Solutions for People, Animals and Environment
Tales of WellBeing – Issue 10, December 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, we would like to thank all our followers and supporters and wish each of you a prosperous and successful New Year. While there is much to worry about, there are also numerous signs of promise in new technologies and many heartwarming stories involving people, animals and the environment. Tales of WellBeing was established to bring some of those stories to you and to provide a few moments of encouragement and perhaps a smile or two every month. This issue carries a story from the Big Fix in Northern Uganda where the Comfort Dog Project is helping traumatized people and rescued dogs to find each other and help the communities in which they live. It is a remarkable story. We also provide a brief glimpse into a strange “hunt” after one of the smallest birds in the world that happens in Europe the day after Christmas.

The Big Fix in Northern Uganda
by Meg Daley Olmert
Introduction by Andrew Rowan

There are numerous projects around the world that team animals and people in constructive partnerships that help the people, the animals or, more often, both people and animals. From Dr. Dog projects in China and India to Animal Assisted Activities in the US and Europe, people-dog partnerships are everywhere.
The Tale in this newsletter describes such a program – The Big Fix’s, Comfort Dog Project (CDP) – in Northern Uganda where war and disruption have traumatized thousands of people and left survivors of those forced to serve in the Lord’s Resistance Army as outcasts in their communities. Dogs in these communities are also marginalized.
The account below by Meg Olmert, an official advisor to the CDP and author of Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond, describes the changes being wrought by connecting marginalized dogs and people.

Hunting the Wren - A Holiday Bird
by Andrew Rowan

There are many celebrations involving animals around the world. Many will be familiar with the story of Peter and the Wolf and the version put to music by Prokofiev (his most frequently performed work) where each animal is represented by an instrument (the wolf is represented by the French horn). But, at this time of year, we are also regaled with scenes featuring cardinals, robins, penguins, sheep, donkeys, camels and, of course, reindeer! However, one of the stranger customs at this time of year is the hunting of wrens, a tiny European songbird, on December 26 (St. Stephens Day) reportedly because their chattering gave away St. Stephens’ hiding place according to one Irish legend.

A former colleague of mine, veterinary anthropologist E.A. “Betty” Lawrence, produced a book on this custom, entitled Hunting the Wren: Transformation of Bird to Symbol (1997, University of Tennessee Press) that was characteristic of her investigations of the meaning of human-animal interactions. As she notes in the Preface, she started looking at the practice of hunting wrens to answer the question why, in certain areas of Britain and Europe, would this tiny brown (and beloved) song-bird be hunted and killed on just one day of the year. Her book is a symbolic study of human relationships with nature and, in this instance, specifically with one tiny part of Nature, the bird identified by the species name, Troglodytes troglodytes.

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