Past Blogs

A Guy Named Paul in Cusco

 

It was a wonderful night in Cusco, Peru. Nice dinner. Nice Wine. Good Hotel. Soft beds.

 

I was having a wonderful dream which I can’t remember except that someone was calling to me. Gently. Softly. Then suddenly with more urgency. I was thinking, in my dream, ‘Why are you so upset? Relax…’

 

“Roxi!”

 

I got annoyed with this person in my dream until I discovered I was awake and it was my sister Laureen calling me out of a blissful sleep.

 

“My heart rate is 138.”

 

“No it isn’t, it can’t be…you’re resting in bed. Your Fitbit is nuts…”

 

So she tells me how it has been going steadily up every time she lies down and she feels ‘funny’.  Ok. That was wrong, I admit it. She didn’t look good either so maybe she was right, Fitbit or not.

 

We tried the usual array of cures, including calling the desk for oxygen. They brought it up (they seemed like this was pretty much standard procedure), showed us how to work it, told her to use it for 5 minutes, then call them to pick it up and left.

 

And then we ran out of O² after three breaths.

 

Yup. The tank was empty so we called for another. They brought a new tank, equally short lived and now it is 1:00am and she is not doing any better so I quite screwing around and called the front desk to send a doctor. The desk guy called back, said he found a doctor but –

 

‘Do you have money?’ What? OK. Everybody has to make a living.

 

Yes I say, I have a card too but he says ‘No-no! Must be cash’ and I tell him I have cash, cards, passports…Just send the DOCTOR! (Apparently I become irritable in the middle of the night.)

 

An hour later there is a knock on the door (now it is 2:30am).

 

‘Hi, I’m Paul.’ Well who the hell is ‘Paul’? I don’t want Paul! I want a DOCTOR. I want Dr. Somebody! I don’t need a Paul! I can find a Paul anywhere! (I did not say this out loud, because, you know, he might be the only Paul available in the middle of the night in Cusco.)

 

Despite my misgivings as to his alleged medical license, I let him in the room. After a quick exam, Paul wrote some prescriptions, collected his 200 soles in cash and left. I called the front desk once again to find a 24 hour pharmacy and they said they would look and call when they found one. In the meantime, Laureen propped herself up in bed in the sitting position, sucking on O² and looking pretty miserable with her heart rate dancing all over. So, no, I’m not sleeping either but I am getting greatly annoyed and vexed, which gathered in clouds as the minutes ticked by until they reached hurricane proportions by 4:00am when I marched down to the desk to find out what was taking so long.

 

Magically, they found a 24 hour pharmacy while I was standing there sucking on my fourth cup of coffee from the breakfast buffet (opens early) because what you want to do in times of stress is slam down so much caffeine you are practically slobbering when you speak to the front desk people who do not really, REALLY understand how close you are to jumping over the desk and committing hari-kari upon them.

 

I slurped more coffee as I waited while they drew me a map and I went in search of the all night pharmacy on foot.

 

 But it was closed.

 

I know! I couldn’t believe it either! I muttered something unsavory concerning the staff of the hotel – and the pharmacy –while I  walked back to the hotel, deciding how I should inflict some pain on the desk people when our very lovely tour guide showed up (called by Laureen). She calmed the waters a bit and then took me to the REAL 24 hour drugstore.  

 

Several hours and three drugs later Laureen felt a lot better, so we took the train to the Sacred Valley (which is next up time in the my blog) and beat a hasty retreat out of the nutsy altitude of Cusco. We only had to return one more time to make our connection to the Amazon Rainforest near the end of our trip. But, we had drugs from ‘Paul’ and would only be staying there a few hours overnight so a week later upon our return, we had expectations of a good night’s sleep, the former altitude problem erased from our minds when I heard a tiny whisper from the bed next to me, just as I was going to drift off.

 

‘I have some bad news for you….’ 

 

I knew there was something off about that darn ‘Paul’!

 

Cusco: A City of Firsts

 

Cusco, Peru was a place of many first for us. First time at a high altitude, first touch of the ancient Inca ruins, first taste of the famed Cuy or guinea pig, our first time crossing 30 feet of terrain and stopping to catch our breath in oddly surprising, unable-to-speak gasps and our very first experience with altitude sickness.

 

What is notable about high altitude is how your lungs shrink to almost pea-size and just walking around seems to take all your concentration (because most of you is trying to breathe) which makes it hard to really appreciate those ancient Inca ruins. And they did not disappoint. The architectural skills of the ancients is really astounding as precision cuts into stone, combined with anti-earthquake stacking leaves one wondering how it could have been done without Divine intervention. Along the whole cut of each temple stone, the mortar-free seam was so tight one could not even slip in a piece of straw between the interlocked blocks creating a flush, level wall that even modern times has trouble mastering. Mind boggling.

 

But the altitude of where the ruins rested was even more impressive. Cusco nests at 11,000+ ft. The air is ‘thin’.

 

Admittedly, I would have been even more impressed with the whole package if it weren’t for the trying to breathe thing that occupied my mind. I remember thinking, “Just get enough air, it can’t be that hard. There has got be oxygen somewhere in these molecules right, just get a big breath…that’s right…what did the guide say? ‘Take our time? Quickly now!...what the heck does that mean...don’t worry about it…just breath…nice big breath…OMG! There is absolutely no oxygen on this damn mountain! I am on a mountain right? Or is it a hill? Crap! It’s just a hill!’

 

These were my first experiences of Cusco. I did recover well enough on the bus ride back to the hotel to tell my sister I think I was having hallucinations (certainly from oxygen deprivation) because I kept hearing the tour guide say, “Quickly now! Take your time…We will stop at the Pee-Pee room next.’ But no. I was assured by my sister that that was indeed what I heard. I would comment more on the language barrier more but she (our guide) spoke three complete languages and I spoke one, plus ten words each of three different ones.

 

We rested at our hotel for a bit and, feeling restored, went into the night for a bit of supper. Everything is up and down in Cusco, well, really all of Peru, and the quaint narrow streets were cobblestone dotted with Peruvian women in brightly-colored regional dress sitting with alpacas so tourist could pose with baby alpacas and the women for a very small fee. (I am sure if I would have jettisoned a few non-essentials like my extra shoes and two pieces of clothing I could have slipped one of those adorable baby alpacas in my pack.) We passed on both because we were in search of food. Cusco had a large number of Italian restaurants and we were looking for a Peruvian menu but we settled on a fusion place of both cultures and tried Cuy ravioli followed by a nice sauvignon Blanc of Peru breeding. Cuy is the famed guinea pig of Peru and while it was interesting, it left us undecided and we made a mental note to try it again to make a judgement. Then we retired to the room for the evening and that’s when things really got interesting.

 

Cusco was the one fly in the ointment of our Journey. Hence it has a new name I have bestowed on it, undeserved to be sure, but nonetheless, it remains in my journal as ‘The Poison City on the Hill.’

 

And I will tell you why next time. Until then…just breathe.

 

The Roaming Dogs of Peru

 

Whenever I visit another country I see what one would expect- a large population of what I deemed ‘street’ or feral dogs and Peru was no different. My sister Laureen and I had the pleasure of visiting the cities of Lima, Cusco and the Pueblo of Machu Picchu as well as many small towns in between I cannot remember the names of, all home to a large number of free-roaming dogs in various degrees of cleanliness, though they did look well-fed (At the Machu Picchu site I saw a black dog napping in the middle of the plaza with an untouched sandwich next to him.) and surprisingly social, both to people and to other animals. And happy. (I asked quite a few of them.)

 

I had my pre-conceived notions about feral dogs. Short unhealthy lives filled with the strife of trying to find enough to eat, a safe place to sleep and socially deprived of human companionship. (We all know how dogs love to be spoiled, love to be touched.) But slowly I began to change my perspective, even if just a bit, and was educated in the local cultural attitude.

 

When asked about the ‘unfortunate’ lives of the feral dogs, two different people, in to different areas of the country pointed out that, though they do indeed have a feral population, most of the dogs I saw were family companions and lived and were cared for by their specific guardians. The people just have a different attitude about what it means to be a dog. In their view, they should be free to roam about, visit with other people and dogs and if someone else in the community feeds them or disciplines them for being too rough with the chickens, well that’s the way it goes.

 

While it would make me completely crazy and anxiety-ridden to have my dogs running hither and yon, getting into heaven only knows what; the lifestyle of the Peruvian dogs does have its benefits. The dogs we met were very social and calm in almost any situation- loud noise, traffic, mobs of tourists (most of which handed out treats) and the occasional wild or semi-wild animal had seemingly no effect on them.

 

As I said, it would make me nuts. But it does lead to a question of what effect our own concerns have on our US dogs. Are we overprotective to the point of creating neurotic, nervous dogs unsure of how to conduct themselves in canine society or unusual situations? And is it a reflection on our own society? Are we Americans wound just a bit too tight and it is reflected in the behavior of our dogs?

 

Dogs running about the street are not, in my opinion, the best idea for obvious reasons. Free-lance breeding, the spreading of disease and a high mortality rate serves the good of no one, but the social piece of this tale is very telling and worth looking at in more detail.

 

Are our dogs here at home in the United States becoming more mentally balanced or less? And before I get hundreds of e-mails from outraged guardians and breeders let me clarify I am speaking in general terms and do not condone creating a feral state. But one cannot deny there has been an increase in behavioral issues, need for medication to alleviate anxiety and upswing in unpredictable reactions in our dogs.

 

I’m just saying perhaps it may be in our dogs’ best interest to embrace a bit of the feral lifestyle, loosen the leash a bit and relax into some mental health. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for us either.

 

Next up on our journey- Cusco, Peru.  Where our adventure turns to a bit of misadventure…

 

Surf and Ceviche in Lima

 

The vacation. That long awaited space of time where we forget our traditional and harried life at home, spend money willy-nilly, forget about diets and work issues to focus on the exploration of another possible way to live. A journey of sorts. A peek at what could be.

 

Mine did not disappoint. I went to Peru with my favorite travel partner, my sister, and we went all in as if we were holding a royal flush in a high stakes Texas no-peeky poker game. We travelled to Lima Peru, climbed Machu Picchu and stumbled around the Amazon Rainforest in some surprisingly cool weather. Even the Amazon was not tank top and shorts weather- more on that in upcoming posts.

 

But I’m going to talk about Lima in this blog since it was our first taste of Peru. And speaking of taste, Lima is known for its varied and fantastic ceviche (it surpassed our expectations) which is a dish made from fresh, raw fish and seafood cooked by using citrus juices – limes and lemons with onions and whatnot washed down with a ridiculously delicious (and oh so powerful) drink known as a pisco sour. We like adventurous eating (and drinking apparently) so we partook in the entire list of standard ‘must tries’ including Cuy, or guinea pig. (We tried it twice to make sure we could cross it off our list, but we were not impressed.)

 

Of course, I am quite in tuned to the animals and our first morning (We came in to Lima at 11:00 p.m.) we had a window seat to the ocean while we ate breakfast and were treated to a lovely little Blue-Grey Tanager who danced in the window for 20 minutes. Up and down the window he went doing I’m not sure what, but it did seem like he was welcoming us to his country. Our server said the local people call him the ‘Bow String Bird’ because when he sings he sounds like a violin in play.  From our perch above the water I was sure I spied seals in the surf so when we finished breakfast we dashed down to the cliffs overlooking the pacific and we did see about a dozen ‘somethings’ bobbing along the curls of waves and I was sure I would be seeing someone from the pinniped community. Further inspection revealed they were indeed surfers. Human surfers. Turns out Lima has a large surfing community…who knew? 

 

We did spot some awesome birds and loved the strolling down the boardwalk, seeing the different birds (bananaquit, Peruvian Dove, Long-tailed Mockingbird and flowers I only could guess the family of much, less the name individually.). Then of course one had to take a break at a seaside restaurant in the afternoon, order a Pisco sour and dip into the ceviche, all done in slow motion because we were after all on vacation.

 

As expected Lima had its share of street dogs - and family dogs, almost no one on a leash and we will talk about them in my next blog.

 

For now, just float on over to the beach, sip on that imagined Pisco Sour and nibble some ceviche. Take a vacation in your head on your break today and take a peek at what could be.

 

The Vortex of Travel

 

For the next two weeks The Intuitive Animal Blog will not post as I will soon check off two – TWO- items off my bucket list, Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest.

 

Consequently, I have not the mind set for deep thinking, or possibly not thinking at all if it does not concern what to pack and how to pack it, shopping for things to pack, making many lists of things to pack and all other manner of odds and ends – that also need packing. I have equipment and clothes piled all over the house, checked off the vaccinations, exchanged USD for PEN, delved into research of possible sightings of this bird or that animal and various other activities that make the hours fly by during the day.

 

Machu Picchu, cloud city of the ancient Incas and a vortex communion, has long been on my list and the Amazon Rainforest, well, I mean who doesn’t want to experience that at least once? And it will not be one of those quick ‘I had my toe on Machu Picchu and then I ran into the rainforest for an hour’ kind of trips. No sir. We spend two days on Machu Picchu and four days deep in the Rainforest…deep in the Rainforest.  The lodge, which doubles as a research base, has two hours of electricity in the morning (otherwise it is candles and lanterns) and our room has only three walls so one can full dip into the feel of the Rainforest. How perfect is that!

 

So, I will soon be off. My mind is open for whatever experience The Divine sees fit to gift me. I will of course be sending back pics if possible but that may have to wait until I get back.

 

Now, back to packing…

 

God Bless the Grass

 

It was time, once again, for me to set up the patio (I am a little late this year). But before I can put out the table, chairs and so forth, I had to pull the weeds from the cracks between the pavers which many people spray with a kill-all herbicide because they hate this particular seasonal rite of spring but I like pulling out those wayward, misplaced orphans. I find it therapeutic.

 

Now last fall, while I was doing this weed-pulling project I started watching ants, which made the whole process, well - in short – longer.

 

The ants did not curry my attention this time so the chore went a lot quicker. But I did find myself humming, then singing, an old tune from my youth, ‘God bless the grass that grows through the cracks…’ as I yanked those tender bits of green from the patio pavers and smiled, almost a little sad that they had to go.

 

Back in 1969 Malvina Reynolds wrote a song made famous by folksinger Pete Seeger titled ‘God Bless the Grass’.

 

‘God bless the grass that grows through the crack.

 

They roll the concrete over it and try to keep it back.

 

The concrete get tired of what it has to do,

 

It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows through,

 

And God bless the grass.

 

The song has other verses but this is the one I have remembered for decades.

 

I do not know what the intention of the writer was but to me the song reflects the indomitable Spirit of Mother Earth and gives me the hope that, no matter what we do to her, she will always survive. Grass retakes what we cover up, hurricanes reclaim the shore that was once hers and in the wake of these natural occurrences we humans are the ones who look endangered.

 

So why should I feverishly protect the environment against insult if she is so strong? Because when I look around at my home, the water coming out of my faucet, the rug on my floor, the shingles on my roof, the glass on my windows, the bus that picks me up in inclement weather, the building I work in, the pillow I sleep on, the animals that have blessed my life – they all stem from the gifts of Mother Earth. In one way or another, everything I see has come from the earth.  And, by the way, everything you see as well.

 

Surely we can put aside our usual gluttony and try to live with her and repay some of those gifts in the way of higher standards to protect her, before she no longer sees fit to bless us with them.

 

But I have faith that at some point we will see the light, and so I hum a little tune while I pull the green from between my pavers, certain in the knowledge that hope springs eternal in tiny blades of grass.

 

Twilight

 

On a beautiful not-to-long-ago evening I took a short walk to the river where I perched myself on the bridge to catch the sunset. Even on the river with his ever-moving water the surface was quiet, the evening sun washee the water and sky alike in pinks, lavenders and oranges. Somewhere along the shore of darkening tag alders and birch brush the frogs had started to serenade their hopeful mates, a lone Blue Heron patiently fished in the shallows, reflecting a perfect image in the mirror-like water and beneath me the swallows gathered in a silent assault of the new hatched insects. A lovely spot to recharge myself to a peaceful place.

 

Then I became distracted.

 

I was watching those aerial acrobats dancing to the music of the Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs as they caught those bugs, one after another, with such ease. A sudden dip. A sharp updraft with a port swing. Skimming an inch above the water then cruising up, only to reverse direction and snatch another unsuspecting insect as it drifted into the swallow’s radar. They veered left and right, up and down, close together or far apart. The mastery of the hunt was mind-boggling. Beautiful little flits of dark blue swimming in the sky so in tune with their environment they seemed not to be part of it but the sky itself. They were the hunters and they tracked down big bugs, little bugs, bugs on the water, bugs in the air; all caught with such ease it seems to not be a hunt at all.

 

One of those bugs, a mosquito garnered my attention as it bit me on the forearm, completely destroying my sunset induced nirvana, so I smacked it. But I missed. I couldn’t even hit one of those bugs that was just sitting still on my arm! Not moving! And Swallow made it look so easy.

 

 I would like to be that good at something...anything. And while I was standing on that bridge I tried to think of something I was as good at as Swallow was dancing with bugs.

 

 

I’m still thinking…..

Eyes on the Sky Please

 

For birds of prey, spring is a time of bounty. The owls, hawks and eagle’s prey are at a disadvantage because leaves have not yet leafed and cover for is scarce. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year for guardians of small animal companions to keep an eye skyward.

 

There has been an increase in Hawks and owls taking small dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs due to a number of factors such as scarcity of natural prey, but also some raptors consider companion animals an easy target and as the raptors assimilate to the growing number of humans, they become less wary. It can also not be discounted that small companion animals may, from the bird’s perspective, be seen as a threat to the nesting site and chicks. Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk pose the biggest threat, though they are not the only ones.

 

Companions less than 20 lbs. are most at risk and there are several things one can do to protect them.

 

  • Do not let your companion unsupervised outside. This will stop some hunting attacks but not all. A Hawk, for example, has excellent eyesight, but not a very wide field of vision so once she has ‘painted’ a target she does not necessarily see an object 10 feet from the target.

  • Use the buddy system if you have more than one companion. Send the out in mass. Raptors of all kinds are less likely to be interested in a group of barking dogs.

  • Provide cover. Natural elements, such as bushes and shrubs, or manmade like a run with a covered roof, are deterrents for hunting raptors as they gage angles and success vs. injury.

  • Be aware of raptors in your area. Nesting sites are prime areas of concern for guardians, especially large birds of prey.

 

Yes, the little ones are in danger but try to remember raptors are not specifically after your beloved. They are only looking for a meal and, unfortunately, 10-15 lbs. that obliviously runs about in plain site is an attractive meal. In general, only 1 out of 10 hunts are successful for raptors. Owls and Hawks fall prey to guns, loss of habitat and poisoned by proxy by eating other animals that have been poisoned themselves.

 

While we all want to keep our companions safe, that doesn’t mean the birds are the enemies. They are just trying to make a living and keep their beloveds safe; so be vigilant when the little ones are outside and if there is an aggressive raptor in your area, call your local wildlife rehab center or DNR to find a solution.

 

Taking a Walk with a Beagle

 

On occasion I open my house to companion sitting and this past weekend I had pleasure of sharing my home with a senior beagle girl who was an absolute delight. I have had very large dogs my entire life so watching over a small dog requires a change in mind set when it comes to the usual.

 

These smaller visitors are hard to spot within the house. When one is used to just glancing up from a project to check on a large figure hulking about the furniture, well, that’s easy. ‘Oh, I heard a kitchen chair scrap across the tile…she must be in there’ and continue with whatever it was one was doing. But little guys and gals don’t move chairs and they fit into tiny little spaces – under the bed, in between the couch and the wall, behind the commode. They slink about the shadows in the evening so one never really knows where they are, they can hide behind potted plants so as to ‘surprise!’ one as one walks by with a cup of coffee, which makes one slosh the cup contents all over while simultaneously trying frantically not to let any of the sub-boiling brew to scald the guest; and they fit, actually FIT in ones lap. A novel commodity when one is used to large dogs. Not that a large dog doesn’t TRY to fit in one’s lap, but in reality one only gets a portion of the hind quarters and numb legs so there is no reference of one ‘fitting’ in a lap. But we suffer and move on.

 

Now the walking part is a bit different when discussing large verses little, but even more so when walking a beagle.

 

 Why? Because they move by nose interest. Squirrels, screaming children, and Frisbees that land within feet of them are all ignored unless they are directly related to the smell on the ground. Also, their concentration of whatever they are tracking is such that they can no longer hear when spoken too. Now I’m a big believer in the thought process that I am on their dime when I take someone for a walk. The dog can stop and smell, pee a million times, serpentine from left to right – whatever they want. This is their outing and I’m only holding the leash.

 

But, I did have to make – oh, modifications shall we say – on Beagle Gal’s stroll. Sometimes she would investigate a bit of ground for quite some time. The minutes would tick by, her dissecting the layers of glorious odors, me standing around trying not to look like I am casing the neighborhood for future thievery, but eventually I would try to get her to become interested in something new. ‘Hey, look at that rabbit!’ Nothing. ‘I think there’s a bit of biscuit over there!’ Zippo. ‘Wow! An alien! Let’s go over there an track him/her!’ She can’t hear me, it’s like I am not even there.   Eventually, I had to put time constraints on Beagle Gal. I hated doing it but the neighbors were getting uneasy…

 

So, after eight minutes, I had to get her to find a new piece of real estate to explore but as I have said she can’t hear when the nose is working.  And this is where there is a definite advantage to the small dog. When the hands on the clock say eight minutes I just pick her up, walk ten feet and put her down.  It worked great! From then on it was case the neighborhood for eight minutes, pick up Beagle Gal, carry her ten feet, put her down and start the clock again. Simple!

 

‘Beagle Gal’ is the lovely Kaylee who shares her life with her mistress Rose.

 

Sow Some Seeds

 

So we have had crap loads of snow this week. Yes I could have said that delicately, but I’m not in the mood and it IS a ‘crap load’ – the total is a vulgar number - some 20 inches of maddening ground cover I venture no one welcomes. Usually when my birthday lands on April 25th there are tiny little sprigs of Dutchman’s Breeches (a native orchid that shows itself for a few weeks in early spring) peeking through the ground, but seeing as they are under CRAPLOADS of snow I will not be seeing them for a goodly while. So yes lots of snow very late in the year. Besides making me somewhat moody, this unusual weather occurrence has caused issues for the local wildlife also.

 

I have a little lady Robin who seems to be in dire straits. She meets me every morning when I attend my feeders and I mean meets me – at the front door, two feet away. She comes from under the protected place between an unreasonably large snow drift and the edge created by the last board of house siding and the foundation. She meets me by hopping out from under her hidey-hole which makes me I think she is too weak to fly.

 

Her predicament consumed my attention over the weekend despite the nonsensical blizzard we had or maybe because of it. At any rate, in between episodes brushing off feeders and shoveling until my arms felt like they had grown 4 inches and were dragging on the floor behind me like some kind of a disengaged slinky, I considered what I could do to make her more comfortable since she wouldn’t quite let me get hands on her. I was running low on bird seed and grit (very important during the winter months – and apparently APRIL this year!) so while the wind and snows were obliterating the neighborhood, I donned my backpack and walking poles, then slogged my way to the store to resupply my feed bucket with some Robin goodies like blueberries, raisins and mealworms.

 

But they did not have meal worms so upon my return, I minced some salmon trimmings, which I keep on hand for Crow and family, and put them out with the fruit. Robin hardly moved for the first day and a few feathers blew off her breast as she sat on her pile of seeds and fruit, eating every once and a while – so sad, so silent. I would go out and brush off the snow from her pile of food. She seldom moved. It just didn’t look like there would be a good outcome from this spring blizzard, not for some.

 

Then, slowly, she started showing signs of strengthening. She moved about more. Robin began to walk a short distance away when I replaced food and water. And this morning after filling feeders, I came back in the house and while I drank a cup of coffee I heard a familiar chirp. Then another. I looked out the door and there sat Lady Robin, repeating a single note. Not her usual spring song, but beautiful no the less.

 

We never know how the little things we do throughout the day, though they may be inconvenient, can have a big impact on someone. Celebrate Earth Day by helping out the local wildlife during this difficult spring.

 

Mother Knows Best

This Blog was posted several years ago but it is a good reminder.

 

This is a busy time of year for wildlife rehabilitation center across the nation because of the number of babies of various species on the ground. Another factor in the increase is the well meaning Humans who find little ones ‘abandoned’ by mom but who are not truly left parentless, merely hidden from unwanted eyes.

 

I have a friend at a local wildlife center who remarked how frustrating it is to have someone bring in a fawn they found laying in the tall grass without a mama around. They had watched for a while but no one came to claim the baby so they thought it had been abandoned. Baby also didn’t get up when they approached so the people thought it must be injured and brought it in. Now my friend Jack is a real sweet guy and has the kind of patience that teeters on the ridiculous but he gets a sigh in his voice when he once again has to explain that mom left him in a particular spot so baby would be safe, she knows where he is, told him not to move until she came back and probably watched the whole event from the brush. And mama certainly isn’t going to show a human where she hid her baby by walking up to him when there was danger in the area. And now, sadly, baby is abandoned.

 

Of course, there was no malice intended. Many years ago I was one of these well intentioned do-gooders and received the same lecture from a rehabilitator who did not have as much patience as Jack, which turned me into a quivering mass of tears all the way home. It did leave a lasting impression though. (I learned to keep my hands off until I was very sure of abandonment.)

 

Rehabilitation centers also get a large number of fledglings that have fallen out of nests. What about that Jack?

 

Well, it seems the safest place for a fledgling is OUT of the nest. Nest are practically fast food for predators, a convenient package of helpless prey and easy to find because of the smell and the frequency of the parents’ visits.

 

There are times when we do need to step in if a life is to be saved, but more times than not we need to leave babies alone. And there are a number of things we can do to lessen the number of true abandonments.

 

Keep your cat indoors for the months of May and June to lessen the predator numbers. Do not trap (or live trap) rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks etc. during these months because many have nests of babies somewhere and even if a person ‘does the right thing’ by using relocation, they have condemned the babies to starvation or hypothermia even if a predator does not find them. If fledglings end up on the lawn, take pup for a walk instead of using the yard. Babies don’t really hang around very long- they’re usually all about moving for safety reasons so will probably be gone in the time it takes to go for a nice walk.

 

It’s good to lend a helping hand and if you are certain a baby has been left without a parent it is without question the right thing to do. Jack just asks that we just make sure the hand is needed.

 

Possibilities

 

Do you remember when it was generally accepted that animals did not feel pain? When pain-killing drugs were not administered by veterinarians?  How about the notion that animals were not self-aware, they had no idea of themselves? Or when we considered they did not possess emotions? They didn’t use tools either. And let’s not forget the idea that animals could only understand a very limited vocabulary, fifteen words I believe depending on the species. They were here to serve us, and therefore we turned a blind eye to their peace of mind. They had no language, no sense of family, i.e. mothers had no bond other than instincts with their children? Remember those days? And they certainly could not converse with us.

 

Most of the ideas I have described above have been disproven by science. Well, all but one.

 

For expediency’s sake let’s look at just one of the ideas, the idea of self-awareness, and see how our viewpoint has changed over the years, and why it changed.

 

In 2006 the world of science proclaimed, through a research test, that elephants are aware of themselves; evidenced by an elephant named ‘Happy’ who looked in a mirror and touched her trunk to her forehead to investigate a yellow dot placed there and not touching the dot in the reflection of herself in the mirror. The test was devised in 1970 by Gordon Gallup, who performed the same test on Chimpanzees with similar results. Since that time the ‘mirror test’ has been used on Dolphins, Horses, Elephants and a few other species with results that suggest these animals have self-awareness. Our loyal friend, Dog, has failed this test a number of times, bringing an interesting conclusion from some in the research field, that canines do not have self-awareness.

 

However in 2017 a self-awareness test was designed for dogs, not with mirrors, but with scent as the qualifying factor. When exposed to different urine samples of other dogs (including the subject’s) it was determined that, yes, the dog was self-aware because he did not investigate his own pee, just everyone else’s. The reason our canine friends had failed the test before was because WE had not yet learned how to test dogs. Once we learned they use scent and not visual cues as their first line of discovery, we could in fact ‘prove’ dogs are self-aware.

 

Now, if someone were to ask a guardian of a dog (or any companion animal for that a matter) most guardians would agree they ‘knew’ their dog was aware of himself. But now, now it has been proven by science and so it has become a ‘fact’. It is accepted by the general populous as such. Science has evolved to catch up with the animal himself - and will continue to do so in the years to come. And self-awareness is just one factor; consider all the other antiquated notions that have been proven false.

 

What will the future bring? What revelations will science unveil that those of us who work closely with animals already know? And is the proof necessary in light of what has been discovered in the last several decades?  Is it possible, in the future, that it is proven animals are capable of (and do) speak to us in a conversational manner?

 

I know it will be. Some of us talk with them now.

 

Truth, whether proven or not, is still truth.

 

Science has advanced much of the thinking of our society as it relates to our communion with animals and the future can only bring more understanding by ourselves of the Beings we share with Mother Earth.

 

The Big Sky

 

While on my walk the other day in the early morning hours, I was admiring a sunrise not quite born when I suddenly heard this alarming honking. ‘Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!’ Not from a car but from the sky and when I looked up I spied four geese (in their traditional ‘vee’) screaming at two male mallards who were on a collision with them in the big sky. The geese didn’t alter their flight path but those ducks sure did. Silently the ducks sheared off to the west, bouncing as they corrected their course in what appeared to be a panic, similar to a wayward crop-duster suddenly spotting an incoming 747. The geese scolded the ducks a few more times just for good measure. I’m sure the ducks grumbled a bit but I didn’t hear it if they did.

 

I, being an arrogant Human Being, thought midair collisions occurred only to us what with are staggering mastery of the sky through technology. But apparently not. Midair collisions among birds are quite frequent, especially during migration. And, it might be noted, just like our jets, it occurs most often during landings and takeoffs. (I’m speaking of bird on bird collisions).

 

During a ‘fly-out’, those moments when the entire waterway of 10,000 geese lift off to leaving the lake empty and quiet within minutes, can have devastating consequences in the form of concussions, sprains and the almost always fatal broken wings. There are other dangers of course. Both natural and man-made - storms, exhaustion and starvation claim many. It is estimated that 50% of new migrators will not live to repeat the process. I never really thought of that either. But, as they say, better to have tried and failed than to never have danced with a dream in the first place.

 

The more I watch Nature and the animals the more I see we are so very similar.

 

Just another chapter in the book of Oneness. We are not the center, but only a part of The One and our sameness is richer than our differences.

 

Unexpected Dangers

 

What do police K9’s and the things in your yard have in common – besides dog pooh? Well I’ll tell you.

 

Our local paper[1] ran an interesting article on how the human half of the k9 patrol was learning the signs of opioid overdose in their dogs. It apparently occurs often enough that officers are now being schooled on how to identify the early clinical signs of canine overdose and how to administer Narcan™, a drug used to counter the opioid so they have time to get their partner to a veterinarian for further treatment. (Narcan is also used in human overdose.)

 

The dogs are absorbing toxic levels of opioids through their paws and noses when on patrol or ‘drug busts’ as they do their civic duty throughout America and it is nice to know that the police department is keeping up with new demands put on their officers, human and canine alike.

 

In of itself, the article in very interesting, but it also serves as a reminder to civilian guardians.  

 

Currently the number one killing diseases of dogs is cancer. For dog guardians, if it is not the first health concern it certainly is in the top three. Breeders, researchers, and future puppy guardians all work at trying to get the odds of vanquishing this particular disease in their favor. We feed natural foods, we try to breed from ‘clean’ lines, we look to genetics and markers and these are wise choices. But do we pay enough attention to environmental factors?

 

If a canine officer can overdose by walking through a contaminated site – what is being absorbed by our home companion on a daily basis? Most people I know are a little nutsy about the diet of their dogs and rightfully so. But there are other potential dangers. What was the dog bed washed with? What is the carpet made of, what is the glue used and what products cleaned the carpet and rugs? What was used to wash the kitchen floor? How about the furniture polish or the dusting product? Exactly what is out there on the lawn?

 

Consider how much time the dog’s feet are on the ground, how many things they ‘taste’ and how much they are absorbing into their systems. It very well could be that the environment plays a bigger role than we might think. Take a day to review just what is in your home.

 

A little spring house-cleaning could go a long way in to a longer, happier life for your companion.

 

 

 

[1] Wausau Daily Herald. Wednesday, February 21, 2018. ‘Dangers in Dogs’ Meg Jones. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. USA TODAY NETWORK- WISCONSIN

 



 

 

Is Wild Caught the Best?

 

I really enjoy a nice salmon fillet simply crafted with a bit of lemon, salt and pepper. I eat a lot of it and I do realize the irony of this being a blog subject but follow along with me for a moment.

 

When I eat Salmon, a wonderful fish in various respects, I prefer wild-caught for a number of reasons, but mostly because eating wild-caught sets better with my spiritual philosophy. But there are other more mundane reasons why I choose wild salmon. They are healthier, both the fish and consequently, for me. Wild salmon eat a wide variety of prey, making the meat taste better. The fish had a happy life which also has an effect on the taste of the meat. It also has (hopefully) no bad things like antibiotics and hormones above and beyond the natural urges we all succumb to at times- although now I see issues of mercury and lead in wild caught salmon- so maybe ‘healthy’ is up for discussion. At any rate, the fish had a real life and so I can rationalize my eating him, after properly thanking him for providing for me, without too much guilt – after all I am a predator – at least for now.  (I have had some thought of going vegetarian. No, not because it is vogue right now, but because it is difficult to eat someone you may have had a conversation with their relative, so the ‘predator’ status could change.)

 

All these above reasons lead me to purchase wild caught salmon for dinner.

 

But then one night, I had a question posed to no one in particular. Who is going to swim up the rivers if we eat all the wild salmon? Certainly not the unknowledgeable farm fish. They would have no idea where to go even if they had the chance of escape. They can’t find the stream from which they came…there was no stream. So how is Bear going to prepare for the long winter sleep without salmon to add layers of fat on that fine frame? Young Eagle, will miss out on a much needed easy meal if there are no leftovers to supplement his inexperienced hunting. Not to mention a whole host of others like Fox, Wolf and Coyote. There are more but you understand the point.

 

I will tell you what the problem is. Too much thinking. I should just be eating…

 

And now, because I have thought too much, I have this problem. Wild caught or farmed? Both are renewable I suppose. I don’t really feel right eating Mr. Farm Fish just because he has nowhere else to be, no stream calling him. I mean, he has a life, such that it is. On the opposite side, I would like to make sure Wild Salmon does his part in the ecosystem, makes some more babies and feeds others in the places that do not provide grocery stores and cellophane. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating others in the first place? Oh bother….no answer comes to me…too much thinking.

 

I’ll tell you one thing. Becoming a vegetarian is looking better, because I don’t have this problem when I’m eating a beet!