Honey bees are social insects. They live communally and depend on each other for their very existence. Everyone has a role, and when these tiny toilers pull together, amazing things get done. An entire colony is built and fed; the young are cared for; everyone has a home.
To succeed, they need to communicate. They share vital information about food sources by performing a dance when they return to the hive. The “waggle dance” indicates that food is far away, while a “round dance” signals a shorter flight and quick payoff. The more vigorous the dance, the better the food – which means success for everyone.
Rescue works like this. It’s generally not mugshots or desperate pleas posted to websites or social media that gets displaced animals to new homes. It is the communication between people and our communal network. Of course, the photos and stories are important. Great photos create that first connection. And since dogs can’t write, we have to tell their stories for them. But the exchange of information – one person reaching out to another – is how we build a strong network (our hive) and truly connect people to animals in need.
Case in point: Lilly & Lucy’s story was shared hundreds of times across social media. But it was a long-time volunteer who knew that a neighbor had been looking for a bonded pair of dogs that may have made the difference for our two Pakistani girls. This weekend, the family drove hours through thick traffic and scorching heat to meet the dogs. We are very hopeful that it is a match.
Faith and Hope’s story was also viewed extensively. But it was a connection made between friends that may spell hope for Faith. One friend knew that the other had recently lost her dog at age 18 and was looking for a pup that could fit comfortably into her menagerie. We’ll know this week when they meet.
Our paws are crossed for all three because someone made the very human connection.
Everyone can play a role in rescue – but posting sad pictures of animals in distant shelters to a rescue’s social media channels doesn’t get it done. It is in doing the dance and making very personal connections right where you live.
You don’t need to travel too far from the hive. If you can’t volunteer your physical self, familiarize yourself with a local rescue or shelter’s animals and process. Then, become the crazy dog/cat/whatever person that everyone knows at work, church, or in your neighborhood. Talk to people about responsible breeders, training, spay and neuter. Learn about their animals, companionship needs, and when their heart and home might be ready for another. And then connect the dots. Do the waggle dance. Spread the word. Extend the community. Communicate.
That is how rescue works. One person – and one animal at a time.
Words are one of the ways I express myself. Writer’s block is a familiar foe, but I can usually push through it. Wine helps. But one thing leaves me speechless: the loss of a friend’s beloved fur companion. Words fail me; I’m helpless to console.
All I can say is “I’m sorry. So very sorry.”
And since I can’t find words, I will bring you flowers.
Because flowers always find the light;
they remind us that life unfolds in chapters;
and they are proof that there is beauty even in passing, and in sorrow, too.
These are for you. All of you.
I am so very sorry for your loss.
“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” ~ Gerard de Nerval
Typically, a bee will travel about two miles in search of food. When nectar or pollen is scarce, the journey can extend two to three times as far. To a tiny bee, that is a great distance flight and a long, exhausting way home to the hive.
For the first part of their lives, “home” for Lilly and Lucy was the streets of Pakistan. Scavenging, starving, relying on the mercy of strangers and garbage scraps.
Home for Erika and Gwen is the United States. But as Foreign Service gypsies, their current home is Pakistan. They have traveled the world to often dangerous places: Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and more. The locals can be hostile, and, as auditors, they are not exactly welcomed by their peers, either. It’s a lonely and isolating life filled with security alerts and lockdowns, but they find the work fulfilling as their purpose is to ensure that foreign aid gets to those most in need. With frequent reassignments, they try not to make attachments. But when Lilly and Lucy crossed their paths, they simply failed to look away.
Lilly was one at the time, half-starved and missing a back paw. Lucy was an eight-month-old bag of bones, staying by the side of her mother and her latest litter of puppies. Erika and Gwen took them in, nursed them back to health, and they found a new home together. The two became inseparable.
When both Erika and Gwen learned they would be redeployed to new posts and tiny apartments without the benefit of yards, the panic set in. Against all good sense, they had fallen firmly in love with these dogs, now three and four, and there was no way they were abandoning them. The expat community is large and, like the military, they do their best to have each other’s backs. Erika and Gwen explored every avenue but were quickly running out of options.
A distant connection and recent adopter suggested Homeward Bound. As difficult as it would be to give the girls up, they knew that a permanent home was what they needed and deserved. They reached out to us, hoping that, if their dogs couldn’t pass for Goldens, they might find some golden hearts among us. Of course, we said “yes,” which is how Lilly and Lucy began the longest way “home.”
I wrote about them for the rescue to begin to get the word out.
On Thursday, after two days’ journey across one-third of the globe, Lilly and Lucy arrived in San Francisco where Judy, one of our transport team members, and I met them.
Tired and confused, it took almost three hours to get them off the plane and out of customs. They still had to endure the long crawl through rush hour traffic back to the Sacramento Valley. It was nearly dark when we got back to the rescue, a twelve hour day.
We let them out of the van and took them to the Park, where they ran – and ran – and ran.
I don’t think they had experienced that much open space since their days in the streets. Exhausted, we gave them dinner and put them to bed – together.
They have adjusted well,
enjoying the open country space,
their feeders and dog walkers,
and their visitors: the couple that connected them to us.
For Erika, Gwen, Lilly and Lucy, it has been a very long and stressful journey. There is one more to go. After we have a chance to spend some time with the dogs and gain a full understanding of their needs, we will help them to find their most important home: their forever home.
With the Sierras above us still capped with El Nino’s snowfall, the rice growers have flooded and planted most of their fields this year – turning Homeward Bound into lakefront property for a few months. The more than 500,000 acres of the valley’s rice lands are located along the Pacific Flyway, and the flooded fields provide critical migration corridors for shoreline birds and others.
Looking out from the garden, I saw this long dark line of what looked like turkeys pecking at the marshy field.
Sadly, I did not have my long lens (naturally!), but I could get close enough to ID them as White-faced Ibis – a bird I had not seen in the fields before.
Apparently, their numbers declined dangerously in the 60’s and 70’s due to DDT contamination and habitat destruction. The inland population has rebounded somewhat in the past few decades, but the pesticides used in rice farming are still a concern.
These dark birds with their long bills and metallic coloring wade through the fields picking their way through shallow waters looking for a meal: invertebrates, crustaceans, frogs, and fishes.
Until, you spook them, of course!
In the garden, we make life, death, and death-delaying decisions all the time. For the Iris to live, the snails must die.
For the bees and butterflies to thrive, we endure bugs.
And although a plant’s whole purpose is to flower and set seed, we take its buds to extend its season.
A garden isn’t really nature; it’s working with – and sometimes, against it, to achieve our wishes.
With people and our animals, we often work against nature as well. But life-extending and ending decisions are obviously different. Key factors enter the equation: how much can they – or we – bear? Is it better to say goodbye today, or extend today into as many tomorrows as we can get? Is it too soon? Or too late?
People (hopefully) draft directives to guide and free us from the burden of these decisions. Not so our pets, who look to us to ‘know.’
There are “five freedoms” that guide rescue. They are helpful, as well, when faced with the impossible and emotional life and death decisions made for our animal family members.
Freedom from hunger or thirst: is my pet able to feed and drink, or am I able to assist without causing the animal undue distress?
Freedom from discomfort: there are times we choose painful courses of treatment when it means many good future years, but for those with a terminal illness, ask: is my companion comfortable while living with the disease?
Freedom to express (most) normal behaviors: can they still do the things that make them happy?
Freedom from pain, injury or disease: can pain be managed at an acceptable level; will the proposed treatment create further complications that jeopardize quality of life?
Freedom from fear and distress: can a better quality of life be achieved by declining life-extending treatments, even if it means fewer tomorrows?
The right choice isn’t always the easiest one.
I’m thinking of my sister and her husband who, yesterday, made the right decision at the right time for our father’s dog.
Had they not taken Butterscotch into their home six years ago, they would not have been faced with this weight or today’s sadness. But Butterscotch would not have had six years of love and happiness with them, either. Her post is here.
At 16, Butterscotch showed my sister the signs, and she had the courage to see them. Butterscotch earned her freedom from this earth and what had become its pains. And my sister and her husband earned their guardian angel wings.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Fly free, sweet Butterscotch. Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.