Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Friendship Great & Deer

This is the true story of a sweet little fawn lost then found, nuzzled, and nurtured by Kate, a canine whose big heart matches her Great Dane dimensions. The tale is lovingly documented by talented photographer Isobel Springett, who provided sustenance, shelter, and the name "Pippin." Fortunately for readers who adore warm and fuzzy sagas, Isobel's brother Martin happens to be an award winning author and composer. 

This Canadian sister/brother duo, (she in Vancouver Island, he in Toronto) provide lush, lovely photographs and simple, straightforward prose enjoined to foster a charming parable about the ways wild and tame intertwine, and relationships transcending species blossom and endure.

The fawn lay still and quiet. She was alone and afraid as she waited for her mother to come back.  Every little deer needs its mother to protect it from the many dangers of the forest. But her mother did not return, and three long days passed.

Isobel, hearing the plaintiff cry, found the fawn, brought her into her farmhouse, and instinctively laid her beside Kate, her black Great Dane, whose\maternal experience was nil, but whose instincts turned out to be spot on, nuzzling and licking the soft little treasure, who responded in kind. As Pippin grows and thrives, the bond between dog and deer actually deepens, surviving Pippin's eventual return her habitat, where she passes each night, but returns to spend the waking hours with her adoptive moms, Kate and Isobel. (She's also a sort of second cousin to Henry, the resident black cat, who deigns to endure Pip's tongue bath greeting.)

Love at first nuzzle

Great mama Kate keeps her eye on Pip

Pippin grows into a playtime companion for Kate

Pippin, Henry, & Kate

Pippin nuzzles Kate 


Although the children's story is a relatively slim volume, the Springetts created a website, a Youtube channel, and music to accompany the videos composed by Martin, available for iTunes download.

With all the hoopla, have Kate & Pippin become household names?  Well, maybe not as much as this universally recognized duo bearing strikingly similar names:
 Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and sister "Pippa" (Philippa) Middleton
But for those who enjoy the enchantment of happily ever after, fairy tale endings, it's sure to celebrated in heartwarming fashion for a long, long time.

Some additional interesting links: 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pursuing the Panda: A Remarkable Woman Explorer's Expedition of Love

From the book Mrs. Harkness and the Panda, Alicia Potter author, Melinda Sweet, illustrator
Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children's Books imprint), 2012

Pandas, those adorable emblematic emissaries of China, are revered the world over by young and old alike. Once upon a time, not very long ago, pandas, like many other wild creatures, were prized mainly for their trophy pelts. Even the great conservationist Teddy Roosevelt's sons were proud to gift a stuffed and mounted giant panda specimen to the Chicago field museum in 1929.  

The elusive panda was regarded as a somewhat mythical creature, which added to its mystique and lure.  How ironic that proof of the iconic creature's death seemed to be required to prove it's existence!

In part what separates this expedition from others was the instinct to preserve not only the animal's legacy, but it's life, as shown in the opening excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Mrs. Harkness:
Ruth Elizabeth Harkness (21 September 1900 – 20 July 1947) was an American fashion designer and socialite, who traveled to China in 1936 and brought back the first live giant panda to the United States - not in a cage, or on a leash, but wrapped in her arms.

Ruth Harkness returns to the United States with Su-Lin

Su Lin, whose name meant "a little bit of something very cute" became an instant celebrity, instigating an outpouring of "Panda-monium," a phenomenon confirmed by newspaper headlines the nation over.

In and of itself, the story of the discovery of the first panda cub to arrive on our shores is thrilling and page turning. What adds an extra dimension is the fact that the woman who achieved this feat was the most unlikely of explorers. Her husband, a Harvard graduated, "Rooseveltesque" gentleman adventurer, had undertaken the original panda search shortly after their marriage. Two years into the trip, fighting the Chinese bureacracy as well as failing health, he died of  throat cancer (his bride had not even known he will ill!), his mission in limbo. 

Bill Harkness' young widow, Ruth, chose to channel her sorrow in a remarkable way: she would continue her late husband's quest herself, her pampered urban lifestyle notwithstanding. (She was reportedly quoted quipping that she would not walk even a block, she'd hail a cab.) 

To fulfill this aim it was crucial to listen not to the many naysayers surrounding her, counseling a more rational course. Instead, this fashionable and seemingly lightweight lady of means determined to listen to her heart. She somehow managed to draw on inner resources of resolve, fortitude, and faith to make it happen, when logic and the prevailing wisdom told her: no way!

Ruth Harkness and Su Lin in China

She tapped 22 year old Quentin Young, an already seasoned purveyor of museum specimens in the wild, of Chinese/American heritage, who helped her map out a 1,500 mile trek along the Chinese/Tibet border. She fashioned a wardrobe, hired 20 people to cook, carry gear, and otherwise enable the effort, and set out, covering up to 30 miles of rugged terrain per day. Incredibly, she attained her goal in an astounding four months!  The rest, as they say, is history, including how the lady and the panda became an American social and media phenomenon.

Ruth Harkness' efforts helped further the cause of conservation. An entranced public became more educated about the need to protect, rather than poach, the panda. The episode also provided closure for her personal grief: before leaving China she scattered her husband's ashes and gifted her wedding ring to Quentin Young to give to his fiance.  Harkness published her diary, The Lady and the Panda, in 1938, and returned to China with a second panda. She died at age 46 in 1947.

Below are links providing additional background to this lovely but little known story. Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is cataloged as a J (junior level) book in our local library system, designed mainly for upper elementary aged readers. However, this 59 year old librarian who loves animals, love stories, and tales about unlikely ladies who take chances and beat the odds, recommends it most highly to one and all.