I had an old dog: a dog I loved dearly. A Bearded Collie.Her  name was Zoey. She went out onto the road and played with a small dog. Back and forth they went having a great time as friends do. A truck came at speed and killed my dog. The driver did not think it was worth his while to stop.

One moment my dog was full of life and the next dead. Life can deal out a hand of cards like that. And whatever we try to express about such events – means nothing.

But one extraordinary thing happened that has left me mighty puzzled.

The small dog, who but a moment before was playing with her friend, did a strange thing. She stood, all four feet, up on the body of Zoey who lay on her side. The small dog stared straight ahead and started to scrape her hind paws repeatedly against the side of my dead dog. She continued to do this for a full minute, never looking down, just staring ahead down the road. Then she got off Zoey and walked off with never a look back.

I buried my dog. The next day while driving home the small dog was lying on the road in the EXACT spot where my dog had been killed. I know it to be the exact spot because of a mark on the road at that place. After that I never saw the small dog again.

Can anyone please explain what was happening here, in particular why the small dog scraped her paws in the fashion described? I am mystified.

Has anyone reading this witnessed a similar experience among dogs or other animals? 





The air was particularly fragrant that morning. The scent of flowers across the entire pond was never finer. It was a good place to be for a frog.

He sat on a half-submerged leaf with the sun full on his face. With particular satisfaction he reflected on the three lady frogs he had covered the evening before. Many tadpoles would issue as a result of that profligate dalliance with those notable dainty strumpets.

Then his patch of sunlight suddenly darkened. A large princess, notable for her extreme ugliness, unruly manner and gross weight, lowered herself into a heap on the very edge of the pond. It was clear to him that she intended to sit there for a considerable time and thereby blocking his place in the sun.

He shuffled around on the lily-pad and said to her: “If you kiss me I will turn you into a beautiful creature.”

Well, what was a girl to do? How could any girl, especially one of her disposition, pass up on such an offer!

She got down on her broad hands and broader knees and leaning far out over the pond kissed the frog – and was immediately turned into a beautiful butterfly.

The frog ate the butterfly and the sun shone down on his pond as before.



 “Insurance – on that!” He pointed a lump of a hand at my house. “Would you like life insurance?” He donated a leer. 

I helped him into his car and slid his crutch through the window. He hit the knob of his gammy knee with the heel of his hand to make some sort of a connection between foot and clutch – and off he went tantwivy down the street.

But he was right. The place was a wreck because Mac the Mouse ran a bawdy nugging house for little grey fellows. I needed a cat.

A huge woman sold pets.

  “I want a cat please.”

She pulled a thin turtle from a tea-chest and tossing her cigarette out the window said: “How about that?”

  “It’s not a cat.”

  “People!” She threw the turtle back into the tea-chest and extracted a damp cat. “How much do you want – half or the whole edifice?”

I backed away. The cat was neck-dropped in on top of a green lizard.

All advice now led to an exclusive cat salon.

  “Monsieur would like a long-haired – no?”

What monsieur wanted was a killer. She picked up from a cushion a thing with hair so long it couldn’t see. Maybe it had glimpsed things as a child – but now fed on memories.

  “Something not blind.”

Mac would have enjoyed Zeitz. Mademoiselle helped him to his feet. He stood unaided all by himself. The Siamese chanced a few steps. We were getting somewhere.

  “Would it need . . . you know . . . special food?”

  “No monsieur, the chopped rab-bit”

  “And an occasional mouse?” We both laughed at the thought.

Suddenly behind the Siamese a huge cat launched itself into the air and caught a fly in its paws. Two minutes later The Flyer sat in the back of my car.

That night Mac led the parade out of the remains of what used to be a wall.They fanned across the room. Two heavily pregnant ladies waddled at a hobbledygee and took their ease where a go-by-the-wall grandmother already sat. To The Flyer these were his kind of mice, guys with personalities. I leaned against the remains of the grandfather clock – and watched.

The cat unsheated his claws. Now we were really getting somewhere. “Action! Take one – anyone. Take Mac.”

Launching himself into the air the cat caught a fly.Then he lay on his back, his claws hopelessly entangled with the fly within. 

I stared at Mac.He stared back. Behind him the door fell off its hinges.



At this time of year wild foxgloves are common in our woodlands. But what an odd name for a flowering plant! 

Yet hens know all about the dangers of foxgloves. When on their slinky stalking of chickens foxes know it is important not to make any noise. Over thousands of years of evolution foxes have evolved a process to guarantee hunting success. They sit down in the forest before they commence their stalking and taking flowers from foxgloves they pull these flowers onto their feet, one to each foot like slippers. In that way they can approach unwary chickens without making a sound.

The next time you are walking in the woods with children you might like to tell them how Foxgloves get their name!

Regards – Patrick.


I have talked to people going into the ‘bush’ in Canada who commonly express concerns about meeting grizzly bears. I never had cares about meeting such bears while working in northern British Columbia: perhaps a comforting ignorance on my part.

No – my fear was snakes. i was doing an inventory of wildlife in Ontario – and of course there were snakes, lots of them – black rat snakes. All right, so they are not poisonous. But they have a fair bite. I learned that the hard way.

I discovered a hut in a forest where I could bed-down for the night. The problem was it was already occupied – by guess what – lots of black rat snakes. I shovelled the lot of them out the door but they had a view about this unruly behaviour and came right back in again.

A violent thunderstorm and heavy rain had us all sharing a shelter as the only available place in out of the storm.

My fear was that these snakes would find their way into my sleeping bag for the bit of heat they would find there. for my part I was firmly of the view that I would not be imposed upon in such a manner.

The solution was for me to sleep on the rickety table in the hut and the snakes could have the floor. Can such snakes climb table legs? To this day I do not know the answer to that? Perhaps someone can assure me that they don’t?

I spent three nights on that table – no sleep – in case I fell off.

In TV wildlife programmes it is common to see people adopting indifference to dangers as though the loss of an arm would be no more than an inconvenience or the biting off of one’s head by a hungry lion at best an irritation. But surly that is all an act and when off camera and by themselves would their reactions be no different to mine?

That I come from an island where there are no snakes might account for my irrational reaction in that hut. This raises the question – do others too have irrational fears about particular animals. Fears that until now you have kept secret?

Come on – now is your chance to reveal your particular phobia. And more importantly – can you say why you hold such dread?

The confession box is now open Do come in and tell all. I want to hear lots of tails – OF DREAD!


News Flash – Early today the last Bengal Tiger was shot!

These magnificent animals now no longer exist. They are extinct. Never again will we glimpse such wonderful creatures hunting in the shadow worlds of Indian forests for sambar deer, or again hear their roar through the night air. Three million years of evolution – gone.

The largest cats in the world that filled us with fear and respect and delight and awe – that such fierceness could exist at all – are gone, 

Reserves were set aside to protect tigers.But there are many poor people in the lands of the big cats. Some shot or trapped tigers for what they could get for their hides and bones and meat – and even for the value of a single whisker that would, when worn, give a man strength. Others crept into a reserve to steal half an acre on which to build a little house and pasture a cow – for a man must have food to feed his family. Such a little bit of land out of a vast reserve that it would make no difference to the survival of tigers.But many people melted into the reserves and many half acres became a lot. And sambar deer, the food of tigers, were a welcome source of additional meat. With fewer deer to be had tigers killed cows and goats.But that wasn’t right. So men banded together and going into the forest killed tigers to protect their livestock. 

Tiger numbers dropped further. Tiger roar became less and less common. Finally a man claimed that he heard one far off in the distance but few believed him. Then one night a single shot. The last Bengal Tiger died. Only silence in the forest then: silence and the sound of treepies.

For years we had talked of the urgency to protect tigers. Politicians closely associated themselves with this fine idea. After all tigers were the very symbol of India: They were the makers of children’s dreams and stories and the stirrings of poets. But in the end none of this meant anything. Tigers were driven to extinction.

If such news were, one day, to come to pass what would be our reaction?  Would we shake our heads in disbelief? Would we express outrage? And why outrage when all of us will be to blame? 

(extract Planet Dancing.)


Nature Conservation – a Global Event?


Is it just me? Or are there others out there with similar views?

We are not winning the battle to conserve species. Indeed was there ever a time when we could say we were?

Right now as you read this blog, across the world in dozens of countries there are thousands of committed people and groups and clubs doing their best to protect habitats and biodiversity. In addition thousands of articles in magazines and Sunday Supplements  raise concerns for the run-away effect of global warming that is now creating consequences for all of us. Yet it is extraordinary that in spite of unusual storms and other odd climatic events, that are now increasingly common, that there is not a unified global-wide outcry by citizens.

So we need to ask the hard question – is all of the effort made by park rangers and scientists and others in national parks, and other places, around the world to win affection for nature having any permanent change of minds? There is no evidence that this intended good work is starting to generate a global consensus to protect species and their varied habitats.

Undoubtedly many of these fine talks and nature walks are enjoyable. But do even the finest of them actually change attitudes in a meaningful and sustained way that benefits nature?

We hold wildlife international conferences where politicians spout out words of concern and intent – and indeed sometime agree on a plan of action to protect habitats – only to have these aspirations drain away as soon as they pack their bags to return home.    

Why should we be surprised? Politicians do not carry to such meetings a broad and angry demand from their own people that meaningful agreements be reached to protect nature – and with the clear understanding that if nothing of significance is agreed that there will be political consequences when they return home. Unless we get to that level of public demand of our politicians nothing will change. Politicians will continue to drone out their indignation and meaningless sentiments.  

All my life I have lived with stories of rhino and elephants being killed; rare tigers and leopards taken for their fur and bone and blood; swamps drained on which exquisite frogs and cranes depend; coral rotting from polluted water or destroyed by fishermen; butterflies quietly dying from poisoning. Yet we register no moral outrage at what is happening.

So clearly we need another approach. We need to engage in something that will stir our imagination – and do it at a planet-wide level. Something on a global scale where we all can feel we have taken part.So what might we do? 

We need to come together to organize a world event for nature. Something that will register as the first step towards a planet-wide ethic for nature. Something too that will be remembered as the pivotal moment when millions of people, together, around the world, took up the banner for the protection of nature. If we achieve that then politicians will know they have serious issues to address.  

In Planet Dancing I have argued that we need to create a Children of the World Nature Reserve. Such a reserve would be paid for from pennies and cents and dollars and euros and other small change, collected from millions of children around the world. Such a place, created  by the efforts of children, would be special to them and they would want to know what lives in such a place and how it is managed on their behalf. On growing up these children would carry into their adult lives an understanding of habitats and what is needed if species are to survive. They would carry this understanding into their business and political judgments. This would be the start of a global awakening of what needs to be done.

Anything less than a global reach like this will fall short of what is now needed if we are ever to change minds in a way that will be meaningful.

(Extract from Planet Dancing.)