Being Dog’s Best Friend

When I was 21, I spent five months living in India. It was only the second foreign country I had ever been to, and the first was Australia, which didn’t really prepare me for what I was about to encounter. The conditions people existed in—both their own physical bodies and the environment around them—were horrific. People had all manner of rashes, diseases, infections, open wounds, and missing limbs. They lived six people to a single room or two people to a single patch of sidewalk. They were dirty and hungry and desperate. Every time I would walk down the street to run a simple errand or go somewhere, people would touch my light hair or my pale skin, or tug at my clothes and ask if I could help them. It was a shocking but crucial formative experience in my development as a compassionate human being and a critical thinker. Continue reading →

13,000 Hours in the Mountains: Whose Mountain Is It Anyway?

A big cat family roams Alaska Hill. Their presence has been been confirmed. At first, the evidence was inconclusive: sounds of an animal splashing around in the creek at the bottom of the hill and a barely visible tail near the sound of a branch snapping in the dark. Perhaps a murderous mountain lion, but perhaps a charming bobcat. Then, a cache was discovered near a neighbor’s propane tank. And then a spate of sightings around the area of the cache: the momma coming up a driveway, the cub disappearing into the woods, the duo crossing the road.

I have an unjustified feeling of certainty that I will be the feline’s victim. Much the way people panic when they see a gun, I’m certain, now that several people on my street have seen the beast (and its offspring), that it’s going to eat me, my dog, or both of us. Guns are all around; we simply aren’t aware of them because the owners have concealed carry permits, emphasis on concealed. The mountain lion has always been around but its territory is enormous and it’s mainly active at night. Logic often goes out the window when confronted visually with something you don’t like. I’ve hiked these woods many times with only my trusty but useless dog for protection. Now, suddenly, the caves and pits pockmarking the land terrify me, although my rational brain knows nothing has actually changed. Continue reading →