Tag Archives: pets

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

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Now, I’m definitely more of a cat person than a dog person. Mainly because I hear dogs require far more time and attention than does a cat. (Those who say so have not met my cat.) But this collection of canine poetry made me feel that the deficiency is mine in not appreciating the fidelity, charm and adoration of dogs as they deserve. These lovely, heartwrenching poems, seemingly mostly about the loss of beloved, loving dogs actually made me cry (admittedly I was in a nice warm bath with a glass of red wine at the time). And one made me laugh (about the dog wheedling extra breakfast out of the author). But the recurring themes are love and all-too-speedy loss, because compared to humans, dogs live such a short time, less than ten years of youth and vigour, usually. The descriptions of Mary Oliver’s interactions with her dogs (the dogs are clearly her own, with particular personalities) often take the form of their unspoken conversations, transcribed here to move and delight us.

Alice and Anatole by Sam Childs

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Alice and Anatole

Alice and Anatole

An anteater is a pretty unusual friend to have let me tell you. I mean, pretty much every kid has imaginary friends right? I did. And my daughter does too. Well, imaginary in that she thinks Skimbleshanks is her best friend. Peso and Barnacles are a close second, but Skimbleshanks……he’s the best friend a little girl could ask for. Anyway, Anatole is an anteater who befriends Alice. We first meet Alice as a lonely little girl who has a room full of lovely books and toys and beautiful new red shoes. But Alice is a little shy. She has no idea how to make friends you see.

However, armed with an anteater, she suddenly becomes the most popular girl in the book. I guess an anteater is as good a conversation starter as any…..though I expect Alice hasn’t tried to take Anatole on the tube yet. Or into an elevator mind you. You know how the tube is – there is a sort of mass ignoration going on. Most people would probably pretend they hadn’t seen an anteater. Unless it was the last tube of the night and they were slightly drunk. But Alice wouldn’t be on the tube then, she would be asleep so…..and elevators, well everyone knows you don’t talk in an elevator.

Luckily, elevators and the London Underground hold little interest for a little girl with new shoes and a new friend. Instead playgrounds and parks make for a better place to find new friends who are eager to talk to Alice and Anatole.

But of course, nothing lasts forever, and poor Anatole is pretty soon shunned in favour of new best friends for life that Alice has acquired. He takes it well, I guess, though instead of striking out on his own and setting up a rival bunch of friends as would probably happen on most any playground in the world, he hangs around in the shadows, just waiting to prove his friendship to Alice. And he doesn’t wait long. Pretty soon, Alice drops a new red shoe down the loo. “Oh no!” I hear you cry. How will she navigate the “S” bend to retrieve the sparkly item of foot covering splendour? Or more accurately, in my opinion, how much will mummy and daddy have to fork over to the plumber that they will have to call out to save the day? As it turns out, nothing, because ant eaters have very long snouts you see, and a little rootling in the loo later (“ewwww who would put their nose in a toilet daddy?”) and the day is saved. Anatole is restored to prize of place on the best friends forever list.

Note: the above account is not an accurate representation of the book. In fact, it is a charming story, and I loved the illustrations – sort of grey-scale with big splashes of red – very vibrant! A nice included moral to treat your old friends well even when new friends seem more fun or better looking, because you never know when that snout of epic proportions is going to come in handy. Not sure how that stacks up later on in life, like when you no longer drop your new shoes down the toilet by mistake. Maybe Anatole will become a wine connoisseur or something. No wait, that’s not the moral at all…keeping people sweet because of favours they can do for you. The moral is…..um. hmmm maybe there wasn’t a moral in there after all. Anyway, it’s a fun book and I think you should buy it.

Alice and Anatole