Thursday, December 30, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness By Animals

Book Review: Random Acts of Kindness By Animals   by Stephanie Laland
( MJF Books 1997)

This book is an absolute gem and certainly one of my favorites. It is a collection of stories, some well-documented and others less so, of noble and heroic acts done by animals. If anyone harbors the idea that animals do not have the capacity for love and compassion then this book should convince them otherwise. Here one not only sees the nobility and caring of domesticated animals but of wild animals as well. Along with the wonderful and amazing stories there are wise quotes from famous people regarding the capacities and treatment of animals and various ideas and tips to help our animal friends.

Stories of intelligent and heroic elephants, monkeys, hippos, dogs, cats, geese, ducks, beavers, wolves, lions, dolphins, canaries, parakeets, pigeons, sea turtles, cows, pigs, seagulls, and more fill the pages of this great book. The awesome power of the maternal bond between mother and children is displayed flawlessly. The kinship that can develop between humans and animals is also demonstrated in these pages.

There are stories of wild animals protecting trapped humans and warming freezing humans, clearly acts of compassion and fearlessness. There are several stories which show various wild and domesticated animals desire to communicate danger to humans.
Some animals even died or were severely injured trying to save humans. Other stories show how the strong gather together to protect the weak. There are even stories of ants protecting and doctoring other ants.

These stories show both the love/compassion of animals and the intelligence of animals. There are even a few stories of psychic links between humans and animals. Other stories  are about animal heroes in war situations such as dogs delivering medicine in foxholes and carrier pigeons beating severe odds to deliver important messages that saved lives.

There is a story about a hippo that protected an antelope that was snatched by a crocodile and several stories about the compassionate nature of elephants. There is another story of a cat that attacked a burglar sending him scurrying off. Beavers came out of the water to warm a freezing child who lay asleep exhausted after his parents had drowned. There are other storiers of sea turtles saving drowning humans and protecting them from sharks.

There are some great quotes from wise animal lovers like: Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Chief Seattle, Leo Tolstoy, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Princess Grace of Monaco, Victor Hugo, Immanual Kant, the Emperor Asoka, St. Francis of Assisi, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin. Here is a good one from Darwin:

“The love for all living creatures is the most notable attribute of man.”

Here is another from Gandhi:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ... I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.

In the sections on – Ways to Return the Kindness  - I found the following tip to be practical:

“At weddings, throw birdseed instead of rice. When the wedding is over, birds arrive and peck at the rice. But uncooked rice swells in avian stomachs, killing them.”

She also warns against using hummingbird feeders unless they are cleaned often as the unfresh liquid can cause intestinal problems that kill them. Here is another quote of ver good advice that she gives:

‘Speak out against cruelty wherever you see it.”

The author even makes a startling confession in the book:

“At a very low point in her life, a woman saw no way out and decided to commit suicide. As she sat on her bed weeping and wondering what method to use, her cat jumped on her and began licking her tears away. Realizing that when another creature loves you there is always hope, the woman decided to live and ultimatey went on to write this book.”

And I for one feel blessed just to have read it!

One chapter is called, Senseless Acts of Beauty, referring as the title of the book does to the words of Anne Herbert – “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Here we have a few stories of animal artists: elephants who draw and paint with their trunks and chimps who draw and paint and show artistic awareness.

The last chapter is a few stories of things humans have done to protect animals. One is a story about northern Japanese villagers who built a platform above a hot spring so that freezing monkeys could be warmed up so instead of huddling and shivering they were seen to be playing around the warm waters.

This was a very thoughtful book – one I will cherish and pass on as a treasured heirloom.

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