travelogue: animals great and small

At Bonnet House in Ft, Laurderdale, Florida, one of previous owner Evelyn Bartlett’s hobbies was collecting wooden temple animals from Java and Burma. The whimsical, colorful animals, which no longer can be exported from their native countries, sit on wooden tables around the courtyard walkway.

• Read More: “Inside Bonnet House the Stately, Yet Whimsical Bartlett Home Is a Reflection of Its Owners’ Artistic Interests,” by Pat Curry, Florida Sun-Sentinel

Travelogue, February 2019, photos ©2019 Jen Payne, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

A Horse is a Horse, but a Human is Human

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Shamefully, opening arguments were heard this week by the Connecticut Supreme Court about an Appellate Court’s decision to rule horses “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” The ruling stems from an incident in 2006 when a young boy was bit in the face by a horse at a Connecticut Farm while trying to pet it.

It was an isolated incident, no different than my cat biting me when I try to do something she doesn’t want. Anyone who has animals understands this dynamic — it’s not mischief or vicious. It’s communication.

I found myself more and more incensed this week, as the headlines developed on local media. Horses vicious? Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?

  • HUMAN BEINGS are responsible for more than a million deaths every year due do intentional violence. One million.
  • Their list of vicious behavior includes murder, rape, domestic violence, suicide, war, genocide, terrorism, and torture.
  • HUMAN violence is among the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44 years worldwide.

Yet Connecticut’s court system is wasting precious resources to debate the danger inherent in horses? Horses.

I can’t help but be reminded of Gulliver’s Travels, and his visit to the country of the Houyhnhms where he lives among the majestic horse-creatures and the “Yahoos” or humans. Upon his return home he remarks…

“I must freely confess the sight of them (humans) filled me only with hatred, and the more by reflecting on the near alliance I had to them. For although since my unfortunate exile from the Houyhnhm country, I had compelled my self to tolerate the sight of Yahoos… my memory and imagination were perpetually filled with the virtues and idea of those exalted Houyhnhm.”

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Statistics courtesy of writer and philosopher Filip Spagnoli’s blog on human rights.

IMAGE: Horses in West Texas, ©2013, Jen Payne

On Turtles, God and the Intention of All This

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It has certainly been an exciting time in the woods lately! Such a great abundance of animals to happen upon — birds, snakes, turtles, frogs! And as I stop to take pictures and consider new writings, I find myself thinking about god.

How much closer can I get to the intention of god than to be walking in the woods and interacting – however so slightly – with these magnificent creatures? It’s like Emily Dickinson observed, “Some keep the Sabbath going to church, I keep it staying at home, with a bobolink for a chorister, and an orchard for a dome.”

Yesterday, I happened upon a Red-eared Slider Turtle that had been hit by a car near the preserve where I walk. Its shell was broken and there was blood. Blood! I felt at once the fear and pain of this small creature and knew it was my responsibility to do something. I would no more leave an injured human on the side of the road.

Why is it, do you think, that we can drive by an animal who has been hit by a car and feel no remorse, but highways are shutdown when humans suffer similar fate?

Why is human murder a crime destined as front-page news, but animal murder is considered sport?

How can we preach, in our churches, on our Sabbaths, about kindness and love and right action, when we leave those hallowed spaces and commit atrocities to our planet and its creatures?

These are the things I wondered about as I placed the injured turtle into a cardboard box and drove it across town to the local vet.

These are the things I wondered about while I stopped traffic to let a black rat snake cross the road just moments later.

These are the things I wondered about as I walked in the woods yesterday, hearing god in the sound of the rain and the song of the birds.

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Anyone would be hard pressed to put forth that animals are not perfect creations of God; they are just different types of creations. Humankind has always compared other creations with themselves, thinking always that we are the highest of God’s creations. For this reason many humans don’t think that other living organisms have souls, but how do we supposedly know that? Do we presume to know God so well that we can say that souls don’t exist in other living forms? Just because God supposedly gave us dominion over all living things (according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible), does that mean we can kill and mistreat them? Could not the word “dominion” also mean a responsibility to care for and ensure the survival of all living things?

— Sylvia Browne, All Pets Go to Heaven

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TURTLE UPDATE: the folks at the Branford Veterinary Hospital told me that they sutured up some bone fragments on the turtle yesterday and he seems to be doing fine today. They won’t be able to repair his shell until probably next week – they actually glue them back together – and they expect he’ll be a long term patient.

All of this, by the way, is a free service offered by Connecticut vets for rescued wildlife, although donations are always appreciated. I don’t know if other states do the same thing, but it’s great to know that there are resources when we find animals in crisis!

Turns out the Red-eared Slider Turtle is not native to Connecticut. It’s a southern species probably released as a pet into the wild. The vet said he seemed to have figured out how to live through the winters, since he was a rather large and well-developed fellow. Probably 15″ – 18″ long as I recall.

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Essay ©2013, Jen Payne. Photo courtesy of Wikia Travel.

In the Company of Animals

Yesterday, when I set out on a morning walk, there was a dog. She seemed lost, wandering in and out of cars in the parking lot. I asked around if she belonged to anyone.

“Her owner is in the woods,” someone said but I could not see him—nor could the dog who craned her neck left and right in search.

I say “she” because she was indeed a she. “Daisy” to be more accurate—her collar told me so.

“Come on, Daisy,” I called to get her away from cars and she came.

“Where’s your person?” I asked, and we both looked around for a while, but no one appeared.

Thinking it better she be with someone instead of no one, I invited her to come with me. “Come on, Daisy, come here girl” and she followed one might say obediently, but I would disagree—I think she just wanted to go for a walk.

And that’s what we did. I chatted away about the weather—it’s always a good place to start—while Daisy gave one last look for her person and fell into step.

We walked up the first steep hill and down, around the bend to the clearing by the utility lines, into the forest where the woodpecker plays and up across the trail. Daisy easily translated my come-here cat noise as a dog request, and never strayed too far out of sight.

She didn’t seem bothered by my idle chatter—to be quiet somehow seemed rude with such an enthusiastic companion. “What do you see?” I asked “Am I walking too slow for you?”

“I’m sure we’ll find your person soon,” I reassured her as we made our way across the footbridge, but I really wasn’t sure. I thought for a moment that it might have been wise to consider the implication of my original invitation, but Daisy seemed content to just trot along, being all in-the-moment about our walk together. So we continued around the back bend, through the pine forest and onward.

I lost Daisy at the creek when I stopped to take some photos of water rushing over rocks, but we met up again 10 minutes later. She was playing with some dogs at the fork where the red trail goes one way and the yellow goes another.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized to the owners, “She’s not my dog.”

“Oh, that’s Mark’s dog.”

And then I remembered. I’d met Mark and Daisy along the trail before. He was as regular in these woods as me, I don’t know why I didn’t think of him before.

“He’s at the front gate,” they told me after a quick call to his cell phone.

“Come on, Daisy, we found your person. Let’s go!”

I said goodbye to her right back where we started, and got into my car feeling like I’d spent the hour with a good friend. It’s like that when you’re in the company of animals.

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IN MEMORY OF HOPPY, A SWEETHEART OF A CAT WHO PASSED AWAY YESTERDAY WITH HIS PERSON AT HIS SIDE.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ― Anatole France

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