I read the Guardian article “A dog is for life, not Just lockdown” by Donna Ferguson (September 13, 2020 issue) with intimately acquainted feeling shared by our understanding of pets as family members with care, not as luxurious commodities treated with whims and caprice. Her search for a Poochon puppy for her daughter reminds me of my own story of the recent adoption of a tabby kitten from a shelter.
As I was going to move into a pet-friendly apartment, I was excited to bring a dog into my new home to share companionship. However, during my search for a canine company, I became aware of the ugly reality of “pet business” intent on swindling and ripping off naïve would-be pet owners. Ferguson’s experience of encountering sellers of puppies suspected of scamming or deceiving chimed the bell of my experience in which a dubious welsh corgi breeder insisted on “shipping out” a puppy to me in the convenient pretext of Covid-19 protocol. Even legitimate ones are not exempt from my continued disappointment: Shiba breeders in Southern California had their waiting lists closed. One pet shop owner on the phone revealed to me that since the outbreak of the Covid-19 and California state made it difficult to sell and buy a pet at a pet shop. Hence the supply and demand for pets have become disproportionately unbalanced, skyrocketing the price of dogs immensely. Worse, the procedure of adopting dogs from shelters makes it excessively challenging and disheartening for bona fide would-be owners disappointed with the requirements of a near-perfection environment for dogs.
Maybe all the disappointments and disillusion of having a dog meant to lead me to the world of cats because now I have a 12-week old brown male tabby named “Toro,” a masculine form of Tora, meaning in a little tiger in Japanese. I brought him from Ventura Animal Services three weeks ago. He is a smart, capricious kitten charged with a sudden pop of energy to stalk and play with the toy rat and anything moving from the frills of my skirts to dangling straps of my iPhone cover. Watching Toro peacefully cuddle up on my laps or my desk when I read or write, I can’t agree more with Ferguson that our cat and dog are not for our pandemic solace but our wish to share our homes with the lovely creatures.
It was an ordinary commuter’s early morning on a platform at a train station. A train would arrive in 10 minutes, and the people whose faces were no stranger than those of my distant relatives were starting to gather on the platform, waiting for the second earliest morning train to carry us into our destinations of a new grateful day of livelihood or leisure or even escapade, maybe. Which might be the case of The Man and The Dog in this video I took as the train whistle was heard in the distance .
As a dog person who always has a soft spot for the man’s best friend, I tend to give a rather stoic glance on a cat that seems so high and aristocratic to reciprocate my regard. Cats are the cool, agile, cynical, and independent lords of the households, the poised and legal Pharisees of the animal kingdom. Yet a comparison of superiority between the canine and the feline is a puerile way to exert one’s favoritism of one species to another, which is reminiscent of eugenic theory of a superior race aggressively peddled by intellectuals in the early 20th century. That said, this note on cats reflects my findings of cats as man’s timeless companions in historical contexts, casting different lights over their stereotypical sinister image that I had about them.
Mohammad and Muezza
Cats as a symbol of witches betray the fact that a revered religious figure such as Prophet Mohammad was very fond of a cat. So much so that his pet cat named Muezza was treated with the utmost tenderness. It is said that Mohammad used to shiver without his cloak in the cold rather than disturbing sleeping Muezza. Further to the Mohammedan episode of his beloved cat, cats have a sacred pedigree in Christianity as well. It is said that a local tabby, after a fresh wash, instinctively jumped in and laid down next to Baby Jesus. The cat’s warmth and soothing purr, all the more added by a pleasing after-wash scent, were conducive to an undisturbed sleep of the baby. In fact, researchers claim that letting a cat sleep on your bed at night will relieve you of symptoms of insomnia due to its calming purring sound that sends relaxing positive signal waves to your mental as well as physiological wavelength.
C.S. Lewis and his Cat
C.S. Lewis, Author of the Chronicles of Narnia, also loved cats and had a stray cat he loved tenderly. Every morning he took his hat off when greeting his cat with pleasantly resonant “Good morning.” Moreover, when his veterinarian told Lewis to euthanize the cat due to its senility, the great Lewis refused to do so and nursed the cat for years until it finally met its creator.
Come to think of it, cats have appealed to the fountains of imagination and boundless perception in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the lithe beauty of cats that distinguished itself from other animals. Edgar Allen Poe also saw something magically fascinating in a feline creature as his creative muse in literature. For me cats do not seem to be as cold, arrogant, and coquettish as they used to be. I even say hi to my neighbor’s big beautiful cat in sight, although it sends me a quizzical look as if I were a Prodigal Daughter. But above all, now I think that not only dogs but also cats will go to heaven.
Calming signals are genetically inherited canine language used for communicating with each other to maintain healthy social hierarchy, since dogs, like their wolf ancestors, are pack animals dependent on sensory input, such as olfactory, auditory, and visual perceptions. Accordingly, dogs communicate with themselves through body motions, such as turning their heads to the other side (as a goodwill gesture in greeting between two dogs), lifting a front paw (showing peaceful intentions), yawning (as a way of reducing stress), bowing (releasing tension), etc. In this book, Ms. Turid Rugaas, an internationally acclaimed Norwegian canine behavioral counseling trainer, primarily focuses on the needs of understanding these signals from dogs as their way of communicating to and with their canids and humans alike. In the context of regarding the essence and importance of calming signals from dogs, this book offers a visual glimpse of what they are like with pictures of the dogs in each accordant motion, which I find helpful to perceive it.
However, the book does not provide the reader with more in-depth knowledge on the calming signals on the grounds of scientific terms; rather it is more of a pamphlet introducing the basic concepts of the calming signals. In fact, this book of less than 100 pages recounts the author’s personal experience with her beloved dog Vesla, who had been her faithful and effective assistant in helping other dogs’ behavioral problems solved, in her close observation of their calming signals expressed and exchanged. It is needless to say that such personal experience saturated with her firm conviction in positive training of dogs is deemed highly valuable and thus contributes significantly to the purpose of this book, which I wholeheartedly appreciate as a kindred spirit. But it is also equally tantalizing to whet my desire of discovering more about the origins of the calming signals, the comparison with those of wolves in terms of evolutionary aspects, and more examples thereof.
In summary, this book is a lovely quick read about dogs’ calming signals at a glance. In addition, the reader cannot help agreeing to the author’s view of dogs not as her subordinates to be trained with dominance but as her “children” who need love and patience because dogs as being of conflict-solving nature want to keep us in their company by trying to speak to us through calming signals. So if you just want to see what these calming signals are about in a nutshell, this is an informative and affectionate read.
RE: 9/3/2018 The Los Angeles Times article of “Convicts and canines get a new leash in life”
No one is either excellently good or extremely evil. It’s this ambiguous nature that we must guard at all times lest we should give free reins to our defiant, recalcitrant horse in our soul which can prompt us to go beyond the pale of Reason and Judgment universal in human societies. Nevertheless, this does not mean that those who are sinned against the principles must be forever stigmatized by their wrongdoings in public and barred from turning over new leaves because by doing so, we not only estrange them from a sense of belonging to society but also oblige them to resort to their former errors. That is why every person deserves of a second chance without question to right the ship of the life with wise, practical, and altruistic supports from good folks.
Janette Thomas, aged 53, strongly believes redemption of the souls of human and the lives of dogs from whatever predicaments they are put in either by will or against the will. Every human as well as every dog needs second chances. Out of her firm conviction in redeeming the lives of Nature comes in a form of 10-year-old organization named “Cell Dogs”. In fact, the program is for the benefit and behoof of both the inmates and the dogs. Throughout the year, the organization takes dogs from various shelters and brings them to correctional facilities where inmates put the dogs through 8-to-10-week training course. The course begets mutual munificence to both of the estranged spirits; inmate handlers gain new skills with confidence, patience, and responsibility that provision them with new career opportunities. Canine trainees go on to become companions to autistic children, veterans with post-traumatic disorders, and physically disabled individuals. In effect, the records show that there is a low rate of recidivism by inmates who participated in this program and that more than three hundreds dogs found their new homes upon completion of the program.
This program is indeed all things to all people and our canine friends by giving both of them second chances to start their lives anew. The act of bonding between a human and a canine produces the very essence of trust, security and happiness in a psychospiritual way. An inmate who trained his canine partner attests to his noble ends of turning over a new leaf as corroborated by the following verse from the Gospel of Luke: “He who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” For any possible criticism of cynics jeering at this beneficial and altruistic program and dismissive of bestowal of second chances to the neglected, it is perhaps high time that they should thumb through the bible and read the following Gospel of Matthew:
“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”