The poster child of something Darwin called “interspecies altruism” is probably Koko, the signing gorilla who adopted a kitten she named Ball. Well, believe it or not, dogs can love kittens as much as apes can. At www.dogsinthenews.com, you will find a picture of a Dachshund named Bell actually nursing kittens. The caption says, “Bell doesn’t seem to notice” the difference between her pups and her kittens, but that she might eventually, when “some climb trees and some pee on them.”
Reading on, I found that dogs nursing kittens, though a rare phenomenon, isn’t so strange. There before me was a picture of a Russian Pit Bull named Gabi who, though she’d never had pups herself, actually started lactating after adopting three kittens. Talk about the milk of humane canine-ness.
The piece also notes that in China two cubs were born to a tiger that couldn’t produce milk, so they were foisted onto a Border Collie who could. In the article, aptly entitled “Mutterly Love,” there is a picture of the two gold-striped cats blissfully latched onto an animal that hardly resembles them. Okay for now but what about later? And you thought the fur flew with your mom when you were an adolescent.
It makes you wonder. What would a tiger weaned on puppy pap be like when he grew up? I posit that he just might become man’s best friend — if only because all the more domesticated farm animals mysteriously disappeared in the night.
We humans could also be called poster children for interspecies altruism, of course. Don’t we think of ourselves as the moms and dads of our pets? At the level of Mother Earth, the concept of parenthood becomes all-inclusive and we are all Mother Earthlings.
More Internet surfing reveals that the Lawson Hills Winery in New Zealand owes the quality of its chardonnay partly to the sophistication of its Golden Lab — a “gormutt” named Tomi. According to the dog’s and winery’s owner, Tomi can tell exactly when the grapes’ acidity is the lowest and their sugar concentration the highest. Vineyard workers know when the perfect moment arrives because that’s when Tomi starts “harvesting” with a vengeance. When it comes to a ripe chardonnay grape, he’s definitely fruit forward. How about this for a slogan, Lawson Hills? “When Tomi starts chomping, we start stomping.”
On a more somber note comes a story from the UK about a Jack Russell named Pluto who, after 14 years of pub crawling with his master, was orphaned when the man’s heart finally gave out. Now Pluto does the rounds alone. Like his sainted drinking buddy, he starts every day at the Number 1 Club, meanders over to the Featherstone Hotel, then to the Traveler’s Rest, and finally to the Featherstone Working Men’s Club. Orbiting in the darkness of his solitude, Pluto circles the old haunts in search of his pal like a small planet whose sun, by now, is but a distant point of light. A wistful tale indeed. But enough. Herb prefers Border Collies to melancholy. And so…
The other day I saw a picture of a dog with its head peeking out of one of those veterinary cones, looking like a massive cocktail onion in a gin Gibson. It sported the caption, “I feel like a martini.” The unsettled look on the pooch’s face suggested he’d been both shaken and stirred.