If you read the news regularly, I’m sure you’ve come across the story of the cat in Bakersfield, California who chased off a dog that had bitten a 4-year old boy while he was playing outside. The cat, Tara, is the family cat of Jeremy (the boy) and his parents. The dog’s name is never mentioned in any article I could find. He simply remains “the dog” in the same way “the perpetrator” or “the killer” would be referenced in a human crime story. Not surprisingly, “the dog” will be euthanized after a 10-day quarantine period because an animal with “a bite history” would be a liability and danger to the community. Can you imagine if we euthanized every human who had a history of aggression that was a liability and a danger to the community? Our population would be much smaller. Hell, I probably wouldn’t even be sitting here typing.
Of course I can appreciate the story and I understand why it’s gone viral because cats aren’t generally known for their selflessness. I will always appreciate stories that show another side to humans or animals that change our perceptions and illustrate a trait we previously assumed couldn’t exist in them. If only we gave all animals the same chance to exercise their instincts and abilities and allowed for their true selves to show, a feat that’s impossible when they’re stuck in a battery cage or a 2-foot wide crate. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if dogs and cats are capable of “heroic” acts that other animals are too?
There are many, many stories about other species of animals showing the same behaviour and capabilities as Tara. People who are around turkeys, pigs, chickens, ducks and cows can tell you stories of the same protective behaviour that Tara showed. Some stories even make the news but not often enough since most other animals are not considered “pets” but “products” and never get the chance to reveal what they’re truly made of because they are trapped on a factory farm. In fact, since most of them live and die in these conditions, they themselves never get to realize their full potential.
I will share with you a very famous story of a pig named Lulu. I only read it for the first time this year and it gave me chills. Not only because it’s a great story but it blew the doors off my previously held conceptions of pigs, typically thought of as filthy and stupid and not good for anything but bacon. In an instant, this story altered my thinking and pushed me to further find out more about pigs and how truly misrepresented they are. The event with Lulu happened in 1998 and I’m going to use Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s version of it from his beautiful book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon since that’s where I first read it:
“It is hard to accept instinct as the only valid explanation for the extraordinary behaviour of Lulu, a 200-pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig living at Animal Place…..their behaviour is basically identical to that of a barnyard domestic pig. This is what the following story demonstrates: Joanne Altsmann was in her kitchen one afternoon, feeling unwell, when Lulu charged out of a doggie door made for a 20-pound dog, scraping her sides raw to the point of drawing blood. Running into the street, Lulu proceeded to draw attention by lying down in the middle of the road until a ca stopped. She then led the driver to her owner’s house, where Altsmann had suffered a heart attack. Altsmann was rushed to the hospital….and knows in her bones that Lulu’s sixth sense saved her life.”
That story also made the news at the time and is so famous that if you Google the name Lulu, “Lulu the pig” comes up right after “Lululemon”. What I believe makes both the story of Lulu the pig and Tara the cat so popular is that they saved humans. Yes, the public is amazed that these particular species of animals are capable of such responses but they are also considered more worthy because the lives they protected and saved were human. If only humans who devote their lives to saving and rescuing animals were treated with the same respect and recognition.