Animal Values: Are you a fan of Toto or Lassie?

Americans are talking about pets with this week’s release of Dr. Seuss’s new What Pet Should I Get? At OurValues, we’re exploring values related to animals. We are highlighting eight animals that have been world famous. We also are drawing on insights from two leading advocates of animal welfare with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

TOTO

Dorothy with Toto in the Wizard of Oz movie (1)“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” was rated one of the most memorable lines ever spoken in a movie by the American Film Institute. That line from the MGM movie captures the indelible bond between the spunky little Cairn Terrier and the increasingly courageous girl from Kansas.

“Toto is Dorothy’s protector and companion,” says Reasa Currier, an interfaith activist with HSUS (profiled this week in ReadTheSpirit magazine). “Toto even goes through the tornado with her! You really see how animals stand by you through thick and thin.”

In fact, Dorothy winds up being caught by the tornado and travels to Oz because of Toto’s actions. The brave little dog consistently opens up new truths for Dorothy—including Toto’s famous unveiling of the Wizard as a little old man trying to hide behind a curtain. (Before Oz fans email us about the finer points: We know some fans debate Toto’s breed in the novels, but Toto was a Cairn Terrier in the MGM movie.)

What role has Toto played in your life—or perhaps a dog like Toto? Ask your friends about Toto, too!

LASSIE

The brave collie turns 75 this year. Current Lassies visited the TV-network morning shows this spring to mark the milestone. In 1940, journalist and screenwriter Eric Knight published the landmark novel Lassie Come Home.

The story was such an immediate hit that it resulted in 11 movies, two radio series, a two-decade-long TV series and countless other appearances of Lassie. A search for Lassie on Amazon turns up 20 pages of movies, TV shows on DVD, novels, picture books and other media.

“Lassie and Toto both exemplify the strength of the human-animal bond,” says Bernard Unti, HSUS’s Senior Policy Advisor and expert on worldwide initiatives for animal welfare.

What role has Lassie played in your life?

TALK WITH FRIENDS …

There’s so much to think about, this week, as millions of people are talk about pets! Come back through Friday, this week, for more OurValues columns about famous animals from around the world.

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Animal Values: Are you a fan of Bambi or Br’er Rabbit?

Americans are talking about pets with this week’s release of Dr. Seuss’s new What Pet Should I Get? At OurValues, we’re publishing five columns that you can share with friends to dig deeper into the many important values concerning the animals we bring into our homes.

In Part 1, we looked at changing values in pet adoption. Today through Friday, we will focus on eight animals that, at various times, were world famous for the values they embody. We will be drawing on thoughts from two leading advocates of animal welfare with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Today, we’re starting with two beloved—and controversial—animals: Bambi and Bre’er Rabbit.

Frontier Town and Brer Rabbit (1)

One of the few places Disney still features Br’er Rabbit is in Orlando’s Frontierland. Visitors pass this colorful status of Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear searching everywhere for their prey. They don’t seem to notice that clever Br’er Rabbit has simply hitched a ride on the big bear’s club.

BAMBI

You probably know the little deer from the Walt Disney movie, rather than the original novel by Felix Salten. However, readers who discover Salten’s book of stories often have deep emotional responses to the way Salten describes life in the woods. Author Benjamin Pratt wrote about the joy of discovering Salten’s book, this spring.

Reasa Currier, an interfaith activist with HSUS (profiled this week in ReadTheSpirit magazine) is a fan of the Bambi movie. “The film shows that animals have relationships with one another and mothers care for their children in the same way humans care for our children,” she says.

“That’s one important element of Bambi’s story—seeing the family bonds and affection among animals,” says Bernard Unti, HSUS’s Senior Policy Advisor and expert on worldwide initiatives for animal welfare. “Another element is that the Bambi movie has been a highly transformative story in shaping people’s sensibilities about wild animals. … Many hunters regard Bambi as perhaps having had more impact in bringing people to question the ethics of hunting as just about any phenomenon in the past 75 years.”

How about you? Or your friends and family? What role has Bambi played in your lives? Please share this column with them.

BR’ER RABBIT

The “Uncle Remus” stories of white Southern journalist Joel Chandler Harris now are widely regarded as a cynical racist’s theft of African-American folklore. Even after the Civil War, Harris remained an outspoken apologist for slavery, arguing that it had been a good and humane system. Alice Walker and many other black writers have publicly condemned Harris for making money off their heritage even as he defended plantation owners. White journalists have joined them. H.L. Mencken regarded Harris as a scoundrel with little talent for anything other than literary thievery. The Song of the South, a 1946 animated movie about Uncle Remus, is the one movie that Disney refuses to re-release.

So, no question: Br’er Rabbit hops along with tons of baggage.

“That’s why it surprised me to find a whole section on Br’er Rabbit in Malcolm Gladwell’s new book David and Goliath,” said Reasa Currier.

Gladwell cites evidence from folklore researchers and writes at one point:

At the center of many of the world’s oppressed cultures stands the figure of the “trickster hero.” In legend and song, he appears in the form of a seemingly innocuous animal that triumphs over others much larger than himself through cunning and guile. In the West Indies, slaves brought with them from Africa tales of a devious spider named Anansi. Among American slaves, the trickster was often the short-tailed Br’er Rabbit.

Joel Chandler Harris’s theft of stories and Disney’s tone-deaf animated movie aside—the trickster rabbit is a powerful figure in the folklore of enslaved African-Americans—and their descendants.

How about you? Or your friends and family? What role has Br’er Rabbit played in your lives?

TALK WITH FRIENDS …

There’s so much to think about, this week, as millions of people are talk about pets! Come back through Friday, this week, for more OurValues columns about famous animals from around the world.

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Animal Values: Exploring Dr. Seuss ‘What Pet Should I Get?’

Cover Dr Seuss What Pet Should I Get

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

“Pets!”

That’s the conversation-starter for millions of Americans this week—thanks to the release of Dr. Seuss’s “new” book What Pet Should I Get? It’s already a best seller and it won’t even be released until Tuesday! Over the weekend, Seuss sat at the summit of American literature—the No. 1 most popular book among the millions listed on Amazon. What Pet also was the full-color cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.

“Dr. Seuss crosses generational lines in many families. He was part of my childhood—and now, as a parent, I enjoy reading his books to my children,” says Reasa Currier, who works with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “Our favorite now? We love The Lorax.

But, not everything is perfect in the Seuss universe when it comes to animals. This week, there are a few things you should know—and should share with family and friends.

First, remember: Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, died in 1991 at age 87. His publishing house says the book was written half a century ago, drafted between 1958 and 1962 while he was publishing One Fish Two Fish and Green Eggs and Ham.

Back then, a little neighborhood pet store was a different kind of shop than most of us experience now that a dozen major chains dominate the $60-billion pet-supplies industry. Today, many of these stores sell only food and equipment for pets—and those that do sell live animals are well aware of the controversies surrounding the commercial handling of pets. That’s not to say these retailers all follow best practices—but some now do.

Today, if you care about animal welfare, you can check with  the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) before you look for a pet at a local retailer. For years, HSUS has encouraged retailers to establish pet adoption programs that cooperate with local adoption and rescue groups, that meet healthy standards and avoid the notorious system of pet “mills.” It’s easy now to find HSUS-recommended shops via this web page, which ends with two methods for checking on retailers in your area. The easiest method, if you have a smart phone: Simply text the word Puppy to 30644 and, when the OurValues team checked out that method, the response was almost instant. HSUS recommended 4 shops in our part of Michigan.

In fact, if you follow the recommendations of HSUS and other animal-welfare organizations—pet shops shouldn’t be your first choice when looking for an animal friend to adopt. Most animal lovers recommend looking for pets at animal shelters or rescue groups. There’s an online resource from HSUS for finding one near you.

Plus, HSUS has tips on:

What would Seuss say?

th New York Times Book Review on Dr Seuss What Pet Should I GetIn Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, the Times’ children’s books editor Maria Russo wrote about this new book’s history—and added an intriguing argument. Russo says that this book probably was not written over the four-year period (’58-’62) described by the publisher and then forgotten in the author’s files. Russo thinks What Pet was finished before One Fish Two Fish (1960) and then was shelved because Seuss himself was uncomfortable with the pet shop as a setting—and some scenes in the book in which animals (including a fanciful creature called a Yent) have to fit into small spaces in the children’s homes.

Maria Russo writes:

Reading What Pet and One Fish together, it seems to me What Pet was a kind of warm-up for the more freewheeling and imaginatively rich book. One Fish has no plot, just a collection of escalating riffs on a brother and sister’s life with a parade of hilarious, useful and entertaining imaginary creatures. It’s as if Geisel took the Yent and the “tall pet that fits into a space that is small” in What Pet and ran with them. He picked them up, grabbed the children, and ran right out of the depressingly mundane commercial world of the pet store …

CARE TO READ MORE?

th Pope-Francis-on-the-cover-of-National-Geographic-magazine-2015-1If you care about these issues, you may also want to read a column in ReadTheSpirit magazine about the importance of Pope Francis’s new message about the environment—a story that also links to earlier OurValues reports on American attitudes about climate change.

Also, you may want to meet an interfaith activist working for animal welfare. Pope Francis is not alone in calling people of faith to protect the species that call Earth our home. In this profile, meet Reasa Currier, who works for the Humane Society of the United States in connecting religious leaders whose traditions call them to care for animals.

TALK WITH FRIENDS …

There’s so much to think about, this week, as millions of Americans talk about pets! Come back Tuesday through Friday, this week, for four more OurValues columns on “Animal Values.” We’ll look at some famous animals and the values they embody for people around the world.

Share this series with friends on social media. You’re also free to repost or print these columns to spark discussion. What stories can you share about animals you’ve loved? Talk about the values those animals embody in your life.

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Aging America: And now for some good news!

US Census report on narrowing gap between men and women in old age

CLICK on this US Census graphic to enlarge it.

From OurValues creator Dr. Wayne BakerAll of us are affected by the aging of America. Please use this OurValues series along with the ReadTheSpirit cover story about advocate-for-the-elderly Missy Buchanan to share with your friends, a class or a small group.

Let’s end our week with a trend that you’ll probably agree represents “good news.”

Right now, American women have a tougher time in old age because men tend to die at a younger age, overall. The U.S. Census reports that, for the year 2014, widows made up 35 percent of the population of women 65 and older. Men are much more likely than women to go through their senior years still married to their partners—mainly because of male mortality. In blunt terms: They tend to die first.

Here’s the good news: That’s changing. Men are living longer. And older Americans who are married, which describes the vast majority of seniors, can expect to spend more years living together.

One way the Census shows that trend is in the chart, above, which projects that women will be an ever-smaller portion of the population in their 60s, 70s and beyond. That shift happens because—good news—the trend is that men will live longer than they do now.

Can "old dogs" learn new tricks? Wikipedia organizes public workshops about the online encyclopedia. You know who likes to learn about Wikipedia? This photo shows one of the public workshops at a library.

Can “old dogs” learn new tricks? Sure! Click on this photo to enjoy our earlier series.

POPULAR COLUMNS from OurValues: You might question whether this Census report is, indeed, good news. But an earlier OurValues column pointed out that Americans, by a wide margin, welcome having our older men and women stick around with us. One myth about elderly men and women is that they are stuck in their ways and rigid in their beliefs—and represent a major barrier to social and cultural change. However, in an earlier OurValues series, we looked at data showing just the opposite!

Start a conversation with friends …

OurValues is designed to encourage civil dialogue on challenging subjects—and, this week, we hope readers will share this series with friends. You’re free to print out, repost or share these five columns on aging to get folks talking. Leave a comment below. Email someone. Come on, start talking …

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Aging America: As a nation, we’re younger than we may think

US Census chart of relative age of populations in developed countries

CLICK on the CHART to enlarge it for easier reading.

From OurValues creator Dr. Wayne BakerAll of us need to talk about the aging of America, a universal concern for us as individuals, families and communities. This week, I’m encouraging you to use this OurValues series along with the ReadTheSpirit cover story about advocate-for-the-elderly Missy Buchanan to share with your friends, a class or a small group.

How old are we as a nation?

No, I’m not asking: When was the U.S. founded? I’m asking: As our aging population dramatically increases—how old is the U.S. compared with other developing nations?

That might sound like a simple question and, if you’ve been following our series this week, you may conclude we’re older than the rest of the world. News stories from global hotspots regularly point out that some of the most volatile areas of the world have exceptionally young populations. Millions of restless under-employed teens and 20-somethings contribute to global tensions.

But here’s some potentially “good news”—and certainly a discussion-starter with friends: In fact, compared with other developed nations, the US Census report we’ve been looking at this week concludes that we’re quite youthful!

Here’s how the researchers draw that conclusion:

First, they start by limiting the global comparison, writing …

The United States is aging, but it is still younger than most other developed countries. In comparison with the other largest developed countries, only Russia, with 13 percent of its population aged 65 and over, was younger than the United States in 2012.

Germany, Italy, and Japan all had at least 20 percent of their population aged 65 and over. Japan, one of the oldest countries in the world, had nearly 24 percent of its population aged 65 and over. 

Between 2012 and 2030, the proportion aged 65 and over is projected to increase in all developed countries. Japan is projected to continue to be the oldest country, with almost one-third (32.2 percent) of its population aged 65 and over in 2030. Other developed countries are expected to have over one-quarter of their population aged 65 and over, including Germany with 27.9 percent and Italy with 25.5 percent. Although the United States is also projected to age over this period, it will remain one of the younger developed countries, with only 20.3 percent of its population aged 65 and over in 2030.

The proportion aged 65 and over is projected to have a smaller increase from 2030 to 2050 in the United States compared with many other developed countries where this proportion is projected to continue to increase over the next several decades. Japan’s projected increase is the most dramatic, with the proportion aged 65 and over increasing to over 40 percent of the population by 2050. Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain are expected to have over 30 percent of their population aged 65 and over in 2050. 

But don’t dismiss the “Aging of America” as a crucial issue just yet! The summary, above, compares the elderly percentage of each nation included in the list. When comparing the total population of older people, the U.S. tops the list. The report says …

Although the United States is relatively young compared with many other developed countries, it has the largest number of people aged 65 and over among the developed countries, with over 43 million older people in 2012. Japan had the second largest, with just over 30 million in 2012. The United States is projected to continue to have the largest number of people aged 65 and over among the developed countries, with just under 73 million by 2030 and almost 83 million by 2050. Japan is projected to have the second-largest number of older people among the developed countries, with almost 39 million in 2030 and nearly 43 million in 2050.

Have you, your family or your friends experienced life in the other cultures mentioned in this comparison? How do you think cultures in these nations are shaped by a growing share of seniors?

Start a conversation with friends …

OurValues is designed to encourage civil dialogue on challenging subjects—and, this week, we hope readers will share this series with friends. You’re free to print out, repost or share these five columns on aging to get folks talking. Leave a comment below. Email someone. Come on, start talking …

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Aging America: Where do we live? Where are we going?

Profile_of_Older_Americans_2014_Profile 2From OurValues creator Dr. Wayne BakerThe aging of America affects all of us in many ways. This week, I’m encouraging you to use this OurValues series along with the ReadTheSpirit magazine cover story that features advocate-for-the-elderly Missy Buchanan to share with your friends, a class or a small group.

We’re aging—we know that’s true.

And—WE’RE MOVING as we age. That may not surprise you, since most of us are familiar with retired relatives and friends who migrate to the South and avoid the harsher winters in northern states.

Beyond migration patterns among older Americans, some of our states are aging for other reasons—including outward migration by younger adults leaving a larger portion of senior citizens behind.

Question: Can you guess the eight states where the 65-plus population rose by 40 percent or more between 2003 and 2013? Are you thinking of Florida and perhaps the Southwest?

Answer: Alaska (61.7%); Nevada (50.7%); Colorado (46.8%); Georgia (44.4%); Arizona (43.2%); Idaho (43.1%); South Carolina (43.1%) and Utah (40%).

Take a look at our map today (from the U.S. Administration on Aging). Surprised?

Talk with others about what you know about this pattern. What choices have your own family and friends made that might fuel this change?

And, remember our Part 1 theme—we are “aging America,” collectively.

You might also be surprised to learn that a majority of senior citizens live in just 13 states. The Administration on Aging reports:

In 2013, over half (61%) of persons 65+ lived in 13 states: California (4.8 million); Florida (3.6 million); Texas (3.0 million); New York (2.8 million); Pennsylvania (2.1 million); and Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, and Arizona each had well over 1 million.

Within these states, where do 65-plus men and women live? Have you heard the popular claim that older Americans now are concentrated in our cities? It is true that 81 percent of 65-plus Americans lived in “metropolitan areas” as of 2013—but the Administration on Aging points out that only 27 percent actually live inside major cities. More than half (54 percent) live outside the cities—in suburbs and rural areas. That poses challenges for mobility when senior citizens no longer are able to drive.

wpid-0208ov_The_Waltons_as_a_multigenerational_family.jpgPOPULAR COLUMNS from OurValues: One possible solution to this movement—and the isolation of many seniors in areas without mass transit miles away from the services they regularly need—is a return to multi-generational households. In 2013, OurValues wrote about a growing interest in those mixed living situations. That may seem like “bad news”—because one factor driving this trend is a stagnant economy that leaves young adults with fewer career options, so they continue to live in their parents’ homes. Still, it’s an idea worth discussing this week. Americans have nostalgic memories of such households.

Start a conversation with friends …

OurValues is designed to encourage civil dialogue on challenging subjects—and, this week, we hope readers will share this series with friends. You’re free to print out, repost or share these five columns on aging to get folks talking. Leave a comment below. Email someone. Come on, start talking …

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Aging America: How healthy are we? And who’ll take care of us?

Profile_of_Older_Americans_2014_Profile 3

From OurValues creator Dr. Wayne BakerThe aging of America affects all of us in many ways. This week, I’m encouraging you to use this OurValues series along with the ReadTheSpirit magazine cover story that features advocate-for-the-elderly Missy Buchanan to share with your friends, a class or a small group.

Wikimedia Commons photo of a caregiver with handsHEALTH CARE is one of the biggest questions—and let’s be honest, it’s often one of the biggest fears as Americans age.

Because we’re taking an honest look at these issues, this week, let’s start with the somber news: The US Administration on Aging reports that, as we age, we’re going to face a lot of challenges to our health …

Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. In 2011-2013, the most frequently occurring conditions among older persons were: diagnosed arthritis (49%), all types of heart disease (31%), any cancer (25%), diagnosed diabetes (21% in 2009-2012), and high blood pressure or taking anti-hypertensive medication (71 percent in 2009-2012).

And, the report says, elderly Americans spend more time in doctor’s offices and hospitals …

In 2012, 6.8 million people age 65 and over stayed in a hospital overnight at least one night during the year. Among this group of older adults, 11 percent stayed overnight 1 time, 3 percent stayed overnight 2 times, and 2 percent stayed overnight 3 or more times. This is approximately double the number of overnight hospital stays for the population age 45 to 64 who had 6 percent stay overnight 1 time, 1 percent stay overnight 2 times, and 1 percent stay overnight 3 or more times.

But that’s not the entire picture. The report also underlines the importance and widespread use of Medicare—93 percent of Americans over 65 are covered. It’s true that close to half of those older Americans do not have any supplemental health insurance—so Medicare’s limits hit those households hard. But, the report concludes, “Less than 2 percent did not have coverage of some kind,” and then says …

In January-June 2014, 97% of older persons reported that they did have a usual place to go for medical care and only 2.4% said that they failed to obtain needed medical care during the previous 12 months due to financial barriers.

And, here’s somewhat better news: A large minority of older Americans is getting regular exercise; very few seem to be smoking or drinking too much; and the vast majority are not deeply disturbed by their situation in life. The report puts it this way …

Slightly over 41% of persons aged 65-74 and 27% of persons 75+ reported that they engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 9% reported that they are current smokers and 7% reported excessive alcohol consumption. Only 2% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

POPULAR COLUMNS from OurValues: Americans care for each other. A Pew study found that three-quarters of adults believe they have a moral obligation to care for older parents. And, millions of us have become full-time caregivers. We may assume that caregivers are stressed-out. In an earlier “Sandwich Generation” series, we look at: “Are you in the middle?” “Are you an emotional caregiver?” “Celebrating Family & Medical Leave Act” “Grandparents as Caregivers” and “Return of the Multi-Generational Household.”

Good conversations build good communities …

OurValues is designed to encourage civil dialogue on challenging subjects—and, this week, we hope readers will share this series with friends. You’re free to print out, repost or share these five columns on aging to get folks talking. Leave a comment below. Email someone. Come on, start talking …

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