Category Archives: animal rescue

The Monday Book: NORTH TO THE NIGHT by Alvah Simon

Armchair adventuring isn’t usually my cuppa tea. I picked this book up in part because of its subtitle, “A Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic.”

The book is written by a man who convinces his long-suffering wife Diana that they should live on a boat, and then that the boat should be sailed to the northernmost point possible on the planet so they can live there for a year.

Polar bears are a big feature in the book, mostly how to detect and escape from them. The Simons pick up a kitten as they sail north, naming her Halifax. She becomes a bear detector, companion in the darkness, comic relief, and star attraction for the Inuit who visit the crazy people with the boat wedged in the ice.

That’s the thing about going to the Arctic: getting out again is hard. There are several passages about how the boat suddenly bucks and plunges and ice pieces like killer knives suddenly appear on deck, etc. Also, polar bears.

Diana has to leave in the middle of the winter because her father is dying; kind people come get her because, see above, getting out is hard. And she wasn’t an emergency in the technical sense.

During the year, Simon comes to recognize how much being alone makes you aware of your inner resources, not just surviving, but maintaining sanity. Who are you when no one is looking, literally? The book dealt with that in some aspects, although in true author-to-the-most-people fashion, he leaves how that resolves into affiliational loyalty ambiguous at the end.

There’s a gyrfalcon story that could be considered heartbreaking advocacy, but my favorite was wee Halifax running off an Arctic Fox, and charming an Inuit elder.

Perhaps the most powerful thing about this book is, it made me interested in their journey, even though I never want to go on one similar myself. It is easy for an author to entice people with similar interests to keep reading. I kept reading even though I was halfway to horrified at how strange and different and hard to understand some of their experiences–and even motivations–were. He’s good at making you see what he sees.

Pour yourself a warm beverage, sit back, and watch Halifax romp and the birds fly. And look out for polar bears.

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Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, Life reflections, reading, Wendy Welch

The Monday Dog Encounter

So instead of a book to read, let me tell you the story of fetching such a book. I walked about a mile over to the house of a woman I had just interviewed for my next book. Rachel is a past or present board member of several initiatives working on poverty and affordable housing in Wytheville and environs. She offered to loan me a book called Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado, as part of my research.

Writing is a noble profession, but it does tend to make one gain weight if not careful, so I welcomed the opportunity to stretch my legs and let my mind lie fallow a wee while. A warm coat, stout boots, and off I went.

About 2/3 of the way to Rachel’s house, a pit bull came rushing down the upper porch stairs of a big old house and charged the chain link fence between me and him, barking madly.

I turned. “Awww, sweet boy, don’t you look just like my Bruce at home?”

He looked confused.

“And who’s a good boy then, defending Mummy and Daddy’s property and all that? Aren’t you a clever sweet thing, snuffly wuffly baby?”

If there is anything more demeaning to a guard dog than being called snuffly wuffly baby, I have not yet discovered it. He sat down and gave me side-eye.

“Bye now sweet boy!” I waved and continued my slow puff up the hill.

On the way back down, book in hand, I looked for my new canine buddy. Nowhere to be seen, until I checked the high porch. One doggie eye peered between slats on the rail.

Guess he doesn’t want to play anymore. That was my first thought, and then, Oh, I get it. He’s going to wait until I am almost past and then rush the corner of the yard barking really loud to make me jump. That way he can get his dignity back.

Sure enough, two steps past the final fence post, here he came, roaring and frothing fit to burst.

“Oh doggiewoggie bowwowser snookie pookums,” I said, in my best purr. “You are so clever wever, aren’t you snooshie wooshie baby boy?”

His shoulders slumped. He turned and started for the porch. I turned back to my journey, but when I glanced over my shoulder, he was doing the same, regarding me with a kind of curious reproach in his eyes.

Lissen son, 2020 is almost over and then you can get your groove back, ‘kay? For now, accept pookie snookums good boy as the compliment it is. None of the other neighborhood dogs heard. You’ll be fine.

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Filed under animal rescue, humor, Life reflections, Wendy Welch, writing