Aug 22, 2011

'The Measure of a Hero lies in how he treats animals...'

By Nikki Logan 

Someone once said to me in relation to my day job with wildlife, ‘where there’s livestock, there’s dead stock’. Death is the part of owning pets that we all try not to think about. We put our fingers in our ears and sing la la la la, hoping not to have to face the sad reality that one day our beloved cat/dog/horse/bird/rabbit/fish will no longer be with us.
Guinea Pig, in my case.
You might remember my little bloke, Nigel, who made his public debut in a Catwalk last year. Turns out Nigel who was such a ball of life on the outside was harbouring death on the inside—for quite a while now. And this week it grew stronger than he was.
I thought my general heart-soreness was for having lost him but I’ve been examining my feelings and—while there’s no doubt his absence has left a guineapig sized void in our lives—I feel okay about it today. Sad but not heartbroken. Tho there was no question that I adored him. He was a special little fella.
For me it was the losing that was so hard, moreso than having lost him. His evident suffering, mine at having to make the humane choice and have him put to sleep.
But it got me thinking about all things humane (particularly the complicated issues around human euthanasia) and how many people wouldn’t make the humane choice (either bc they couldn’t bring themselves to or just didn’t care enough to) and then those thoughts led me to the qualities in a person (ok, a man just because that’s where my mind always go) that I admire most.
Humane qualities—compassion, caring, sensitivity—are high on my personal list. I simply couldn’t love someone if they weren’t capable of loving an animal.
Firefighters rescue German Shepherd

Ghandi famously said that the measure of a country lies in how it treats its animals. I think the same is true for people. The best of human nature can be foreshadowed in how a child (or a grown man) interacts with creatures ‘lesser’ than them.
I write nature-based romance and so I have heaps of opportunity for my characters to betray their true nature(s) in their interactions with wildlife. They’re not always completely comfortable surrounded by seals or cattle or frogs but they adapt quickly and they’re always respectful and gentle of the lives they’re interacting with. Equally the fastest way for me to betray the true nature of a bad-guy is to have him shove an animal roughly aside. Just one gesture. Universally decoded as ‘bad guy’.

Hence the opening line of my latest WIP says ‘good guy’…

Sheriff Jed Jackson slowly pressed down on his brake pedal and slid one arm across to stop his Deputy from sliding off the front seat.
Deputy = his police dog and the act of sliding an arm across says more about his decency and kindness than five paragraphs could.

Any port in a...flood.
But sometimes doing the right thing for an animal might not look right on the surface. I’m thinking now about those people that collect strays then keep 23 cats locked up in apartments or houses. You know they’re not getting much individual attention, you know they’re not getting the best food, you know they’re not getting much in the way of vaccinations or veterinary care or sterilization. Yet the cry as the RSPCA wagons come streaming in is often ‘but I love them’.
  Sometimes people do—to death.

When it comes to animals, less-is-most-definitely-more, unless you can give your animals a goodly number of opportunities to exercise their free will and are prepared to spend lots of  your own time with/on them.
Roadtrip, Nikki Logan style...
As I write this blog, we’re in our Landcruiser enroute to a farm about 2 hours out of our city where our dogs can run free, explore and discover within the fenced 5 acre property for a couple of days. They’re the immediate beneficiaries of the reminder that Nigel left behind him of the importance of quality-of-life rather than just length-of-life. Losing him reminded me how much we used to do this. And how much the dogs loved it.
So I guess Nigel left more than just a void, after all.
RIP little fella. May your heaven be a field of alfalpha and corn and may your days be gently warmed with dappled sunlight.

Does your real-life hero make you go all gooey inside when he's interacting with animals?


  1. Oh Nikki that was rather beautiful and moving! I sooo remember your little guy in the Catwalk, I hope he really does live in a field of alfalfa and corn =)

  2. Oh, Nikki, I hope Nigel is in alfalfa heaven.

    And it has to be said, a hero who is kind to animals wins my heart every time.

  3. Lovely post, Nikki! Nigel was a lucky little guinea pig to have had a fabulous home and owners who cared enough to make the hard decisions. Hugs.

    I do love a hero who respects and treat his animals well - I can't wait to meet your sheriff and his deputy!


  4. Nikki, sorry to hear about Nigel. They are such cute little loves. Just went out now to give our Truffles and Mia a carrot each and fresh water.
    Love the way you introduced your hero's character. Actions speak louder than words. Adore him already.

  5. Oh wasn't Nigel a handsome man. I am so sorry for your loss :(

    I've just this week had to change my WIP heroine. She didn't like dogs, and I just couldn't work with that :) So now she does, and I can like her again!

  6. Nikki - great post and one close to my heart. It's no secret I adore animals (8 horses, 3 dogs, 3 birds and a 20yr old house cow named Ginger) And it's always hard when it comes to making the hard decision if they are old and sick.
    My heroes absolutely must like animals - even if they don't want to admit it. Am looking forward to reading all about Sheriff Jed. Great post.

  7. Great post, Nikki. RIP Nigel :( I lost my hand-reared Lovebird, Harley, earlier this year. He died in my hands, wrapped in his favourite pair of underpants (long story)after a long illness. The vet told me to wring his neck and put him out of his misery. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So I held him close to my heart until he died. I'm sure he and Nigel will have a great time together in Animal Heaven.

    On a brighter note: I'm loving Sheriff Jed! Can't wait to read more.

  8. Nikki I am so sorry for your loss animals are so improtant to our family life wouldn't be the same without them but I totally agree that making that hard decission is for the best most times, although it hurts.

    And I agree a man must be kind to animals and have feeling for them

    Have Fun

  9. Nikki ~ so sorry to hear about Nigel but he will live on in your heart. Earlier this year we faced Amber's kidney failure and made the hard choice. My husband and I cried through it together. We have two other cats and I think that they miss her along with us. I really don't like people real or fictional who don't like at least some type of animal.

    Read The Soldier's Untamed Heart just recently and really enjoyed it. Clint was a hero who did feel for the birds and animals in his sanctuary. I have your next two books in my TBR. Looking forward to getting your latest.

  10. I'm sorry that you had to lose Nigel, Nikki. But I think this post is a fitting memorial of him as this is beautiful so very true. Heroes who are kind to animals, and really, anyone who is kind to animals, win in my book.

  11. Enjoyed your post, Nikki, especially as treatment of animals is at the heart of my wip! We lost a guinea pig we'd had for years not long ago and I bawled! We buried her under a tin angel. I get emotional, but with 4 dogs, 5 cats, silkies, guinea pigs, budgies, poddy calves,death is inevitable. I focus on the happiness we had with them and encourage the kids to do the same. Still sobbed at Red Dog on the weekend!

  12. Hi Nikki

    So sorry to read the news about Nigel but I know he's hanging out in animal heaven now where all of his wishes come true.
    I'm an absolute sucker for animals and I have laughed or cried a number of times while reading romances that have animal characters and truly belief that they do bring out the better traits of our heros and heroines.
    Tracey T

  13. Nikki, I love books with animals in them -- and I LOVE heroes who are kind to those animals. Jenny Crusie's books are great for that, in fact it's one of the reasons I like her books so much.

    Very sorry to hear about your wee guinea pig. It sounds like he was much loved! I hope he's in a heaven of alfapha and corn and sunshine, just like you said.