Article #5 - The Humanness of Nonhumans: VEGETABLE SOUP FOR THE SOUL (A Vegan Way of Life)


Billie Touchstone Signer

Come Holy Spirit, come, give me the courage to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Our four animal companions were originally strays who needed a home and we needed them.  Believe it or not, they can speak -- no, not with words, but with their body language.  Yes, body language.  Of course one has to live with animals and study them and their personalities before recognizing their body language.  It’s not that difficult if one stays alert.

Jose’ is our small part Border collie - part some kind of Terrier.  He’s the most intelligent nonhuman I know.  Granted, he’s stubborn, jealous, envious, sulky, a picky eater, spiteful and absolutely and totally disobedient.  And why would we want a dog with all these bad traits?  Each of my children and grandchildren had and has one or more of those traits and I love them still.  It’s called unconditional love.  I see beyond Jose’s bad traits and into his very soul.

At times, I firmly believe God sent him to test my patience.  I expect any time to see light encircle him like some Touched by an Angel character with his being one of the “quirky” angel.

He stares at me with his almost black eyes, which look like marbles.  Once I tried to “outstare” him.  He won.  I blinked first.  I can feel his stare across the room and know he wants something.  I ask him what he wants?  He jerks his head (honest) toward the door.  “You want outside?”  Now he bows and barks beside the door.  But he won’t go out.  “Oh, you’re telling me that Angel Boy (our three year old cat) wants to come in?”  Another head jerk.  Sure enough,  I open the door where Angel Boy, our male cat, is waiting I didn’t hear the cat make a sound, but Jose’ did.

The first time we saw him jerk his head toward the door or toward the cookie jar on the fridge, we could hardly believe our eyes.  Never had I seen that ability in a dog and we’ve had many dogs in our family.

The vet said he’s only about a year old so how did he learn this?  A part of his “humanness” would be my guess.  Strange, but true.

Baby Blue, our orphaned kitten, swings from the light string like a trapeze artist.  She turns the light off and on during the night which is a bit unsettling.  She sits on the furniture like the Ethan Allan raccoon commercial.  She plays hide and seek with the other cat,  Jose’ and our big white dog.  She either has unbelievable courage or is absolutely foolhardy.  With all of her two pounds, she literally plows into the big ones then backs off and glares at them as if to say, “you better not hurt me or I’ll tell.”

Angel Boy’s a plain alley cat who came to us when he was barely weaned.  Out of nowhere, it seemed, he walked into the back yard where we were raking leaves one afternoon.  His neck was no bigger around than a pencil and his long skinny legs looked like sticks. He looked very hungry, but not for long.

He came and went, often staying gone several days.  Then one morning, he’d be sitting on the front step as if to say, “Hi, I’m back, what’s for breakfast?”  I declared he must be an angel and we named him Angel.  After awhile it was evident she was a he and changed the name to Angel Boy.  Like all cats, he's very independent with that “I’ll come when I’m ready” attitude. When I call him to come in, he usually ignores me UNTIL I do my baby talk, and here he comes running like the house is on fire.  Guess we all have our limits of independence.  What a character!

And Lady is our fifty pound Great Pyrenees mixed with Lab.  We’ve only had her a short while.  She’s very gentle, sad eyed and apparently, was once abused.  She’s still quite skittish and dodges for no reason.  She can’t believe she’s safe with us no matter how much she’s hugged and loved.  But she’ll come around.  Love has a way of melting all barriers.

Someone asked how I managed to get them to fall into a vegan diet when they are carnivores.  I explained that only vegan food is served here and if hungry, that’s what they have to eat.  Incidentally, dogs and cats are not carnivores once they are domesticated.  They have no need to kill and eat other animals as in the wild.  Granted, at first, they looked at me and then at their dish of veggie kibbles and walked away.  But by the next morning, it actually tasted pretty good.  Now, they truly love it.

Martha, sweet little Martha, what a joy she brought to us many years ago when my children were young.  She was one of twelve pigs in a litter born to a big sow who didn’t have enough teats and she was given to us to bottle-feed.  What a sassy little gal!  It was a hard winter and I put her in a little box beside my bed so I’d be sure she was warm and I would hear her when she cried for her bottle.  It was my daughter’s doll bottle.  Had to fill it quite a few times. Then, there was no soy or rice milk available and all we had was goat’s milk.  She thrived on it.

One morning around four after her feeding, I woke to find her lying on my stomach. I said, “What are you doing there?”  To which she replied, “Oink, Oink.”  That means, “I was lonely and It’s warmer there. “

Martha walked on her tiny pearl-like feet as though walking on high heels.  We could hear her all over the house clicking her feet on the wood floor.  I enjoyed sitting on the floor to play with her.  When she tired, she put her little head on my lap and took a nap.  She thought shoestrings were made to untie and trash to play in while I was sweeping the floor.

Often, she hid from me in the rollaway bed.  I’d call her name again and again, but not a sound.  I pretended not to see her little head sticking out between the fold of the mattress.  I could almost feel her excitement as I came close. “ Where are you, Martha?”  Suddenly, the excitement was too much.  She squealed like I had stepped on her and wriggled out and ran from me and hid behind the chair with her little butt sticking out.  This game was a daily ritual.  She snuggled at my neck and truly thought I was her mother.  She slept in a doll bed until she became too large and her back legs hung over the side.  We built a little pen outside the window so we could lift her in and out to “do her job.”

This was many years ago and I’ve never forgotten the pleasure she brought us.

There are many stories I could tell about our animals; I’ve given them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when they were choking.  Stayed up nights when they were ill and spent money we didn’t have for vets.

These are nice true stories to warm the heart.  Right?  Yes, but now it’s time to talk about the humanness of nonhumans that are not domesticated.

Who do you suppose decided long ago which would be “food” animals and which would not?  I wonder why some animals are eaten and others are not.  Animal flesh is pretty much the same as human flesh once the covering is off; same red blood, same muscle, sinew, tissue and the like.  Do you suppose they did taste tests?  Flesh is flesh, be it bovine, feline, canine, equine, chicken, human and the rest. The flavor is all in the blood, I’m told. Disgusting?  You bet it is.  I watch as super market shoppers gather around the meat counters like vultures after flesh that’s been long dead and only refrigeration makes it seem edible.

But then my heart softens toward the shoppers.  (I was once the same until I began to read, reflect and pray for wisdom.) Perhaps no one explained it to them, that those packages contained the parts of once living, breathing creatures who wanted to live and enjoy their life given them by the Creator just as you and I.

No, I hold no malice at all; just sadness that they have not “seen the light.“  My family and friends often ridicule me behind my back or face-to-face for my convictions.  But, hey, that’s all right.  I don’t hold those convictions for praise and acceptance, but because IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!

The humanness of nonhumans!  I’ve watched cattle in the fields who have no barn turn their backs to the icy winter wind, lower their heads and wait until it subsides; same with rain and snow.  I’ve seen cattle suddenly head for the barn for no apparent reason--then a storm from out of nowhere is upon us.

Sows herd their litters to shelter when there’s a threat in the weather.  How do they know?  No weather channel there.  I believe that God in His goodness, whispers in their ear and tells them.  I’m corrected and told it’s instinct.  Instinct indeed!  You believe instinct and I’ll believe He whispers in their ear.

Wonder how geese and ducks know to fly in formation taking turns to go to the rear when they tire and let the next one in line lead. A beautiful sight, no?  Some more of that instinct, I suppose.  Hmmm.  How do they know when to migrate?  You know! Instinct!  The dictionary defines instinct: “An inner pattern of behavior that is not learned and results in complex animal responses such as building nests and nursing of young; A powerful motivation or impulse; a natural capability or aptitude.” See, just as I said, God whispers in their ear.

Scientists work very hard to explain why animals, birds and the like know these “instinctual” things.  After a trash barrel full of explanation, the theory is quite ridiculous to folks who are on a spiritual journey.  We know Who’s in control.

Beaver build dams that would rival one built by an engineer.  How’d they learn to build a watertight dam?  They don’t have a blue print or a degree, but a family of beaver can construct one almost overnight.  They live in “split-level” dens with “shelves” at different heights for adapting to the water levels and easy passage in and out.  Ingenious?  You bet it is!  They are very family oriented and stay with the same mate until death.  The young can stay in the den until they are old enough to go out and seek a partner of their own and start another family.  The young kits are playful as human babies and sound very much the same when they cry.

Yet for many years, trappers caught this intelligent, sensitive animal with hideous traps.  They were forced to suffer excruciating pain with a foot in the steel traps for days until the trapper returned.  Often they would chew their feet off to escape. And America called trapping the honorable trade that settled the West.  Odds are the West would have been settled without trapping.

Many animals in the wild mate for life and grieve if a mate dies or is killed.  And I have seen dogs lie for days at the grave of a master.  They wouldn’t eat or leave the graveside of someone who loved them.

In the wild, many animals have to kill to survive and/or to protect their young or their territories.  But we do not live in the wild nor do we have to torture and slaughter innocent animals to eat, to protect our young or territories.

Why put animals through living hell to train them to entertain a paying audience?  Could it be that we are not examining our consciences nor reflecting on how our actions affect others of this planet?  And until we do, we will not be a nation at peace with ourselves, our neighbors or other countries.  Ours has evolved into a disordered society. And until order is put back, there will never be peace.

Animals, whether human or nonhuman, have more similarities than dissimilarities. We must stop killing the innocent and eating their flesh.

More and more, the intelligent are seeing the habit of flesh eating as revolting, immoral and barbaric, to say the least.  I know of a very feasible solution -- VEGANISM.

Copyrighted as a collection by Billie Touchstone Signer

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Go on to: Article #6 - Rearranging our Thinking Cap
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