Tag: Wildlife Images

The book! Part Two: We are all connected.

Mankind, Nature and Dogs

We are all connected – The biological interconnectedness of all conscious life.

I sit here writing the draft of this book in the Summer of 2014, a stone’s throw from the small community of Merlin in Southern Oregon where my wife and I and numerous animals, including nine dogs and four horses, live in thirteen acres of very rural countryside. Just a few miles away from us is a place known as Wildlife Images, or to give them their full name Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center. As their website declares, “The facility was created in order to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

We visit Wildlife Images frequently, especially when we have guests staying with us.

There is an enclosure for the otters and on one of the surrounding glass screens is engraved a Native American Proverb: “We will be forever known by the tracks we leave.

The first time I stood and read the words I was struck by something very profound, yet something that struggled to surface in my mind as a clearly articulated idea. Part of me embraced the irony of a race of people, the many tribes of the ancient North American Indians, that history suggests lived very much in harmony with the land, leaving a message to another race of people, modern man, who not only subjugated those native Indians but proceeded to despoil much of the vastness of what we today call the United States of America.

Granted, that word ‘despoil’ is a bit harsh in the direct sense that millions of acres of this continent remain as open, unspoilt countryside, but when one thinks about what Americans have exported in terms of technology and culture right across the planet then, maybe, despoil isn’t being too unfair. Exported, of course, to millions of eager recipients in dozens of other countries. This is a failure of modern man, not of any one country.

Returning to my reactions to that glass-engraved proverb, the only other thought that surfaced was that we, as in all of humanity, are living in such very strange times, times in which the tracks that we have been leaving over the last, say sixty years, indicate a path towards a future oblivion.

—-

In July, 2014, Stanford Biology Professor, Rodolfo Dirzo, and his colleagues, issued a warning that the present rate of what he called “defaunation” could have harmful downstream effects on human health. Professor Dirzo explained that despite the “planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error being the highest in the history of life” we may have reached a tipping point.

The warning explained that more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates had become extinct since the year 1500 and that, since then, “Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

Professor Dirzo further went on to explain that “while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity.” He even gave this era a name: the era of the “Anthropocene defaunation.

The current die-off can be associated to human activity”. Surely, this is the irony of all ironies. By that I mean the die-off of modern man being a direct consequence of the actions directly associated with modern man. Wow!

It seems to me that whichever way we look, the interconnectedness of all conscious life is staring at us full in the face. Of course we are all interconnected. Not just all of mankind but all of conscious life. Ergo, the destruction of natural habitats, the loss of every species, even the unwarranted killing of a wild animal is, in a very real and tangible way, the destruction of our own habitat, the loss of the species that is us, and the unwarranted killing of future generations of that same species: homo sapiens.

Now it would be perfectly reasonable to see this as a temporary distraction that has affected, or should the word be infected, mankind since the end of the Second World War, a relatively modern example of a new-style madness of our species. Some may claim that our continuing destruction of our habitat is an ingrained characteristic; a blindness beyond comprehension to the consequences of our actions. I see it in clearer terms. That the relative peace and prosperity of these last seven decades, the incredible gains in terms of medical science and human life-span, and above all our global population, have combined to bring about a growth in the demands on our planet that has taken us to a point where our consumption is now way beyond that which is sustainable. That millions of people who live comparatively comfortable lives have lost their connection with the planet, or more properly put, their connection with the laws of nature of the planet.

To further reinforce the argument that we are beyond a point of living sustainably on the only planet we can call home, consider the figures regarding the growth of the human population.

The first billion inhabitants of this planet did not occur until 1800. The next billion was clocked up one hundred and twenty-seven years later, in 1927. The third billion arrived in 1960, just thirty-three years after 1927. Since 1960 we have been increasing our presence on our planet by a billion people every fourteen years or so. Now fifty years or so after 1960 we have a global population of over seven billion: 7.183 billion[1] to be precise.

Several recent studies[2] show that Planet Earth’s resources are enough to sustain only about two billion people, at a European standard of living that is, so the global population of over seven billion is already two to three times higher than what is sustainable, stably so, over any period of time. That’s even before we consider that the typical European, on average, consumes only about half the planet’s resources of the typical American.

Yet despite the drama of these numbers, despite the daily headlines all over the world offering examples of our collective madness, so many do not sense the peril of our ways. It is almost as though we have become immune to some form of potential global suicide.

The global population of over seven billion people, from the top to the bottom in terms of living standards, are using about fifty percent more resources than our planet Earth is capable of producing. Or to put it another way: If we take the past twelve months, you and I and the rest of the 7.2 billion of us, have consumed the resources that it took the planet about eighteen months to produce. We are consuming our own resource base.

No, that previous sentence, about consuming our own resource base, despite the truth of the statement, comes over as too bland, too unemotional, to my way of thinking. Let me turn to E. F. Schumacher and one of his quotes: “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.” That says it much better!

It could be argued, and frequently is so argued, that these are the end times for mankind, the end of the era of materialism and consumption, that we are past a number of critical tipping-points, past any chance of saving mankind from massive and widespread extinction. I would admit to being drawn to this ‘end of the world’ chant because whichever way one looks the challenges and problems far outweigh the solutions. But there’s another quote that frequently tickles my consciousness, the one that goes, “Never underestimate the power of the unintended consequence”. I have no idea who penned it but that doesn’t weaken the power of the quotation.

What I sense, in some barely-conscious manner, is that the interconnectedness of all living things, and I use the term interconnectedness in the broadest way possible, is the power-house, the engine, of huge unintended consequences that will illustrate the unarguable logic of Mr. Schumacher’s quotation. Because soon nature will remind mankind that we are part of nature, not in charge of nature. Nature will not only offer the solution to our present massive imbalance with our planet, but will enforce it.

Of course, I have no idea what nature’s solution will mean to me and my loved ones. Maybe being born a 1944 baby, I will not live sufficiently long to see the future clearly. However, of one thing I am clear. The sooner every human being starts living a life of balance with the planet, starts learning the way to live from all of nature including our nearest companions, our dogs, then the sooner the power of interconnectedness redeems us all.

It takes an ancient proverb from a people that lived in harmony with the planet to speak the truth. We ignore it at our peril.


[1] Estimate as of 2013 by the United States Census Bureau (USCB.
[2] WorldPopulation.org website

1,484 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

The tracks we leave.

We will be forever known by the tracks we leave.

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The power of the truth.

When I saw that proverb I was deeply affected. Hence me taking the photograph.

It was seen etched onto a glass panel that was part of the otter enclosure at our nearby Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, just a few miles from where we live in Merlin, OR.

Here’s why I was so affected.

My draft book of the same name as this blog is slowly coming together and I’m at the 30,000-word mark. A while ago, John Hurlburt, a good friend of this blog, was chatting to me and he spoke about the “interconnectedness of all conscious life”. It immediately appealed to me as a chapter in the book.

But while it was obvious to me that all conscious life is connected, for some time I struggled to achieve any clarity about what I wanted to write. Seeing that proverb kicked off the journey towards clarity.

Thus, today, I wanted to share the steps of that journey so far.

Over on the Skeptical Science blogsite there is a post, dated 15th April, 2010, with the title of Earth’s five mass extinction events. The author, John Cook, opens:

As climate changes, a major question is whether nature can adapt to the changing conditions? The answer lies in the past. Throughout Earth’s history, there have been periods where climate changed dramatically. The response was mass extinction events, when many species went extinct followed by a very slow recovery. The history of coral reefs gives us an insight into the nature of these events as reefs are so enduring and the fossil record of corals is relatively well known (Veron 2008). What we find is reefs were particularly impacted in mass extinctions, taking many millions of years to recover. These intervals are known as “reef gaps”.

Figure 1: Timeline of mass extinction events. The five named vertical bars indicate mass extinction events. Black rectangles (drawn to scale) represent global reef gaps and brick-pattern shapes show times of prolific reef growth (Veron 2008).
Figure 1: Timeline of mass extinction events. The five named vertical bars indicate mass extinction events. Black rectangles (drawn to scale) represent global reef gaps and brick-pattern shapes show times of prolific reef growth (Veron 2008).

So what, one might ask?

Well, forget about millions of years ago. Just 12 days ago, there was a news item released by Stanford University. It read in full:

July 24, 2014

Stanford biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event

Stanford Biology Professor Rodolfo Dirzo and his colleagues warn that this “defaunation” could have harmful downstream effects on human health.

The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what

Elephants and other large animals face an increased risk of extinction in what Stanford Biology Professor Rodolfo Dirzo terms "defaunation." (Claudia Paulussen/Shutterstock)
Elephants and other large animals face an increased risk of extinction in what Stanford Biology Professor Rodolfo Dirzo terms “defaunation.” (Claudia Paulussen/Shutterstock)

appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”

Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.

Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.

Although these species represent a relatively low percentage of the animals at risk, their loss would have trickle-down effects that could shake the stability of other species and, in some cases, even human health.

For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.

Consequently, the number of rodents doubles – and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.

“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”

The scientists also detailed a troubling trend in invertebrate defaunation. Human population has doubled in the past 35 years; in the same period, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45 percent.

As with larger animals, the loss is driven primarily by loss of habitat and global climate disruption, and could have trickle-up effects in our everyday lives.

For instance, insects pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world’s food crops, an estimated 10 percent of the economic value of the world’s food supply. Insects also play a critical role in nutrient cycling and decomposing organic materials, which helps ensure ecosystem productivity. In the United States alone, the value of pest control by native predators is estimated at $4.5 billion annually.

Dirzo said that the solutions are complicated. Immediately reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation would help, but these approaches need to be tailored to individual regions and situations. He said he hopes that raising awareness of the ongoing mass extinction – and not just of large, charismatic species – and its associated consequences will help spur change.

“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”

The coauthors on the report include Hillary S. Young, University of California, Santa Barbara; Mauro Galetti, Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Gerardo Ceballos, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Nick J.B. Isaac, of the Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England; and Ben Collen, of University College London.

For more Stanford experts on ecology and other topics, visit Stanford Experts.

It hardly requires any imagination to realise that what we humans need in order to live, air, food, and clean water, is utterly dependant on us humans caring for the planet that sustains us.  It’s all too easy just to take for granted that we will always have air, food and clean water. Now go back and read that last sentence from Professor Dirzo. [my emphasis]

We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well. Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.

The tracks we leave! H’mmm.

Let me move on in my journey.

Over on the EarthSky blogsite there was an item about the mysterious giant crater that appeared suddenly in Siberia.

Mystery crater in Yamal peninsula probably caused by methane release

Thawing permafrost likely allowed methane gas to be released, creating the large hole in permafrost found in northern Russia, says the Russian team that investigated it.

UPDATE July 31, 2014.

Stories are popping up fast in various media this afternoon about a likely source of a reported, mysterious hole in permafrost in the Yamal region of northern Russia. This hole was

The first mysterious crater spotted by helicopter in the Yamal region of northern Russia. Image via Nature.
The first mysterious crater spotted by helicopter in the Yamal region of northern Russia. Image via Nature.

spotted by a helicopter pilot in mid-July; reindeer herders reported a second hole some days later. Eric Holthaus of Slate said that there is now:

… new (and definitive) evidence … that the Siberian holes were created via methane released from warming permafrost.

The evidence has come via the journal Nature, which published a story on its website today (July 31) featuring the findings of Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, and his team. This is the team that was sent in to investigate the first hole shortly after it was found. Holthaus said:

That team measured methane concentrations up to 50,000 times standard levels inside the crater.

The story in Nature said:

Air near the bottom of the crater contained unusually high concentrations of methane — up to 9.6% — in tests conducted at the site on 16 July … Plekhanov, who led an expedition to the crater, says that air normally contains just 0.000179% methane …

Plekhanov and his team believe that it is linked to the abnormally hot Yamal summers of 2012 and 2013, which were warmer than usual by an average of about 5°C. As temperatures rose, the researchers suggest, permafrost thawed and collapsed, releasing methane that had been trapped in the icy ground.

Holthaus pointed out:

Last week, the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin interviewed a Russian scientist who had also visited the hole and came to similar conclusions.

This newly reported evidence, just coming to light today, seems particularly scary given the story earlier this week about what the University of Stockholm called “vast methane plumes” found by scientists aboard the icebreaker Oden, which is now exploring and measuring methane release from the floor of the Arctic Ocean.

Build-up and release of gas from thawing permafrost most probable explanation, says Russian team.

My last step in the journey about our interconnectedness involves water.

The Permaculture Research Institute published on the 31st July a Water Resources Fact Sheet. Here’s a taste (sorry!) of what was written:

Water scarcity may be the most underrated resource issue the world is facing today.
Water scarcity may be the most underrated resource issue the world is facing today.

Seventy percent of world water use is for irrigation.

Each day we drink nearly 4 liters of water, but it takes some 2,000 liters of water — 500 times as much — to produce the food we consume.

1,000 tons of water is used to produce 1 ton of grain.

Between 1950 and 2000, the world’s irrigated area tripled to roughly 700 million acres. After several decades of rapid increase, however, the growth has slowed dramatically, expanding only 9 percent from 2000 to 2009. Given that governments are much more likely to report increases than decreases, the recent net growth may be even smaller.

The dramatic loss of momentum in irrigation expansion coupled with the depletion of underground water resources suggests that peak water may now be on our doorstep.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers — China, India, and the United States.

Saudi Arabia is the first country to publicly predict how aquifer depletion will reduce its grain harvest. It will soon be totally dependent on imports from the world market or overseas farming projects for its grain.

While falling water tables are largely hidden, rivers that run dry or are reduced to a trickle before reaching the sea are highly visible. Among this group that has limited outflow during at least part of the year are the Colorado, the major river in the southwestern United States; the Yellow, the largest river in northern China; the Nile, the lifeline of Egypt; the Indus, which supplies most of Pakistan’s irrigation water; and the Ganges in India’s densely populated Gangetic basin.

(The rest of this important article including the many useful links may be read here.)

Now, despite the despondent theme of the contents of this post, I am not beating a ‘doom and gloom’ drum. What I am trying to point out is that we are all interconnected.  Not just all of mankind but all conscious life.  Ergo, the destruction of natural habitats, the loss of every species, even the unwarranted killing of a wild animal is, in a very real and tangible way, the destruction of our habitat, the loss of our species and the unwarranted killing of future generations of homo sapiens.

It seems that whichever way we look the interconnectedness of all conscious life is staring us full in the face.  The utter madness of mankind’s group blindness is beyond comprehension.

It takes an ancient proverb from a people that lived in harmony with the planet to speak the truth. We ignore it at our peril.

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Helping a pair of young birds.

Hoping that this story of rescuing some young birds may be of help to others.

Last Saturday afternoon we were sitting outside under the shade with the ‘kitchen’ group of dogs enjoying themselves.

Jean and I noticed Casey taking a great interest in something on the ground.  Casey is a keen explorer as this photograph from earlier in the year demonstrates.

Casey demonstrating a dog's focussing skills!
Casey demonstrating a dog’s focussing skills!

The something that had caught Casey’s attention was a small baby bird that had fallen from a nearby nest.  We called Casey away and went across to see the tiny creature whereupon Jean picked up the baby bird.

The patch of ground where the birds were found.
The patch of ground where the birds were found.

Frankly, we didn’t have a clue as to what to do but called Wildlife Images, just a few miles away from where we live.  As the Wildlife Images website explains:

Our guiding principles are the foundation for “why” we do what we do. These principles guide us in our work, our relationships with each other, our guests, supporters, sponsors, and vendors.

PURPOSE
Saving Wildlife

VISION
Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center is the educational leader of a healthy co-existence with our wildlife neighbors by rehabilitation sick, injured, and orphaned animals.

MISSION
Involve – people to share in our vision.
Educate – children and adults about the personal benefits of taking care of wildlife entrusted to our care.
Inspire – the public to engage in our rehabilitation and education efforts.

Jean and I had previously visited the centre and been impressed with their dedication to saving wildlife.

Over the phone we were told that the best thing to do was try and find the old nest and replace the baby bird within the nest.  If all else failed then bring the bird across to Wildlife Images.

Frankly, we struggled to find the nest but at least got a ladder up against the likely tree from where the bird had fallen.

It was as we were getting the ladder in place that we discovered another tiny bird on the ground in amongst the dead leaves and ground cover.  Now we had two birds and knew we were struggling to do the right thing for these vulnerable creatures.

We drove across to Wildlife Images and they advised us to build an artificial nest and hang that up in the tree.  The call of the baby birds would attract the mother and, with a bit of luck, the mother would return to feeding the chicks again.  We were also told to speak quietly around the baby birds so that they wouldn’t imprint on our voice.  Apparently that was the greater risk of them being rejected rather than the smell of humans on their little bodies.

So back home we went and soon had a makeshift ‘nest’ in place.

Would it work?
Would it work?

Once the ‘nest box’ was in place, it was time to place the youngsters in their new home.

Good luck, my little things.
Good luck, my little things.

We left the birds in peace and went inside for a while.  Our fear was that they might try leaping out.

Then curiosity got the better of us and we needed to see if they were still alright.  So a couple of hours later, I took the following photograph.

Against all odds!
Against all odds!

The evening approached and we feared for their fate.

Then miracle of miracles we saw the mother come to them and start feeding her offspring.

We retired for the day content that we had done all we could.

Then on Sunday morning, bright and early, we went outside again.  Had they survived the night?  Had the mother returned to feed them this second day?

We heard nothing: saw nothing. Feared the worst.

It was no good, I had to climb the ladder and take a peek.

Still alive!
Still alive!

They were still in the land of the living!

Yet, there was still no sign of the mother.

Jean and I sat under our nearby gazebo and tried hard not to fear the worst.  My camera was on my lap.

Then Jean saw a flash of feathers.  It was the mother arriving to feed her young.

I was able to take the following picture.

Not the best quality picture but so what!  It's proof the birds are being cared for by their mother.
Not the best quality picture but so what! It’s proof the birds are being cared for by their mother.

In the scheme of things, rescuing a couple of small birds doesn’t add up to much.  But I’ll tell you! When Jean and I saw the mother feeding her young both of us were a little wet around the eyes!

I Am Leader

A short story from author Wendy Scott.

Back in July, I published a post reviewing Traveling Light, the novel by Andrea Thalasinos.  At the end of that post, I made the following offer.

Now here’s an offer.

Wiley has offered a free copy of Andrea’s book as a ‘give-away’ from Learning from Dogs.  Here’s the plan.

Would you like to write a story about any aspect of the relationship that dogs can have with humans?

Any length, truth or fiction; it doesn’t matter.  Email your story to me to be received by the end of Wednesday, 31st July 2013, Pacific Daylight Time …… [and] I will publish every one received.

Just one story was received, from Wendy, and the promised free copy of Andrea’s book has been mailed to her.

So here is that short story.

oooOOOooo

I Am Leader

The water was angry today. I watched as it tore the tall trees from their roots, thundering, roaring, snapping them, toppling them.

I watched as the angry water shredded the shore. I watched as its fury snatched my pup, my baby, sweeping her away like a dying twig torn from the mother tree.

I am hunter. I am leader.

But now I am nothing.

I ran after my pup, tried to grab her by the nape, take her back. But I failed. I saw her paddle in the froth, scramble atop a long gnarled broken bole that was once a tree. My pup shook, her ears flattened, her tail tucked. She cried. I watched the cold, angry froth take her.

My mind sang with the cry of my little grey pup that I could not save, the little one who would never learn about the hunter, the leader.

I picked my way, shivering, along a path — it used to be our way to good hunting, to the forest edge where the deer grazed as near as yesterday. Now…

My left shoulder ached where the water nearly took me, hurled a branch at me in frustration. I fell and dragged myself away from the collapsing shore, to higher ground. The rain poured and sleeted to drench the shambles left by water that continued to roar and foam. Mud slid through my feet, gusts took my breath.

It was very cold. My ears twitched, hearing nothing beyond the roar of the fury. Water is very noisy when it is angry. The others, my sisters, my mate, I could not scent them, hear them, see them.

The day retreated. I blinked to see better, my eyes wide, but they saw nothing that I could recognise. My nose and ears twitched and twisted — nothing. I could hear my little grey one, my pup; she shivered and cried in my mind, but my eyes and ears, my nose … she was gone.

I stumbled over broken branches, a drowned fox, mice flushed from their holes, a broken-necked bird, bushes overturned and torn apart, walls of fallen trees. Daylight was lost in a twilight.

Now, I scented a 2-legged. I stilled. Crackling. Smoke, deep and hard to breath. Rabbit, burnt. These were the smells I knew of the 2-leggeds. One was near.

I crouched and crept. Yellow-orange light bounced and throbbed through the jumble of once-forest. I remained low, but now I could hear. The 2-legged rustled. It was noisy and careless while its fire snapped. And the rabbit smell was very faint, distorted.

I could see it now, this 2-legged, seated in that foolish way 2-leggeds have, crossing one foot over the other. It rustled again and held a big stick over its fire — the stick jabbed through the rabbit. The rabbit’s fur was gone from its blackened body, abandoned near the 2-legged’s thigh.

My stomach twitched. My mouth filled with hunger. I took another step.

The 2-legged looked up and over. He saw me, then quickly looked away.

I am hunter, I am leader — you do not meet my gaze unless you want to be punished.

I crouched, readied myself to spring.

The 2-legged stood. I eased back. My back paws met the tangled once-forest left of the water’s anger and stopped me. I tensed.

But the 2-legged lifted the big stick with its rabbit, tore a haunch with its hand. It looked directly at me again — no, I am hunter, I am leader — and threw the haunch at me. The burnt meat landed close to my feet.

The 2-legged looked away and returned to its foolish, awkward sitting. It tore ragged bites from the burnt rabbit, holding the big stick between the paws of its upper limbs.

My stomach demanded food. I scented the burnt rabbit, the smell of blood faint and smoky. I did not hunt the rabbit, I am not like the vultures and scavengers … but I was hungry. I nosed it, picked it up and turned away from the 2-legged. The flesh was warm. It sated. I licked my paws, swiped my whiskers and jowls to groom.

For a moment, my mind tricked me. I heard my pup. I scented my mate, my others, we were sated, we curled together, our warm bodies close, to sleep through the long cold night.

I opened my eyes. I was alone.

Except the 2-legged. Its odour was unmistakable, deer hide, rabbit, something sweetly sour I thought must be its own scent, not the ones borrowed by the other animals it ate or draped over its body.

I studied the 2-legged. It had curled on its side. The fire beside it throbbed yellow and orange, throwing strange shadows where they should not be. When I looked away, my sight was poor. I would not look directly at the fire again.

All was silent, save the angry water behind us. We lived. Nothing else lived. The water took everything.

I dreamed of my mate, his powerful howls alerting our cousins of our hunt; the deer was warm, its blood and flesh giving us another day of life. The deer was old and slow, an easy hunt. Its time had come; we knew that, understood it, this deer and our pack.

I dreamed of my sisters, nipping at my pup, teasing her to chase them in mock hunts. I dreamed of my brothers, circling and securing our family. My pack. My life.

We slept.

The day hung low and grey. Overnight, the angry water had become a sussurrating hiss behind us.

With its strange flat feet and its big stick, the 2-legged was tossing dirt and wet leaves over the ash where the fire and the rabbit had been. The old fire flared briefly. A cool damp gust caught some of the sparks and swept them high. A bird swooped near to see, then lost interest, flapped its wings to gain height.

The smell in the air was smoke and faint rabbit scent. It was upturned earth and rot and rain.

The 2-legged’s odour wore the smoke and long-dead deer.

The 2-legged came close. It looked at me — no — I am hunter, I am leader, you do not meet my gaze. But it was stupid and foolish, this 2-legged, like a pup that had not yet learned. It neared me. I growled, prepared to attack.

Surely it could see my flattened ears, my lowered shoulders?

No, it was stupid. It walked passed me.

I watched. The 2-legged paused and turned. It swung one of its upper limbs down low, then away, a sweeping motion. Strange language. It did not lower its ears, or roll on its belly. It made noises with its mouth. The noises were terrible, low, rumbling, but they were not threatening. I watched.

It made the motion again, then turned and walked on.

I sat on my haunches.

I am leader, I am hunter. But this 2-legged did not understand. It had not learned from its pack.

We two were the only ones I scented. We were alone. The angry water had taken the others.

The 2-legged stopped, made the strange sweeping motion and noises again. I took a step in its direction.

I am hunter. I am leader.

My pup cries in my mind. My mate howls. My sisters tease, my brothers scout. But around me is silence, the scents dirty and empty, the forest destroyed, the deer gone. We two are alone.

The 2-legged’s head bobs up and down. I take another step.

We walk on, stepping carefully over the tangled mess that was once our home, our feet slipping in mud, scratched in dying brambles, struggling in the unfamiliar path before us. 2-legged uses the big stick as if it were a third leg.

It is learning. I am patient.

I am hunter. I am leader.

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Don’t know about you but I found that story by Wendy more than compelling. Found it hauntingly beautiful.  A ancient account of the first meeting between man and wolf.

Therefore, can’t close without again reproducing this short extract and images of the grey wolf posted on the 20th May Musings on love.

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While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).

An afternoon walk for Tundra.
An afternoon walk for Tundra.

I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal.  Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her!  Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.

Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet.  Tundra seemed to want to come closer.  As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s.  I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man.

I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face.  Then the magic of love across the species!  Tundra licked my face!  The tears came to my eyes and were licked away.  I stroked her and became lost in thought.

Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?

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Rewilding the West

Staying with the theme of rejuvenating our relationship with the natural world.

A recent post from TomDispatch republished in this place once again with the generous permission of Tom Engelhardt.  It follows on so sweetly to yesterday’s post Returning to Nature.

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Tomgram: Chip Ward, Rewilding the West

Rewilding the West

Here’s a nifty trick that’s been on my mind lately. In case you hadn’t noticed, the weather news this season has been pretty grim. Tornados so large and destructive that they would have given Dorothy pause, 500-year European floods, massive rainstorms rolling across the land, record heat in California and Alaska, late snowfalls that boggle the imagination, wildfires that dwarf past ones in the American West. I could go on, but why bother since anyone who has been watching primetime TV news can’t but notice that staggering weather has been the lead or second story much of the time all spring and into the summer.

You’re probably wondering right now: But what’s the trick? I’m surprised you haven’t noticed yourself. All of this weather has a new, made-for-TV label. It’s now regularly called “extreme weather” or “severe weather.”  And that’s anything but inaccurate. The weather has been both “severe” and “extreme” this spring. The trick is that, as a label, “extreme weather” has managed (with rare exceptions) to obviate the need even to mention that any of this could have the slightest thing to do with climate change, with our overheating, over-greenhouse-gassed planet. Think of it as a fabulous form of recognition and denial wrapped in the same package.

The TV news gets all the benefits of night-after-night, eyeball-gluing drama in which the weather goes nuts, houses are destroyed, and people weep (or are stoic) about ruined lives. It gets to bring in the tornado watchers and the weather people in their raincoats and waders.  (Have you noticed that the TV news can’t report a flood without putting some reporter with a mic knee-deep in water?) It gets to focus nightly on those daunting weather maps with their blazing red danger zones, and offer warnings about what potential disaster tomorrow might have to offer, all the while remaining in official, blissful denial about what’s happening on this planet of ours. Somehow, it has managed to incorporate the possible effects of climate change into the nightly news as a major story, while excluding just about all serious discussion of it. Tell me that isn’t a doubly nifty trick!

Of course, if there’s nothing but “extreme weather” happening and that weather has no extreme context, no extreme meaning, then none of us have to worry our little heads about what’s to be done. Those trying to remedy the degradation of conditions on this planet can also be ignored, which is why we couldn’t be more pleased that TomDispatch regular Chip Ward introduces us to such a person today. Tom

Trek West for the Big Picture
Saving the Land One Footfall at a Time
By Chip Ward

My home sits at the gateway to a national park in Utah, a source of envy among tourists who gather along Capitol Reef’s “scenic drive.” But after 40 years of living in one desert or another, I know firsthand that America’s iconic desert landscapes, places like Monument Valley and Arches National Park, are the exceptions, not the rule. The rule is that we dig up, dump on, dam, bomb, drill, over-graze, and otherwise abuse our deserts, most of them public lands owned by you, the taxpaying citizen. Generally, our management of the nation’s public lands is a disgrace and deserts are exhibit A.

But let’s skip the grim survey of how humans are overloading the carrying capacity of our original earthly Eden that usually opens a report like this. The intent of such a recitation of folly is to compel the reader’s attention by underlining the dire importance of the topic at hand. But I assume you understand by now that you woke up this morning on an overheated planet of slums threatened by ecological collapse.

So instead, let’s get right to the point: what do we do about it? How do we begin to heal the wounds?

The crises we face and that our children and grandchildren will endure long after we leave them invite a visionary response.  On the other hand, the world is already awash in well-intentioned tinkerers.  Yet dysfunction and destruction still reign.  Maybe it’s time to leap to a new paradigm.

Enter John Davis and Trek West.  At this very moment, Davis is walking, biking, paddling, and horseback riding 6,000 miles through a chain of mountain ranges that stretches like a spine across North America from the Sierra Madres of Mexico through the Rockies of the American West up into Canada.  He started this winter in the Sonoran desert we share with our southern neighbor and has been heading northward for months.  He will cross many of our most treasured national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, the ones that tourists love, but his trek is no sightseeing adventure.

Davis and his Trek West partners along the route are advocating for what they call “landscape connectivity” on a continental scale.  Two years ago, Davis trekked from Key West to Quebec, 8,000 human-powered miles.  Same theme: conserve and connect.

A Conservation Revolution

Gone are the days when conservation was all about bullets, hooks, and cameras.  Fishermen and hunters are still an important constituency in the conservation community, but birdwatchers now outnumber them. Ecological criteria increasingly frame any debate about how to heal degraded habitat.  What the nineteenth century naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir knew intuitively — that everything in the universe is “hitched to everything else” — has been confirmed beyond doubt by hard science.

Davis is one of the founders of a new school of thought called conservation biology.  Its proponents argue that it is not faintly enough to preserve scenic rock and ice parks and isolated islands of wildlife.  Wild creatures need room to roam so they can find the necessary water, food, and mates.  In the long run, many of America’s wild creatures from salamanders to bears will survive only in Disney movies if we box out genetic diversity, block migration routes, destroy nesting grounds, and save only carefully preserved, isolated populations of a species.  Connectivity is the keel of an emerging conservation ethic for helping to heal this country.

John Davis envisions an unbroken chain of wild lands spanning North America from Mexico to Canada.  When completed, a necklace of “core” areas, including national parks, wildlife reserves, and protected wilderness areas will be linked together and buffered by national forests and private lands.  Creatures now boxed into wild islands surrounded by a sea of development will have room to roam.

A connected landscape will be more resilient as climate change puts further stress on creatures and their habitats.  Already species from birds to mammals are responding to warming temperatures by moving northward if they can, or to higher ground if they can’t migrate horizontally.  The famed scientist and conservationist E.O. Wilson called the project to link together America’s wild lands the most important conservation initiative in the world today.

After trekking through the habitat of the last remaining jaguars on the continent, Davis ran into the new wall designed to keep illegal Mexican migrants out of the United States. It is, he pointed out, a far more effective barrier against wildlife migration than the human version of the same and so is lobotomizing the border ecosystem we share with Mexico.  As for Davis, he easily climbed it in less than five minutes and was on his way.

Backpacks Meet Cowboy Hats 

Although pushing 50, Davis has the trim, muscular build of a professional athlete — and he’ll need every toned muscle he has to complete his quest.  The day before I met him in Escalante, Utah, he had been surprised by a lingering bout of spring weather and found himself pushing his bike through 10 miles of deep snow on top of Utah’s Aquarius Plateau.  The next week, he planned to paddle through Desolation Canyon, one of the most spectacular river passages on the planet.  But when I encountered him, he was taking a break and making a pitch for connectivity before a gathering of federal land managers, concerned local citizens, and ranchers who share the watershed of the Escalante River.

The Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP) is the unwieldy name for a grassroots coalition whose aim is to restore the river’s degraded ecosystem.  The rugged network of high desert canyons that drain into the remote Escalante River have been eroding for years thanks to overgrazing by cattle.  They are also choked with tamarisk and Russian olive trees.

Tamarisks are an invasive species that suck up precious ground water, while filling in springs and seeps that are the only water sources for many bird and animal species.  The tall, feathery plumes of the tamarisk have taken over hundreds of miles of riverbank in the West.  “Tammies” also salt the surrounding soil when they shed their leaves, killing native plants that might otherwise compete.  A beetle was imported from Eurasia to eat the tammies and was unbelievably successful.  As a result, those thick hedges that still block riverbanks are now dead-dry and ready to ignite.  If not cut back, they will burn or regrow.  Russian olive trees also crowd stream banks and add needle-like thorns to the unpleasant mix.

The diverse stakeholders in the Escalante River Watershed Partnership may not share John Davis’s grand vision of an ecologically whole and “rewilded” continent, but they are intent on sewing together and rewilding their pieces of the torn fabric of American life.  As any effective organizer knows, you start where there is common ground — or where there are common weeds.

Ranchers, rangers, biologists, hikers, and back-country guides are in many ways competing constituencies, but it turns out they all share the goal of clearing riparian (wet) canyons of those suffocating tammies.  The scientists survey the ground and identify targets.  Grants are written to bring in volunteers to do the fieldwork.  Last week, a dozen Great Old Broads for Wilderness, mostly outspoken middle-aged women, spent a week clearing unwanted brush as a service project.

As biologists monitor progress and the group discusses issues that arise, inevitably the damage done by grazing cows comes up.  It couldn’t be a more awkward topic.  After all, ranchers are in the room.  Cattle ranching in these desert landscapes is a marginal activity.  Those ranchers depend on federal grants, tax breaks, and access to public land to make it work.  But cows erode stream banks and silt the water, short-circuit forest succession by eating seedlings, and contaminate fresh water with their voluminous poop that also spreads cheatgrass and weeds.

The hope is that eventually the EWRP will become a platform for a public airing of difficult issues like where cattle should be allowed to graze on public land and how many and when.

A Roadkill Extravaganza

Those awaiting Davis’s Trek West presentation this particular day in this particular corner of Utah have already found a scale that seems to fit the desperate needs of our landscape, state, country, and planet.  Most of us who believe in change are caught between the seeming futility of small-scale actions — like recycling our trash or using more energy-efficient light bulbs — and the impotence we experience when we push for large-scale change like climate legislation in Congress or international treaties to limit atmospheric greenhouse gases.

On the one hand, too little; on the other, too late.  There does, however, turn out to be a middle scale between individual action and national or global campaigns that works well and makes sense: the community.  That’s the place where people can best embrace their roles as citizens, face off, share, contend, cooperate, create, learn from, and empower one another.

Watershed partnerships harken back to an old ideal.  John Wesley Powell, the one-armed general and Civil War hero who later explored the Colorado River and its tributaries, was the first person to grasp and publicize the aridity rather than fecundity of significant parts of the American West.  He argued that practices and policies developed for wet Eastern lands were inappropriate for the drier West.  He advocated for governance around watersheds where local stakeholders committed to living within the limits they knew firsthand could come together and plan.  That’s what I’m observing this morning in Utah.  In twenty-first-century terms, think of it as ecological citizenship.

Davis claims he is shy and a poor presenter, but it turns out that he is quietly charismatic.  The case he makes for corridors is practical.   His listeners know that he is trekking across a landscape that is not your grandfather’s Wild West.  The wide-open spaces where the antelope once roamed are now fragmented by a zillion roads featuring SUVs with flattened animals on their bumpers.  Davis says that, on his most recent journey, he’s already seen at least 1,000 crushed, dead creatures.  It’s been a roadkill extravaganza.

So, what to do?  He shows pictures of a landscaped underpass in nearby Kanab, Utah, constructed at a deer crossing where at least 100 deer a year were being hit by cars.  Every year about 10% of the local herd was becoming roadkill along with foxes, turkeys, and the occasional bobcat.  The underpass cost $2.6 million, which is hardly chump change in this neck of the woods, but each deer-car collision costs, on average, $6,600. Do the math, he tells them. Making the landscape permeable for animals seeking food, mates, and water keeps them healthy and pays for itself soon enough.

The Wolf at the Door 

Ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangers who serve them view John Davis skeptically.  For one thing, he’s been frank about the need to reintroduce wolves across Western ecosystems, given the “keystone” role they play in shaping a healthy landscape. In case you’re not a Westerner, you should know that the subject of wolf reintroduction is a political third rail in much of our region. It’s an idea that would stun and appall our grandfathers, who killed wolves on their lands to leave more deer and elk for hunters and make meadows safe for cattle.

Ecologically, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has been an unqualified success. Since wolves were returned to that landscape, elk are no longer bunching up and munching down in stream-fed valleys until they are silted, eroded, and devoid of other wildlife. The wolves thin the elk herds and move them, which, in turn, allows willows, aspens, beavers, birds, and a more biodiverse landscape to thrive.  Their success in Yellowstone has confirmed the insights of conservation biologists, giving them credibility and authority. Cowboys fear that, having pushed aside elk, conservationists will go after their cows next.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, elk hunters, cowboys, gun-nuts, and tea-hadi politicians have worked themselves into an anti-wolf frenzy.  Western state legislators have introduced several bills designed to limit and control wolves even if they haven’t seen one in their area for 100 years.  They want to trade the wolves’ endangered status under the law for licenses to hunt them.  A few days after Davis met the watershed group, the Obama administration caved in to this eco-political hysteria and agreed to remove endangered species protections from wolves.  This backlash against reintroduction has been painful for advocates like Davis.

A Greater Canyonlands National Monument Moment?

The decision to lift wolf protection is consistent with the Obama administration’s disappointing record on Western environmental issues.  Nevertheless, conservation advocacy groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Sierra Club are urging the president to take a cue from Bill Clinton’s example.  Back in 1996, he created the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument under the Antiquities Act that allows presidents to set aside natural and archaeological treasures. Now, the conservation groups want Obama to do something similar on an even grander scale and create a “Greater Canyonlands National Monument” from some of the healthiest wild lands in southern Utah.

A few days later, Davis addressed the need for such a monument at a forum in Moab, Utah.  Our state has about nine million acres of quality wilderness land ready to be designated and protected as such.  That’s a lot of core area for John Davis’s conservation vision, a lot of possibility for connectivity. But the public debate about wilderness designation has been stalemated for decades.  Utah Republicans in particular resist more steps to formally protect wilderness areas even though the public overwhelmingly supports it.

They are wedded to traditional mining and grazing interests and like to portray themselves as victims of a bullying federal government that wants to jam national monuments and formally designated wilderness areas down their throats.  But Clinton’s creation of the new monument has proven a boon for Escalante’s economy.  In the 12 years since it came into being, the populations of surrounding Kane and Garfield counties have grown by 8%.  Jobs rose in those years by 38% and per capita income by 30%.  Adjoining counties whose economies are oriented towards gas and oil lagged far behind.

President Obama’s appointment of Sally Jewel, former CEO of REI, a chain of outdoor gear and clothing stores, may signal a shift away from ranching and mining as the dominant voices on the Western political stage. Jewel understands firsthand that recreation and tourism have become powerful economic engines here.

A presidential initiative alone will hardly begin to settle all the questions we face about how to make peace with the land that holds us in its embrace.  But designating another monument here could be a catalyst for an ever-expanding idea of grassroots stewardship of America’s wild lands.

The Escalante watershed partnership was formed in the wake of Clinton’s catalytic act. At that time, the Clinton administration took another experimental step. It gave stewardship of Grand Staircase Escalante to the controversial Bureau of Land Management instead of the National Park Service.  That was a first and undoubtedly a concession to Utah’s politicians who would rather deal with the traditionally compliant, pro-mining, pro-grazing BLM than the stricter National Park Service.  Clinton gambled that the move might instill a missing environmental ethic in that bureau.

The results on that are not yet in, but there is no question about one thing: Clinton’s creation has been a catalyst for grassroots political activity.  When monument status was a done deal, the river’s stakeholders decided the time had finally come to practice that awkward dance of mutuality among conservationists who want to save the land, ranchers who want to use it, and federal land managers charged with sorting out what exactly to do.  John Davis is clearly on the side of conservation.

Making the Imaginary Real

The Trek West sponsors recognize that there may never be some grand national initiative to accomplish their vision, nothing like the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, or the other signature environmental legislation of the 1960s and 1970s.  If our troubled public lands are rescued, it’s likely to happen in a piecemeal fashion, as local and regional groups work to improve their own backyards.  The folks who gather in Escalante don’t claim to have all the answers.  They are not here to spread the truth and save the world.  They belong to no ideology or movement.  They’re just working on their piece of the puzzle, experimenting and learning as they go.  Rivers being the arteries of the land, it makes sense to start there.

An existing constituency almost always trumps an imaginary one.  You can make a case, for example, that a change in land use practices and policies would benefit more people, boost the local economy, and be healthier for wildlife, too, but those imaginary winners can’t compete with cattlemen who are real, well organized, and have been active in the political arena for many years.  They have established close relationships with local politicians who depend on their support.   Because they were there first, they wrote most of the rules and those favor their uses of public land.

The trick for conservationists who want change is to make that imaginary constituency real, to bring a new set of stakeholders together and find ways to empower them.  That may not be the intention of those who gathered in Escalante for the watershed partnership, but it’s what is happening nonetheless — and John Davis is a catalyst.

According to the prevailing belief, growth should always be the bottom line.  Trek West expresses an alternate vision that aims instead to translate ecological principles and criteria into actual designs on the ground.  That’s not simply a matter of making better maps.  Those of us who live within the iconic Western landscapes so treasured by all Americans understand that maps, charts, and spreadsheets do not adequately measure or describe this inspiring and awesome place where we live.

We experience the land sensually.  Perhaps that is the ultimate message John Davis is delivering as he treks across the continent’s wild spine.  He is making sense of the land one footfall at a time, listening to it, watching it, and feeling it as he goes.  So, reconnect landscapes, yes, but also connect head and heart.

Davis’s quest is heroic, but his testimony is simple: when we learn from the land we lean towards wholeness.

Chip Ward, a former librarian and grassroots organizer, is the author of Canaries on the Rim and Hope’s Horizon as well as a TomDispatch regular. He wrote this essay while living between a mountain on fire and a desert that is blowing away.  

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Chip Ward

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Simply going to finish off today’s post with the two pictures included recently in, I cry for the wolves.

These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)
These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)

oooo

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man, courtesy Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, Merlin, Oregon.

Musings on love.

Dedicated to MaryAnne G.

A week ago I started the first of what became four day’s writings about passing the 400ppm CO2 level in the planet’s atmosphere.  As I said in the penultimate post, “In nearly four years of writing for Learning from Dogs, I can’t recall devoting three days of posts to a single subject.

Later that week, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with MaryAnne back in Payson. MaryAnne and husband Ed were among a group of people who did so much to ease our transition into our new home in Arizona.  As part of the process of obtaining my fiancee visa, I was to and fro between Payson and London which meant having to leave Jeannie alone for a number of weeks at a time. So for Jean having to get used to a change of country as well as home and for me wondering if I would ever get the magic piece of paper allowing me and Jean to be married and settle down, having so many loving friends around us was invaluable.

In last week’s telephone conversation MaryAnne spoke so easily about love that I promised her that I would dedicate a post on Learning from Dogs to her.

In fact, rather than one post, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about love for the entire week, i.e. Monday to Friday.  I will readily admit that over and beyond today’s post, I don’t have more than the vaguest inkling of how the week will pan out.  You have been warned!

But how much better that ‘devoting three days to a single subject‘ should be about love rather than climate change.

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Love across the species.

A week ago, we had friend Richard and his partner Julie from England staying with us.  Richard and I go back 40 years and have been wonderful buddies all that time.  Last Monday, I took Richard and Julie across to Wildlife Images just a few miles from the house here in Merlin, Oregon.  As their website explains,

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1981 by renowned wildlife rehabilitator J. David Siddon. The facility was created in order to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

and a little later,

The organization’s clinic, animal sanctuary, and education center are located on 24 acres of land adjacent to the wild and scenic section of Oregon’s famous Rogue River. Animals treated at Wildlife Images have included everything from baby squirrels and badgers to American bald eagles.

Wildlife Images release rate of intakes is near 50 percent each year – far above the national average of 33 percent. Animals with permanently disabling injuries that make them unable to live in the wild are integrated into one of Wildlife Images educational programs, either as educational ambassadors, or as permanent residents of the facility.

While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).

An afternoon walk for Tundra.
An afternoon walk for Tundra.

I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal.  Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her!  Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.

Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet.  Tundra seemed to want to come closer.  As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s.  I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man.

I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face.  Then the magic of love across the species!  Tundra licked my face!  The tears came to my eyes and were licked away.  I stroked her and became lost in thought.

Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?

As I write elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.

Let me close the first day of these musings by coming forward all those thousands of years to the year 2012.  To the 6th April, 2012.  To the day that we brought puppy Cleo back home.  That sweet little creature of less than ten weeks of age starting her own journey of love across the species.

10-week-old little Cleo experiencing Jeannie's love for her dogs.
Little Cleo being loved from the start.