Tiny, she’s shiny
“Tiny, she’s shiny. She looks so neat above her feet we call her Tiny shiny.” That was the little rhyme my parents had made up for a sweet little grey and white tabby cat that held centre stage in my earliest years. I used to sing it ad nauseum about the house during the day and well into the night. Tiny, along with her buddy Blackie, were the first animals to ever make an impression upon me. While I loved them both dearly, they were as different as night and day.
If Tiny was sweet and affectionate and never complained as she became my surrogate doll, ever obliging whilst I dressed her up and pushed her about in a pram in the backyard of our family home in Thornbury, Blackie was standoffish, aloof and most unaccommodating of my childhood whims. While Tiny loved cuddles and often dribbled in delight, Blackie preferred his own company and loved to scratch all the while hissing and spitting in annoyance.
Tiny loved nothing more than to snuggle up into the nook created by my outstretched arm and body each night as I lay in bed. Come evening, she could often be found sitting on my bed waiting patiently for me, and as I would clamber in Tiny would paw at the sheets, making her way to her favourite spot. Once her little circling ritual was complete she would settle in and I would begin to rub her floppy pink tummy and she would purr and purr.
My mother told me that magical sound meant she was happy and because I loved my dear Tiny, I would try to stay awake as long as I could and rub her tummy. All too often though sleep pulled me away and Tiny didn’t get all that much of a tummy rub. But I gave her my solemn promise that when I grew up I would get a job that paid me lots of money so that I could employ someone to rub her tummy.
Blackie and Tiny gave me, all those years ago, my first ever peek over the windowsill into the rich emotional world of animals. They were the first to teach me that creatures of the same species have their own unique personality. They showed me that every animal was an individual.
I was also to learn another important lesson way back then that serves me well today and that was the importance of reading animal behaviour. ‘Hey Mummy, Blackie scratched me,’ I would call out, to which my mother admonished, ‘I told you when he’s twitching his tail he DOESN’T want you near him.’ I owe a debt of gratitude to Blackie and Tiny for they started my lifelong love affair with animals and my fascination with the natural world.
From watching the bees in my backyard, learning about the birds in the trees and interacting with the dogs in our neighbourhood, I learned that their lives mattered; they mattered to them and they mattered to the people upon whom they had made an impression.
And so today while I have grown and greyed, it is animal tummies that I still do rub. Except their owners now thank me by way of piggy grunts, rather than purrs.
While Blackie and Tiny were the very first animals to awaken my heart, it was a gentle, humble and handsome pink pig who was to make the greatest impression. I called him Edgar Alan Pig and I named the sanctuary I am the Founder and Director of in his honour – Edgar’s Mission.
The sanctuary today is full of incredible animals who never cease to impress our many visitors; Percy Peacock with his most spectacularly magnificent and oh so photogenic plumage, there’s Miss Marple the elderly cow and Penny the curious sheep who both arrived at the sanctuary in the most pitiful condition but their resolve to hang tenaciously onto life and then bloom back to full health and vigour never ceases to inspire even the most sceptical of souls.
We have Mrs Jeeves, the clever rescued battery hen who spent her entire life inside a battery cage until one day, she along with her fellow captive hens made such an impression upon a farmer’s heart that he had the courage to find a newer, kinder way of living and exited the cruel industry of which he was a part. But this was not before he determined to give his one-time ‘employees’ a second chance and rather than send them to the slaughterhouse, he sent a call out to Edgar’s Mission thereby securing for them a life worth living.
Animals impressed me in my childhood years as they continue to impress me today, so much so that I have dedicated my life to their protection.
If I have learned one thing from all the impressions animals have made upon me, it would be this; regardless of the shape an animal comes in, regardless of our familiarity with them and regardless of our use of them, all animals seek to live lives free from fear and pain, to be able to enjoy freedom and happiness, to live lives full of meaning and purpose, to be valued for who they are, not for what they can do or produce and, where a willing hand is on offer, to happily have their tummies rubbed.
There can be no doubt that our actions create our world but something many do not give thought to is the fact that those very same actions also create the world of animals. And sadly, to date we haven’t been so good at doing that.
Our world is poorer for the loss of countless number of species. We have pushed even more to the brink of existence. We have ruined habitats and polluted waterways and my bee friends are in very real peril. But it is not too late.
Now, more so than ever, it is time for us to impress animals; to impress them with our kindness and our compassion, our due diligence and our ingenuity, our love and our tender mercy. For the animals who have enriched our lives in so many ways, it’s the least we can do.