Transcribe your podcast

Hey, it's Michael. Today, we have something really special for you, a blissful break from the news. It's a news series from NYT Audio called Animal. My colleague, Sam Anderson, from the Times magazine, traveled the world to have encounters with animals, not to claim them or to tame them, but just to appreciate them. Each episode is a journey to get closer to a creature that Sam loves. A bonus, you can listen to this series with your kids. For the next six weeks, we'll be running this limited series every Sunday here on the Daily Feed. But if you want to hear all the episodes right now, you can search for it wherever you get your podcasts. Today, episode one. Hope you like it.


Let me tell you a story about a hole. A big gaping black hole in the floor of my house, upstairs, from the time when I climbed up on a ladder to fix something in my daughter's room, and underneath me, a floorboard cracked. It opened up this freaky-looking chasm, not the size of a burrito, but like a big burrito. A burrito stuffed with pure darkness. I'm honestly scared of this hole, and I was supposed to fix it before something bad happened, but I kept putting it off. And then, something bad happened. What happened was our daughter's hamster, Mango, escaped from her cage, and She didn't just climb under a blanket or hide in a corner. She went down into the hole, into this yauning vortex of doom, which means she entered the secret infinite maze of the inside of our very old house. Now, Mango was a fat little golden floof ball, not the creature who would survive long without fresh water and food. We looked everywhere. Occasionally, we thought we heard rustling in a closet or under a dresser, and we'd shine our lights in there. Nothing. 24 hours passed, 48 hours passed. We tried to go on with our normal routines, but we all felt sad and on edge.


It was like the whole house had a toothache. Finally, on the third day, we gave up. We just had to swallow hard and accept the fact that our sweet little mango, who'd been our daughter's 16th birthday present, who used to nibble fresh raspberries right out of our fingers, sweet little mango had met her maker somewhere deep in the walls. Someday there'd be a terrible smell or some home improvement project would uncover her tiny, tragic skeleton. However, when I say that we gave up on Mango, I should actually say that the humans in our house gave up on her. Because late on that third night, when the rest of us were all past hope, a different golden, floofy creature came to the rescue. Our dog, Walnut. Walnut is a completely ridiculous creature. A purebred, long-haired, miniature doxon with thick, creamy fur like vanilla pudding and a tail so fancy it should probably be on a tropical fish. He's spoiled and lazy, and he spends most of his time staring lovingly into my eyes or napping in sunbeams. But during the mango crisis, while all the humans were busy grieving, Walnut suddenly took a break from his napping and became obsessed with a small small patch of our living room wall.


He just stood there staring at it, pointing his long wiener dog snout and wiggling his nose. At first, we ignored him because to be honest, Walnut's nose is probably too powerful for his own good, so he ends up fixated on the tiniest things. But he kept at it for hours. He looked at the wall from one side, then from the other side. He cocked his head and made snorting noises until finally we got the hint. I took out my tools and disassembled this ancient set of sliding doors in the wall to expose a dark cave. We put an open peanut butter jar on the floor as bait, and we all held our breath. A few minutes later, out staggered Mango. She was filthy, covered with the grime of the centuries, probably starving and dehydrated, but she was alive. She looked like she'd climbed out of her own grave, which basically she had. We picked her up and dusted her off and put her back in her cage. We all showered Walnut with extra love and praise and snuggles and treats. Then he went back to sleep. We humans tend to think of ourselves as superior with our pants and our phones and our skyscrapers.


But I believe, I have always believed, that animals are basically magic. These creatures that are so obviously not not us, but that exist right alongside us, sleeping in our beds, munching grass on the side of the road, rattling their tails, fearing us, loving us, biting us. They enter worlds we never see. They sense things we can't detect, like how Walnut, just by being Walnut, rescued Mango. In his lazy, snuffly way, he performed a resurrection. In fact, Walnut himself came into our lives as a resurrection. He was our second Wiener Dog, a very deliberate replacement of our first, whose name was Moby. I'm not going to say too much about Moby here because to be very honest, I will start weeping so hard, it'll ruin all of this nice audio equipment. But basically, Moby Moby was the greatest dog of my life in the most profound nonhuman relationship I've ever had. I loved him so deeply that I became a vegetarian. My affection for this little dog radiated out to cover the whole rest of the animal kingdom. I just thought that he and I would be together forever. But of course, that didn't happen. When Moby turned 12, he got cancer and very suddenly died, and it was a complete shock.


That first night in bed, I reached out for him, just pure muscle memory, and there was nothing there, and I broke down sobbing. At one point, I found myself petting a photograph of his face. I was also full of rage. I wanted to burn down the universe. I either wanted Moby back, which I knew was impossible, or I wanted nothing, no dog ever again. Because life seemed to be some scam, a little shell game in which every living thing secretly carried the pain of its own loss, and I was determined never to fall for it again. This is when my wife, Sarah, went out and brought home Walnut. He was from the same breeder as Moby, and in fact, the same bloodline, a descendant of Moby's father's brother's cousin or something. And Walnut was outrageously cute. Big-eyed, fuzzy, clumsy. Strangers gasped when they saw him in the street. Friends threatened to steal him. The rest of my family needed zero seconds to love Walnut completely. But he was not Moby. He was a different color, with long fur instead of short. He didn't cuddle in bed like Moby, didn't walk on his leash like Moby.


He didn't make little huffing noises while he mashed his forehead into my chest. Also, Walnut barked at everything. And so for a long time, I did not love him. But day by day, Walnut wore down my defenses. He molded himself to my habits, and I molded myself to his. And eventually, I accepted him. Then, I started to love him. And today, it actually hurts me to say this, but I think I love Walnut as deeply as I loved Moby. Differently, but as much. Which means that I have fallen, yet again, like a total sucker for the stupid trick of life. And inevitably, terrible pain is on its way. Because Walnut just had a birthday. He turned 12, the age Moby was when he died. The hair on his face has turned white. But the hair on my face has turned white, too. I'm no longer soft and unsuspecting and naive, and not just because of Moby. A few years ago, out of nowhere, my father got a horrible illness and died. Right before the global pandemic that killed millions of other fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. Every month now, there seems to be some new terrifying report about the decline of the whole planet.


And so every morning, as I drink my coffee, I run my fingers through Walnut's luscious fur, and I think about the fact that he will soon be gone. And then I think about the fact that I, too, will be gone. As will all the other living things on this planet that I've loved and admired, they'll also be gone. Because we all eventually slip into that great cosmic hole in the floor, and there will be no Walnut to rescue us. I have no idea what to do about that. Except Pet my dog, which feels very anchoring. The truth is, we are all animals. We are We're born, we grow up, we grow hair, we age. Some of us produce other animals, and they are born, they grow up. They watch us lose our hair. Eventually, we all die. We do all of this surrounded by millions of other creatures, human and nonhuman, who are each doing their version of the same thing. That trajectory is said. Nothing can do about it. But instead of just feeling sad or trying to burn down the universe, I am choosing a different path. I've decided to go out into the world to have a series of encounters with other creatures, animals who do not live in my house.


Not to claim them or tame them, but to do something much simpler, to just be near them, to look into their eyes and see what I can see. Right there, right there. They're all over. While we're all still here to see it. They're everywhere. You got one. Wait, what happens if I put my fingers in that bottom cage? He will probably fight you.


To the bone.


To the bone. We're ready. We got a little spirit. Can we really close to my head? Is that your blood or it's blood? I think it's mine. I guess what I'm asking is for you to improvise a song about rescuing pufflings. Searching down in the darkness below for the puppet of my soul. Something like that. From the New York Times, I'm Sam Anderson. This is animal. That's it. That's it. Hey. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. It. There you go. Hey. Look at them. Also, I've still not fixed the hole in the floor.