Adventures of an Arctic Chihuahua

Living Small at the Far Edge

Archive for Chihuahua

Hurricane Katrina: Never Again!

Safe and Sound

May You Stay Safe and Sound

As Hurricane Gustav prepares to set foot on United States soil this week, I am painfully reminded (as are we all) of the devastation and heartbreak left behind by Hurricane Katrina only three years ago.  In the early days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Katrita), my work on the ground was focused on helping those of the human species whose lives were spared but devastated.

Humans were not the only beings to suffer tragic and enormous loss however. Many pets were left behind in what were considered safe places, their families expecting to be able to return within a day or two.  Other animals were simply left behind with the hope they could fend better for themselves if released.  As time progressed however, areas behind the National Guard lines remained uninhabitable to man or beast.  Not only were there floodwaters and the dangers of unstable debris, but also there were hip deep and throat burning toxic muds.  With no clean water, no food, burning chemicals, and serious injuries, these beloved family pets slowly began to die.  No one came home, and still, they waited faithfully and loyally to the end.

I felt so devastated by the animal tragedies all around me that I found myself avoiding calls home to my own dear pet and devoted friend Gidget.  I felt it necessary to avoid thoughts and feelings about animals and pets.

I cannot begin to tell you the heartbreaking encounters, the pleading eyes from beloved animals too far behind the poisonous lake of muck, and so close to death, I dared not whisper.  I cannot begin to tell you about the evidence of violent, not always immediate death by storm.  I cannot begin to tell you how gentle and good your animals were during their last moments of life, how hungry they were for food, water, pain relief, love and reassurance. I can only hope that your pet was among one of the many who WERE rescued and is now home safely with you or perhaps lives with a family elsewhere, happy, healthy and well fed.

Our pets do become family; they rely upon us for their safety and well-being.  We remove them from their own species and habitats where we become their entire worlds.  Gidget tells me about the relationship between man and beast each time she greets me with maddening tail wagging or bows to invite me to play.  Our pets deserve all of the safety we can provide them.  

FACT: Over 60% of American households include a family pet.

Never again!  Let’s prevent the animal tragedies of Hurricane Katrina from ever occurring again.  Wherever you live with your pet, consider developing a pet disaster response and evacuation plan.

FACT:  Of humans who are safely evacuated, return prematurely to a devastated area and die as a result, the majority went back in to rescue a family pet.  

Let’s take them with us! Several organizations have excellent suggestions for disaster planning, pet evacuation, pet safety and ways to stay connected to your pet if you do become separated.  No matter where you live, evacuation for some sort of disaster… hurricane, flood, tsunami, fire, toxic spill… may become necessary.  Plan ahead.  Learn pet first aid.  Practice evacuation whenever you bring your pet to the veterinarian.  

During times of national disaster, you can help by volunteering or donating to a reputable and effective response effort.  At any time, disaster or not, consider becoming a volunteer and donating to your local animal rescue efforts.  

The Arctic Chihuahua and I selected some pet safety links posted here for you. Perhaps you will find them useful:

American Veterinary Medical Association – Disaster Related Pages

Humane Society of the United States – Disaster Center, Animal Response Team, Volunteer

Humane Society Disaster Relief Fund – Help by Donating!

American Red Cross – Animal Safety and Pet Disaster Planning

American Kennel Club – Microchip – Stay Connected for Life

American Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals – Disaster Preparedness

 

The above links are for starters. If you find another powerful animal disaster safety website, please leave a comment. It’s urgent!

Be safe!

Gidget and Jennifer “>

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Landing Like Cranes

I Prayed Bernoulli Was Right!

Sunday evening I flew out to Noorvik, a village located just north and west of Hotham Peak and south of the Brooks Range along the Kobuk River. The pilot was interesting and new to me (Irish perhaps?). We began our take off on a lesser-used runway. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable I can be with change until found myself flying with this new-to-me pilot on an unfamiliar runway.  I looked out the window towards the wings and struts, comforted by the familiar rivets of this particular plane. I prayed Bernoulli was right.

The flight in all honesty was fantastic!  We took off in a southerly direction and parallel to the shore which gave an excellent and expansive view of the Kotzebue Sound.  Except for about one mile of open water along the shore, the sea ice stretched out unbroken until, in the distance, there was nothing left to see but an even larger expanse of the Arctic Ocean sea ice.

Further upriver and east, tundra water is a dark tannin color, the color of deeply pigmented and dried, rusty moss.  The thawing waters stretch out in this color, with a broken patina of frozen waxy white on top.  In this betwixt state, many of the rivers and tundra lakes look like large leopard skinned agates spilling out across the flatlands. 

We landed in Noorvik the way the birds do…with a slight hesitation just before setting the legs down. The pilot came in at such an acute angle I began to wonder if we might run out of airstrip before the plane came to a complete stop. Our pilot floated in like a crane.  We had plenty of room.

At the airstrip, I was greeted by one of the Health Aides who carried the key for the place I’d be lodging in (the home of a colleague).  There was a note written on the envelope inviting me to make myself comfortable and avail myself of the homemade yogurt, mixed fruit and freshly picked cranberries (lingon berries in my own Swedish tradition).  I did as bid, and then set out to village work.

A couple of hours later, and in need of a break, I pulled out a bird book, walked down to the river with my binoculars and took another close-up look at Alaska. 

The paths down the hill are sandy, wet in the low areas, with many signs that 4 wheelers on their way to the water went ‘round (thus widening the puddle), or had been stuck in the muddy trail.  I had to walk tippy toe in the mucky parts or by clinging to the tough and pliant willow whips while keeping to the narrow and grass tufted margins. A couple of times I decided to take a more direct route, through the drier brush.  In the thicket, I found broken paths about the height and breadth of a large man.  I chose one path heading the general direction I wanted to go then began walking easily through the pre-cleared tunnel.  Within a yard or two of the entry, the willows unexpectedly gave way to a wider clearing, perhaps a 6′ x 6′ space littered with bolus moose droppings. 

A Moose‘s bedroom! I felt somehow invited, but also intrusive, as though the occupant would soon return and want to rest without company.  I checked to make sure the scat was actually dried and old, then ventured on with confidence. I hoped to catch a better glimpse of the songbird that seemed to be following, yet also eluding me. 

I must have wandered into the Moose’s living room at that point. So many animals live at the edge of water here. I happened upon a pond full of Equisetum or Horsetails (a plant species of prehistoric origins) and several wetland birds, more moose scat (fresh this time), and recent hoof marks. I hesitated and proceeded with more caution, but as any diehard birder would do, I came to my senses and stepped boldly forward into the kitchen as it were, hoping to catch “just one more bird” for the lifetime list…. even if it meant the end of that lifetime. What a way to go!

I survived however, and by the river’s edge, where the brush opened to powdery sand, I sat overlooking a small cove, a nearby bank, and low-lying flatlands across the river.  Here a flock of Sandhill Cranes called out in sounds described by some to be between those of a French horn and a squeaky barn door.  I watched as a group of about 17 of the giants took to the air, necks outstretched and leading the way over the Kobuk River.  I wondered where they were going so urgently this sunny midnight.

With that signature moment, and a suddenly cooler breeze, I headed back to lodgings and sleep.  I stopped to take one last look for the small and nondescript bird, this Virgil to my Dante.  As though to bid adieu, the bird posed in full view not more than a few yards away.  By binocular I could see the crimson spot on its forehead, the only distinct feature on this otherwise unremarkable creature.  This tiniest chakra identified my little friend as a female Common Redpoll.  I could call that a day.

There were more sightings in Noorvik, between working moments and up until my return flight.  I waited out at the airstrip, binoculars in hand, chatting to residents who came to pick up cargo or passengers.

The way home was by Cessna 207, possibly the smallest of the Bering Air fleet. Only the pilot and I were aboard for the trip back to Kotzebue. What a gorgeous view though!  Tundra swans stood out like the fuzzy white spots on dotted swiss skirts. Flowing rivers coiled and tapered to nothing. It was as if someone had mixed two batters, one dark, one light, then swirled.   We passed back over the leopard skin agates and pelts, back over the cracked and rusty tundra, the waxy and granite waters, back to the fragile gravel spit we call the Baldwin Penninsula and home.

Gidget met me at the door as she always does.  She wags so excitedly I have dubbed her the Helipup and my home, the Helipad.  She nearly takes off as I lift her up for a proper greet.

It feels good to be here.  Life is good.

 Near or far, simple or complex, bird-by-bird, in fair exchange, I’d love to hear about the details of YOUR life. How do you learn to land softly in a bumpy world? Nothing is ordinary when we look with wonder.

More tomorrow then…

Jennifer and The (small but large hearted) Arctic Chihuahua


Hello world!

Gidget\'s World View

Hello world!  My name is Jennifer. Please meet Gidget, a seven year old Chihuahua, my closest buddy. Together, Gidget and I have traveled from Idaho, Alaska, Florida, California and into the American Northwest to the edge of the world.

Currently, Gidget and I live in the Native Village of Kotzebue, Alaska, located off of the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea and the Kotzebue Sound.   I am employed here as a mental health therapist and travel to outlying Inupiaq Eskimo villages where I provide services to residents of this remote, sometimes heavenly, region.

Our lives here are not extraordinary.  We sleep, we wake.  I go to work each week day, nights and weekends when on-call.  Gidget pretty much sleeps all day or chases a rubber hamburger around the room to amuse herself. 

Some of our adventures here are dreamlike, others startling, still others are simply small.  The small bits are the ones I enjoy the most. I believe it is in those tiny moments our lives are enriched.  These moments live on to be told again and again among our closest of friends.  They comprise the ‘here and now’, the random acts of kindness, and the unsung moments of bravery in life.

Perhaps you will share some of your own moments with us?   Hope to hear from you soon and welcome to our blog! 

Cheerios,

Jennifer and Gidget