Posted in Miscellany

St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

I have recently read an article about how the prosperous presence of wolves reduces the number of deer road-kills because their very predatory sense intimidates their prey, one of which is the deer. Fewer traffic collisions mean fewer government funds to spend on the aftermath of car and traffic accidents from animal crossings. So far, so good. But what about the resolution about protecting livestock from wolves, which has become an economic issue disturbing the farming community? So here are my small suggestions that I deem mutually benefitting people and wildlife by virtue of Charity, Faith, and Hope.

The article continues to support recolonization that the reduction of traffic collisions resulted in economic gains, which outweighed the costs of livestock losses by nearby cattle ranchers whose livelihood feels threatened by their lupine marauders. I remember reading newspaper articles and tweets about ranchers in Washington that the multiplication of wolf population engendered their livelihood and that clamoring for lupine rights outright disregarded human rights to make a living. When I commiserate with the woes of the ranchers at the same time, and also hope best for the great grey wolves, my mind’s eyes see the visceral images of the Maasai in Tanzania and African lions living in co-habitation. The Maasai find the most cost-effective and nature-friendly way of guarding their livestock against the lions by establishing chain-like fencing supported by the thorny African myrrh trees. I am sure the American contemporary can take cues from the Maasai and adapt them to their environment.

I like wolves for their commendable fidelity to spouses and respectful sense of a society that emits from their majestic composure. I also admire the fortitude of cattle ranchers who are vigilant of the livestock their families subsist. Both beasts and men have reasons to live for and kill for. Yet, there should/must be a way of satisfying the needs without losses. Indeed, the medieval Italians knew exactly about the problem, but no more understanding and effectively than St. Francis of Assisi in meeting with the Wolf of Gubbio. Francis admonished him for his terror of fear over the people and made a pact with him publicly at a popular marketplace that if he ceased his predations, people would feed him from their very doors. The Wolf put his paw in Francis’ hand as a gesture of agreement, a sort of beastly hand-shaking. Can I make a wish for the miracle once again in my time? I believe I can, if they or we want to, for sometimes we as part body and part spirit can do beautiful things together.

Posted in book review

‘My Girl, Fiona: A Collection of Essays’ by Denise Gwen

My Girl, Fiona: A Collection of Essays by Denise Gwen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sometimes we see ourselves in animals – here I mean the mammals, especially — and relate our mental images to them, whether they are pets living under the same roofs or wild ones in nature or zoos. That is why animals are apropos mediums to project our mirror images into their figures without exposing our naked selves outright. And that is what Denise Gwen does in her elegantly poignant collection of essays My Girl, Fiona.

Fiona is a hippopotamus the author adopted emotionally from her struggling birth into the world at Cincinnati Zoo. Abandoned by her enormous mother, the vulnerable yet adorable baby Fiona chimed the emotional bell of the author on the octaves of her family. Fiona, the name of Gaelic origin, provokes the image of a vivacious fairy whose feistiness and resilience elements make her all the more mysterious and, not to mention, beautiful. But the beauty is uncommon and only kind, which strikes Edgar Allan Poe’s wise dictum that “There is no exquisite beauty without strangeness in proportions.” Then the adorable hippo Fiona becomes a kaleidoscope of images of women, representing the Exquisite Beauty Tribe. It consists of her youngest sister, whose name is also Fiona, her feisty Welsh late mother, and herself in midlife crisis blotted with sentimental reminiscences. Added to this tribe is Shrek’s wife is Princess Fiona. Her transformation from conventional slender beauty to a green-colored ogre-like her beloved hubby is a guest of honor in the Fiona Parthenon. One way or another, they all share the beauty marks of uniqueness, confidence, and self-esteem as the author brings them into life in the alchemy of words, brewing the images into a fascinating pastiche of the Fair Fiona.

Animal stories charged with human emotions may well turn to the art of anthropomorphism in which animals speak like us with accents varied from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. But the author nuances the overtly human sentimentality in her narratives lest they should become schmaltz through Fiona, the lovely hippo. Also, the way she narrates with an elegantly apt choice of words and poignantly witty expressions is reminiscent of the British writing style I am familiar with. In fact, before finishing the book, I suspected her of being British for the reasons mentioned above. Consequently, I wasn’t miles away from the speculation because her mother was a proud Welsh who remained Welsh in her spirit and language during her lifetime. My Girl, Fiona is a thoughtful and heartful memoir disguised as short fiction apart from egotistical meanderings, which many celebrities nowadays indulge in stories that lack universal empathy. It is also a compact book you can read without leaps of attention and boredom in your spare time.



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Posted in Miscellany

Psychology of a cat

Toro after a visit to the vet in Little Tokyo

When my eleven-months old cat Toro started drooling in white foams last Wednesday evening after swallowing a tiny flying insect in my bedroom, I was in a panic. I called nearby emergencies, describing the state Toro was in, but they told me his symptoms were not regarded as critical. Instead, they told me to monitor him, so I did. He stopped drooling the next day and drank a lot of water. Nevertheless, my concern was still growing, doubled with regret that Toro should have met an owner in a vast, spacious home with that which would make him happy. The pang of grief punctuated my already broken heart, and I was distraught.

“I am not feeling very well.”

Luckily, a vet to whom I had previously taken Toro for his difficulty in excreting in Little Tokyo said she could see Toro on Saturday morning. The waiting period until the appointment was an ordeal by the torture of the heart. My spirit was sunk in a sea of sadness, blaming myself for not providing Toro the optimum environment to thrive in his best feline nature. The bedroom is so tiny that it is more of a den, and the living room where my elderly infirm mother spends most of the day intermittently is off-limit to Toro by keeping him alone during the day when I am working. My evening playing with him might probably bore him to death because my lack of creativity fails to invent more stimulating kinds of play that will perk up his energy. I cannot help but think that I am becoming a bane of Toro’s existence, the cause of his unhappiness.

Pre-idopathic cytitis diagnosis time when Toro liked me

To pour lead on my open wound in the heart, when I finally took Toro to the vet on Saturday, she diagnosed him with idiopathic cystitis. She showed me a scanned copy of Toro’s mildly swollen bladders with information on the illness caused by stress. That’s it. The diagnosis realized my imagination and shattered a slim hope of something other than STRESS. I see all the cares I had given to Toro as best as I could beyond my measure by taking him to vets and telling him how much I loved him as much as I could dissipate into the elusive dreams of my little happiness with Toro. My happy moments with Toro vanished into yesterdays, bidding farewells to tomorrows.

“More exciting play!”

It’s been a week since the diagnosis, and now Toro has changed. Toro now hides under the bed, doesn’t come up to my bed, and avoids me when I am home. Besides, he doesn’t eat as much as he used to, about which the vet told me to be patient because that could be the effect of changing his prescriptive diet from gastrointestinal to urinary care. What is strange about his sudden change of behaviors is that he was never like this from his previous visits to vets. Come what may, Toro seems to be unhappy, and I am very downtrodden for his changed behavior. He was the only one who showed me his affection.

Toro in his whimsical mood for playing

I still remember his adorable, curious big eyes peeping out of an opening from a box carrier when I brought him from Ventura Animal Shelter last August at the age of nine weeks. Purring and kneading are long gone. My reason suggests that re-homing Toro is the best I can do for his happiness, yet my heart tells me not to listen to it and look for another place for a better living environment. Nevertheless, I yield to my heart’s voice and want to believe that there is still hope for us to be happy in a better living condition. I hope to see mirth wonton around us and happiness sparkle before our very eyes soon.

Posted in book review

From Egypt with Meow: ‘The Cat in Ancient Egypt’, by Jaromir Malek – review

The Cat in Ancient EgyptThe Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit that most of my posts relate to the cat nowadays. But what else should I write about when an orphan kitten enters my castle and in need of care and love? My five-month-old cat Toro is a domestic short-haired breed as subsumed by a vet at the shelter, but his appearance and characteristics make me believe that he must be a descendent of Egyptian Mau. My conjectural reconstruction of Toro’s possible ancient scroll of his family (paternal) led me to  Jaromir Malek’s  The Cat in Ancient Egypt, which tells all about how cats became naturally harmonious with humans, which played a significant role in the anthropological and social aspects of splendid ancient Egyptian civilization.

The domestication of cats resulted from the advent of agriculture when man began to settle on the farm, and civilization came to blossom. It was about 1,500 years later than the domestication of dogs as hunting assistants to men. Of all the ancient civilizations, the Egyptians sow the seeds of love between the cats and humankind. Abounded with various fauna and flora benign to the human inhabitants, the jungle cats and African cats thrived and became familiar animals to the Egyptians, who began to use the cats to drive off pesky mice poisonous snakes threatening their lives and crops. Naturally, wild cats gradually learned to adapt their wild instinct to their new protective human environs. 

The frequency of cats’ representations in ancient Egyptian art is a creditable source to understand cats’ familiarity and recognition as pets in the overall culture and society. The images of cats first sporadically appeared in the tombs of pharaohs built during the Old Kingdom period (2647 -2124 B.C) and became widespread mural art features by the New Kingdom (1549-1069 B.C.), which is also called the renaissance of the pyramids. Maybe it was because of the mysterious aura surrounding the inscrutable demureness of a cat, or it was the otherwordly aloofness wrapt in ethereal agility. Cats became popular hieroglyphic and effigial motifs for artists and priests alike in cultural and religious contexts decorating chambers within sacred tombs and temples. Also, cats were the aesthetic muse for women’s high fashion, used as motifs for the jewelry of queens and women of high society.

What evolved from a quid pro quo relationship between man and beast for the survival of the species found its way to the high seat in the eternal world. The familiarity and recognition of cats’ usefulness blessed with physical charm elevated the beastly origin into a divine status in the statuesque form of goddess Bastet, the sister of the Sun god Ra, representing female sexuality and fertility, which reflected the specific characteristics of the animal. The Sun god himself was also called the Great Tomcat because the god meowed during what he was doing. So much so that the ancient Persians used to equip the shields with live cats at war with the Egyptians, who dared not to harm their sacred animals.

On the other hand, cats were not altogether distant from the everyday lives of the ancient Egyptians. The Greek historian Herodotus further corroborated that the Egyptians shaved their eyebrows when their cats died as a sign of mourning. The more cats became domesticated, the more multiferous their features became. Artists started using cats as a caricature of specific human characteristics illustration of fables with a moral content, representing the absurdities of reality in a humorously wise way. Such artistic trend was most conspicuous during the Ptolomy period when Egypt was under the Hellenistic influence to resist foreign cultural force. Cats were symbolized as the animal inherently Egyptian to the land of pharaohs.

Beautifully written with sentences that conjure up the images of ancient Egyptian cats, Malek’s The Cat in Ancient Egypt serves its purpose of educating and entertaining the curious reader who wants to know more about his or her beloved feline creature at home. That doesn’t mean that this book is reserved only for cat owners or lovers. This book has refreshingly excellent archeological and anthropological knowledge about human civilization, impacting animal life. The affection is the elder sister of the understanding. I personally selected this book to read because I wanted to know more about my cat. Likewise, this book is for readers who want to know more about Nature and People’s history.