8

The Animal Rights Coalition

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Chester Rabbit called the quarterly meeting of the Animal Rights Coalition (ARC) to order.

Chester: Welcome everyone. We need to finish one item from our last meeting before we can move on to today’s agenda. We have to finish our discussion about how to address the human use of animal names as insults. The first thing we need to do is reopen the topic.

The animals started to talk among themselves. This item was very important to all of them and they were eager to get back to work.

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Buddy Squirrel: I move to reopen the topic.

Ralph Badger: I second the motion.

Chester: All right. How many in favor?

Paws and hands went up around the room.

Chester: How many opposed?

Dead silence.

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Chester: The motion passed. Ballou, please turn on the recorder.

Ballou Bear, whose mother was a huge movie fan, flipped the switch. It was so much easier to get started now that they could record rather than manually write down the notes. The simians had insisted on the purchase. They were tired of always being the ones to write.

Chester: The best way to start is to identify exactly what we mean by insults. Remember the rules: no talking over others, no arguing with someone’s ideas, and no intimidation. One idea per animal. If you choose to present multiple ideas, wait until after the others have had their turn.

The animals quickly lined up to speak:

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“catty/catfight” – Why is it that when two women say nasty things to each other it’s being catty? We’re not mean. But even worse, if they end up actually hitting each other, it’s a catfight? Everyone knows that most of us don’t fight, and if we do, it’s most likely the males.

“eat like a pig/act like a pig” – Where did we get the reputation that we’re sloppy and eat too much? We’re actually clean animals; we use the mud to cool off. And we don’t eat that much compared to what we weight. We’re this big because of the way we’re made, not because we eat too much.

“dog-faced/dog” – Why are we the standard for ugly? We’re just like every other species. Some of us are good looking, some not so much. But to classify all of us as ugly is just mean.

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“eat like a bird” – They say it like it’s some kind of eating disorder. We eat like we do because we have beaks. We can’t pick up a lot of food at one time. We eat all through the day; we need energy for flying.

“ugly duckling” – This insult is just rude. Why would you call someone’s child ugly? We know it’s because the baby swan didn’t look like the baby ducks, but that doesn’t mean it was really ugly.

“batty/bats in the belfry” – What makes us the standard for crazy? We fly at night, but so do owls, and they’re supposed to be wise. As far as hanging out in a belfry, it’s a good place to sleep. It’s high, it’s isolated, and the humans can’t get at us.

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“a leopard can’t change his spots” – Of course we can’t. That would be like asking them to change their skin. Why does that get connected to people who can’t change their bad habits? Our fur is not something that should be changed.

“big as a cow” – we agree with the pigs. Just because we’re made a certain way doesn’t entitle humans to use it to insult other humans. Maybe they should be more like us and just accept each other.

“badger someone” – We’re persistent and thorough. How did that get translated into a person who becomes offensive trying to make a point? It seems like they don’t even understand how any of us really are.

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The other animals all nodded in agreement.

Chester: I think that’s a good start. Now we need a few animals to draft our petition to the humans. Is anyone interested?

A bear, two gorillas, and a beaver all agreed to work on something.

Chester: Does anyone want to schedule an extra meeting for next month to decide what our next steps will be?

Douglas Gorilla: So moved.

Ballou: Second.

The motion passed.

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Next week: Do the animals think the petition is ready to go to the humans?

11

The Hedgehogs’ Smart Home

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Harry and Vivian Hedgehog had just moved into a new home and were excited to start decorating.

Vivian: I’d like to do something a little different. It seems like everyone we know is doing rustic. If I see one more pinecone, I swear I’ll scream.

Harry: One of the guys at work says he has a smart house, and he loves it.

Vivian: What’s a smart house? I don’t want anything that orders me around.

Harry: Bob said he has this thing he talks to, and it does what he wants.

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Vivian: Bob the Squirrel? The one who tried to get everyone to sign up for satellite TV so he’d earn money?

Harry: Yeah. That didn’t work out so well, did it?

Vivian: You would think the goofball would have known that trees interfere with satellites. He lives in a tree.

Harry: He said that was the problem. The squirrels put their dishes on the top of their trees, so it worked great for them.

Vivian: OK. Tell me what a smart home is.

Harry: You buy this speaker thing from Euphrates. Then you get stuff that connects to it.

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Vivian: You mean the house is going to be full of wires and cords? That’s not an improvement over pinecones.

Harry: No. That’s the great part. The speaker is the brains of the whole thing. Her name is Venus, and she talks to the other smart stuff and tells them what we want.

Vivian: Does Venus speak hedgehog, or are we supposed to learn squirrel?

Harry: She speaks a lot of languages: hedgehog, squirrel, rabbit, badger, horse. She even speaks water buffalo.

Vivian:  What kinds of things does she control?

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Harry: There are a lot of things. She works with lights, thermostats, security cameras, doorbells, TVs. She even order things from Euphrates if you tell her to.

Vivian: That sounds pretty good. Let’s do it. Too bad she doesn’t cook or clean.

They went to the Euphrates website and ordered Venus and her accessories. A few days later, everything arrived.

Vivian: This is so exciting! I’m the first one of my friends to try all of this. I can’t wait to tell Eve and Judy how this works.

They hooked everything up and started talking to Venus to see how she worked.

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“Venus, turn on the bedroom lights.”

“Venus, turn the heat up to 70 degrees.”

“Venus, turn on ‘Hector Hedgehog and the Lost Treasure’”

“Venus, let us see outside the burrow.”

“Venus, change the bedroom lights to blue.”

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Venus did everything they told her to do without a glitch. They looked around the outside of the burrow before they went to bed, and everything was calm.

Over the next few days, Harry and Vivian discovered that they really liked having Venus around. There were a few small issues, but nothing that they couldn’t work out.

One day, Harry came home from work to a huge television. He stomped into the burrow.

Harry: Vivian! Why on earth did you order that TV? I thought we’d agreed to no more big purchases.

Vivian: What are you talking about? I didn’t order it; you must have. You’re always talking about how much you want a new TV.

Harry: Venus, who ordered the new television?

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Venus: I ordered the television exactly one week ago. Is there a problem?

Harry (sighing): That wasn’t helpful. I wonder if we did it by mistake. I’ve heard that Venus picks up everything we say.

Vivian: We’ll have to be more careful when we’re talking. And return the TV.

Vivian returned the TV.

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They wanted to show off Venus to their friends, and decided to have a dinner party. Each time there was a knock at the door, Harry would ask Venus “Who is at the door?” The friend and Harry greeted each other before the guest entered the burrow.

Harry and Vivian demonstrated Venus interacting with the other smart products. Their friends agreed that Venus was fantastic. Harry and Vivian were glad they had invested in a smart home.

A few days later, Harry came home to a package. He and Vivian accused each other of ordering whatever it was.

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Vivian: Fine. Open it. We can probably tell who ordered it by what it is.

Harry opened the box and pulled out the contents. They both looked at it, confused.

Harry: Badger-b-Gone? We don’t have badgers here.

Vivian: This is very odd. What’s going on?

They both looked at Venus.

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Next week: Why is Venus ordering things on her own?

11

Felines and Friends Academy Elections – Part 2

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Where we are: Bella Bear is frustrated that cats run everything at the Academy. She talks to the cats about it, and they recommend that she run for student government office. Her friend Daphne agrees, but Bella isn’t too sure.

Bella couldn’t decide what to do. She knew that the cats ad Daphne were right. Someone had to represent the other animals, but why did it have to be her? Maybe she could get someone else to run. But who?

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Bella: Ollie, don’t you think the rest of the animals deserve representation in the student government?

Ollie: That’s a great idea, Bella! We otters have almost nothing in common with the cats. Sometimes it’s hard to get them to understand what we’re saying.

Bella: Exactly. That’s why I thought you would be the perfect animal for us to get behind. The rest of us could help with signs, social media, —

Ollie: Wait a minute, Bella. I said it was a great idea. I don’t have time to do it. I’m captain of the swim team, do gymnastics, and still need to study.

Bella: I understand. Do you have any ideas?

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Ollie: I would ask one of the squirrels. They always seem to have extra time to run around.

Bella: Good idea. Thanks.

Bella finally found the squirrels racing around the courtyard. She asked them to stop so she could explain her idea.

Joe: That’s a wonderful idea. We’re all behind you. Just tell us what you need us to do.

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The other squirrels nodded.

Becky: We could make signs and hold rallies.

Bella: Actually, I was thinking that one of you could run for office.

Becky: I don’t think that’s a good idea. If we have two non-cats running, it would probably split our votes. You should definitely be our candidate.

Bella: I meant someone to run instead of me.

Joe: No, you’d stand a better chance of winning. Everyone takes bears more seriously than squirrels. They think we’re cute and brainless.

The other squirrels agreed. Bella thanked them and left. She talked to the sheep and goats. Everyone was enthusiastic about the idea, but no one wanted to be the first non-cat to run for office. She went through all the species in the school with no luck.

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The only one she hadn’t talked to was Greta, the red fox who was at the school as an exchange student. Bella decided to talk to her. Foxes were like dogs with fluffy tails, weren’t they? Surely a dog would want to run against a bunch of cats.

Bella: Hi, Greta. How are you?

Greta: I am well. How are you?

Bella: I’m fine. I was just wondering if you’d heard that we’re having student government elections in a few weeks?

Greta: Yes, I have. It sounds very exciting. I am looking forward to watching the whole process.

Bella: You might have noticed that all of our leaders are cats. We were thinking that it might be nice to have a non-cat run to offer a different viewpoint.

Greta: Yes. That does sound like a good idea. Other perspectives are always helpful to a group as a whole.

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Bella: I was hoping that you would be our candidate. I’m sure you have fresh ideas.

Greta: I am honored that you would think of me as a good candidate. But I really don’t understand how a student government works. Besides, I think that some students would have trouble understanding me. Not only is my native language fox, I have a rather thick accent when I speak cat.

Bella had to agree. Greta would probably need a translator at her rallies and speeches. She thanked Greta and walked away, dejected. Bella went to find Daphne.

Bella: I can’t believe it. No one wants to run for student government.

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Daphne: Why can’t you believe it? You don’t want to run. You had a great idea, and you won’t do anything to make it happen.

Bella: That’s not true. I’d do anything that was needed to get them elected.

Daphne: OK. Since no one will run, we’ll continue to do everything from the cats’ viewpoint. And you’ll keep complaining about it. But I don’t want to hear it. You had a chance to try to change it, and you walked away.

Bella: I’d never win.

 Daphne: That’s not the point. The rest of us need to stand up for ourselves. Besides, how do you know you won’t win?

Bella: I have no idea how to get animals to vote for me.

Daphne: The rest of us will work on that.

Bella went home to think about it. If anyone was going to do it, it would have to be her. Finally, she filled out the paperwork for the election. Now came the hard part.

Next week: Bella’s campaign and the election.

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11

Cat Forum: A Guide to Summer Cat TV

Snoops and Kommando here. Welcome to this month’s Cat Forum. (Yes, we have been pushed back a week because of the stupid bison story. Maybe the editors will learn to count by June. We are the second week feature, not the third week feature. How are our fans supposed to find us?)

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Oh, well. On to this month’s topic. We’re going to talk about summer Cat TV. Unlike humans, we never have to worry about seeing the same program twice. Just another sign of cat intellectual superiority. We don’t have to turn our brains off to watch the same stuff day after day. (We know some humans are like that because our Dad used to do it – watch the same stuff, not turn his brain off.)

We live in a house without air conditioning, so we are lucky enough to have sound. Some of you air conditioned cats aren’t so lucky. (Although you don’t have to deal with sticky humans, a definite plus.)

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First are the birds.We live in Michigan, so we have more birds this time of year than when it’s cold. Some of you who live in warmer climates might not see much of a difference. Our favorites are the hummingbirds. They’re small and fast, so they’re a lot of fun to watch.

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Our human brother has a really big lilac bush just outside his bedroom window. It’s full of birds most of the time.All kinds of birds: sparrows, finches, wrens, robins, blue birds, blue jays, …. He complains about the noise waking him up. We’ve tried to tell him that they’re calling us, but he doesn’t seem to get it.

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The squirrel and deer channels get a lot more active too. The squirrels like to chase each other around. It looks like fun, but they get pretty mean sometimes when they fight. We’re glad they’re only on TV.

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Every once in a while, there’s a show on the squirrel channel that we really like. The little guys look a lot like squirrels, but much smaller with stripes down their backs. Mom says they’re called chipmunks. They look like they’d be fun to chase. But we don’t know what we’d do with it if we caught one. Mom says we can’t bring it in the house.

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The funniest show is Woodchuck Adventures. Woodchucks (aka groundhogs) look like huge rodents. (Bigger than us.) They like to lay in the sun. They probably don’t have to worry about sunburn, because they’re really furry.. As soon as they hear a noise, they race for the nearest shelter. It’s great watching something that bulky and slow running that fast. It’s even better when they climb trees. One went up a baby peach tree and was too big to sit on the branches.

We get the boring specialty channels too. We don’t have many snakes in Michigan. The ones we do have just lay in the sun. If we want to watch someone sleep, we can watch Mom.

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(silk moth – we don’t have those on our channel)

The night channel is pretty boring too. We like to watch the fireflies. Mom says their tails are poisonous, so we cant play with them. Moths are the best. They’re fun to play with, and crunchy and tasty if they get annoying.

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The worst show on that channel is the skunks. We were really disappointed. They’re kind of cute; they reminded us a little of cats. But they seem to fight dirty (and loud). When something scares them, they make a huge stink (for real). It smells awful. You air conditioned cats should be grateful. We hear some dogs try to make friends with them. Big mistake. Tell your dog friends if they upset a skunk, they’ll smell even worse than usual.

We recommend you check your local channels. Chances are, there’s something good out there that you haven’t seen for a while.

All pictures courtesy of Google Images.

9

Tori Tabby’s Getting Married – Part 3

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Where we are: Tori Tabby and Robbie are getting married. Tori’s father Davy is living with some humans who have adopted him. She wants him at the wedding, and he has said that he would be there. He is relying on his housemates, Cleo and Caesar, to hide his temporary absence from his human family so they won’t track him down. 

The big day has arrived. Tori is nervous. She told her mother Teresa that Davy was coming, but there was no sign of him.She wonders if the Persians really could find a way to get him out of the house without his humans finding out.

Meanwhile, at Davy’s house, the Persians have hatched a plan.

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Cleo: OK, Davy. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re all going to go outside. Then Caesar is going to pretend to catch a squirrel and bring it to the door. Human mama is going to get upset that Caesar has a squirrel. She’ll be so preoccupied that you can get away. I’m going to run back inside while all this is going on.

Davy: That’s disgusting. I don’t want Caesar to kill a squirrel for me.

Caesar: I’m not going to kill a squirrel. That’s the genius part of the plan. Look at the new toy I got.

He shows Davy a realistic-looking squirrel toy. It barely fit in his mouth. Then he drops it.

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Caesar: Pretty good, huh?

Davy: Not bad. But how is that going to help while I’m gone?

Cleo: We thought about that. You know how sometimes we play hide-and-seek with the humans? And it takes them a really long time to find us? We’re going to race around a little, and then go into hiding. When you get home, you cry at the door. Human mama finds you outside and thinks you’ve been running around all that time and finally come back. She’ll feel bad because she didn’t make sure you were with us. But she’ll be so happy to see you that it won’t last long.

Davy: That might work.

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They cry at the door to be let out. The boy human lets them out. He doesn’t pay any attention to Caesar’s squirrel toy. The cats play for a few minutes. Then Caesar picks up his squirrel and runs to the door. He meows loudly. His human mama opens the door and looks down. She’s very upset.

Woman: Caesar! That’s a very bad kitty! You know you’re not allowed to kill.

She reaches down to take the squirrel and see if she can revive it. Caesar moves back and growls to protect his prize.

Woman: Caesar what is wrong with you? Let me have the squirrel.

Impressed by Caesar’s acting, the other two cats almost forget to run in opposite directions. All the woman notices is something furry running past her. Finally she reaches down to rescue the squirrel and discovers that it’s only Caesar’s new toy. She is irritated but relieved.

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Woman: Caesar! Why did you scare me like that? Don’t do that!

Caesar walks slowly past her with his prize. She looks around the yard and doesn’t see any cats so she assumes they were what raced past her while she was preoccupied with Caesar. She closes the door and sits down to read, happy that the drama has ended. 

Meanwhile, Davy is racing to Tori’s house.

Tori: Daddy! You made it! I can’t believe you got away.

Davy: Those Persians are pretty amazing.

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Teresa walks up and sees Davy. She’s surprised he would actually show up. She tries to be civil for Tori’s sake.

Teresa: Davy! I didn’t believe you’d actually show up.

Davy: I needed the help of my fellow cats. But here I am. You look really good Teresa. I’ve missed you.

Teresa: Thank you. But you’re the one who ran off.

Davy explains what actually happened. Teresa looks skeptical but decides not to fight on Tori’s wedding day.

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Teresa: Whatever. It’s almost time for the wedding. Find a seat.

That didn’t go as smoothly as he had hoped. But he didn’t blame Teresa. He had just disappeared. He understood that she would be hurt and angry. He heard music and quickly sat down.

The wedding was beautiful. Tori looked amazing and Robbie was a picture-perfect groom.The food was wonderful but before he knew it, it was time to to go. He was nervous on the way home. He stood at the door and cried. Before long, the female human opened the door.

Woman: Davy! Where have you been? I didn’t even know you were missing. I’m so glad to see you.

She picked Davy up and cuddled him. He was home.

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13

Ranger Bob – Conclusion

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So far: Four raccoon kits have met a bear at the park. The bear turns out to be the beloved Ranger Bob. Somehow the school has lost track of its former safety adviser, and he is living across the river with his daughter. Upon discovery, Ranger Bob is invited to visit the school. You can start the story here.

Ranger Bob steps onto the stage and hugs John The young animals clap and sit down.

Ranger Bob:  Hello, everyone! It’s nice to see you.

Students: It’s nice to see you too, Ranger Bob.

Ranger Bob: I want to thank Ms. Porcupine for inviting me to speak. I used to come to the school a lot. I know most of your parents.

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Timmy Chipmunk: My mom was really excited that you’re here She says you know everything about safety in the woods.

Ranger Bob (embarrassed): Well, I don’t know everything. But I’ve learned a lot over time.

Ms. Porcupine: I invited Ranger Bob here to share some of what he knows about forest safety.

Ranger Bob: What’s the most important thing to remember in the woods?

The children shout out answers:

Don’t get lost!

Don’t eat poison plants!

Don’t eat poison bugs!

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Don’t eat each other!

Everyone laughs.

Ranger Bob: The most important thing to remember is to be prepared. Be sure you have enough water available. Know how to get back to where you started. Questions?

Wally Weasel:  Is it OK to go out by ourselves?

Ranger Bob: I recommend that you always take at least one friend with you. But if you do go alone, be sure someone else knows where you’re going and when you plan to be home.

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Becky Beaver: What do I do if I get lost?

Ranger Bob: If you’re sure you’re lost, find a safe spot and stay there until someone finds you.

Rikki Raccoon: I’d climb a tree to see if I recognized anything.

Ranger Bob: Excellent idea!

Sheila Squirrel: I’d use the squirrel chatter network to tell my parents where I was.

Ranger Bob: Wonderful!

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Louie Wolf: I’d howl to give my position.

Ranger Bob: Another excellent idea! You children are doing great!

Mama and Papa Raccoon are sitting at the back of the room with Ms. Porcupine.

Ms. Porcupine: He really gets along well with the children, doesn’t he?

Mama: Oh, yes. He always has.

Ms. Porcupine: He’s so big. I wonder why they aren’t afraid of him.

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Papa: They know he won’t hurt them. I don’t think they even think about his size after a while.

Mama: He’s very gentle. And talks to them as if they were all the same size.

They watch Ranger Bob and the children for a while.

Ranger Bob: Kids, I’m having a great time, but I think it’s about time for me to go. Any last questions?

Anna Raccoon: Are you going to come back soon and teach us more?

Ranger Bob: That’s up to your school.

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The children turn to look at Ms. Porcupine.

Ms. Porcupine: What types of things did you have in mind, Anna?

Anna Raccoon: I don’t know. Safety stuff. Like swimming.

The others join in.

Forest fires

Snakes

Floods

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First Aid

Building shelters

Finally, Ms. Porcupine holds up her paw, laughing.

Ms. Porcupine: Ranger Bob, it seems that the children have become very interested in safety all of a sudden.

Ranger Bob: They were very good listeners. And it is important that they know how to stay safe. We want them around for a while.

The children giggle and nod.

Ms. Porcupine: You seem to get along well with them and enjoy teaching them.

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Ranger Bob: I’ve enjoyed teaching kids about safety for as long as I can remember.

Ms. Porcupine: Would you be available to come in one afternoon a month for a presentation?

Ranger Bob: I’d be honored.

Ms. Porcupine: Just tell me the subject ahead of time so the parents will know. They might want to come too.

Ranger Bob: Of course.

Ranger Bob turns to the children.

Ranger Bob: OK, kids?

They race up and hug him. It looks like there might be tears in Ranger Bob’s eyes.

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Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

 

14

Ranger Bob – Part 2

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So far: Four raccoon kits have met a bear at the park. The bear turns out to be the beloved Ranger Bob. However, when they go back to invite Ranger Bob to dinner, he has disappeared. You can read the details here.

Mama: Did you find out when Ranger Bob is available for dinner?

Sally: We couldn’t find him at the park.

John: And they made me go into the forest to look for him.

Anna: It wasn’t dangerous. We hid from all the big bears. We talked to a cub.

Mama: Did the cub take you to Ranger Bob’s den?

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Anna: No. He said that Ranger Bob had gone away and didn’t tell anyone where he was going.

Sally: It sounded like he was sad when he left.

Mama: That’s too bad. I hope he’s OK.

Sally: We still want to find him to thank him. Where do you think he might go?

Mama: I’m not really sure. He was always around when I was little. We didn’t need to look for him. Let me talk to Papa and some of the other parents.

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Mama and Papa talked to some of their friends. They were embarrassed to realize that no one had noticed that Ranger Bob wasn’t around much anymore. In fact, no one could remember the last time they had spoken with him.

The parents wondered when the last time was that he had given a safety talk at school. Mama and Mrs. Squirrel decided to talk to the principal.

Mama: Thank you so much for seeing us, Ms. Porcupine. We won’t take up too much of your time.

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Ms. Porcupine: It’s no trouble at all. How can I help you ladies?

Mrs. Squirrel: We were wondering if you know why Ranger Bob doesn’t visit the school anymore?

Ms. Porcupine (puzzled):  Who is Ranger Bob?

Mrs. Squirrel: You know. The big black bear who explains safety to the school children.

Mama: You didn’t grow up around here, did you Ms. Porcupine?

Ms. Porcupine: No. I moved when I got this position.

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Mama: Ranger Bob taught us all about safety when we were little. We recently discovered that our children have never met him. In fact, he startled my kits a few days ago.

Ms. Porcupine: Was he an employee at the school?

Mama: No. They invited him to speak at the beginning and end of the school year. We all loved him. He was particularly popular at the “Fun in the Sun Day” at the end of the school year.

Mrs. Squirrel: Yes, and we’d see him all summer at the beach and river.

Ms. Porcupine: I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d been overlooking such an important part of the teaching team. If you’ll tell me how to reach him, I’ll explain what happened and invite him in.

Mrs. Squirrel: That’s the problem. We can’t find him. We thought maybe you’d have some ideas about where to find him.

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Ms. Porcupine: I’m afraid not. But let me talk to some of the teachers. I’ll let you know what I find out.

 Ms. Porcupine asked for any information available about ways to reach Ranger Bob. The only thing she learned was that he had a daughter on the other side of the river.

She left a message at the number listed, but got no response.

Mama: I guess we’ll have to try going over there.

Papa: I would like to find him and make sure everything is OK.

Sally: Can we come too? Please?

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Papa: All right. But we have to stick together.

The raccoons left early the next morning. They weren’t sure how to find a bear among strangers, but hoped for the best.

The animals on the other side of the river were all friendly. One of the local raccoons said that a strange male bear had passed through a few days earlier looking for a female named Emily.

Papa found a bear and explained the situation. He asked for directions to Emily’s den. The raccoons walked on, paws crossed.

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Before long, they saw a bear sitting on a rock with his head down.

Papa: Excuse me, sir.

The bear looked up. Papa ran up and hugged him.

Papa: Ranger Bob! We’ve been looking all over for you. Why did you leave?

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Next week: What the future holds for Ranger Bob.

Pictures courtesy of Google Images.