Do animals experience emotions, do they show this by spontaneous changes in their behavior? And, as a result of the emotions they experience, do they have feelings?
The Incredible Friendship Between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER
It was the beginning of the 21st century when three cubs were rescued from the home of a drug dealer where they were kept illegally as pets. Severely malnourished and scared, the salvation for an American Black bear cub, an African lion cub and a Bengal tiger cub came through Noah’s Ark Animal sanctuary.
This is when the cubs’ true friendship revealed itself. As the bear required an emergency operation, the lion and tiger cubs became agitated while their friend was gone. They refused food, paced their enclosure, vocalized and only stopped when the bear was safely returned to them. After this, the three cubs spent their entire time close together, clinging to one another for comfort and safety. They were named Baloo, Leo, and Shere Khan.
The bear, the lion and the tiger soon matured, yet they continued sharing the same habitat, playing, eating together and grooming one another. And they did so for 17 years. Sadly, Leo and Shere Khan passed away in 2016 and 2018 respectively, and Baloo was there for them in their final hours.
In the wild, Asian black bears and tigers do share the same territory in the Far East, but when they do meet, one of them is sure to be badly injured.
The Heartwarming Friendship Between a CHIMPANZEE and a DOG
There are quite a few cute chimps that struck lovely friendship with dogs, an undeniable proof that social connections between animals do mimic those between humans and their pets.
Often, when a chimp and a dog became friends it was the puppy who came to the baby chimp’s emotional rescue. Too many chimps are slaves of the illegal pet trade, and when they are finally rescued are found to be orphans.
What would happen, I asked myself, if a dog and a chimp met in the wild? Would they still play? Would they play fetch, perhaps? Pull faces at each other? Share naps?
The Unbelievable Friendship Between a CHEETAH and a DOG
Yes, cats and dogs can be friends. What about a wild cat and a canine? One such incredible pair were Kasi the cheetah and Mtani the Labrador. Mtani means “close friend” in Swahili.
What if the cheetah and the dog would meet in the wild, on the African planes? Would the mama-cheetah allow? Would the dog have human friends who would interfere with their unusual friendship?
The Amazing Friendship Between a LION and a DOG
A cute, brown Dachshund dog called Milo struck a remarkable friendship with a massive lion named Bonedigger when the latter became disabled due to illness. Somehow, the canine made its way to the sad lion’s heart and took the beast under his wing and the two remained the best of friends, even five years later. None of them cared that one weighs 11 pounds, while the other 500 pounds.
Enjoy their beautiful friendship evolving throughout the seasons:
The Loving Friendship Between an ELEPHANT and a SHEEP
Albert the sheep and Themba the elephant live in Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa. Sadly, the elephant calf became an orphan after his mother died falling down a cliff. After a rocky start… the pair’s relationship blossomed, and they became the best of friends and Themba the elephant calf blossomed.
You can follow and enjoy their adventures in this book:
Fairy tales and folklore are abundant in stories about beasts and are wide spread in cultures all over the world, depicting the past and sometimes the present by the use of monsters that, thus, have entered history through the secret door of folk tales….
Such narrative often shares a story that teaches a moral lesson or emphasize the importance of kindness and bravery no matter what. They mostly make use of a mean character, a monster that instills fear. It is through this fear that the message is remembered. Because fear shapes the mind and gives the memory a kick and, sometimes, a beast does not need a hero to be just that, freak.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list, but one to inspire future reading, writing, and further work as I do intent to update it regularly.
Cerberus, the Hound of Hades in Greek mythology
Is being the son of monsters making one a beast? Cerberus, hound of Hades, certainly looked like one with his 3 heads (or 50, or 100), a serpent tail and extra snakes protruding from his body. Often a symbol for an impossible task (Heracles) and gluttony (Dante).
Medusa, the only mortal of the Gorgon sisters from Greek legends
Medusa is described as a winged human female. She has living venomous snakes in place of hair. Those who gazed into her eye’s will certainly turn to stone, an ability her head retained even after her death and decapitation. Interesting is that it appears there are no records of Medusa turning women to stone. Of course, related to this observation there is a fascinating Freudian interpretation.
Anyone who read ‘The Legends of Olympus’ in childhood, will probably remember that the Minotaur was a fantastic creature, half human, half bull. Because the Minotaur liked to devour people he is locked in a labyrinth built by Daedalus from which the creature could not escape. In order to prevent him from trying to find his way out, King Minos sacrificed seven men and seven women a year to quench the hunger of the monster. Eventually the Minotaur is killed by Theseus who manages to get out of the maze with the help of the invisible thread of the Ariadne (which was in love with him). Alas, Theseus shows no gratitude towards her. One would say his negligence was punished by Gods as Theseus fails to put up the white sail on his return home (something he promised his father to do if he was victorious). Seeing the black sail his father, in desperation, kills himself by drowning in the sea that now carries his name.
The Mermaid and the Siren
In Greek mythology Sirens were believed to combine women and birds in various ways. In early Greek art, Sirens were represented as birds with large women’s heads, bird feathers and scaly feet, ‘Winged maidens, daughters of the Earth.’ Later, sirens are depicted as female figures with legs of birds, with or without wings, often playing a musical instrument especially the harp. Perhaps where the arm movement of a harpist looks like the flapping of a bird’s wings.
According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Sirens were the companions of young Persephone and were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted. Their song is continually calling for her. According to Latin author Hyginus, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass them by. The term “siren song” refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result. By the Middle Ages, the figure of the siren has shifted to the more enduring mermaid. Part female and part fish, literature shows us that not all mermaids are as gentle as Ariel. In Odyssey, Homer frighteningly illustrates how sirens drown those who listen to their song. Greek legends speak of mermaids who love consuming human flesh, being surrounded by decomposed corpses. Far from being a romantic character, a siren would lure you in the depths of her aquatic world, functioning as a character of horror for anyone who fails to follow their charming song.
North European Monsters
Fenris or Hróðvitnir from Norse Mythology
Fenris or Fenriror Hróðvitnir is a monster with a wolf’s appearance encountered in Norse mythology. He is one of the sosn of Loki and of giant Angrboda. Fenris is encaged because of a prophecy announcing that a wolf and his family will one day destroy the world. Eventually, Fenris will fulfill the prophecy by killing Odin, the emperor of the gods, during the Viking Armageddon, Ragnarok. Fenrir appears in the Poetic Edda, a 13th century compilation of Norse poems based on earlier traditional sources.
Kraken or Hafgufa (sea mist)
A mythical cephalopod-monster of Scandinavian sea-tales (“krake” means twisted in Swedish), Kraken it traditionally figured as malign, and better re-imagined embodying the mystery of the ocean.
Hafgufa (Icelandic, haf “sea” + gufa “steam”) is the massive sea monster depicted in the Örvar-Odds saga. It lived in the Greenland Sea and was said to disguise itself as an island or pair of rocks rising from the sea.
“Below the thunders of the upper deep; Far far beneath in the abysmal sea, His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep The Kraken sleepeth (…) There hath he lain for ages, and will lie Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep, Until the latter fire shall heat the deep; Then once by man and angels to be seen, In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.” (The Kraken by Alfred Tennyson, 1830)
Grendel from Boewulf
One of the monsters described in the epic poem Boewulf, Grendel is a descendant of Cain, perhaps humankind’s first killer. Like all of Cain’s descendants Grendel is cursed to have a hideous appearance due to his physical deformities. Never described in detail, Grendel is presented as ‘a creature of darkness, exiled from happiness and accursed of God, the destroyer and devourer of our human kind.’
Dragons have an extensive history, being widespread throughout folktales and legends since ancient times. They are depicted as flying monsters, often so big that they could easily be compared with elephants. Tolkien’s Smaug Dragon (from The Hobbit) is ruthless and greedy, a trait expected to be found in such a beast. As a visual representation of his evil spirit Smaug spits fire to make sure that the mountain and the treasure belong exclusively to him. He can also stir hurricanes with his wings, earthquakes with his tail, while his teeth are like swords, and his breath spits death.
Beast of Bodmin Moor
If you live in Cornwall, watch out for the Beast of Bodmin Moor, a mysterious cat blamed for mutilating local livestock. This could very well be considered as one of the ABCs (Alien, or Anomalous, Big Cats), the British big cats, phantom cats and mystery cats often reported as “panthers”, “pumas”, or “black cats”.
Other European Monsters
The Ogre from Puss in Boots
Do you remember him? The fairy tale is of Italian origin, Il gatto con gli stivali.
While representing the Marquis of Carabas, the cat happens upon a castle inhabited by an ogre who is capable of transforming himself into a number of creatures. The ogre displays his ability by changing into a lion, frightening the cat, who then tricks the ogre into changing into a mouse. The cat then pounces upon the mouse and devours it.
Monster of Ravenna
Most probably an omen regarding the outcome of the 1512 Battle of Ravenna it was fir recorded by diarist Sebastiano di Branca Tedallini on March 8. A child was born to a nun and a friar, and thus he was marked by a horned head, the letters YXV on its chest, and with one leg hairy and cloven-hoofed while the other leg’s midsection grew a human eye.
“The horn [indicates] pride; the wings, mental frivolity and inconstancy; the lack of arms, a lack of good works; the raptor’s foot, rapaciousness, usury, and every sort of avarice; the eye on the knee, a mental orientation solely toward earthly things; the double sex, sodomy. And on account of these vices, Italy is shattered by the sufferings of war, which the King of France has not accomplished by his own power, but only as the scourge of God.” (Johannes Multivallis, 1512)
With time, the description of the Ravenna monster evolved, being tied with the image of Frau Welt and her seductive powers (a beautiful, beguiling woman when viewed the front, while her back is full of pus and hideous vermin). Thus way, the monster of Ravenna and Frau Welt become educational tools during the Middle Ages. Note: do not confuse Frau Welt with Mutter Courage.
A French monster from Provence, the Tarasque looked like a dragon with lion’s head, had an ox’s body with a turtle shell on top. He was tamed by Saint Martha in the Golden Legend.
Monsters from Middle East and Asia
Al, the Afghan monster
With fiery eyes, horns, iron teeth, talons for fingernails & floating appearance, living in damp corners and swamps, comes the Al, a monster from the Afghanistan folklore. Attacking women and children, Al prefers the liver, but eats any corpses.
A futakuchi-onna (二口女, lit. “two-mouthed woman”) is a Japanese mythological monster depicted as having two mouths, basically a woman with a toothy mouth hidden on the backside of her head.
The skeleton woman’ is a Yōkai, a Japanese demon, often depicted as an aged female that carries a lantern decorated with botan flowers and visit the house of a man she loved back when she was still alive. Of course he sees her as the young woman she used to be, but if anyone else catches a glimpse of her they will see her at the skeleton she actually is.
Also from Japanese Folklore comes the story of a a giant skeleton made up of the bones of people who have died from starvation. If Gashadokuro sees you, it will bite your head off and drink the blood that drains out of your decapitated body. Sweet dreams.
An Oni is a kind of, ogre, or troll in Japanese folklore. They are strong and large build, with one or more horns growing out of their heads, wearing loincloths of tiger skin, and carrying a typical iron spiked club. Their skin is usually red, blue or green.
Onis are popular characters in Japanese art, literature (the 14th century fairytale of Momotaro, Peach Boy), and theatre.
The jiangshi is a Chinese hopping vampire known as phi dip chin in Thai, hantu pocong in Malay, and vampir cina in Indonesia. It is depicted as a corpse dressed in clothes from the Qing Dynasty era that moves around by hopping. It kills living creatures to absorb their qi, “life force”, usually at night, while during daytime it rests in a coffin or hides in dark places.
Jiangshifrom originates in the folk practice of “transporting a corpse over a thousand li“. The relatives of a person who died far away from home could not afford vehicles to bring the deceased’s body home for burial, so they would hire a Taoist priest to reanimate the dead person and teach him to “hop” home. The transport happened only at night and would ring bells to notify others in the vicinity of their presence because it was considered bad luck for a living person to set eyes upon a jiangshi.
Have you ever felt watched while out in the forest? It is the hidebehind. This a nocturnal creature from American folklore that preys upon the humans who wander the woods. He is blamed for the disappearances of any loggers who failed to return to camp. It is believed he has the ability to conceal itself, mostly often behind trees, ‘hidebehind‘.
This is a kangaroo-like / dragon-like creature with a goat or horse-like head, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, legs with cloven hooves, and a forked tail. It has been reported to move quickly and is often described as emitting a high-pitched “blood-curdling scream”
According to folklore, the Jersey Devil originates Mother Leeds in 1735. The legend says that Mother Leeds had 12 children and when she fell pregnant with her 13th she cursed the baby. It was a stormy night when the baby was born, a normal child who soon changed his appearance developing hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. He flew up the chimney and head for the pine forest.
Yes, there is a NHL hockey team named after this creature – perhaps due to their speed?
Jabberwocky from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
Lewis Carroll’s character is all the more formidable as he goes beyond everything I knew about monsters. It is a new appearance, presented by the author through a playful and absurd poem. The lack of information about the bizarre creature, along with the uncertain and fantastic description increases the fear of the unseen character. Our fear grows as we decipher the language. We learn that Jabberwocky is like a beast galloping towards its prey. He salivates at the thought of snatching someone’s flesh from the bones, devouring with his jaws anyone who gets in his way. The fact that his eyes are on fire makes him terribly frightening, even if only seen in the dark.
The Nothing from The Neverending Story
In order for a monster to be scary, it does not have to look like a beast. The more mysterious it is, the more it overcomes our fears.
The Nothing… By the mere fact that there is nothing in its presence, that is to say, of the unknown, its force is both evil and darkness and it seems unable to be defeated or controlled. The Nothing is all that humanity would never have imagined, namely the supreme evil and the most destructive power shed to mortals. Some even let themselves fall inside willingly because they get too close to the Nothing. The Nothing that exerts an irresistible power of attraction and thus it grows.
The Nothing, what is it? where it comes from? How it became to be just that, Nothing?
Pennywise, Stephen King’s character in IT, is one of the creepiest literary monsters by far. Speaking of coulrophobia. But just as a (giant) spider, Pennywise is the nightmare in itself.
Cryptozoology and its Monsters
Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience and subculture that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, the Yeti or Mokele-mbembe. Cryptozoologists refer to these entities as cryptids, a term coined by the subculture.
Perhaps our interest and fascination with monsters does not lie in the love of the macabre, but in an evolutionary need to learn about them, their stories, habits, diet and all, in order to recognize them, fight them, and annihilate them as well as what they symbolize.
You were probably expecting some Romanian Folk Monsters too. Coming soon… Meanwhile you might enjoy reading about:
We’ve had a lovely summer here, with long and beautiful days and evenings ideal to read under the shade of a tree while enjoying a little treat, thus pairing books with chocolate sprang to life from the pages of many novels.
I’ve heard of pairing books with wine, so why not with chocolate? Books affect each reader in a different way; two people will describe the same chocolate in various ways. We understand and absorb a book through the perspective of our past experiences. We taste chocolate not only with our taste buds, but though all five senses: smell, sight, taste, touch, even by hearing.
‘We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
Take a break with me. Discover new reads or new flavors of chocolate. And if you don’t have any nearby, don’t worry. At the end of this blog post there is a 1 minute, tried and tested, no-egg microwave brownie recipe 🙂 Our favorite!
In no particular order I paired:
A Convenant of Spies – Daniel Kemp
Unexpectedly unbreakable, but giving in if you know how to take it. Definitely not what it reveals to the eye. Gentle browns of a hard milk chocolate with extra cocoa, spicy with a hint of spirits that reveals itself on the back of the tongue.
Much like Daniel Kemp’s A Covenant Of Spies deals with British Intelligence investigating Russian operative. But look beyond the cover, to a complex tale featuring a net of lies and political cover-ups that will make you doubt tomorrow’s news headlines. An entertaining story of 21st century spies and tales of the Cold War sprinkled with clues till the end, it reminded me of Bridge of Spies. Book four in the ‘Lies and Consequences’ series, espionage, mystery thriller and crime. Daniel Kemp blogs here.
Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words by Sally Cronin
Mersi is an indulgent assortment of fine milk chocolate, nutty pralines, or bitter-sweet dark bites to spoil your taste buds with a new surprise in each tablet. Just like life itself.
I chose to pair Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry with a selection of Merci chocolates because her book offers an indulgent collection of short stories, micro fiction and poetry that match so many of life’s moments. Her book made me smile and dream, it brought chuckles and it even made my eyes wet. Is a book you want to read on, as the author is a gifted writer, each chapter in her book a temptation, and so are the illustrations. An appreciated work of literary fiction. Sally blogs here.
Vanished by Mark Bierman
Dark, strong, and intense, chocolate at its finest and not for the soft-hearted, yet with a subtle aroma of raspberries and a salty aftertaste that only accentuates the quality of its cocoa. This is a no-mess, straight forward taste that lingers long after you ate it. Memorable.
Bierman’s novel Vanished reminded me of James Clavell’s King Rat. Much like Clavell, Bierman reels in the reader from the first chapter. The book blends the reality of everyday life in Haiti with the race of finding a missing child believed to be abducted by slave traders. Bierman will not allow you to shield your eyes from the reality of human trafficking. What he does wonderfully and makes this book worth a read is getting the reader to root for the two main characters, as well as for those oppressed. You will be drawn into their lives and hold thumbs, prying for a happy ending. Modern fiction at its best, shining a spotlight on the tragedy of child trafficking. A book with a powerful and important message. Mark Bierman blogs here.
Alfonso and the Monster (A Royal Tortoise Tale) by Susan Moffat
Imagine a cup of hot chocolate topped with tiny marshmallows. Soft and creamy, a joy to look at and a bliss in every sip. Marshmallows melting on the tongue, bringing back the cherished memory of camping fires and the tingling of Christmas.
I read Susan’s previous two books featuring adorable Alfonso, a snail prince, and became attached to this sweet little guy. This time he’s in the Land of Garden (how adorable this sounds!) and he tries his best at fighting what he imagines to be a monster, and does so in a very entertaining way. My favorite part must have been Alfonso’s facial expressions, Susan is a gifted artist.
When my kids were young I always chose gentle books for bedtime and they loved stories about animals who could talk. I would have chosen this one for sure ad they would have loved it. Susan blogs here.
The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel
Hand made chocolate confectionery is a lush decadence I rarely I indulge in. With an inviting, sweet, outer shell dripping with a bitter espresso syrup, it surprises by offering a third flavor once you sink your teeth in. A trio of sinful almond, sweet milk chocolate, and dark coffee syrup – which one will dominate?
I had to pair this chocolate with Leuschel’s latest release, The Memories We Bury. Alternating between the POVs of its two main characters, The Memories We Bury weaves an intricate story of trust and betrayal, of a past we cannot run away from, a story that balances on the thin line bordering the healthy from the ill mind. While a third character watches from the shadows. Which is friend and which is foe? Highly recommend if you love books that delve into human psychology. Discover Helene here.
Academic Curveball: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 1) by James J. Cudney
When I need comfort food or a pick-me-up desert, there is nothing like an old-fashioned chocolate fudge with its magical blend of aromas and textures. Slightly crunchy and chewy, salty, dark cocoa that turns into spice as it melts into a creamy dream. Pure indulgence.
So are classical cozy mysteries, like Cudney’s Academic Curveball, Braxton Campus Mysteries #1. This book is more than a mystery, it has a complex plot that reminded me of Christie’s writing (one of my all-time favorite authors), and plenty of intrigue too. You will discover a main character (a writer!) well penned, and on a mission amid old friends and new encounters, all in the world of academia. It is a book you will not want to put down till it’s end, a veritable a-ha moment. Well worth it, from an author you will want to remember. Listed as teen and young adult detectives and humorous fiction. James Cudney blogs here.
Dead Dry Heart by Toni Pike
I always wanted to compare chocolates that are not displayed in an assortment box. Mahogany, autumn brown, creamy white, all shades feasting the eye. To have the luxury of listening to the sound each slab makes as I snap a piece. Piling the broken chocolate shards with their various bits of nuts exposed. The anticipation of the first crispy bite, melting in various aromas, an explosion of cool, acidic cocoa, milky vanilla, and earthly nuts.
Crime noir and psychological thrillers are very much like this. Similar, yet different reads. Pike’s Dead Dry Heart is a crispy autumn brown fueled by the heat of an unforgiving Australian sun. When the past you want to forget comes back to haunt you at a time when, finally, all works out in your life, what is there to do? Stay on the side of the law or do anything to save your present life, the one you worked so hard towards? And, if someone helped you once, how much do you owe them? Decisions I surely don’t want to ever be faced with. A book with unexpected turns that will keep you reading past your bedtime, a main character you will develop mixed feelings towards, and even a few four-legged furry friends 🙂 Toni Pike blogs here.
Just Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul by D. L. Finn
The creamy, delicate flavor, never the same, of a box of chocolate assortments is poetry on the tongue. Quality milk chocolate crisp on the bite, only to release rivulets of various experiences, sweet, then salty, fruity, then buttery, spicy or creamy.
They compliment perfectly the harmony of Finn’s poetry selection. I don’t know about you, but I always find a moment for poetry in a day. Just Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul meets you with poems abut the beauty of nature, but also about emotions and life’s encounters. Either section you choose, Finn’s poetry will sooth raw emotions, but raise questions as well, for isn’t this one of the reasons we return to poems? By reading of another human being’s experiences we can overcome our own sad moments. By allowing a poet to uplift us, we relive a joyful experience, perhaps long forgotten. This is the magic of poetry and Finn is a master painter with her well chosen words. Highly recommended for your bedside table. Denise Finn blogs here.
The Orphans’ Plight: An African Adventure (Fauna Park Tales) by Maretha Botha
What can be sweeter than donuts glazed with chocolate? Crunchy when you bite, your teeth sinking in fluffy, heavenly soft doughnut. Pinks, stripes, stars, playful rings, bouncy shapes like a birthday jumping castle. No one can resist a doughnut!
Maretha Botha’s The Orphans’ Plight: An African Adventure is a wonderful addition to her Fauna Park Tales. Told through the eyes oh Hope the owl, it shows how dangerous life can be even in rural Africa. I liked the fact that animals could speak and we, as readers, could understand them. The illustrations are works of art on their own, created with such insight by the author herself. They compliment the story and are abundant in details. And, YAY, there is a dog too, Flame, and he has unusual sniffing abilities 🙂 Great read for smaller grades, lots to look at and plenty to learn, do allow your child to give it a try. Maretha blogs here.
1 minute Microwave, Egg-less Brownie – Tried and tested (and finished in under 1 minute)
My first dog, Tara, was one of a kind and with a name chosen from Gone With the Wind.
Do dogs grow up to mimic our appearances and personalities or do we, subconsciously, pick that one puppy who best resembles us?
When I first picked up the small, warm, brown pup, later named Tara, my first house-dog and a German Short-haired Pointer, she looked like a seal.
You know, the luscious, dark furred, round bottomed sea-creature with gleaming eyes and long whiskers. A puppy in a fur tuxedo.
I was not round-bottomed nor did I have whiskers 25 years ago. But Tara did and she also had honey-colored eyes and long ears, framing her face like well-set curls.
It’s all in the… eyebrows
Have you noticed how much a dog can communicate by just looking at you? Each facial expression, punctuated by those magical eyebrows, has a different meaning. Is a full sentence in its own right.
How they’re able to turn every situation in their favor?
So did Tara, just by using her eyebrows; bringing them together, pointing upwards, to created a vertical wrinkle between them. Or creased low over her eyes, deep in thought.
“Doing a PhD thesis on this ball in front of me. Care to help?” she’d often say…
Or by lifting them, curving them over her eyes, suddenly so big and innocent, this movement often combined with a small drop of drool in the corner of her mouth. “I trust you unconditionally to take care of my every need”, they’d say, while intentionally avoiding me.
“And I need a snack, right about now would be ideal.”
Or by just keeping her brows motionless, only her eyes rolling slowly underneath, left, right… watching me, studying me, persuading me…
“I know we did not play during the past hour. Do YOU know?”
We surely mimicked each other, Tara and I, my heart joyful after hers.
She was always giving and loving, unknowingly fueling my love for animals; teaching me that unconditional love has no limits.
Today I take a break from writing fiction about dogs to take a closer look at a few canine mementos, more exactly at 7 dogs that put their paws on history – and on the reader’s hearts.
One of my all time favorite poetesses, Emily Dickinson, wrote once that ‘dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell,’ while Eisenhower, America’s 34th President, believed that ‘what counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’
Take a moment to think of your favorite childhood story. Mine was about a sausage dog called Fridolin and chances are that, your too, was about the friendship between a man and an animal. Any parent or educator learns at some stage that the best way to convey a lesson to a child is through a story involving animals. It is based on the animal kingdom that the most valuable lessons about loyalty, trust, sacrifice and unconditional love come.
When it comes to their relationship with humans, dogs have followed a millennial, a fascinating journey that won them the nickname of man’s best friend, a path one that fed many bedtime stories for young and old alike. Furthermore, be it a puppy, a doggo or a bud, they became famous characters in literature and cinema and there are canines who have taught us powerful life lessons about what loyalty and love means. And let’s not forget the bravest hounds who helped the people in rescue operations or proved their courage on the front or behind enemy lines and even across no man’s land.
Sergeant Stubby, or when the size doesn’t matter (1916 – 1926)
Stubby certainly holds the record for receiving the most medals World War I. Stubby the puppy looked like a Pit Bull Terrier mix and was found wandering the grounds of the Yale University campus in July 1917 while members of the 102nd Infantry were training so he soon became their mascot. But Stubby also took part in numerous battles during which he helped discovering, capturing, and alerting the Allies to the presence of German spies.
Hachiko, a story of canine devotion from 1925 (1923 – 1935)
One day, when I will visit Japan, I will make sure to go to Shibuya train station where the statue of Hachiko is found. In Japanese culture Hachiko is a symbol of loyalty and love. This dog loved his master so much that his devotion entered people’s hearts and their memory and thus it remained in history. Books were written about him and movies were also made.
Adopted when he was just a puppy by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, Hachiko was raised with a lot of love and attention. Since the Professor had to commute for work, Hachiko learned to wait daily for its owner’s return at Shibuya train station. The reunion of the two was the most awaited moment of the day. He did this for years until one day when Professor Ueno never returned from work. Hachiko’s owner passed away suddenly, while he was at the office, due to a cerebral hemorrhage. It was May 21, 1925. Hachiko waited until late that day, but his daddy never returned.
Yet Hachko never lost hope and for ten long years he went daily to Shibuya station to wait for his friend. Hachiko died of old age in 1935, on March 8.
What for a human being translates into basic human needs, food, comfort and love, for a dog is the definition of life itself. When men search companionship, understanding and friendship, dogs require only love.
Balto the Snowdog of 1925 (1919 – 1933)
How much do you love snow?
Balto was a Siberian husky dog trained to pull sleighs, named after the polar explorer Samuel Balto who participated in the first recorded crossing of the interior of Greenland, together with Nansen and four other expedition members.
But Balto the puppy grew into a strong and brave doggo soon known as the leader of the team that carried the diphtheria toxin in Nome, Alaska. During the winter of 1925 a small city with a big epidemic crisis was isolated due to weather conditions. The only solution to bring the antidote were dog dledding. Balto showed extraordinary courage and led the sledge to -23 ° C, at night, through the blizzard.
There is a statue in Balto’s memory in Central Park, New York. Have you seen it?
Just Nuisance, a WWII Royal Navy Able Seaman (1937 – 1944)
The life and story of the legendary Great Dane, Able Seaman Just Nuisance, still captures the hearts and imagination of tourists, WWII historians and readers around the world.
Just Nuisance was born on1st April 1937 and he had a different name at the beginning, a more prosaic name. It is an extraordinary story how received the name everyone got to know him by, a story you can read in my Amazon bestseller book Joyful Trouble.
Well, I’ll share a bit. This giant Great Dane was very gentle and liked the sailors such a lot that he followed them everywhere….
‘“But mostly he liked to tail seamen, to follow them, while they were moving in and out of the naval base. Out we went, the Great Dane was after us. In the train we climbed, the dog would jump in. Even in the dockyards when we were doing our job, he was there.
He just liked to be among us, to sit among us, even lie among us and nap. Especially the ones working on the HMS Neptune,” smiled the old man.
“Was that your ship, Grandpa?”
“Yes, it was the ship I was first appointed to. She was a beautiful light cruiser! When seamen work on a ship it is always busy work, heavy work. And to get on and off the ship they lay a plank of wood a little bit wider than…. this,” and the old man kept his hands wide apart. But our Great Dane enjoyed being among the seamen so much that he thought the best place for him to sit and wait for his busy friends was the plank itself, the piece of wood connecting the ship with the shore. And you can’t blame him; that was the only area on which everyone walked; because there was no other way.
Now, that was a narrow plank and our dog was a big dog. Therefor not much space was left for the sailors to walk up and down on their duties. Every time a sailor would have to board or disembark the ship, sometimes even carrying heavy loads, he was forced to step over our four legged friend. And after a few jumps like this the seamen, no matter how fond they were of our dog, they would mumble and complain about how much trouble the dog was giving them.
And the name stuck!
Except that lots of joy was also associated with our Trouble causing friend.”
“Joyful Trouble,” said Ana to herself while watching Tommy throwing stones in the stream.’
Not many know, but Just Nuisance (Joyful Trouble) also flew in planes – in secret missions.
Just Nuisance is still a big part of Simon’s Town where a statue was raised in his honor. Simon’s Town Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, also has in it’s collection Just Nuisance’s collar as well as many photographs.
Fido, a Faithful, Trusting Dog of WWII, 1943 (1941 – 1958)
A story similar to Hachiko’s became famous in Italy during World War II. The story begins when an Italian worker, Soriani, finds an injured puppy, later named Fido. Good-hearted, the man took the pup home and took good care of him. Of course, the Italian worker and and his wife quickly became attached to the cute doggo and decided to adopt him. They called him Fido (trust, faithful), cared for him and gave him all their love. They all lived in the beautiful region of Tuscani.
And Fido returned their love tenfold. Each day Fido would follow his owner to the bus station and wait for him to return. Soriani worked in a factory but at some stage during World War II, when the city was bombed, the factory was completely destroyed. Many workers died, including Soriani. For 14 years after his master’s death, Fido returned to the bus station, waiting for his return every day. Much has been written in the press of the time about this proof of devotion.
Laika, the Spacedog (1954 – 1957)
It was 1957 and the Golden Age of Capitalism, when freedom equaled consumption in the west. But the Sovie Union had other great plans. At the control desk the engineers started the countdown, and the Sputnik 2 space shuttle was ready for launch. A brave soul, with a wet nuzzle, will soon be propelled into outer space and the history of space flight.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the Russian scientists of the ’50s the way I never liked the Russian soldiers of WWII. Laika was a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. She was picked up and looked after – following a devious plan. Soviet scientists chose to use Moscow strays since they assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger.
During the training time, one of the scientists involved in the project took Laika home where the dog bonded with his children. In one of the books dedicated to the puppy, the scientist said that “Laika was silent and charming.” The puppy showed a lot of courage and extraordinary intelligence throughout the entire training period.
Laika died within hours from the launch due to overheating caused by a failure when the central missile separated from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanized prior to oxygen depletion. It was only in 2008 that Russia unveiled a statue dedicated to Laika.
Apollo, the brave Silent Hero K-9 Dog of 9/11 New York (1992 – 2006)
Apollo and his handler, Peter Davis, were the first K-9 search and rescue team to answer the call on September 11, arriving at the South Tower 15 minutes after its collapse. Apollo Apollo looked for survivors 18 hours a day for weeks on end. It is estimated that more than 300 dogs took part in the search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack and Apollo was one of them. Thanks to his acute senses he helped save the victims from the rubble, sneaking in hard-to-reach places on hearing the very faint cries for help or smelling humans.
Apollo was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animals’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross, in recognition of a work well done.
Dogs are our most capable and strong friends. Cared for and loved they become our most important allies. Until then, they offer us, unconditionally, their intelligence, affection and devotion. Precious gifts!
I don’t know about you, but I wholeheartedly agree with French writer Anatole France believed (and he was correct) that ‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’
Update 🙂 because lovely Sheree commented on the old header photo: it depicts a Staff Sergeant of the Army Service Corps with the Corps pet dogs, Hissy and Jack. And we have Libby Hall, 73, press photographer and dog lover, to thank for it.
Why Is a Cat Not Like a Dog? ~ a poem from a dog’s perspective from the poetry book for animal and nature lovers ‘As Good as Gold‘.
“A cat has a heart-shaped nose above a mouth with piercing teeth, A cat has paws with soft, pink cushions hiding sharp claws beneath, A cat has pointy whiskers, to catch running drops of milk And a tail to play with, a tail that flicks, made of silk.
Why is a cat Like that?
A cat is playful, yet she loves to sleep. A cat drinks milk, but prefers raw meat. A cat will meow and shriek and spit when she’s upset with you, Yet curl and purr so softly, it will lure you into a snooze.
Why does a cat Act like that?
A cat will jump around like she has springs instead of feet, A cat will roam at night, her eyes turn “torches” in a beat. A cat will choose her home and master, it hardly chooses her And if she feels like doing so, you name it, and she’ll do it with a purr.
Why does a cat Act like that?
A cat will watch from high above, and jump upon her prey, She’ll hardly learn a trick or two, yet pantry’s door is play. She’ll never fetch or chew a shoe, She’d rather use her claws To let you know she’s made her mind, A cat will hardly joke.
I guess a cat is just a cat as I’m a dog myself. A cat can’t bark, she’ll spit; She can’t protect a home, like me, she’ll use her claws instead. A cat will lure you off to sleep by purring low and soft, Her body’s reassuring, warm, as I dose off at noon. I guess a cat’s a cat and could be good around the room.
I guess a cat is just like that, She’s different and that Is okay With me.”
The boy broke his run at the entrance to the park and, panting heavily he leaned forward, hands on nobly knees. A trickle of sweat ran down his ripe cheeks; another drop just missed its show, landing in the dirt. The boy watched as his breath stirred the sand at his feet; for an instant, it rolled into tiny balls.
A dog radiating as much heat as the boy, tongue hanging loose, was already there, panting underneath the thick shade on the first tree. The boy’s cheeks were a match for the dog’s exhaustion, hot and red. If one’s shirt was darkened along the middle, at the back, and had dark patches underarms, the other one’s body felt like a well stocked furnace.
“You win again, boy!” the child half croaked, half laughed, stretching to caress his best friend’s head. The fur behind the ears was still soft, like a pups’.
At the water fountain nearby the boy pressed the chrome lever then stepped sideways, allowing his dog to drink first. A red tongue lapped greedily until the dog’s entire head looked like a Christmas tree, a perfect tiny water bauble balancing at the end of each hair. The boy laughed, his lips almost pasted together by the thickness of his saliva. So thirsty! Only when the dog stopped did the boy bent over the cooling spring, yet his eyes remained on the giant fur-ball.
Sparkling and sweet, the water felt like a balm sliding down his burning throat. New life pumped through his body and the boy half closed his eyes, sighing with satisfaction.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his dog using a front paw, then the other, wiping the water droplets off his fur. In his eagerness he seemed to be dancing. The boy burst in laughter and water splashed all over face and his hair. He laughed further as he drank. And the dog sneezed then surrendered to the shade.
A playful breeze was fanning the leaves overhead. Their rustle had accompanied the two since they woke up that morning. Life was a holiday song. The summer seemed to be stretching endlessly, filled with possibilities. They could do anything they wanted, go any place they wished, and at any time – as long as Mother knew and they returned by supper. After all, it was the first day of summer holiday.
In the shade of the big tree there was a boy, a ball, and, of course, a dog. Quite enough to fill an entire summer with excitement.
The dog’s tail wagged and the boy laughed. Or the boy laughed first, the two were interconnected.
The dog’s eyes followed the boy’s, reading his mind. This was a two way street.
The dog shot up as the boy stepped sideways; the dog’s tail wagged like a helicopter’s blade. The dog’s eyes were focused low, intent on the boy’s foot. The boy’s leg went swinging backwards, then forward, towards the ball. The ball flew off this earth and, at exactly the same time, the dog left the earth too, his body a spring stretching towards the sky.
Ball and dog chased the sun’s rays further and further away. Only one could win this race and both boy and dog knew which one will that be. The boy squinted as a ray of sun forced its way between the thick foliage above.
The tires screeched like a teacher’s chalk on the blackboard, leaving a question in the air – one you did not study for. The noise was out of place in this holiday with a ball, a boy, and a dog. The boy opened his mouth to call, yet he could not remember what words to use so he chocked on air. His legs were moving like they had a mind on their own, sprinting towards the road. All the boy wished for was to have wings to reach it faster.
There was no movement, just a light shadow against the black tar. And the contrast didn’t made sense, light on dark.
The scorching tar smelled of petroleum with a hinge of burned tires.
The dog, his dog, his best friend, lay under the scorching heat. There is shade under the tree, went through the boy’s mind as he circled the area.
First thing he notices were his friend’s eyes, closed. But the chest was moving! Lifting and dropping in sudden jerks. Yet the tail didn’t move when the boy collapsed nearby, senseless to the rough road scraping his bare knees.
No bleeding because his heart is so strong, thought the boy, his hands hovering over the fur, not daring to touch.
It was the first time ever, in eight months since the two were together, that the dog’s tail didn’t wag at the sound of his master’s footsteps. Only a triangle-shaped nose stretched towards the boy’s hand. It was dry and hot against the boy’s wet fingers. The dog licked them, his tongue raspy.
A trickle of sound reached as far as the boy’s ears.
The vet was whispering and his mother was sighing, her eyes red, yet the boy felt no fear of the big words being used: paralytic, quality of life, euthanasia. He knew what he had to do next. He had damaged his dog and somehow he was going to fix him.
All that mattered right now was that his dog was alive. The rest, he’ll figure out, make a plan, like his dad always did. The man with a plan. as his friends called him and always relied on him.
Yes, he’ll make a plan. His dog relied on him.
It’s been an accident, his mother had said. Yet she wouldn’t stop crying, trying to explain to him why his dog, his best friend, had to be put to sleep. Whatever being put to sleep meant.
And why was it that grownups only could decide on behalf of a dog?
Just because his dog couldn’t use his hind legs anymore? Put to sleep? You don’t do that to humans, do you?! You buy them wheels. The mailman had one set with a seat on them and, boy was he fast, delivering newspapers quicker than before his crash. Also a car, an “accident”.
And his grandma had a set of wheels too, with a seat and a frame, for when she went shopping.
People always got things when they got injured.
So he carried his dog home that night, the boy did. He laid him gently on his bed, arranged pillows around so that he won’t roll over and fall, not that his dog could move at all, then he fell asleep in the armchair, next to the bed.
And the next day, while his parents were at work, he carried his dog
into the garage, carefully laying him down on a blanket taken from his
He’d broken his dog and now he was going to fix him.
He always thought of his dad’s garage as of Aladdin’s treasure cave. You were sure to find just what you were looking for – if you only dug deep enough.
So he dug and he thought, all the time talking to his dog, like he always used to. Asking him questions, waiting for a bark in reply, acknowledging his dog’s point of view.
At one stage he stopped and listened. He thought he’d heard his dog’s tail thumping, like it always did when… before… So he popped his head from behind a pile of boxes, the shape of a smile on his face.
Nothing. The tail was as still as it’s been since the dire incident.
Yet the dog’s head cocked to one side, question in his eyes. The boy blinked away a tear.
“So much dust here, boy, it gets in your eyes, you know.”
He knew his first bicycle was still there, somewhere. Found it underneath a pile of old bags. He carried it slowly to where his dog was laying, for a good sniff all over, especially the training wheels.
“We want these, boy! Good boy!” he exclaimed. The tail didn’t wag, but he knew his dog was excited; he could see it in the bright eyes and the tip of those fury ears pointed at the bicycle.
The training wheels, a couple of old copper pipes, some scraps of cloth to cover them with and a wide piece of leather for a comfy seat lay beside the dog. The boy’s heart thumped, pumped up with hope. He’d planned this all last night.
He’ll build his dog a set of wheels. For his hind body and legs, to support them when they will go for walks and, maybe, even runs again.
The summer was not even half way through, it’s end still far out of sight. The days were long and full of exciting, endless possibilities for a dog on wheels and his boy.