Better the BobcatPhoto by Earthfire

— by Dawn Harrison —

Winter and an aging bobcat with arthritis? Not a great mix.

Better the Bobcat has been ailing for some time. We’ve been trying to figure out what mix of supplements, vitamins, and feed would help poor Better feel better. The journey has taken months and included help from vets, research, and trial and error, and so far, it seems like nothing has worked. But still we clung to the hope of a solution for Better.

So imagine my surprise when I walked by Better’s enclosure and, instead of limping up to the gate, he runs up and swipes out at my feet! My heart leaped for joy.

Every animal is different, just like every human. We know that what works for one doesn’t always work for another and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed, but that just makes every win that much sweeter.

So although some may be a little perturbed that we have to be more alert with Better and move quickly through gates to prevent him from following, I think it’s one of the greatest things in the world. Better is feeling better!

Never Ending Snow

Snow is a given in this area. We average over 60 inches a year, which equals lots of hours of shoveling. When you shovel all day and return to find that there’s as much or more snow than when you started, it can be disheartening. But remembering that this snow is the much needed and loved water that will support the land in the coming year helps keep things in perspective. So, for all of you out there shoveling snow (me included), just remember that the snow you see now will be flowers for the bees, grass for the grazers, trees for the birds, and water for all Life. And as an added bonus, there’s no need for a gym membership when you can be outside in all of Nature’s glory!

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

Strawberry Sauce: Another Solution

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

We have had pretty good success with giving our bears pills using marshmallows. There is a very specific technique that mostly works (well, it doesn’t with Huckleberry Bear Bear—he is a delicate eater). 

The technique is to give a marshmallow with no pill; then in quick succession, give another marshmallow with the pill inside while waving a third marshmallow in your other hand. That way, each bear focuses on what he will get next while rapidly swallowing the marshmallow with the pill in it. It mostly works—although, if you have 12 pills to give, not so much. (When Humble Bumble needed 12 pills a day, Dawn succumbed and baked fresh muffins for him. Trays and trays of them. She made a variety, Banana, Apple Cinnamon, Coconut, and Pumpkin, in case his palate got bored…..) After the course of pills was over, he still came looking for her (actually, for her muffins) whenever she walked by.

But as I was speaking online with Jill Robinson of Animals Asia, an incredible organization she founded in China and Vietnam,* the conversation veered to veterinary care. She casually mentioned that she had to give them medicine to de-worm them. She did it with (yes) marshmallows—but marshmallows slathered in strawberry sauce (totally delicious strawberry sauce, she said). Absolutely slathered. No problem taking the medicine, except for one bear who didn’t like strawberry sauce—not accounting for tastes. He got marshmallows slathered in condensed milk. (I didn’t think to ask if it was sweetened condensed milk, which is irresistible.)

We have been seriously outclassed. I guess we have to regroup here and realize that plain marshmallows just aren’t enough. Why on earth would we think they were?

On the other hand, there were Dawn’s home baked organic muffins…

* Animals Asia has saved over 600 bears from the cruel practice of bear bile farming

The Darkest Darkness and the Return of the Light

The black of the night gets deeper and denser as we approach the winter solstice until it is almost a physical presence pressing down all around us. It has its own beauty and provides encouragement to turn inwards, reflect, and renew. And against the inexorable darkness are the lights of Christmas, small, bright and valiant against forces much more powerful than us. They are lovely—a reminder that there is always light in the darkness, that Life in its infinite beauty and sadness is bittersweet and the most precious gift of all. A reminder that we must celebrate Life with family and friends, creating moments of absolute joy. Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate!

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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