Friday, July 9, 2010

Cats, Dogs and Human Nature

I have a kitten sitting on my shoulder. Leah loves animals and is a single woman rescue agency (when her parents let her...). She adopted two kittens a couple weeks ago, but we think our older, wiser cat (who lives on the roof) took out one of the two kittens the other day, so Leah is even more protective of this skitterish little one (which could be why its sitting on my shoulder), even though she doesn't know the truth of the other cat's demise (she thinks Gita, our dearly beloved woman Friday, gave it to her daughter...).

I really don't know why the older cat needed to push Tiger, a really frail kitten Gita had found in fields near her home, off the roof. I guess we'll never really understand the dark side of animal-human nature. We can be so good and so wicked. As they say, 'No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!' Why creatures harm, murder even, is a slight mystery. I guess she felt that the baby kitten, weak as she was, could be a rival for her roof-top supremacy. I don't know.

Which reminds me that the other day I had a long talk with some American University students about my work, life et al. They were asking about how the internet has changed my life in Nepal and I thought, of course, of '2001', the movie. The only awkward part was that only one of the twelve students had ever heard of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, one of the exquisite, poetic and magical movies of my generation. Well, I thought of ALL TIME, but these young Americans possibly dissuaded me of that... 'How', I thought, 'could they NOT have heard of '2001'??!!?"

Now, you may reasonably ask, "Why did you think of '2001' when they asked about the internet and Nepal." Fair question!

But, the contrast of technology and social change cannot BUT bring up the vision of our ape-like ancestors discovering the power of a bone to be used as an instrument of power, brutality and murder, stepping into a 'higher' stage of 'intelligence' on the great chain of being, offering us the ability to further dominant our surroundings, overwhelm our competitors (take that Neanderthals!). So, when asked about technology and social change, that incredible moment when the beast launches its bone weapon in the air and it glides effortlessly into the 21st C. as a space station rotating above the Earth is forever part of my youthful imagination.

Yet youth changes and these kidz had no such memory or the joy of that frozen film image dancing in their thoughts on the complexity and violence of social change and human evolution.

So, I wonder again, why Tara eliminated baby Lion by knocking her off the roof last week, as Gita surmises. Jealousy, competition, malevolence, cruelty, a bad day at the office or simply the wicked ways of creatures large and small?

In my thoughts I contrast that image with the four dogs in our yard, Lapsi, Sumi, Acorn-Chasey (aka 'Kali') and Puppy (Kali's offspring who was supposed to go to someone but has remained with us for months w/ still the appelation of an infant...).

Lapsi is the oldest mother of the group, nearly 16 years and my favorite, a wolf-like creature with an extraordinary amount of tenderness and affection while, in her youth, a true guard dog of tremendous agility and loyalty. But now, alas, Lapsi is in her dotterage. She has a hard time standing or running anymore. She's like a beloved grandmother offering her last blessings of her life with rummy eyes and a hallowed sadness about her.

Last night, I found Lapsi in Josh's downstairs room. Josh and Leah had brought her in through Josh's sliding glass doors when it started to rain and it would have been too difficult for Lapsi to make her way to the garage with the other dogs. Leah made her a bed with Josh's pillows and put a towel over her to keep her warm. Lapsi looked like a Russian babushka, with a shawl over her head, tender-eyed, full of grace.

So what are we creatures, murderous, tender, loving and jealous all in one. What madness G-d invented in our souls?

'Tyger, tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night;'

Which reminds me, I'm not done w/ cats... A month ago++, Gumbi, Leah's favorite Lhasa Apso/Shitzu lost her life trying to protect our yard from a leopard that, we later learned, leapt the wall and took away Gumbi, alas...

We heard the dogs, especially petite, combatitive Gumbi, barking furiously late that night, but didn't realize exactly why until we learned that Gumbi had disappeared a day later. It's not unusual for the bigger dogs, especially randy Kali, to wander about the neighborhood, but extremely unlikely and dangerous for little Gumbi. To be honest, I was more troubled by the fact that a person, a human being who should know morals and kindness, would have taken Leah's favorite lap dog, as opposed to the idea that a beast, a leopard, would have come out of the forest to feed and do what leopards do. For a couple of days, we just didn't know, until a few nights later, the leopard came back, trying to harm Puppy, when Shakun woke Tek, the guard, who went in the backyard with his torch and stick and saw the leopard in the yard trying to take Puppy away. As scared as Tek was, he scared the leopard away and the truth about Gumbi was revealed, that cats will be cats, no matter their size...

Alas, Gumbi's physical and spiritual departure was (and still is...) seriously traumatic. We mourn her still. To protect poor Puppy, who was scared mercilessly that night, we've also raised the back brick wall even though the 8,000' Shivapuri ridge will always remain in our backyard a few frisbee throws away...

where the wild things live...

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