The more I looked, the more I saw. Countless times I saw it in Christian religious art, where the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are typically depicted, respectively, as a divine man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle. Clustered on the roof of the Croatian National State Archives building in Zagreb I noticed a parliament of Croatian owls, symbols of wisdom. And in Florence I met Il Porcellino (“the Piglet”), Baroque master Pietro Tacca’s popular boar fountain, sculpted in 1634 and situated now in the city’s Mercato Nuovo. Visitors traditionally put a coin into the boar’s jaws for good luck and then rub its snout to ensure a return to Florence. As a result, the snout always has a polished sheen, while the rest of its body remains a patinated brownish-green. (Of course, I rubbed its snout like there was no tomorrow!) Continue reading “Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 2)”
‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.’
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 32” (from Leaves of Grass)
As we enter this season of “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” it is worthwhile to be reminded that in this deeply conflicted world, while there may be many things that divide people—borders, currency, language, religion, politics—there are many more things that unite us in harmony. One of those unifying principles is our common relationship with animals: not merely as food or pets or helpmates, but in the simple awe and affection they have always inspired in the human psyche. It is a sentiment that stretches not only across great geographical distances but across the vast chasm of time itself.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
— George Gershwin / DuBose Heyward
The myriad pleasures of summer are perfectly encapsulated in the song “Summertime” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and others. It is traditionally a time to frolic outdoors and be carefree. But for summer-loving humans, it comes with its own set of risks and dangers as well, from sunburn and poison ivy to pesky mosquitoes and under-barbecued burgers.
The same applies to our beloved pets. While dogs and cats love to explore outside when the weather turns warm, it is important to remember there are hidden perils in even the most serene and halcyonic settings that can put their health and very lives at risk.
The full subtitle of this book neatly encapsulates its theme and tone: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Note that it identifies itself not as a general or scientific history, but as a “cultural” one. This is an accurate descriptive; for truly, few diseases known to humanity have branded themselves into our collective psyche and culture so widely, so deeply, and for so long; and as something not merely organically deadly but infernally so, and thus profoundly to be feared. (The few others that even come close include leprosy and polio.)
Though shelved in the non-fiction area of your library or bookstore, Rabid spins a series of tales and observations that could have come from the fictional horror story pen of Stephen King. It is at once fascinating and terrifying. The authors, a husband-and-wife team, are eminently qualified to write such a book. Wasik is a magazine editor who writes about science and technology; while Murphy is a veterinarian with a degree in public health. Together they have put together the definitive “biography” of the rabies pathogen. Continue reading “Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History“
Rabies is a scourge as old as human civilization, and the terror of its manifestation is a fundamental human fear, because it challenges the boundary of humanity itself. That is, it troubles the line where man ends and animal begins—for the rabid bite is the visible symbol of the animal infecting the human, of an illness in a creature metamorphosing demonstrably into that same illness in a person.
With the release of our line of 2020 Pet Rabies Tags for our customers’ dogs and cats, we at Ketchum Mfg. Inc. thought this would be an appropriate time to present a timeline of notable events in the rise of—and ongoing battle against—a pathogen that has plagued humankind and our domesticated animals since long before the first history book was written: the rabies virus. Continue reading “A Brief History of Rabies”
“So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.” ~ T.S. Eliot, ‘The Ad-dressing of Cats’ from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Perhaps it is due to a defect in my character, but the company of animals has for me often been preferable to that of human beings. Not that I am any sort of misanthrope. I like people, and get along well with practically all of them. It’s just that I find the complex machinations of the human mind—how to read it, how to respond to it, what to make of it—quite exhausting at times. Whereas the instincts, behaviors, and personalities of most animals lie much more at the surface, readily accessible if not always understood. Their innocence is profoundly appealing, and thus dealing with them is just easier for someone like me.
So yes, I love animals, all of them. I daresay, they tend to love me back most of the time. And how could it be otherwise?—given that my namesake saint is most famous for his inspiring rapport with birds and every other beast.