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Posts Tagged ‘animal stories’

We just returned from the scenic mountain city of Taxco. Alexis wanted some unique jewelry made and I was able to convince her we would be able to find a silversmith in that town, renowned for silversmiths. So off to Taxco, a little over a hundred miles from here. For some reason, Uber was down that morning, so we took a taxi, plenty to choose from passing our Airbnb. The taxi took us to Terminal Centrale de Autobuses, about $2.50 for a twenty-minute ride. My Spanish was good enough to purchase two tickets, sitting together, on a first-class bus to Taxco. We only had to wait about a half-hour, they run about every hour. The bus was very clean, had restrooms, TV showing a movie, and the seats had significantly more leg room and were larger and more comfortable than we had on the airplane to get here. The ride was about two and a half hours, and the cost was about $5 a ticket. Next another taxi ride through the narrow, winding, cobble-stone streets of Taxco and up a steep, mountain road, at least a mile-long, paved with black cobble stones. Our driver said the road was built, and the cobble stones placed, by manual labor using hand tools. Another $2.50 taxi ride to the Montetaxco hotel with a stunning view of Taxco below us.

 

 

Nice pool but we came for only one night with small backpacks, no swim suits.

 

After I asked several people for recommendations for a silversmith, we walked, no more than a hundred yards from the hotel, down a different steep cobble stone road, to the plateria (silver factory) of Antonio Arce. He was not only well-known, he was very friendly and helpful. Alexis showed him exactly what she wanted, two pendants, one in gold-plated silver, the other in solid silver. She also had a design for two bracelets, again gold-plated and solid silver. How fast, I asked? Antonio said he would have everything ready for us less than twenty-four hours later. The total cost was four thousand pesos, about two hundred dollars. Alexis estimates those items would have cost at least two thousand dollars in the U.S., if she could find someone to make them to her exact specs. They would certainly not get done overnight. Senor Arce had them waiting for us the next day and they were exactly as she wanted.

While wandering Mexico City a few days ago we stopped at a bookstore where I made a small purchase, and we had coffee in their coffee shop. We have seen these short coat-racks in several restaurants. They put them next to your table to hang a coat (mine would drag the floor), or your purse or backpack (mine is the backpack hanging). The sign says; “Don’t forget to watch your belongings”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel ran a cable car down the mountain into town for $5 a person, round-trip. Here’s a view from the cable car:

While strolling through the town we spotted this dog standing guard over the street from the roof of his house:


 

 

There are a lot of dogs running loose in Taxco, but also many on leashes and behind fences. We have yet to encounter a vicious attitude amongst them, even the pit bull-mixes that are common. Perhaps a manifestation of the friendly, calm, nature of the people? Another note, despite the large numbers of dogs everywhere we’ve been, we have only seen one pile of dog feces on the sidewalks, much different than in another city I love, Amsterdam.

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Writer’s Digest Judge’s Commentary*:

So much personality shown in Charlize–we get real emotion and expression in the way the author has painted every scene with the dog. We also get deep emotion (and tears) in the early conversation with his wife, where she says that he can get a dog now that her demise is near. What a selfless statement, a deep realization, and a wish for her husband to be okay after she is gone. This is truly moving, and we long for the author to find the perfect dog to connect with.

“Hope is the mantra of anyone sitting on a boat” on page 75 is a true gem of this book. Author peppers the story with these resonant thoughts. Well done. They stay with the reader.
The ending just drops off when he’s home again and happy to have arrived safely. We could use a description of his home that has been colored by his travels along the coast, the same excellent skill in capturing scenery and feeling. That would round out the story beautifully. A very good read.

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Dogs have been in close contact with humans for thousands of years. Estimates range from 9,000 to 30,000. Due to this long association dogs are thought to have the ability to not only understand but to communicate with humans. Many researchers in this field attribute these communication skills to the manifestation of unique traits that enables dogs to be acutely sensitive to cues supplied by their humans.

 

Recent research in canine cognition has shown considerable variability, depending upon the design of the experiment(s) and probably the agenda of the person(s) doing the research but it seems clear that at least some dogs can and do follow pointing and gaze cues, can fast map novel words and according to some studies have emotions. Since they cannot communicate with us with spoken language researchers have mostly had to closely observe behavior in a wide variety of experimental designs and infer how the canine brain functions by speculation.

 

Now we can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain function. Gregory S. Berns, MD, PhD is a neuroscientist and director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University. He recently published a book entitled: HOW DOGS LOVE US: A neuroscientist and his adopted dog decode the canine brain. He describes in this book and in articles published in scientific journals how his group trained dogs to lie still in the MRI machine while fully awake and found that the reward-prediction error hypothesis of the dopamine system provided a concrete prediction of activity in the ventral caudate of the dogs studied, i.e. the dogs were able to respond to specific hand signals associated with either giving a food reward or withholding it. During the experiment the dogs were not given the reward, just the hand signals they had been conditioned to. The results demonstrated the specific areas of the brain that anticipated the pleasurable reward. These same brain locations have been associated with dopamine release in many studies conducted in awake humans and primates. There was significantly less dopamine sensitive response when the withholding reward signal was given. The interpretation of these results indicates the dogs brains responded THINKING they were going to receive the treat.

 

Dr. Berns and his research group believe they can extend these studies to characterizing many questions about our ability to communicate with dogs including their ability to respond to human facial expressions and how dogs process our spoken words. Perhaps we are on the verge of understanding how dogs respond to our emotional state and perhaps if and how they grieve for a lost loved one. Maybe we can even find out if they really do love us or just manipulate us so we will feed them.

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Official Apex Reviews Rating:

Animals Don’t Blush takes the reader on an enjoyable, eye-opening journey through the ups and downs of a first-year veterinarian in Montana. In accessible, often hilarious language, author David Gross shares a variety of different anecdotes highlighting his rather entertaining experiences as the primary caregiver for a wide cross section of four-legged patients. Throughout the pages of Animals Don’t Blush, Gross’ considerable expertise shines through, as well as the deep-rooted compassion he has for both animals and their owners. Informative without being pedantic, and amusing without being pandering, this page-turning tome is sure to please more than just the animal lovers amongst us.

A highly satisfying literary treat from a truly gifted storyteller.

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Charlize and I just returned from the Pacific Northwest Book Sellers Association annual meeting in Portland, OR. While there Charlize made a host of new human friends and I had the opportunity to meet and greet owners and employees of independent bookstores. It was great fund to talk about my books and to autograph and give books to them. I hope they will read the books and like them. If so they are likely to recommend them to their customers. Giving those books away makes sense to me.

When one of my books is purchased used at least three things happen:

1) Sellers of the new book, especially independent bookstores, lose out. I hate that and so do they.

2) The author and the publisher receive nothing and it competes with the a sale of the book new.

3) It actually costs the publisher and/or author out of pocket. They must pay a “set up fee” plus a monthly fee to warehouse new copies of the book with a distributor.

I’ve had people tell me that they really enjoyed one of my books. When I inquired I found they had purchased it used online or from a used bookstore. I was happy they liked my work but I had no idea one of my books had been sold in this manner and most certainly received no remuneration for the sale.

I hope that when folks are done reading one of my books they will give them as gifts. That will build an audience for my work. Every used book sold competes against a new copy for which I might be paid.

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At three-thirty in the afternoon we started looking for an RV park. We passed several that were not worth turning around to go back to before stopping at a grocery store in Gualala, CA. I purchased some fresh vegetables for dinner and the checkout lady told me how to find the California State Salt Point campground. At the gate was a friendly park ranger who was talking to a young couple. I stopped and he told me to just pick a spot and then return and fill out an envelope from one of those in a box at the gate. Put five bucks in the envelope and I would be registered. I drove through the entire campground where all the spaces were empty. Too many choices.

I returned to the gate and stopped without getting out of Old Blue. The ranger turned from the young couple he was still talking to.

“You decided not to stay?”

“Nope,” I answered “couldn’t find an empty spot.”

He looked at me incredulously until I smiled, and then he laughed politely at my lame joke. I climbed out of Old Blue, retrieved an envelope and made the loop again. I consulted with Charlize and we picked a spot, filled out the envelope, put my five bucks in and walked back to the gate to deposit the envelope. The ranger and the young couple were gone.

Charlize found something to interest her.

DSCN0381

 

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The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

clinic & charlize

Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

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The Holstein bull raged in the steel stanchion, two thousand pounds of fury jumping, kicking, pushing, and throwing his head from side to side. The banging and clanging of the stanchion echoed in the barn. The bull’s eyeballs bulged, his pupils dilated and snot spewed from his nostrils. He jerked his head up and to the side ripping the nose tongs from my hand. Dr. Schultz jumped back as the steel tongs flew past, grazing his forehead and knocking off his Cubs baseball cap.

“Damn Dr. Gross that was close. Can you grab him and hold him or should I let Don do it?”

I wasn’t making much of an impression on the man I hoped would offer me employment.

There was a six-foot long rope attached to one handle of the nose tongs. The rope passed through a hole in the other handle. When you pulled the rope tight, the rope was supposed to hold the tongs closed.

I grabbed the tongs and returned to the fray. Wrapping my left arm around the bull’s neck, I grasped his lower jaw and pulled my body into his head. He easily lifted my two hundred plus pounds off the ground but I held on while he did his best to shake me off. I replaced the tongs in his nostrils, clamping down hard. I slid my free hand down the rope keeping the tongs closed tight while I wrapped the rope twice around the steel bars on top of the stanchion. Putting all my weight into the effort, I pulled the bull’s head back up and to the side.

All we were doing was getting a blood sample for a brucellosis test. Don Gordon, Dr. Shultz’ technician, helped the dairy farm owner bring the milk cows into the barn and locked them, six at a time, into their stanchions. We finished thirty-five cows. The bull was last.

In 1960, Veterinary medicine was male dominated and macho. Patients had a monetary value and nobody expected veterinary care to exceed that value. Chemical restraint of animals was in its infancy. Choices of antibiotics were limited. Clients expected their veterinarian to be tough, wise, skilled and able to handle any animal, any disease or injury, and any situation. There were no board certified specialists and advertising in any form, except for a modest listing in the yellow pages of the phone book, was malpractice. In my class of sixty-five students, there were only three women. All but a few of my class came from agricultural backgrounds. Today’s veterinary school classes are 75-85% women and almost everyone comes from a suburban background.

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I kept the right side wheels of the low-slung 1957 Ford precariously balanced on the mound between the two deep ruts constituting the road into the ranch. The left side wheels made a new path. If the car fell into the deep ruts, I would lose an oil pan, or worse.

My still new bride let out a gasp and I slammed on the brakes. We were on the crest of the hill, the Jones’ place spread out before us.

“What?”

“Oh Dave,” she sighed. “It’s so poor looking.”

The track ended in an acre of dirt yard. To the right the dilapidated barn struggled to maintain an upright position, a sturdy looking corral on the north wall of the barn seeming to hold it up. A windmill and stock tank were north of the corral. To the west, insolently weather beaten but standing proud and stark against the massive horizon was a two-story frame house. Patches of tenacious white paint clung to wind petrified siding. There were no trees. Brown prairie grass spread west and north while east and south were tan dirt mounds endlessly rearranged by the wind. Parked in front of the open barn door, the driver’s side door ajar, was John Jones’ 1949 Chevy pickup.

I eased the car down the hill into the yard. Kathy and Jenny came down the steps from the house, their blonde hair pulled back in identical ponytails. Ferdie raced around the corner of the house. Skipper, eyes focused, herding him.

“Look at Skipper running. Looks like she’s doing very well after her ordeal with the mowing machine,” I observed.

Rosalie patted me on the arm. Her first introduction to surgery had been helping me put Skipper back together.

“Don’t get the big head, you got lucky.”

Bent over in the doorway to the barn, John held the left hind leg of a bay gelding between his knees. He had a mouth full of horseshoe nails and held a horseshoe hammer in his right hand. He smiled around the nails and waved the hammer as I got out of the car and came around to open the door for Rosalie.

Kathy, the kids, and Skipper all came to the passenger side of the car. When I opened the door, our German Shepherd Mister forced his way out before Rosalie could move.

The two dogs performed the requisite sniffing of each other’s sites of identification. Mister circling stiffly, ears pointed forward, Skipper making quick, jerky movements. They circled each other three times, noses buried, then Skipper rushed off with Mister following, determined to keep her close.

“Honey”, I said, “this is Kathy and Ferdie and Jenny. Kathy, this is Rosalie.”

John finished with the horseshoe, dropped the horse’s leg, and came over to the car.

“And this is John,” I added.

Rosalie extended her hand. The rancher took it, pulled her in close, and gave her a hug.

“Welcome,” he said, “please feel you are with family here.”

If this sounds interesting, you can read all about the Jones family in my memoir; “Animals Don’t Blush”.

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We were living behind our veterinary hospital, under construction in Paradise Valley, outside Phoenix, in a house trailer. Our German shepherd, Mister, rose to his feet and took three steps to the door, the hair on his back bristling. Three sharp knocks announced a visitor. Rosalie, leaning back to balance the watermelon-size protrusion that was to be our firstborn, waddled forward. Mister positioned himself firmly between her and the door.

A hard-used woman dressed in dirty Levi cutoffs riding high on overly muscled thighs stood on the top of three wood steps to the door. She moved down two steps as Rosalie pushed the door open. The sweet/sour odor of unwashed armpits caused Rosalie to wrinkle her nose. The apparition’s face was leathery from too much sun, her hair a curly mop dyed jet black. She held her right hand behind her back.

Yes, may I help you?” Rosalie inquired.

The Vet here?”

“No, I’m sorry. He’s out on calls.”

“You recognize me?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Thought you might, my picture’s been in both the Republic and Gazette. I was just acquitted for the murder of my girlfriend.”

“Oh.” Rosalie took a step back, Mister pushed forward.

“I’m a professional wrestler, Killer Amy, maybe you’ve heard of me?”

“No, I’m sorry, I haven’t.”

She brought her hand from behind her back, holding a chunk of skin covered with thick gray hair. Mister rumbled. She ignored him.

“I need to have the Vet tell me if this is human or not. I found it on my property. I don’t need more trouble. Will that dog attack?” Can I leave it with you?

“My husband should be back in an hour or so.”

The woman took a step up and extended the scalp, it smelled like meat left on the counter overnight by mistake. Mister rumbled louder and leaned against Rosalie forcing her back a step.

“I think it would be much better if you kept it in your possession until he can look at it.”

“Well, if you say so. You think he’ll be back in an hour?” She stepped back down as Mister growled again. “That dog’s pretty protective ain’t he?”

I was back from my calls and eating lunch when she returned. I went outside to examine the scalp.

“Looks like jackrabbit, I doubt it’s human but I can’t say for sure. If I were you, I would take it to the police. They have labs that can identify human remains.”

I spotted her name in the newspaper, the sports page, two weeks later a story about her winning a wrestling match.

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