Tag Archives: animals

I Woke up on Monday as a Dog

I woke up on Monday as a dog—a sloppy, tangle-furred St. Bernard who had grown up on the streets. Everyone in the neighborhood knew me and as the sun peeked between the brownstone houses that lined the east side of the street, I set out to discover breakfast. A few people called out to me, but I just barked and kept going. People around here might know me, but no one ever fed me.

No one except Mae, my adopted mother. She was blind—poor thing—but loved me no matter what. She fed me the same fare regardless of my form, sometimes with terrible results. There was a freezing day in February where I came to her as a goat only to find she had saved a steak just for me, cooked to medium-rare perfection. It repulsed me and as much as it hurt me to reject it, I could not touch it.

Mae was sitting on the porch steps when I bounded up. She could always tell when it was me. “Good morning, Harry. Come sit and talk to me for a while.” I barked at her and she nodded. “Maybe another day then.”

I wolfed down the bacon and eggs she had set out on the steps and lapped at the water next to it. The rest of the day was spent running around the streets and tearing into the garbage bags behind the McDonalds, searching for abandoned scraps and running away from the shouts and threats of the workers. It was a glorious existence.

On Tuesday, I woke up as a man and the grimmer reality that came with it. I ran a hand through my greasy hair, tried to straighten my clothes, and shuffled over to Mae’s where I ate with fork and knife and we talked about the weather and the arthritis she was getting in her knees. I brought my dishes in, washed them and the rest of the pile there, then took out her garbage. I was walking over to the park to sleep when I heard a shout.

“Harry, come here for a second.” It was a cop. I don’t know which one: I’m not good with faces, or names. He waited until I had approached the car, then kept looking at me until I was thoroughly unnerved.

“Some people complained about you urinating on the street yesterday.”

“Aw, Officer, I wasn’t myself yesterday,” I said. “You don’t arrest other dogs for marking their territory.”

The officer sighed and looked down. “I gotta take you in again, Harry. You know I hate to do it.”

“For what? What did I do?”

“You want the list?”

I went quietly. Violence is not what I’m about. I sat in the corner of the public cell but the other prisoners seemed to know me and left me alone. Luckily, the next day I woke up briefly to find that I was a sloth and then slept most of the day. When I did wake, it took half an hour to get over to the can and back to the bunk. At the end of the day, an official came in and talked to me privately but I was too sleepy to hear much. I caught the words “psychiatric” and “trial” but it didn’t concern me.

The next day, I woke up as a dragon.

The shock of sudden strength after a day as a sloth was electrifying. I had only been a dragon once before and that was when I had a horde to protect and I had spent the whole day sleeping on it. But not this time. I sat hunched on my bunk, eyes closed but flexing the muscles in my limbs and wings, feeling the deadly power in my claws.

“Harry, it’s time to go,” I heard someone call. I didn’t move. “Just go get him,” someone else said. “Cuffs but no shackles. He’s not a high risk.” The tip of my tail flicked back and forth in anticipation.

The cell door open and I sprang with a roar. I caught one look at the shocked expression on the guard’s face before I was on him, raking my talons across his face. My tail slammed him against the bars and I was free, my huge bulk crashing through the next room. It was pure exhilaration and I reveled in the power that I suddenly possessed.

I smashed through one room after another until suddenly, I was outside and then I was airborne and flying over the city. But where to go now? I couldn’t visit Mae—the weight of this new form would crush her house. I could not retreat to the subway system like I often did, not with my huge frame.

In the end, the form that gave me freedom caused my downfall. A dragon cannot hide well and they found me and netted me and brought me to another facility. A man came and talked to me, but all I could do was roar at him. It was his own fault for trying to talk to a dragon.

Today I woke up as a cat but they still guarded me as if I were a dragon. It’s a shame and I suppose I’ll never get out of here unless I turn into something stronger than a dragon, something strong enough to bend steel and smash concrete. I look out my window and see the beautiful blue sky. A perfect day for a cat to go exploring—a beautiful tabby cat with golden eyes who’s never hurt a person in his life.


Act Natural – Visual Fiction

I haven’t done a Visual Fiction story in a while, but it’s a flash fiction story based on a picture of my own. I took this one in Bundang, Korea.

Act NaturalAct Natural

“Look, I don’t usually ask you for a favor, but you got to help me out. Can you take the blame for this one?”

“Take the blame? It’s bigger than me. No one is going to believe I did that.”

“They’re going to bust me, I know it. I can’t go back in that corral again.”

“Well, then pick it up.”

“I have hooves, I can’t pick up anything. Can you?”

“It looks pretty heavy for me.”

“Oh crap, here they come. Just act natural.”


My Experience with Korean Bullfighting

When we think of bullfighting, the image that comes to mind is undoubtedly Spanish: matadors, flashing capes, and Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon.

Korean bullfighting is very different. There are no humans combatants: the bulls fight each other, and it is more like wresting than a death struggle. The bulls do have sharp horns so it is possible to draw blood, but that is pretty rare and bulls being injured or killed is all but unheard of. At least in my experience, I have never seen it.

bullfighting 1

I first heard about Korean bullfighting (called so-ssaeum, or 소싸음) from a co-worker of mine, who mentioned that there was an annual festival near Daegu. I was intrigued, because for a Canadian, the whole idea of bullfighting is very strange and exotic. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the town where I teach has an annual bullfighting tournament as well.

I went after school, the only non-Korean in a crowd of several hundred people. The ring was fenced off by wooden poles and the entrance was built like a tunnel through a high bank, where the people sat. It may seem like this did not give much protection, but in Korean bullfighting, the bulls are fairly docile and do not attack people. They are very used to being handled and taken care of and they only fight each other. That being said, I still wouldn’t play around with a 1-ton bull that didn’t know me.

bulfighting 2

The tournament is four days long and has a festival atmosphere to it. Besides the fights, there are also booths selling food and local products, plus a stage for music. People sit on the ground under tents to watch the fights.

bullfighting 3

The bulls are tied up in booths in a separate area until it is time for their fight. They are sent to fight in a rotation and then on the last day, the semi-final and final matches are fought to decide the ultimate champion.

bullfighting 4

bull closeup

When it is time for their fight, the owners leads the bulls into the ring one at a time, leading them by a rope tied to the ring in their nose. The only people allowed in the ring are the bull owners and the referees.

bullfighting 5

The referees wear special uniforms. The bulls are not subject to any rules, of course, but the referees make sure the owners do not interfere. Occasionally, one of the bulls will refuse to fight and the referees call a forfeit after a certain amount of time.

bullfighting 6

The bulls fight by butting their heads together and trying to twist around to jab each other with their horns. Their skin is so thick that although I’m sure it hurts to get jabbed with a horn, I never saw a bull draw blood with its horns.

bullfighting 7

One of the owners is designated blue and the other is red, as shown by the vests they wear. They usually stand near the bulls and shout encouragement and are ready to catch them, if need be.

bullfighting 8

I saw one fight where the man in the ring wearing the owner’s vest wasn’t actually the owner, but an employee. The real owner did not like what he was doing and kept yelling at him, but the man in the ring just ignored him. Finally, the owner walked into the ring, picked up the man bodily and carried him out of the ring, while the crowd roared with laughter. Then the owner put on the vest and came in to finish the fight. Not that the bulls took any notice, of course.

bullfighting 9

Luckily the employee was much smaller than the owner.

The fight lasts until one of the bulls gives up, usually by suddenly breaking off and running away. Most fights only last a few minutes, although some can go 15 minutes or more. The very long fights are pretty intense, especially when you consider that the bulls are straining against each other in the hot sun the whole time; almost a ton of muscle pushing in each direction. Always though, one of the bulls runs away eventually and a roar goes up from the crowd, of congratulations for the winner, or derision for the losing bull.

bullfighting 10

The fight is over. This owner fell down trying to catch his bull.

The bulls then go back through the tunnel to the stalls, very hot and thirsty. The owners hose them down, give them a lot of water and put them back in the shade to wait, either to go home or to fight again.

bullfighting 11

Overall, it was a very interesting experience. While some people may argue that it is exploitive of animals, it is much more humane than the Spanish variety, where the animal always dies in the end. Also, because the bulls are evenly matched, the outcome is not a foregone conclusion, as with Spanish bullfighting. Yes, there is some tension as to whether the matador will emerge unscathed, but ultimately, the bull never wins. In Korean bullfighting, there is a certain majesty watching two huge animals wrestle as they might in the wild and they also live to tell about it.

What do you think? Do you think this is an improvement on other types of animal sports or is it all cruel and manipulative? Let me know in the comments.

bullfighting 12


Captain Butterfly – Visual Fiction #16

You think you’re in control, don’t you? “Look!” you say. “A butterfly! Let me see if I can take a picture.”  You get the camera out slowly, marveling that I’m not moving at all. And then, snap! you get a picture.

What you don’t know is that while I’ve been posing for you, my little ant friends have been untying your shoes. You start to walk away, notice your shoes, and bend down to re-tie them. This gives my sparrow comrades a stationary target to dive-bomb with poop.

Now you’re really getting annoyed, but you take off your pack and jacket to clean them off. While you’re distracted, the chipmunks and spiders get to work unzipping your pack and searching for all the best little goodies you’ve got stored away.

An hour later, you stop for lunch and think, “Huh, I thought I packed a sandwich.”

You did. Thanks for the chow, loser.

taken on Sapshido Island, Korea

taken on Sapshido Island, Korea


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