December 23rd 2006

Furry Holiday Special

Animal Presence ­ Our Present
Rae Ann Kumelos, Voice of the Animal
Animals gift us with the most marvelous of presents every single day. During this holiday season, listen in for a reminder of how to appreciate the presence of your animal friends as your present.


The Origin of Cats and Dogs
Ed Sayres, ASPCA President
It is reported that the following edition of the Book of Genesis was discovered in the Dead Seal Scrolls. If authentic, it would shed light on the question, "Where do pets come from?"

And Adam said, "Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me." And God said, "No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will know I love you, even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish and childish and unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself."

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, "But Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and all the good names are taken and I cannot think of a name for this new animal." And God said, "No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG."

And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that Adam's guardian angel came to the Lord and said, "Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one has taught him humility." And the Lord said, "No problem! I will create for him a companion who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is." The companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he is not worthy of adoration."

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat's eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility. And God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved.

And Cat did not give a **** one way or the other.


The Christmas Angel
Pamela S. Zurer
When my daughter Rachel was six years old, we went to the local shelter, looking for the perfect cat. We liked a lot of the cats we saw there, but we were especially taken with a mother and her kittens. All the kittens were entirely jet black, except for one. She had a small white tip to her tail, like one bright light in the night sky. We brought her home and called her Star.

Starry was a charmer. Rachel admired her proud manner and enjoyed even more the secret knowledge that it was all an act. Starry could only appear aloof for so long before leaping up into Rachel's arms to be cuddled and stroked.

As time went by, Rachel and Starry adopted certain routines. At night when we watched TV, Starry crawled into Rachel's lap, and stayed there, purring contentedly. Starry always rubbed her face along Rachel's chin, ending the love fest with a gentle nip on Rachel's nose.

Sometimes I couldn't help but feel the injustice of this. I was the one who took care of the cat, feeding, cleaning, grooming - yet, Starry was clearly Rachel's cat. Eventually, I came to love watching their cozy bond.

My little girl grew up, went to junior high and finally high school. Starry was ten and Rachel was sixteen. Starry and Rachel were still close, though Rachel spent less and less time at home. Starry spent most of her day sitting on the sideboard in the dining room, looking out of the window into the backyard. I loved seeing her as I'd pass, her glossy black coat almost sparkling in the sunlight she loved to seek out, the white tip of her tail brilliant against the shining black of her curled body.

One Sunday morning, early in November, Starry got out the door before we could stop her. When Rachel's friend came over to study that evening, she came in the door with a worried expression. "Where's Starry?" she asked. When we told her we didn't know, she had us come outside with her. There was a black cat lying in the street.

It was Star. The cat's body was warm and she didn't appear to be injured. There was no blood or wounds that we could see. It was after hours, but our vet agreed to meet us after our distraught phone call. Rachel was upset, but holding it together. My husband Burt and I told her to stay at home while we took Star to the vet.

Burt and I picked Starry up carefully and rushed her to the vet's office. The vet examined her briefly before looking up at us and saying, "I'm sorry, but she's gone." When we got home, Rachel could tell by our faces that Starry was dead. She turned without speaking and went to her room.

It had been a hard year for me. My father had died not long before, and I hadn't totally come to grips with the loss. Rachel and I were in the midst of the delicate dance mothers and teenaged daughters everywhere find themselves performing - circling, pulling away and coming together in odd fits and spurts. I took a chance and knocked at her door.

When she said come in, I sat with her on the bed and we cried together. It was a good cry, clearing out some more of the grief I couldn't face about my father and bringing Rachel and I closer as we shared our sadness about Starry.

Life went on. Thanksgiving came and went. Rachel and I both found ourselves mistaking black sweatshirts strewn on chairs or floors for our newly missing black cat. The sideboard looked desolate, empty of the warm presence glowing with life I'd come to expect there. Over and over, little pangs of loss stung our hearts as the weeks went by. I was out Christmas shopping, when I saw it. It was a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a "cat angel."

A black cat with white wings and a red ball between her paws. I had to get it, but bought it wondering if it would be a happy remembrance of the cat we'd loved or a chilling reminder of our loss.

When I got home, I painted a white tip at the end of the angel cat's long black tail and hung the ornament on our tree.

That evening, when Rachel came in, she flopped on to the couch. She sat staring at the Christmas tree, "spacing out" after a long day at school and after-school sports. I was in the kitchen when suddenly I heard her gasp. "Mom," she called. "Mom, come here!"

I walked in and found her standing in front of the tree, looking at the cat angel with shining eyes. "Oh, Mom. It's Starry. Where did you find an ornament with a tail like hers?"

She looked about six again. I gathered her into my arms and wonderfully she didn't resist. We stood together, looking at the tree, feeling our love for Starry and for each other.

Our charming, nose-nipping cat was gone, but now Starry, the Christmas angel, would be a part of our family tradition for years to come. Sometimes you can make your own miracles.


Laurel Canyon Animal Company
Skip Haynes
Bring An Animal Home for the Holidays
It's That Time of the Year
Squeaky Christmas


Sweet Treats May cause Heart Attacks for Dog Owners
Dr. Jim Humphries, Veterinary News Network
The sugar substitute Xylitol has been developed in the fight against tooth decay and in helping diabetics gain better control over their disease.

However, this popular sweetener may be devastating to the family pet. New research is now being released and it shows that the ingestion of Xylitol by dogs can cause liver failure and even death. Reports from the ASPCA Poison Control Center show that the number of Xylitol related pet exposure is on the rise and that rise has many veterinarians and pet owners quite concerned. For years veterinarians have suspected that Xylitol could make dogs sick, but a recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has documented the outcome of several cases of Xylitol ingestion for two years. Five of eight dogs died or had to be euthanized due to complications coming from Xylitol ingestion.

Often found in human mints, sugar-free gum, toothpaste and sweets, Xylitol has been a popular sugar substitute since the 1960's. However, since then, researchers found that even a small amount of Xylitol can cause liver damage and even death in dogs. Dogs who ingest large amounts of Xylitol have sudden and profound drops in their blood sugar levels, leading to weakness and uncoordinated movements. Occasionally, seizures have been seen as well. However, even small amounts of Xylitol are not safe. As little as one gram of Xylitol can set off a chain of events leading to liver damage. A dog could receive this amount in just a few candies or sticks of gum containing the sugar substitute. Xylitol has also been found in children's chewable multi-vitamins and certain cough medicines and even mouthwashes.

Although most pet owner's routine is to give some sort of people food to their dogs, even though we tell them not to, the JAVMA Report should be a wake-up call to everyone, showing that many foods are not safe for pets even though they are common and safe for people. Any pet owner concerned about anything their dog has ingested, should seek veterinary medical attention immediately.


The Twelve Neighs of Christmas
Britt Savage
Carol of the Barn
Jingle Bell Rock





Alcoholic Elk Frightens School Kids
Britt Savage
In Sweden, an angry elk has been hanging around a schoolyard for days and frightening school kids. Staffers at the school believe the elk is attracted to apples which have become fermented.

Finding drunken elks is not anything new. Every year when the apples have fermented, the elks come around and have themselves a party.


Life is Good!
Trixie Koontz, Dog
Dad teaches me to type. Hold pencil in mouth and type. At first is fun. Then is not fun. He says to me, "Write, Trixie, write. Write essay for website." Being good dog, I write. Not fun, but I write. Expect treat for writing. Get no treat. Stop writing. Get treat. Carob biscuit. Good, good, good. Okay, so I write some more.

Dad promises website visitors my essay end of July. Must give up important ball chasing, important napping, important sniffing to write. Work hard. Writing hard. So many words. Stupid punctuation rules. Hate semicolons. Hate; hate; hate. Chew up many pencils in frustration.

Finish article. Give to Dad. Then I rip guts out of duck. Duck is not real, is Booda duck, stuffed toy. I am gentle dog. Cannot hurt real duck or even cat. But am hell on stuffed toys. Work off my tension. Rip, rip, rip. Feel pretty good. Cough up soggy wad of Booda-duck stuffing. Feel even better.

Dad gives editorial suggestions. Stupid suggestions. Stupid, stupid, stupid! He is not editor, is writer. Like me. I pretend to listen.

Am actually thinking about bacon. Bacon is good. Bacon is very good. I am good, too. People call me "good dog, good, very good." Bacon is very good. I am very good. But I am not bacon. Why not? Mysterious.

Then I think about cats. What is wrong with them? Who do they think they are? What do they want? Who invented them, anyway? Not God, for sure. Maybe Satan? So nervous writing about cats, I use too many italics. Then I hit hateful semicolon key; don't know why; but I do it again; and whimper.

Dogs are not born to write essays. Maybe fiction. Maybe poetry. Not essays. Maybe advertising copy.


Dad gives me editorial notes for study. Eight pages. I pee on them. He gets message.

Dad says he will give my essay to webmaster as is. Webmaster is nice person, nice. She will know good writing when she sees it.

Days pass. Weeks. Chase ball. Chase rabbits. Chase butterfly. Chase Frisbee. Begin to notice sameness in leisure-time activities. Pull tug-toy snake. Pull, pull, pull. Pull tug-toy bone. Pull tug-toy rope. Lick forepaw. Lick other forepaw. Lick a more private place. Still do not taste like bacon. Get belly rub from Mom. Get belly rub from Dad. Mom. Dad. Mom. Dad. Get belly rub from Linda, Dad and Mom's assistant. Get belly rub from Elaine, Dad and Mom's other assistant. Linda. Elaine. Linda. Elaine. Dad. Mom. Get belly rub from Elisa and Paula, housekeepers. Elisa. Paula. Elisa. Paula. Linda. Elaine. Mom. Dad. Belly rub, belly rub. Read Bleak House by Charles Dickens, study the brilliant characterizations, ponder the tragedy of the human condition. New tennis ball. Chase, chase, chase. Suddenly is September.

Webmaster asks where is Trixie essay. Where? Dad lost. Dad got busy working on new book, got busy and forgot Trixie essay, and lost it. My human ate my homework. Sort of.

All my hard work, my struggle, all those hateful semicolons-for what? All for nothing. Essay lost. All for nothing. Feel like character in Bleak House. Worse. Like character in Joseph Conrad book.

Think about getting attorney. Get agent instead. Writing fiction. Novel. Maybe knock Dad off best-seller list. Teach him lesson. Writing novel called My Bacon by Trixie Koontz, Dog. Already have invitation from Larry King, David Letterman, be on shows, do publicity, sell book, get belly rub from Dave. Maybe get limo for media tour. Ride around in limo, chasing cats. Life is good when you're a dog.


How Could You
Jim Willis
When I was a puppy I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad," you'd shake your finger at me and ask "How could you?" - but then you'd relent and roll me over for a bellyrub.

My housetraining took a little longer than expected, because you were terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of nuzzling you in bed, listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs," you said), and I took long naps in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.

Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.

She, now your wife, is not a "dog person" - still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love."

As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch - because your touch was now so infrequent - and I would have defended them with my life if need be.

I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams. Together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone from being "your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure on my behalf.

Now you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You've made the right decision for your "family," but there was a time when I was your only family.

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the paperwork and said "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog or cat, even one with "papers." You had to pry your son's fingers loose from my collar as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please don't let them take my dog!" And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about respect for all life. You gave me a goodbye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too.

After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked "How could you?"

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you - that you had changed your mind - that this was all a bad dream...or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited.

I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day and I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table, rubbed my ears and told me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears weighs heavily on her and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood.

She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured "How could you?"

Perhaps because she understood my dogspeak, she said "I'm so sorry." She hugged me and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself - a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. With my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not meant for her. It was you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.

May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.

The End

Copyright Jim Willis 2001, all rights reserved


Flying Reindeer
Rae Ann Kumelos, Voice of the Animal

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prance and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But do you know about the most famous reindeer of all? Discover how Rudolph keeps company with Artic shamans, flying goats and the God of Thunder and Lightening.

Listen to the 1st Hour ABRIDGED VERSION Podcast of this show (#369).
Purchase a CD Copy of this Show


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