Sunday, June 16, 2013

Animals. In Saudi Arabia. Enough said.

I am an animal lover.  The fact that, from the time I was able to think about what I wanted to do when I "grew up," I wanted to become a veterinarian is an indication of this (only to change my mind when, during undergrad, I lived with a girl who was in vet school and realized I would rather simply love animals than deal with all the things veterinarians deal with).  For me, though, my affinity for animals and the sense of peace and clarity that I receive when I'm with them is a greater indication of my love for them.  As a result, I've had an animal in my life ever since I can remember.

My family owned a big beautiful St. Bernard, Prince, when I was growing up.  But I was three years old when he came along, so I really didn't play a role in caring for him until it was about time for him to head off into doggie-heaven.  My first true animal-based responsibility was my horse, Gavalanche.  Then I moved away for university, Gav in tow, and got myself a cat, Smith.  Eventually I moved across the country (Gav having passed away by this time.  She was a sweet old girl who's time had come.), Smith in tow.  Through an act of kindness, I fostered a litter of kittens for the SPCA out of which another addition to my fur-family, Jared, came along.  Let's not forget that I bought myself a new horse, Diamond at this time as well.  Smith, soon after, sadly passed away from congestive heart failure.  And then a sweet orphaned kitten, Chai, came along.  I also received my dog, the lovely Angel, around that time.  Unfortunately, she was a scaredy-dog.  When frightened one day while staying at a friend's house, she ran away and I never saw her again.  This created space in my life for Matzu, the sweetest old pooch you could ever meet and who desperately needed a home.  Diamond soon became more suited to ranching life than the competitive world of horses that I wanted in on, so he moved to a friend's ranch.  Soon after, the loveliest of lovely horses, Sky, came to my home.  So, let's recap:  Prince (dog), Gavalanche (horse), Smith (cat), Jared (cat), Diamond (horse), Chai (cat), Angel (dog), Matzu (dog), Sky (horse).

I detail my fur-family history because it is pertinent to the present topic.  Essentially, animals are a part of my heart, soul, and as the previous paragraph has outlined, my outer existence in this world.  So, when I decided to move to Saudi Arabia and had to ask my kind friends to host my sweet furry loves while I'm away, I figured I would be taking a break from the animal world for a while.  I was okay with this.  I never had human children, but I certainly am not lacking in the experience of having huge responsibilities concerning the lives of other beings.  I was thinking it would be nice to have a break and experience actual complete and abundant freedom for a while.  Turns out, the Universe has other plans for me.

As was mentioned in one of my first blogs after arriving here in the Kingdom, I was greeted by a furry little purr-monster.  She happily slept over in my little compound-based apartment, but she only stuck around for that night.  Turns out she's one of many cats that live at my compound.  I've seen her
My welcoming party to the KSA
lounging about near my apartment building and at the compound pool a number of times, always happy to have a quick scratch behind the ears.  I figured that encountering random compound cats would be the extent of my animal adventures here.  Not so, especially when your apartment is a basement suite with a nice sized ledge in front of the window.  I had (and still have) ample visits from numerous cats sitting at my window, meowing away, while sitting at my table eating breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, or reading, or researching.... you get the idea).  I was determined to not let any of them in.  And in no way was I to be convinced to feed them.  My responsibility to animals was on a hiatus, and I was determined to have things remain that way.  Ah, but I underestimated one particular furry friend.  She knew exactly what she was doing, peeking through my window with the most gorgeous yellow eyes and soft white fur.  Patiently sitting there, not expecting much.  Happy to accept a quick neck rub through a slightly opened window screen when I simply could resist no longer.  Everyday she arrived, and everyday she managed to move a little closer into my apartment. 
Eventually, I gave in, and so arrived the unnamed cat into my life.  I didn't, however, feed her.  She is a seasoned compound cat, and she knows very well how to fend for herself (by seducing other compound-animal-lover residents I have no doubt).  For many moons she remained unnamed all the while sleeping at my feet and snuggling with me while I read and worked at home.  That is until my friend, Caroline stopped by and noticed the unnamed one lounging at the foot of my bed.  "Keeks!" She exclaimed.  Apparently the unnamed one was named after all.  Keeks had weasled her way into Caroline's heart when she first arrived at the compound as well, turning that non-cat-fanatic friend of mine into a cat lover.  Caroline even ended up adopting two compound kittens as a result of Keeks' interference in her "no cats for me" life plan.  Oh Keeks, you are a sly one.

While Keeks has been a definite animal presence in the five months that I've lived in Riyadh, she certainly hasn't been the only one.  Let me tell you a story about the day I arrived home from work to find my window left open.  I was sure I had closed it.  Oh, but maybe I only closed the screen and mistakenly left the pane open.  "Silly Keeks," I thought to myself.  "She must've pulled the screen open with her claws.  Such a smart girl." It wasn't long after, while sitting on my bed playing on my
computer,  I noticed an odd chirping sound.  Thinking it was a new bird that had arrived for the spring season I didn't pay much attention.  But then I started realizing that I had heard this sound before.  This was no bird chirping, this was kitten mewing.  "Aaaahhh, " I thought.  "A litter of kittens must be outside my window."  I got up to go look out the window, only to see from the corner
The kittens
Their temporary abode
of my eye, a fully adult cat hiding between my pile of empty luggage and my sofa.  Not a big deal, really, only for the fact that this cat was royally pissed and obviously a mama cat protecting her brood.  I managed to back away and then make loud noises to scare her out through my already opened window.  Keeks hadn't been the one to open the screen after all.  I locked the mama out and went on a little search to quickly find five tiny kittens huddled amongst my empty luggage.  Crap.  They were definitely only two weeks old at the most.  This was a responsibility I definitely did not want.  Quickly, I put the kittens in a little box lined with my gym towel and carefully placed them on the ground outside my window.  Hopefully, mama cat would come and get them or even use the box as her nesting site.  I was only partially lucky in this circumstance.  Mama cat did come along and get her kittens, but she left one behind.  I waited, and waited, and waited.  Even left my
apartment for a few hours to avoid the possibility that I was frightening mama with my presence.  I came home to find that the lone black kitten was still alone, in the box, outside my window.  Crap.  And so the avoidance of animal responsibilities was not going to continue.  With some quick internet research and a shout out to my other animal-loving friends at the compound I managed to get a recipe for a make-shift nutritional kitten supplement, a medicine dropper, and a fellow surrogate kitten
Polo (right) with his new buddy, Gamar
mother to feed the adorable little fur-ball while I was staying late at work.  Between Louise and I we managed to keep this little guy alive.  And thanks to my other animal-loving friend, Elise, Polo (as I like to call him) or Napolean (as everyone else calls him) got a new home with a new best kitten friend, Gamar.  Phew!  Polo turned out to be just a minor glitch in the no-animal-responsibilities-for-Bonnie project.

Yes, it became a project.  This avoidance of animals was obviously not going to be easy.  And it continued to be difficult.  Only a few weeks after finding a home for Polo, I had an interesting animal encounter at work.  Let me preface this story with some background information.  The family I work for is wonderful and absolutely loving.  They don't, however, have a penchant for understanding animals.  Much to the chagrin of the little sweetheart of a boy that I work with.  He is an animal lover through and through.  His family has a keen knowledge of this.  So, when his aunt arrived with two of
The ducklings' first night at my place
the cutest and fluffiest ducklings in her hands to give to my little student, I was anything but surprised.  And when I was informed that she hadn't thought to buy food or planned for an enclosure for them, I wasn't surprised either.  And so, with a deep breath and my eyes to the sky, I took the ducklings in my arms and began the arrangements to find food and a temporary "box" for these sweet yellow fluffballs.  It's a good thing they were adorable.  So, for seven days I was a surrogate duck mother.  I carried them from work to home, home to work, everyday with their swimming tub and their food in tow.  I have to admit, it was fun having them around.  There aren't many things cuter than two ducklings taking a bath in a wash basin.  But it was getting a little out of hand.  They would be growing out of everything I had for them soon, and they got smelly quickly if I was late
Most adorable bath takers, ever!
cleaning their enclosure.  So, the family made arrangements for the ducklings to head to a family member's garden where there was a pond and other ducks.  Phew!

You'd think that was enough animal exposure for the five months that I've been here.  But it wasn't.  These other animals in my life have been much more temporary, however.  They are also a definite no-no when it comes to having them on the compound.  Camels.  Oh, how I love camels.  Probably because they're so similar to horses.  And possibly because whenever I'm around them I'm out in the desert's version of the country, a.k.a. away from the city.  It doesn't matter what element of the experience causes this to happen, but what I know for sure is when I'm with a camel I feel at home again.  My first encounter with a camel was when Louise took me to her friend, Abdullah's uncle's camel farm.  He has camels that he milks.  Yes, people drink camel milk.  No, I haven't tried it. 
Faux-milking a camel
Could she be any cooler?
Unfortunately, the camels had already been milked that day.  Of course that doesn't mean that I had any qualms about asking for a demonstration on how they're milked anyway.  Abdullah's uncle did better than that.  He had me do a faux-milking of one of his camel cows.  It was one of the coolest things ever.  Not only did I get to meet a camel, but I also got to faux-milk her, which essentially just meant that I tugged on her utters/teats a few times.  Talk about getting intimate with an animal.  I could barely contain my excitement.  Camels really are the coolest.  They're the epitome of calm.  Even when they're not calm they still give off the sense that they're calm.  Maybe it's their hooded eyes, or their relaxed lips.  Maybe it's their lumbering and slow walk or their chin-up, holier-than-thou head posture.  Whatever it is, I can't help but think they've got life all figured out and they are living the ultimate zen.  That's probably why, whenever I'm around camels, while my friends are shouting at me saying, "Bonnie don't get so close." Or, "Bonnie, watch your hands, he's going to bite
Kissing "Bonnie the Camel"
you." Or, "Oh my Gawd, she's actually kissing it!" I don't pay attention, because I can sense when the camels are chill with me being around (and when they're not...I don't push my limits).  Maybe my comfort with them was a reason for Abdullah's uncle offering to name one of his baby camels after
me.  It could also have been my extreme excitement for being able to hug a camel.  Either way, I now have a camel in Saudi Arabia as a namesake.  Bonnie the Camel has one hump!

Can you say "love?"
 In Joy,

Having a chat with the papa camel.
Happiness is not the word to describe this moment....but it comes close


  1. Oh my goodness. Okay ~ so we are really looking forward to seeing you in July ~ HOWEVER ~ please leave the camels in Saudi Arabia. The puppy will go insane. Hugs and love, as always your W. C. parents.

    1. I don't think you have to worry. The length of quarantine they'd need before being able to enter Canada far exceeds the duration of my vacation time. Although, you never know what may happen when it's time to head home for good.


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