Notes to Poem:
Concerning Pets

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: All the computer facilities are closed on July 4th Independence Day holiday, so Connie took me hiking on this day. Because of many people going on picnics on this holiday, parking spaces are full, and we're lucky to find a space in one of the Mid-Penisular Open Space Parks. Hikes taken July 4, 2009-2014: Coal Mine Ridge (2009), El Corte de Madera (2010), Tarwater Trailhead Loop (2011), Portola Redwoods (2012), Purisima Creek Redwoods (2013, Windy Hill's Eagle Trail (2014). With Connie's passing (9-9-2016), have not gone on many hikes. Karen takes me for a walk at Saratoga's Hakone Gardens on July 4, 2019. She tells me on breaking an online date to take me out. He asks her "Is Peter your pet?" That's how this poem was born.

Commentary on Poem: "Concerning Pets"

She cancelled her online date to take me
to Hakone Gardens on Fourth of July—
He asks her, wonders whether I'm her pet.

Hakone Gardens Gift Shop
near the Entrance

Karen by Bamboo Gate
Near the Main Gate

Kasuga Lantern across Koi Pond
Hakone Gardens, Saratoga
The walk around Hakone Gardens was beautiful and wonderful. Took 73 photos and could have easily written a poem
on the sights seen there. However, when Karen asked "Are you my pet?", this poem poured out to my surprise instead.
Photo Sources: Hakone Garden Gift Shop, Karen by Bamboo Gate, Kasuga Lantern across Koi Pond (

My friend Rudy calls me Peter Rabbit,
but Poet-Laureate Kay Ryan tells me—
"You're not a rabbit—You're Peter the Rock."

Peter Rabbit
by Beatrix Potter

Kay Ryan
U.S. Poet Laureate (2008-2010)

Saint Peter
(1 AD-68 AD)
Rudy always address me as "Dr. Peter Rabbit" in his emails as well as in person. January 27, 2010 was Kay Ryan's first class of Stanford's English 192V "The Occasions of Poetry". She asked us to introduce ourselves and think of some mnemonic device to remember the names. When the student next to me said her name is Lucia, I thought of Lucia, the Patron Saint of Florence who carried Dante up Mt. Purgatory while he was dreaming of Jupiter snatching Ganymede up Mount Olympus to be his cup-bearer (Purgatorio, 9.19-63). When it was my turn, I tell Kay "You can call me Peter Rabbit", but Kay says "You're not a rabbit—
You're Peter the Rock." Ever since the U.S. Poet Laureate gave me that title, I've tried to live up to that expectation.
Photo Sources: Peter Rabbit (; Kay Ryan (; Saint Peter (

With asthma, allergic to cats and dogs,
we had no pets at home except a goldfish
and my sister's parakeet named "Birdie".

U,S. #5110 Goldfish & U.S. #5111 Kitten (issued 8-2-2016)

U.S. #5124 Parakeets & U.S. #5125 Dog (issued 8-2-2016)
I had asthma from 1946-1955, and was allergic to cats, dogs, chicken feathers, and dust. So we had no pets at home.
Mom was afraid of dogs, since she was bitten by a neighborhood dog as a child. Dad was too busy with his scholarly
pursuits to care about pets. We just had a goldfish and parakeet at home. My asthma went away in Junior High School,
when I was busy studying, and never came back.
Photo Sources: U.S. 5110 & #5111 (; U.S. 5124 & #5125(

U.S. issued a booklet of twenty pets—
but my favorite is Britain's "Peter Rabbit"
and a "Koala Bear" stamp from Australia.

U.S. #5106-5125
(issued 8-2-2016)

Great Britain #3586
(issued 7-28-2016)

Australia #171
(issued 10-10-1942
USPS announced issuing a booklet of 20 Pets stamps on August 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. These stamps celebrate
the animals in our lives that bring us joy, companionship, and love. The stamp art features existing photographs of different
animals taken against white backgrounds. Each photograph represents animals from these groups: puppies, betta fish, iguanas,
hamsters, goldfish, parrots, guinea pigs, tortoises, rabbits, kittens, corn snakes, mice, hermit crabs, chinchillas, gerbils, dogs,
parakeets, horses, cats, and geckos. I still have 8 of these stamps unused from the booklet bought at Los Altos Post Office.
However, my favorite pet stamps are from Great Britain "3586 "Peter Rabbit" honoring the 150th anniversary of the birth
of Beatrix Potter (issued 7-28-2016), and a green stamp of "Koala Bear" from Australia #171 issued on October 10, 1942.
Photo Sources: U.S. #5106-5125 (; Great Britain #3586 (; Australia #171 (

There are 74 million pet cats and
70 million pet dogs in America,
with China second in pets ownership.

U.S. 5106-5125 Pets Booklet
(issued 8-2-2016)

Top Dog & Cat Populations (2017)
Worldwide Pet Ownership Survey
The Worldwise Pet Ownership Survey shows U.S. leading the world in pet ownership
with 69.9 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats. China is second with 27.4 million
pet dogs & 53.1 million pet cats. Russia is third with 12.5 million dogs & 17.8 million
cats. Japan is fourth with 12 milllion dogs. Brazil is fourth with 12.5 million cats.
Photo Sources: U.S. 5106-5125 Pets Booklet (; Worldwide Pet Ownership (

Scientific studies have shown dogs & cats
prolong human lives by thirty percent—
help seniors relax & reduce their stress.

Dogs Reduce Stress

Cats Reduce Stress
"Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows" (By Jake Rossen, Mental Floss, 11-17, 2017).
Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of their residents. They found
those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause
during the study's 12-year duration. Those who had a dog were 33% less likely to die early than those
who did not [Scientific Reports 7, 15821 (2017)]. In article "Can owning a pet help you live longer?"
(By Jane McGrath, How Stuff Works?), Minnesota Stroke Institute followed more than 4,000 cat
owners over 10 years, owning a cat can dramatically reduce a person's chance of dying from heart
disease. People who owned cats were 30% less likely to suffer a heart attack. Dr. Kevin Solomons
blogs on "Dogs and Depression: How Dogs Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Sadness"— "Dogs offer us
unconditional acceptance. Dogs encourage us to exercise. Dogs reduce isolation and loneliness.
Dogs help us manage our feelings. Dogs promote touch. Dogs reduce anxiety." Elizabeth Scott
writes in "How Owning a Dog or Cat Can Reduce Stress" (1-14-2912)— "Pets Can Improve
Your Mood. Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs. Pets Encourage You To Get Out
And Exercise. Pets Can Help With Social Support. Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide
Unconditional Love. Pets Can Reduce Stress Sometimes More Than People."
Photo Sources: Dogs Reduce Stress (; Cats Reduce Stress (

A farm in upstate New York offers cow
cuddling therapy sessions via brushing,
petting or heartfelt chats with the bovines.

Mountain Horse Farm
7520 W Hollow Rd, Naples, New York

Cow Cuddling
as Physical Therapy

Girls Petting Cows
at Mountain Horse Farm
On page A2 of Sunday, July 14, 2019 issue of San Jose Mercury News was an article "CATTLE CUDDLING:
Move over, therapy dogs— make way for therapy cows" by Elisa Mala, published originally on July 12, 2019
in the New York Times. From a lush pasture on Mountain Horse Farm in upstate New York, 3-year-old Bella
& 2-year-old Bonnie are highlander-angus crossbred cows that provide animal-based therapy. Cow cuddling,
invites interaction with the farm animals via brushing, petting or heartfelt chats with the bovines. Hourlong
cow cuddling sessions, priced at $75 per couple for the hour, are capped at two a day.
Photo Sources: Mountain Horse Farm (; Cow Cuddling (nytimescom); Girls Petting Cows (nytimescom).

Tom T. Hall sings my favorite country-western:
"Ain't but three things in life worth a solitary dime,
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

Tom T. Hall
Country Music Singer

Old Dog and Child
playing with each other

Watermelon Wine
Bottle Label
I love classical music and listen to KDFC daily, including many of them in my haikus. However,
I like a few country-western songs by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, and Tom T. Hall.
One of my all-time favorites is Tom T. Hall's "Watermelon Wine" (YouTube)
"Old Dogs, Children & Watermelon Wine" Lyrics (1972):

"How old do you think I am? " he said.
I said, well, I didn't know.
He said, "I turned 65 about 11 months ago."

I was sittin' in Miami pourin' blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin' up the lounge

There wasn't anyone around 'cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin' "ironsides" on tv
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

"Ever had a drink of watermelon wine? " he asked
He told me all about it, though I didn't answer back
"Ain't but three things in this world that's worth a solitary dime,
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine."

He said, "women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain't around.
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you're down."
He said, "I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime;
Now it's old dogs and children and watermelon wine."

"Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes;
God bless little children while they're still too young to hate."
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
'Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

I had to catch a plane up to Atlanta that next day
As I left for my room I saw him pickin' up my change
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine.
Image Sources: Tom T. Hall (; Dog & Child (; Watermelon Wine (

Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes,
God bless children while they're still too young to hate."

No wonder dogs and children are good for our health.

Hungary #1151 Hunting Dog
(issued 3-17-1956)

Denmark #B34 Happy Child
(issued 10-21-1965)

Kid Therapy: Mixing Seniors
and youthful energy in Eagan, Minnesota
The Hunting Dog portrait from Hungary #1151 is a nice image of a caring dog. I recall a "Happy Child with
arms raised in a meadow" stamp from Denmark #B34. Unfortunely, the web site showing it was a used stamp.
After some search, found an unused copy at HipStamp, showing a jubilant little girl. Star Tribune (6-21-2014)
reports that "a senior facility in Eagan, Minnesota is pairing eager preschoolers with frail clients, and enjoying
the smiles on both sides." An article "Having children may increase lifespan" (By Honor Whiteman, Medical
News Today
, 3-14-2017), reports "the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that people who had children
may live up to 2 years longer than those who are childless." These stories show that dogs and children are
good for our health. Thanks to Karen for taking me to Hakone Gardens on Fourth of July and her asking
"Are you my pet?" that inspired this poem while I learned more about pets and our well-being.
Photo Sources: Hungary #1151 (; Denmark #B34 (; Kid Therapy: Children & Seniors (

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 7-19-2019

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email: (7-19-2019)