I spent the summer between 6th grade and Junior High in the library. I also spent it on buses taking me to and from the library. On those bus rides I suffered the stares of other passengers. Sometimes they moved away from me. I don’t blame them too much because I looked like I had a bad case of the measles. I didn’t. It was a mysterious blood condition that eventually went away by itself.
I read every horse book and dog book I could find in the small neighborhood library that summer. (I would have read cat books, but at that time, there weren’t very many.)Then I got started at the main library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I grew up.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, changed attitudes about the treatment of horses and began a movement that created the first Society to Prevent Cruelty of Animals. This book changed my life. It was one of the first animal books written in first ‘person’. Another book, Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders stayed with me also and told a sad story about an abused dog that as a young girl, I couldn’t believe.
I didn’t know it then, but I am convinced these books led me to my vocation and the belief that kindness and mercy toward animals would guide me all my life. My calling now is to write about animals, to be a spokesperson and a voice for the voiceless.
I keep lots of quotes and stories about animals. I came across a piece the other day by Dr. Michel Klein who wrote a book, Animals, My Teachers: An Autobiography of a Veterinary Surgeon. The book was part of The Companion Book Club and published by Harvill Press, London in 1975. He was ahead of his time and says, in part:
“It is animals as much as human beings, from the tiniest Yorkshire terrier to living colossi such as Siberian tigers or Indian elephants that have made me what I am. It is to satisfy a passion which gradually overcame me and has never ceased to grow: to restore the animals place in a world dominated by man, a place we encroach on by steadily destroying and looting its habitat. Man without animals condemns himself to inhumanity. My task is to protect them, draw them closer to us and promote our knowledge and love of them.”
I don’t know how much of a dent I can make but I keep trying. I not only hear the words from Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe but the cries of cats and dogs that lose their lives in shelters, suffering farm animals, show horses and race horses, puppy and kitten mills, and so many more.
This is why I write about animals.
I have read some wonderful, hopeful books in the last few years by Temple Grandin, Wayne Pacelle, Cleveland Amory, stories about and ‘by’ cats and dogs, farm animals, horses, and even a tender story about a tortoise. I’d love to recommend them to you.
Pam Wolf is a retired minister from the Presbyterian Church USA where she worked on social justice issues. She lives on an urban farm with her husband in Fort Collins and shares care for (at the moment) three horses, four cats, and one dog. She is a poet, is writing a book about a rescued cat named Jake and has a blog, (although a bit lapsed) Writing Outside the Barn. She volunteers for the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay Neuter Clinic Her book, Jake’s Gift: The Story of a Cat Who Wouldn’t Quit, will be available this spring.