Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Clues from Oscars Past

The strangest part about having a rescue dog is knowing he had this whole life before you and not knowing what that life was. Oscar hasn't been my dog for very long, but he feels so much like part of my family. But before he was my family,  he was someone else's family. He was found as a stray, so there is no way to prove that his mother wasn't a stray who raised her pups on the street. But his sociability and comfort in the company of strangers and his complete understanding of what joys lie within a refrigerator make it clear he had lived with someone.

Part of getting to know Oscar is finding clues to his previous life. The way he immediately perked up when we opened the fridge for the first time in his presence showed that there was someone who had sneaked him human treats from that glowing, chilly box. Even more, the way he begged for food, right next to me, looking at my food with big imploring eyes. He is smart though. It didn't take him long to stop this habit when he realized it did not get him any treats from me. But he had learned just as easily from someone else that it had worked. Maybe he had lived in a family with kids who shared with him bits and pieces of their dinner and favorite snacks. Maybe he lived with an befuddled gentlemen who would absent mindedly leave the fridge open so that Oscar had free range.

Oscar came out of the shelter knowing the command sit and having a clumsy understanding of lay, that he still always seems a little confused about when asked to preform.  But he didn't know shake, which I taught him, and he still needs to learn 'here', 'drop it', 'leave it' and a few more of the more practical and less showy commands. I loved teaching him shake. You could feel it click for him, when he knew what I was asking. He doesn't just lazily lift his paw, he springs it up high. It's pretty cute. Just as I worked diligently on 'shake' someone else had worked with him on 'sit.' Someone else had found his favorite treat and taught him what they wanted from him.

I work with rescue dogs, so I know how common it is for a rescue dog to suffer a wide range of issues such as separation anxiety, fear aggression and food possession. These are not unique to rescue dogs, but more common. A dog abandoned by the people he once considered family is more likely to be anxious about this happening again. A dog relinquished from a shelter is more likely to come from a home where he is thought of as disposable, as not sentient and is thus more likely to be mistreated which leads to issues like fear aggression. A dog fending for itself on the streets and then in a shelter is more likely to find his food sacred as he does not know when he will have food again. It makes me feel lucky my guy is so well-adjusted. Not to say we don't have our challenges, but his happy disposition and his eagerness to share affection make me think he had someone in his life that loved him and showed him how humans are suppose to treat dogs, which makes me wonder how he found himself in a shelter.

When Oscar came into our home, he had just been recently neutered. This too is a clue from his past. Was he not neutered because of ignorance on his past peoples part? Neutering is so important in the quest to keep dogs out of shelters, but not everyone knows this. Did his past people want to neuter him but they couldn't afford it? Did they think taking his balls violated some code of masculinity? Did they think it would change his personality?

Underneath his collar is a little scar where fur doesn't grow. I wonder what possibly could have happened to leave that little spot. Did he get in a fight? Did someone use a prong collar that somehow injured him? Did he get cut on a fence trying to escape somewhere? For humans, scars tell stories that we can tell, but for Oscar, his scar tells a story I will never know.

At the rescue where I work, I wonder the same things about these dogs. Did someone teach Addie Luc to stretch her legs out and wiggle like a seal to get attention, or did she learn this on her own? Is Chuco's fear aggressive because someone hurt him, or because he is so overwhelmed by being in this new situation? Does Blueberry have separation anxiety because someone left him alone too long, or on the flip, someone never put him down, thus never teaching him what it meant to be alone?

I wish pet psychics were real (and who knows...maybe they are) so I could have them come and reveal all the little mysteries about all the homeless animals. But sometimes I think it is better that they don't. Those lives they had whether happy or sad aren't theirs any more. They have new lives now. For the dogs at the rescue, they are waiting for their person, they are waiting for their life to begin. But all the dogs find their homes eventually and get to start those lives. For my Oscar, he is in his life now. He is my buddy, my best dog. I can't know his past but I can do everything possible to make sure his now and his future are happy and safe.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Herbarium Part Three

Winter is a good time to work on the 'mounting' part of an herbarium. The collecting portion is much better done in any of the other seasons as the plants are abundant during this time of year. But sitting inside, researching, drawing and pasting delicate pressed plant specimens is a lot of fun in the Winter. It is a good thing to do with a mug of hot tea and an audio book while the winter blusters around outside. Plus, having some contact with the variety of plants in the world is a good reminder during Winter when very few of the plants are really flourishing. Of course, working on the mounting portion of herbarium can only be done if you prepared properly in the other seasons. Luckily, I have sooo many pressed plants ready for me!

White Oak:

Spotted Lady's Thumb:


Creeping Buttercup:

Lawn Daisy:

The rest of my herbarium:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Review: The Great Forgetting By James Renner

The Great Forgetting starts off like a traditional mystery novel. A moody man named is forced to reconnect with his past due to his father's worsening dementia. In the process of rehabilitating himself to his old hometown, he is forced to encounter the ghosts of his past including his ex girlfriend who betrayed him by leaving him for his ex best friend. Hi ex best friend has disappeared and is presumed to be dead. When he reunites with his ex girlfriend Sam, they still have the same magic and chemistry. She still has a hold over him. She asks him to help her find out what happened her missing husband. This search leads to amazing discoveries!

The first half of this book is told like a standard mystery book, which is what I thought I was reading. Later the books shifts it's genre from mystery to speculative fiction. We are presented with a scenario in which the world is not what we think it is, and that the history we know is not true. What I liked about this book was the twists and turns and the imagination of the alternative history that was presented. I did struggle with the shift though..from a tone and a story that felt realistic to a world where all the conspiracy theories were real. This is a small complaint though for a book that was thoroughly enjoyable and completely unpredictable.  After reading 'The Great Forgetting,' I definitely wanted to read James Renner's other book, 'The Man of Primrose Lane.' 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Hike with Oscar; or Oscar Learns to Rough It

We chose a day pouring with rain to take Oscar on his first hike.

 It took about an hour and a half to get there, but luckily, Oscar loves car rides. He likes to curl up in the back and dream as the hum of the car and murmur of his people's voices encircle him.  He was jolted awake though once we reached the pot hole speckled road that led us to the trail head.

Oscar learned some new skills: How to rough and tumble it on the trail! Oscar had to dash through streams, leap over logs, trek through mud, dart over roots and climb up rocks during our hiking adventure. He did it with great aplomb and is a grade 'A' hiking buddy.

The hike was so beautiful for Oscar's human friends too.

Autumn hikes in the Pacific Northwest are the best. Walking thorough a green paradise of coniferous trees interspersed with blasts of orange or yellow or red from the deciduous trees is so stunning. At one point we had been hiking for a while through the greenery when we came to a clearing of an Autumn wonderland.

At the top of the hike was a humble yet beautiful lake right out of a story book. It felt like it must be one of the most wonderful places in all the world. For a second, I wanted to live there forever. Oscar could become a semi wild forest dog and we could all spend our days swimming in the lake and observing the bugs and wildflowers and birds around us.

But, it was pouring rain and even with our jackets, we couldn't keep the water away from our fur or skin forever. So we trekked back down to our car and drove home with our pictures, muddy paws or shoes and memories.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cocoon Creatures

Here is a miniature story illustration I made recently. I started making miniature illustrations a while ago and then stopped, but now I am interested in making more of them again.

Here are some of the old ones:

Centuries ago, in a different place, all the summer caterpillars made cocoons on the same day. After months of transformation they burst from their confinement. Instead of delicate insects, they were the fierce and frantic animals created in the midnight dreams of all the world's silent slumberers. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Bonsai Bonanza at the Bonsai Museum

Federal Way, a suburb close to Seattle that I never think much about, has the coolest museum! It is not a museum of art or natural history... it is a Bonsai Museum!

The museum is outdoors and the viewers get to slowly wander from tiny tree display to tiny tree display. 

Even though everyone thinks of Japan when they think of Bonsai, Bonsai was inspired by a Chinese form of miniature landscaping called penjing. Penjing wasn't as centered on just trees, but more little landscape in general. 

Bonsai trees seem magical! They look like they are from an ancient yet miniature forest inhabited by little people and little animals. If an alien came to our world and the found a bonsai tree before anything else, they probably would assume there were such things as little people...and maybe there is! 

There are stories from many cultures about small people. The most common story is of a leprechaun which we are familiar with childhood stories of gold at the end of rainbows. Native Americans have many stories of little people. Some of them have hairy faces. Some of them live by the Great Lakes and build nests in the sand. In Greek mythology there were little people that fought a perpetual battle with the cranes.  When different cultures share similar mythology, it always makes you wonder. Maybe the continuity between cultures is proof of something? Proof of truth. More likely, proof of humans similarity no matter where we are born. Of course the human imagination would dream of a creature similar to us but different. We still do that to this day with stories of Sasquatch or humanoid alien creatures. 

When I use to live somewhere else, one of my neighbors saw little people. They visited her every morning when the neighbor made coffee. They would feel the vibrations of the coffee grinder and sneak from cracks in the wall to visit her. It wasn't true, well at least most likely. But she believed she had these little visitors. I am not sure if the visitors made her happy or scared or some other emotion completely. 

When I was in high school, a friend of mine told me there was a certain drug (I don't remember what) that made all the users see the same thing- leprechauns. No matter who they were, they saw leprechauns. She told me this as proof. I don't remember what it was proof of. Proof that leprechauns existed, or else why would everyone see the same thing. Proof that parallel universes existed, because the drug must some how reveal a slip in universes, creating a glimpse into the other world. Proof of shared consciousness. Proof that reality isn't real at all. 

In Indonesia, skeletal remains were found of a humanoid that stood about 3 ft 7 inches tall. He is called Homo Flores. His bones were real. He lived 50,000  years ago. Some people still think the Homo Flores lives today in the unexplored jungle forests of Indonesia. Probably they befriend the monkeys and learn the calls of all the birds. When they see the planes creak and roar through the sky, they know the flying monster is no bird, but more proof they must remain small and they must remain hidden. They must remain a secret only revealed in bones and destruction. 

Window Watching

If I hadn't moved to Seattle, I probably would have moved to San Francisco. I lived 40 minutes away when I was a kid and sometimes my dad and I would go to the city to see the art museum and to see the turtles that live in the pond in front of the art museum.

When I was in college living much further North, we would visit San Francisco on the weekends sometimes and eat things like Thai food which we didn't have in the small college town I lived in. We would wander around the city and go see bands play at strangers houses, or strangers who were friends of friends of friends. One time, we stayed in Oakland and took the bart into San Francisco where we went to a bar on top of the tallest building and had 11 dollar gin and tonics.

While living in Seattle, I went to San Francisco again and took pictures from the hotel room, musing that if I had decided things slightly different, this could be my city.

Looking out the window to a bunch of windows with curtains down. No 'Rear Window' situation here. Unless I had waited longer, I could have seen a suspicious silhouette. Once in college I looked out the window of my friends dorm and saw to shirtless men swinging nunchucks at each other. A couple of weeks later, I read int he school newspaper police blotter that nunchucks were confiscated from a dorm room.

These constructions workers probably get some fabulous views. They probably have a nice life. They spend their days building and feeling the fresh air and they go home feeling accomplished and beautifully tired. They eat their dinner with their family and they all tell stories of their day and the construction workers tell stories of the things they see from way up high.

Somewhere in a parallel universe I am living in San Francisco and I went to Seattle to visit where I took pictures from my hotel room of all the interesting things I saw.