A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Kitties!

(Above: Barbara and Sweetie)

Two years ago, a kind soul in Oakland – whose name I'm withholding to protect her privacy - adopted a homeless orange male tabby cat that kept coming to her door and named him Red. Red had been living in a nearby feral cat colony, and it's unusual for a cat past the kitten stage to be tame enough to be adoptable. But not Red.
Last week, she found out why. She took him to the Fix Our Ferals spay/neuter clinic in Richmond, where they discovered he had not only been neutered already, he had a microchip. Clearly, he had once been someone else's kitty.
But whose? They did an Internet search for the microchip and came up empty. So Michelle Jewell, the clinic manager, called the microchip company, and they told her the chip had never been registered. All they had was the name of the animal hospital that inserted it.
 Michelle called the hospital, and they gave her the name of the first owner, who lived only a few blocks away from the new owner.
She told Michelle that Red – whose original name was Tego – had escaped from her house six years ago, just two days after she moved in. And being new to the neighborhood, he didn't know where to go. He was lucky to find that feral cat colony. She had no idea he was living only a few blocks away all this time.
Michelle put the two women together, and the new owner handed Red – or Tego - over. She was sad to give him up, but she knew he would be happiest with his original mom.
Moral: It's not enough to get your dog or cat microchipped. You have to take the final step and register it.
If you'd like to support Fix Our Ferals' lifesaving mission, you can donate online at fixourferals.org or send a check to P.O. box 13083, Berkeley CA 94712. They're an all-volunteer group; so if you'd like to help, call 510-215-9300.
                                          * * *
Meanwhile, there's good news from Berkeley: Darling Flower Shop finally has a new cat, a tiny grey-and-white kitten.
The shop had been without a cat since this time last year, when the previous kitty, named Kitty, died. Owners Jay and Barbara Touriel missed her too much to even think of getting another one.
But last week Jay got a call from Walter Griffin, a friend of his in the Berkeley Lions Club, who had a family of feral cats living in his back yard. One of the kittens, the runt of the litter, had been abandoned by the mother and left to die. Walter nursed her back to health and then called Barbara and Jay.
They went over to see her and instantly fell in love. They named her Sweetie – and no name was ever more appropriate – and moved her into the flower shop, which she promptly took over.
Sweetie loves everybody – the employees, the customers, the local letter carrier, everybody. But her heart really belongs to Barbara and Jay, and the feeling is mutual. Her favorite pastime is riding around on Jay's shoulders or inside the bib of Barbara's smock.
Welcome, Sweetie. You have some mighty big paw prints to fill, but I know you're more than up to the job.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Heads In The Sand

Who is the president of Mexico? Don't know? Neither do I.
Meanwhile, our neighbor to the north, Canada, held a national election on Monday. Do you know who won?
Most of us know that Vladimir Putin rules Russia, but who rules China? Or Japan? Or India?
Who are the major players in the Middle East, which is giving us so much trouble these days? Or on the Indian subcontinent, where India and Pakistan keep threatening to go to war with each other, both armed with nuclear weapons. Who's in charge there?
And that's just the leaders. I won't even bother asking who leads the opposition in these various countries. Or what the major political issues are. Or what people in other countries think of us. Or why.
My point is that we Americans are woefully ignorant about the rest of the world, and that's a recipe for disaster. If anybody runs the world, we do; but we know next to nothing about that world we seek to lead. So we continually get taken by surprise, over and over again.
Admit it: Before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, you had never heard of Al Qaeda. Ditto for ISIS before it suddenly popped up in the headlines last year. For that matter, why does Obama call it ISIL when the media call it ISIS? There's actually a reason, but do you know what it is? I don't.
The pundits predict that foreign policy will be a major factor in next year's presidential election; but with an electorate that knows absolutely nothing about the issues, how can we possibly make an informed choice?
Most Americans would say that we already lead busy lives and don't have time to do the homework, so we leave it to the experts to do our thinking for us. But these "experts" don't know much more than we do.
In 1953, the experts in the CIA and State Department teamed with the British Secret Intelligence Service to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossaddegh, and replaced him with the Shah.
We promptly forgot all about it, but the Iranians sure didn't. So when the Shah fell in 1979, the Iranians, instead of turning to pro-Western alternatives like Abolhassan Banisadr, turned instead to Ayatollah Khomeini, who wasn't tainted by association with us.
In 1954 the experts did it again, overthrowing the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. That let loose a Pandora's Box of Arbenz's followers, including Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who spread throughout Latin America, fomenting revolution wherever they went for the next forty years.
Ten years later we went to war in Vietnam on the theory that North Vietnam was just a proxy for Chinese expansion. Who knew that the Vietnamese and Chinese have mistrusted each other for centuries? Not the experts in Washington.
And no one was more surprised when the Soviet empire imploded in 1989 than the CIA, which had no clue that the USSR had been rotting from the inside for decades.
There's plenty of blame to go around, including the news media and our schools, who have been woefully inadequate in educating us about the world. But in the final analysis, as Shakespeare said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."