Monday, May 20, 2013

6 months later...


No one really acknowledges the long-term anguish that can come when you lose a furry loved one.  The fact that 6 months has already passed astonishes me since it feels like yesterday that Roy was with me.  It also feels like I haven’t been able to hold him for eternity.  The emotional toll of not having Roy fill my life is always unraveling and I still cannot talk about him without crying.  Even writing this is an incredible challenge.

When Roy first died, I was in shock and had trouble fully comprehending he was gone.  Immediately after, my other cat Loki was diagnosed with early stage kidney disease and then I was leaving for Florida for an internship.  I was leaving everything that reminded me of Roy behind, except for the small tin that contained his ashes.  They came along for the ride.

In Florida, I was also pretty busy, but mostly the lack of privacy stopped me from really processing my loss further.  I was sharing a 2-bedroom apartment with 5 others and there was no time to myself.  Although there were times I would cry in my car, or alone on the beach, I mostly kept the emotions hidden inside me.

One my 3-week road trip home, I was too distracted by the beauty of nature and the intrigue of new areas.   I was living in an amazing time where I felt truly alive and experiencing the world in a new way.  I was having too much personal growth to allow sorrow to interfere.

If Roy was not on my shoulder, he was sitting on my side like a Koala Bear.  So cute!

But then I got home.  The empty apartment was just a reminder of what was missing- Roy’s meows and cuddles and mischief.  Every time I went to the grocery store and saw corn I was holding back tears (and it’s corn season).  I was alone and not distracted and it felt awful.  

I really miss him.  And thinking back, I can’t help to question if I ended his life too soon.  I need to constantly look through photos of his life towards the end to remind myself that he was in pain.  Roy’s last day was a good one, which is many ways is great.  It’s better to go out on a positive note, right?  But that is also where the questioning comes in, because there is no clear answer to when the time is right.  If there is no questioning, you probably waited too long.  I read somewhere that looking back on the decision of euthanasia, no one ever says they did it too early, just too late.  Unfortunately that is not always true.

The other day marked 6 months since I lost Roy.  The reality of it all hit me hard and hasn’t left.  I am trying to remember to celebrate the life I had with him, and re-read this blog post about him and am watching my videos of him eating corn. There is no getting over this- just moving on and remembering his spirit.  I am sure years from now I will still laugh at his antics and cry from missing him.  I am sure I will always wonder if my decision was a good one, but that is the unbearable consequence about being responsible for another’s life and loving them so completely.

I wanted to write about this so others going through such loss can know that it completely normal.  Many of my friends recently lost animals and are struggling to move on.  It is also important for family and friends to support those who animal died, including weeks and months past the immediate loss. So often people suffer in silence with their loss, and it is difficult when people don’t recognize the pain that can continue.  Usually this loss hits weeks to months later, when most people would not think about asking if you are okay.  I don’t know all the answers since I am still trying to figure out how to move past the heavy feelings of loss to simply celebrating my time with Roy, but I am appreciative of the few people in my life that have been supportive and understanding.  

Roy' paw prints, taken a few months before he died.  I plan to get a version of this tattooed on my left shoulder blade- where he would often have his paws while cuddling on my shoulder.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

4 months and 10,000 miles later...

My general route home from Sarasota, FL to Portland, OR.
Wow!  I've been on quite the adventure!  The day after Christmas I left Portland for Sarasota, Florida for a 3-month internship with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.  I drove both ways and went further than 10,000 miles in a car with a current mileage of 224,000 miles.
A Bottlenose Dolphin was spotted from Venice Pier in Sarasota, Florida.  Often times dolphins will patrol a pier in search for free handouts, which puts them in danger of entanglements and other concerns.

On the way there, I got to see amazing sights; new birds, old family friends, a recently moved friend and lots of nothing (I drove though Texas).  I was amazed by the lack of vegan options in some places (even hummus) and was surprised by others.  I surprised myself with the ability to drive all day and not feel considerable fatigue or loneliness.

I found this kitty (who I creatively named Moo) when on the road to Sarasota, just a few hours away.  He had obviously been abandoned and through the power of networks, I was able to find someone to care for him by the time I reached my destination.  He was super friendly and I am sure found a loving and happy home.

The internship itself also surprised me for so many reasons!  The living situation was tight (I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 5 others, 3 of which I had to share a room with).  Fortunately everyone was really nice and we spent a lot of time talking about biology and comedy.  All my intern buddies were great!  And the fact that I was over 10 years older than all of them was never really an issue (unless I let it get to me- which I admittedly did at times). 

I was fortunate enough to watch this Loggerhead Sea Turtle be released from rehab from Mote Marine Lab and swim to her freedom.  She was huge and magnificent and it was a powerful moment.

This is a Wood Stork.  I had never heard on one before and was pleasantly surprised to meet many in Florida!

I got to be introduced to dolphins in the wild, along with the fish, rays and sharks that also share the water.  I learned new scientific study techniques and so much knowledge!  I got to spend a lot of time on boats on the beautiful Florida water and even got to drive one around a little bit.

This was my first sight of the Atlantic Ocean and beach.  I was surprised by how orange and flat the beaches were.  I originally escaped for a weekend in hopes to see an endangered Northern Right Whale, but no luck.
The only disappointing thing about Sarasota was the food options.  It was really lacking.  This did prompt me to bake (and cook) more and bring in some baked goods to where I was interning.  I think I only brought in one cake and that's all it took to be known as a good baker.

The sunsets in Florida were always different and amazing.  I could actually watch the sun set from my apartment, but this one if from Venice Beach a little south of where I was staying.

Manatees can be found in the waters around Sarasota, but it's a bit cold for them the time of year I was visiting.  To see manatees, I would often visit the Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa which was an electric station which caused the waters in the area to be warmer (and more acceptable for manatees).

It was tough to leave Florida, but as I made my way across the states back towards home, I felt a freedom I had not known before.  I got to spend my time doing what I wanted (when I wasn't driving) and stop for wildlife and snap photographs and really take in the world around me.  It was so great!  I saw bird species I always wanted to see, some I didn't even know existed, and in places I never thought I'd be in.  Who knew Texas would be one of the most diverse areas to find bird (and baby alligators too)!

Baby alligators!  There were so many of them in one area found in Anahauc Wildlife Refuge (TX) along with many adult alligators seen along their 2.5 mile driving wildlife viewing loop.  Many more seen than in Florida!

Black-necked Stilts foraged in the water in Sabine Woods, a great birding area.

Avocets along a gulf coast beach a little east of Galveston, TX.  I was so excited to see them!

I also got to see friends I hadn't seen in forever, family I hadn't visited since I was a kid, played laser with 10 one-year old kittens, saw more wild dolphins outside the internship, survived long roads and strange people, got through tornado weather and wind storms, met new people, got to see prairie dogs, a weasel and an armadillo, and so much more!

A Green Anole tells me to leave him alone by puffing out his pink throat pouch.  So cool!
Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas.  A little after this photo was taken, my tour was cut short due to tornado weather on its way.  I had to drive down a mountain road with thunder and lightning everywhere to find shelter in the closest town.  Staying in the caverns seemed like a better idea to me!
A wind storm shut down part of I-40 in Arizona causing a few hour detour.  It did allow me to find the Montezuma Castle National Monument and see what a forest in Arizona looks like. 

I plan to share more from my travels, but I wanted to start here.  I know most people focus on vegan food for their travels, but for me it was more about the wildlife and the adventure.  I feel that my connection with nature and appreciation for wildlife is also about me being vegan.  Seeing all the beauty in the world fills my heart and reminds me to fight for what is natural, rather than the torture and captivity so many animals face in the world.

The Big Sur coastline on the Pacific Ocean.  I was so excited when I first reached the Pacific that I started to cry.  I knew I was home.  I loved Florida, but I really missed the big whales and the diverse topography.
Female Elephant Seals kept themselves cool with sand.  There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them.  Looking out, you constantly see displayed of sand flicks all along the beach.  I was so excited by the sight of so many seals that I could hardly contain myself.  Then, I realized the other side of the beach had just as many!
An adult transient killer whale exhales in the Monterey Bay waters.  They show up in the spring while mother gray whales escort their young north, who are more susceptible to attack by these whales.  The whale watch tour also included seeing lots of Risso's Dolphins and lunge feeding Humpback Whales.  It was amazing!
I stopped in Point Reyes to meet up with a good friend and camp and go birding.  We also fit in kayaking in Tomales Bay where we watched rays and sharks in the water.  Watching them swim around was amazing!