Tag Archives: big cats

The Big Cat Book

Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue, told by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff (Scholastic Press; $17.99; 40 pages)

“Snow leopards by nature are survivors.   They withstand almost impossible conditions – frigid snow, harsh winds, unsteady ground.”

As a very young cat (my humans call me a kitten), I was anxious to read this book about one of my big cat distant cousins.   I look like a small gray-blue-black leopard, and this book’s about Leo, a cool spotted snow leopard.   Like me, Leo was found wandering around without his mother, an orphan.   But unlike me, Leo was located mewing and hungry in the snowy Karakoram mountains of northern Pakistan.   That’s a lot higher place than I’ve ever been!

Leo happened to be found by a goat herder, a nice man who gave Leo a new, safe home with lots of goat’s milk to drink.   (I don’t know if goat’s milk is tasty or not.)   Sadly, Leo wound up getting sick when he was just a baby cub – all of seven weeks old – so he was turned over to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) offices in Pakistan.

The WWF veterinarians (ooh, those white-coated doctors scare me) fixed him up, then got the idea of sending Leo to a zoo in the U. S. that was the first to exhibit a snow leopard.   And that was?   Yes, you guessed it, the Bronx Zoo!

Finally, Leo got lucky ’cause he was put in a big natural forest setting at the zoo where he, naturally, chose to stay high up on a man-made cliff.   That is, until he got an enclosure mate – the gorgeous female snow leopard named Shelby.   Leo and Shelby have a  lot of fun together, and they might be thinking about producing some snow leopard cubs.   (I have no idea what the process is for this…)

Anyway, this is a neat-o book for anyone who likes cats, especially the small humans in your household.   A  librarian told me that this book is recommended for young humanoids between the ages of four and eight and/or for those in Kindergarten through grade five.   What does grade five mean?

This book’s filled with four extra pages of information on endangered animals and zoos for the older kids and adults to read.   I read them and found out that I’m not endangered – whew!; but, snow leopards are.   There are only a few thousand of them left on this planet.   Anyone reading this book, human or animal, will realize that we need to save the snow leopards, especially the loveable big ones like Leo.

I’ll see you at the Bronx Zoo sometime, my furry cousin!

I loved this book as much as a bowl of Tillamook cheddar cheese.

Highly recommended.

Sasha the kitten

This children’s book was purchased by Sasha’s dad of the human persuasion.   One of the books in this series, Winter’s Tale: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again, has been made into a motion picture (Dolphin Tale).   Another, Owen & Mzee, was a #1 New York Times bestselling book.

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At the Zoo

Did Not Survive: A Zoo Mystery by Ann Littlewood (Poisoned Pen Press; $14.95; 250 pages)

This second novel from former zookeeper Ann Littlewood, pits human nature against the honesty of zoo animals for a compelling read.   A fictitious zoo in the Pacific Northwest provides the location for a unique spin on an age-old tale of a heroine in peril.   The main character is Iris Oakley who is not only a recently widowed zoo employee, but also pregnant with her deceased husband’s baby.

In this story there are actually two heroines in peril, Iris Oakley and an aged elephant named Damrey.   Damrey has been a favorite of local families who visit her at the zoo.   Author Littlewood makes a case for the depth of knowledge required of zoo personnel.   It’s not just sweeping up after the animals and making sure they have their favorite foods.   Behavior, instincts and training are well documented for a wide range of the zoo’s inhabitants.   There are births and deaths that tear at the hearts of the staff.

Littlewood opens the mystery with the death of the zoo superintendent, a fellow who was good at his job but not well liked.   He’s discovered in Damrey’s enclosure being menaced by the very agitated elephant.   Iris is the first on the scene and it falls to her to assist in determining who is responsible for the super’s death.

Along the way we get to know the elephants.   They have not been part of her job until the discovery of the body in their enclosure.   Her regular charges are the big cats; however, pregnant women must not empty cat pans, big or small.   Iris is a remarkable character who captured this reviewer’s sympathies.

Well recommended. Let’s hope Ms. Littlewood keeps writing about what she knows so well as she provides entertainment bundled with fascinating learning.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A Small Furry Prayer

A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler (Bloomsbury; $25.00; 320 pages)

Animal lovers of each and every type will love A Small Furry Prayer.   I’m a cat person and yet this story got me to thinking about the joys of living with a dog.   Note that I deliberately did not use the phrase “owning a dog,” as Kotler makes clear that every canine retains a measure of independence.

“My home was now an environment where some level of danger and unpredictability – two of the defining characteristics of wildness – were part of the basic package.”

This tale of a dog rescuing fortyish couple starts in Los Angeles before moving to the comparative wilds of New Mexico.   They begin by serving as emergency foster parents to one dog, then two before winding up living in a dilapidated farm-house in Chimayo, New Mexico – with 20 dogs!   (They later lose count of the total when it exceeds 20.)  

Steven Kotler and his wife Joy (known to the locals as el angel de los perros) wind up being less foster parents than the providers of a wooly home for abandoned dogs.   Because six or so of the dogs are Chihuahuas their abode comes to be known as Rancho de Chihuahua.

The Kotlers don’t have a lot of money in 2008 but nevertheless they must purchase $500 worth of good quality dog food each week (sickly dogs require good nutrition) and spend their savings on expensive life-saving operations for their wards.   Kotler is sceptical that he’s going to get much payback from this situation other than having kept his commitment to following Joy’s number one rule in life:  “Love me, love my dogs.”

Eventually, of course, Kotler gets his reciprocation in the form of love and acceptance from the rescued dogs, some of whom had been feral and mistrusting of humans.   And there’s the instance in which one of the dogs saves the author’s life when a mountain climbing expedition goes bad.   The dogs, in a sense, demonstrate that love and affection is always paid back in full.

As a former newspaper and magazine writer, Kotler is used to doing extensive research and in this book he includes many fascinating summaries of research performed with animals.   Much of the research verifies the benefits – mental and physical – that dogs and other animals bring to our existence.   Kotler also makes a convincing case for the notion that the modern dog is just as smart as (but perhaps shrewder than) his wolf ancestors.

At the end of Prayer, the reader will likely come to accept the positive message that our lives on this planet are meant to be shared with furry creatures; creatures that are never owned but which reward us with their unique and special presence.   Part of the truth about what it really means to be human can be expressed in the phrase, “Love me, love my animals.”

Well recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.   A Small Furry Prayer will be released by Bloomsbury USA on Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

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