Sunday, July 23, 2006

Twenty-six: Animal Adventures

That's the name of one my daughter's computer games, containing the catchy little ditty: "temperate fo-rest, temperate fo-rest, seasons chaaange.....", cleverly set to the tune of Frere Jacques. Shortly after that ditty, the computer invariably freezes and anguished howls for parental rescue begin. I expect the disc will be tragically "lost" in the move. But I digress.

Today's topic is no. 2 on The List: Swimming with wild dolphins. I haven't. (My husband did once have to ditch his helicopter in the South Pacific right beside a pod of dolphins, and quite a lot of water got inside before they got the remaining engine sufficiently spun up to generate lift for the short trip out of Dili harbour and onto dry land, so he feels he qualifies for the "X". This is my blog, though.)

In Cozumel I did once spend an afternoon paddling about awkwardly in a life jacket and rented snorkel gear of uncertain cleanliness. (One of the reasons I have not spent more time frolicking with wild sea creatures is my distinct lack of swimming ability.) As we were admiring the colourful fishies, a decent sized barracuda came zipping by and did a couple circuits of the snorkeling area. He looked exactly like the one that ate Nemo's mom, and it seemed to me that something with that many pointy teeth could be inherently problematic, however, no one else seemed too excited, so we just watched.

The remainder of my wild creature encounters have been on land. For example, running with bears. There are a considerable number of black bears living in the Whistler area, and it is not uncommon to round a bend in the running trail and find one lumbering along in search of berries. Thankfully, these guys don't get too fussed about humans as long as you back off and leave them well alone.

Motoring with moose. Newfoundland contains an astonishing number of moose, many of whom apparently reside right beside the Trans Canada highway, where they lie in wait for unsuspecting motorists. My residency program had training locations scattered from one end of the province to the other, so I spent a considerable amount of time on the road and had a number of close calls.

Lunching with lions. When I was nine, my family moved to South Africa for a couple of years. We took every opportunity to visit the local game parks, and spent a memorable three week holiday in Kruger National Park. More on that in installment no. 114.

Frolicking with frogs. The pond across from our house in South Africa contained an enormous variety of frogs and toads which were relatively easy to catch in the evening. I would collect a couple dozen at a time and was permitted to keep them overnight in the bathtub for scientific observation. (Apparently, many of my friends' mothers were not nearly so accomodating.) I used to stack them up in descending order of size, and then stare deep into their eyes to mesmerize them so that they would sit still.

Recreating with rattlesnakes. In the Okanagan. My mother was the one who found him in a clump of grass, where he was entertaining our dog with his tail. The rest of us were up the river fishing, and returned to find Mom coolly finishing him off with a large stick.

Cruising with cockroaches. When we moved from Monte Carlo to South Africa, we did so by passenger liner - the Italian ship Galileo Galilei. Every evening, hoards of enormous cockroaches would scutter about on the floor, and the ship's staff swore that their existence was an utter impossibility. So my father collected a number, sealed them in an envelope and addressed it to our steward. The cockroach problem was solved (presumably by hideously toxic chemical means - it was the '70's) shortly thereafter.

I could go on - recoiling from rats (don't ask), dealing with deer (my roses!), checking for cougars. Considering where we lived on Vancouver Island, it is virtually certain that I was unwittingly stalked by cougars on several occasions - I have never shed the ingrained habit of glancing over my shoulder regularly when walking in the woods. But, since I have now reached the point of recounting non-encounters with presumptive creatures, it is obviously time to quit.

Next week: "Climbed a Mountain." Quite a lot of them over the years, and I have the pictures to prove it. If I can find them.