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Turnabout Is Fair Play

My dog Ruby and I put in a few miles every day. Keeping a Beagle, essentially a running dog, happy in a condominium is an exercise in, well, exercise.

Each day we walk out about three times, in addition to numerous potty breaks. This keeps Ruby sane and the benefits for me have been a weight loss, increased cardiovascular fitness, and a greater knowledge of the area I live in. Plus, walking a cute little doggie helps you met people.

I’ve been searching for places Ruby can run around off-leash. Short on habitable land, this island is not a particularly dog-friendly place. I’ve fretted and grieved over this for a long time. My heart breaks remembering her white-tipped tail swinging back and forth to the beat of her heart as she trundled happily through the fields at home in Virginia, in search of bunnies and other game, which she never seemed to catch (OK with me) but still sought with vigor and glee.

There’s plenty of “game” for Ruby here in Hawaii, too. The mongoose is a tantalizing target, along with the sneaky and ubiquitous feral cats. But Beagles are noses with dogs attached. There’s no telling what will happen when freed from the bonds of a leash. As sad as it has made me to keep her leashed (and to be fair, she doesn’t seem to mind), I really really want to let her loose.

Lately we’ve been joining the ranks of the golf course scofflaws and walking there after hours. At five o’clock, we set out on the makai (or sea-ward) section of the course and walk it until we get to the sea just in time for the sunset. This involves split second and cooperative timing with the maintenance guy who rides around in a cart turning the sprinklers on and off. I’d heard horror stories about what happens if you get caught with a dog on the golf course. I planned to plead innocence and haole (derogatory term for white person from the mainland) stupidity, proffering my poop bags and sporting my un-tan as a defense. Turns out it wasn’t necessary, because they guy likes Ruby. He always waves and winks, which I take as tacit permission to be there. I pray for his good health, because I never want to meet his fill-in.

I finally worked up the courage to let Ruby off the leash on the golf course, and it made my heart sing to watch her gallop across the grass, stopping short to sniff any promising olfactory features. Beagles are not known for obedience. Their ears stop working when their noses are engaged, so I was pretty impressed that she came to me when I called her. This elderly lady of the mountains does not have to learn new tricks, but she is willing and cooperative. Dogs amaze me.

After watching the sunset with some appreciative tourists who welcomed the licks and drool (they missed their dogs at home), we went home, Ruby pleasantly exhausted and filled with a new sense of freedom, me vibrating with triumph and the sense that I’d found a way to make her happy in a world I’d worried would not be kind to her.

The next day, it got even better. We walked to the place I call Disneyland because for Ruby, it is loaded with underbrush, briars, two inch long thorns and every small, furry animal species on the island. It’s heaven for a nose and bundle of hunting instinct. We had always gone to Disneyland on the leash because I was afraid of losing her. All the underbrush grows on piles of lava rock, and the holes and small caves are hidden from view. Until you step into one. The mutual exclusivity of hearing and sniffing virtually guarantees a refusal to come when called. I didn’t want to have to chase her down and break an ankle. But I want Ruby to be happy. Sometimes happiness involves risk, doesn’t it?

Swelling with the triumph of yesterday’s off-leash run, I removed Ruby’s leash and said, “go on!” And she did. I heard her sing in a way I haven’t heard in almost a year. The voice of a hound who has “found” produces goosebumps, or “chicken skin” as they say here in Hawaii. Soon she found a little lava tunnel covered in old grass and briars which held some secret, promising quarry. What happened next was both beautiful and amusing.

Short “finding” yelps accompanied frenzied bouts of digging (no need to clip this dog’s nails!). Gradually I watched Ruby disappear into the tunnel until only the happy tip of her tail metronomed out of the entry. Incredibly, cantaloupe-sized rocks hurled out of the hole. I can’t imagine how she did this. Occasionally Ruby would back out for a gulp of air, bark, and scoot back in. Then she took to backing out and approaching the tunnel from what she though was the rear entrance. It was a fascinating lesson in Beagle hunting.

I stood and watched her for over an hour. In the blistering afternoon sun. It had recently rained, so the black flies were out. Eugh. As it always does, attention wandered. I watched a group of Lavender Waxbills among the blossoms of the enormous Schefflera tree that provided the only shade–an area I could not safely get to. I began to get impatient. I was too hot. The little bag of poop I was holding was a fly magnet. My back hurt. I had a lot of work to do. Ruby was taking too long to have her fun.

Then that little voice in my head said,

It’s Ruby’s turn to make you wait!

And that started me thinking about the human-domestic animal relationship, and how often and how long we ask them to accommodate our schedules, our desires, our convenience.

Ruby waits for me all day long. In fact, every hour we are not walking, she is waiting. Waiting to walk, waiting to eat, dependent upon me for the execution of any and everything that would ordinarily fall under the umbrella of her canine free will. Domestication. It’s a b*tch.

Horses are different. At least if they have adequate turnout. It seems all they want to do is graze. Loll about in the weather, whatever it may be. But there are times when I get the distinct impression that they are waiting. And that feels wrong.

Your thoughts?

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Science Friday: Have You Heard This? The Cosmos Are Within Us

This came to me from the night sky (well, really my sister via email) after writing We Are All Made of Stars. Watch this amazing video

We are made of star stuff. We have travelled this way before and there is much to be learned.

The true meaning of the much overuse word, awe asserts istelf when I consider that we have about a teaspoon-full of star matter from 13 billion years ago in our bodies today.

Though individual humans are infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things, we are one with whatever that scheme is.

Visit Symphony of Science for more cool stuff

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Honoring Our Animals’ Best Purpose

How do we know we are honoring our horses’ desired purpose?

Most of use have horses in our lives to serve our own needs, whether they be emotional, physical (competition, sport), or social (the companionship of others who ride).

I think it’s important to listen to the subtle cues our horses give us to tell us what THEY want to contribute in our lives. At the last TTouch training I attended, one of the horses we were lucky enough to work on was 25 years old, and had yet to be ridden by his rescuer due to his behavioral issues. No one begrudged him those issues. He had been neglected and abused before coming to her. His owner was there to see whether or not this sweet little fellow should be ridden. He was physically capable. His behavioral issues could certainly be overcome using the loving techniques shown us there. But when the owner expressed her desire to get the horse under saddle, Linda Tellington-Jones asked, “Is this the best thing for him? What does HE want to do?”

My friend Anna sent this to me last week, and though it features a dog, it speaks to the hearts and minds of animals, and to the gifts of the people who really listen to them. Enjoy.

Of course, I realize that not everyone has the luxury of asking. Animals provide life-sustaining service all over the world. Somehow chatting about something that sounds frivolous like, “Gee Mr. Ed, what do you want to do today? Wanna go to the mall?” worries me when set against the profundity of the struggle for survival that the human-animal partnership signifies in most of the world. This post is NOT ABOUT THAT. This is about horses as our companions in leisure and sport.


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What Ho, Is There A Baby In the House?

What Ho, Is There A Baby In the House?

Snuffle, snuffle, whine. Scratch.

Ruby Beagle is at the bedroom door. “I need to go outside, mom.”

*sigh* It’s 2:30 a.m. and about 40 below outside. I love to exaggerate.

It’s dark inside. I don’t look around, because I expect that all will be as it should.

Huh? What’s that I spy on the floor? Where in the world did a tiny pink baby sock come from?

Nothing else is out of place. The doors are locked securely. We now have a stealthy, uninvited baby in the house, shedding its footwear with apparent abandon.

Whoever you are, come and get your baby. I’m keeping the sock.

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We Are All Made of Stars

We Are All Made of Stars

The day before yesterday I went to Halema’uma’u Crater on Kialuea Volcano with my friend Stan. Up there it was cool, windy, and desolate. I knew what to expect, but I was still floored by the cataclysmic vista. It was what I always pictured as the desolation of Smaug or the end of the road at Mount Doom when Frodo and Sam are nearly there. People talk about Mother Nature and creation, and we imagine flowers, birds, etc., but rarely do we see in our mind’s eye the real thing: how the earth is really born. New earth is created from fantastic devastation, beautiful and terrifying in its scale.

Halema'uma'u Crater

Halema'uma'u Crater

Here you can see live webcam images from the Volcano: US Geological Service.

Life at elevation is different. I am totally in love with the cottage and the life here at Volcano, and so are my pets.

Rubydog is in Beagle Ecstasy. Here, she has the luxury of rolling in the grass, or lounging in the sun. She can investigate the little glade behind the cottage, dreaming of the pheasants and Nene Birds she might capture off leash. For once, I can relax completely and know that Ruby Beagle is content and will not take off and lose herself.

Volcano Cottage is also Feline Paradise. The cats lie about, expressing their innate indolence with little kitty smiles on their faces.

While I’m watching the animals, I enjoy the Volcano breeze that reminds me of Virginia in the springtime–still such a surprise to me that Hawaii can be like this. I leave the door to the cottage wide open to invite it all inside.
Silvery olive and eucalyptus trees shimmer in the thin air, causing Ruby to lift her head from the enticing scents on the ground.
There is the occasional call of a distant rooster, another temptation for Ruby. I’m so proud that she doesn’t race off to murder and mayhem.
I am reveling in my animals’ newfound freedom, one they haven’t felt since we moved to Hawaii. This joy is somewhat tempered by its flip side of guilt. I wish they could always be so free.

It’s not just the daytime that’s delightful here. The night sky is staggering in its infinite blackness. The stars actually give a sense of aliveness. The silence here is deep. Few people live here year round, and there is a sense of isolation. I am aware of the forces of sky and earth. Between them, human beings are so small. Against the sky, my tiny life, with all its drama, is really nothing.

I like to think that everyone contemplates infinity at least once a day and is comforted by the fact that we are are made of stars.

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Surfing Isn't Easy

Surfing down the backside of a huge wave of negativity. It’s unfortunate that it’s hard to pause at the apex and turn to view the peaceful sea all around. I’m nearly fifty years old. When will I learn to do this?

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