Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ducati 911

My Ducati M696 and I did a little nine-one-one* last month.  As a Certified Veterinary Technician (no longer practicing regularly, thanks to my, uhhh,  busy flute career) and a volunteer** with the Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) of the United Animal Nations (UAN), I do occasionally get deployed for various emergency animal operations.  You know, ya got your hurricanes, your wild fires… stuff like that.   Fueled with gas station hot dogs, ice cream sandwiches and 91 octane, I put my plans to ride to Big Bend National Park on hold, and rode out to St. Johns, AZ, instead.  (I’ll be honest here, the ride to St. Johns beats the ride to Big Bend by a long shot, so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice.)

Although my four wheeled vehicles have had a nasty habit of breaking down in Salt River Canyon in the past, it was, surprisingly, my first go through this area on a motorcycle.  The Duc and I made it through with flying colors!

EARS St Johns 008
A hazy day in Salt River Canyon

EARS St Johns 003
The Duc, loaded up, now that I finally have luggage capability.  This time the usual camping gear was replaced with rescue volunteer supplies and equipment.

This latest case was different from the standard natural disaster.  In a covert operation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) rescued approximately 250 animals from an animal hoarding situation.  Animal hoarding is tough to see and understand.  For all the hoarders’ good intentions, their animals suffer, often tragically so, and, in every such situation, some animals do indeed die from neglect.  HSUS found animals living in filthy conditions (think knee deep in poop), tied up, crammed in pens, trailers and abandoned vehicles without the basic necessities of food and water.***  Almost all of those rescued needed medical attention and very few were used to interaction with humans.  This lack of "socialization" severely complicated both the rescue efforts and the required veterinary exam and legal documentation of each individual animal.  The task of the UAN EARS was to set up and run a temporary shelter until the ownership of the animals could legally be transferred to the Apache County’s Sheriff’s Office, care for the animals, and begin to socialize them in preparation for future adoption.   Many thanks to one of  UAN’s official photographers for this operation, Marcia Goodman, for letting me share a few photos with you.

Daisy-IMG_7312-Done Reduced
Although "Daisy" the pig was so underweight she could not withstand the anesthesia needed to care for her crippling overgrown hooves, she was at least the size of the love seat in my living room.

Geese Click and Clack-IMG_7176-Done-Reduced
I am weirdly afraid of geese, primarily because I don't "speak goose."  If you can't correctly interpret animal body language, you are at a distinct disadvantage.  I opted for "immersion therapy" and made a point to be "Click" and "Clack's" caretaker each day.  You may laugh, but you lock yourself in a small pen with hissing geese and see how you  feel.

Dog-Baxter-IMG_7120-Done Reduced
There were many pictures of adorable pups that I could have chosen, but the heart operates in mysterious ways, and "Baxter" was particularly special to me.  Be well, Baxter!

The animals’ transformation over the course of their stay at our shelter was true testament to the power of kindness.  Seeing a dog once snarling and snapping in its perceived self defense, or, quite literally, hiding with its head pressed into a corner for days gradually learn to trust and connect with us is a powerful, gratifying and humbling experience.  It's difficult for me, not knowing the end of each individual animal's story, after developing my own relationship with them over the course of my week there.  As I look at the media about this case (some of which is linked below), I recognize each animal - its personality, its quirks, the difficulties and successes I had, and remember fondly the time I spent with it.  Writing this post almost a full month after my "tour of duty" brings on a few unexpected tears. I guess the bittersweet leash that connects my heart across the miles to these animals is more durable than I thought.

As I write, these rescued animals are being distributed to shelters across the western US for adoption, to begin a new and better life.  Let me take this moment to beg you, if you want to acquire a pet, please adopt one from your local shelter. If you desire a certain breed, then inquire with one of the many breed specific rescue organizations.  Don't bolster demand and contribute to pet overpopulation.  Save one of the many lives that, right here, right now, need saving.  You really are, as they say, either part of the problem or part of the solution.  You choose.

Hard work makes for some very hungry volunteers.  We were well fed during out stay, with local restaurants kindly donating lunches daily.  Many thanks go to “Speedy B’s” and “Iggy’s Country Cookin’” for their generosity and hearty meals, and to the many members of the community who brought us snacks and needed supplies.  Local veterinarians and staff donated their time and medical supplies, and PetSmart Charities unloaded an entire 18 wheeler of fencing, food, bowls, leashes, and everything else one needs to set up an animal shelter. The sheriff's office provided important security, and the local animal control lent a hand as well.  The cast of characters in this operation ran deep.

EARS St Johns 015
After a few too many snacks, I crave plants!

You should know by now that any proper touring motorcyclist will opt for the long way home, especially if it involves the Coronado Scenic Byway (AZ 191), that glorious 100 mile stretch of twisty turny road I told you about at the end of this post.  Having just had two days of instruction at the track the week prior, I had high expectations for fun.   The gentle turns between  Alpine and Hannagan Meadow give the sportin’ rider a chance to warm up both tires and brain.  Just south of Hannagan Meadow, the game is on, with the turns becoming tighter, more challenging, and more fun.  I dug into that first good corner with gusto and…

…sand trap!   Right in that first bend, cleverly positioned such that, if not competently negotiated, the governing laws of physics would likely send motorcycle and rider over the edge of an impressive cliff.  My helmet bore witness to some colorful vocabulary, but I am grateful for good instruction, good luck, and good instincts.   My ride home that day quickly became a skills test of road hazard management.  Sand, gravel, fallen rocks, fresh oil (and the people applying it), flocks of turkeys, leaping deer, herds of cattle (and accompanying slippery poop), all directly in my path, were stern reminders that street riding is about keepin’ it real.

My route.  My sloppy photoshopping pretty much obliterated the twisties, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Further Reading about this case:
HSUS video of the initial seizure
Initial press release on the situation as published by UAN
General UAN blog link.   Scroll through for all updates and details about this case, and others as they occur.
Specific UAN Blog post featuring some of my work that week
UAN Facebook page - updates and lots of photos

* I was going to use a clever play on words here, using the Ducati model 911 I was so sure existed.  But, duh, the 911 is a Porsche, not a Ducati, and even Porsches have two too many wheels, so why bother?
** Anyone can volunteer!  You need not be licensed or even work in an animal health care field.
*** Conditions that, in some respects, reminded me of those in a CAFO ("Confined Animal Feeding Operation," aka factory farm, except in this case, minus the food and water.)  Why so many people find this acceptable treatment for food animals, yet rightfully horrifying for pets is really, really hard to grasp.  It's a matter of education and compartmentalization, I guess.  But all this is an entirely different discussion.  Remember though, our choices, without question, once again make us part of the problem or part of the solution.   Consider the choices we make in this regard over the course of a day, a week, a month.  What side of the equation does your sum total fall on?  Think about it, and choose knowingly.


Marcia (UAN Volunteer in Connecticut) said...

Right on, Paula! This paints a great picture of the shelter experience from the volunteer's POV. It was a treat to work with you -- wish you had brought your flute for both the volunteers and the animals.

Jodi (UAN volunteer in Kentucky) said...

Great posting, Paula. I love the way you included not only your personal experiences (ex. Click and Click) but also used this blog as a timely way to advocate for animal welfare.

Ramona Coyote said...

Thank you so much for sharing, I did not get to meet you in St. Johns, but was there for 8 days also. We have Baxter by the way...he is needing major dental surgery, and also surgery on a fatty tumor...Aimee who is a board member for the Humane Society of the White Mountains (here in Lakeside) has adopted him! We also have 3 others and Cookie Dough and her babies. Glad you loved our scenery...We truly are blessed here in the White Mountains!
Ramona Coyote

Paula said...

Thank you for the update, Ramona! I do indeed love the area, and just returned this Thursday from a 5 day moto camping tour of NE AZ and SE UT. (Blog posts in the works, of course.)
I am SO happy to hear about Baxter and the others. Thank you so much for letting me know!