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Beyond Gratitude: Pitching In To Rescue Animals

A worker holds a sparrow.

Animal rescues go on urgently every day around the world.

This autumn, rescuers have worked frantically to save wild orangutans caught up in terrible fires in Borneo and Sumatra. Most of these fires were set deliberately in order to clear land for the very same industry — the palm-oil industry — that pushes these apes close to extinction.

A group of chimpanzees, retired to mangrove islands off the coast of Liberia after invasive biomedical research, were abandoned in March by the New York Blood Center who had experimented on them for years. Sixty-six apes went hungry until rescuers, including the Humane Society of the United States and associated caregivers stepped in to feed and look after them.

Massive rescues on this scale are complex, but smaller rescues closer to home matter, too.

A bear in Maryland managed to get his head stuck in a milk jug earlier this month. Officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources tranquilized the bear, then performed the rescue. Coming back to consciousness, the bear moved off safely into the woods.

And in Los Angeles last summer, people at Hope for Paws never gave up as they fought challenging conditions to rescue one very scared dog. Don't miss this wonderful four-minute video that telegraphs the successful outcome:

On Tuesday, Greg Matic, foster coordinator with Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue, the organization that took over this rescued dog's care, told me Clarabelle was adopted very quickly.

"Her new family reports that she is doing great," Matic wrote me. Clarabelle has bonded with her adoptive family's other dog named Ranger, and "doesn't leave his side."

Importantly, all this good work for animals goes hand in hand with taking compassionate action to help people globally in these troubled times.

This Thanksgiving week, everyone's talking about gratitude. It's a great feeling that can boost empathy for others and our own heart health, as well.

So, yes, I do feel enormous gratitude about all this. It's just that moving from that gratitude to actually helping others is an even better feeling.

Tracey Stewart, together with husband Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame, is partnering with Farm Sanctuary to open a sanctuary for farmed animals on their New Jersey property. Tracey Stewart's new book Do Unto Animals -- stuffed full of chapters like "How to interact with a cow," "Keep your birds safe" and "Make a frog sanctuary" — shows how easy it is for the rest of us, almost certainly with more limited resources than the Stewarts, to pitch in and make animals' lives better.

At my house, the favored chapter so far from Stewart's book is titled "Five ways to make a cat happy." Our multiple rescued cats have voted that we all work together this week on the "excite the senses while getting cozy" activity recommended by Stewart. First, though, my family — people and cats — will enjoy our holiday together (We humans are eating vegetarian foods; the cats are not!).

From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara's most recent book on animals is titled How Animals Grieve. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape

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