Sunday, February 26, 2006

Untamable II

As we walked and waded, I told Liz about an amazing animal behaviorist named Turid Rudgrass. Turid discovered a universal animal language called "Calming Signals." She teaches a series of over thirty body postures that all animals understand. By using these signals, it is possible for humans to get extremely close to wild animals without alarming them.

After my little lesson, I took Liz to a favorite little spot in the springs, and suggested we lay on the sand and imagine images in the clouds.

In reality, I had a hidden agenda.

I wanted her to be quiet and still. I pulled out my camera and the oatmeal cookies that I had so carefully packed in plastic that morning.

It didn't take long for the Giant Florida Otter to appear. I nugged Liz and gave her a cookie.
"Use the calming signals, wade on in, and give him a piece of cookie."
She literally quivered with excitement. Then used the postures, and eased into the water. The Otter read her signals as non threatening, accepted the cookies, and began to swim circles around her, doing flips and spins for more.

For almost an hour, I sat on the beach taking photos of the playful pair. Liz would go underwater, and the Otter would follow, then he would spin, and she would follow. It was nature's ballet.

Then suddenly, without notice, the Otter disappeared.

"Did I do something to scare him?" Liz asked.
I paused to assess the situation. Something was amiss.

"The birds stopped singing." I said as I motioned for Liz to move closer.
Then I saw it.

"We're being watched." I whispered.
Liz followed my gaze, and froze dead in her tracks.

"What do we do?" She mouthed like a silent ventriloquist.
The panther was intent on us, crouched down and quivering. The Cat's message was clear, and it was NOT a calming signal!

"Don't look at her. Keep your eyes and body in a submissive posture. Let's just act like a couple of manatees, and float on by...Just like a natural part of the environment."

"At least cats don't like water."
"House cats don't, but Florida Panthers are excellent swimmers."

"Do they eat manatees?"

"Good point. Be a log. Float away like a lazy ol' log. And whatever you do, don't think about fear. She'll sense it."

Slowly we sunk into the current, gaining distance, nearing the bend. When, to our astonishment, we heard the cry of kittens.


We could hardly believe it. Our eyes locked in silent amazement, as we drifted away from her den. When we reached a safe distance, I hid behind a tree and took a slew of pictures, loving my 20X zoom like never before.

"Man, the gang is NEVER going to believe this!" Liz squealed.


She was right. They didn't. When we got back to the hotel, I discovered that I had forgotten to put the card reader in the camera that morning. We had nothing but a good fish story to tell.

"Oh well, at least we have the memory." Liz said sympathetically.

"Yeah." I sighed. "We'll always have that."


Betty said...

Not only was this post great entertainment, you also offered me an explanation of something amazing that happened to me years ago. I was hiking alone at dusk in Boulder, CO when I encountered a wild rabbit. People usually don't believe me when I tell them that when I stopped and knelt down, the rabbit not only approached, he actually climbed into my outstretched arms. We danced in the moonlight. Somewhat similarly, I spent some time in Montana where wild horses roam. I used to be able to walk right up to a pack of those horses and pet them, to the disbelief of the natives. It must have been due to those "calming signals" you describe. Thank you for reminding me of those magical moments.

Kathy said...

Wow, you ladies really know how to take advantage of your environment to experience amazing things, no matter where you are! Thank you so much for sharing your vacation with us, and also for sharing your incredible insights to the world around us. Bravo

Kelley Bell said...

Betty, your comment reveals much abot your true spirit. I should like to meet you someday, and count you among my friends.

People can be fooled, but the Animals ALWAYS know the truth.


Thank you so much for your kind words. Im glad you chimed in. This story is just a fictional game Im playing with Liz, but it is based on real events from my past.

(Turid Rudgrass is for real too. Do a search on her name and you will learn a great deal about animals.)

Kelley Bell said...


Even the part about "no film in the camera" really happened while my daughter was swimming with a wild Otter at Weeki Wachee springs in Florida.

Ugggh, I still cringe about not having those pictures!!!!!!

ME Strauss said...

Hey, this isn't a game. It's really happening in some space between the quarks. I know it is. The only thing that didn't happen is that I don't actually squeal. I kind of effervesce. gRIN.

You're right though. No pictures is okay as along as you have the story to twll. Wonderful. You know so much and say it so well.


Kelley Bell said...

Liz effervessed with excitment....

Well, you are the one in the publishing business, so I say Let's GO with it!


Kathy said...

Any 'gators in them thar waters? Maybe you could get real close 'Erwin Style' if you practice some of your "calming signals" - oh wait, they may only work on warm blooded animals...don't do it..don't! I hope no one loses their pinkie toe! Your words and imagination are obviously having an effect on me...ha ha...where are we going next? Airboats? to see the tiny fallow deer?(not sure if that is the correct species),or maybe a flock of feral parakeets have their way with your lunch.....see I can't stop..what fun.. Thanks again for a lighthearted way to leave the February blues behind.

Kelley Bell said...

Liz is already in Tuscanny, having a grand time. Hop on a plane and join in!

Writer Mom said...

NOW I understand.
Clever. Very clever.