Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Kumonster

KUMA: May 1, 2001 - December 5, 2008

When I brought my new puppy home in 2001, I named her Kuma because she looked like a little bear cub (Kuma means bear in Japanese).

She came to be known by many other names, including Kumba, Kumbaya, Kumonkey, and especially (and perhaps most appropriately) the Kumonster. But to me, she will always just be the best dog in the world.

Kuma died unexpectedly on Friday from liver tumors that caused her to bleed internally. She felt sick in the morning, so I took her to the doggie ER, and had to put her to sleep later in the afternoon. She was 7 1/2 years old, too young. I thought I would have her with me for at least another few years. She was my best buddy.

Ever the optimist, I do have things to be thankful for. I am thankful that she got be spoiled in often ridiculous fashion for over seven good years. I am thankful that she got to snack on fancy dog treats from her nonna during visits at least several times per year. I am thankful that she got to sniper-lick the faces of many an unsuspecting house guest.

I am thankful that she got to hang out at the beach a lot.

I am thankful that she got to chase (and lose) many tennis balls in the ocean. I am thankful that my students spoiled her constantly at my house and at the field site:
Snoozing after a long day in the pool at the field site:
Playing volleyball with my grad students on Thanksgiving:
Staring longingly at the turkey remnants on Thanksgiving (and she got more than her share of scraps, if you call breast meat scraps!):
Hanging with Auntie Laini and dog brothers Darwin and Anakin.
Checking out the German Shepherd socks mom got from Auntie Christy for her birthday :
Hiking in Arizona with mom and Darwin:
Resting during a hike on the Central Coast:
Feeling nice and cool after a clean shave on a hot summer day:
Just laying around being beautiful:

I have a permanent reminder of Kuma, a "present" she gave me when I broke up a fight between her and Christy's dog. A broken finger that never healed right! (Kuma started it, by the way. :-)

I am thankful that she was loved by many people.

Last but not least, I am thankful that I had a couple of hours to say goodbye to her.

A last wrestle (kisses included, as always) with Marty:

I made a donation in Kuma's honor to the Woods Humane Society, our fabulous local no-kill shelter. Now some doggies, who weren't as lucky as Kuma to have a loving home, will get some nice holiday treats.

You can visit Kuma on Dogbook and virtually pet her. :-)

Rest in peace, little baby. I hope there are lots of nice people to lick and quail to chase in doggie heaven.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chameleons in Morro Bay!!

I heard a rumor a while back that there is a population of chameleons living in Morro Bay, California. That's right, chameleons-- which are native to the Old World. There is an entry showing the chameleons on a California herp website, including some photos from Cal Poly students back in the 90's. Apparently 10 captive Jackson's chameleons were accidentally released in Morro Bay during a raid by a regulatory agency, and established a population because the climate (alternately foggy and sunny, never too hot) is similar to their native climate at high elevation spots in Africa.

My students put flyers in mailboxes, and many residents called me to confirm that yes indeed, they have seen chameleons in their yards over the years. So on the day after Thanksgiving, we went out a stared at branches all afternoon in the hopes of finding one.

Success! Craig found a female Jackson's chameleon sitting about head-height (well, Craig's head-height, which is actually freakishly high) on a branch in a Cal Poly professor's front yard.

We took the chameleon home and put her in my ficus tree to hang out. She tended to stay there pretty well (aside from one instance in which I returned home to find her across the house in my bed. ? ).

Chameleons are strange animals. For one thing, they tend to move extremely slowly, which has inspired an interesting legend in the A-Louyi tribe of the Upper Zambesi. Interestingly, it somewhat resembles our tortoise and the hare fable, but the consequences are much more dire and in this one the hare wins! The chameleon is the messenger of life and the hare is the messenger of death, but the chameleon is slow and keeps "constantly turning about," so the hare arrives first, and "That is why, when men die, they die once for all."

Here's the full text of the legend:

They say that Nyambe, whom they identify with the sun, used to dwell on earth with his wife Nasilele, whom they identify with the moon. But Nyambe retired to heaven from fear of men. Whenever he carved wood, men carved it also ; when he made a wooden plate, so did they. After he had withdrawn to the sky, it happened that Nyambe's dog died. He loved the animal, and said, "Let the dog live." But his wife said, " No, I won't have it. He's a thief." Nyambe still persisted. " For my part," said he, " I love my dog." But his wife said, " Throw him out." So they threw him out. By and by Nyambe's mother-in-law died, and his wife said to him, " Let her live," just as Nyambe himself had said to her about his dog. But Nyambe answered, " No, let her die and be done with it. I said to you that my dog should live, and you refused. It is my wish that your mother should die for good and all." So die she did for good and all. After that the husband and wife sent two messengers, a chameleon and a hare, to men on the earth. To the chameleon they said, " When thou art come to men, say to them, ' Ye shall live'; but as for thee, O hare, when thou art come to men, say to them, ' Ye shall die once for all.'" The chameleon and the hare set off with their messages. Now the chameleon, as he went, kept constantly turning about, but the hare ran. So the hare arrived first, and said that men should die once for all. Having delivered his message, the hare returned. That is why, when men die, they die once for all.

From Folk-Lore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend & Law by Sir James George Frazer