If you love animals or are interested in them—and who among you isn’t?—or if you live local and are interested in Long Beach’s history, Claudine Burnett has just published a book you should have on your shelf.
And if your back bristles, your fangs bare, or you curl up like a hedgehog at any mention of hunting, fur fashion or any other harm coming to animals, this book is for you, too. Burnett is a historian, meaning that she tells things as they were in days before spaying and neutering was strongly recommended if not put into law, before zoos became sanctuaries, and before pounds started morphing into shelters.
Burnett has written 13 books about everything Long Beach and is most rightfully considered one of this town’s finest historians, “reliable and generous,” as Long Beach Post columnist Tim Grobaty called her. A good number of Grobaty’s columns that he wrote in a previous incarnation tapped into her works and cited her skills as the city’s chronicler.
“Her indexing as a librarian of Long Beach newspapers going back to the 19th century is perhaps the most dependable resource for anyone researching the city’s history,” Grobaty said. “And all of her books are excellent reads. She really knows Long Beach’s past, probably more than anyone.”
Burnett is also a gifted storyteller. Her books flesh out Long Beach African American history, aviation, weird happenings over and under the sea, and my favorites—local hauntings and plot-heavy cemetery stories. Her latest work is titled “Animal Tales (Some a Little Fishy),” a clowder of short, clearly written anecdotes that meld pets, farm animals and wildlife with Long Beach’s history.
Burnett wrote “Animal Tales” as a respite from writing about distressing and unsettling historical incidents, not that she didn’t find more of them in her research for this book.
“Basically, I needed a break from the often-disturbing story I was writing for my last book, ‘African Americans in Long Beach and Southern California,’” she said explaining her choice of animals as topic. “This book is mainly based on newspaper stories, which gave me the jumping-off point to add more as well as combine articles—such as the opossum sneaking into the theater. I looked up what was showing that day and came up with the X-rated films, which I incorporated into the story.”
Much of “Animal Tales” should take your own mind off troubles and educate you about animals’ effect on the city’s history and its quotidian events. Few of the subjects have tastes as prurient as the opossum’s, although there was a parrot called Jerry who was awarded a part in a high school play. He got the shepherd’s hook when he burst out in a medley of epithets and operatic arias during the second act. Many of the stories are thus entertaining: Mrs. Rapley’s neighbor’s puppy, who regularly pilfered items from the Rapley household and stowed them under the floor in a cache that would have put a crow to shame, the bored bovine who regularly got in the mooood for company and visited the hospital cow (that was a thing during the early days of the 20th century) to share lunch with her.
The reader will learn how attitudes and laws regarding animals developed over time. Dog-licensing laws, for instance, needed some tweaking, as one Jeremiah Lemons found out in 1907 when he went to pick up his dog at the pound and found that overnight, she’d birthed six puppies. Lemons was held responsible for paying an impound fee for each dog. Burnett isn’t above throwing in the occasional ad lib, either—in 1929, when urban farming wasn’t called urban farming, the city council’s ordinance allowed only one goat per household.
“The city’s new ‘one goat’ law ignored the fact that goats are social animals who need the company of at least one other goat,” Burnett wrote. “It brought lonesome days and nights for Long Beach goats living between Anaheim and Willow streets. Nanny goats had to divorce their Billy hubbies or live apart.”
Depending on their sensitivity, some readers may want to gloss over passages such as the hunting chapters and possibly the dog food section, which could bring up a furball. But, true with any historical account or study, the omission of uncomfortable or terrible aspects of animal history leaves the reader a false picture of the way things were then and a lack of appreciation or understanding of the way things are today. If you want to get a picture of what it was like for Long Beach animals during the last couple of centuries, purchase “Animal Tales” here. If you don’t yet own a Claudine Burnett library, all her books are available on the same link. You can also enjoy her blog absolutely free.
Maybe the second printing of “Animal Tales” will include rescues. Till then, here’s a brief tale of one that’s been a staple of Long Beach for a couple of decades. Live Love Animal Rescue was founded by Emily Ann Peters, who with her cadre of volunteers accomplished such feats of animal rescue as emptying the shelter during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing Foster the Fourth to make kennel room for animals, mostly dogs, who were brought in, terrified, during the July fireworks season.
Peters, who has moved with her family to the East Coast, remains head of the Live Love and hasn’t run out of plans for saving more dogs.
“One of our current areas of focus is expanding in the Eastern states as well as in Colorado,” she said. “Our heart will always be with SoCal dogs, and our goal is to create more lifesaving opportunities for them through our alternate state operations.”
This column’s focus remains with Long Beach animals. Here are four of them. To adopt, check out the available dogs and apply for an application here.
Adopt, adopt, adopt
Long Beach Animal Care Services open five days a week, with no appointment necessary
Please make our shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Service your first stop for adoption—it continues to fill with dogs and cats. LBACS is now open without any appointment necessary Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adoptions and for intake of healthy stray dogs. Appointments to adopt one of these sweet animals are readily available at [email protected] or 562-570-4925.
The shelter is also for redemptions of personal pets during regular business hours and also accepts any sick, dangerous or injured animal without appointment during regular business hours.
Foster for awhile—or furever!
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.
- Ally’s Animal Rescue
- Bunny Bunch
- Cat Cove
- Friends of Long Beach Animals
- Fix Long Beach
- Feline Good Social Club
- Helen Sanders CatPAWS
- House of Broken Cookies
- Jellicle Cats Foundation
- K-9 Kismet
- Little Lion Foundation
- Live Love Animal Rescue
- Long Beach Animal Care Services
- Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
- Newborn Feline Rescue
- Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
- SAFE Rescue Team
- Seal Beach Animal Care Center
- Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
- Stray Cat Alliance
- Wrigley Kittens
- Zazzy Cats