How Animals Teach Us to be Human


Part Two

Part One was about a dog and a cat who taught me a great deal about being human. There’s one more little animal teacher I’d like to tell you about:

Flopsy-Jean Teemley was a chocolate brown Holland lop, and the first child my wife Trudy and I raised together. We’d only been married a few months when we spotted her in the bunny bin at a local pet shop. She was ridiculously cute. But she was also wild and afraid. Rabbits survive by running away, so she spent the first week in her new home cowering in corners. I complained to Trudy that I’d wanted a real pet, not a wild, untamable creature that couldn’t love me back.

It wasn’t until our friend Mary ruffled Flopsy’s fur backwards that we discovered the key to her heart: she may have been of Dutch heritage, but she was clearly a rabid fan of Swedish massage. Somehow, wildly aggressive rubbing demonstrated trust and affection to her in a way that nothing else could. When we did this she’d turn into a happily mesmerized bunny rug. Soon she was waiting at the door when we came home, racing excitedly around our feet, and performing “crazed bunny” leaps for our delight.

By the time our first human child was born, Flopsy was middle-aged. She was wary of this teetering toddler, and soon resigned herself to letting it be the new household entertainer. But she was always near, always ready for a nose rub, a permanent member of the family no matter who else was added.

Flopsy-Jean was seven when she began to die. She’d remained in her hutch for the last two weeks, refusing to eat or even sip from her water bottle. I went to check on her, fearing to find her dead. I put a few rolled oats in front of her (her favorite treat). Nothing. So I stood up and started to walk away.

bunnyminilopSuddenly there was movement in the corner of my eye. Somehow, after remaining motionless for a week, Flopsy had managed to climb out of her hutch and drag herself over to me. I bent down and stroked her nose. She nudged my hand. So I got down on my belly, face to face with her.

And then, in as clear a “goodbye” as I’ve ever received, she pressed her cheek against mine and just held it there. I wept as I told this formerly wild animal I loved her, and then gently cradling her in my arms, carried her back to her hutch.

By the next morning she was gone. But not from my heart.

It was the most profound moment of communion I’ve ever experienced with an animal. I knew—knew—that God was speaking to me through her. What He was saying I’m still unraveling. That He means for us to love and learn from animals, certainly.  But more, I suspect.

Much more.

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Invest Yourself


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True Success

“May you be so successful that people attribute all kinds of things to you that you never actually said!”

~Albert Einstein


But seriously…

 May you know and live out the purpose for which you were made.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but (in the end) it is our Creator’s purpose that prevails.” ~Proverbs 19:21

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How Animals Teach Us to be Human

Part One

imagesThe animals I’ve loved have taught me far more than I’ve taught them. For example: Animal behaviorists say that cats are loners. And this is sometimes mistaken for proof that cats don’t care. False. I know this because I’m a loner, and the person that first taught me to care was a tiger-striped tabby named Zipper.

We moved to the suburb of La Mirada when I was seven. I was a dreamy only-child who lived in his head and had yet to find a friend. Then one day I heard shouting two houses up. I raced to see what was happening, and discovered a man beating a skinny little cat with a broom. The man’s daughter had trapped it under a milk basket, claiming it followed her home. So the overstressed (correction, evil) man decided “to teach the cat a lesson.” By killing it. Without thinking, I screamed, “No!” then scooped up the cat and ran off with it.

We had nearly a dozen cats during the years I was growing up, and all distributed their affections equally. Except Zipper. I was Zipper’s hero. Period. And he was my BFF (best feline friend). He walked me to the corner when I headed for school and met me there when I came home. He listened attentively as I read aloud under the covers at night, then put his head on the pillow beside mine and saw me off to other worlds. When my first human friend arrived, the lesson Zipper had taught me was clear:

A true friend is always there—to send you off and welcome you home.

A decade passed. I hadn’t cried in years. Somehow, whether because of some hormonal shift or the break-up up with my high school sweetheart, I’d grown a shell of emotional sterility, and had come to accept this as my new norm. But the moment I brought Ginnie (half Irish Setter, half Golden Retriever, all love) home from the animal shelter she began to chew away the shell.

At first I thought she was stupid: She couldn’t seem to grasp the idea of stay. She got sit. But if I moved away, she’d drag her posterior after me, technically maintaining aGoldenIrishManhattanPuppy4
“sitting” position, until she’d reached the object of her affection.

When we ran out of money and moved back in with my parents, Mom bought a life-sized stuffed German shepherd “just for fun” and put it in the den. Ginnie was heart-broken. She lay down in a corner and stayed there for days (now she got stay). I finally dragged the faux-shepherd over to her, and punched it to show I didn’t love it like I did her. She nipped it a few times for good measure, and then adopted it as her pet, and was happy again.

When she died, I cried without reservation.

The shell was gone.

To read Part Two, click here.

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But Did He Love Me?

woman playing dead, lying in the sand

I chose to write this true Valentine’s Day story about a favorite relative in first person in order to retain the impact it had on me.

I was never sure if he loved me. I mean right off, Burt liked my sister. I don’t know why. I mean, Tina, she’s pretty in a tomboy way, but I’m the real girl with my flamey hair and legs all the way down to China. So, I don’t know why the boys like her so much. I guess ’cause she’s fun. I was never fun. I was too much work: “I’m not ready yet!” “No! It’ll mess up my hair!” Hah!

But the minute I saw Burt, I loved him. He was tall and skinny, but with cute bulgy little muscles. He lifted weights and was so vain—every time we’d go by a mirror, I’d check my make-up and he’d check his muscles. Hah!

First he come around hoping Tina would break up with Jim. Idiot. I mean, he’s Jim’s best friend! But then we started talkin’ and something just clicks. Well, that and he keeps looking at my gams. Anyway, pretty soon me and Burt are an item. I was so nuts about him. I just wished he’d’a asked me to marry him before Jim and Tina got engaged.

Anyways, five months after they got married, me and Burt tie the knot, and all I wanted was to sign that paper and drag him off to my cave, you know? Me cave girl! Hah!

We left the reception in a convertible Burt borrowed from his cousin Franky. We got this bottle of champagne—I know we shouldn’ta brought it, but we did. And we’re laughing, and Burt’s glowing. Glowing! And I’m thinking, “That’s ‘cause of me. I make my man glow!” Anyways, we’re going down this highway in the middle-a-nowhere, and I’m so happy I’m thinking it’s gonna last forever!

But then one minute I’m pouring champagne and the next I’m in the hospital. And the first thing I say–no, scream–is, “Where’s my Burt!” So, Mom and Tina, they told me what happened.

We hit a tree. There was this truck, and we swerved and hit a tree and totaled Franky’s Pontiac. Hell, almost totaled us. Burt, he come to about half a hour later, and I’m not even in the car, I’m out front on the ground. They said I looked like a broke rag doll all covered in blood.

Poor Burt, he didn’t know if I was alive! But he gets outta the car and he picks me up and carries me two miles without stopping till he comes to a gas station. And then he sits down with me in his arms, and says, “Help my Nancy!” over and over again, “Help my Nancy!”

When I wake up, Mom and Tina are there, and they tell me what happened, and then I fall back asleep. And when I wake up again, Burt’s there in a wheel chair, holding my hand. He says, “Hiya, doll,” and there’s tears in his eyes. And then I see his legs. They’re both in casts. And that’s when I find out that he…my Burt…he carried me two miles on two broken legs!

Then I put my hand on his face and he kissed it, and I finally knew: My Burt’s not some big hero, he’s just a ordinary, vain, skinny guy that did the impossible…

Because he loved me.


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But, what of the end?

8244f66e77e6f2fd7f38ef8d62422872.jpegMy Featured Blogger this week is Tremaine “Tre” Loadholt of A Cornered Gurl. Tre was one of the first online poets I discovered back when my own blog was new, and she’s still a favorite. Tre will make you think and feel, and at times think about what you feel (and why). In other words, she’s the kind of poet–and person–the world needs more of.

A Cornered Gurl

endoftheworldartCourtesy of CBS News/End of The World Images

Will it come with fire and brimstone?
Fearful children running alongside their parents–
Threatened to be charred while in motion.
Can we expect it as if in a blink of time?
A piece of history chewed up, swallowed, and spat
Back out to us dripping with disdain?
A deluge, a monsoon, a tsunami wrapped into one
Cast down from the heavens above,
Drowning us into oblivion.

The end will come with hungry mouths
Burdened by fangs–blackholes for bellies
Unable to fill.
It will come without us knowing,
During a moment where love
And destiny meet.
It will come with hopeless wings
Shy of flying and a soul fraught with pain.

The world will crumble,
Break apart, turn into dust,
And find its way jarred and placed
On God’s shelf as a reminder of
What he should not have done.
What of the…

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Unwelcome Stranger

Joey Loper, Doug Evans

Dear friends, this is a bit sardonic. I write in this manner not to trivialize a difficult issue, but to make what I believe is a vital point.

MAN: Judge, I’d like to kill the woman living in my house.
JUDGE: Absolutely not!
MAN: But it’s my house and that makes her my property.
JUDGE: No, it doesn’t!
MAN: But she’s receiving medical treatment in my living room, and can’t be moved until treatment is completed. I don’t want her there, so please let me kill her.
MAN: But she’s my daughter.
JUDGE: Oh, well, why didn’t you say so? Go ahead and kill her, then. Since she’s your daughter that makes her furniture. So it’s not even killing, really, it’s redecorating.

Again, my intention is not to make fun of the issue, but rather the opposite: to point out the tragically absurd logic behind modern reproductive policy.

That said, while I despise the full-term abortion rights laws recently passed in New York, and under consideration in Virginia and elsewhere, I believe there are other concerns that must be addressed, as well. Laws protecting the right-to-life of unborn humans make biological, moral and legal sense. But so do compassionate, putting-our-money-where-our-mouth-is laws protecting those who struggle with unwanted pregnancies. A woman should know that if she needs it, financial, emotional and practical support (adoption, educational services, etc.) will be there for her. Period. 

Our laws must protect and provide for both of the human beings involved!

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