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From Fox News

From Fox News

Several days ago this headline on Fox News caught my eye, Tourist captures image of mysterious sea monster off Grecian coastline.

Harvey Robertson was on a boat cruise off the coast of Parga, sailing through sea caves with his family. He was initially just trying to capture the unusual color of the surrounding water with his iPhone camera.

What he shot instead has baffled those across the Internet—and marine scientists. Looking back through his camera, Robertson saw that he had captured a grey creature that resembles an elongated manatee. The strange animal appears to pop out of the water in one photo, then disappears under the greenish water in the next.

Evidently Robertson, a Scottish tourist, didn’t realize he’d taken a picture of the animal until later. Fox joked that perhaps the Loch Ness Monster had followed him to Greece.

Having a lifelong interest in cryptozoology, I was fascinated by these photos and the fact that the creature was so curious– “just popping up to say hello!” And something about the creature seemed terribly familiar to me. Since I first read the story I went back and looked at the initial photo a few more times but didn’t read more about it. This morning I woke up, looked at it again, and it hit me– it looks like a Pictish beast. The snout, the eyes, the body length…

The Maiden Stone, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. From the Aberdeenshire Council.

The Maiden Stone, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. From the Aberdeenshire Council.

A little history– the Picts occupied the northern and eastern part of Scotland during the late Iron Age and earlier on in medieval times. The Romans called them the Picti, the Painted Ones. They were a fierce people who seemed to disappear or be absorbed by the Gaels about a thousand years ago. Several hundred stones carved by the Picts have been found and so there are multiple depictions of this mysterious creature along with others that are not easily identified. The Maiden Stone dates from the 8th or 9th century AD.

Nowadays we are quick to dismiss our ancestors’ “mythology” and so consign centaurs and dragons and Bigfoot to the realms of fantasy. We don’t care to explain why some of these creatures have been a part of many cultures planet-wide and how their stories have been passed down to us over thousands of years. We (ahem) enlightened modern humans tend to laugh off what we haven’t seen when it’s actually hilarious how little we know about our world. We remain largely ignorant about what lurks in the deep oceans and dark jungles. Perhaps Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World wasn’t so far off.

Given the depths genetic experimentation has already sunk to, mixing human and animal genes, pirating parts from unborn children, and generally playing God in ways that could be grossly misused (hybrid armies?), it’s plausible that a rearranging of our fundamental building blocks has been attempted before. Some believe that aliens manipulated our genomes in the past. Others believe that a certain fallen angel and his doomed legions (greys) have been trying to alter God’s design for their own purposes since the beginning, requiring purges like a worldwide flood (Noah’s ark) and the Israelites’ orders to destroy certain peoples, including giants.

Pictish Beast 2

From the BBC

I don’t think this animal is a result of genetic tampering, but could just be another of the wonders of God’s creation. If this creature is real, it’s amazing. I look upon the staggering beauty and diversity in our world that was all designed to work together and marvel over how much fun the Creator must have had cooking it all up. Mathematically it’s impossible for all of this to have evolved, from nothing, by chance, even over billions and billions of years. As C.S. Lewis said, “If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe– no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside us as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that’s just what we do find inside us.”

So to automatically dismiss the existence of a creature like the Pictish beast is arrogant. Anything is possible with an unlimited Creator and what’s real isn’t limited to what we’ve personally seen. Who’s to say that what’s also referred to as the Pictish dragon or Pictish elephant couldn’t have migrated to warmer water over the centuries– or maybe this is a cousin that’s been there all along. I’ve always thought this animal was a water beast because of its posture and appendages. Depictions of it aren’t limited to the seashore; the Maiden Stone, for example, is inland in Inverurie, which is near a major river. You can see the Maiden Stone in 3D here (note the centaur-like figure too).

Pictish Beast 1

We have porpoises, manatees, and dugongs, so why not this guy? If he’s like them, he’s probably highly intelligent, and his ancestors likely interacted with people in the past. Maybe he was swimming along and was stirred by some ancient memory of getting a free snack from the odd-looking long-limbed things in the boat. It’s amusing that this tourist in Greece was Scottish because nearly every Scottish body of water of any size has a kelpie legend associated with it. Kelpies are also called water horses and in some stories have the ability to change into human form. For centuries the Scots and others have been seeing something, and while facts can be exaggerated, I believe something actually existed or perhaps still exists.

Ultimately I hope this photo can be proven to be unaltered so that it gives us all a better appreciation of our neighbors on this fragile ball. We, here, now, are the remnants of an ancient original design that through our own choices and bad influences has become flawed. Maybe this guy’s a holdout, a survivor, part of a group that’s smart enough to generally avoid humans to preserve themselves (note that he was in a cave). He might look just like his kind did hundreds or even thousands of years ago, back in the days before cameras when Pictish artists would carve their likenesses into pillars of rock. Maybe only the females have the ponytail. Clearly creatures like this were important to the Picts, important enough to include in a message transmitted through time, one that would someday reach us and say, “don’t be so quick to scoff at what we knew all along.”

From The Heroic Age, Pictish Art and the Sea, by Craig Cessford, University of Cambridge. Simplified illustration of some dragonesque brooches from Scotland, the Mortlach 2 symbol and some Pictish Beast symbols (based mainly upon Allen and Anderson 1903, vol. III and Kilbride-Jones 1980).

From The Heroic Age, Pictish Art and the Sea, by Craig Cessford,
University of Cambridge. Simplified illustration of some dragonesque brooches from Scotland, the Mortlach 2 symbol and some Pictish Beast symbols (based mainly upon Allen and Anderson 1903, vol. III and Kilbride-Jones 1980).

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Read more about the Pictish beast in Craig Cessford’s Pictish Art and the Sea.

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What can be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth could come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster! -Jeremy Taylor

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Pet Tracker

Unfortunately, when a pet goes missing, the perception that it’s a bona fide family member doesn’t hold up. When a child disappears, the community throws all its resources into bringing him or her safely home. When a beloved dog or cat disappears, it’s just that: LOST DOG, two words on a poster that most people won’t even notice.

Somebody ought to train a search dog to find lost pets, I thought.

Guess which somebody it turned out to be . . .

-Kat Albrecht, Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective

Do you love animals? Are you a dog parent/owner? Do you work in the criminal justice or psychology fields? Have you ever wondered what your dog or cat is truly capable of? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are among the many who will be blessed by this fascinating foray into the life of a woman whose dogged determination– pun intended– led her to a career as a pet detective.

Kat Albrecht is one woman you should never say “that can’t be done” to. Years ago I became aware of Kat’s work finding missing pets and have referred concerned pet owners to her Missing Pet Partnership website and Pet Detective Blog. Kat offers Lost Pet Recovery training on her website at Katalbrecht.com and has an informative Facebook page.

Additionally, Kat’s Mercy Paws ministry trains teens in her field of expertise and helps them discover their life’s purpose through service and love for God’s creatures. Her journey from disillusioned dispatcher to passionate police officer to preeminent pet detective can and should inspire others to fight for their dreams. A major theme in Pet Tracker is finding your true calling and leaving behind the soul-sucking jobs that cage your talents and authentic self.

So how does a woman named Kat become an expert on search dogs? Kat began her career as a law enforcement employee in the not too distant past. Simply by virtue of her gender she ran smack into the brick wall of sexism so prominent in policing at the time (and still present in all too many agencies today). As a young, female go-getter, the male-dominated culture in her agency found her work ethic, innovative methods, and intelligence threatening. She was told to do menial “female” tasks and harassed, like when trying to build rapport with victims and suspects. Kat was forced to confront pervasive stereotypes and bias in the policing profession as she worked hard to show that she was not only a capable cop, but one with particular gifts.

On this point, as a former civilian law enforcement employee, I identify with Kat’s struggles. I joined policing later that same decade and was appalled that female employees, particularly civilian ones, were more highly regarded when they acted perky, giggled a lot, and made coffee, in my words at the time. Being sexually available to certain figures was sure to score major prom queen points and a prominent place on the popularity ladder as well.

I also remember the department-wide shock wave caused when I used the words “crappy report writing” about an officer’s narrative and it was overheard; you’d think I’d threatened the life of the president. It became clear that as a female– and a civilian– I was stepping outside my tiny culturally-defined box. They could say it, but I didn’t have the same freedoms. I learned, as Kat did, that being an intelligent female who challenges the status quo by trying to improve processes and procedures was often met with hate and derision. This was especially true for Kat as a sworn police officer because she was working in a traditionally male role alongside men who didn’t want her there.

Furthermore, Kat stepped WAY out of her box when she suggested that her agency utilize trained search dogs for their work. Kat wanted to be a K9 officer but again– gasp– she was female, and police dogs weren’t trained to perform the tasks she had started teaching her own dogs to do. Her department told her not to use a trained bloodhound to search for a missing girl. Even in a volunteer capacity, police departments were not receptive to the idea of using trained dogs to save lives, enhance public safety, and recover victims. Full-fledged Officer Albrecht was actually told to go work elsewhere if she wanted to work with a bloodhound!

This barrier is also familiar to me– law enforcement agencies sometimes feel threatened by outside help. They might believe they’ll do better without a pet detective or forensic psychologist or behavioral expert even though cops don’t usually have such training. Some also tend to do things the way they’ve always been done rather than act in the best interest of the public they’re sworn to protect. While I know many open-minded, intelligent, and creative minds in the business, there are also those, particularly those in charge, who are set in their ways and feel that change undermines their authority. They may seem attempts at positive change as insubordination or subversion.

In retrospect, Kat realized that “my passion for working search dogs was viewed as arrogance.” She just wanted to help. So she began to plan how she could develop her passion for working with her dogs instead of how to adapt to a police department that was never going to let her– or her dogs– do what they were best at. The time and effort she put into discovering her dogs’ individual gifts– aided by a very gifted and patient cat– is nothing short of remarkable.

With her dogs at her side she took what she learned in law enforcement and translated that into pet detective work– while continuing her career as a law enforcement officer at another agency who welcomed their skills (having had people at the same agency, I appreciate its open-mindedness). This much-needed positive change came about as she renewed her relationship with God and started seeking His way instead of her own. Woven into Pet Tracker is the discipline of learning to hear from God and trusting Him. As Kat can attest to, even when your own plans seem perfect, He sometimes has a better way. And literally stop her in her tracks a couple of times He did.

It was when her own police bloodhound went missing that Kat realized just how much of a need there is for canines trained to find pets. A volunteer dog located her beloved partner but that dog was one of very few conditioned to do so. As she points out, police dogs are trained to ignore other animals, not find them, so the average K9 officer can’t do this. She noted striking similarities between lost people and lost pet cases and built upon that, founding the National Center for Missing Pets on the way. Then life threw her another curve ball with a life-changing freak injury suffered as a cop but even then she found ways to continue and expand her mission.

Besides being a refreshingly honest look at the barriers she had to break in policing in order to use dogs in this line of work, Pet Tracker offers a very realistic look at certain dog breeds and also delves into the priceless value of rescue pets. It gives proper credit to the uniqueness of each dog and the depths of their intelligence. I was fascinated to learn how Kat determines what makes a good search dog and allows the dog’s natural gifts determine what type of search dog they will be. Like people, they can be trained for different purposes. As she won over law enforcement officials with her methods and victories, one detective noted, “I’ve yet to see a police dog around here that could find a simple hole in the ground… but your dog has made a believer out of me.”

Pet Tracker also runs the gamut of emotions and it details Kat’s relationships with her original search dogs and feline assistants including their aging and loss. I felt the latter deeply because I read the book less than a week before unexpectedly losing my own copilot of 15 years, my faithful hound who went through hell and back with me and his kitties. Kat’s descriptions of hound dog behavior and the endearing quirks they can develop rang true. If you’ve ever had a hound, you know that they will follow their nose even if it leads to pronounced peril or it means dragging you along behind them. They follow their noses, point blank, period.

There are other laugh out loud funny moments in Pet Tracker like when you meet characters such as Barry the Boa Constrictor and Bret the Bearded Dragon, a real life rock star. There are also invaluable tips on how to properly search for missing pets. I am convinced that many feline lives could be saved if shelter workers understood how lost cats behave and shared that information with the public. It’s from Kat’s blog that I learned how cats, when sick or injured, usually hide nearby in familiar places, even inside the house they’re thought to have escaped from. She also offers wonderful pointers about the types of posters you should create when looking for a lost pet and how to conduct outreach. I feel even more strongly that cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside after reading this, for their own sake as well as that of other pets and wildlife.

Our nation euthanizes millions of adoptable pets each year because no one claims or adopts them. This is abhorrent. I’m sickened by thinking of how terrified those innocent, loving dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets are when placed in a stark gas chamber to die. Others are given lethal injections like serial killers just because their owner didn’t properly contain them, come looking for them, abandoned them, or cared enough to spay and neuter, creating thousands more like them. Or because they sat in a cage for a few days with people passing by and not giving them a second thought. This is particularly true for older pets, who are, ironically, usually house trained and more calm and disciplined than puppies and kittens. Every year King County, where Seattle is, puts several thousand adoptable pets to death. And this in a county of more than two million people.

Kat emphasized the importance of finding missing pets and the horrific outcomes for many of them:

Animal shelters, for example, would hold a “stray” dog or cat for seventy-two hours, after which time they either adopted the animal out to a new family or destroyed it. So if a pet owner was not able to get to the shelter within seventy-two hours, their chances of a happy reunion were slim to none. The national “Return to Owner” (RTO) rate for lost dogs reclaimed by their families at animal shelters was sixteen percent. For cats, the rate is much worse—just two percent of stray cats held at shelters have someone show up to reclaim them.

Ultimately Pet Tracker was many things to me:

-An honest look at policing and the challenges women, canines, and innovators face in that profession

-A deeply emotional story about the bonds between pets and their people

-A journey through Kat’s relationships with her own four-legged family members

-The development of each pet’s individual gifts and traits

-A testimony to the power of perseverance and going forward no matter what the odds

-An eye-opening look into the importance of search dogs and their various functions

-The importance of volunteer search dog handlers (the next one could be you!)

-A call to treat our pets and other animals humanely and lovingly

-An insider’s view of missing people and pet cases

-A sobering look at the realities of shelter pets and the fate of many missing or abandoned animals

Pet Tracker is available on Amazon and as an ebook. More information about Pet Tracker and her training manual Dog Detectives are available on the Books page of her blog.

Thank you, Kat Albrecht, and your amazing animals, for never giving up and making the world a brighter and safer place for so many people and their furry loved ones. I highly encourage others to become familiar with Kat’s work and to share her knowledge and expertise liberally.

Who knows? You might be the next great pet detective, and it’s clear that those skills are sorely needed.

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Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. He can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes. -Gene Hill

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Crossing Paths

Crossing Paths

Coworkers brought to my attention a wonderful, easy to read monthly newsletter from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Crossing Paths. This month’s edition features the best article I’ve ever read on why it’s important to keep your leaves, not throw them away. Other articles feature how to properly interact with local wildlife. As I often say, they were here first…

As a longtime government employee I’ve taken all manner of calls about wildlife, and in many cases people either 1) lack an understanding of how to coexist with our local animals, or 2) don’t understand normal wildlife behavior. There is no, and never will be, a zone for wild animals only and a zone for people only. It will never be safe for your cat to let them roam freely outside and it will never be safe for birds, bats, and others that your cat roams freely outside. We’re all part of the same ecosystem.

Wild animals are not alien invaders; they’ve lived here for thousands of years. Our sprawl and insistence upon sterilizing our neighborhoods and having perfectly green lawns with minimal trees to drop leaves on them is pushing some of them to extremes. This newsletter’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know our furry, feathered, and finned neighbors– it’s definitely worth signing up for.

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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One of Sarvey's many junior clients. Daniel Houghton/The Seattle Times.

One of Sarvey’s many junior clients. Daniel Houghton/The Seattle Times.

The Sarvey Wildlife Center in Arlington, Washington desperately needs new roofs on some of their buildings. Their September newsletter said:

RAISE THE ROOF
Raftors for Raptors
(or Raccoons, Rabbits, Rock Doves, Robins…. Take your pick)

Many of you already generously give monthly or annually to help with the medical or supportive needs of our patients. In order to keep up that unique work in a safe and secure setting, we now must replaces the roofs on 2 of our 5 structures. Over the past 3 decades, we have grown to occupy a 5-acre site with several buildings. We are lucky enough to own our land and structures, but this does mean we are responsible for our own maintenance. (more…)

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Lolita's (Tokitae's) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Lolita’s (Tokitae’s) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Yesterday, August 8th, was the 44th anniversary of the Penn Cove Capture. In this sickening, inhumane event, a large group of wild orcas was chased into a cove near Whidbey Island, Washington with speedboats and explosives. Seven were taken into captivity and five died during the roundup, including a mother trying to rescue her calf.

No feeling person could read an account of how the orcas responded during this event and not feel disgusted by it. Orcas are intelligent mammals with their own language and culture, and because scores of them were captured in Northwest waters in that time period, they are an endangered species today.

Only one of the orcas captured near Penn Cove– also the oldest captive orca anywhere– is still alive. Lolita, originally called Tokitae, has been at the Miami Sequarium ever since 1970 when she was taken from her pod. She is nearing 50, and for the past 44 years has been having to dance for her food in a substandard-sized tank in the hot sun.

She still recognizes her native tongue; she still has relatives, including an orca in her 90s who is likely her mother, roaming the Salish Sea in the Northwest. Despite all the efforts to bring her back to a sea pen in her native waters, the Miami Seaquarium still won’t allow her to come home and our government has failed to make it happen. Lolita/Tokitae is the Seaquarium’s star attraction and has made untold millions for them.

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network provided a link to this documentary in a recent newsletter, Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. This film was made in 2003, and sadly, more than 11 more years have passed without improvements in her situation. As the experts interviewed in this piece said, this orca will be worked until she’s dead. She’s already outlasted the rest of her captured peers, some by decades. Some captured orcas have even killed themselves, as did Kathy, the lead dolphin in the Flipper TV series. It’s why Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry became a marine animal rights activist.

You’d think that after 44 years the Miami Seaquarium’s owners could show a little compassion and let their star attraction retire in peace. Orcas have life spans similar to humans and I know that when I hit 50 I don’t want anyone keeping me locked in a bathroom and making me do ballet for a sandwich a couple times a day. I don’t want that now. Yet this amazing creature, who has shown such resilience and spirit despite the daily cruelty she endures, is required to do exactly that in a crappy concrete prison that’s not even properly sized.

Please take an hour to watch Lolita: Slave to Entertainment in memory of what happened at Penn Cove (and elsewhere in the Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s). Some clips, like seeing Lolita/Tokitae float listlessly and alone in her tub between shows and at night, are difficult to watch. But this is a story every schoolchild in the Northwest and in Florida should know. This is an issue all Washingtonians should unite on.

Now is a good time to make your voice heard. As the Orca Network has pointed out, last month the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which owns over 70 theme parks. We have an opportunity to change the barbaric practice of orca capture and confinement; let’s do this. The Orca Network’s Lolita page has links so that you can easily contact Palace Entertainment.You can read Howard Garrett’s letter to Palace Entertainment here.

Tokitae Ferry

Next time you board the new Washington State ferry Tokitae, take a moment to think of who it’s named after. Your involvement could save her life. Photo by Karen Ducey, Puget Sound Business Journal.

When the half a century-old Lolita is finally brought home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, I’d imagine that her reaction would be similar to Raju the elephant’s, who was just released from 50 years of captivity. Raju had been beaten and forced to wear spiked chains. He ate what he could get from passing tourists but sometimes ate plastic just to fill his stomach. When his captors knew he was about to be rescued they chained him even tighter, and then when those shackles finally came off, he cried.

Raju

Like orcas, elephants are highly intelligent animals who live in groups, and Raju went through 50 years of hell as well. He now lives in a refuge with five other elephants who have welcomed him as a friend. He can now spend the last chapters of his life eating regular food, being loved by a family, and being properly cared for by humans instead of exploited.

I hope for the same for Tokitae. Together we can make it happen.

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A righteous man regards the life of his animal,

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Entirely Pets has come out with a cool new product that can greatly improve communication between you and your dog.

In March they introduced a revolutionary product sure to bring canine transportation into the 21st century.

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Miley

Have you seen this video from last month showing a dying dog living in a trash pile in L.A.? The video’s notes say that the dog had been living there for months– why would the people who knew that not call for help months sooner?!! (more…)

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