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Llamas and dogs make friends, but just how deep do they bond? When Gaze, the llama, gets out of sight of his constant companion, Baylord, the llama, he kicks at the dirt, pulls on the leash, and gets downright unpleasant. Dublin and Checkers met for the first time on the weekend this photo was taken, but these dogs were instant best friends…a reaction that neither dog has shown with any other canine in her or his life. No one can doubt the mutual affection and attachment that is so readily apparent between these two sets of furry beings, but how deep does that well run? I imagine it runs as deep as that between human friendships. And it probably never hits a rough patch, or dissolves suddenly during emotional turmoil.  My guess is that friendship amongst the four-legged is an unlabeled, unconditional phenomena that is never given a second thought, and that’s probably how it weathers every storm.

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(NOTE: The video at the end of this post contains a story spoiler. So, please read this first…)

My day started off the same as every other this month. Feeling the weight of depression that only a broken relationship can impart, I dragged myself out of bed and blamed myself immediately for the ugly state of the world. It’s a good thing for my dog, or I might not even bother waking up and feeling sorry for myself. So, this is progress. But the reality is, it does get much easier every day and I notice that I don’t miss the person nearly as much as I agonize over what I did wrong or could have done better. Always the ruminating overachiever.  However, today was a little different, because I really didn’t care about over achievement either. I just wanted to get on with my life again. And never was there a better way to start doing that then to immerse myself in the situation that was about to unfold on this sunny California morning.

So, I dragged myself out of bed,  threw on whatever would get me out to the beach (obviously aware that there would be no fashion show) and leashed up Dublin the Dog for our regular morning outing. I walked with a neighbor woman for most of the walk up the beach and talked about work, life, and dogs. I’m not one to walk and talk for a long part of my morning venture, but today I just felt like the company. If I were to analyze the workings of the universe, that should have been my first indicator something was different. I dropped the woman off at her spot on the beach and then turned around to begin the walk home. Dublin the Dog turned with me and stayed really close on my heels, not obsessively exploring the sand dunes as she normally would. That would be hint number two that something was about to happen.

So, I walked and walked and suddenly realized I hadn’t looked back at Dublin in a while. When I did finally turn to locate her, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Back  a 100 paces in the sand sat Dublin, upright on her hiney, and directly to her left sat a baby…penguin. Well, that’s what my eyes first witnessed, but upon closer inspection I realized that Dublin was actually sitting side by side with a black and white seabird of some sort – that just happened to be sitting up on its haunches like a penguin. So there sat my cattle/bird dog, sitting beside this penguin impostor, as though they were in a movie theater watching a very boring film of me. As I moved in closer I instinctively knew, from having rescued many birds before, that this bird was not sitting by a bird-eating dog by choice. He was sitting there because he was detained against his will. By the time I was near enough to touch the bird, I had already pulled off my Geoffrey Beene vest that had become my standard bird catching apparatus on these morning walks. As I moved in quickly to cover the bird and pick him up, Dublin the Dog became very vocal and threatening upon seeing the “baby penguin” start to move. But this bird was so calm, cool, and collected, that both Dublin and myself seemed to pick up his vibe and we both instantly mellowed out. As I walked with this fabulously round, quite heavy creature tucked away in my vest, with only his sweet face and beak peeking out, I became overwhelmed by the smell of petroleum. At first I thought I must have walked past a heavily tarred area in the sand, but then I realized the smell was so overpowering, it seemed to follow us down the length of the beach. Suddenly it hit me, and my heart sunk – this little bird was  a victim of an oil spill. Sure enough, when I got him home and pulled him out of my vest, I saw that both of my hands had been completely blackened by the thick coat of petroleum on his underside. I was absolutely sickened that this poor, innocent creature should have to endure this misery because some careless captain, or boater or whoever the hell had spilled this deadly substance into the ocean – this poison that renders a bird’s feathers and thermal protection completely ineffective, leaving them to die a slow agonizing death by hypothermia.

Fortunately, this bird was lucky. I knew from experience that Patagonia, that wonderful outdoor clothing company with a conscience, takes birds and other injured or orphaned animals right at the front desk of their Ventura headquarters. With my bird friend in the back seat, I headed down to Patagonia, nearly suffocating from the  stench of tar infiltrating every nook and cranny of my car. I couldn’t  believe one little bird had absorbed so much of this black poison. When I got him to Patagonia, Kim Stroud, the tireless Director of the Ojai Raptor Center (www.ojairaptorcenter.org), met me at the front desk and whisked him off to a courier who would bring him to Santa Barbara for a special intense cleaning process, and then further on up the coast for rehabilitation. Kim informed me that this bird was a Murre and that these guys live far out in the waters of Channel Islands and beyond, and are rarely seen on the coast unless injured. Evidently, they are so used to living in seclusion that they seem to sense no fear from dogs or humans, and that’s why this creature never once tried to poke my or Dublin’s eye out with his dagger-like beak. When I left him with Kim, he was peaceful, yet still spunky, and ready to get back to the day to day business of being a seabird. It is my belief that he will get to do that very soon.

People, please, if you see an animal in despair, do your best to help it. Don’t convince yourself there’s nothing wrong or that the animal can help itself. If something feels wrong to you,  it probably is wrong. An injured seabird is likely to be mauled to death by a dog, or suffer horrendously for days on end as its system slowly shuts down. Think ahead and store the numbers on your cell phone for the rescue groups in your area that provide resources for injured or orphaned wildlife. The help you can provide one of these fallen creatures, often just by making a simple phone call,  is tremendous. It’s almost always the difference between life and death. And if able to make a conscious choice, I guarantee  you that seabird would choose life. Absolutely and without a doubt.

I’m tired of wrestling alligators and demons and emotions. So tired. It’s time to set the alligator free and gain some peace, quiet, and perspective.

Is it really possible to change facets of your personality and behavior with a specific outcome in mind? I’ve always believed in my heart of hearts that it is, and I know that I’ve grown and changed immensely over the years – but, was my growth intentional or merely incidental?  I decided to do some research on the topic to see what I could dig up.  What I found were many fascinating quotations that all seemed to come about as a response to my question of change.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” [Henri Bergson, French philosopher, 1859 – 1941]

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” [Charles DuBois, American chemist, 1912 – 1971]

“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” [Aldous Huxley, English writer, 1894 – 1963]

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”  [Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, 1884 – 1962]

All of these quotes suggest taking control over one’s change, as opposed to it coming about by mere accident. That can be seen in the action words “creating,” “sacrificing,” and “improving.” It follows then, that many respected persons throughout history have strongly believed that purposeful, intentional change in a human is not only possible, but quite desirable and necessary for living a meaningful existence.

But how does this desire to change come about? Are most people so in tune to themselves that they know how to make important changes just in time for them to be valuable? Or do they discover the need to change as a result of  life experiences? The answers lie again in the words of others.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” [M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and best-selling author]

“Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.” [Frederick F. Flack]

This notion of “reappraising” oneself is a perfect way to explain the kind of change I’m talking about. It’s the kind of change that results from knowing that you’ve failed, or reached a road block, and wanting to make a significant difference in the way you handle yourself and certain situations in the future. It’s kind of like a dandelion pushing through the earth and on its way having to weave through concrete and brick, but in the course purposely changing its growth pattern to come out of the dark and into the light. Like the dandelion (and many individuals throughout history), I too am battling obstacles in order to make some changes for a brighter future. And, let me tell you – it’s nice to know I’m in such good company.



Out of my gord, originally uploaded by Samara Iodice.

Well, not entirely, but I did have quite a fun time photographing the season’s offerings at our local pumpkin patch. You can see more of that on my Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samaraiodice/

And, to those people (all three of them) who have asked “Samara, when will you be writing another essay of epic proportion?” I tell them to sit tight for a few more days. I will be publishing again soon. But, for now, if anyone comes here looking for a good (or at least unique) read, please peruse the links to the left under “Recent Musings.” I recommend “Made in China” to, hopefully, put a smile on your face.

PEACE TO YOU ALL ~ Samara

The Philosopher

Samara Iodice is a writer, multimedia producer, and hobby musician living in Southern California. She has created marketing and training productions for such clients as London Business School, the U.S. Navy, Rice University, Southern California Edison, and WellPoint. She is currently employed as a Training Producer for lynda.com. In her spare time she is a self-confessed photography addict and loves walking for miles and miles with her very silly cattle dog, Dublin. She is also a dedicated environmentalist and animal welfare advocate. Find out more at www.samaraiodice.com.

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