Thursday, June 30, 2016

My favorite animal??

So if someone said to me that I could take just ONE animal from Harnas home--which is a stupid idea because wild animals make bad pets. But just saying if I had a perfect habitat for it, and my dogs were okay with it, and it was legal and all. If I had to do it--put a gun to my head and make me choose--it would probably end up being Atheno.

This first picture is of him as a cub when we first fell in love in December 2011. He grew up into a magnificent male cheetah--big and powerful--but to me he is always the sweet cub he is in this picture. He lives out in an enclosure that's a good walk, and you have to really mean it to go there. So sometimes the volunteers don't visit him as much as he deserves. They're also a little intimidated by him. Did I mention he got BIG.

I love him, so I go out to his enclosure every single day right after lunch, brush him with the special brush I brought along just for him, listen to him purr, and talk. He's a lot cheaper than a therapist, and he does a better job.

Today I had an especially wonderful day with him. I got to the enclosure, entered, and called for him to come. A few minutes later I saw his fabulous form making his way through the tall grass to me. We greeted each other and then I went over to the shady spot and sat down cross-legged. He came over and first put his head over my shoulder, as he usually does. I wrapped my arms around his back and we hugged for a few minutes. Then he stepped into the space created by my crossed legs and collapsed into my lap. His head rested on my leg. He purred and I rubbed his head, his cheeks, his back. And he purred like nobody's business for a long time.

Then he stopped. He had fallen asleep in my lap. This huge, powerful cheetah trusted me enough to fall asleep on me. I was afraid to move, to breathe, afraid he'd wake up and this magical moment would end. He slept for about ten minutes and then rolled off and over, showing me his white belly.

It was the best moment I've had since i got here at Harnas. And that's saying a lot. This is why I come.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

An Update and a Walk

First an update: the baby baboon made it through the night and went back to the vet today. He just got home attached to an IV. Marieta gives her all for every little one, and this one is getting the full outpouring of love and energy to help him.

This morning Marieta suggested I go on a cheetah walk that the volunteers were taking, so I joined them and was happy to see that Carolyn was among the vols. We took out four of the five cheetahs who are about 10 months old (one refused to get into the truck so she stayed home). A few of the vols were in the truck with the cheetahs. I climbed on the roof and held on for dear life along with Carolyn and two others. We parked a couple hundred yards down the road and let out the cheetahs. They knew just what to do--walk a bit, lie down, and submit to pictures from the vols.

I got some good ones of Carolyn and her friends. I'm going to try to upload one here. BB

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our House is a very very very fine house

This is my cat. She apparently came with the bungalow that I'm staying in. I wasn't here 5 minutes last Friday night when she came mewing at my door, begging to be let in. I did, of course. She's slept with me every night since, helping keep me warm. I'm sure she has an official name, but I've been calling her Black Beauty--or BB for short. Where else do you get a cat with a room?

Some anxious news today: the baby baboon isn't doing well. He was born to a mother who was (they thought) even too young to be sterilized, premature. The mother didn't know what to do with him, and he was failing. So Marieta went in a took the baby to save it. The mother--once Marieta's baby and a baby I helped grow named Coco--handed her over willingly.

This morning I went into Marieta's kitchen and held the baby boy for an hour, bottle fed him, and talked to him, but he was weak and having diarrhea. Marieta took him to the vet today in Gobabis--about an hour away. She's still gone so I don't know what the vet said.

One of the things that I love about Marieta is that she believes in the individual life of each animal. Sure, she's believes in the survival of the species, but she also believes that this little one, this individual life, has a right to go on. So I don't know what you believe, but I'm just asking you to think positive thoughts, pray, hope--whatever--that this little boy whom I held and kissesd this morning, survives. His eyes are so human.

And so as not to end on an anxious note, while I've been writing this--at a table outside the lapa in the setting sun--a half-grown warthog has been rooting around me, sort of sucking on my jeans and trying to get me to pet him (perhaps the least attractive animal alive). Right now I think he's sucking on my foot. Hilarious. You just never know here at Harnas. BB

Monday, June 27, 2016

Baby at Play

I've become sort of obsessed with this baby cheetah, Koema. He's absolutely adorable. At least twice a day we take him out to the lawn to play--with any person or creature that might be there. He's curious and adventurous and full of himself. He's a joy to watch.

Here are a couple of still pictures of him bottlefeeding and just posing. Also I hope the video comes through. It takes forever for videos to upload here and I waited 45 minutes for this one, and I'm still not sure it came out.

Little update on Carolyn. Today was her first day feeding the animals. She got put into a group called the Crocs (There are four groups, each assigned certain animals to care for.). She feeds the cheetah named Jeannie, some baby baboons, some vervet monkeys (biters, I'm afraid), and various other animals. Of course in between the work, there are lots of visits to various animal enclosures just to spend time.

It's winter here and as I've been doing this, the sun as been setting--a red and golden masterpiece. In the distance I can hear the lions beginning to roar. So beautiful. I can't believe I have the privilege to be here and experience this again. I wish I could take it all home with me. BB

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Today was our first full day at Harnas. Last night we arrived just as the sun was setting, and I turned Carolyn over to the volunteers and headed to my own room. We'd been traveling all day with five other volunteers, though, so she already had friends. This morning they threw the vols into action with a tour of both the outside enclosure with baboons, lions, leopards, cheetahs, vervet monkeys, and wild dogs. This afternoon they're touring the inside enclosures close to the house and lapa. I tagged along  this morning to watch the show and take some pics. Here's one of Carolyn  (pinkish shorts) standing on the top of a moving truck, tossing mielipap to the baboons. It's about the consistency of grits or oatmeal, and they get it all over themselves. It's great. She also threw meat  (donkey) over the fences to other animals. I think she's fully initiated now.

I've spent the remainder of my day reaquainting myself with old friends and meeting new ones. One new one that I'm already in love with is two month old Koema (pronounced Koo-mah), a baby cheetah that lives temporarily in Marieta's kitchen. I got to help bottlefeed him. Isn't he adorable?

Note: I wrote the above yesterday afternoon, but I didn't have enough juice in my laptop to post it. Now it's Sunday morning, and it's a beautiful sunny day. I saw Carolyn sitting on the lawn this morning with some of her volunteer friends. They finally got to touch some cheetahs yesterday afternoon, and even play with the baby. Sounds like it's going well. I wish her throat would get better, though. Any suggestions for strep throat besides the antibiotics, anyone?

Today is Marieta's birthday (also my sister Terri back in the states). I'm sure we'll do some celebrating later. BB


Friday, June 24, 2016

Travel Travails

Well, we made it to  Windhoek, capital of Namibia. Two hours to New York, 14 hours to Johannesburg, 2 hours to Windhoek. But then they lost two of my bags. I'm carrying 50 copies of my book for Harnas to sell, and that's mostly what I lost--along with some clothes. (Harnas has such a hard time getting the book for their little store. It takes forever, costs a fortune, and sometimes doesn't make it.) So I offered to bring as many as I could fit.

I've lost my luggage traveling more than a few times, though, and I've always gotten it back, so I remained optimistic. Yesterday afternoon they delivered the first one, a box of books, and last night as we were turning out the light, they brought the second one, so all is accounted for now.

Another blip on the radar screen--Carolyn seems to have strep throat. She's had a cold with a slight sore throat but on the trip it kept getting worse and worse. When we got here to the hotel, we shone a light in there and it's inflamed with spots all over it. Fortunately, I have some antibiotics with me (thank you Dr. Hart! You're always looking out for me!) so we've started her on those.

Yesterday as we were turning out of the airport, we saw a troop of baboons just playing by the side of the road. Carolyn was pretty excited to find some animals so quickly. It's like they were there just to greet her to Namibia.

It's just the beginning, though, and we'll have lots of stories to tell soon enough. Thanks for joining me on this trip. BB

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back Again to Harnas!

Hello Everyone! It's been a long time, but I'm heading back to Harnas tomorrow morning, arriving at the farm Friday evening. I've missed it so much--it's been over 2 years, and I can't wait to get back and see all my babies--like Zion and Trust, pictured here.

Every trip is different--some animals have died, like my precious dog Pickles whom I will miss greatly. And there will be new animals to fall in love with. But this trip will be especially good because I'm taking my goddaughter Carolyn MacLeod. Some of you might remember a few years ago when I was at Harnas, a good friend of mine, Doug MacLeod, lost his battle with cancer and passed away. That was Carolyn's father. Carolyn is now 18, just graduated from high school and getting ready to enter Duke University in the fall, and I've promised her this trip for several years. She's a real animal lover, and I think she's going to fall in love with Harnas just as I did. She'll be doing hard work as a volunteer, but I'll be doing my regular routine of just hanging around my animals. I'll probably join the volunteers more this time on their activities so that I can spend more time with Carolyn. She'll be the real star of my blog this trip.

So I hope you'll keep reading. Give me a few days to travel and I'll start writing regularly. See you on the other side of the world!