8 July

Simon’s Glow: The Consciousness Of Animals

by Jon Katz
Consciousness Of Animals
Consciousness Of Animals

When people talk about the consciousness of animals, they tend to hide behind behavioral books and the thousands of studies devoted to what animals are thinking and feeling. I’ve been reading these journals and studies for years, and I learned fairly early one that you can find one to support absolutely any point of view. I read one last week that said animals had all the emotions of humans, and another saying they had none of the emotions of humans, both from respected institutions spending a lot of money on the subject. Every seems to have  a favorite book or author on the subject, one they quote enthusiastically, one that usually   reflects their own feelings and prejudices. We have given up reaching our own conclusions, we think we are not entitled to them, only gurus and scholars can have them.

There is a lot of research on animal consciousness, and no scholar every got a study funded that set out to prove animals are simple, different from us, and not brilliant or empathetic or healing.  I decided there were no answers in those books and journals for me, so I stoppedt reading journals and studies and started paying attention  and listening to the animals that are part of my life and that surround me every day. That was when my ideas about animal consciousness began to grow. Slowly, day by day I have been coming to my own conclusions, and I promise you that I will never hide behind studies or other dog books. Nor will I claim I know for sure, I can’t and nobody else can either. I don’t know are important words in our language, even if you will rarely hear or see them. For better or worse, they are my own ideas and I take full responsibility for them. I have learned a lot from some writers and books, I have learned much more from the animals themselves, for what I see and hear and feel.

I consider Simon to be one of the most spiritual animals I have ever encountered. There is the natural tendency to assume this is because he was so horribly mistreated and disfigured and nearly died. There is the idea that he is grateful, appreciate, connected to Maria and I because we “saved,” or “rescued” him. Researching my  book on donkeys, living with him, I have a different idea. I think donkeys have always been profoundly spiritual creatures, always lived and worked with humans, have long developed a profound and unappreciated intelligence. Sometimes, as happened this morning, I feel a glow coming from Simon, I actually captured it today with my camera, he will pause, seem to be reflecting, taking in the world.

Simon and I are as close as I have ever been with an animal, we are spiritually connected in the most basic way. If I am not around, he will kick and rear at the farrier, if I am here, he will stand still by me and trust me. Our consciousness’s are connected in ways I don’t understand but feel very deeply. I believe the consciousness of animals is simple, visual, accepting and spiritual.

At these times – when Simon seems to glow –  I believe that he is processing images, seen only by him, known only to him. He pauses, withdraws into himself – I’ve seen Lulu and Fanny do this also, but not as deeply as Simon – and I don’t know how old these images are, whether they are stored genetically or come from Simon’s own life, before us and with us. Most animals, I believe – dogs especially – tend to live in the now, they are adaptable, re-homeable, happy to transfer affection in exchange for food and attention. Red loves me, but he loved Karen Thompson too, and he would love you too if you brought him to sheep every day.

Simon, I sense, is a complex creature, his consciousness is old and full of suffering and acceptance and wisdom and goes back further. I sense that he remembers more, is sometimes, it seems, trying to process the images in his mind, trying to sort this out. I have no studies to support this, no statistics to shield me, it is what I feel from seeing him and knowing him, and this is what I felt this morning, when he came up to me, then seemed to withdraw into a meditative and thoughtful state, as if he were trying to retrieve images that meant something to  him.

Dogs and many other animals are believed to think in much the same way as autistic children – in images – and even though we like to think we know what they are thinking, we can’t know since they don’t possess our language, understanding of life or death, or narrative way of looking at the world. I do think sometimes that Simon’s glow occurs when he is thinking of his time lying in the frozen mud for months, unable to stand, slowly starving to death, saved only by some straw smuggled to him by a caring child. Perhaps reaching back to collect images of other and older times. There is much love in Simon, so, I reason, there must have been much love in his life, despite his troubles.

This is my feeling, my sense of him. My own journal. Simon’s glow.

8 July

Poem: Open Up, Open Up. I Don’t Want To Live A Small Life

by Jon Katz
First Dahlia
First Dahlia

Open Up, Open Up

I don’t want to live a small life,

open your eyes,

open your mind,

open your heart.

I have just come from the Dahlia garden,

the first Dahlia kissing me with its blood red mouth,

the wind-winged clouds roaring overhead,

exciting me,

sending me hurtling along, thinking I might perhaps catch a ride,

feel the wind in my face, but no,

the clouds rushed away, places to go.

So I carry these dreams only to you,

One of the last gifts I can ever bring to anyone

in this world filled with love and  hope and risk and fear,

so do look at me, listen to me.

Open your soul, let it breathe,

Open your life, open your heart.

I don’t want to live a small life,

of warning and fear.

 

8 July

Pack Of Donkeys

by Jon Katz
Pack Of Donkeys
Pack Of Donkeys

It is hot for the donkeys, the flies are all over them, we opened up Rocky’s old stall so they can stand in the deeper, cooler parts of the barn. Here they are awaiting their daily carrot. They have finally shed their winter coats. Fanny has a cut under her eye which we are treating with ointments and creams.

8 July

Tale Of Two Pills: Diabetes World In America

by Jon Katz
Diabetes World In America
Diabetes World In America

Today is the day of two pills for me, one full, one empty.  I have finished my 28-day course of antibiotics for Lyme Disease, I am beginning a lifetime course of medication for diabetes. I am over the chills, fevers, sweating and aching course of Lyme, I feel strong and good, my body appreciates the farewell to Lyme, and to the antibiotics as well. If you go by what you feel – usually we are not allowed to do that – I am recovered, at least for now.

Tomorrow I start taking a medication called Metformin, supposedly the Gold Standard for diabetes medications, the next step would be insulin injections. I know there are holistic medications that work also, and I have explored them and I will probably continue using them even as I become a citizen of Diabetes World In America.

I have to be honest, this is a world of tests and procedures and warnings and big money that I have avoided for years, and happily, but one can’t generalize so completely in the morass that is health care in our country. They do some things very well, and controlling diabetes is one of them. In America, chronic illnesses like diabetes are a source of many warnings and alarms, many “concerns” about my health, but they are also huge profit centers, big business. Money is the elephant in the room,  and you get the sense almost everyone you deal with is delighted to welcome you to Diabetes world even as they ask you what kind of insurance you have and  warn you constantly that you are near death and disintegration at any moment.

In my doctor’s office, the walls are festooned with warnings to diabetics about sight, feet, breathing, heart and kidney trouble, amputations and aches and pains, dead nerves in feet and loss of cognitive powers. The idea seems to be to frighten people into taking a lot of tests, and buying a lot of pills. The TV channels in the waiting room sprout an endless stream of diabetic warnings to get everything in your body checked constantly, study your carbs, see every doctor there is every month there is, you can go blind and lose the feeling in your legs. These things are sometimes true, mostly not. (I have a friend in Berlin with diabetes, and he gets all of his medications and stuff for free.)

The workings of diabetes are fascinating to me. I get a glucose meter for free, and the lancet pins to poke your fingers are cheap – plastic strips with small needles all made in China. But the tiny strips that actually receive your blood are a $1 a piece, a hundred dollars a container, this is where the big money is made,  I am told, that and medications. I received an armload of gear – instructions, meters, lancets, tablets – from the doctor, but then I headed for the pharmacy where the real world of Diabetes is on full display. If you follow all of these tests and warnings, write down everything you eat, poke your finger multiple times, take your classes,  diabetes is pretty much a full-time job.  My pharmacy has a full-time diabetes counselor shelves of meters, pills, tablets, supplements, books and pamphlets, there are posters about diabetes everywhere, special discounts for diabetics. My trip to the pharmacy triggered days of negotiations with my insurance company. Even though my payments were the subject, I was excluded from all of the conversations, which took place my via computers between the doctors, insurance companies and the pharmacy. They would pay for the lancets, but not the meter or the strips.

This required visits and phone calls and e-mails to the doctor and eventually, I had to get a different kind of meter (one the insurance companies like) in order to get the expensive strips paid for. I got  a one-on-one lesson with the pharmacist on using the meter, several pamphlets and an invitation to more counseling,  diabetes classes and workshops. In fact, to get my supplies, I had to sign in three places statements that I did not wish or need more counseling. It was just like Facebook.

The meter is easy to use, and I got a diary in which to write what I am eating and what my blood sugar is before and after each meal. Why did I get this feeling that the diary, published by the glucose meter pharmaceutical firm, listed many more entries for each day than is strictly necessary? More strips? With each meter, you get a handy little traveling kit, incomprehensible instructions, and a device to poke your finger (painless) and a few samples of strips and lancets. Once you get the meter, they are home.

For years, I did not consider myself a diabetic, I controlled it myself. Now I know I am a diabetic and am getting some help.

The diabetes nutritional information – I’ve studied it for years – is pretty common sense really, for me, eat lots of grains, vegetables, no sugar or processed foods, etc., pretty much what I’ve been eating for five or six years. There was nothing new for me.

Diabetes in America, like Lyme, is not just an illness, it is a gazillion-dollar business, a world unto itself, a hydra with a lot of heads, all of them leading to insurance payments and multiple doctor’s visits. The insurance companies hover over the process like the bad witch in Oz, shaping and controlling life in Diabetes World.  Tomorrow I start the medication and we’ll see how it works. For all the money and bureaucracy in diabetes – a hot disease, tens of millions of Americans are getting it – the pills are the point. If the blood sugar is controlled, and it most often is, it will all be a good trade and I will remind myself that I am fortunate to have a disease that can be treated. After years of avoiding this system, I am now a citizen of Diabetes World and the truth is, I see it as a chance to stay healthy, not to be sick.

Stay tuned.

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