I belong to a local Toastmasters group and my next 5-7 minute speech is coming up. I've chosen the title 'Animal Warmth' and here is the very first draft of my speech (sorry it is not as yet more polished):
I wonder how many of you have experienced the warmth and comfort you
can get from an animal?
The first time I really felt this was way back when I was thirteen
going on fourteen. It was my worst ever Christmas. We were on my aunt
and uncle's dairy farm in the Manawatu when my father died of a sudden
heart attack. Very early Christmas morning. You can imagine the next
few days. Mum's health hadn't been good the past year and now she'd
suddenly lost her husband. My step-grandmother was there, and lots of
other people, all milling around her. No one seemed to take any notice
of me. So I spent the next few days just wandering over the farm.
Feeling lost. And I found my way to the cows. I'd been helping with
milking for some time already. I knew there are some cows that are
tamer than others. They'll stand still in the paddock and let you go
up to them. There's a way of approaching a cow so she isn't scared.
[demonstrate] You don't just barge up to them front on. You approach
at the back, and you gently rub along her back, gradually getting
closer to her head as she relaxes a bit. Then you can rub her between
the ears, like a dog. You can put your arm around her neck. You can
snuggle in to her. She's so warm, so comforting. That's what I did,
day after day. I let the cows give me comfort. Who knows what they
were thinking … but they stayed still for me, they let me cuddle them.
I felt their warmth, their soft heat. They were like a mother. They
mothered me when I most needed it, when my own mother was consumed by
her own pain, her own loss. I've loved cows ever since.
These days I don't come across cows very often. There are beef cattle
up in the Wellington hills. I've taken a dog walking behind Wellington
Prison and we came across some surprisingly docile Herefords. Even
though I had Seal with me, they let me get up really close and pat
them. It was a good feeling. There are often beef cattle in the hills
around Mt Kaukau too. I love to take photos of them but these ones
don't let me get close enough to pat them, with dog or without. Seal
wasn't 'my' dog but I took her walking in the hills a lot. I never
thought I'd get attached to a dog but Seal became my friend … and she
gave me comfort too. Seal was part of the wider family … and
Earlier this year, Seal developed cancer of the jaw. She had to be
put down. I guess quite a few of you have gone through that … you'll
know how hard it is. Anyway, I was walking in the hills south of
Kaukau one day, taking the 'scenic route' to Ngaio. I was by myself –
and feeling cold, lonely and lost, thinking about the last time I was
there … with the dog running ahead, looking back eagerly, doing what
happy dogs do. Thinking about other losses in my life, thinking about
times that just don't come again. Finally I walked down to the Ngaio
railway station to catch a train home again. And I learned that
animal warmth and comfort can sometimes come along when they're most
I'd just missed a train. Nearly half an hour to wait. No one else on
the platform. Nothing to read. I sat down, miserable. And then … a
small furry creature dashed across from the other side of the tracks.
Leapt on my lap. Settled down, purring madly. The Ngaio
stationmaster. I wonder how many of you know the Ngaio stationmaster.
I'd often see this cat from the train as I passed through Ngaio. Just
about always at the Ngaio station, meeting the trains. It took me a
while to learn that the stationmaster is female, lives quite close by,
does have another name – Belle. A local fixture. She was so warm! I
moved, I didn't want her to jump off my lap. But there was no risk of
that, she was there to stay. And somehow I felt comforted. She was
still on my lap when I saw my train appearing round the corner from
Crofton Downs. I lifted her off. 'I'm sorry, I have to go now.' I
felt like thanking her.
When the train moved off, I looked back at her through the window. I
felt so warm towards her. 'That's the Ngaio stationmaster,' I told a
man sitting nearby. He just laughed. 'Yes, she'll jump up on anyone
who's waiting for the train,' he said.
Well, I knew that, didn't I. She wasn't there specially for me … but
she certainly came along at a time I needed a bit of animal warmth.
You might imagine that I'm now going to tell you you should go out
and get a pet of your own … a cat or dog if not a cow … Well, I'm
not doing that … I don't have a pet of any sort so I can't tell YOU to
get one! But what I AM here to say is simply this … When you need
some warmth and comfort, there's often an obliging animal nearby. If
you can't find a suitable cow …. you could head down to the Ngaio
railway station … the stationmaster might well leap onto your lap.