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Black Lamb


Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.


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Ask Millie


May 1st, 2016

Dear Reader,

I’ve written so often, and so well, about pets, that I take the liberty of reprinting two of my replies to letters on the subject of this special issue.

Dear Millicent,

What’s the best thing to do if you notice someone mistreating his pets? Three characters in our neighborhood fall into this loathesome category. One regularly whips his two dogs; their anguished yelps can be heard all down the street. Another refuses to have his many cats neutered, doesn’t feed them adequately, never has them vaccinated, and allows the kittens to die. The third insists on buying wild animals (a raccoon, a mink, an ocelot, among others) and caging them in his backyard, where his kids gape at the poor creatures until the animals eventually die of despair and loneliness.

Walter in Winnemucca

Dear Walter,

In recent years, new laws have been gradually enacted to protect innocent animals from cruel treatment at the hands of their “owners.” To my mind, these laws are not drastic enough. Rather than fines, abusers of animals should do real time in prison, where they can learn the true meaning of abuse. Furthermore, the trafficking in wild animals should be outlawed. It’s one thing to adopt a cat or dog or rabbit or hamster for a pet; these are domesticated animals that do better in homes than they would in the wild. But caging wild creatures is cruel and unnecessary.

As for your sorry situation, I would report neighbors one and two to the local animal authorities or the SPCA. As for the third, you and your neighbors should visit him en masse and point out to him the immorality of his habit of sequestering wild animals for his amusement. If this doesn’t work, sneak into his yard as often as necessary and uncage the critters.


Dear Miss Marshall,

What are your thoughts on giving names to dogs? I’ve recently acquired a wonderful puppy, as yet nameless. Can I affect his personality by the moniker I attach to him?

Wanna do right

Dear Wanna,

You probably can’t affect his personality by the name you assign him, but you’ll certainly affect yours. If you’re the sort of person who likes to anthropomorphize the animals around you, you should certainly give him a human name. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to let the animal remain an animal (albeit a beloved one), give him a thoroughly doggy name.

An alternative is to name your dog after something you want to think about. Some friends of mine, enamored of American history, called their puppy The Rights of Man. This enabled them to think of dear old Tom Paine every time their dog (nicknamed Rights) entered the picture. If you’re inclined to New Agey jargon, you might consider calling your pup Fulfillment or Opportunity or Potential. On the other hand, if you’re an academic, you might want to get into the spirit of political correctness and multiculturalism by giving your bitch puppy a thoroughly masculine name, calling your male pet Emily, or naming your Chihuahua Bruno.

Just remember that this naming business is all for you, not for the animal. A dog called Karl Marx is going to get through its days without giving a moment’s thought to the class struggle, but you’re going to think of Das Kapital every time you call him in for dinner. If that turns you on, then go for it.


Send your queries to Millicent Marshall c/o Black Lamb. Your letter may be edited for length; replies are not guaranteed confidential. •

From the September 2012 issue

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Marshall | Link to this Entry


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