Friday, August 31, 2007

Ophelia's Woes

Ophelia the cat has come a long way. She started out anti-social and now she loves attention, as long as it's on her terms. She refused to open her eyes for this photo, but I really like it anyway.

She's been very assertive lately. We were out of wet food and it took me a few days to get to the store. She's been lecturing, throwing herself on the laptop, cuddling on my lap, sleeping on the bed, and generally doing everything she can to get attention.

I'm packing for Madagascar and the pets know this means I'll be gone. All the cats take turns climbing into the luggage and looking at me woefully. Callie shadows my every move, in hopes she can keep me from sneaking off away from her. Even Simon seems to always be laying nearby. This gives me extra guilt over leaving them. I hate that I can't check on them while I'm halfway around the world. Fortunately, I trust my boyfriend to take care of them. But still.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shayla's Story

Last year we did a LOT of fostering for the Idaho Humane Society. Just when I'd gotten the last kitten and last puppy adopted, the carpet cleaners had come, and it appeared things woold settle down, they called about a puppy. Did I want to take in a 6 month old Australian Shepherd who was underweight (only 17 pounds)? I really did expect to think about it - I told them I would come see her. I called my boyfriend to go with me, thinking he'd help veto the puppy. I actually thought we might not bring her home, I was going to see how she was. But of course, what actually happened is I took one look at her, picked her up, carried her out, and that was that.

We named her Shayla. We tried a bunch of names, and that one seemed to stick. She responded to it more than the others. She was super sweet with the dogs and the cats, and she was extremely well behaved. She'd clearly never been in a house and she LOVED to get on the furniture. She was exceptionally polite, never begged for food, and in fact I had to coax her to eat. She did begin to put on some weight, and also to learn some games. She was very protective of me and the car. She was submissive to the other dogs, but also not at all timid or fearful. She Was a GREAT dog and I found myself very in love, very quickly. I was worried...we might have to keep this one. We'd made it through so many without adding any to our family, and I didn't want to break down and do so...but how could we give her up? It would have to be to just the right home.

There was a very nice couple who'd adopted a kitten from me and mentioned they were going to get a dog, and I thought they would be a good match. I emailed them and waited to see if they wanted to meet her.

Meanwhile, she took a turn for the worse. She was throwing up and seemed feverish. I called the Humane Society clinic and they said it might be Parvo. I knew if it was, they'd want to put her down. I was prepared to take her to a private clinic and pay whatever was necessary. I would never let them put her down. I was seriously worried. I kept her locked in my car while we waited for the test results, so I was ready to leave with her if necessary. The test was negative. Whew! She got better quickly. She began to gain weight again.

The couple came, fell in love, and adopted her. They were nice enough to bring her back to visit now and then. She thrived for several months. Then one night I got a panicked phone call. Shayla was chasing the cat, jumped on the couch, and got her front legs caught in the cushions when she tried to jump off. Her body went over, and in the process she snapped both her front legs. They were broken, and she was in agony. (X-ray above of one of the legs). Fortunately, her adopted dad was there to see it, and he called his wife and they raced her to the emergency clinic. Unfortunately, it was 45 minutes away.

Shayla was a trooper. She must have been in terrible pain, but she laid quietly until they could get her painkillers. She then had to have braces, metal pins, and casts. It was nearly $2,500 before it was over. Her parents were advised they could put her down, but thankfully they didn't. They loved her and they did the right thing and made sure that she got the care she needed. For eight weeks they lugged her in for checkups, helped her recover with stiff heavy casts on her legs, and took excellent care of her. She made a complete and total recovery.

I still miss her sometimes, including today.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Mouse Lemur

This is a photo of Microcebus lehilahytsara, a nocturnal mouse lemur in Madagascar discovered in 2005. I am really, really hoping to see one of these during my upcoming trip. These amazing little primates are fascinating creatures.

I will be traveling from September 10th through October 3rd, so there will be no new entries during that time period...but hopefully as soon as I return I can regale you with travel adventures and many photographs of adorable lemurs, chameleons, and whatever else I stumble across.

I am traveling with a British company I've not used before, Discovery Initiatives. The entire trip was planned via email so I will be very interested to see how it goes. I selected this company for its reputation and commitment to ecologically sound and responsible tourism, and because they are willing to book a custom tour for one person. As a woman traveling alone, I try hard to pick companies I can trust. So far, this one looks good - I will let you know how they did when I get back.

Near Jackson, WY

Outside Jackson, Wyoming at the base of the Tetons I came across some bison, grazing and resting. I would never attempt Yellowstone this time of year, and even driving through Jackson Hole right now is miserable due to flocks of tourists everywhere. But, standing at the base of the Tetons, you can forget about people for a bit.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Near Riverton, WY

Recently I was in the middle of Wyoming, near Riverton, so I went to Castle Gardens. This is a rock formation sort of in the desert, and the site of ancient Indian petroglyphs in the rocks. There was no one there when I went, which was nice. It's about an hour east of Riverton.

The petroglyphs were interesting, but unfortunately marred by all the idiots who carved their own drawings, initials and so forth next to the Indian carvings. Why would you come across ancient, irreplaceable art and want to carve your initials next to it? More human stupidity I have to shake my head at, as I'll surely never understand it.

I saw a very large bird nest, rabbits, chipmunks and deer nearby. Above three white-tail deer are pictured, as well as a cottontail rabbit. Overall this was an interesting excursion and if you ever find yourself stuck near Riverton, it'll kill some time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Update on Buster's Nail

You may recall from a previous post that my quarter horse, Buster, got a nail in his hoof in July. Here is the x-ray of it. Luckily it missed all the really dangerous parts and he has made a full recovery. After an x-ray, a poultice, some anti-biotics, some anti-inflammatories, and a week's confinement, he made a complete recovery.

I didn't know that you should get an x-ray for a nail in the hoof - but now I do. And look - it's a cool picture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bodyworlds 3: Portland

This weekend I went to see the Body Worlds 3 Exhibition in Portland, OR. I have wanted to see this for several years, since first reading about it. A German doctor invented a process called plastination where plastic is injected into bodies to preserve them. The human bodies are donated. It's an alternative to organ donation, as the entire body can be used for exhibits or teaching materials.

Some of the human bodies have been posed in various positions. Some are just arteries and blood vessels - there is plastic injected throughout the bloodstream and everything else is dissolved. This results in a very intricate demonstration of blood flow throughout our various organs. There is also a human nervous system with everything else removed - very interesting to see. One of the coolest and creepiest exhibits was a man holding his own skin - which had been removed entirely.

You will certainly see the human body differently. There are slices of humans - literally. You can compare a healthy brain slice with a brain with tumor slice, a healthy lung with a smoker's lung (this should REALLY make you want to give up smoking!), you can see what emphysema looks like, and other diseases in the body. Overall that was quite interesting.

Overall this was well worth my time and a trip to Portland. I found the embryos particularly interesting. It's just shocking to see how perfectly formed fingers exist just a few weeks into pregnancy. Seeing actual embryos in various stages of development was fascinating.

Personally I didn't like the extreme poses of some of the people, and found the other aspects of the exhibit a lot more interesting. There was a rather grotesque film at the end showing dissection which I sure could have lived without also.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rafting the South Fork of the Payette

For a mere $105, you can book a full day raft trip on the South Fork of the Payette River with Cascade Raft and Kayak. This is a LOT of fun! I've wanted to do the full day trip for several years but never made time. This year I did, and it was well worth it.

I set a record I think by being bounced out of the raft roughly four seconds after getting into it. We hit a rock. The guide wasn't all the way in yet and as we were the first raft, no other rafts were in the water, nor was the safety kayaker. I have a nice bruise to prove we hit a rock. It bounced me like popcorn into the VERY cold water. I tried to not panic, remember the instructions for what to do, and await rescue. However, I heard some dismaying sounds from the raft and it was not moving towards me. I kept ahold of my paddle, tried to get feet first floating downriver, and hoped there was no rapid around the bend. Eventually someone was able to get close enough I could grab a paddle, and thankfully get pulled back in. Nice and chilly. This did not in any way dampen my spirits for the raft trip, however.

I was impressed by the 40' waterfall you have to carry the raft around - including clamboring around on rocks and cliffs in Tevas. The lunch was nice and amazingly attractively arranged given that four young male guides laid it out. (One of the fruit trays was so pretty it was, to quote my companion, "downright gay." Very cute.) Bring a power bar as lunch is a long time coming and you're going to work your ass off in the meantime.

For me, the highlight was by far a baby black bear we saw on a mountainside. When he heard us yelling to one of the other rafts, he ran up the mountainside. I'm glad he's learned already to avoid humans - a very good idea and a policy I hope he follows for a long life. It was very cool to see him in the wild and I wish I'd been able to get a picture.

There were lots of rapids and a fun spinny one called Trash Can that you can do over and over - the trick is to lie back and in the center to not flip out, pictured above. We had a great guide (Dustin, my favorite for safety reasons). Things went fast after lunch, and we ended up done around 3pm. Thus, I think they should start it a bit later so it's warmer - it's cool in the early morning.

My friends and I all commented we were SORE after this trip. We must be getting old. It's a workout though - lots of paddling and balancing and bouncing and general whitewater fun. This was a GREAT trip and I would definitely love to do it again. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 6, 2007

More Mountain Gorillas Die

The African Wildlife Federation is reporting that four more gorillas were just killed in the Congo. To read the full report, click here. The family group is known; the deceased are identifiable. A mother and baby are still missing. The killings were done execution style.

Before I saw gorillas in the wild, I had a hard time understanding how anyone could kill them. Now that I've seen them up close, I find it impossible to comprehend. These gentle giants mean us no harm, and seek only to be left alone in the tiny, tiny bit of forest they have left on earth.

Words can't express my sorrow and disgust. I only hope my continuing donations help ensure more protection for the species. If you don't already donate to African Wildlife Federation, please consider doing so.