Friday, December 23, 2011

If a deer swims up to you...

Sent by many folks to me (a good sign!) and verified by many news stories.

Update: Hmm, I didn't notice that in the Animal Planet version of this story, they left out a key line. The usual censorship that contributes to the objectification (fear, and loathing) of animals. So I'm publishing the whole story here, as it came to me and told in Tom's own words.

Best Fishing Day Ever

Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly toward his boat.

"Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at us.  We could tell right away that the young bucks were distressed.

I opened up my back gate and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat.  In all my years fishing, I've never seen anything quite like it.

Once on-board, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering.
We headed for Taku Harbour. Once we reached the dock, the first buck that we had been pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say 'thank you' and disappeared into the forest.

After a bit of prodding and assistance, two more followed, but the smallest deer needed a little more help.
This is me carrying the little guy.

My daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, helped the last buck to its feet.  We didn't know how long they had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive. My daughter later told me that the experience was something that she would never forget, and I suspect the deer felt the same way as well!"

Way better version.

Paws down, THE best

Hysterical. True.

It Came Upon a Midnight Bleary

A little holiday story for y'all. Have a great and peaceful week!

Legend has it that at midnight on Christmas Eve, the animals talk

Instead of descending on the parents one year for Christmas, we stayed nearby in Port Townsend, WA, so our elderly Red Heeler mix could be with us and not upset their new kitten. We found a hotel that, despite being right by the water, had reasonable rates and charged only a small fee for Molly the dog. 

We had tucked in for the night and were fast asleep when Molly vibed me with that particular Staring Dog skill designed to wake humans up. An audio escalation can accompany The Stare and this was the case. Since she usually holds it all night I knew that the holiday treats had probably taken their toll, and if she’s urgent I’m urgent. So I opened the door and let her out, thinking she’d just totter to the gravel area and pee. 

As I stood outside in my pajamas and bare feet I marveled at the clear, cold sky filled with clusters of stars and then noticed in my reverie that Molly had taken off! I knew it was bad if Miss-13-Year-Old-Thing was running that fast; I only hoped she’d find a place soon so she wasn’t spewing as she went. Her deafness and the late hour precluded any hysterical shouting so I shot out the door after her, only vaguely aware of the gravel, the cold, and bare feet. All I could see was the tip of her white tail lifted high (a bad sign) and her roto-legs pumping.

I think I’ve failed to mention that the temperature was about 25 degrees.

Finally she found a spot and went into her stance but I didn’t see anything happen; before I could get close enough for confirmation she took off again. Normally she’s too sleepy to do much at that hour so I couldn’t tell if she was in distress, invigorated to her thick-haired soul by the cold or just possessed by the holiday spirit. I corralled her back towards the room so I could at least get boots and coat. As is usual at night she was collarless, so rather than gently guiding her by the collar I had to nudge, straddle, and flail at her until finally we wobbled up to the room. She was still urgent so I announced to my beloved the need to turn the light on—always a welcome announcement at 3 a.m. I found collar, boots, and coat and we shuffled out again. 

A block later I realized I was walking briskly, still anxious. I made myself slow down. Blessedly shod, I began to relax and count my blessings. My inner voice that knows everything began talking:

I’ve got a coat. She’s got a collar. We’re outside. We’re just fine and we’ve got everything we need.  

I took in my surroundings now. I could see that all was aglitter with frost: boats, trees, rooftops, wooden railings, as if we were walking in a sparkling village from another time. The moon shone bright and high in the black, clear sky. The sound of water lapping against the docks drew me, my eyes darting to anything illuminated by the lunar light. I could hear masts shifting quietly, lanyards clanking softly against them. Punctuating the rows of dark docks were colored lights on some of the boats. There was not a human sound. A perfect stillness, occasionally broken by the soft chirps and calls of some kind of night bird. Molly was beyond happy, smelling new smells and very, very alert, her old cataract eyes straining to see everything at once, so lit up and so clear.

As we walked along the docks I became aware of a huffing sound close to the water. A seal? We drew closer to investigate, and then heard a splash. A dark shape spilled over the dock. Uh oh, raccoons, I thought, and moved away from the bushes. Raccoons are no longer cute in the city—I felt protective of Molly and strained to see. But I heard another splash, and then a huffing sound, and then a kind of clambering up the dock—puzzling, because raccoons don’t move that fast. Splash, clamber, huff. Repeat. At the end of the dock a small light slowly blinked, and in the occasional weak illumination I could see the whole dock moving. Whatever it was, there were many of them. I peered as hard as I could, wishing I’d brought a flashlight. 

Then one shape stood up, then another. Finally the culprits revealed themselves: eight or nine very busy, curious otters! Their tiny little chirps and calls were the “night birds” I’d been hearing at the edge of my consciousness; clusters of them swarmed all over the docks.

We stood for a long time watching the busy scene—I can verify that otters never stop moving—and then headed back to the room. Molly was still ears up and trotting, but this time I was very much with her.

(c) Caitlin Sullivan

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The sound of the shower shutting off means, to Dimitri, the morning practice of watching drops. The pet who is "no trouble" never gets any blog time and that's just wrong.


Right in the middle of the day, them big eyes, open.

So then? I was driving home?

Driving away from a coffee house in the U-District I cut up a sidestreet. A quick bolt of movement slowed me down automatically, eyes darting for the cat or dog who had gone roaming.

It was not one animal but two, and they be goats! One stared at me dead on, curious, unmoved, unmoving. I idled, not wanting to scare them, hoping I'd see their human next. But nothing. A large bus loomed into my rearview, startling me out of my inertia. I parked in a driveway and headed into the street, shooing them back to someone's lawn. 

Useful and earnest 4-H presentations at state fairs have taught me that goats really don't eat everything (though they were trying), so I really wanted to find where they lived.  

A house with an open front door produced a guy who identified them as the neighbors' goats. We pulled them by their collars back into the front yard, where they live.They were very stubborn and stopped in their tracks but then when I talked to them they'd move again. But a doghouse was right near the fence so I think they might get out all the time.

Now I want three.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Honor

So many people have written so beautifully of this great teacher. If you are a cat lover you know the power and the magic of a purr. The gift of it, the interaction, the knowing  you caused it in some ways and in other ways are just a lucky witness. Imagine hearing one from a cougar. 

Windwalker, you didn't mess around: Thank you for the gift of your whole being. 

I encourage a read of all the other testimonials because they all seem to agree: He understood the Great Wheel deeply and was urgent to teach it. 
And in this, Jean's testimonial, you'll see why the animals love living with Susan and Jean.


Tim Rowlands Margaret the 10 day old Giraffe is bottle fed by Chester Zoo keeper Tim Rowlands on 30 January, 2008, Chester, England. Margaret is the first Rothschild giraffe born at the zoo and is being hand reared after having difficulty suckling from her mother. Margaret who is named after keeper Tim's mother, already measures 1.2m

From my friend Margaret, comes the tale of Margaret, the baby giraffe.

Her eyes are beautiful.  Most babies measuring 5 ft would be considered big, but newborn giraffe, Margaret, at Chester Zoo, UK is seen as unusually small for her species.  She is one of the smallest giraffes ever born at Chester Zoo, but pint-sized Margaret will soon be an animal to look up to. 

Tim Rowlands, team leader of the Giraffes section, said: 'Margaret is one of the smallest giraffe calves we have ever seen.  Fay isn't the largest of giraffes and Margaret was also early which might go some way to explaining her size.  'Margaret was having difficulty suckling so our keeping team are now hand-rearing her.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mama Lion, Mama Lion...

It's the haunches in picture #2 that get me. Hard not to comment but I'll just let the story stand by itself.

Photographs by Jean-Francois Lagrot

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fawn rescued

This comes from my fellow Humbled Herd-er Terri. It came without any author attribution but there is video at the end. Here's what the person wrote:

"On the morning of May 18th, 2011, my wife noticed a deer in our yard that appeared to be frantically looking for something in the rocks that form a wall at our property line in Brush Prairie, WA. We went out with our neighbors but didn't see anything. The deer wouldn't leave our yard.

We went back to our house and watched, after a few minutes the deer came back.

Where the deer was concentrating we could hear a fawn crying in the rocks. We moved some of the rocks and smaller boulders and saw the fawn's face among them. He had apparently fallen into a crawl-through in one of the gaps and was now trapped. The larger boulders were too heavy to move and we didn't want to have the rocks cave in on the baby.

We called our Clark County Fire District 3 and a team came out to help. One of our neighbors took some video of the rescue, which I edited into this short clip."


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Earthfire Institute Part II

Photo courtesy Earthfire Institute

Thank you much for all the responses you've sent me both privately and in comments. I thought I would just throw out "feel good" animal stories but no, y'all are a deep crowd and you want more about that deep place animals and people go. Well good, I say.

I told Mr. Kola that taking care of him was getting in the way of me writing about animals. He thought it was funny, too.
I have another tale from Earthfire.

So our teacher Polly, besides providing amazing Animal Reiki and Cranio-Sacral work, is also an Animal Communicator. I never believed in it much until it had great effect on both my dog and cat, but that's another story. One of her dreams for our retreat was for us all to ask the animals what they needed. So I took a class. And felt silly. I never got very far and I couldn't really sense if what I was "getting" from animals was "true."

Hence my trepidation as I waited with the others for Pimpernel the coyote. It should be noted here that we waited in a large Wildlife Garden while Susan and Jean brought the animals in to roam around us. Yes.

We sat quietly while Pimpernel trotted around us, head way down, eyes angled up. So coyote. After a few minutes I got the distinct impression that she was wondering why we were being so quiet (later we all traded impressions and almost all of us got that same feeling). I decided I had better try talking or at least listening. I cleared my mind, regulated my breathing, settled into--

came a loud voice/message/sensation, immediately, followed by a picture of Pimpernel moving around the entire garden, into the house, the office, the yurt, the walkways, herding all the animals, tending to the borders, busy busy busy. You could not miss the message: She kept everything going around there.

Later, shyly, from my awkward new Animal Communicator place, I told this to Susan and Jean and they both cracked up. "Oh my god that's so her!" Susan laughed. (More on Pimpernel here.)

But this is not what I would have thought upon first meeting. I've seen coyotes quite a bit, both in the city and in the wild, and Pimpernel is on the small side (I find myself furtively checking to make sure she didn't read that).

I mistook her for a small presence. (I can hear a thousand small creatures snorting.)

As she passed by I reached a hand out to her and was struck, as I had been with the wolves, with the rough quality of her coat. It looked smooth and silky like a dog's but was instead very coarse and textured, sticking out in places. The word "unkempt" sprang to mind, and I realized that I was used to seeing domestic animals in a groomed state. Then I realized that I had almost written "perfection" as if "neatly groomed" were synonymous.

While I knew it in my head I had not grasped with my fingers that our airbrushed, pixelated, teeth-whitened culture has extended to animals, where we brush and clip and comb them until they are... what? less wild? More like us? Good god, why aren't we going the other way? Especially when one of the chief things we love about "our" animals is that we can be completely ourselves with them?

I drew my hand to my nose, letting the deeply wild, raw, fresh scent hit me. Musky and way down in the bass notes, simple, thorough. I remembered the smell of the wolves only a few hours before. Completely different. Completely raw and wild, too. Somewhere in there we had petted Bluebell, marveling at her equally wild-smelling hair. A different wild, also.

What effect on the nervous system would it be to smell wolf, then coyote, then fox, then bison, all in the same day? And then the next day? Sometimes I think that's why so many of us Retreat-ers had a rough re-entry when we came back home. We had been plunged into the very mud of life itself, every sense awakened and enlightened. And then yanked back out.

Where do we belong?

An Eagle Love Story

Eagle Love Story: Injured Mates Reunited at Rehab Center
From NPR, a lovely story with some lovely links, too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Uh, that would be OUR home...

Kitties kicking it in California...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So then THAT happened...

I can't stand it; I was going to post a whole slew of stuff I've been saving up but it's been so long since I posted anything that I have to do something:

I thought when a dog had seizures you just gave him meds. I didn't realize you'd have to experiment with doses, be there every second of every day, monitor for seizures in clusters (very dangerous), learn to give liquid Valium rectally, discern between large and small, aura-extended and contracted, and a host of other happy accompaniments to epilepsy (which could also be a tumor, a reaction to vaccines or "other..." ).

I don't believe I enumerated the attending bodily fluids and I don't believe I will.

This derailed the blog for awhile but I am happy to report that at present (hearty wood-knocking) things seem to have calmed down.

Also the dog formerly known as Carlo is now called Kola. It's a long story perhaps shared in future but meanwhile call him Kola cuz he won't answer to anything else. Although sometimes we call him "Seize-y."

So Sir Kola seized 5 times in one day (prompting an overnight ER stay, aka the most expensive dog-sitting in town), four the next, then two, now none for almost a week. I never thought I'd measure time by how many seizures did not happen in an hour and then a day but there you are. We even got to take the long-awaited trip to the coast, being sure to pack our new Seize-y Kit(TM). We learned that Kola:
loves to travel in the car
would prefer riding over walking
doesn't like rain
loves to run in sprints
loves to pull dead fish from under the sand
doesn't eat the brake handle when not drugged on that one drug we can't pronounce
um, loves to ride in the car.

More soon. Seriously.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cowboy + Dogs = Happy Ending

Seems like if you used to lasso you never forget how. Jesus Villanueva used to rope cattle in Jalisco 30 years ago; the skill came back when he spied two dogs trying to get out of a canal near Yakima, WA. The sides were too slippery and the owner had been desperately running alongside for TWO MILES. A deputy was trying to rope them but no luck, so Mr. V. got each one of them on the first try. Read more about it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nothing's simple

Well, you'd have to expect that if the Sullicake household got a new animal, it would turn out to be a little... special. New kid Carlo turns out to have epilepsy. Or at least that's what it looks like. Needless to say we have been thrust into the world of research, worry, relief, concern, bemusement, etc and we're still learning.

At 5:00 a.m. a week after we got him he had a seizure. It had all of the symptoms of "grand mal." Reaching over the bed in the dark to him, holding gently, waiting, watching him on his new bed convulsing. An eternal 90 seconds.

In the last week we've been getting to know him, partly by noticing what he's not and what he doesn't do. Wow, we'll say, he didn't bark at the neighbors! Oh, hey, did you notice he didn't grab food off the table? Such is the discovery process of adopting from a shelter. It's been delightful--so many things he doesn't do--we just got lucky. And then there's, oh, lookie, he's having a seizure!

When Carlo came out of it he was breathing hard, foaming at the mouth. And, a shock: he clearly did not know who Ann and I were. Total blank. What I realized a few hours later was that in our concern we had gotten all in his face, and even though he didn't know us, he didn't get aggressive or bite. If I'd come out of a seizure or even a deep sleep, I would not have appreciated someone in my face, especially from another species. (Well, I might have preferred animal over human.)

Yet another thing he "doesn't do."

So, here we are researching, weighing, and opting for something as holistic as possible without depriving him of what he needs to keep the symptoms down. But the thing I noticed this morning after we talked to the vet that I "didn't do," was for one second think, "oh what a drag this is." Not because I'm so enlightened but because there's been a shift in me lately from "oh god, not one more thing," to "this is life." It used to be that if anything unexpected happened it threw off the whole apparatus. But this is what is now. A new teacher has come to us.
Grateful yet again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Earthfire Institute

(Photo by Marilyn Paine, courtesy of Earthfire Institute)

In August, I was honored to be invited with 10 other students to a retreat at the Earthfire Institute in Driggs, ID. We were brought there by our Reiki teacher and animal communicator Polly Klein. I am still figuring out what happened. Still journaling, meditating, singing, and whispering about it to myself, a few others. One thing I learned: right after, I should have gone into silence, as befitting the sacredness of it. But I also need to tell people. Somehow.

It was the sentences that got me, later. Impossible ones. "If you're done with the wolves, we can bring in a coyote if you'd like." "The bears are too intense so we'll just have you sit near them first, then we can bring them into the garden." "If you just move with them they'll come up to you." "If you feel a lick, just turn around slowly."

These were said quietly and without irony by caretakers and founders Jean and Susan. How do you integrate those into your usual sentences, I wonder? Even with such a strange internal dialogue as mine? I had thought, before I left, that I would get to stand really, really close to a bunch of cages with wild animals in them. I had no idea that I would not only be able to touch some of them, but give one of them a massage and a Reiki treatment to another.

I keep trying to interpret but I'll just tell.

I sat on the grass watching Jean pet ancient cougar Windwalker until he purred. (Again with the sentences.)

Behind me I heard a huff-huffing, which turned out to be a large grizzly named Huckleberry Bear Bear. Poking his giant snout under the bars of his enclosure, then followed by more of his head so I could see his eyes. Following instructions, I looked at him briefly, then looked away. I looked back and he was still gazing at me. I looked away again. Then trusted my instincts and looked back. We gazed a long time. And I heard, clear as a bell, a question from him:
What kind of animal are you?

I knew instantly that this is the question I've been answering all my life. I told him that, awkwardly.

Polly was also deeply moved by her encounter with another grizzly, Humble Bumble (above), who is a bit differently abled. We all struggled to articulate what it was exactly that had moved us all. It came to me: in zoos, which I cannot visit anymore, even if they are good ones, the animals are simply "not there." You look into their eyes and they are gone. At Earthfire, the animals are completely there. And they are completely taking you in. They see you, they are seen.

It took me a full three days to realize that Jean and Susan weren't kidding: they really do mean to be creating something new with animals. A connection. How it used to be or how it could be or something else that I won't diminish by limiting with words. But to be with wild animals who are perceiving you as a fellow critter, to be sniffed and possibly touched by them, is to restore the animal in oneself.

If that had been all that had happened I would have come away from there astounded. But it wasn't. There is more, and I'll post that soon, too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome to Animoush

Here is the first post to this blog. Do you like it? We can see how it goes.

This is my cat Dimitri. I've been with him since 1995.

Dog Carlo on the left. Been with him since yesterday. Seriously. Seattle Animal Shelter's finest.
We lost our beloved Molly (on the right) in March and in the process lost the presence of Dog in the household, too. So "in the fall" was when we were going to find another friend to round us out again. Moral: Never go to a Kill Shelter with an intention just to look.