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Recalling Rosetta

No one knew the origin of the precocious seven-week old hen who jumped onto Nancy's lap during a visit to friend in Bakersfield village, so she brought her home. I had just broken my foot and was in a cast up to my knee. On the porch, we built a coon-proof cage and put Rosetta there at night. On the third night, however, we awakened to horrific squawks: a particularly determined raccoon had managed to spring the top of that cage, ripping open our new hen's breast and shattering her right leg.

Our vet, astonished that she had survived the attack at all, sewed her up and set the leg. In what has been the oddest bonding experience of my life, Rosetta and I hung out on the porch for the next two weeks, our right legs encased in white plaster. Unfortunately, she never regained the use of hers because the tendons to her foot had been irreparably damaged, but she soon learned to navigate perfectly on one leg, moving with incredible speed like a feathered, turbo-charged pogo stick. She'd hop up the steps onto the porch and peck at the door until we let her in. During meals, she stayed in the kitchen, often harassing occasionally mortified guests for food by gentle pecks on the ankles. When the urge struck her, which was often, she would jump onto our laps for some serious neck massages, her eyelids rolling up like window shades as she emitted distinctly musical sighs. We constructed a secure pen for her outside and a large pen inside beneath the stairs, where she slept at night.

For five years, life progressed normally, or at least as normally as life could progress with a one-legged lap chicken living in the house. During that time she became our constant dinner companion (developing a sophisticated palate in the process), alarm clock, and doorbell. One of our cats formed a deep friendship with her, and the two would often cuddle by the woodstove during the winter months.

Of course, she began to give us eggs and did so proudly for about four years. Then one night we awoke to squawks much like those that had erupted from her during the coon assault. We ran downstairs, certain we would witness the end of a by now beloved and indispensable part of the family. She soon quieted down, however, after passing what appeared to be a leathery object shaped like a football and about the size of a softball. Perplexed, I placed it in a box and presented it to our vet the next morning. He stared at it skeptically, noting he had never seen anything like it come out of a chicken - or any other animal for that matter. Science demanded further exploration and a dissection revealed a perfect egg encased within the leathery outer shell. "I don't know what to tell you," he said. "I haven't the slightest idea what this is all about." We never did find the answer.

About six months later I found Rosetta sitting absolutely still in the front yard, unable to move her one good leg. A few hours later avian specialist Dr. Steven Metz gave her an extensive examination in Shelburne. He ruled out injury and viral infection, guessing she had most likely suffered a stroke. She was extremely weak and would,. he suggested as gently as he could, probably die; but she wasn't in any pain, so we had nothing to lose by trying to keep her hydrated and fed with a medicine dropper to buy some time in case she could regain her strength. Metz noted that aside from the obvious impairment, she seemed curiously calm, alert, and above all, happy. She had a chance, however slim.

After we spent weeks feeding her baby formula and performing physical therapy on her leg, including one ill-advised session of hydrotherapy in the bathtub, our hen was back on her foot, on her way to eventual recovery. She would suffer three more strokes in the next three years, each of which should have killed her, but she kept going.

A year after the initial one, I called WKDR during Dr. Metz' weekly pet show and reminded him of Rosetta's visit, a visit he immediately recalled. Telling him someone wanted to speak to him, I placed the receiver in front of her, and she immediately began clucking happily into the mouthpiece. Metz was delighted and later told the audience, "You know, it's things like this that make it all so worth it."

As far as I know, Rosetta is the only chicken to have spoken on a radio call-in show, at least locally.

Two things about Rosetta struck all those who met her: an obvious joy of being alive and her capacity for love. I will never forget the sight of my friend Tudor Petrov, a colonel in the Moldovan Interior Ministry, lying on the kitchen floor as he gently stroked Rosetta's, back saying in a distinctly child-like voice, "Nice cheeekeeen, nice cheekeeeen." This twisted up, somewhat spastic bird brought out the tenderness in all who knew her. When travel took us away for protracted periods, a network of friends came forward to take care of her. For eight years, she taught our family and friends a lot about the compelling beauty of unconditional love and the sentience of all creatures.

Soon after Thanksgiving last year, she stopped eating and began to fade slowly away. Her death five days later was peaceful and leisurely, as if although ready to go, she knew we needed a little more time to say goodbye. I know she had an amazing life for a chicken, and I know it was time for her to go, but I continue to miss her terribly. There is a huge, empty place underneath the stairs.

Sometimes I used to watch her sleep and dream, and I wonder now, as I did then, if her soul weighs any less than mine. I hope we meet again.

Hope and Johnny

Hope and Johnny are two pigs who used to live at Farm Sanctuary. When Hope was rescued from a stockyard, she had a severely injured leg which was beyond repair, and she lived out her life with impaired mobility.Johnny Johnny was much younger than Hope, and he was fully healthy and mobile. Johnny bonded closely with Hope, and spent practically every hour, day and night, with her. At night, Johnny would sleep near Hope, laying up against her to keep her warm on cold nights. Every morning, bowls of food were placed in front of Hope, and Johnny would stay with her to keep other pigs from interfering with her food. When Hope died of old age, Johnny was devastated, and he died suddenly and unexpectedly within a couple weeks. Johnny had no health problems, and the only explanation for his untimely death is that he died of a broken heart.

Henny the Chicken

Henny, a hen rescued from a slaughterhouse, was brought to live in a household consisting of two people, three cats, and four dogs, and she fit right in. Henny enjoyed everybody's company. She would sit on the couch close to the cats and dogs, and she also liked to sit on people's laps. At night, Henny insisted on sleeping with everybody else on the bed, and happily perched on the corner of the bed. She would express her comfort and satisfaction with gentle cooing sounds.

Ducklings in Trouble, Mother Calls the Police

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - When a family of ducklings fell down a Vancouver sewer grate their mother did what any parent would do. She got help from a passing police officer.

Vancouver police officer Ray Peterson admitted he was not sure what to make of the duck that grabbed him by the pant leg while he was on foot patrol on Wednesday evening in a neighborhood near the city's downtown.

"I though it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Peterson told the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

The mother duck persisted, grabbing Peterson's leg again when he tried to leave, and then waddling to a nearby sewer grate where she sat down and waited for him to follow and investigate.

"I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below," he said.

Police said they removed the heavy metal grate with the help of a tow truck and used a vegetable strainer to lift the ducklings to safety.

Mother and offspring then departed for a nearby pond.

Quest for Freedom

Queenie"Queenie" was a young cow who was slated for slaughter at Astoria Live Poultry, a meat market that keeps live animals and allows customers to choose the animals they want butchered. After hearing the screams of other animals, Queenie made her own choice--a choice any animal would make in the same situation if given a chance. She escaped from the slaughterhouse, and ran several blocks through the streets of New York City, surprising motorists and passers-by. Though she avoided capture at first, the five-hundred-pound cow was finally caught after a wild chase with NYPD cars, local authorities, and a tranquilizer gun.

Queenie's freedom dash was quickly picked up by the media--and her story spread throughout the country. Queenie's courageous escape was featured on national television, and millions of viewers saw a frightened cow running from the slaughterhouse, clearly aware of the fate that had awaited her. Hundreds of calls poured into The Center for Animal Care and Control and Astoria Live Poultry, urging both the agency and the slaughterhouse owner to release the animal to a sanctuary where she could live out the remainder of her life.

Now residing with her fellow cows at Farm Sanctuary's New York shelter, Queenie has put a face on vegetarianism. With news stories on the major television networks, Press, and articles in The New York Times, New York Daily News, and dozens of other newspapers, millions of people learned that farm animals have feelings, too.

Owners concerned over mourning pig

(UK) Owners of an animal centre in Hertfordshire are worried about a mourning pig.

Poddington the Peruvian Pygmy stopped eating and started picking fights with other animals after her sister died.

Wendy and John Scudamore have even tried a herbal remedy similar to Prozac without success. The herbal remedy Aconite, which is similar to Prozac, has failed to make her feel better.

Mrs Scudamore, who runs the centre in Kentchurch, said: 'Poddington was devastated when her sister died. We left the body with her for a day so she could mourn then took it away.

'But she never moved from the spot. I even put a bed in her shed and slept with her for comfort.'

Dr Nick Neave, an animal psychologist at the University of Northumbria, told the Sunday People: 'It sounds like she is severely depressed.'

He says pigs are intelligent and have the same emotions as humans but cannot communicate them as well.

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