Random Acts of Kindness by Animals

Random Acts of Kindness by Animals


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573243506
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 07/15/2008
Edition description: REV
Pages: 204
Sales rank: 434,176
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

A wellknown speaker on animalrelated issues, Stephanie LaLand is the author of Peaceful Kingdom: Random Acts of Kindness by Animals, 51 Ways to Entertain Your Housecat While You're Out. A workshop leader for people wishing to increase their connection to animals, she and her husband and many animal friends live in Felton, California.

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random acts of kindness by animals

By Stephanie LaLand

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2008 Stephanie LaLand
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-212-0


survival of the kindest

This book is a collection of true stories about animals who have displayed the sort of love and humanity we humans aspire to achieve. Dogs are well known to have put aside their own safety in order to save a fellow animal's life or aid an injured human. But in this book, you will discover the compassion, heroism, and incredible caring, not only of dogs, but also of many other animals, including cats, monkeys, geese, turtles, fish, and even a wild seagull! Some animals have dedicated their whole lives to helping others. In addition to the well-known Seeing Eye and hearing dogs, there are also handi-dogs who help paraplegics.

That animals can act with courage, love, devotion, and compassion is dramatically demonstrated in these stories from around the world. Often animal acts of kindness have a unique poignancy to them—like that of an English cat, who, when barred from the funeral chamber where her beloved mistress was being mourned, laid a dead bird outside the door—the only gift of farewell she knew how to give.

Even if it is not a dramatic rescue, contact with animals can heal the body and nourish the soul. Studies have shown that having a pet enables people to live longer, to recover more frequently from heart attacks, and gives prisoners and juvenile delinquents a way to reconnect with society. From gorillas who speak to us through sign language to pets who communicate so much love throughout a lifetime, without ever saying a word, animals bring joy to our lives and comfort to our spirits.

Four years of research have gone into this book. These stories have made me laugh, made me cry, amazed and surprised me. Finding each one was like discovering a delicate little treasure more precious than gold or jewels, because each spoke to me of the virtues common to all life. When we discover a little more goodness in others, we somehow discover more of it in ourselves as well.

Never again will I settle for the phrase "only an animal" to describe one of my fellow creatures. The animals, themselves, through their loyalty, bravery, commitment, and love, have stated, more eloquently than any words might say, that we are all sentient and conscious beings, each holding within us that little spark of the divine.

By now everyone has heard of the incident that took place at a zoo near Chicago, an unexpected rescue that captured the attention of the whole world and caused people to rethink the way they looked at animals. During the summer of 1996, spectators at the Brookfield Zoo were shocked to witness a three-year-old boy fall twenty-four feet into the gorilla compound, striking his head on the concrete. The boy lay unconscious, at the mercy of the seven huge gorillas in the compound.

As the crowd watched anxiously, one of the gorillas approached the boy. It was Binti-Jua, a mother gorilla, carrying her own infant on her back. The helpless spectators tensed as the gorilla came closer and closer to the unconscious boy. They were too far away to separate them if she chose to do him harm. As Binti-Jua picked up the boy in her hairy arms, the boy's mother screamed out, "A gorilla's got my baby!"

Rather than harming him, the gorilla cradled him in her arms. Keeping the other gorillas away, she carefully carried him to a door at the side of the compound which she had seen humans use many times and where the zookeeper could reclaim him.

Binti-Jua (Swahili for "daughter of sunshine") became a national hero, thanks to a videotape made by visitor Bill Lambert that captured the entire event. Audiences around the world watched a zoo animal rescue a human boy with obvious tenderness. Zoo attendance rose dramatically and gifts of money and bananas flooded in from around the world.

Critics who said that Binti-Jua was merely acting from maternal instinct (as if all mothers don't) were silenced when a videotape was broadcast of a similar incident that happened ten years before. On that occasion, a child who had fallen into a gorilla compound was approached by a male gorilla. Instead of hurting the child, the very large and potentially dangerous male gorilla could be seen gently stroking the fallen child's head.

Why should we be so surprised? Anyone lucky enough to be raised with a dog or cat knows that animals are fellow beings with personalities and a tremendous capacity for love and devotion. You can look into their eyes and sense another soul in there looking back at you. We all love to share stories of our own animals' antics or heroism.

The fact that wild animals are also capable of compassion and understanding should not be too difficult to accept. Yet, when we witness wild animals demonstrating remarkable acts of kindness and courage, we are taken aback. Such cases make us uneasy, impel us to reach, like Binti-Jua's critics, for rationalizations that let us believe animals are mere soulless automatons.

When animals display extraordinary humanity, it is hard for us to continue to treat them "like animals." And yet, in the animal kingdom there are many examples of compassion taking precedence over "survival of the fittest."

Indeed, the naturalist Petr Kropotkin, a Russian prince and contemporary of Charles Darwin, noticed such behavior and developed a very different theory from Darwin. Darwin purported the theory of "survival of the fittest," a dispassionate theory that describes life on earth as a desperate contest to kill or be killed—to eat or be eaten. In contrast, Kropotkin's theory championed "survival of the most cooperative."

Why such different views of animals? Darwin developed his theories predominantly on an island where the air was warm, food was abundant, and animals were at risk from overpopulation. Petr Kropotkin, however, went north to Russian Siberia to learn about animal behavior. There, he realized that when the environment is more adversarial, animals must learn to work together for survival. Animals such as wolves, which have had to face biting cold and snow, learn to hunt together and build supportive social structures. Kropotkin's research indicated that cooperation, communal living, and mutual assistance are just as important to life on earth as sharper teeth, longer claws, or bigger muscles.

Even in warmer climates there are many examples of animal cooperation if you look for them, such as beavers working together to build a dam to stop a river's flow. Since we know that what we look for affects what we see, we must guard against the prejudicial veils of theory and look afresh at the animal kingdom.

That's the purpose of this book—to open our eyes to the compassionate and cooperative nature of the animals with whom we share this earth. It includes stories not only of love and heroism, but also of works of great beauty that animals have created. And sprinkled throughout the book are suggested acts of kindness we can offer to the animals in our lives in appreciation of all of their devotion and care.

This book began to take shape over ten years ago, although I didn't know it at the time. A woman called me on the telephone to tell me about an incident that took place on her childhood farm many years before. She had gotten my name from an article I had written about animals and had taken the time to call me up. As she shared her story of love and compassion, I was overwhelmed by the sweetness, loyalty, and self-sacrificing love that passed between two dogs—one her's, the other her neighbor's. At the end of the conversation, we were both crying. She thanked me for listening and then added, "I've waited thirty years to tell someone this story." And so I have included the story of Brownie and Spotty here, the first of a series of stories that have gently refocused my life.

—Stephanie Laland, Spring 1997

unspoken love

"Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission—to be of service to them wherever they require it."

—Saint Francis of Assisi

Brownie and Spotty were neighbor dogs who met every day to play together. Like pairs of dogs you can find in most any neighborhood, these two loved each other and played together so often that they had worn a path through the grass of the field between their respective houses.

One evening, Brownie's family noticed that Brownie hadn't returned home. At first, they weren't too concerned because he had disappeared before. Assuming he was just out roaming, they didn't look for him. But Brownie didn't show up the next day and by the next week he was still missing.

Curiously, Spotty showed up at Brownie's house alone, barking, whining, and generally pestering Brownie's human family. Busy with their own lives, they just ignored the nervous little neighbor dog. Finally, one morning Spotty refused to take "no" for an answer. Ted, the father of the family with whom Brownie lived, was steadily harassed by the furious, adamant little dog. Spotty followed him about, barking insistently, then darting toward the empty lot and back as if to say, "Follow me! It's urgent!"

Ted followed the frantic Spotty across the empty lot as Spotty paused to race back and bark encouragingly. The little dog led the man under a fence, past clumps of trees, to a desolate spot a half mile from the house. There Ted found his beloved Brownie alive, one of his hind legs crushed in a steel leg hold trap. Horrified, Ted now wished he'd taken Spotty's earlier appeals seriously.

Then Ted noticed something quite remarkable.

Spotty had done more than simply lead Brownie's human to his trapped friend. In a circle around the injured dog, Ted found an array of bones and table scraps—which were later identified as the remains of every meal Spotty had been fed that week!

Spotty had been visiting Brownie regularly, in a single-minded quest to keep his friend alive by sacrificing his own comfort. Spotty had evidently stayed with Brownie to protect him from predators, snuggling with him at night to keep him warm and nuzzling him to keep his spirits up.

Brownie's leg was treated by a veterinarian and he recovered. For many years thereafter the two families watched the faithful friends frolicking and chasing each other down that well-worn path between their houses.

Scarlett, an ordinary-looking shorthaired cat, was not really noticed at first in the confusion that surrounded the burning building where she had been living with her small kittens. But Scarlett proved to be a devoted mother and a hero.

Overcoming every animal's innate fear of fire, she forced herself to go back into the roaring flames and billowing poisonous smoke of the building and retrieve each of her precious kittens. Five times Scarlett returned to the ferocious heart of the blaze to get each of her babies out. Scarlett's fur was singed off and her eyes seared shut by the flames, and yet she somehow managed to carry each tiny kitten to safety across the street. There she was observed taking a head count by touch because she could no longer see them.

Firemen finally found her and realized what had happened. Much of her body had been burned in the course of getting her kittens out. She was taken to the local animal shelter and separated from her kittens because she could not feed them due to her burns. After a local TV station featured her tale of heroism, the shelter received over 10,000 calls from people wanting to adopt her. A week later, she was reintroduced to her kittens and the joyful reunion was broadcast across the nation. Scarlett had her kittens back at last and she licked each youngster in turn, purring happily. One of her fireman rescuers who had dropped by to visit said, "Just to see her do that same head count almost made me cry."

Because mother dolphins nurse their young for so long—eighteen months or about as long as human mothers nurse—the mother-child bond is very strong. Many times a dolphin will not desert another dolphin who is in trouble even if it costs them their own life. When infant dolphins are trapped in tuna nets, their mothers will try desperately to join them. Then the mothers will cuddle close to their babies and sing to them as they both drown. The tuna industry's official acknowledgment of this remarkable phenomenon is that most of the dolphins killed are mothers and infants. Although they are an improvement, even the "dolphin-safe" nets used to catch tuna continue to kill dolphins.

A man raised a pet deer that, when young, was so tame it even liked to ride in the car with him like a dog. During the hunting season they would pass other cars full of hunters whose startled gazes the deer would placidly return.

The same deer, when it was a bit older, once came upon a lost deer hunter in the woods. The hunter, completely disoriented, was startled by the deer's friendliness—it trotted right up to him, obviously tame. Figuring he had nothing to lose, the hunter decided to follow the deer. Sure enough, the deer led the man back to his house where someone opened the door. The deer casually walked into the house.

The deer's human guardian gave directions to the now thoroughly abashed hunter, while the deer that had guided him to safety fell asleep on the couch.

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between dog and man."

—Mark Twain

A twelve-year-old boy, Rheal Guindon, had gone on a fishing trip with his parents to Ontario, Canada, where they enjoyed camping out. The lake was in a remote area and there was no one else around. The nearest town was miles away.

One day, Rheal stayed on shore while his parents took a boat out on the lake to catch some fish. As he watched from the shore, his parents' boat suddenly overturned. They struggled in the water and before their son's eyes began to drown. He had no idea how to help them and could only watch helplessly, shouting desperately from the shore. Then their frantic cries ceased and all was silent.

Grieving, the boy numbly tried to walk to the safety of a distant town but the sun was setting. Terrified, he realized he had to face a night alone in the woods. As night fell, he lay down on the freezing earth, weeping and shivering.

Suddenly, as if an angel had heard his cries, he felt a furry body press against him. Rheal couldn't tell what it was, perhaps a dog, but just being next to something warm and breathing helped to ease his pain. He put his arm around the animal and, consoling himself in its warmth and closeness, fell asleep.

In the morning, he woke up to find three wild beavers huddled against him and across his body. They had kept him from freezing to death during the night when the temperature had fallen below zero.

Saint Bernards have been performing rescue work for at least three centuries and have saved thousands of lives. They have wide, almost weblike toes that enable them to walk on snowdrifts up to sixty feet deep. Saint Bernard dogs often travel in packs when doing their rescue work. When they find a fallen traveler, two dogs will lie down, one on either side of the traveler's body to warm him while a third licks his face to awaken him. A fourth dog goes for help to guide a rescue party to the location.

One day a half-starved puppy wandered through the gates of the maximum security prison Sing Sing. He was so undernourished that the fur hung off his body; he looked as if he were wearing poor and ill-fitting clothing. Named "Rags" because of his appearance, he was an instant hit with the inmates, who saved food from their meager meals for him. The men of Sing Sing often had no friends or family who cared to write to them, and they felt abandoned and alone. Rags became a true friend to many, and he loved all of the prisoners. And yet, Rags was aloof to the warden and his family, and he growled at all the guards. He would exercise with the prisoners, and when they had softball games, Rags would bark madly and run around the field with glee.

Every night Rags would leave the prison and return in the morning. Every night but one. This time Rags followed a prisoner to his cell and kept vigil there all night. The next morning, the prisoner confessed to his fellow inmates; "That dog just saved my life." For when his parole had been denied, the man had decided to end his life. Yet every time he's move to wind the bedsheets to hang himself, Rags would softly growl outside his cell. Knowing that if he continued, Rags would bark and alert the guards, the prisoner was unable to act on his plan. At last he realized that there was someone who really cared if he lived or died—Rags. Secure in this knowledge, he had gratefully chosen to live.

"I refuse to eat animals because I cannot nourish myself by the sufferings and by the death of other creatures. I refuse to do so, because I suffered so painfully myself that I can feel the pains of others by recalling my own sufferings."

—German pacifist Edgar Kupfer, imprisoned by the Nazis for his beliefs, writing secretly from his hospital bed in Dachau

Toto was a tame chimpanzee and longtime companion of Mr. Cherry Kearton. When Cherry fell desperately ill with malaria, Toto sat up with him day and night. As Cherry grew weaker, Toto learned to bring a glass of quinine, the medicine needed to control the disease, to his friend.

While he was recovering but before he could rise from his bed, Cherry would signal Toto that he wanted to read. Toto learned to put a finger on each book on the shelf until the man said "Yes." Then the chimpanzee would pull the indicated book out of the shelf and carry it over to his patient. Sometimes, when Cherry fell asleep with his boots on, Toto removed them for him.

Excerpted from random acts of kindness by animals by Stephanie LaLand. Copyright © 2008 Stephanie LaLand. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Doris Day          

Survival of the Kindest          

Unspoken Love          

Senseless Acts of Beauty          

Humans Respond          

Resource Guide          


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Random Acts of Kindness by Animals 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
RabbiBarry More than 1 year ago
This books is filled with feel good anecdotes. All of them pertinent to the main issue that the author presents. Sentient is not a well-defined concept. While an animal may not understand math, although some do, (my dog knows when he has been short-changed on treats.), she surely understands kindness, emotion, care and concern. This book gives the believer in animal rights and animal caring all the evidence they need to justify protecting the higher animals. I highly recommend that as you read this book you think about all the times your cat, dog, parrot, parakeet, etc. does things which seem very sentient.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the stories were cute, but I read this on the nook, and the formating was off a bit. There was not a clear distinction between stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr-SandraFortune More than 1 year ago
Short vignettes that allow you to read the messages quickly. These literay sketches paint a powerful picture of our animal protectors. Sometimes the animals that intervene in the lives of humans come as a complete surprise. For those of you who enjoy reading about angels, don't miss this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago