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Tag: lessons

71-year-old woman and her Chihuahua survive six days in the wilderness

geerHere’s a recent real life story that deserves to be made into a movie.

It’s about a 71-year-old woman who hiked into Olympic National Park with only the Hawaiian shirt on her back, a cellphone, her sunglasses, and an urn containing her husband’s ashes.

Also at her side was her dog, a Chihuahua mix named Yoda.

After spreading the ashes, Sajean Geer and Yoda got lost, and they would spend the next six days trying to survive in the wilderness.

Of course, Hollywood would totally mess up the story, casting Reese Witherspoon in the role of Geer, and that Beverly Hills or Legally Blonde Chihuahua in the role of Yoda.

Either that or they’d go with someone even younger, say an Emma Stone or a Jennifer Lawrence, and recast Yoda as a golden retriever, and possibly throw a deranged stalker into the mix.

And in so doing they’d miss the point — one wise woman (not to mention still a babe, and in no need of being de-aged) who kept her wits about her, fashioned a shelter, ate bugs with her dog and managed to survive, in large part because of the books she read, the people she loved, and the experiences she had in seven decades of life.

And she didn’t even need a crossbow.

The Seattle Times told her story earlier this week, and it’s definitely worth reading.

On her 71st birthday, Geer set out to scatter half of her husband’s ashes near Obstruction Point in Olympic National Park in Washington.

Jack, her husband of 34 years, had died in December of a heart attack, and she’d promised to scatter his ashes there and along the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii.

After spreading the ashes, she climbed a hill, hoping to get her bearings, took a fall, and dropped the urn. As dusk settled in, she realized she was lost and her cellphone was useless.

“All my outdoor experience has been hiking on trails with signs, and I hadn’t had experience in total wilderness like that. All I could see is trees. I couldn’t find anything to orient myself with,” she said.

She found a log to sleep beneath and curled up next to Yoda for the first of five nights she’s spend in the wilderness.

Geer spent the next day walking, but became no less lost.

“I did this to myself,” she recalled thinking. “I’m in a dire situation. I have a Hawaiian shirt, no jacket. I had no water bottle, no knife, nothing to start a fire.”

But she had read a lot of books about foraging and survival, and she knew — in addition to finding water and shelter — she needed to keep a positive attitude.

“You have to have something in your head, to keep you motivated and alive,” she said.

By the third day, Geer decided to stop walking, stay in one place and hope for a rescue.

geershelter

She fashioned a shelter near a creek where two logs converged, covering the top with tree branches, moss and bark to keep the cold out. When temperatures at night dropped to the mid-40s, she snuggled up with Yoda.

Geer scavenged currants for food and, after an ant bit her, realized that could work both ways.

“I go, ‘Well, I’ve got a bigger mouth than you,’ so I ate it.”

Yoda, despite being a pretty spoiled dog, adjusted to the wilderness too:
“He would sit on my lap and I had all these flies around me. He would gulp flies right out of the air,” she said.

By then, Geer’s brother, Jack Eng of Seattle, was coming to the realization that his sister was missing. Eng asked police to check on her. They found no trace of her at her Port Angeles home. Two days later, she was officially listed as missing.

On Sunday morning — six days after Geer had left for the park — Eng got word that a National Park ranger on patrol had spotted her vehicle. An air search ensued.

Geer heard a helicopter and climbed up on a log, waving her arms. Rescuers dropped Geer a note telling her to stay put and a few minutes later a rescuer appeared. Because of the rugged terrain, a Coast Guard helicopter was called to haul Geer and Yoda up in a basket.

She was thankful for the rescue efforts, but also gave herself some credit for being a self-reliant sort.

As a child, shortly after World War II, Geer and her family moved to the United States from China. She grew up in a hut in the back of the laundry business her dad owned. At school, she was ridiculed — both for being Asian and being a “tomboy.”

“I had a tough childhood. I learned to discipline myself and to have a positive attitude,” she said. “I was brought up to take care of myself.”

Getting lost in the wilderness taught her a little more.

“When you’re by yourself up in the wilderness with nobody to talk to except your dog, you learn a lot about yourself,” she said.

She said she felt her late husband’s presence in the woods — but at the same time came to terms with him not being around anymore.

“It’s time to let go and let your own light shine, and stand up,” she said she realized. “This situation forced me. I realized I had to be on my own and move on to my life.”

(Photos: At top, Geer; lower, the shelter she made from fallen trees, moss, bark and tree branches; courtesy of Jack S. Eng, via Seattle Times)

Company for Christmas: Resolved

DSC00022
 
It’s 2010 and I’m down to one dog.

The last of my holiday guests has been returned to her owners, leaving Ace and me on our own again. However tested we might have felt at times, I think we both agree it’s way too quiet now.

DSC07586I’d like to think that Ace and my guests gained something from the experience — that Darcy will remember to relieve herself outdoors; that Cheyenne will remember how Ace helped guide her to the park; that Lucas will never forget that I can bark louder — though not for as long — as him.

Maybe I taught them a thing or two, but they — as often happens when humans and dogs connect —  have taught me much more.

Hence, my New Year’s resolutions:

DSC07662Be more like Ace: Share. Allow new beings, after a good sniffing out, into my life. When others get on my nerves, just walk away. Don’t whine. Don’t get cranky. Take things in stride. Adjust.

Be more like Lucas: Speak up when circumstances so dictate, or maybe sometimes even when they don’t. Keep plodding along, despite any aches, pains or inconveniences. And, if there’s a particularly attractive mud puddle, do not hesitate, even if wearing white, to jump on in and splash around. Get dirty once in a while.

Be more like Cheyenne: When I bump my head, keep going — with quiet grace. Persevere. Don’t whine about the obstacles; find a way around them. Step lightly, but keep moving forward.

Be more like Darcy: Seize the day. Live in the moment (even though, at the moment, I’m quite sick of that phrase). Grab the bone. Fart loud and often. Explore. Stay excited — maybe not to the extent she does — but stay excited by life.

DSC07575Be more like Ace and Cheyenne: Be willing to help and be helped, to guide and be guided.

When you can cushion the blows somebody is taking, cushion them.

Don’t hesitate to hold somebody’s hand. Let others lean on me. Allow myself to lean on others. 

Be willing to adjust my gait, my habits and my routines for good purposes.

Trust.

Share the couch.

Share the bowl.

(To read all of the “Company for Christmas” series, click here.)

Roxy’s Rules

After telling my dog story at Monday night’s Stoop Stories appearance, I ran into photojournalist Bonnie Schupp in the Centerstage lobby.

Bonnie and her husband (David Ettlin, a former co-worker of mine at the Baltimore Sun) don’t have a dog now, but they are frequently called upon as dogsitters.

It was while babysitting Roxy, their daughter’s puggle, that Bonnie put together the following observations, reprinted here with her permission:

“What Roxy Has Taught Me”

On your way, travel with a sweeping motion
so you will experience both sides of the path.

Stop to smell the dirt—
full of hidden life.

Romp with leaves and
don’t worry about how silly you look.

It’s okay to run around in circles
as long as you do it joyfully.

Sometimes it’s good to chase something
even if you don’t understand why.

You don’t stand a chance against
creatures with claws.

Take your time
when pooping.

“What Roxy Needs to Learn”

Calculators and bathroom walls
are not food.

Pick your nose up off the ground and
notice the deer watching you.

Learn to behave and the rest of the house
will become yours too.

(Photo of Roxy, courtesy of Bonnie Schupp)