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Rita Mae Brown

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What We Can Learn From Animals

Posted: 10/16/09 10:55 AM ET

Bestselling author Rita Mae Brown has been passionate about animals her entire life and even admits that she prefers their company to people any day. After all, Brown explains with her noted wit, "There's no such thing as a dumb dog, but God knows there are continents filled with dumb humans." By observing the dogs on her farm, the horses in her stables, and the cats that have helped her flesh out her many novels, Brown has gained better insight into herself and other human beings. Now, with Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small (A Ballantine Books Hardcover; On-sale: October 13, 2009) -- her first memoir in twelve years -- she shares uplifting, hilarious, and even heart rendering stories about the same animals who have shaped her life and her bottomless love for them in return.


I've met many irresponsible people in my life but never an irresponsible cat. This explains my preference for the company of cats. While cats can be infuriating, little old women in fur coats, they make me laugh. Of course, dogs, horses and my highly social chickens are dear to me, too. From time to time I have loved a human; I tend to love our species individually, not in great numbers.

Out of this happy life lived with animals, I have learned some important animal facts. You may have realized them also and your own affection for creatures has shot up accordingly.

  1. Animals never make a virtue out of boredom.
  2. They rarely breed past the food supply.
  3. Sex is a fact of life not an obsession.
  4. You will never meet a dog whose motto is: If I have made just one life miserable, I have not lived in vain.
  5. Animals are insensible (is this the right word?) to flattery but never to food.
  6. They are not given to censorious judgment.
  7. Animals have no need of a bourbon lullaby or other soporifics to sleep peacefully.
  8. They know they are dying but do not carry around the concept of their future demise, therefore avoiding the root neurosis of humankind.
  9. Animals, especially herd and pack animals, do not tolerate wrongdoing by a member of the pack. For instance, if one dog ruined the food supply of the pack it would not be rewarded.
  10. Even a chicken knows that the bird that sits is easily shot.
  11. Your animals don't care if your décor is rat hole orné, if you're one brick shy of a load or if you're ugly as a mud fence. If you love them, they love you.
  12. A dog is just as satisfied to urinate on a Republican election poster as on a Democratic one.
  13. Fish still do not understand why we crawled out of the sea.
  14. Occasionally humans enjoy brief interludes of rationality. Animals deeply appreciate these times.
  15. Most horses prefer the carrot to the whip. Most people do, too. This gives me hope for people.
  16. Cats know the reason people believe Jesus rose from the dead is they don't have nine lives.

Given that you and I have but one life perhaps we can learn from our animals and those in the wild. How content they are with what humans call the simple pleasures: warmth, food, sex, a bright day in which to play; when you think of it, what is better? Do you think Tolstoy was any happier when he finished War and Peace than when he beheld a ravishing sunset? Tolstoy may not be the best example since he was one of those people (a count and a rich one) who suffered because he didn't suffer. Much as I love his work, I am convinced my house cat is far happier than this great author was.

The other thing I forgot to mention that I have learned from animals is that no animal would willingly submit to another animal stealing its food or den. No animal on the face of the earth could conceive of taxation. You and I work roughly six months a year to pay our local, state and federal taxes. If nothing else, this should convince you that animals are smarter than people.

Ever and Always,

Rita Mae Brown