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Culture Corner

Scribblings and Screenings for the Animal Set

Speedy Savior

In the opening of Comet’s Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life, author Steven Wolf describes a moment that many animal adopters will recognize: the instant something clicks between you and your future pet and you know you no longer have a choice in the matter. “This dog simply lay still, her eyes focused on mine,” Wolf writes. “She alone knew her reasons. She had analyzed the variables, drawn her own conclusions, and decided to cross the room and quietly place her head in my lap. But in that quiet, a message reverberated: Hello. I am Comet. I choose you.”

It’s familiar, yes, but not many adopters have a story like Wolf’s. Diagnosed with a spinal condition that forced him into early retirement, Wolf is struggling with the ways his condition impinges on his life when he’s drawn into the world of greyhound rescue. His relationship with his adopted Comet changes things, as the dog learns to be a service animal and helps Wolf deal with his physical condition and come out of his shell. It’s a moving memoir about the human-animal bond, but also provides an educational and troubling glimpse into the reality of greyhound racing and what happens to dogs who no longer make money on the track.

Ode to a Nightingale (I Might Eat)

In I Could Pee on This … And Other Poems by Cats, Francesco Marciuliano helps house cats channel their inner Wordsworth, offering comical insights into human-feline relationships. Joyous odes pay homage to a favorite chair, a warm lap, a full roll of toilet paper to shred. Darker verse recalls the traumas of vet visits, baths, and the unexpected arrival of new pets. Some of the furry “contributors” excel in free verse; others express themselves in iambic meter and rhyming couplets. “I Lick Your Nose,” “That Top Shelf,” and “Closed Door” may never be anthologized, but for anyone who has pondered the inner workings behind the unblinking cat stare, this wacky, whimsical collection will provide some clues—and plenty of laughs.

The Ones Who Made It

A refugee from a New York City slaughter market, Albie arrived with mouth sores and a maggot-infested leg wound. Brandy was rescued from a dumpster as a male chick, cast off by an egg farm that had no need for him. Quincy was found abandoned in a park, likely a child’s unwanted Easter gift.

Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in New York, recounts these stories and more in her memoir, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals. Interspersed with recollections of Brown’s journey from childhood cancer survivor to animal advocate, the happy endings of sanctuary residents will inspire readers, whether it’s Albie gaining global fame as a prosthesis-wearing goat, Brandy the people-loving rooster jumping into visitors’ laps, or Quincy finding a wing-flapping protector in fellow duck Teddy.

Felines and Feelings

Cats are a lot like love relationships: They’re both frustrating, touch us deeply, and have more than a trace of mystery about them. In Peter Trachtenberg’s new book, Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons, the narrative framework is the disappearance of his cat Biscuit, and the ongoing dissolution of his marriage. Along the way, he muses about the nature of love and the debts and obligations that human partners owe each other, weaving in stories of how various cats (Biscuit the orange tabby, Bitey, Ching, Tina, and Gattino) entered their household. Trachtenberg offers some amusing descriptions of his feline friends, such as this observation of Biscuit: “the hind leg angled just so during grooming, the toes fanned apart so that you can see the smooth, eraser-pink clefts between them.” Or his description of what happens when Biscuit is prevented from going outside, and pulls out clump after clump of fur in protest: “Coming back home was like walking into a barbershop, all this tawny hair strewn on the floor where she’d been sitting, like the pattern of iron filings that shows where a magnet was.” Trachtenberg ultimately reaches a deeper understanding of his two-legged partner and four-legged companions. “Our relationship with cats is about care and affection, but it is also in a very deep way about permission. We must let them be what they are. It’s not as if we can stop them.”

Read the rest of this issue from Animal Sheltering magazine

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