Rogue Bunny
May 2008 (part I)

 
I split this month's update into two parts, because it was getting too long. This part is for all you animal lovers out there:
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No change in Albi since the last one -- and that's a GREAT THING. I had my cell phone alarm to go off every night at 9 p.m. for the last four weeks, to remind us to give her her meds. I got the idea of AIDS patients in Africa, who use their cell phones to remind them to take their meds. But by the time this blawg is published, she will be done with all medications, and we'll be waiting for the vet to schedule an x-ray and hope we get the "all clear." Inshallah.

We took her on an intense three kilometer (about two miles) hike in early May, through the craggy hilltops and severe inclines around Altenaur. It's really funky -- there are men's faces meticulously carved into some of the trees, painted in bright colors. It's like walking in something from The Wizard of Oz. At Teufelsloch (the Devil's Hole), a hole through a rock at the top of one of the many hills, a few hundred meters above the village, an older hiker dubbed Albi "Schnoofy" (actually, he said he dubs all dogs he comes across "Schnoofy"), and I called her that for the rest of the day. Two days later, we took her on a 10K (just over six miles), much flatter hike, through mostly woods; it was a historic hike that lead past Roman ruins and through the tiny village of Rammersbach. She was only obviously tired after seven kilometers. Which is when I started seriously running out of steam myself. Who ever thought back in January when she had her intense surgery and cancers removed that four months later she would be in such incredible shape? She's my idol.

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Speaking of dogs, our landlord's family has gotten a new dog. He's a two-year-old MASSIVE blond dog from Turkey named "Ball." He looks just like an Afghanistan fighting dog, per his size, his build, his coloring and his ears... or, rather, the lack there of -- sadly, Ball's ears have been removed. Which means he was, indeed, meant to be a fighting dog (and don't even get me started on that loathsome practice). But he's much, much too sweet to fight, which is probably why he was abandoned. He was severely malnourished when he was found, and almost died shortly after he was adopted by our landlord's family. He's looking great now. I'll try to get a photo of him to post on my Flickr site. He could not be sweeter -- little Albi bullies him when he's in her way, and he cowers and tries to hide by pushing his head into my legs. He loves to cuddle, and he scratches at the back door for me to come out and give him hugs. He loves to push open our back door and walk right in, which I wouldn't mind except that he's shedding like crazy and he likes to get on the furniture, including our bed. He needs training badly . I slipped their daughter a brochure from a local trainer. I hope they look into that.

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I was broken-hearted over the death of Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby. I cried off and on all Sunday when I read the news online that morning. Such a sad, tragic, and avoidable event. Eight Belles was the first filly to finish in the money in 20 years. She was only the second filly to finish second. It was the first fatality in the Derby in modern times. I had intended to tell someone to place a bet on Eight Belles for me -- I always bet the filly, on the rare occassion there is on in the Derby. And plus, I adore the name. I think this is always going to haunt future Derbies for me.

My immediate comment -- once I could speak after crying -- was, "I wonder how long she was hurt before she collapsed." I know animals, and whether they are horses or dogs or cats or whatever, I know they run through *horrific* pain, and they don't let you know they are hurt until they have crippled themselves. She got hurt before the finish line -- whether the jockey knew that at the time, I don't know.

Instead of being defensive and denying there is a problem, there must be continuing discussions and debates on how to best protect thoroughbreds and prevent injuries. And as Brad Telias of the Sporting News said, "A discussion of the trend to breed for speed, perhaps at the expense of durability, in order to get the highest price at thoroughbred auctions, must also be included in that debate."

The reality is that it has been outcries from the public and pressure from animal welfare groups -- NOT the horse racing industry itself -- that has improved the lives of thoroughbreds today versus even 20 years ago. I don't want to ban horse racing. But I do believe -- and have for quite some time -- that the training and racing of horses in the USA should be banned before a horse's third birthday, and I think it's long overdue to switch to a synthetic track surface (the results at Keeneland, California tracks and those here in Europe, per the dramatic drop in injuries to horses, speak for themselves). Those are two *little* things that would have prevented Eight Belles' suffering and death.

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On a good note regarding animals: the turtle lives. Three years ago, I saw a turtle in the Schwanenteich ("Swan Pond"), part of a "tiergarten" (animal garden) in Bad Bodendorf near our house (I wrote about it back in Fall 2004). The turtle was sitting on one of the logs fastened along the shore near the footpath, and it was looking up at the duck next to it as though it was thinking, "how might I get so big as you?" I saw it off and on until the following winter. Such turtles are NOT native to Germany, so it has to be a former pet that some idiot abandoned. I thought for sure it had died, but last year, while on a vacation from Afghanistan, there the turtle was again, standing on the duck ramp that leads down to the pond. That was the only time I saw him/her last year. Again, I feared the winter would do him/her in. But just days before I took off for the USA, there it was, in the middle of the pond, on top of a rock, enjoying the sun. I wonder if the tiergarten employees have even noticed it (two of the three don't really care about the animals; they just want their paychecks).

I'm going to miss the Schwanenteich Tiergarten terribly when we leave. Seeing all the new baby animals and birds each winter and spring is always an emotional lift. Seeing how the baby goats and baby sheep hang out together before they realize they are from different tribes is fascinating. It's part of a daily, idyllic walk I've been able to have almost every day for the past four years. I have never been so in tune with the seasons as I am now, watching the plants and animals change with the weather. Will I ever live in such a lovely, dog-friendly place again?

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So, about the rogue bunny: three years ago, I saw a domestic bunny -- white with brown spots -- in a yard about a block away. I figured it had gotten out of someone's backyard hutch. And then I kept seeing it for weeks later. I thought it had been abandoned by whomever had owned it. In winter, I didn't see the bunny anymore, and assumed it had died. But the next spring, there it was, running free again. And this is how it's been for three years now -- like the aforementioned turtle, I feared every winter that it was dead, and every Spring, there it was again, even in the playground below our our house, about 100 yards from his own. Finally, a few weeks ago, I found out the rogue bunny belongs to the family whose yard it is in most of the time. The owner puts it away at night and in the winter, I guess. But for now, it's running free. I just hope it doesn't get hit by a car... he/she is crossing the street too much these days.

I just love living in a neighborhood that has a rogue bunny.

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If you haven't yet this year, I hope you will consider making a donation to your favorite local, national or international animal-related charity. If you don't know who to donate to, let me know and I can help you identify some organizations that match what it is you want to do in terms of helping animals.

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Reminder: we're planning on moving in APRIL 2009 to the USA. We really need advice regarding moving companies FROM Germany to the USA, as will as WITHIN the USA. For the first three months, we will probably be in Louisville, Kentucky, though we have no firm plans yet. Once we get a car and handle some other things, we'll be heading to the Portland, Oregon area, unless some fabulous job offer from some other wonderful place drops in my lap.

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Keep the wild in your heard, not in your home; make no wild or exotic creature a pet

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If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.


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