The Messenger

And here’s another one that is a personal favorite. I still tear up when I think about Zee and reading this was bitter sweet. She was such a good dog.

Dawn Revealed

Our dog Zee is going blind. The vet informed me that she has glaucoma and an auto-immune disease that’s making her body attack itself. Yes, not one, but two diseases affecting her eyes. One at a time, her eyes swelled up into big, bulbous, blood shot orbs with milky irises at their centers. The first to swell then shrank to a fraction of its size, sank back into its orbit, where it now sits wrinkled like a raisin and useless as the tit on a boar. Then the left eye followed suit and blew up to twice its normal size. We’d already taken her to the vet for the right eye, so when the left started expanding I squeezed in the same drops and shuttled her off to the vet with great trepidation  – I knew that the news would not be good. He kept her for observation for three…

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Rats in the Barbie

Mickey MouseI’m a little high on caffeine as I write this. In fact, I’m so high on caffeine that my computer can’t keep up with the rate at which I’m typing (or at least it didn’t for that first line, now it’s apparently figured out that I’m hepped up on speed and it needs to put it in hyper-drive). I’m not supposed to drink coffee or caffeinated beverages of any type. They are too hard on my body, I am too sensitive to their effects, and my adrenal glands can’t keep up with caffeine’s adrenaline-induction demands. I tax my adrenals plenty with long surf sessions and an unnaturally high degree of self-induced stress and anxiousness.

So despite all that sensitivity and taxed adrenals, I’ve had two caffeinated beverages today. I’m allowing myself these normally forbidden drinks because I was up late last night. I stayed in town later than usual so that I could enjoy an incredible gourmet meal. I’d gone to town in the first place, to buy much needed groceries and to hit the hardware store where the following items were purchased: a rake, a brass hose bib, a large plastic rat trap, and three little sachets of red rat poison pellets. I find it interesting that unlike the brand I’m used to which is light blue, this rat poison is blood red. It’s like they are sadistically illustrating the fact that the little bugger is going to bleed out when he eats those things. I hate using poison. I know it is cruel beyond measure, but the reality is that I live in a place where the rats and mice will take over if you don’t keep them in check, especially after the rains we’ve had two summers in a row. All that rain means lots of grasses, grasses mean seeds, and seeds are the delectation of rodents.

Here’s the thing: for the second time in a period of less than two months, a rat has moved into the barbecue. It’s a big rat, measuring between six and eight inches long, head to butt, twice that measured head to tip of tail. It’s coat is the color of coal, its eyes jet black. I know this because it doesn’t run away when I open the lid to the barbecue. It scoots under the grill and lies there thinking I can’t see it. And I didn’t see it the first time I opened the grill. It’s almost exactly the same color as the char-encrusted grill under which it squeezes, but on closer inspection my eyes register what they are seeing and I invariably and instinctively jump back a bit and feel my heart clench in my chest.

I can’t have a rat living in the barbecue for so many reasons: Hantavirus, rabies, neither I nor my guests like the flavor roasted rat shit gives to meat, and the aesthetics of the situation, including the fact that the bugger is tearing up the barbecue cover to add to the nest s/he is building inside. Then there’s the whole potential for a family of rats to result from this single individual and the chaos they could wreak in a very short period of time. So no, no, we cannot have a rat living in the barbecue or anywhere else on the property for that matter. No matter how cute s/he is.

It’s worthy of note that not one of the dogs have taken matters into their own paws. They’ve done bupkis about this or the previous rat despite three of them being expert mousers. At the height of the mouse outbreak we had this spring, I found at least one mouse, dead, but intact, with fur soaked in slobber, left by the pantry door much as you would expect a cat to do. I think Millie was the most successful of the bunch, but I know she had help from Peanut and Friday corralling the little buggers. So with that in mind, I lifted Millie up to see the first rat that moved into the barbecue. I figured as soon as she smelled or saw it she’d go nuts and that she would hold vigil by the barbecue until that pesky rodent showed his face and she could bound in for the kill. It was only a matter of time, right? Well, she didn’t go nuts. She didn’t respond at all. It was like she had no idea what I was showing her and couldn’t smell it either. Like she had no experience whatsoever with anything bigger than a field mouse. That’s when I realized, with great disappointment, I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

The first course of action was to borrow a live trap from a neighbor. I’d looked into that rat’s eyes and wasn’t comfortable killing her. I figured it was a her because she appeared to be making a nest and that is pre-natal behavior. Another neighbor, Dave, admonished me for referring to her as a “her.”

“How do you expect to kill it, if you assign it a sex? What next? Are you going to name it?”

He had a valid point, but I couldn’t help myself. I’d looked into her eyes and saw the soul within. She meant no harm. She was just doing what rats do. And she was kinda cute. Nothing like the sewer rats in the 70s horror movie Ben or the paper mill rats in a city near where I grew up that surely inspired Bowie’s Future Legend lyrics “fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats.”  I’m pretty sure that the image of Mickey Mouse was inspired by this particular species of rat, so cute are they with their big Mickeyesque ears.

The next time I checked on her, hoping beyond hope that she’d moved on, she rammed her head between the grill rungs trying to dive beneath, did her best to wriggle through the small space, but couldn’t. She backed off and tried diving under a couple more times before giving up. Then she just sat there and looked at me with those big black eyes. That’s when I realized she was getting too fat to fit below the grill and her death sentence was commuted.

Rather than kill her, I decided to relocate her. I hatched a plan that involved grabbing her with tongs and putting her in a bucket to be transported several miles down the road.

I got my tools together: leather gloves, a towel to throw over her, tongs to pick her up with, bucket with lid. The next morning I stood there tools at the ready, psyching myself up and visualizing how it was going to go down. Lift lid, throw towel, grab with tongs, plunge into bucket, place lid on bucket. I took a deep breath and opened the lid.

She wasn’t there.

Later that same day I went back and looked again. This time she was there and she didn’t even try to run away. She was lying on her side, panting.

The thought flashed through my head, Jesus, she’s in labor.

I pictured little rattlings falling out of her as I grasped her with the tongs. I shrugged, and picked her up anyway. To my great relief, no little pink, hairless rodents spewed forth from her nether regions. I placed her in the bucket and put the lid on.

Off we went for a ride on the ATV. I found a culvert and carefully dumped her inside, figuring that here she would at least have some protection from winged predators. I continued on down the road to surf, feeling a pulse of good karma wash over me.

On the way back from the surfbreak, I stopped to check on her and half expected to find her there, tending her brood. But I also had a sneaking suspicion she might be dead. I’d begun to wonder if perhaps her “labor” wasn’t in fact a sign that she’d found some of the poison I’d placed carefully around the property in places frequented by mice and rats. My conscience demanded that I determine the end result.

Nada. Nothing. No rat in sight. I figured she either crawled away to a hole somewhere to give birth or was eaten by a predator. Either way, she was no longer in my barbecue. I breathed a sign of relief and within a couple of days stopped torturing myself with the lyrics to that annoying UB40 song that goes, “There’s a rat in ma kitchen, what am I gonna do?”

Three weeks later, I had a group of people over to my house for an impromptu dinner party. A couple of the guys took a bunch of meat out to the barbie and out hopped another rat. I’m assuming it was another rat because I don’t think there are homing rats and I doubt whether one could find its way back from a little over two miles away. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) This one does, however, bear a striking resemblance to its predecessor.

I’ve been trying to extirpate the little bugger ever since. It’s been a couple of weeks. This time I’ve resorted to traps, figuring it’s the most humane killing method and allows me to feed the corpse to the local vulture or owl population. But it springs the trap without getting caught every time regardless of what I bait it with. I’m at a loss. How do I get rid of it without using poison? There’s got to be a solution. One friend suggested I pour myself a good shot of Don Julio Añejo and wait by the barbie with a BB gun. Based on my experience with Angeles’ cat, I’m not convinced a BB will do the job. And furthermore, how do I prevent this from becoming an ongoing issue? I can’t be exterminating rats with regularity. The karma’s too heavy. And UB40 playing over and over in my head is gonna drive me crazy. What can I do to prevent this from continuing dear readers? I need your help!

Mystic in Mexico Part VI: Light and Dark

3d_dolphin_skyThis is the sixth in a multi-part series. To read from the beginning go HERE. If you’ve read the previous posts, you’ll recall that Part V ended with me lying on a bed doing a chakra cleanse to ground myself. I’d been told by an authoritative voice that my solar plexus chakra is blocked and that surfing will help me to open it.

I breathed in deeply, thankful to hear that surfing was something that would help open my sacral chakra and thereby aid my spiritual development. I’d always intuited that surfing was good for me in ways that go way beyond developing my trapezius muscles. I’d always known surfing can be a deeply spiritual pursuit when approached with that intent, but it was comforting to get confirmation from the voice of Hikuri.

I checked in briefly with my heart chakra and saw its energetic connection to my blocked solar plexus chakra. I vowed to work on opening those important energy channels and then moved on to my throat chakra.

When I checked in with this chakra, it was the same cotton-candy pink I’d observed the sky to be that morning. Normally, the throat chakra is blue though. Nevertheless, its energy was healthy and strong, but I cleansed it by visualizing white light coming down through the top of my head and polishing the pink light. You are directly connected to Sirius through your throat chakra. I understood immediately that the color pink represented Sirius and that my throat chakra was currently glowing pink because at that moment I was intimately connected to Sirius’ energy. You are meant to communicate your experiences with the rest of the world through this chakra.

Throat = Communication

I understood that it is my Purpose in this lifetime to use the gift of communication for the benefit of others and the planet. Sharing my experiences and any insight given me by this energetic connection to a higher wisdom is my dharma. This was not the first time I’d received spiritual confirmation of that, but it was comforting to have it reaffirmed by Hikuri.

My third eye and crown chakras were weakened the same way my heart chakra was and I cleansed them and again vowed to do the work to get the energy in my solar plexus chakra unblocked.

As I lay there, I suddenly felt moved to go swimming in the sea. At that very moment Hikuri piped up again, You need to immerse yourself in the sea to rid yourself of the stagnant energy around your body.

I took a narrow path down the steep embankment to the water’s edge. My head was still buzzing with the energy of Hikuri and the sun’s reflection dazzling off the water’s surface seemed particularly bright after laying with my hands over my eyes for so long. How long? I had no idea. I also have no idea how I ended up in my bathing suit, but I did.

I carefully picked my way around the rocks in the near shore and entered the sea, feeling the warm water envelope my legs in a sensuous caress. A hundred yards or so to the south, a pelican sat on a large rock sticking up out of the water. I felt instant affinity and love for him and thought, “Hello brother Pelican,” and the voice of Hikuri replied, Yes, pelican is your brother. The rock is also your brother. Everything is alive, everything is filled with the energy of the Universe. We are all one because we are all energy.

The reality of that oft used phrase, “We are all one,” descended into my body, into every cell of my being with a power I’d never felt before. It was no longer just a platitude. I knew it to be one of the great Universal Truths.

With the water up to my knees, I plunged headfirst into the water. As I did so, in my mind’s eye, I saw myself as a dolphin, then a Humpback whale, an Orca, on and on through a list of many cetaceans and then finally a Humanoid species that could breathe under water. I saw an underwater city filled with similar people who could communicate telepathically and were technologically and spiritually more advanced than our own society. Atlantis, I thought. I once lived in Atlantis.

Yes, you were once able to spend long periods of time under the water. This is why you need not be afraid when you are held under water by a wave. You have a great capacity to hold your breath and remain calm under water because it has been your home over many lifetimes. You must remember this when you surf. Before you enter the water, especially when the surf is big, you must pause to ask your ocean dwelling brothers and sisters and the sea to protect you. Listen for any messages – they will tell you if you must not enter.

I played in the water, submerging myself to feel the water run over my body. I felt elated and youthful. I watched as Crystal, dressed in a loose white Oaxacan dress, came down to the beach, undressed and joined me in the water. Seeing her comfortable in her nakedness, I got out and removed my bathing suit, and returned to the water again. I told her about the voice I was hearing and the information it was imparting.

“Yes, I could tell you were having a deep experience. I knew you needed to be on your own for a while to let the process continue. Being in the water is good. It will cleanse you and allow you to continue the journey.”

We shared more of our insights and played like children in the water until I felt it was time for me to gather my things and head for home. I felt moved to write down the experience and record the details.

I said goodbye to Crystal, who in parting told me, “Guadalupe blessed your ATV before they left.”

I smiled at what I thought a peculiar thing to do – blessing a four-wheel motorcycle made of metal and plastic – but then I remembered what Hikuri said. We are all energy. I mentally gave thanks and hoped the ATV would take me where I needed to go on the next stage of my journey.

* * * * *

I drove slowly towards home, taking in the colors of the landscape as I went. Everything seemed to glow and vibrate with life-force energy. The warmth of the sun felt good on my arms and back.

Closer to home, I came to a place where the beach widens and huge sand dunes covered in scrub vegetation loom along the western horizon.  Just past a lone house recently built on the beach, I looked up and saw a flock of pelicans circling high in the sky. Their behavior was not normal and I stopped to watch them.

Pelicans normally like to fly in V-formation just above the crest of the waves near shore, using the lift of the updraft coming off the face of waves. They rarely get very far from the water, preferring to rest on rocks surrounded by water or on the beach right next to the sea. These pelicans were flying inland and very high. I’d never seen pelicans flying so high. And they were not flying from Point A to Point B as they normally do either. I watched as they flew in a clockwise circular motion, and then, to my great surprise, turned 180 degrees and flew along the exact same path counterclockwise. The tips of their wings flashed silver in the sunlight. I was astounded! Then they broke formation and a group of five or six of them swooped down and flew directly over my head.

Look at the sun and meditate with us, came the message as they passed by.

I turned the engine off, swung one leg over to sit side-saddle on the ATV and looked again at the sun. The portal was still visible, but the sun was strong now and hurt my eyes, so I closed them. That’s when I heard the ravens calling from their perch on the beach house roof.

I’ve always had an affinity for ravens. I love how intelligent and playful they are. Ravens figure in many of the world’s mythologies, often as a creator and bringer of light, sometimes as a trickster or divulger of secrets. I’ve seen them all over North America – their distribution is vast – but my respect for them was solidified one winter’s day on Baffin Island.

Raven 2I was in the town of Iqaluit working with the federal government to assess the impact of several World War II military dump sites on the local environment. A local colleague and I drove over to one of the dumps so he could show me how they’d fenced the area off to control unwanted waste disposal there. A deep ditch ran between the dump and the access road, its three to four foot depth necessary to accommodate heavy Spring melt water run-off. There, in the dusky light of an Arctic winter day, I watched a flock of ravens playing in the ditch. “Playing” is the only term for what they were doing for it had no evolutionary purpose, no edge of competition. They looked like an energetic gathering of small, feathery children. From where they were gathered at the top of the ditch, they jumped, two at a time, and slid on their backs down the snowy embankment to the bottom. Then back up they would go, using a combination of hopping and flying, to take their place at end of one of two lines where the other ravens stood waiting their turn. Yes, waiting their turn. I couldn’t make this up. The playfulness they displayed, combined with their seeming “polite intelligence,” solidified my fascination and respect for these birds.

I do a pretty mean raven imitation, if I do say so myself. And I like trying to communicate with them. So when the pair on the beach house roof started to call, I listened intently and discovered I could understand them.

You are Raven, they said. You are to be an intermediary between our two worlds. I understood, again on some universal knowledge level, that they meant I contained some spirit of the raven within me. The same way Native Americans describe someone as having “bear” energy or “eagle” power.

While I was contemplating what the raven had said, a dark figure suddenly appeared to my right. I knew instantly that it was Death. I shuddered. And then, Death took my hand.

Return to read Part VII of Mystic in Mexico and discover what Death has in store for Dawn.

Mystic in Mexico Part IV: The Portal

Sun PortalThe following post is the fourth in a series. To read from the beginning click here for Part I.

As the night progressed, one by one, people laid down to sleep, but Crystal, Fernando and I remained awake. I sat upright, avoiding the temptation to lie down, knowing it would induce sleep. Each time I felt sleepiness descending upon me, I’d eat another wedge of peyote and the it would lift. I did not experience the nausea some people describe, but I also did not experience any far out visions beyond that first subtle one of the Blue Deer. I’d forgotten my watch at home, but the constellations, as they rose and gradually made their way across the sky accompanied by the bright moon, served as a timepiece. Gradually Orion appeared, followed by Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky.

I have a particular affinity for Orion and Sirius, hailing from when, on still winter nights in my youth, I often lay in the deep snow blanketing our yard to gaze at the night sky. Aside from the Big and Little Dipper, the only constellation I knew was Orion. We’d learned a song in school about Orion and it played over and over in my mind’s soundtrack as I looked skyward. What other thoughts I had lying out there wrapped in my snowsuit, I don’t recall, but even then I knew there was much more to the Universe than my young mind could possibly comprehend.

Orion-in-Oct-1024x805As the night of the peyote ceremony progressed, I grew impatient for sunrise, feeling night would never end. The moon had arced its way across the sky and sat above the western hills behind me, shining down upon us like a huge flashlight. Orion tilted towards the hills laying on his side just above the moon, while faithful Sirius remained, as always, to left of and below his foot. I turned my gaze back to the fire and tried to concentrate on Guadalupe’s chanting. Something told me that sunrise would be a significant time in the ceremony. I bided the time.

After what seemed like another hour, I again looked over my shoulder to check the progress of Orion, Sirius, and the moon in their descent toward the hill. What I saw left me befuddled. Orion and Sirius had disappeared below the hill, but the moon remained in the position I’d last seen it. How could that be? I looked back at the fire, thinking it must be a trick of my vision and Orion and Sirius must still be there. I turned again to check and saw that indeed they were not. I nudged Crystal who sat quietly next to me.

“Did you notice the moon,” I said, gesturing with my head. She shook her head no, so I asked, “Look at where it is now. Please take note and then let’s look again in a while.” She agreed, noted the moon’s position, and we turned our attention back to the fire and Guadalupe’s chanting.

A while later, Crystal got up and left. When she returned, I thought it was a good time to check on the moon, time having been tangibly marked by her departure. I couldn’t believe my eyes! There it sat, in exactly the same place, a short distance from the top of the hills! When I pointed it out to Crystal, she smiled the same mischievous grin that Ayax had exhibited when I mentioned seeing the blue deer.

Finally, the sky began to brighten. As dawn approached, Mario instructed us that we should take our last piece of hikuri. Once again I chewed the strange cactus up into a mash. Having swallowed it, I prepared myself mentally for what I thought would be a sunrise ceremony, but rather than gathering into a circle and chanting as I’d expected, everyone began gathering their things while they chewed their last piece of peyote. Convinced that I needed to see the sun rise, I stubbornly ignored the others and sat cross-legged on my blanket watching the eastern horizon. Every few minutes I looked over my right shoulder to check on the moon, which remained hanging above the hill. I now knew for certain that it hadn’t moved for hours.

As I sat and waited, I remembered that people report seeing a green flash at the instant the sun breaks the horizon, so I focused my attention on the brightest spot, only breaking my glance briefly to check on the moon. The activity of the others around me was getting boisterous – they were talking, gathering their belongings, walking between me and the where the sun would rise. I wondered why they would ignore the most important moment of a new day and tried to stifle my annoyance. Eventually, I felt I had to stand up, or I might be swept up in their activity. So I stood, continuing to stare at the horizon. When the sky got so bright that it became clear dawn was imminent, I decided to ignore the moon and kept my eyes focused eastward.

In a flash of whitish yellow light, the sun suddenly appeared above the sea and the sky filled with an intensity that contrasted sharply with the many hours of darkness I’d just experienced. As it rapidly rose, I began to feel the pull again of the moon and turned my whole body to face it, half expecting it to be gone. But no, there she was hovering in exactly the same position. I turned to look at the sun, then again to the moon. Back and forth I went, conflicted about which body I needed to gaze at. I wanted to combine their energy somehow and felt as though I was a link between the two. After several minutes of trying to look at them both, the sun morphed into a strange rotating silver disk, so I focused my attention on it. Then I realized it was not a disk at all, but a hole, a portal of some sort. Beyond the portal the sky turned golden, the sea became lavender and a perfect right-hand wave broke continuously. Behind the wave rose a steep volcanic mountain covered in lush vegetation. I realized I was being beckoned to pass through the portal to visit the idyllic scene.

Despite feeling incredibly drawn to go ride that perfect wave, a different kind of wave, one of fear rolled through me instead. What would happen on the other side? Where would I go? Was this some cosmic trick? Find out in Part V of Mystic in Mexico: Sirius Wisdom.

Stole My Heart

I came upon a pathetic sight on the way to town yesterday. Right after the turn off to the municipal dump stood a little black puppy on the edge of the road picking at something mashed into the dirt. I quickly brought the car to a stop and got out to see if I could catch her. I didn’t move directly towards her because typically these little ones run away in fear. Instead I stood about 15 feet away and called to her. Her attention pulled from the questionably edible thing on the road, she looked up wagging her skinny tail and trotted over to me. As I reached down to pick her up, she urinated submissively. Up close, I saw what a mess she was – her skin was grey and black with a leathery texture and was only sparsely covered with dry, dusty black hair. Her skeleton, clearly visible, poked at it from beneath. The leathery appearance of her skin I knew meant she had a bad case of mange. I picked her up gingerly – she weighed almost nothing – and carried her at arms length to the truck, where I placed her on the passenger side floor. As I put the car in drive, I tried to remember if I had any dog food in the car and wondered if I should stop to feed her, but I was late for work now, so decided to keep motoring. As I drove to town, she just sat there looking around curiously with what were surprisingly bright, amber-colored eyes. At one point she stood up, put one paw on the shifter between us, and looked at me questioningly, as if to say, “Hey, what’s going on?” I leaned over and pet her lightly on the head and she returned to sitting on the floor. She did not utter one sound the entire drive to the vet’s office. Her silent composure was impressive and a bit unsettling.

I have to admit I started to imagine what she’d look like when her hair grew back and planning how I would find her a home. I even went through a catalog of names that might suit her. I settled on “Pria,”  by shortening “prieta,” which means dark or swarthy in Spanish. An internet search this morning would strike me as significant – Pria being the Hindi word for “beautiful.”  At each of the stoplights in town, I leaned over and pet her bald little forehead with the back of my index finger. In response, she closed her eyes, apparently enjoying the feel of my touch. I wondered how long it had been since she’d received any affection from beast or man.

Carrying her into the vet’s I got a good whiff of her. I wrinkled my nose at the unmistakeable odor emanating from her. She smelled like some kind of excrement – probably cow or dog and I figured the poor darling was probably subsisting on a diet of crap. The female veterinary assistant greeted me, took one look at my companion and contorted her face into an expression of disgust. I asked her if they had some food we could give her, but she just shrugged her shoulders weakly. I asked if it was okay to put her on the floor and let her walk around so I didn’t have to smell her and she thankfully said yes. The pup wandered around sniffing and quickly found the area where she was most at home, out on the cool dirt near the entry gate. Had she ever been inside a building?

When it was our turn, I carried her into the examination room and placed her skinny body on the stainless steel examination table. Felipe the vet regarded her and I quickly sensed my optimism may have been misguided. He touched her ears, where the mange had reduced them to scaly, hairless flaps, looked in her mouth briefly and then picked up her tiny front paw and examined it closely. That’s when he said, “I am afraid that this dog has a serious and chronic type of mange. This is demodectic mange. Unlike sarcoptic mange which causes them to itch profoundly, is very contagious, and treatable, demodectic mange does not cause itching, is not very contagious, but it is chronic and very difficult to treat.” He paused, regarding her sympathetically and continued, “She probably got it from her mother and, sadly, in a puppy of this size, the treatment can do irreversible damage to her liver. The mange also compromises the immune system of the dog and makes them more susceptible to other illnesses. She could very well succumb to parvo-virus or distemper after we put her through several unpleasant treatments…it will be hard on her and it may not even work or, like I said, cause her harm. So we must weigh the benefits with the potential difficulties.” I knew where he was going. “In cases such as this, I think we must be philosophical. There are so many puppies that are healthy that need homes…” I nodded, unable to speak because I was already attached to this little waif standing Zen-like on the table in front of me. I knew what we had to do, but just then the image of Zee entered my mind and I croaked, “Do you remember my dog Zee? The blind one?” He said he did and I told him then how she had died. “You won’t stay here then while I give her the injection?” he asked already knowing the answer. I shook my head no. “She will not feel any pain,” he said, “I’m going to give her an injection to help her relax first. Then once that has taken effect I will give her the injection that will make her sleep and she just won’t wake up.” My eyes started to tear up. Felipe filled a syringe with the relaxant and smoothly injected it into the skin between her shoulder blades. She didn’t even seem to notice. The only thing that stopped me from losing it was that she did not make eye contact with me the entire time we were in the examination room. That would have been too much. Felipe carried her out to one of the little cages then and I was left in the exam room to gather myself. I was, I believe, in shock that my optimism had been so far off the mark.

Felipe returned and I asked him if anyone was working to help the dogs that are always dumped at the municipal landfill where I’d found her. I could tell that he was sensitive to how emotional this had become for me and didn’t want to turn me out of his office without giving me some time. We discussed what was being done and how the Los Cabos Humane Society regularly goes there to pick up dogs. Not wanting to take up more of his valuable time and aware that I was now very late for work, I asked him what I owed him. As I reached into my wallet I realized I only had 24 dollars. I handed it to him and he thanked me and said, “It will go towards paying the man who will bury her.” The word “bury” stabbed at my heart. I thanked him for his kindness and quickly exited the building past a group of people waiting with a strapping, big, black dog. The contrast between this dog’s glistening coat and that of the little girl I’d just left seemed a cruel final blow from the Universe.

On the way home that night, as I approached the turn-off to the landfill, a group of adult dogs lay gathered together for warmth and companionship on the road. As they got up and scattered in response to my approaching car, I thought, “At least they have each other…” Then I pictured the little girl as I drove past the spot where she’d stood alone and hungry earlier in the day. No longer could I contain the emotions that had been building since that morning  – the floodgates opened letting them pour forth.

Adios To A Dear Friend

In perfect understanding I shall come
And lay my hand in yours, and at your feet
Sit, silent, with my head against your knee.

                       Edna St. Vincent Millay

I wish I didn’t have to write this blog. I wish that I could turn the clock back, make different decisions, do something to make this a happy post. But I can’t. My buddy Zee, the dog I’ve mentioned in this blog more often than I have any other, died two weeks ago. The circumstances are too painful to describe, but my worst fears were realized when I took a trip to Maui to visit a friend. I’ve left the property and the country many times since Zee went blind, but this time was different. This time, I knew that she needed me more than before, this time I sensed that she was starting to lose her hearing and was not as aware of what was going on around her. And this time, there were people that were going to come and work on the house while I was gone. People who don’t know her like I do, who don’t love her like I do and who clearly didn’t realize, despite my admonishments, that they needed to be extra careful when they drove down the driveway.

Despite her passing so many days ago, I haven’t been able to write this until now. It’s been too emotional, too raw and each time I’ve tried my eyes have misted over so I can’t see the computer screen. As the days have passed though, I’ve tried to accept what I cannot change and comforted myself with the knowledge that she will not suffer any more.

While it’s impossible to know how difficult it was for her to be blind, how much she suffered as a result, I know that she was frightened more often than before. At times she’d get so excited – dinner time and when I said, “Wanna go to the beach Zee?”- that she’d run headlong into solid surfaces. That had to hurt. Despite her blindness, she never lost her love of joining me on the beach for a walk or run. She would brave the steps down to the beach, me guiding her with my voice and once we hit the sand, she would exhibit the same exuberance she did as a younger dog – rolling in the wet sand, trotting along with her head and tail held high. She used her nose to follow me and, if she lost my scent, when I called to her, she’d cock her head in the most adorable way, her ears held erect, as though she was thinking, “Is that you?” She’d zone in on the origin of my voice and come loping along until she caught up.

I hadn’t met Mr. T yet in 2002 when she arrived on his property, wrapped in a towel, tiny, dehydrated and nearly dead. Found in the Santa Catarina arroyo, she was left to die in the hot Baja sun along with the rest of her litter mates. She was the only one strong enough to survive. When he took her in his big hands, her eyes were white and her little body was stiff, but T hand fed her milk for several hours and by morning she was standing up in the cardboard box where she’d been placed, looking around curiously and wagging her tail in hopes of getting more nourishment from the nice man who’d nursed her back to health. The very next day she began wreaking havoc on everything and everyone, especially Doobie and Ruby, the two canines in residence. Not long after, he dubbed her “Crazy!” when he looked on in amazement as she ran down to the beach and launched herself into the shorebreak in a  somersault that would give Aly Raisman a run for her money.

In 2005 I was here alone for the first time looking after the dogs when she nearly succumbed to the tick-borne disease Ehrlichiosis. Zee was never one to turn down a meal, so when she refused to eat, I took her to the vet. To my great consternation, after giving her an injection of antibiotics and potassium to counteract the effects of starvation, he sent us home. That night as I fretted about being her only caretaker, her eyes turned white again. Convinced she was dying from hunger, I resorted to force feeding her a mixture of milk and raw egg using the plunger from a syringe to draw the liquid up and squirt it into her cheek. The first attempt failed as she wouldn’t swallow it, so I had to hold her mouth shut and her head aloft while massaging the fluid into her throat. I prayed a lot that night, asking God not to take her. But the main reason wasn’t because I was afraid of losing Zee, I honestly didn’t think it would do my relationship with T any good if she died on my watch.

Afterwards I sensed that she knew I’d helped her and a bond began to grow between us that was only strengthened when she began to lose her sight. I believe the disease left her permanently weakened and likely caused her blindness.

Before she lost her vision, at night I locked Zee in the garage along with a couple of the other dogs, where they had comfy dog beds and I knew they couldn’t get into trouble. In the desert, “trouble” can take many forms including skunks, coyotes, rattlesnakes and barking at nesting sea turtles. Once everything went permanently dark, Zee began freaking out when she was locked in the garage. One morning I discovered she’d clawed a big hole in the door frame and then the next she tore it off the wall completely. That’s when I knew I was going to have to make an exception to house rules and let her sleep inside with me. I brought first one and then, in time, two dog beds into the house – placing one in the living room, the other in my bedroom. From then on, she spent most of the time lying on one of those beds, content to be near me. If I walked anywhere on the property, she followed with her nose to the ground. If I left the property and didn’t invite her along, she trotted up the driveway and lay near the gate awaiting my return.

She got into the habit of quietly absconding with one of my flip-flops in the middle of the night. In the morning I’d find it in her bed, often under her chin. Thinking about it now, I find it hard to believe that the smell of my feet could be that comforting.

After the first few tentative descents, she figured out that the stairs in the house were evenly spaced, unlike those to the beach, so each morning she would navigate the stairs confidently, bouncing down from step to step two feet at a time. While visiting my friend in Central California last week, my heart lurched when I heard that familiar rhythmic clicking sound as her blind dog “No-Cow” used the same technique to go down the stairs.

Now that I’m home again the reminders are everywhere. The places she liked to lay, the toys she cheerfully carried up the driveway, the eye drops that relieved the pressure in her eye. Even the big fuzzy grey balls of her hair gathered in corners and under the couch choked me up enough that I made sweeping an unusually high priority when I got home. I don’t have the nerve to go look at the place where Felipe buried her. Just seeing her collar, the one covered in brightly colored peace signs, lying next to where she died made me cry. That collar was perfect for such a peaceful being. Even as a younger dog, when the other dogs chased cars, ATVs, cows and other dogs, she never joined in.

When I brought Peanut home, Zee was the only dog that would put up with her young exuberance.

Zee was the sweetest dog in my world, a constant reminder to be patient and loving, to live every day to the fullest, to choose quiet contentment over anger or complaint. If you were to tell me, as someone once did, that dogs are incapable of feeling emotions, let alone expressing them, I would have introduced you to Zee. You’d be hard pressed to dispute that her bark in response to, “Wanna go to the beach Zee?” was filled with enthusiasm or that she was smiling when she appeared at the barbecue, a paper plate held carefully in her mouth.

With any luck that corny poem that never fails to reduce me to tears, Beyond the Rainbow, will turn out to be true and she’ll be there waiting for me along with Soweso, Kipling, Fletcher, and Jinny when I leave this planet too.

Morning Miracle

Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings await their release to the Sea of CortezYesterday as I walked back from my morning ritual on the beach, I was treated to a bit of a miracle. There, in a small depression on the sand, sat two pint-sized, grey-skinned turtle hatchlings.

I’d been expecting this miraculous event because late in April, I’d witnessed a large Olive Ridley sea turtle laying her eggs in a nest she’d dug right in front of the property. I watched as she finished laying and began the arduous task of covering up the clutch of eggs, leathery flippers flapping, throwing sand to and fro. I marked the calendar and wondered if the nest would hatch out successfully.

Sea turtle nests face so many challenges to realize the goal of 100 or so odd hatchlings emerging and scrambling to the ocean. The first night is critical, during which the scent of the liquid surrounding the eggs is still present and detectable by keen-nosed predators – coyotes, foxes and dogs to name a few. From my observations, once the nest is exposed to high daytime temperatures, the threat of discovery appears to drop significantly. However, often the nest is laid too close to the ocean and is inundated by a high tide, which drowns the developing turtle fetuses in their eggs. All it takes is for one of the eggs to begin rotting and the nest becomes detectable. Sand crabs dig into the nest and have a feast and by morning are joined by seagulls, vultures and feral dogs. If the nest makes it the 45 to 60 days it takes for the eggs to develop, once the eggs begin to hatch, a strong odor is released making the nest detectable once again, even before its diminutive inhabitants emerge.

I knew that there was a good chance that if I didn’t intervene, the nest would be discovered by local dogs, sand crabs and sea birds, so I set to work gently digging down into the sand to see if there were any more hatchlings making their way to the surface. As I dug down I first encountered the empty shells of eggs that had been vacated earlier. I looked up and saw hundreds of tiny flipper prints in the sand leading towards the water’s edge. Most of the hatchlings appeared to have left the nest overnight. Several inches below surface though I felt something hard with a tiny point on the end. As I scooped the sand out of the hole a wee black head was revealed. I carefully removed the sand from around his (or her) miniscule body. His mini flippers flapped about as I lifted and placed him next to his two clutch mates. Gradually I uncovered more and more of the little guys.

Near the bottom of the nest I uncovered what always makes my stomach lurch – dead, but fully developed, hatchlings being eaten by maggots. Now a smell emanated from the nest that made my nose try to squeeze shut and I did my best not to breath it in. Felipe, my caretaker, dug a hole where I could dispose of the writhing miniature corpses. Even though most of the eggs I encountered at that depth contained dead turtles, I continued to find the odd hatchling that was alive and thriving. One little guy’s shell was deformed on the bottom, folded as though it hadn’t had room enough to grow, leaving me to wonder if he’d survive out there in the expansive ocean.

We counted 19 in all, as they scooted around knocking with their sharp little beaks the sides of the plastic bucket I placed them in – beaks perfectly designed to let them scrape open their eggshells when the time was right. We walked them closer to the water’s edge and I began to place them, one at a time, on the damp sand. As though prompted by a starting gun, they began to scramble towards the water immediately, their flippers flapping in a mad frenzy, their bodies rocking to and fro. We stood vigil over them as they made their way to the sea, keeping an eye on a lone seagull standing just down the beach, watching for sand crabs that might in a flash pull one down their hole. We lifted and righted them as they were caught in deep foot prints or flipped over by uneven terrain. And we felt their bodies pulsing with the energy of new life.

One by one they were swept out to sea by the shorebreak, one by one the cool life-giving water embraced them.  Watching their tiny black heads poke up to gasp for air between the crashing of waves, I prayed the fish and pelicans would not find them, that they would make it out into the deep sea to drift, surviving on algae and zooplankton, until one day,  their long journey may bring them back here to my home on this isolated beach.