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Altruism

Remember my story of crows who had learned to turn water on and off? Well, here’s a story that shows how crows are not only intelligent, but also compassionate. And I might add: playful, funny, and loyal.

Here’s to friendship, wherever it is found!

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How I Became a Vegetarian

Lil Pig, originally uploaded by UnoLobo.

One day a friend and I were driving in the countryside and came upon a pen of baby pigs owned by an agricultural college. We got out and walked to the pen.

The pigs ran up to us just like dogs would. They stood on their legs to reach us, wanting to be petted. What a sensation it was. Their skin was very dry, and I immediately understood why they want to be lubricated.

Their little tails would uncurl and sort of wag in delight as we lavished attention upon these sweet little creatures. I had heard that pigs are at least as intelligent as dogs, but what I was not prepared for was their affectionate nature.

From that moment on, I no longer could eat pigs. It was totally out of the question, just as it is with eating, say, dogs. That began my inevitable march toward vegetarianism. Later I spent time with some cows: they, too, were curious and full of personality.

I wonder: Americans eat many times more meat than we ever have. Is it because we so seldom get to experience the joy and spirit of farm animals?

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Separation Anxiety

After several weeks confined to the nest, squirrel babies are ready to make excursions with their mothers. Then the little ones busy themselves with learning how to move around their environment. The mother watches from a distance, and at night, the family goes back to the nest.

One spring day I heard the most awful racket in my garden. When I looked out, I saw the problem: the mother squirrel was refusing to nurse the babies anymore.

Imagine the shock and the hurt feelings of such a moment. The mother you’re depending upon and who has fed and looked after you has suddenly turned indifferent!

The alarmed babies were chasing and calling after their mother, who eventually left them alone in the garden. The photo above perhaps hints at why mothers are eager to move on from nursing. But still, I can’t help but wish this cruel moment of abandonment didn’t have to happen.

Needless to say, I couldn’t bear seeiing these poor babies in such a pitiful fix, so for the next few days I made sure to put out copious amounts of peanuts.

Come to think of it, the mother squirrel probably knew I would do that!

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Watching a Mother Squirrel



Baby squirrels, originally uploaded by ucb411.

After about 44 days of gestation, baby squirrels are born–hairless, blind, and unable to leave the nest for several weeks. A mother squirrel might have two to six or so babies, so she must somehow eat well but stay close so she can nurse. All this happens during the dead of winter, when food is likely to be scarce, and the weather harsh.

It never ceases to amaze me how hard these wondrous animals work for the wellbeing of their young. One winter I watched for an hour as a mother carefully moved one baby at a time from one tree to another, probably because the nest had fleas.

Grasping the baby gently in her mouth, she would carefully climb down the tree, run across the street and up the new tree. After she would place the baby in a hollow, back she would go to get another baby. I counted six babies!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yet other pedestrians were oblivious to the wonder that was happening right above them. When I would tell them excitedly what was going on, I got some strange looks, and mostly people would just rush on by.

Humans! I can’t figure them out sometimes.