Thursday, December 20, 2012

Here again

OK, it's stupid. Not that there are legions of Animoush fans but there are a few of you and you are very polite, and then sometimes a bit persistent, about asking where the next post is. 

The truth is, we got a new dog. I wanted to post the requisite dozens of pictures of him and then got completely waylaid by the most ancient kind of superstition: If I post a picture of him, he'll die, like the last dog. 

Like he will never ever die if I don't do that.

Call me this but there it is. 

But what can I say, it's the end of an era and a new beginning. While some would want to interpret the Mayan calendar to mean some kind of science fiction Rapture, I believe that as always, it is more of the same only more intense. We've all felt the quickening. And many people have left the building or are trying to get out the door as fast as they can. 

As one who is staying but may not have always been committed to, I will say that I am going to drop this kind of paranoia. It just wastes time and keeps me from posting cute pictures of animals and their wondrous connection to peeples. But I'm still not going to post a picture of Bodie (yet).

Still, please welcome into your consciousness Master Bodie Seamus Sullicake, one year old shepherd chow husky mutt mix with a meticulous practice of passing everything of interest through his mouth.

Happy New Year, and I promise I will illuminate the backlog, on many levels.
Read on, there are two more posts!

And ANOTHER thing!

That voice you hear may be yours joining in.

Courtesy of my wonderful neighbor BWren.

Comfort to Newtown

Doing what they do the way they do it so particularly, stunningly well.

From The Bark Magazine

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


If you ever want to cheer yourself up about humanity go to a waiting area at an airport or train station. While there are certainly a number of stiff awkward greetings the majority of them are spontaneous, warm, and completely  unfiltered. You can tell by the eyes. When critters are happy, they close them.

What's that got to do with animals? No filter ever.


Mission Impossible Squirrel

I always laugh in the same spot. Can you guess where?

Last Days of Summer

It's only fair to end the summer with dogs of summer. This is right where I grew up, and had no idea it was kinda a paradise...

Friday, August 17, 2012


For this little tangent you will need: the image of an animal stretching. That deep, amazing full-body elongation. Every toe on every paw, eyes closed shut in the overwhelming pleasure of it, completely lengthening, tail out, ears up or flat, and just when you are marveling at how pleasurable the whole thing looks, they reach out just a bit more, maybe arch their backs and go flat out, or spread everything so wide you can see every little hair stand up and get completely involved. And then a quick tuck into a spiral, they are ready for the grand finale--a nap. Just watching them makes you want to stretch and maybe you even do. So:

I had been coordinating a bunch of logistics including taking care of someone who needed help at every step. I was anxious as hell, fretting over getting to the right spot, directions in hand, the person in place, chatting easily as if nothing were fraught, racing because for once I was a little late and might actually miss getting the person to the next caretaker. As I raced I noticed there was almost no gas in the car. The little light had even come on. With all the anxiety around the whole scene I knew this was like the final, dumb sitcom joke but still I let myself get completely floored by the possibility that I would not only run out of gas but would make my friend miss her ride. 

Two seconds later it was over; I found the site, the ride was still there, and out of the parking lot I tore, still racing. Out of sheer habit. 

Of course there was a gas station right down the next block. And of course plastered all over its pumps were out of order signs. 

I jammed the gas pedal (for some reason when I'm lost or out of gas I actually drive faster, which is several shades of stupid) and raced down the next block. There, in full corporate glory was a bigass gas station, with 10 pumps to choose from. I filled up and headed back down the road, flipping on the radio. Some perfect song played and I realized I hadn't been breathing normally for probably hours. I slowed down. Inhaled a huge breath. Took stock of all the logistics of the last half hour and realized I had done every one of them.

But instead of being saturated with relief I had hurriedly started a new list, the next hour's list, the endless list. And not just of tasks, but of things to worry about. Most not under my control. The voice known as the-one-that-I-wish-would-come-more-often said, slow down, take a minute and bask in this.

So I did. It was spring and the sun was truly out, the air so sweet I could almost feel it suffusing my cells. My body began to relax and I thought of those animals stretching, how they do it with every corpuscle involved. So I did that with every thought and sensation of that moment only. And everything that had already been wonderful simply got better, like when you stretch. Oxygen and blood flooded the body of my mind until it expanded into pure pleasure. I lingered, amazed that while it felt fantastic, the longer I stayed, stretching into it, it kept getting even better. I realized that right there in the car I was getting high. With merely an orientation.

Later when I thought of this marvelous moment I pondered how when something terrible happens it's seared into your body and your memory. That's partly why it's so terrible. You never forget it, you remember every part of it, how your body felt, what you were thinking or doing, where you were. Because you stay with it, and it deepens. But not so the great moments, at least not so much with adults. I realized I had done that instinctively, had seared the pleasure right into my body. Like animals do. Why we love to watch them do that so much. I find myself waiting now for just an ordinary, good moment, so I can try it again.

(Please visit this site for more pictures by this wonderful photographer.) 

Every single beast

Every single being in this video is so beautiful. You will cry, it will be all right.

Thanks to Vicki GH for the link.

I shouldn't, I know...

OK, anyone who's had a cat knows this moment. A kitten, even more so. And you shouldn't laugh, but come on...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't... Even... Move

You should probably watch this about 50 times in a row and then once every morning. Note the feathers like breaking waves at the top of each wing.
Thank you to Carol for the link.

Didn't Get the Memo

 The extraordinary scene was captured by photography student Casey Gutteridge at the Santago Rare Leopard Project in Hertfordshire. The 19-year-old, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, who was photographing the leopard for a course project, was astounded by the mouse's behavior.

He said: 'I have no idea where the mouse came from - she just appeared in the enclosure after the keeper had dropped in the meat for the leopard. She didn't take any notice of the leopard, just went straight over to the meat and started feeding herself.' 

'But the leopard was pretty surprised - she bent down and sniffed the mouse and flinched a bit like she was scared. In the meantime the mouse just carried on eating like nothing had happened...

But even a gentle shove does not deter the little creature from getting her fill... 'It was amazing, even the keeper who had thrown the meat into the enclosure was shocked - he said he'd never seen anything like it before.'  

Project owner Jackie James added: 'Sheena batted the mouse a couple of times to try to get it away from her food.'  But the determined little thing took no notice and just carried on.'

Sheena was brought in to the Santago Rare Leopard Project from a UK zoo when she was just four months old.  She is one of 14 big cats in the private collection started by Jackie 's late husband Peter in 1989.  The African Leopard can be found in the continent's forests, grasslands, savannas, and rainforests.

The mouse continued to eat the leopard's lunch while the leopard continued to watch. 

Thank you to both Carolyn and Dana for the story.. 

Leave it alone

It is my consistent  luck, combined with a bit of conscious noticing, that when I am particularly perplexed, something often comes from the animal world to provide a little perspective. I was saved again recently when Ann and I had the extraordinary honor of housesitting for our friends in a small town whose location I shall keep secret so that it remains small.
I swear this town has been frozen in time, circa 1964. The streets are wide so kids and dogs roam them, it's right by the Sound, there is one store, and throughout a whole long weekend I did not hear one grass blower. Even the occasional lawnmower seemed to blend in with the sound of the wind and the water and happily buzzing bees.
We found ourselves there because of the odd phenomenon that if you know how to give rectal valium to a dog your stock goes up—at least with certain dog owners. And so we came to be hosted for a lovely weekend by dog Fox and cat MC.
MC let us share the loft.
While we were a little nervous to be on deck for a dog with seizures again, we also knew too well what it’s like to try to get away for awhile when your dog might need rectal valium quite suddenly. All we knew was that Fox had a brain tumor that had caused two seizures, but they'd been easily traceable to heat and stress. Fox merely had a little trouble walking, was all. The house turned out to be a log cabin, by the water, and within two hours' drive. We were sold.
When we wandered up the driveway we were greeted by loud barking. We grinned and entered the yard where a white dog leapt to his feet, fell, lurched in our direction, fell, then lurched a few feet more before we simply came to him, calling his name, letting him smell us. I have to admit we also did the classic double-take to each other over his head: what have we gotten ourselves into?
That night after dinner Holly took us around the neighborhood with Fox. Every 10 feet or so she’d haul him up by his harness when he fell, or head him off if he got too near a ditch. All the while she nonchalantly kept up a steady patter about his care, the neighborhood, the history of the town, her cabin, and so on. The looks Ann and I shared over Fox’s head grew into alarm as we watched our strange procession cover a square mile of town, all fraught with ditches, cars, and fading light.
That night we crawled into bed in the upstairs loft with MC, with a window slightly open “so you can hear Fox in his doghouse if he has a seizure.”
We spent the night fitfully, relieved that Holly wasn’t leaving until the next morning, and clearer now why she’d demurred when we’d offered to host Fox at our own house. 
The next day as the school bus sounded in the street, Fox leapt up from his spot in the yard, lurched and fell and lurched and fell all the way out the gate to the middle of the street to greet the kids. After the bus left, Holly did, too, explaining the rest of the routine: snack then walk then sleep then snack then walk then dinner. We were puzzled as to why there was such a routine and why she seemed not to have much hand in how that went.
From the minute Holly left Fox patiently trained us. We watched him fretfully, wincing every time he fell, stunned that we could actually hear his jaw clack when he hit the pavement. Then up he’d go, lurching off, smelling everything, clearly the alpha dog about town. 

That can’t be much of a life, I thought to myself.
The poor dog, Ann thought to herself. 

A one...

a two...

...and a three!

Off we went, or rather trailed, because it soon became clear that Fox had his entire day well planned. His route was clear, and our picking him up by his harness was merely a luxury that he appreciated but could do without easily.
He never took us on the same walk twice. He’d been a feral dog and knew every inch of the territory, which turned out to be pretty large. What’s more, everyone in the neighborhood knew him and they gazed at us curiously if a bit protectively (of Fox). We figured we’d see a few pitying shakes of the head when we met the neighbors but on the contrary, everyone greeted him with gusto and loved to tell us their part of his story. Over the course of a few days I learned exactly “what kind of life” Fox has:
    Dance up the street, get treats from human friends, sniff the bush where the new dog pissed, poop at the neighbors' house, investigate car—fur friend!—turn the corner using the entire intersection, drag humans up the street to the farm, listen to turkeys, smell turkeys, crest the hill in a long, diagonal lope, sniff the ditch–fur friend!—duck into the bushes for a pee, human friend—treats!—turn around slowly, training Ann and Caitlin to walk on either side for balance—cat!—play chicken with the cars, new yard, fence down, chickens! my gate! trundle in, water bowl brought up to mouth, nuther treat, find sunbeam, get scratched behind ears, pass out for a long nap, lurch out gate, pee, return and flop down, legs massaged, find shade, sleep all day—school bus!
I am not ready to stop sniffing... 

Our routine was set by the second morning. After the long, stimulating walk Ann and I were on our own for the day to nose around the beach, find hidden paths and learn all we could from the local newsletter posted at the one store. It took me awhile to discern what exactly was different about the signs of life from those in a big city:
When something was repaired, there was only a new board, not a whole fence. Things didn't "match." Nothing was "perfect." Yards were in progress, cars might be on their last legs but were used, and in interesting configurations, neighbors stood in the street talking to one another while cars waited. And kids were in abundance, not one accessorized with ear buds or gazing down at something digital. A pile of dirt in the middle of one street slowly disappeared over the course of several days, everyone just drove around it.
The thing that had perplexed me before I left: Aging, injury, brains letting go, illness, loss, the usual things I have no control over. At the other end of the weekend a mantra emerged: leave it alone. Everything I’d been grinding away at had to do with trying to change the course of life, of nature, of time. And when you simply stop doing that stuff, what kind of life does that leave? Quite a real one. 
Thank you Fox, MC, Holly, and John for a wonderful weekend. We can’t wait to come back. 

Ready to go.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Every morning when I drive to work I am moved, anew, by the site of a man doing his morning workout on the dock by the lake. He does push-ups, sit ups, jogs in place, all in the rain or shine. I mean, really, rain or... I often notice what isn't there. He isn't in spandex, just jeans and a T-shirt. He doesn't have some kind of gadget attached to him to verify that he is indeed, exercising. He doesn't have a hat. He doesn't have a special Northwest jacket. It's a nondescript one, usually lying on the dock beside him. Sometimes I can hardly make out his shape in the driving rain.  

The other part of the picture is a bird. Always. I used to think there was one gull who followed him. A kind of companionship borne of many mornings together. But sometimes it's a pigeon, sometimes a crow. One time there was a heron. Why? I love to speculate. Maybe because humans rarely stay in one place doing something without making noise. 

Next time you say "Crickets..."

Apparently I'm the only one who hasn't heard this, but on the off-chance that goes for you, too: This is the sound of a chorus of crickets slowed way down. Overlayed on that is the sound we usually hear.
(Thanks to Bridgett for the link!)


Photographer Seth Casteel used a high-resolution camera to catch dogs at their most insane: chasing you know what. Take a look at the whole gallery, I didn't want to steal. 

(Thanks to Kate for the link!)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


He was my buddy. A gift. A warrior on his path. 

I have written this post in my head for weeks but there is no right way to do it.

He succumbed to one final seizure, the whole thing lasted less than 90 seconds. He knew when to arrive and when to leave.

At first it was simply outrageously unfair, and all I could think about was robbery. Of future, of present, even of past, because now all memories are colored by his quick departure, the disbelief at it being about 10 years too early, if anyone were to check with me first. But then there was a shift. And there was communication. And there has been some peace. For which I am grateful. 

So he is both gone and he is here. He was both brave and a sacred clown. Looked at strictly from his point of view, he found the right house, the right people to help him do his work, and he moved leaps and bounds in a short amount of time. He wasn't in his body when he came to us. No one knew he was funny. He had no idea what it felt like to be welcomed back into the world after a seizure; it was obvious he had been punished. His gratitude was boundless, and so, soon, was ours. 

Here's another thing, and the reason I decided to say anything at all: if you ever wonder if writing a quick email or sending a card helps the grieving, it does. Ann and I are so grateful for all the outpouring of support, the words both clever and simple, the steady checking in, the endless listening to both our outrage and our joy. Thank you so much for your kindness. It always does help. 

Toksa ake, our kola Kola.

Now, there's a sendoff...

A worker at a lion park says goodbye to his charges on his last day The only question I have is why he would leave...

Cubs say goodbye.

(Thanks to PamF for the link!)


To owls, to cats, to musicians, to filmmakers, to bloggers, to brain, to heart, to life.
(Thanks to Sarah B for the link!)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Re-e-member what the dormouse said...

Speakers up. Way up. 

Hey Rocky!

OK, this story is silly but it cracks me up. 

Watch to the end

A lovely, gentle dance. At first it is mere food-luring, yet another trick to get some footage. And then...

(Thanks to my friend Jan for sending.) 
See more about the filmmaker here


Did you enjoy the snow? So did this crow! (Thanks to my friend Ruth for sending.) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This way, please

One of the many heartbreaking effects of trying to create solutions to counter the destruction of animal habitat is that the animals often wait for years to see if they're safe. Then people declare the solution a failure and move on to the Next New Thing. But when they wait, animals often start using the new pathway, or safe fence, or discover the new prey, abandoning their domestic animal meals.
So everybody gets pretty excited when a human solution works. Hence the picture that flew around the world extolling the virtues of the "elk crossing" solution in Banff, Alberta Canada. 

Only it isn't true.
It's even better than that. This is not a wildlife corridor built by animal-lovin' engineers. It's the Canadian Pacific Railroad overpass; according to local residents the elk and other wildlife have learned to use the railroad bridge to safely cross the busy highway.
Source:, my favorite Myth-busting site.

Spaghetti Night

Pedro? Can you feed the dog tonight? My meeting's running late.


Animals always seem so much more together than humans. So giving, living in the present, calm and centered--sound of record scratch. Yeah, right. 
We are enjoying a lovely visit with our neighbor dog Bill, who has long been known as a gentleman. Gave up his bed (and humans) to our beloved late Molly, shares his food, sits at the edges, not taking anyone's bed or favorite chair, or running rampage over the other animals' things. Even takes swats from the cat.

But Kola is jealous.

Pouty, nose-pushing, baleful-staring jealous. This makes no "sense." We make sure to pet him 100 times more than Bill, and still he tries to butt Bill out of the way, staring at us as if we had tied him up in the yard during a blizzard.  Stricken. He is deeply committed to his jealousy.  True, he's a shelter dog and never bonded with any humans before us. He will not easily give up what he's only just learned to adore.

In the face of this drama I can see that humans do try to grow, do try to overcome all these raw displays critters perform without any shame. 

At Earthfire InstituteBluebell the Bison swung her great head swiftly over at Fofie the horse, lest there be one tiny pet for horse over bison. Fofie knows the rules and sneaks in her requests when Bison grazes elsewhere.

This week I was struck with the concept of alchemy. Everyone around me is saying they are aware on some level, be it dreams, events in their lives, or simply the world's turning, that things are moving at an accelerated pace. Faster than ever, and no one knows why. But we all feel it.

In my dream I saw the two coming together, alchemy and this new pace. You stick your hands out into the air and whatever is in them alchemizes into more of itself, or something else. If you're holding crap, it turns into more crap. There is a scene in the new film Melancholia where Justine puts her hands in the air and sees electricity dance right off her fingertips.

I'm assuming if you are holding gratitude it'll turn into something even grander (since I just discovered this formula, I realize I have been holding only crap). I have been focusing on all the "bad luck" to come to my family in the last few months. Wow, I say, it's like it accelerates into more badness. Hey! Light (finally) dawns: Then the same would hold true for the good stuff.

So now I am excitedly trying this discovery out: placing good things into the air to see if they alchemize into better things. So far so good.

And, meeting the acceleration with my own in the form of ritual. I used to feel pleased if I could get in a walk or a prayer or two every day. But now I'm going to try something every hour if possible, accelerating my attending to my own grounding. My wise friend Pam called it a touchstone, something that has meaning for you, if mysterious to others. Picking up a rock, placing it a few feet away.  Brushing my hand over a tree trunk on the walkway in front of my office. Small, but distinct. 

The other night I was in a very rich neighborhood and it made me a little uneasy. The ol' junior high "I don't belong here" feeling. I was about to slide into the whole cycle of not-belonging when I decided to try something else. I had a walnut in my pocket of all things. I dropped the walnut casually on the ground just before going inside, smiling at the thought of some crow or squirrel finding it, or even someone rushing madly to their job, hopping into their BMW, pausing for just a second to see the incongruous walnut on the ground. Taking advantage of my human mind and its relationship to my animal heart.