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Tag: survival

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)

Left for dead, pit bull’s tail is still wagging

theia2

She was a truck stop dog — or at least that’s where she seemed to spend most of her time.

Having no real home, and no official owner, she could most often be found at a truck stop in Moses Lake, Wash., taking advantage of the kindness of truckers and others who would pat her on the head and toss some food her way.

Sometime in February, she appeared to have met the fate of many a wandering stray. She was hit by a car on the highway and injured so severely that someone thought it best to put her out of her misery.

She was struck on the head with a hammer and left in a ditch.

A few days later the white pit bull mix —  dirty, limping and emaciated — showed up at a farm outside of town, with her tail wagging.

A farmhand took her to Moses Lake Veterinary Hospital, and the owner-less dog’s plight ended up being posted on Facebook.

When Sara Mellado, a Mose Lake resident, read the post, she offered to provide the dog a temporary home. Mellado, whose German shepherd had died just two weeks earlier, named the dog Theia.

“Considering everything that she’s been through, she’s incredibly gentle and loving,” Mellado said. “She’s a true miracle dog, and she deserves a good life.”

Since then, Mellado has made several trips to Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, where Theia has been treated for leg injuries, a dislocated jaw, and multiple fractures in her nasal bones that are believed to be a result of the hammer blows.

“When I brought her home, she hardly slept because breathing was such a chore,” said Mellado.

The veterinary hospital’s Good Samaritan Fund committee awarded $700 to help pay for Theia’s treatment, and a GoFundMe campaign started by Mellado has, as of today, raised $12,000 — $2,000 more than its goal.

The money will be used to pay for Theia’s nasal passage surgery which will inolve installing  a stent to help reopen her nasal passages.

The surgery is scheduled for April 22, according to Washington State University News.

(Photo: Washington State University News)

If not for dogs, we’d all be Neanderthals

evolution

There’s no question humans played a major — you could even say heavy-handed — role in the evolution of dogs.

But might dogs and their predecessors have played an equally significant role in our’s?

invadersA new book by Pennsylvania State University anthropologist Pat Shipman, “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction,” suggests that having wolves/dogs on our side allowed humans to survive while Neanderthals went extinct.

(Well, maybe not totally extinct; I know at least two.)

In reality, most humans today — thanks to long-ago couplings between humans and Neanderthals — have anywhere from one to four percent of Neanderthal genes in their systems. (Those genes, I suspect, are responsible for making us tailgate, become bodybuilders and cut in line.) 

Neanderthals lived, evolved and pretty much ruled for about 250,000 years. After humans came along, about 40,000 years ago, the numbers of Neanderthals declined, then vanished, falling victim, some think, to the superior intellect, skills and weapons of early humans.

Shipman agrees with that theory, but argues humans having wolves on their side was a critical factor.

Neanderthals, the author says, never buddied up with the wolf, while humans would go on to form an alliance with them, tame them, breed them and assign them the kind of tasks that helped with survival — like hunting, guarding and chasing away enemies.

Given dogs were once thought to have been domesticated only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago — long after Neanderthals and humans had it out — little attention was paid to what, if any role, they might have played in the conflict.

But newer evidence, suggesting the domestication of dog goes back 25,000, 35,000, or even more than 100,000 years ago, lends credence to the conclusion dogs were a factor in the survival of our species.

It’s all pretty fascinating stuff — from whence we came, from whence dog came, and how, when and why we seemingly became allies.

But, other than the fact that knowing how our species has managed to survive this long might help it continue to do so, I’m not sure how relevant it is to modern times — unless, as one writer semi-playfully suggests in a piece for WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, how much an individual likes or dislikes dogs is related to the amount of Neanderthal within.

“Depending on the individual, you might just wonder if dog loving might be an indicator of the ratio of Neanderthal genes you’ve got,” Vicki Croke wrote on the WBUR blog, “The Wild Life.” She quotes Lauren Slater, author of  “The $60,000 Dog:”

“What this may mean: all those ‘not dog’ people, the ones who push away the paws and straighten their skirts after being sniffed, well, they may have one foot in the chromosomally compromised Neanderthal pool,” Slater wrote, while dog lovers “may be displaying not idiocy or short-sighted sentimentality, as our critics would call it, but a sign of our superior genetic lineage.”

So the next time some small foreheaded, prim and proper, club-carrying type asks that you keep your dog away from them, by all means comply, but feel free to mutter under your breath as you walk away:

“What a Neanderthal!”

Dog found alive after her memorial service

graciejpeg-a13cc342cc44b832When a Labradoodle fell off the side of a 200-foot cliff in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, members of the group she was hiking with all presumed she had died — and held a memorial service right there on the spot.

But Gracie, amazingly, was still alive.

And a rescue team hoisted her to safety.

The dog’s owner, Michelle Simmons, says her Labradoodle was part of a large hiking group. Gracie and another dog were playing on a trail when Gracie went over the side of the cliff.

Her horrified family held a memorial service for the pooch on the cliff.

Afterwards, another hiker heard the dog, contacted authorities, and the Oregon Humane Society sent a 10-person rescue team to the site, on Eagle Creek trail, near Punchbowl Falls.

Bruce Wyse, a member of the team, was lowered down the 200-foot cliff and fitted Gracie with a rescue harness. Team members then hoisted Gracie and Wyse back up the cliff.

She was in fairly good shape, having suffered only bruises and scratches, the Oregonian reported.

The rescue team’s leader., Rene Pizzo, said the incident should be a reminder to other pet owners who hike with their animals to keep their dogs on leashes.

“We strongly urge dog owners to keep their pets on leash all the time in areas such as the Columbia Gorge,” Pizzo said. “Your dog’s leash can save your pet’s life.”

(Photo: Oregon Humane Society)

Would you eat your dog to stay alive?

Marco Lavoie.jpg A hiker who was stranded in the Canadian wilderness for nearly three months after a bear destroyed his supplies had to eat his beloved dog to survive.  When Marco Lavoie was found by rescuers on Wednesday he was just days from death and had to be carried to a waiting helicopter.  The 44-year-old had been trapped with little food and survival equipment since July after a bear ransacked his campsite near the start of a planned three-month solo hike.Three days after his dog saved him from a bear in the Canadian wilderness, a stranded hiker ate his German shepherd to save himself from starvation.

Unable to find any food, Marco Lavoie, 44, killed his dog with a rock and ate him, according to the Canadian news agency QMI.

According to news reports, the first words the hiker uttered, after being found close to death by rescuers last week, were: “I want to get a new dog.”

Lavoie — after a bear destroyed his canoe and food supply — was stranded for three months in the wilderness about 500 miles outside Montreal. After the bear attack, he sprained his ankle and was unable to hunt or find any other source of food, according to reports.

Lavoie, an experienced hiker who often spent weeks in the wilderness by himself, was rescued by helicopter on Wednesday. He’d lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia. He was listed in critical condition in a hospital in Northern Quebec.

Survival expert Andre Francois Bourbeau told the Toronto Sun that Lavoie’s decision to eat his dog was a good one.

“He survived because he made good decisions. Eating his dog was one of them,” said Borbeau, the author of a survival guide. “You have to be desperate, but there’s no shame in (eating the dog),” said Bourbeau. “Hunger squeezes you so much that you would accept food that’s not normally possible,” said Bourbeau. “You can crave slugs and bugs.”

I’m sure there are many others who hold that view, and who’d point out that man — by virtue of that “dominion” he has over other animals, by virtue of being the superior, more developed being, by virtue of his position atop civilized society — has every right to chow down on his dog when trapped in the wilderness with no other options available.

But we don’t find much virtue at all in his actions.

We see more humanity in the dog, who loyally went along on his master’s silly wilderness trip, scared off a bear to protect him, and — despite any hunger pangs he might have been experiencing, despite his master’s hobbled condition — didn’t make a meal of Lavoie.

Police shoot pit bull and leave him for dead, but on the next day he rises

A pit bull shot by police and left for dead in East St. Louis was scooped up by an animal advocate the next day, rushed to the vet and may survive.

Fox 2 News reports that police were called to the 900 block of East Broadway in East St. Louis on Tuesday after an eight-year-old boy was bitten by a black and white dog who witnesses say the boy had been throwing rocks at.

On Wednesday, Jaime Case, the executive director of Gateway Pet Guardians, was driving through the area and saw the dog moving in a field. She and her husband, who feed stray dogs in East St. Louis, loaded the dog in their truck and rushed him to Hillside Animal Hospital in St. Louis.

Why the dog remained in a field nearly 24 hours after police shot him, why no one apparently checked the dog after he was shot, why what was thought to be his lifeless body wasn’t hauled away are questions police haven’t answered. But on the surface it all seems to show a huge lack of respect — both for dogs and the community.

At least one department official wasn’t happy about it. Police returned to the street the next day, after neighbors who had gathered to watch the dog get rescued started expressing anger about how the police had handled the incident the day before. Fox News 2 caught one officer on video, who was wearing a hat reading ‘Asst. Chief’ and shouting into his phone at someone about the incident.

“We should have down something proper. How do we shoot a dog and leave a damn dog in a field?” the officer asked. “And you wonder why these people say the (expletive) they say about us.”

X-rays of the dog, who the rescuers named Colt, reveal he was shot once in the shoulder and once in the head.

But animal rescuer Case said when they arrived at his side he seemed to have some fight left in him.

“He was fighting us to get in the car so he has got some oomph left in him,” she said. “I am hopeful all those things mean he is on his way to recovery.”

Because the dog was found alive, the child who was bitten may be able to avoid a series of five rabies shots.

The dog, who was wandering at the time of the incident, is microchipped, and is registered to a home in Belleville.

If the dog survives, there’s still a good chance he could be put down if he is deemed dangerous.

For love of food, or for love and food?

Ace remembers.

Ace remembers the park he used to play in, the places he liked to poop, the street he used to live on, the people who gave him treats. Ace remembers which rowhouse windows cats lived behind, which dogs once snapped at him, where his favorite bar is, who’s a friend, who’s a foe and, most of all, how to get a handout.

Ace remembers, maybe, even better than me.

Watching him back in the old neighborhood, after a three month absence, I was impressed with just how much he remembered — from the moment we returned to Riverside Park and he ran up to Stan, the biscuit man, recognizing him even though Stan was in a new motorized chair.

When he saw one morning, from across the street, his friend Lori in the park, walking her dogs Chi Chi, Lola and Vinnie Barbarino (a foster), he bolted. Of course, she, too, had been a frequent treat provider — so much so that Ace’s ears would always perk up when he heard Chi Chi barking in the distance.

Nearly all dogs remember where they’ve gotten handouts — that’s pretty much how dogs became dogs in the first place, scavenging the outskirts of villages as wolves, then befriending residents who would throw them some leftovers.

I don’t think a dog’s memory is entirely food-based, or even entirely scent-based. I think dogs tend to recognize a good, kind soul when they meet one, and that somehow they register that information in their memory banks. That said, I think that the largest part of it is food and scent-based, and is instinctual, which is maybe why they remember better than we do, or at least I do.

Pehaps if I ran into an old friend in the park, and was struggling to remember his or her name, I would be better able to do so if I knew a free dinner would be involved. When one’s survival depends on it, one is willing to put more energy into being sociable.

I know that has been the case with me, on this journey. One can’t be a guest in someone’s home and then keep to oneself. One can’t just eat and run. One can’t just sleep and blog. That just wouldn’t be right. As our travels continue later this week, and we start month four, on the road, on a shoestring, after our layover in Baltimore, I would be well-served to keep that in mind — to, once again, be a little more like Ace, who once wandered Baltimore’s streets as a stray.

It’s not feigning love to get a treat (or a meal, or a bed, or an RV); it’s not purely reward-based affection, it’s more a case of loving both the person and the treat. That’s how I like to see it: “I am so happy to see you again, and thrilled just to be petted by you, but if perchance you have a treat in your pocket, that’s good, too.”

Wolves could have gotten their leftovers and ran; instead, they ended up bonding with humans and becoming dogs — not purely because it would mean more treats, but because, I like to think, the two species saw something in each other.

Just as wolves would return to where they’d gotten handouts, Ace made his rounds last week in the old neighborhood. At the park, he’d run up to anyone who had ever given him a treat, poking his nose in their pocket or purse to remind them in case they’d forgotten. Ace paused for a longtime when we passed Bill’s Lighthouse, a restaurant near my former home where a man name Jack — once Ace poked  his head in the door and made his presence known — used to always come out and him bring a treat. Across the street, at Leon’s, Ace — as he only rarely does — went into overpower-the-master mode and dragged me inside.

He must have known that Donna, one of the bartenders, was there. Every day, before we left the neighborhood, she would see him coming, take a break and feed him a Slim Jim, unwrapping it, and breaking it into small pieces. I’m not saying eating Slim Jims improve memory, but they sure did in Ace’s case.

Another block down, on my old street, I let go of the leash and let Ace run up to the door of his old house. He stood there waiting to get in, and when that didn’t work he went and stood at the door of the neighbor’s — waiting, waiting and waiting.

He fully remembered which dogs in the park were his friends, and avoided the ones he had always avoided. He remember what games he played with whom — with Cooper, it was biting her back legs; with Darcy, it was biting her front paws and taking her entire head into his mouth.

Walking down the sidewalk, Ace remembered every rowhouse in whose front window he had ever seen a cat, and paused to look inside — again, not because he likes to eat cats, but because he loves them. He can stare at them for hours, he’ll play and cuddle with those who permit it, and just maybe, late at night, when nobody’s looking, he’ll go and eat their food.

We are scavengers at heart, my dog and me.