amounts of food throughout the house, and let your cat discover it with or without your guidance. Another option is to let your cat play with a so-called food dispenser toy, which releases treats as your cat plays with it. You could try puzzle feeders, which require your cat to solve a puzzle to receive a treat.

The idea is to make her work a little for her food. Much like I have to do. Well, rather less than I have to do. The food, placed in the upper tray, is gradually moved by her paw to the lower levels through holes on each level, until it drops to the tray at floor level. Will it work, or will it be yet another thing I donate to a cat charity or to friend who have more accomodating cats? *

For those of you whose cats go outdoors, there are some dangers associated with hunting which you should be aware of, writes Marilyn Krieger in

How to Exercise Your Cat’s Predator Instinct Without Letting Her Hunt [link]

One of these dangers is parasites and pathogens carried by the prey, which can lead to  discomfort, illness or even death for your cat. Another is poisons: for instance, a rodent who has already eaten but hasn’t died from a poison trap. Think what happens when the cat chases prey: if it is healthy and large enough, it fights back–which could cause injury to your beloved companion. Are these risks worth taking?

Marilyn Krieger and her cat Sudan. Krieger says using clicker training is one way to stave off boredom (for you and the cat).

Marilyn Krieger and her cat Sudan. Krieger says using clicker training is one way to stave off boredom.

Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, solves cat behavior problems…using force free methods that include environmental changes, management, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques. She’s based in the San Francisco Bay area, but will also do long-distance phone and Skype consultations.

Find other interesting behaviour articles (not just on cats) at the “public” section of Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals:

  • The dry food maze is going to be donated to a cat shelter; not only was Pumpkin supremely disinterested, but I have decided to gradually move her from canned to raw food. Full report coming.

some quotes I like

From GoodReads:

“A cat’s rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.”
William S. Burroughs, The Cat Inside

From William S. Burroughs' The Cat Inside, photo courtesy*

From William S. Burroughs’ The Cat Inside, photo courtesy

Also from Cultural Cat: Mark Twain and a cat

“If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.” ― Mark Twain, Notebook. (Also from Cultural Cat)

“It always gives me a shiver when I see a cat seeing what I can’t see.”
Eleanor Farjeon

“Rousseau pounced. Men who dislike cats were tyrannical: “They do not like cats because the cat is free and will never consent to become a slave.”
Robert Zaretsky, The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding

The next two are from Henry N. Beard, author of Poetry for Cats: The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse

I saw a dog pursuing automobiles;
On and on he sped.
I was puzzled by this;
I accosted the dog.
‘If you catch one,’ I said
‘What will you do with it?’

‘Dumb cat,’ he cried,
And ran on.

Hamlet’s Cat’s Soliloquy

To go outside, and there perchance to stay
Or to remain within: that is the question:
Whether ’tis better for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather
That Nature rains on those who roam abroad,
Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,
And so by dozing melt the solid hours
That clog the clock’s bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell. To sit, to stare
Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal’s opened up, to stand
As if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;
To choose not knowing when we may once more
Our re-admittance gain: aye, there’s the hairball;
For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,
Or work a lock or slip a window-catch,
And going out and coming in were made
As simple as the breaking of a bowl,
What cat would bear the household’s petty plagues,
The cook’s well-practiced kicks, the butler’s broom,
The infant’s careless pokes, the tickled ears,
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when, of his own will,
He might his exodus or entrance make
With a mere mitten? Who would spaniels fear,
Or strays trespassing from a neighbor’s yard,
But that the dread of our unheeded cries
And scratches at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve
And makes us rather bear our humans’ faults
Than run away to unguessed miseries?
Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened up with the pale brush of thought,
And since our choices hinge on weighty things,
We pause upon the threshold of decision.

Henry N. Beard, Poetry for Cats: The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse

That soliloquy reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s wonderful “In and Out Cat Song.” That link sends you to a YouTube recording of a live performance, but the better recording, available through iTunes as a download or via your favourite CD store, is Songs of the Cat, in which Garrison Keillor joins opera superstar Frederica Von Stade and conductor Philip Brunelle in with orchestra accompaniment in a studio recording.


What’s your favourite cat quote?

  • Cultural Cat has some great photos of folks and their cats, including this of the great French filmmaker Agnes Varda,