Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 45 - Let’s talk about Culture and ….. our friends the animals

On the occasion of another imperative day to celebrate is WAD  - World Animal Day – on 3 October, I have the pleasure to talk about animals, my encounter with animals, not to forget the Jungle Book, which has accompanied me through all my life, and I am sure so many other people of my generation. Rudyard Kipling wrote this collection of stories in 1894/95, with many experiences of his years in India woven into the fables where animals speak and behave like humans. The story of Mowgli, the man cub, was used for Walt Disney’s animation film of the same name. Only recently I made this film a present to a little Cypriot friend of mine for his 5th birthday; he had never heard of it.

I grew up with animals in my grandmother’s house with an Airdale terrier named Mimi, with 30 hens, 6 turkeys, rabbits and all the animals of the forest around us and I often thought that I must have been raised by animals just like Mowgli because I regarded them as my family, there were the deer I used to watch, foxes and snakes; I often went with the bird man who had all the birds in his garden and he spoke to them like to his children and when a buzzard or eagle flew away and did not return by itself, he took his hat and rucksack and went into the woods searching for it; I often went with him and he whistled and sang aloud in a special language and all of a sudden a rush of wings from above and the bird came down onto his arm; they were not used to live alone. I often took my animals to him when they had a problem.

Animals can be the best playmates for children, comrades and sitters; family cats and dogs will watch over babies if human or of other species; they are faithful and will not harm one of its tribe, all the living things of the house included. Having lived in Africa for many years I know that young lion cubs or the like when brought up in a family can become a true member and will later return to them visiting. This behaviour is the basis for the stories of Kipling’s jungle book.

We have often heard that orphaned animal babies are adopted in the most curious combinations; the adult animal becomes protective towards the helpless hungry bunch of life. A cat adopted a baby squirrel into her litter of kittens which learnt to purr when stroked, or as I have experienced our cat having the chicks in her basket; a golden retriever adopted three tiger cubs in a safari park; and the most funny combination is a mother tiger adopting piglets that were left alone, but the most extraordinary story is the one of a lion mother adopting an onynx antelope instead of eating it. So the fable of a man cub being adopted by a pack of wolves is not a fable at all; the young ones are obviously immune. Ok, it depends on the situation and is not at all the rule, just as humans would not all bend down to pick up a helpless bundle to care for it. But such things are within the realms of possibility, and the passion and empathy for the young ones is evident in animals.

We find that animals are often mistreated by the humans, kicked and beaten and even killed because they are in the way. When these animals escape such a hell they can become vicious when they are grown up and or they are extremely submissive in order to please, with all pride gone.

Animals have their pride just as we have it, and one can see a big difference in a dog that is well cared for and respected and loved or in a dog that was mistreated. And all that because they cannot speak and accuse the tormentor…

But there are the interpreters, the animation drawers, writers, they make animals speak up, starting with Micky Mouse and Tom; Simon’s Cat and many other famous animated figures, and often we think….hmmm, just like my cat or dog. Have you read Akif Pirincci’s cat novels?... the humans seen with the eyes of a cat, what lovely stories.

They don’t always need words to express their feelings: the bird that I freed from the skimmer in the swimming pool; or the beautiful jay that bumped its head on our glass door; I had it on my lap for half an hour to cool the bump with the blade of a knife just as my grandmother did with me and some ice; or perhaps you remember my story of the little fox that came to our kitchen door all through winter for want of food because it has lost its mother, our cats have just as well adopted the little one. They all have somehow shown their gratitude through signs of trust.


Animals cannot speak our language but they have their own way of expressing themselves and they understand us and our ways much better than we think.


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