Mel Richardson, veterinarian and animal advocate died, suddenly, on January 2nd. He was 63 years old. Mel accomplished so much in his lifetime. He also taught me most things worth knowing about animals.
Just a few things I learned from him:
- Orangs who sit on their heels rocking back and forth are masturbating.
- Elephant feet are the Achilles heel of captive pachyderms, their health problems will always start there first.
- Don’t get married just to have sex.
- One way to know if you’re going to be compatible with someone is to smell the top of their head (he swore he tries to do this stealthily so women won’t know what’s going on).
- Baby gorillas like jumping up and down on beds like small children.
- Pablo Escobar had a room full of carved wooden phalluses where he’d relax with his men after a long day of drug running.
- If you have to watch hours of videotape of horse slaughter, it’s best to have stiff drink nearby.
- There is no justification good enough to keep a wild animal captive.
- People can be wretched but they can also be good. Wildly good.
I do not want to live in a world without Mel. The animal kingdom has lost its greatest, most devoted, funniest champion. He saw the darkest parts of our animal nature and didn’t turn away, instead he turned toward them and tried to make them better. In this way, Mel worked so hard to save us from ourselves, to heal the animals that others had hurt. I will never stop hoping for my phone to ring, to hear his Georgian drawl, his guffaw, and his sign off: “Love you gurl.” I love you too Mel. And I know that wherever you are, you’re surrounded by all those lady chimps who had crushes on you, a few dozen elephants who recognize you, a couple of your long lost dogs, and an ark’s worth of grateful creatures who got there before you and are thrilled you’ve finally arrived.
I don’t bark, I roar, watch me drag my ass across your floor.
“…there are some questions in life the very speaking of which are their own undoing:
am I fired? Is this a date?”
Thank you History, Anthropology and STS for letting me in and letting me get this far. And special thanks to my committee: Harriet Ritvo, David Jones and Stefan Helmreich. You have terrified me, inspired me, challenged me, put up with me, fed me, encouraged me, and made me work harder than I thought possible. I’m grateful always in all ways.
Photos: Jake Bratiman
Jon Mooallem has a book out . You should buy it. It’s fantastic. It’s about his daughter and America and cranes, bears, butterflies and a whale named Humphrey. It’s basically about what it means to be a human right now and not another kind of animal. How confusing that is, so much of the damn time.
To celebrate, he’s collaborating with Pop Up Magazine. You can read more about the show, June 12th in San Francisco, here. Michael Pollan will be reading and lots of other great folks and Black Prairie will be playing. Tickets sold out in less than five minutes. I’m IN the show and I couldn’t buy any. My mom even snuck out of jury duty to try and buy them and she couldn’t. Sorry about that. There’s a waiting list. You can sign up.
But no matter what, you should read the book.
Things at Animal Madness Inc have been so hectic of late I forgot to mention that I’m doing a reading this afternoon: Sunday, April 28th at 1:30pm at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Admission is free and you’ll be able to wander through everyone’s studios and eat lunch in the Mess Hall as today is open house.
This may be my only outing from the little cave that’s dissertation writing for a while, so come on out and say hi.
Happy 4/20 Internet
In your honor, I interviewed veterinarian Andrew Springer Browne for the The New Inquiry’s “Weed” issue. Check it.
Here’s a teaser:
“Can cats get stoned?
Cats tend to be more fastidious than dogs so they don’t usually eat things that make them sick…although I once removed a large ball of hair bands from a cat’s stomach.
But I have seen a cat high. There was catnip involved, not weed. And whether or not that cat was tripping, it was obviously in a state of bliss. Have you seen or heard of any other animals getting stoned accidentally or on purpose? Say fish, parrots, horses or any other animal that might be around weed… and us?
Or purchase a pipe shaped like a turtle.