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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

We don’t mean sex, drugs and surf babes (sorry, sorry, that’ll be a future post). We mean chicks, as in chickens. If you live Kauai, you gots. And when momma has babies and they make a home in your garden and you’re a bleeding’ heart who can’t help but fall in love with their chirpy poofy fluff, and you want them to stay so they don’t get eaten in the cruel harsh world by the feral cats, well, you need to supplement their diet so you still have some veggies left for yourself. These wild chicks realize they’re not supposed to be doing this, but are so excited about the hemp seeds they can’t help themselves.

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Is she worth it?

The Jewish Mom Gene (just one under the Dog Particle in scientific importance) rears its head whenever anyone is sick or injured – so I like to be prepared for the just-in-case. But when my dog got really sick the other night and I hadn’t enough knowledge or supplies, I realized my fallback in a real dog emergency is Jewish mom worrying.

Dreams in Vomit

I woke up at 2AM to my dog pacing atop the bed. Groggy, I simply assumed she was trying to find the perfect spot but she wouldn’t stop moving. When I rolled over and my hand landed in something wet and slimy, I realized there might be a problem. Turning on the light, all I saw was dog vomit across the entire bed.

This wasn’t a minor case of food poisoning. She eats grass like a cat to cleanse and has gotten sick a few times over the years. But this time she couldn’t stop walking in circles and crazy eights, stumbling as her hind legs started going out on her, and wouldn’t even look at me.

Dog Foods

The only options for her bad state: a centipede bite, an allergic reaction (there are many foods besides chocolate that are toxic for dogs) or ingestion of something the all-powerful dog belly couldn’t deal with. She chewed on a stick at the beach… was it actually a bone and we didn’t notice? I bought her new treats, which had arrived that afternoon. One was organic USA-made chicken snacks from a company I’d purchased from before and who’ve never had a recall… but could it be salmonella poisoning? (The other treat was a Himalayan dog chew made out of, ahem, yak and cow milk but she only took a few licks off it. And I’d stuck it in my mouth to encourage her to grab it from me yet I felt fine [and my tummy falters at the hint of food-borne illness].)

The Diamond Pet Foods/China melamine scares over the past few years brought to light the reality that most commercial pet foods are far from being chicken soup for our pets’ souls. There is more awareness of the poor quality of most processed commercial pet food and people are starting to pay more attention to what they are feeding their beloved pets. Heck, even those who thought they were paying extra for good food, or didn’t realize their brand was bought out by a corporate cost-cutter, are made at the same factory as a contaminated brand, could find their foods on a huge and constantly expanding FDA pet food recall list. Food purchased at the vet or the health food store is not guaranteed to be safe (China-made Catswell chicken strips were voluntarily recalled for traces of propylene glycol just this week). I spend almost $100 a bag on my girl’s dry food (all mainland food is costly once shipped to Kauai), but whether it’s some homemade grass-fed goulash, her Orijen kibble, or occasional frozen Primal Raw Foods (even they voluntarily recalled one batch of feline Salmon last year), she eats like a queen. The most important thing is buying from companies that use quality, natural ingredients, and do routine control tests of their products.

The Vet

When an emergency occurs even smart people often forget what to do. First, I thought maybe she was thirsty from throwing up, but she wouldn’t drink (which I later learned was a good thing because she would’ve probably just continued to throw up and thrown her body chemistry even more out of whack).

From the looks of my bed, I deduced she’d probably vomited everything she could, and I should try to get something in her belly to suck up the rest of the poison. I grabbed my go-to cure-all (food grade bentonite clay), poured some in the palm of my hand, and repeatedly scooped it up and stuck it under her gums.

Since it wasn’t going to be an immediate cure and since she seemed to be getting worse, I called a local clinic. The better safe than sorry rule always applies.

One thing I learned from this experience: take your pet to numerous vets. While you may have a favorite animal doc, it’s good to have a backup in case one of them doesn’t answer your off-hour or holiday call. Luckily, the first clinic I tried to reach had an emergency number and the doctor on call picked up the phone.

He initially had me check her throat for swelling and her body for anything sensitive, to rule out a bite. She seemed okay. She was finally lying down; her nose was wet and she didn’t feel overly hot. He then asked if I had Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol, which I didn’t, though I did have activated charcoal. He told me to put the activated charcoal in chicken broth or something like it. I added a teaspoon of water and fish oil along with the black powder. She wanted little to do with it at first but licked half of it up after some convincing.

Finally, he told me to give her 25mg of Benadryl just in case it was an allergic reaction of some kind. The closest thing to a drug I have in my cupboard is ibuprofen but luckily my roommate has terrible allergies. I couldn’t imagine it would absorb much, what with the clay and charcoal, but when you’re desperate, you trust doctors’ opinions.

After about an hour, although she was still walking funny, she was able to rest. I let her stay outside in the cool air to sleep it off. Of course, while she slept, I was eyes wide open through another four hours of worry. The next day she was much better, though a little weak, groggy and dehydrated, and I made sure she had plenty of water. She also lapped up a bowl full of fresh coconut water. By the following day, she was back to doing roll-overs.

Dog Emergency Kit

Almost everyone has some sort of first aid kit for themselves and their family, but what about for the animals in their life? First thing I’m doing this week is putting together a doggie emergency kit – one for the car and one for home. What’s it going to contain?

Also, having a dog/cat first aid book around is a smart idea, as is taking a pet first aid course. (Most people don’t even know how to administer first aid and CPR to humans!)

If Dog is the Answer, What is the Question?

So, call me weird, but I think the mitochondria and the dog are equally essential to human existence. When the earth switches its axis spin and women start running things (our only hope), the “New World Order Top 100 Essentials for the Survival of Mankind” is going to change as well. On this list will be the end of all “Yes-Kill” animal shelters. Scientists and the medical industry are going to shift their focus from fake GMO frankenfoods and human cloning to figuring out the most natural method of extending the lifespan of dogs (and cats) to equal that of humans. No, that’s not too much to ask for!

Dogs work 24-7 to keep their people happy. Don’t be a selfish you-know-what – it’s time to treat them with the respect they deserve. Because the Dog Particle is just as important, if not more important, than any other goddamn particle.

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We can’t always get mad at the sharks when we get in the way of their feeding frenzy. Yesterday afternoon a tiger shark (who’s been spotted cruising Hanalei Bay the past week or so) got a little close for comfort. Reportedly a baby whale has been hanging out in the bay and a few big sharks followed it in. And supposedly the turtles were going bonkers. One of the surfers –Jim Rawlinson– had his board bit off by a large shark.” Missing was the leash, two fins and a chunk out of the tail of the surfboard, carving teeth marks approximately 1.25 inches, which supposedly translates to a 14 foot shark (every 1 inch equaling 10 feet).

Just for the record, when the shark hit his board Jim rolled off onto the sharks back. He stayed calm and realized it would be best to detach himself from the shark, which was pulling him by the leash. While the crowd scurried to the shore, 68-year-young Rawlinson, realizing he still had one fin left, continued to surf for maybe an hour and reported that he got two really good waves…. :)

Since the tsunami there’s been some anomalies in the waters here, especially in regards to many deep water fishes appearing in more shallow waters (Tigers are much less common and there was even a Great White making an appearance last month); more about that soon. So will that stop the surfers from paddling out at the bay today? Doubtful…surf’s up!

*   *   *

Hey, did you never read our post “Sharks, Swells & Stinky Smells“? Get on it!

Btw, the Bay WAS as busy as ever. Okay, maybe a few of us kept our feet up but everyone was out there!

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Shark Launch

It’s kinda a thing with surfers, to recite our homogeneous oceanic factoids and universal truths, even though we’re often not precisely certain what we’re talking about. This seems to be the case in regards to sharks and particularly their olfactory sensibilities and its effect upon their desire to attack. And to be certain, there’s probably a whole bunch of erroneous commentary in the following many paragraphs, but hopefully, at the same time, we punch a few holes in the oft negative shark mythos.

How many times have we heard (or repeated), for example, “Sharks can smell a drop of blood a mile away.” Well, it’s not totally out of the ball park, just not exactly true. Sharks do have an amazing sense of smell: their paired nostrils, which have nothing to do with breathing, being a whopping 10,000 times stronger than humans. In conjunction with their skin (specifically an “organ” referred to as the lateral line, which detects movement and vibration and gives to odor more directional properties) most are able to detect odors up to 100 yards away; their highly evolved electrosensory-detecting ability may perceivably be able to pick up distress or things that often co-exist with blood at farther distances. Some species have the ability to pick up one molecule of blood in over one million molecules of water (about one drop of blood in 25 gallons of water), with up to two-thirds of their brain being made up of olfactory lobes. And in certain respects similar to dogs, they hunt swimming back and forth searching for trails of scent, then follow the strongest one.

surfer girl shark attack

Surfing on the Rag

But do they waste this amazing sense of smell on us? I mean, do sharks hunt and sniff out humans, especially if we have a yummy fresh bleeding reef cut? And, as every surfer girl has fearfully pondered, can they smell a woman on her period? Does it make her – or the guy surfing next to her – more vulnerable?

First, check the Mythbusters episode “Drop of Blood”: Where they are testing the myth of a shark’s preference for human blood over fish blood – BUSTED! According to their tests, Lemon sharks at least, are not interested in human blood.

As far as menstrual blood goes, in a piece onSurfline Women, which referenced the fact that most female surf pros go out in the water when they’re menstruating, they asked Ralph S. Collier from the Shark Research Committee what he thought about the matter:

There is no scientific data that confirms human blood to be an attractant to sharks. A number of years ago, friend and colleague H. David Baldrigde conducted a number of experiments using human body fluids to determine whether they were potentially provocative to sharks. One of the fluids tested was human blood. The results in these specific tests showed that human blood did not attract sharks. However, there are other fluids that are also associated with humans and female menstrual cycles. Without any positive determination sometimes ‘it is better to be safe than sorry.’ My personal suggestions have always been to avoid water contact during that time of the month when a woman is menstruating, even though there is no scientific evidence to support this suggestion.

Similar information is posted on the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Ichythyology” web site.

Though I never found anything categorically conclusive – a shark’s reactions being not quite 100% predictable even under what seem predictable circumstances – there are a few more supporting references that offer up doubt to the common theory: since sharks can smell blood… stay away from chicks who are surfing while on the rag.

While a majority of studies focus on divers, it offers up similar conclusions:

It has been demonstrated that sharks are uninterested in menstrual fluids. This is not, as some dive physicians suggest, because the amount of fluid is small and discharged over a number of days. Sharks have an highly developed ability to detect chemicals dissolved in water…if even the tiniest quantity of mensus is released into the water during an hour’s dive, the incredible acuity of the shark olfactory system may well be able to detect it. While certain types of blood are well-known to be highly attractive to sharks, menstrual ‘blood’ is a complex fluid that is chemically very different from systemic blood. Menstrual fluid does include ‘old’ (hemolyzed) blood, but it has been shown experimentally that sharks are simply not interested in it. ["Shark Smart" by Richard Martin, shark fisheries biologist turned marine educator]

There is no evidence of increased shark interest in a menstruating female. The hemolytic blood associated with menses may instead act as a shark deterrent (Edmonds, et al., 1992, p. 65). ["Women in Scuba" by Jacalyn Robert of Texas Tech University]

Some suggest because it’s dead, “hemolytic” blood, sharks aren’t attracted. (Though they seem to be interested in fish blood/chum whether it’s “dead” or not).

There are a couple of studies, such as that by Johnsen, PB., and J.H. Teeter. 1985. Behavioral responses of bonnethead sharks (sphyrna tiburo) to controlled olfactory stimulation. Mar.Behav.Physiol., 11:283-91, which suggest that sharks may be repelled by “dead” (hemolytic) blood, but they used animal rather than human blood and only a single type of shark, and for these and other reasons cannot be considered as conclusive.

There is actually a myth about menstrual blood being studied as a shark deterrent (though most things I read discuss the use of shark carcasses…with hit-or-miss success as species, location, individuality, hunger, etc. all seem to be factors). Anyway, one random comment I found regarding the matter mentioned:

…the Royal Air Force did studies on this during the world wars. They tried to duplicate menstrual flow as their studies revealed it acted as a repellent. It’s a cleansing process – lots of mucus and other yucky stuff mixed in that the sharks don’t want to eat.

electrosenses sharksIt’s hard to imagine sharks are ever deterred by “yucky stuff.” As far as I can tell from their published information, the company Shark Defense (who studies semiochemical repellents, electrochemical repellents [OceanMagnetics], and gustation compounds – to protect humans, as well as sharks), has not yet explored the exciting world of menstrual blood. Guess the stem cell researchers have dibs on publicizing its usefulness at the moment – I’m getting my “C’Elle” ASAP.

Actually, after lots of searching I found one blog, Blood In Belize, that included contradictory information; that sharks are potentially attracted to menstrual blood… but in a different kind of feasting sort of way:

Dr. Sam Gruber, director of the Shark Institute at the University of Miami, offered a little more insight. While no formal studies exist on the attraction of sharks to human menstrual blood, he knows that women and female sharks have almost identical hormonal molecular structures. Seems that after hundreds of millions of years of evolution, Mother Nature knows you don’t fix something that works. So Dr. Gruber says, theoretically, a male shark is attracted to the same chemical smell in females in general; sharks or humans.

I do remember a male friend once confiding in me that I smelled sexy when I was bleeding. I thought guys would, instinctually, be more attracted to the female when she was ovulating. Then again, since they’re horny most of the time, and without cohesive studies to confirm or deny, I’m gonna assume male sharks are likely horny most of the time too. And the female odors they pick up surely do not have to come in the form of blood. As a matter of fact, from what I’ve heard, both male and female sharks hot for action – sharks who otherwise are surely heterosexual ;) – commonly engage in “homosexual” activities. And then there’s this copulation video that has hints of gang-bang activity (picture Jennifer Jason Leigh playing the part of the female)….

But what results could occur if, say, a male shark is attracted to a female human? You’ve heard weird stories about the overt sexuality of dolphins (and my personal experience of alleged sexual advances made by local sea turtles that have left me somewhat afflicted).

About 60 percent of shark attacks on surfers – the upper-radius bites – are typical of shark courtship rituals. [Star Bulletin]

Even normal human body secretions may be an attractant for sharks. Sharks usually bump or ram into a victim before taking a bite out of them. When ramming or bumping, victims will have lacerations and abrasions, which is sometimes considered an attack. Also, because bites on victims are similar to the courtship bites of males on females, even sex has been considered a motivation factor. [Understanding Sharks]

Well, for sharks, males are attracted to pheromones released by the woman that, dissolved in the ambient water, allow the males to hone in on the female that is ready to mate. Consequently, you will see in many species that the male follows the female for a while, getting more and more excited in the process. So they may be on the hunt, but it’s for satisfaction of another urge, and because they can smell us, they know we human females are not food – ergo no grab and release needed.Though if you watched the copulation video you saw an important component of shark courtship and copulation is biting so… maybe we’re back to square one.

Because of the fact that most of the reported shark attacks on people worldwide are on men, the author of “Blood in Belize” deduces, “Dr. Gruber doesn’t know why odds are stacked against men, but stats like these crystallize the message: Ladies, avoid men in the ocean, and count your lucky stars you’re a woman because you have more chance of winning the Florida lottery than you have being attacked by a shark. Period.” Well, there are more women enjoying a wider range of ocean activities these days, so those stats are slowly changing, but we get the point. And, since the research seems inconclusive, we can decide to decipher the message as we like, that – besides the potential sexually-orientated nibbles – it’s very possible our feminine juices keep us more safe!

The question is not whether sharks can smell human blood and bodily fluids, it’s obvious they can easily pick up the scent of such fluids when they are within the required range. The more important query seems to be if sharks more often attack when they can not pick up the scent. When there are no human fluids present to better help them discern – without the use of their mouths – that the object of interest is in fact not a potential meal.

Of course, there are other reasons a shark might stay away from females, on land as well as in the sea, as one chick aptly noted:

I think sharks fear p.m.s. over anything – nothing worse than cranky, bloated, junk food-craving women giving them the “finger”. They give them plenty of room. [Dot Wethington]

jabberjawWhy Surfers Get Bit

Firstly, sharks also have a strong sense of vision. But despite the shark’s acute vision, they don’t rely on it as much as other fish.

Most fish you see today have large eyes. But sharks are predators that do not particularly rely on vision. If you see a hammerhead shark searching for flatfish, it moves its head back and forth, almost as if it were using a metal detector. [Michael Coates, associate professor of organismal biology and anatomy University of Chicago]

And considering sharks hunt often at night, where visibility would be even more limited, the lateral line becomes essential to their ability to carouse.

According to new research from Boston University marine biologists, sharks can’t use their eyes and nose alone to locate prey; they also need their skin. Similar to how humans can sense air flow with the small hairs on the face. Odor plumes are complex, dynamic, three-dimensional structures used by many animal species to locate food, mates, and home sites. According to Jelle Atema Ph.D. (Professor of Biology at Boston University; Director – BU Marine Program), since most odor plumes disperse in patches, fish locate odor sources through a process referred to as “eddy chemotaxis,” or the tracking of odor and turbulence simultaneously.

We might see odor and turbulent eddies in the oily wake behind a boat. A moving animal, similarly, leaves behind a trail of turbulent eddies flavored by its body odor. [Atema]

These studies conducted at Boston University, which inhibited visual senses and lateral line senses showed that when visual senses were impaired search time was not significantly affected, while with a stunted lateral line the shark was much less discriminating about their target.

These results demonstrate for the first time that sharks require both olfactory and lateral line input for efficient and precise tracking of odor-flavored wakes and that visual input can improve food-finding when lateral line information is not available. [Atema]

shark cartoonDespite knowledge of the shark’s visual and tracking abilities, another oft-repeated misconception is that sharks attack surfers because it has mistaken the surfer for a seal, which is highly unlikely. Sharks have existed hundreds of millions of years on this planet, before the dinosaurs, and have a pretty good idea what a seal looks and smells like. As marine scientists have observed, sharks attack humans and seals in absolutely different ways. And if that’s the case, we could assume they would attack bodyboarders very differently from turtles.

“I spent five years in South Africa and observed over 1,000 predatory attacks on sea lions by great whites,” said R. Aidan Martin, director of ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research in Vancouver, Canada. A shark’s behavior while hunting a pinniped differs markedly from its demeanor as it approaches people – suggesting that the animal does not confuse surfers for seals.

Certainly it would seem logical that in instances, such as “murky” or what surfers call “sharky” waters, which might hinder a shark’s sight, it could cause random munching on whatever caught its attention or whatever was around during its feeding frenzy. If sharks are chasing something like a turtle and the turtle b-lines for the line-up, you might inadvertently find yourself between the two.

Sharks, unfortunately, just happen to use their mouths as hands, biting into all sorts of random things it comes across in the ocean, and then releasing them. And surfers are attracted to the same areas where sharks feed – the reefs – putting them consistently in the wrong place at the wrong time. The shark isn’t thinking a man in a wetsuit is a seal, specifically, but they might be curious as to what you are, and may bite into anything: a piece of metal, a kayak, a human, etc. to figure it out – on the off-chance with a dash of sea salt you might be tasty. Bite first, ask questions later.

Sharks are one of the best adapted vertebrates in the oceans and have a large number of highly developed senses…. Nature teaches us that organisms which developed in the same environment can recognize and classify each other properly…. Such development always takes place over thousands or even millions of years until at some point it becomes “instinct”…. In this way – even when the investigated object is not of marine origin – the shark may possibly react to a visual or acoustic impulse or an electrical field so that an object may resemble an organism he already knows… since he cannot completely analyze what he has seen, and since he cannot definitely exclude that it may be something edible, the shark may bite and test the edibility of the object with his taste buds…. Sharks do not bite by mistake! And a bite does not result because the shark, for example, has mistaken a diver for a seal…. [Shark Info: Research News and Background Information on the Protection, Ecology, Biology and Behavior of Sharks]

Murky water, often found at river mouths or sandy shore breaks, are the location of many surf spots and, along with other environmental factors support conditions reported in the majority of shark attacks on humans. We like deep water that hits reefs and sand bars. Salt-water surf fishing is based on fishing along the shore line where most species feed off of food that is stirred up as the waves break. As well, since these situations exist in areas in which there is river run-off and contains live food that often dies when it comes into contact with salt water, there’s a lot of feeding going on, from the little fish to the big. At the same time, this mixture of fresh and salt water includes a high concentration of organic and inorganic substances which adds to limiting visibility.

Most of the incidents in the Global Shark Attack File have nothing to do with predation. Some incidents are motivated by displacement or are a territorial behavior, or when the shark feels threatened; still others are the result of the shark responding to sensory predatory input (i.e., overwhelmed by the presence of many fishes) and environmental conditions (murky water) which may cause the animal to respond in a reflexive response to stimuli.

But besides murky waters and the tendency towards dawn and dusk surfing when sharks like to feed (gotta beat the crowds – though it seems odds are higher for the later), there are ways to help you catch the eye of a shark when their vision is limited, things that are often carelessly ignored: excessive splashing, wearing of the bling bling and bright colors.

shark follows yellow kayakYour brightly colored rash guard – or high contrast gear – can make you stand out. As a kid I recall watching a Jacques Cousteau-type TV show, where the marine biologists put a bloody piece of meat and a bright yellow object in the water – and each and every time the shark was more attracted to and attacked the yellow object (welcome back ’80s retro neon!). So it always made me a little more than curious as to why so many longboards, kayaks and surf gear utilized such attractive colors (though understandably some gear, including rescue rafts, need to be seen from distances). Even the plain white foam on the bottom of most short boards looks bright from beneath the sea and might attract interest. Why use these bright colors? Well, in some cases it’s purposefully used to deter sharks, such as those striped laminates by SharkCamo – for surfers and bodyboarders – designed to imitate a species that the shark in your neck of the woods positively does not want to eat.

When you read stories about shark attack victims, you will often read about some stand-out object – that they are wearing or utilizing – involved in the scenario. A common factor is people wearing their wedding bands or their surf watch with metal on it. Unless you are fishing while you are surfing, you really don’t want to look like a lure. And sure, perhaps the shark is not fooled, but what if you are invariably attracting other fish or creatures that the shark is actually interested in.

The diving site “Elasmodiver: Shark and Ray Pictures From Around the World” brings up some of these points, from the oft more educated perspective of one who dives with sharks:diving with sharks

• Tropical sharks are mainly fish eaters and as such are attracted to bright and shiny objects. Therefore it would seem logical that a neon yellow wetsuit would attract the attention of sharks looking for a meal. In shark diving circles neon yellow has actually been given the nickname of “yum yum yellow”…tone down your fashion statement and choose a more muted color or black.

• If you have bright metal objects…try to stash them out of sight in a pocket or replace them with darker-colored alternatives.

• Wear dark gloves. From a shark’s point of view there’s nothing more tempting than seeing two small lily white “fish” flapping around in front of them. Using your hands to swim with is asking for trouble. (And feet dangling off the board might logically be quite similar. -ed)

• Full suits are better than shorty wetsuits. This is the same principle as exposing your hands; try not to expose distinct areas of skin that a shark can focus on or mistake for a fish. Even if you have dark skin it’s a good idea to cover up. A lot of injury can occur from the brush of a shark’s sandpaper like skin. (Surely locals with their darker skin stand out less than the tourist haole! -ed)

• Fins tend to be prime targets for bites. This is more likely to do with their movements and exposed position rather than color but white, silver, or bright fins should be avoided. (So why are many bodyboard fins bright green, yellow, red, or black with bright colored tips? -ed)

• Avoid erratic movements. Sharks are able to pick up on disturbances in their environment. They are looking for the tell tale signature of a wounded fish or other animal. Once they find one they carry out their civic duty and remove the wounded creature from the gene pool. Thrashing around in the water may mimic the vibrations sent out by a wounded fish and/or may replicate the movements of a feeding shark.

• Sharks that come to a shark feed are not there to socialize. They want food and if you’re between them and dinner you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Keep your distance from any hanging bait that has been placed in the water and if the current is moving a chum slick away from the area make sure that you are positioned off to the side or up stream.

• Floating at the surface in the presence of sharks sends the wrong message. A body floating at the surface is high on the list of desirable objects for a shark to explore. In the ocean dead things float. If your head is above water you are effectively blind to the movements of any sharks underwater. A positively buoyant diver’s actions are far more limited. It takes time to become negative and descend out of trouble and swimming at the surface in dive gear looks an awful lot like a thrashing animal. (For divers, this is when unprovoked attacks on them most often occur. -ed)

Other Reasons Sharks Might Bite

There are other reasons sharks might attack. Of course, shark’s electromagnetic capabilities give them an uncanny knack to spot the bio-electric field of other creatures, interpreting agitation and fear. The scene in Jaws where the son of police chief Martin Brody was not attacked after he fell into the water because he was in shock and therefore barely moving – as doubtful as it might seem – could feasibly save a person (from getting bit in the first place, or after as you would lose less blood). But does a shark smell our fear?

Surfers can get as superstitious as fishermen (who oddly show equal fear of women and bananas on their boat). Most surfers try not to ever even think about sharks. When the waters are feeling sharky, it’s not only the conditions, but sometimes you can sense the vibration; like an electric current. The excited pulsations are similar to when dolphins are around, so fine-tuning lost sixth sensibilities is required. I always reconsider peeing during these moments (the pseudo-expert surfer rap contends peeing reminds a shark of scared prey). Well, I know pee stinks up your wetsuit (while keeping us momentarily warm) and that some say to pee in less concentrated squirts or not to pee at all. Question is, can sharks differentiate? If they’re not interested in menstrual blood, why would they attracted to human piss?

Shark text

[from the book "Shark: Stories of Life and Death from the World's Most Dangerous Waters" by Nathaniel May]

Yet the author of Diffusable Calamity describes a story he saw on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel, which does not offer any conclusive information but we’ll store it in the back of our minds:

There was this surfer who was so unfortunate to have been attacked by sharks twice. One time he was attacked, his brother was sure that he was gone. But they were surprised to see him swimming back to shore. He got no more than a few scratches but his poor surfboard could no longer be revived.

The next attack was even scarier. He was attacked by two Great Whites and the people who witnessed this were so sure that he would never survive that. But again, he rose from the waters and swam back to shore. Now the question is, why this guy? There were so many surfers out there but he was the one chosen by both Great Whites. It turns out that in both times that he was attacked, he urinated in the water. So now thanks to him it is known that urine can attract sharks. So no more peeing in the water. Damn!

Might it have simply been coincidence? (Are data shows 99.999% of surfer pee in the water! ;) Perhaps this guy give off the wrong vibe? And the fact is, we are surfing with a slew of fish that are pissin’ (and secreting urine) all around us. Add to that, in Hawai’i, the ever-presence of smells generated by the endangered-but-making-a-comeback sea turtle; a favorite on the shark menu, which maintains large numbers in surf zones. Actually, the pee of the beloved honu is one of the most rank of common ocean smells here (besides boat diesel/exhaust; sewage post rain; the occasional calf or feral pig that has gotten in the way of a tropical rainstorm flash-flood or has fallen off the cliff and washed upon the shore; and the more rare beached whale carcass). Compared to possible urine interest, these are all smells you may want to be much more weary of while in Hawaiian waters.bethany hamilton perfume

New Shark Tales

Q: Why do sharks swim only in saltwater?

A: Because pepper water would make them sneeze.

There are a few myths or surfer truths, I wouldn’t mind starting, using the fear of sharks for a higher purpose. To start off, to end the abuse of totally random smells that have no business invading the nostrils while enjoying nature in all her glory.

One which I have noticed a lot of lately is cologne – yuck! First off, I’m prejudiced, as besides pure essential oils, I think the majority of colognes and perfumes stink and, instead of being an attractant, gives me a bad headache. (Of course, I haven’t tried Bethany Hamilton’s new line of “Stoked” – which is supposed to “smell like the end of a good day surfing.” Its tropical blend of creamy coconut, jasmine, pineapple, freesia, musk and lotus blossom doesn’t sound too bad and…it’s Bethany!) But back to over-powering cologne, many girls –especially your au naturále surfer girls – aren’t too into it (hint hint). Even those chemical deodorants you guys wear are usually noxious and makes one yearn for some good, old fashioned girl surfing ipodmale pheromones (or at least deodorants in the unscented variety). But as sharks might want to check out anything that blinks on their radar, would perfumes be one of those things that might peak their interest? Or would they be similarly disgusted?

And maybe it’s not just the chum that fishing boats carelessly discard outside of surf breaks before they come in to dock. I know one of the most awful, powerful smells when you are surfing, is the one that happens on a clean, nice-sized, barreling day; usually when you didn’t eat breakfast. It suddenly whiffs out to sea: the aroma of grilled bacon, eggs, pancakes (from campsites on the shore; or those fresh baked muffins at the bed and breakfast on the cliff above one of our local surf spots — Maria, you’re killing me!). If we, with our not-as-sensitive noses, can smell the aroma, might sharks be curious too? (Yes, just kidding.)

ipod bikini

The new addition of waterproof housing for phones and ipods, which besides being morally unacceptable to the whole zen-ness of the surfing pathos, is that these electro-vibrations might likely intrigue a shark to explore its source. Guess we’ll find out – nice of the rich kids to test it out for us!

Hawai’i Mano Factoids

An old Hawaiian legend tells of a woman who freed herself from a shark by telling it that he was her aumakua. The shark let her go and said he would recognize her in the future by the tooth marks he left on her ankle. Since then, it is said, some Hawaiian people tattoo their ankles to let sharks know that their aumakua is a shark. [Hawai'i Sharks]

herb kane shark heiau kohala

For ancient Hawaiians, instead of fearing the shark and holding that fear in them when in the shark’s territory, many instead considered the shark their aumakua: a benevolent guardian spirit or family protector. Even if there was fear, for Hawaiians it was balanced with a deep respect, sometimes to the point of worship. Every island had a shark god and shark heiaus were built for feeding these creatures (via a few human sacrifices). It wasn’t that every shark was aumakua, but with some there was a direct connection, blood ties; a symbiotic relationship that is representative of the harmony of life.

Those who had the shark as their ‘aumakua wouldn’t hunt them or eat them, either. After all, it was believed that a departed ancestor took the form of a shark after death and appeared in dreams to living relatives. These Hawaiians would feed and pet a special shark whom they believed to be a relative. In turn, the shark would protect the family….

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. will never forget the day he saw a free diver off Moloka’i tossing away every other fish he speared. “All of a sudden, this huge tiger (shark) came up and took the fish,” said Maxwell, a former police officer who is now a cultural practitioner on Maui. “I thought he was going to be attacked. Then I realized: He’s feeding his ‘aumakua. The man said, ‘Wherever I go, this mano (shark) help me. He follow me all over.'” [Honolulu Advertiser]

shark artThis mindset seems to offer the Hawaiians a greater perspective when it comes to understanding and respecting their environment – instead of falling into the typical American bad vs. good, where sharks usually represent the evil menace of the sea. That kind of attitude has offered allowances to those who are slowly endangering the shark population. Even I have often found myself thinking: one less shark, not so bad.

…for every human killed by a shark, our species slaughters more than 10 million sharks – about 100 million sharks last year. We are stripping the world’s oceans of one of its most valuable predators, animals that play a critical role in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans. An unreasonable fear of sharks has been implanted in our minds by the hype that surrounds the rare shark attack and by movies that exploit our primal fears. [Global Shark Attack]

Sharks are so essential to the health of our oceans their demise – by way of being hunted as well as being one of the numerous casualties of line fishing – will surely have more dramatic negative effects than a relatively small number of shark attacks a year. Though there is some debate as to the numbers, many marine scientists researching shark species have noticed a rapid decline in the population of many species. There are campaigns to end the eating of shark fin soup especially in Asia (shark finning is banned in the U.S., Brazil, Costa Rica, and Australia)…. Save the Fish, a conservancy group of anglers with an awareness of the importance for conscious fishing of our oceans, has a “Bring Back the Big Fish” program. Sea Shepard who are the most proactive in stopping the practice of long line fishing has stated:

hammerhead in fishing lines

Longlines are the most significant factor in the rapid diminishment of shark populations in the oceans. Longlines ranging from one mile in length to over one hundred miles in length are baited with fish (often illegally killing dolphins or seals) and are meant to target shark, swordfish, and tuna. The sharks targeted are caught mostly for their fins (which account for only 4% of their body weight) and also for their cartilage, liver oil, and teeth. The longline fishermen remove the fins and toss the still living shark back into the sea to die an agonizing death. Unable to swim, they slowly sink towards the bottom where other fish eat them alive. If longlines are not abolished, the oceans will lose most species of sharks within the next decade.

shark attack map

[map of recorded shark attacks globally]

There are 490 species of sharks – yet only 12 are a threat to humans. At present 20 are endangered, with many “near threatened” and “conservation dependent”…and the number is growing. So instead of regurgitating the tall-tales and being fearful every time we enter the water, maybe some knowledge could help instead of hurt. Most shark researchers contend their efforts toward garnering a better understanding of sharks is not only for their benefit, but to make people more aware of their environment and therefor less vulnerable – similar to people understanding other predatory animals in the wild.

True or False: Sharks cause more deaths in Hawaiian waters than any other animal.

False: More people drown picking ‘opihi than are killed by sharks, so the ‘opihi might be considered Hawaii’s most dangerous sea creature. (Of course, 60 people a year drown here – for a different perspective on the matter).

There’s so much concern (especially with the shark-like media frenzy coverage on attacks that do occur), that many states where people enjoy the oceans try to balance it with an educational site about sharks. Even in Hawai’i, the Aquatic Department has their Hawai’i State’s Shark site, which offered up information pertaining specifically to sharks in Hawaiian waters:

While any shark may be potentially dangerous, only a few species of Hawaiian sharks are known to attack people. They include the Tiger, Galapagos, Gray Reef and Scalloped Hammerhead. The latter two appear to attack only when provoked. • A Tiger shark is easily recognized by its blunt snout and the vertical bars on its sides. A Galapagos shark is harder to identify; however, any large (over six feet) gray shark with no conspicuous markings seen in inshore waters is probably a Galapagos. • Tigers are considered the most dangerous sharks in Hawaiian waters. (Great White Sharks – Carcharodon carcharias, which are also very dangerous, are rarely seen in Hawai’i.) Because of their size and feeding habits, they occupy the very top niche in inshore food chains. Tigers seem to come into inshore waters in Fall, and stay through Spring. They appear to move offshore somewhat in Summer, but this remains to be confirmed. Like other inshore species, Tigers seem to feed mostly during night and twilight hours. Tigers are often attracted to stream mouths after heavy rains, when upland fishes and other animals are swept out to sea. They can easily locate prey in such murky waters. Tigers are also attracted to waters frequented by fishing boats, which often trail fish remains and blood. Of all the inshore species, Tigers have the most widely varied diet. They eat fish, lobsters, birds, turtles, dead animals, even garbage. It’s not known how long Tigers can go without eating, but they seem to feed soon after a food source becomes present. • Shark attacks in Hawaiian waters are very rare, occurring on the average at a rate of about two or three per year. Surfers and spearfishers appear to be most at risk. Fatal attacks are extremely rare, especially considering the number of people in Hawai’i’s waters

hawaii incidents shark attacks

[map of documented Hawai'i attacks]

Incidents of shark encounters seem to occur on the outer islands more often than the Big Island. This year, for example, there were four attacks on Oahu, two in Maui and one in Kauai. As a matter of fact, there has been just six attacks in Big Island waters in the past many decades (three in one busy year in 1999) – mostly by smaller, likely young sharks close to shore. And only two documented but not confirmed Hawai’i Island fatalities in the past 100 years (one in Kona in 1987 – the body of the man swimming to a tied off boat was never found though his shark-bitten swim trucks were found on the ocean floor; and one of a net fisherman who supposedly fell into the waters near Honomu and was killed by a shark in 1907).

Hawai’i Island may have less surf spots/less surfers – but thousands of people enjoy the waters daily. One old-time local waterman gave me his explanation as to why, contending that the monk seal attracts sharks to the area, and once they’re here incidents happen. That we will soon see more run-ins on Hawai’i Island because recently this endangered species of seal – a favorite on the shark menu – was introduced to Big Island waters as a conservation measure to help expand the animal’s flailing numbers; but before this, the monk seal never really resided here. Soon we will be seeing more seals, he explains, and with them more sharks. Though I’d seen monk seals in Kohala on many occasions, after he told me this I noticed, for the first time in Hilo waters, a youngster playing near the surf break. (Many fisherman are concerned about monk seal relocation for other reasons.)

In Conclusion…

So back to the impetus, now that we’re on the road to being shark experts, this article isn’t about suggesting women should surf while bleeding, because there are other factors that go into that recommendation. While most of these researchers using the better-safe-than-sorry approach suggest wearing a tampon. Fact is, though I don’t, most surfer girls do, but it’s probably more about protecting their bikini bottoms, because the cotton of the tampon gets completely saturated with water, and at that point it may work as a cork but doesn’t absorb all the blood… or the scent.

Actually, as far as I’m concerned, the main issue with surfing while bleeding has nothing to do with sharks. Instead the concern is that you are internally exposed, especially if you are in waters that have bacteria, river run-off, pesticides, or potential toxins (as most seem to). And wearing a tampon might keep that corked inside you longer – yuck! (So if used, removed them immediately after exiting the water and rinse yourself out!) If you have an open wound, you might get staph, but we rarely consider what infections or diseases a woman might be exposing herself to during that time of the month (yeah, another story for another time).

There’s a likelyhood that sharks aren’t as interested in human smells as we have been led to believe (the crew at Mythbusters sure don’t believe it anymore). One could almost deduce that, in cases when sharks “attack” people to see if they are edible, the smell of human body fluids could potentially alert them of the fact that it is a bony, untasty human and not a fatty fish – possibly preventing the animal from needing to use its mouth to come up with the information. Who knows?

And after all these years of studying sharks no one has ever proven blood of the menstrual variety makes a woman more vulnerable.Though one would logically opt out on being part of any real life research project, it seems female surfers and divers are in actuality testing the waters every time they enter while bleeding. And with more and more women enjoying the oceans, it seems high time proper studies are done. In a way that protects them as well as us (from our fear and hatred of them). Perhaps we can invest in exploring all predatory sharks in all conditions, focusing on when a shark is most interested in humans – and their smells – and when they are not… and hey, why not start with menstrual blood!

This piece has some faint hope to spark momentum in public appeals for more marine research; to incorporate the more positive, symbiotic aspects of the Hawaiian’s relationship with the sea, and to the mano. To respect the king’s of the sea, as the top of the food chain and essential keeper of a balanced eco-system. There is a reason we keep going back to the ocean, to find our energy and purification, to look for answers.

For now, without discernible facts and conclusive data, I’m going to extend myself to coming up with my own hypothesis; and in the process, start a new surfer myth: that you might very well be more safe surfing near a menstruating wahine than you are in avoiding them! xo

Fun Big Fish Links

Shark Shield (Australian Co. electronic shark deterrent attaches to your surfboard) [here's a recent success story on the Shield from a Kona kayak fishin' family], Octopus Eats Shark, Swim at Your Own Risk, Moolelo, University of Florida, Ichthology Links, Shark Research Committee Links, American Elasmobranch Society, Shark Attack Survivors, Global Shark Attack File, Wiki’s Unprovoked U.S. Shark Attack, Tracking Tiger Sharks, So You Want to Be A Shark Biologist?, Shark Research Insitute,MythBusters: Are Sharks Afraid of Dolphins?, Dolphins Save Surfer.

P.S. In case you get bit by the way, you can tell your story to Surfer Magazine / join their “Nailed By Whitey club” and, withsurfer shark cartoon the help of Robert Wingnut Weaver and the many surf companies who graciously donate, they will help get you a new wet suit and surfboard… Hey brah, surfer-style, when can gotta keep it positive…


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Sea Turtle Sex CartoonAs a magazine writer (publishing my own magazines where I could -and would- add pages and shrink type size to barely legible as needed), I’ve grown accustomed to the zealous and verbose. Hey, when we wrote freelance back then we got two dollars for every drawn-out word (ah, the good old dayz). Anyway, I like curling up for a long read, and yes, I’ve even curled up with my Mac”Book” on occasion. But I can also appreciate the blurbs… er… blogs. Short and sweet. My sort of “articles” that appear in CGW typically originally stem from random thoughts and brain farts – that I might have intended on keeping simple… no, really. My intentions are good. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. And I know fully well, that 95% stop reading after the first paragraph…or first picture. Unfortunately, in that way that keeps me consciously success-stunted, I only care about the 5%. I only yearn for the attention of the strange soul who would sit through one of my unedited, parenthesis laden, adjective abusing, quote stealing, grammar-hating prose. And then the 1% that can relate – I will marry them.

REFOLDING THE ORIGAMI OF MY MIND (which way did it go?)origami sea turtle

So for those who want more than two supa-sized posts a month (hey, I do the surf report every day!), even though you won’t donate a penny (oh you didn’t notice that PayPal button – maybe it comes in fuzzy on your monitor), and despite varying degrees of suicidal inclinations, insecurities and inabilities to complete… I will do my best to write more often. Because, even if I make up a large portion of the 1%, I do not love myself enough to marry myself, and for some reason writing has a need and desire beyond sheer ego to be read (and keeping it all in my mind is making me a little weird and socially unacceptable). I’ll let this piece flow artlessly, unabridged, like an unreserved schizo diary entry for the one-minute-or-less crowd and (because of my heart-wrenching devotion to you dear readers) my only restriction will simply be…to try for once to keep it under 5,000 words.

So, my blog post for today is as follows….

The turtles here are attacking. No, seriously. The sea turtles. It’s like the birds. I mean The Birds, the movie. Actually, at this very moment, not very very moment, I’m writing this piece about sharks (Sharks, Swells and Stinky Smells – the original post intended to be a couple paragraphs long -actually it started off about ocean smells really- but, see what happens is, the topic starts opening itself up like origami and I can’t stop it and it opens and opens and… I fall in). So I’m kinda thinking about shark attacks, even though the piece is more about no shark attacks, when coincidentally people out surfing in Hilo start getting attacked. No, not by sharks, but by the Honu!

Hawaii Sea Turtle

purty turtle pict by Mila Zinkova check her link for more.

NO MORE TURTLE SOUP

Okay, attacked is a strong word. Most people are just getting hit by them. But see, here in Hawai’i they’re all over the place. Endangered list and no more turtle soup and (minus some questionable tumors [fibropapillona]) they’re thriving. And usually we don’t have a problem. One of a few reasons why we prefer Futures to FCS is ’cause the fin’ll pop out instead of pulling out the whole plug  with it when we hit the turtles with our skegs…we hit them and then we keep going, flying through the air, kinda Wile E. Coyote style – super funny. Luckily the turtle’s shells are tough enough to get pounded on rocks and cliffs – so they don’t mind so much. We grab the shell and go for rides (totally illegal people!) or pet the shell, which supposedly removes some protective algae coating and is bad for them but I don’t understand how…. (and I don’t dare look it up right now ’cause that’s often how my personal origami torture begins. Curiosity and all that. We don’t need to know everything….. Okay, maybe later… but I did notice this cool link… on instructions for an origami turtle and this freakish geekish YouTube vid that is short and to the point…besides being ridiculously impossible to follow… unless you’re Dungeons and Dragons-kine fanatic about folding pieces of paper.)

Anyway, before today the only person I knew who got injured by a sea turtle was a body surfer at Pohoiki, who dove head first into a wave straight into a turtle and broke his nose. The whole top portion of his face was black and blue – those things are huge.

MY ATTACK STORY

So today, after riding a wave, I’m paddling back out and my hand brushes a turtle, but instead of it casually shwooing away UFO-style as it typically would, it grabs me. I felt either like something chomped my hand that had no teeth, or my hand was stuck in some portion of its body, caught under the shell. I have no idea, but it hurt. More like a shock kinda hurt. You know how there are variables to pain, like when surfing and you eat it hard but jump right back on the board and shake it off. But then, when someone, or something, does it to you (causes a comparable amount of pain), somehow it “hurts” i.e. annoys you more. Is this still too train-of-thought…hmmm?

Thing is, after the odd turtle grabbing incident, and once I got over my hand kinda hurting, I had this weird vibe. Like that turtle told the other turtles something about me. Or like they were ganging up on me (I’m very sensitive). And I caught another nice left, into the shallow area (the longboarders were all going right but the lefts were sick and some barreling) – and another one charged at me, splashing the water next to me. I tried not to go left anymore but goofy-foot couldn’t help herself and it happened again; suddenly I felt surrounded, there were turtles everywhere, and they all seemed agitated. I screamed to my friend, in kinda a joking way, but I really wanted her to watch me paddle back out ’cause I felt threatened. Hey, there are stranger horror movie concepts than this!

Sea Turtle Sex

SEX

So problem here is… that I’m missing the love triangle of the story. Okay, one aspect is in the shark piece (that’s almost completed by the way, did I mention) – and that is about sharks possibly being attracted to female smells. Yes, female humans. No, not in order to attack them…to…you know…sexually (okay, you’ll have to read it). It’s just a few juggled hypotheses. But, what are turtles attracted to or not attracted to… they’re just so damn quiet, they don’t let on. They never talk, never complain – they just cruise, nibble and piss.

Ahhh and make babies! See, I never witnessed it live. But when my girl dog was going to jump in at one of her favorite swimming spots the other day, she sniffed around, retreated, and took a wide turn to enter farther away. She smelt them, because she never actual caught the visual of them underwater, but there they were, two huge consenting alien sea creatures, embarking on a journey together. (Do they mate for life?; I wonder their age difference?; Is it pleasurable?… note again, more future research). So, back to embarking, it was more like an embargo. The male: sorta clumsy slow-mo extra large space ship (didn’t catch visual size of the…package). The woman:  Obviously thinking to herself “whatevers – if he can’t get it goin’ on I’m over it.” This male turtle failed, but I’m concluding she can do better.

Anyway, point being, me thinks it’s mating season. Is that why the turtles are all ornery? (Oh shit, now I know why she was being choosy – I just read once coupled, they can stay that way for 10 hours —- see what happens when you don’t have cable for National Geographic or Discovery Channel…or even a TV). But one of the reasons I brought up female smells, is the fact that many of the surfer girls here… seem to be bleeding at the same time. Got a lot of full moon bleeders. It’s like a gang. A hardcore surfer girl gang of full moon bleeders. So the past week – blood. Lots and lots of menstrual blood (which was the actual impetus of the shark piece – no, you’ll have to read it! Yes, all of it!). And these turtle attacks have been happening over the past week. Are they not having any luck with their women? Are they hoping to get lucky with us? Or are we making the women mad stealing their men? Hey, maybe I’ll leave those and my other fifty questions unanswered ’cause this piece could certainly get longer.

That’s it. That’s all I have to say about the matter. Now I’m sleepy. That felt good. Just to get the moment’s ramble out of my head. A lot more easy! I guess the post is more text than most blogs – I’ll work on it – but it’s a start! Maybe I’ll even sleep more than five hours tonight. Wow, this must be how real bloggers feel. Kinda raw grandiose purification – an ocean plunge of words. Yeah, perhaps I’ll cap it off with a nice warm sea salt bath.

*   *   *

Okay, I definitely need the bath. I was almost raped by a sea turtle. I kinda had to do a little more research before going to bed – couldn’t help myself. But listen, did you know there was a Marine Turtle Newsletter? With an article entitled “Sexual Harassment By A Male Green Turtle”, written by Brian W. Bowen of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i? Neither did I…

Male sea turtles (family Cheloniidae) are notoriously indiscriminate in mating behavior, facilitating hybridization among most of the species in this family (Karl et al. 1995)…. Male sea turtles occasionally attempt copulation with human swimmers, snorkelers, or scuba divers (W.N. Witzell, pers. comm.). The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) mating population in Southeast Florida lies adjacent to one of the most densely populated coastlines in the world, and every year a few people are approached or (more rarely) mounted by male loggerheads. NOAA diver Jack Javech of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Miami Laboratory reports two copulation attempts by male loggerheads while scuba diving in the Florida Keys (J. Javech, pers. comm.). During a separate incident in the same area, a turtle mounted a male scuba diver and made good its mating attack on this luckless individual (Epstein 1989). A commonality in these events is that the male turtle attempts to pin the victim to the bottom. These are large powerful animals, with potential to inflict injury or even drown an unsuspecting swimmer.

…The green turtle described here did not raise fore-flippers in an attempt to grasp the target, as they do with conventional mating. Probably by the time that occurs, the interaction is inevitable. The only advanced warning was the deliberate approach of a male turtle, and the only acute signal was the ongoing attempt to approach my backside. Both behaviors are unusual and should be regarded as harbingers of a copulation attempt.

This is shocking. Yet another thing no one warned me about! Helllooo, I had to touch live coral (accidentally) to understand that it’s sharper than a razor; I had to see a lobster-sized hard-shelled centipede (clickity-clicking through the lava rocks of an outdoor shower) before I was ever informed such horrible things existed; and none of the guys I surfed with -when I was younger and so obviously desperate to learn- ever gave me a hint about the concept of turtle diving. Oh, cute, that led us right back to turtles.

Could only find a wiki-fact (it’s own breed of facts):

In the tropics, green turtles are known to nest throughout the year, with some subpopulations preferring particular times of the year.

WARNING: The sea turtles in Hawai’i are mating! And they don’t seem to care who they are mating with! The sweet docile omnivorous creatures have a dark side! Girls, watch yourselves. And guys, don’t assume you are safe – those species-swingers have been bumpin’ men too! Keep your legs closed at all times! Paddle lightly! Look before you pop-up (and let me have the lefts!) Beware of the Honu!

xo, sweet dreams…


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Dog Food RestaurantThough animals of all smells tug at my heart-strings, I am officially one of those cat-people who one day turned into a dog-lover; even the title Coconut Girl being a dedication to my girl dog, who looks absolutely ridiculous running around the beach with a coconut twice the size of her head clutched in her chops. But almost like a new mother worried whether she’s taking proper care of her newborn, it seems I know very little in terms of exact specifics regarding proper dietary care of doggies, relying foremostly upon instincts and smiles. For example, I don’t believe any creature should subsist solely on processed foods (e.g. packaged dog foods) – they don’t do it in the wild – though expert thoughts on the matter seem to insist otherwise. I’m not into encouraging begging, but sharing my burger with my dog makes us both happy and sometimes we both need a little fresh meat (though hormone-free hamburger cooked rare may be best for her). On the other hand, I thought avocado -a favorite treat for dogs here in Hawai’i as it’s found in such abundance- would be nice for her fur. So it was kinda a bummer when, experimenting with Stumble! (and realizing it is a cool tool for exploring undiscovered web sites), it sent me stumbling upon a page called Moore’s Haven and their list of “Bad Foods For Dogs”. Low and behold, amongst the first few entries, there it is, avocado:

Avocado contains a toxic element called persin which can damage heart, lung and other tissue in many animals. Avocados are high in fat content and can trigger an upset stomach, vomiting or even pancreatitis. The seed pit is also toxic and if swallowed can become lodged in the intestinal tract where it may cause a severe blockage which will have to be removed surgically. Since avocado is the main ingredient in guacamole, be sure and keep your dog out of the dip.

Hope the Dog Food Isn’t ContaminatedTypically this is only an issue if you happen to live next to an avo tree and your dogs are gorging on the fruit, otherwise a little added to meals here and there are recommended by the best doggie naturopaths and nutritionists.

So with that, a little more research, and some inspiration from the recent pet food recall, we give you the top ten ways in which you might be innocently poisoning your doggy with bad food choices:

1) Avocado (as previously mentioned)

2) Baby food and Onions. I used to give baby food to my cat when she was getting older and it was hard for her to eat/digest regular cat food. On occasion, thinking she might like it, I’d give some of the organic chicken variety to my doggie. Ooops. Dogs can not eat onion powder. Onions can cause hemolytic anemia destroying a dog’s red blood cells and causing lethargy and breathing difficulties (check for pale gums). Fortunately, toxins will pass but in large doses could require a blood transfusion. Garlic isn’t recommended either but since it’s used in smaller amounts problems are less often noticed.

3) Dairy Products. My girl is an Atkins dog; preferring her fats and proteins. For treats, she loves a saucer of creme every once in a while. Organic yogurt or kefir – yum! We eat bread only when covered in cheese or butter. Even last night while watching The Sopranos where Tony kills Christopher (man oh man… fun having a TV while house-sitting), we enjoyed some high quality Monterey Jack together. Now I know I can’t handle too much dairy, but didn’t realize she couldn’t either; assuming that hard-core tummy that comes pre-installed on these beasts can break down most any food it can swallow. It’s the lack of the lactose digesting enzyme, lactase. Seems cheese and yogurt require less of it so limit minimal dairy consumption to those.

4) Chocolate. That’s the one food most everyone knows dogs shouldn’t have, but don’t know exactly why. Ill effects are caused by theobromine, a cardiac stimulant, which can make the dog hyperactive, increase heart rate, and cause death especially when combined with exercise. It also acts as a diuretic which can lead to dehydration. How much chocolate can equate to an overdose? Depending upon the dog’s size, even an ounce or two can be fatal! And note: cocoa powder and cooking chocolate (dark as opposed to milk) contains more of said substance and is therefore more toxic. Sickness might not come on immediately, but death can follow within 24-hours.Dog Eating Avo

5) Bones. This is another one most people know about, but it is hard to prevent your pooch from sniffing out barbecue remnants at the beach or park. Many think it’s only the chicken bones because they splinter. But all cooked bones are hazardous because they become brittle and splinter and have sharp edges. One vet told me he’s had to put his hand down the throat of hundreds of dogs over the years, to get the full piece of short-rib bone that easily becomes lodged. Though raw bones (completely uncooked, which you can usually find in the refrigerated section at a feed or pet store) are typically considered safe and beneficial to the dog’s teeth (not to mention their disposition) too many might cause constipation due to high calcium content.

6) Cat Food. Every once in a while my dog just won’t eat her food. I try to switch it up, between formulas she prefers, usually the ones that have lamb as the first ingredient and rice instead of wheat. But once in a while I’ll feed her some kitty food. Doesn’t seem too bad if that’s not what the dog is subsiding on. The main issue seems to be that it does not supply an adequate formulation to satisfy a dog’s nutritional requirements, as well being too high in protein and fats and potentially contributing to added weight gain for the pet.

7) Macadamia Nuts. Another food common in Hawai’i, therefore can be a big concern. On many occasions I’ve had to warn people to not give my dog MacNut Crusted Mahi-Mahi or Ono leftovers (since my Mama Udy makes the best!). As few as six nuts can cause elevated temperature, accelerated heartbeat, tremors, even paralysis. Best to avoid nuts in general, because their high phosphorus content may lead to bladder stones.

8) Liver. Another one I wouldn’t assume, especially as many dog foods and treats contain it. It’s just a caution about eating too much, the reason being its high Vitamin A content. Fatty Meats are also usually the scraps we indulge our pet with; what’s wrong with those? Well, they may love us with all their heart for it…but it’s bad for their heart! As well, excess may cause loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis and gastroenteritis (specific clues include whimpering or restlessness).

9) Moldy or Spoiled Foods. Dogs are the ones who usually get the leftovers we no longer want. But when the foods sit in the fridge awhile, we usually assume it’s still fine for the animal. But don’t let it get too old! It seems mold contains toxins that can cause tremors or seizures in which case medical treatment is required. Spoiled foods can cause food poisoning which might lead to vomiting, diarrhea and shock.

10) Commercial Dog Food. Yes, the very food made especially for dogs can be killing your dog. And it’s not just the cheap dog foods found in grocery stores, the so-called “premium”, “gourmet”, “natural” or “preservative-free” (often produced by these same companies) can be just as bad. The recent recall should be warning enough about the limited controls of byproducts and industrial chemicals in pet foods (Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine which is studying the foods because of this incident says they are finding more things in the pet food that shouldn’t be there, “but identifying what they are is a long process”).

Iams PosterWhen we look at the history, commercial dog food came into existence in the 1930s with cereal companies looking for something to do with their rejected grain – wheat, rice and corn that failed USDA inspection because of mold, rancidity, and other contaminants (disregarding the fact dogs digestive systems aren’t built to break down grains of any sort and that they usually have some allergic reactions). With the meat industry facing a similar dilemma (mainly the 4D meat – diseased, disabled, dying or dead, but also including capitalization of road kill, euthanized animals [collars and all], plastic and styrofoam wrapping of spoiled grocery store meats, urine, feces, hair, feathers, beaks, etc…), the idea of mixing the rejects together and calling it “pet food” was born. Reminding one of the promotion for formula over breast milk, disregarding the consumers best health interests, marketing firms took it from there.

Dog Food SecretsFor more info check out Dog Live, which recommends feeding homemade dog foods for your loving companion. A few other sites worth checking out: The Dog Bowl, Shirley’s Wellness Cafe, Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance, The BARF Diet, RawFeed, and Better Way Health (these include raw food diets to purchase or prepare fresh for dogs). A few ways to help clean up the industry: The Petition for Pet Food Reform, another Petition to Hold the Pet Food Companies Accountable, and Peta’s Iams Cruelty site. You can also write to The Center for Veterinary Medicine and FDA about your concerns. To learn more about the pet food recall, check in with the FDA’s site which provides info on all pet food companies involved and the Timeline of the Pet Food Crisis on Wikipedia which includes corporate cover-up, varying causes of recall, and recent release for human consumption animals who were fed this tainted food.

Finally, besides a proper, high quality diet for you and your pet, to live happy and healthy make certain you get plenty of exercise, water, and most importantly, cuddles! xo

9/21/08 Update: This link for Peta, with updated info… Another Pet Food Recall – Is Yours on the List? Another example, of why, if you truly luv your dog or cat, you pay a little extra $/attention to what you are feeding them. Find a reliable, socially responsible, pet-loving company who makes food that is healthy and that your pet loves!

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good bad kittyI’m housesitting. It’s a nice and needed respite because I’ve been living in a tent in a rat-infested plantation house with termites to the extent that every once in a while you notice the wall crumbling to dust. Despite the sound of it, I am forever grateful to my friend for making his home available to me, because homelessness sucks even if you are in Hawai’i (the concept of “living on the beach”: coconut tree, beach shack…kinda lost in this modern world). And the nights I did have to sleep in my little putt-putt with my broken back were uncomfortable reinforcements of pain killer psychosis and suicidal tendencies.

See, this ungrounded state is a result of an injury which left me unable to work for much of a year (sure, sure, the symbolic, astrological, spiritualized purpose of the accident itself has much deeper roots…but rhyme or reason aside, the event leaves you in disarray). If you aren’t from a rich family or have a chunky savings account, and after you quickly, effortlessly run through all your resources, you soon realize the impossibility of living on $400 a month plus $240 in food stamps. What can one buy with $400 exactly? Rent? You’re lucky if you find a room for that much – and if you do your options here usually include a basement or trash-can frat house or some ramshackled cabin in the boonies. And then you have not one more penny for, god-forbid, medical bills, rehabilitation… never mind regular expenses like car, phone, utilities, pet food, credit card bills…. As far as food expenses go, anyone who lives in or has visited Hawai’i comprehends the futility of discount shopping when, for example, a carton of orange juice costs upwards of $8 (fatal when calculating in organic, non-GMO vices and desired satisfaction of cravings) – no, there are no Trader Joe’s and they don’t take food stamps at most of the farmer’s markets either.

But enough of this negative thinking – people just don’t want to hear it, even if it is the truth. Today there is an avoidance of anything that smells of negativity. Boy, all us realists are just percolating, waiting for The Secret* backlash that will surely come, as bottled up “negativity” finds no friendly place to exist in this “all-good” world. It’s like when the “politically correct” thing first became big late ’80s, and your dictionary had to change and quick or you were looked down upon, sued, fired, hated…. I recall one occasion, for example, reacting aloud to someone with the pre-p.c. common adage You’re so gay (okay, valley girl-common but none-the-less). Anyway a gay acquaintance in our group became mortified and reacted in a very aggressive way. How dare you! Now, he knew many of my friends were gay (I was in San Francisco visiting them for cryin’ out loud), that I’m not homophobic, but he was so tuned-up to react to keywords that the reality was besides the point. Maybe other people used that saying to round-aboutly demean gay people (I get offended when people use “girl” to put down guys for example – though on that note perhaps he should have been offended by people calling homosexuals “gay” at all). Personally, I never once thought the saying had anything to do with “gay” people. I wouldn’t be able to replace the word “gay” in the phrase (e.g. You’re soo homosexual). And since when did one group earn the right to words like “gay” to the point you have to tippy-toe around your own vocabulary? Heck, homosexuals can use whatever word they want, make up new words to describe themselves uniquely, but “gay” is a common word with many definitions in the dictionary before you get to “homosexual”.

All I’m saying before I so rudely rambled away with my thoughts is that, like P.C. then, we’re getting a little S.C. (secretly correct) and perhaps going a little overboard with the whole no negative campaign. Because people individually and as a social collective are emotionally (not rationally) determining just what is negative or bad and what is not, and the range seems to opt towards extremes. And I’d hate to say something and be interpreted incorrectly or not related to or totally dismissed, because people have a neurotic need to block out or close themselves off to anything that can be deciphered as remotely negative. Now that, to me, feels bad. Trends like this always seems to go too far. My friend’s kitty is a perfect example.

See, kitty-sitting comes with the two-week housesit. The meow meow is barely a speck, a shadow, a puff that can sit in the palm of your hand. My friend recently found this kitty at her house and took her in, ’til it peed on her bed, but essentially she now takes care of the kitty and therefore claims the self-entitled human right to name said kitty. And taking personality and behavioral issues into account – the peeing, clawing and otherwise rowdy behavior – she named the kitty “Bad Kitty.” When she told me, I didn’t even question the matter; Bad Kitty seemed like a perfectly understandable even adorable name for a cat. But she explained that she was having some resistance from people around her, as far as them calling her kitty by her proper name. Somehow the word “bad” just isn’t positive enough or “S.C.” One of the tenants that rents from this friend seemed dramatically disturbed by the whole thing. “No, no, nooo,” the girl whined with her air-head boppin’ side-to-side, “you can’t call her Baaad Kitty, you have to call her Gooood Kitty.” “But her name is Bad Kitty,” my friend declared in response. Trying to maneuver the scenario with a more upbeat twist, my friend then elaborated, “my kitty is bad-ass!” The girl thought for a minute, going through the motions of wholesome contemplation but twas useless, ultimately her mind was made up. “No, no, no” she repeated, “Gooood Kitty.”

So I’m thinking it’s just this tripped-out hippie who avoids “bad” vibes like the shower, but my friend said she brought her new kitty to the local vet and no one at the vet’s office – vet included – would call the kitty by its name. “They call her BK” my friend told me, kinda perturbed but at a loss. They insinuated her needing to rename her kitty, but since she resisted they simply did it for her. BK, I thought, isn’t that short for Burger King? (hmm, the last burger I got from there was pretty negative!)

Right now as I type, Bad Kitty is being especially “bad”, jumping on my head, on my keyboard, adding lines and spaces and distracting my focus. I toss her here and there but she’s back in a poof, a shadowy black flash, and is indeed bad-ass. And I’m in this nice house and for a moment my environment isn’t reflective of or aggravating my negative state. Maybe a few of these double negatives are actually joining together, in a transformative alchemy, to create some more positives. Surely we need these fucked up, shitty, horrible, evil, rotten, lame, boring, stupid, bad, bad-ass words and feelings and events and even people for any of the positive ones to truly exist; perhaps consciousness and understanding and even a lighthearted sense of humor makes them not so baaad. I was never looking for perfection in my life, just a healthy balance, sure, of positive and negative I suppose. I’m not worried, cause if a little blip, a dot, a dusky happy-go-lucky ruffian like Bad Kitty can overcome or transcend the negativity in her life, then I surely can too.

* * * * *

* the “it” film and book of the moment, with it’s semi-new age no-negativity campaign and Da Vinci code aesthetic providing your answer to the Secret (secret laws and principles to the universe – foremostly the laws of attraction or as some critics state a re-packaging of “The Power of Positive Thinking”) and how to use them to have “everything you’ve ever wanted…living life to the absolute fullest. That means happiness, health, and total abundance and freedom, every day.” Basically sold as the answer to having the life all rich, successful, happy people knowingly lead. The essence of this solution stemming from the idea that one must think and visualize good thoughts; avoid bad ones.

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