Thought for the day: Be kind to animals. Otherwise you'll grow to be like them.
Ever notice that some people represent the pets they keep, especially canines. I remember taking notice of such a resemblance when I photographed dogs with their owners. In some cases, it was so remarkable I did a double take.
Never had a dog, as much as I wanted one. Neither did my children, despite their occasional pleas. Instead, we relegated ourselves toward a cat. Pebbles came from a litter and became part of our family for 11 years before disappearing one afternoon.
I was always led to believe that he knew when his time had come and didn't wish to burden anyone with the consequences. We never had him replaced.
Just got done reading about this guy who housed 94 hamsters. He had them in aquariums and buckets, Tupperware containers and who knows where else. So he decided it was too much to handle and took his problem to the animal shelter.
I give the guy some credit. At least he didn't display cruelty and put them down. Knowing the MSPCA and the fine work they do, it's my guess that most or all were adopted into caring homes.
People who love animals can't be all that bad. We sometimes live for the animals we keep. But to each his own. I could never tolerate the idea of an iguana or boa constrictor in my house. Nor an alligator. Yet, in speaking with those who harbored such reptiles, they vouched for their gentility.
An architect in my city had an iguana named Iggy who turned into an office mascot. Imagine paying him a call and having an iguana greet you at the door. He served the reptile red cabbage from the supermarket and it was as docile as a cloth doll.
I placed a call to a pet store inquiring about iguanas as pets and was shocked by the answer. They were very much in demand and people were on a waiting list.
Why anybody would house 64 cats is another incredulous story. I read about it not long ago. The Health Department intervened and shut the property down after the stench played havoc with neighbors.
It's one thing to shelter a stray or two — but 64? I would think the felines would get on each other's nerves, let alone the owner's.
One of the best organizations I know is the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, a nationally recognized non-profit, volunteer-driven agency committed to ensuring the health and welfare of feral and domestic cats and kittens.
As a journalist, I think the stories aren't all bad. Some are laden with warmth and compassion. I got a call one day from the city's dog officer who appeared tormented.
Some callous individual had dropped a burlap bag on the road in the dead of winter with a dozen pups inside. They were left to die in the cold.
"Maybe you can take a photo of them," he asked. "It's the week before Christmas and perhaps people might feel merciful."
Off I went to the shelter. The dog officer cradled all the newborns as one stepped up and licked his cheek. I couldn't have captured a better shot.
The photo appeared in the paper urging people to step forward and adopt the puppies. Within two days, the entire litter was placed into caring homes.
It's not the type of story that would shake a nation or drive health officials to an unkempt home to rescue animals running amok, but one that shows the humane side of humans.
During my travels in nursing homes, I have seen the good that pet therapy has done for residents. One facility was home to a blind cat I wrote about. They called him "Miracle," not because of his handicap but how this one animal brought so much joy and comfort to the infirm.
The unsung heroes of my community are those who quietly come to the aid of strays in their own habitat. Placing one or two inside a home is commendable, not 64. The "robin" lady was one of my favorites.
She found a lame robin that had fallen from its nest and was easy prey for some hungry cat. The woman brought the bird home and nursed it back to health. Much as she tried to release the robin, it came back to its perch and stayed with that woman 12 years.
One of the most touching books you'll find is Paul Gallico's "The Snow Goose," the story of a lonely, hunchbacked artist who lives in an abandoned lighthouse in the marshlands of Essex with a young girl who brings him an injured Canada snow goose. Best 64 pages you'll ever read.
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Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.