Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How "Big Blue" Can Make You Less Blue

Life becomes like a treadmill set to the highest speed this time of year, and not every experience is conducive to holiday calm and good cheer.

Yes, there are many blessings and heart-warming activities. But at times it is hard to avoid a bit of the blues.

Maybe you remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas past and feel that the current experiences fall short. Perhaps you have lost a beloved member of the family or a close friend. Or someone special is sick. It is hard to avoid at least a touch of the blues in a season with everything is supposed to be perfect.

One of the great things about a daily walk is that it can snap you out of a funk in an instant. Today it happened when Superdawg and I spotted just one solitary bird perched on a stump in the middle of a pond. Oh but it wasn't just any bird; it was a Great Blue Heron.

This magnificent bird no doubt was engaged in what my "South Carolina Birds" book calls its stealthy hunting strategy. Typically, they spot a juicy fish or frog in the water, snare it with their bill, and then toss it in the air and gulp it down. Quite a sight! They are found all over the Palmetto State, but are less common inland during the winter. Here, near the coast, they are year-round residents. We are blessed! They are fascinating to watch as they hunt, and spectacular in flight.

I will never forget the first time I encountered a Great Blue up close and personal. It was when we were living in Richmond, Virginia, where I regularly ran with my collie/shepherd Bandit a mile to a heavily wooded park, then a mile around the park's trails, and finally the mile back home. When we rounded a bend in the backwoods, we nearly ran into this large bird that apparently was scoping out the stream just below the trail. All excited, I wrote an op-ed article for my newspaper about possibly sighting a rare Sandhill Crane in suburbia. A much more Nature-savvy friend gently let me know that it was much, much more likely that I had met a Great Blue Heron, a bird that is fairly common along the James River basin.

Anyway, being able to observe today's Great Blue in a much less hectic setting provided a big boost to the spirits. Sadie the Superdawg fell ill during the Thanksgiving weekend before bouncing back nicely, so it was a a joy to be walking her again, and experiencing wonders of Nature together. The holidays will be happy if we can keep on the move every day, alert to our surroundings.

                                                  © Robert G. Holland  2013


  1. I'm so glad Sadie is on the mend and back with you on the trail. I hope you have many hundreds of more miles together. Dogs are such fabulous walking companions who seem to sense how far and fast we can (and should) go. My buddy was Sandy, a very quiet and sweet, long-legged bichon. Since "retiring" from the Times-Dispatch almost five years ago, he was my constant companion who was with me from the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed at night. If I was working in my office, he was sleeping on the floor behind me. If I went to the store or the post office, he rode shotgun. Leaving him at home was painful for the both of us. One of the things Sandy loved most was going for a fast-paced walk around the neighborhood. He would start at a more leisurely stroll and as we warmed up after four or five minutes, he would begin to pick it up a bit until we hit about a four-mile-an-hour clip. He would always heel on my left, never getting ahead or behind, staying exactly even with me. At about the 30 minute mark, we would both began ratcheting the pace back down as we headed to the home stretch. About three years ago, at age 10 he developed diabetes and went blind. That didn't slow him down too much, however. It was amazing how well he quickly adapted and could remember where everything was in the house, and could walk through the entire house without bumping into anything. He knew that there were three steps to go up to come in the front yard ( I would count them as he hopped up). And walking was still such a treat for him, though he slowed the pace down a bit (probably to accommodate my failing left knee). He had complete trust that I wouldn't run him into any trees, bushes or curbs, and he still would heel precisely even with my left leg. Sadly, age began catching up with him this past year, and dementia began robbing him of his joy for life. Our last walk together was about three weeks ago. It was short, and he enjoyed the outing, but he quickly ran out of steam. After that, he seemed ready to call it a day, and he gave up eating. Janet and I made that heart-wrenching decision to let him go. On Thursday, November 21 we cried as we held him one last time. He went to sleep as gently and peacefully as he lived his life, lighting up ours for 13 1/2 years.

  2. Gary, I am so very sorry about Sandy's passing, and being just before Thanksgiving must have made it even harder for you and Janet. Sandy and Sadie must be kindred spirits. Your experiences with him are quite similar to my adventures with Sadie. She hated it when I worked in Northern Virginia and wouldn't get home through the traffic til 730. She much prefers our life in semi-retirement, and is often right at my feet here at the computer and barks at me when she thinks I've been here at the keyboard too long. I really was afraid she was on her last legs last Saturday; everything seemed to be shutting down. She had had a few spells like that before, but thank goodness has bounced back so far. Your account of your 13 1/2 years with Sandy is beautiful and very moving. Believe me, I have cried occasionally just thinking about losing Sadie. We have both been through so much together. I hope wonderful memories will help sustain you through your grieving. I fully understand what you've been going through. Thank you for sharing Sandy's story with me.

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