Saturday, December 15, 2012

Goodbye Stoffel Dear Friend

October and November have been the darkest days of my life - my beloved friend Stoffel is dead.

Stoffel was almost 25 years old, ancient for a Vervet Monkey which, in the wild, has a lifespan of about 9 to 14 years.

I had long been expecting her passing and tried to mentally prepare myself for this eventually - nothing could ready me for the circumstances and the reality of her death - I am devastated.

Stoffel had always been very healthy and the only times that she was ill was usually with Diarrhoea, caused by the strange things she sometimes ate.

About two weeks after I returned home she suffered from Kidney failure - I had noticed that she was moving with difficulty and becoming incontinent, peeing wherever she was sitting, which was unusual because she was always very clean and hated being grimy or sticky.

One Saturday morning she stopped eating, refusing all food and liquids. She was obviously in pain because she was sitting and lying hunched-up in an unusual position.

I was unable to determine exactly where she was hurting but the signs were that internal organs were shutting-down. The weather was extremely hot and that afternoon, using a small feeding bottle, I started regularly forcing a solution into her mouth because she was dehydrating. I instinctively realised that her end was approaching.

Her illness was age-related and there was not much that could be done - in the oppressive heat I was loath to stress her out by driving 200 km to a Vet familiar with treating Primates. I hoped that she would just pass peacefully but, it was not to be.

By Tuesday she had perked-up a little and, though still refusing any food, she started drinking copious amounts of water on her own.

Disaster struck on Wednesday afternoon when she fell and, probably as a result of Osteoporosis, broke her spine - I found her lying paralysed on the floor like a rag doll. She was trying to drag herself along with her one remaining functional limb, her right arm.

I contacted Axel, the Vet who, so many years ago, had saved her life after her electrical accident. I asked him how long she could survive in her present condition. He did not answer my question and instead replied that my only consideration should be to 'be fair to Stoffel'.

That evening I placed Stoffel next to me on the bed where she squirmed around restlessly, unable to come to terms with the loss of her legs.

My Soul was in turmoil - I was living a Nightmare, facing the most difficult decision of my life.

I don't often consciously Pray but, that night, I prayed for one thing only - Wisdom.

My waking awareness the next morning was crystal-clear, I Knew what my duty was, what I had to do.

Stoffel was lying tucked-up against my side - she was lying still, exhausted and in pain, she had given-up on trying to move. The bedsheets were wet beneath us.

I placed Stoffel on a duvet on the floor, facing the rising Sun and contacted the local Vet - I begged her to come to my house. She must have recognised my anguish and agreed to my request but due to other commitments, could only come late in the afternoon.

I sat with Stoffel throughout the day, feeding her an electrolyte solution, grooming her, talking, singing and weeping over her, desperate to convey my Love.

Stoffel had always been a pretty creature but that day, as she lay on her tummy staring at her hand, slowly opening and closing her fingers, she radiated a serenity such as I had not seen before - she had never looked more beautiful.

The Vet arrived shortly before Sunset.

I buried Stoffel in the Fern Garden in front of one of her favourite windows, together with her Brush, her only worldly possession.

Stoffel's death left me an emotional wreck, my Spirit has been ripped apart and the days following were the most intensely difficult of my entire life - I replayed the events leading up to her death over and over in my head, searching for sticks to beat myself with - was there anything I should or could have done differently?

I saw Stoffel everywhere in her favourite spots and was unable to release her Spirit - "Go Dear Stoffel" I kept saying, "you're Free now, go play" - and each time I would call her back, I could not let go.

I lay naked and quivering like a new-born babe before the Universe, screaming for relief - but the Universe is impartial, indifferent to my pain ... there are no Chosen Ones.

I've realized that my tears are not for Stoffel, she enjoyed a long and healthy life.

My tears are for me - I must live with the inescapable Truth that I, the person she loved and trusted most, ended her life.

Why was I placed in a position where I was forced to take such an awful decision? It seems so unfair.

In anger my mind dwelled much on the God of Abraham, a jealous God who requires Blood Sacrifice as appeasement; a God Omnipotent yet so insecure that He commanded a mere Mortal to slaughter his child in order to prove his love and obedience? - this is not my God - such a malicious Entity was conceived and exists only in the diabolical mind of Man.

I'd always considered it my Sacred, or Cosmic, duty to protect and care for Stoffel, a feeling amplified after the electrical accident in which she lost her left arm and tail. I believe that, in my imperfect way, I discharged that Duty - right until the bitter end.

Everyone I've spoken to, including Doctors and Vets, have assured me that the decision I took was the correct one - but still it hurts ... so badly.

How much worse would her suffering have been had I not been there when she fell ill? Could I have felt even worse than I do now had I not been with her at the end?

Perhaps, in a twisted kind of way, the Universe was merciful ...

Stoffel was never trained to do any 'tricks', she was not regarded as a Pet, she was an integral member of the family - she grew up with my kids and their friends, playing and fighting with them. She was the Little Sister with special needs.

We were her troop, the only family she knew - she was a defining influence and, life decisions were taken with Stoffel's welfare a priority.

When she was a babe, at night she wore new-born baby daipers with a hole in them for her tail, to prevent her from soiling the bed. In the mornings I would wash and dry her bum, just like a baby.

Her body was shaped much like that of a human and, after she lost her tail, this similarity became even more pronounced - she had long slender fingers and toes, with fingerprints, like us.

I was the Alpha Male in her life, the Troop Leader - the only person she ever deferred to.

Stoffel was no Angel - she had a quick and vicious temper and never hesitated to defend her perceived position as No 2 in the troop hierarchy. I was eventually obliged to ask Axel to remove her razor-sharp incisors because her bites were becoming dangerous.

She was mischievous and caused much property damage during her lifetime. Things like superglue and chewing gum were banned from the house - if she bit into a tube of glue it could have had disastrous consequences. Chewing gum was outlawed after she got hold of a piece and, while I was having a nap, she came and lay down against my neck and spat the gum out on my pillow ... when I awoke I had to cut a large chunk out of my hair.

In her later years Stoffel mellowed-out considerably. Though ever quick-tempered she did not bite as readily as she did when she was younger ... she never lost her jealousy though and always became highly agitated if anyone approached me, especially females.

She was madame of the House which was, in fact, built around her - I often had to confine her to one section while I worked on another.

My only regret about Stoffel's life is that she was not able to fulfil her true purpose and become a Mother - I would not allow her to mate as this would have meant more Monkeys in captivity.

Although she shared her Wild attributes with the two other Fur People outside, Tumbili and Lucky, she was also very different - a step ahead of them.

It's difficult for me to adequately describe the magical bond which existed between us without the risk of being thought weird.

We met and interacted in a unique place that was between Human and Monkey.

She was my real Imaginary Friend, a furry visitor from a Parallel Dimension- we experienced Love free from the demands of ego or hope of reward.

I've had a hard time dealing with the loss of Stoffel and I hope that writing this difficult post will be cathartic - that I can move on.

It was a Blessing and a privilege to know and take care of her, the experience has shaped the way I think and who I am - She is in my Identity.

All things must pass.

Goodbye dear Stoffel, we were good Buddies - we were Love

Go now Little Sister, you're Free, go play.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Over And Out

A few images I've been unable to squeeze into a post:

A Quiver Tree with it's head in the clouds.

Southern Rock Agama - Males have a white stripe on the back during the breeding season.

A blow-up of the hind quarters of the Agama.

A bareback Horseman on the road.

Sociable Weavers' Nest.

The underside of a Sociable Weavers' nest.

A dead car with a cactus growing from it's nose serves as a Farm-entrance marker.

An Angulate Tortoise - this species is endemic to Southern Africa and occurs in the Southwestern areas of South Africa and a few kilometres into Southern Namibia.

Another view of the Angulate Tortoise - the delicate bottom scales make it look like it's wearing a skirt.

The Cat's Whiskers.

I allowed Mutt (the cat) into the house and left him with Stoffel grooming him on a desk - when I looked again Stoffel had chewed all his whiskers off.

Whiskerless Mutt looks even dumber than normal but it doesn't seem to affect him adversely - it was not the first time Stoffel had chewed his whiskers off - they've grown back again.

My apologies for not visiting your Blogs lately - I've had to deal with a death in the Family and also my broadband connection was down for a few days.

Tomorrow I'm going home to cyber exile again, until the beginning of December, (goodness! how time flies, it's almost New Year again) - October/November are the hottest months in Namibia but, with the weather going haywire all over the World, who knows what it will be like.

I wish you all good health and happiness.

Until we meet again.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cairns - Kilroy Was Here

Over the last ten years I've noticed small rock Cairns popping up all over Namibia, especially in the desert areas - on the verges of remote gravel roads and at popular Tourist spots.

It seems that they're mostly built by Visitors intent on leaving a little bit of themselves in the Desert.

Some people may say that they spoil the landscape but personally, up to now, I don't find them to be an eyesore - I enjoy the surprise of finding them.

A large Cairn built near the uncompleted house mentioned in this post.

Some structures are quite creative, like this one on the edge of the Fish River Canyon.

They do serve their purpose because I often stop and wonder about the Unknown Travellers who built them - come to think of it, I've never seen anyone actually building a Cairn ... maybe ...

The sides of a hill near the Ai-Ais Hot Springs are covered with about fifty small Cairns, painted white.

I'd love to know the story behind them because their construction was obviously a concerted effort by a large group of people.

Star Wars Cairns

I often feel the urge to build a small Cairn but, I haven't found the 'Right Spot' yet - I guess I could argue that I have already built one and that I'm living in it ... :)

This gigantic Cairn was built by some creative Road Builder during the construction of the Aus - Rosh Pinah road a few years ago.

A finely-balanced Cairn - one of my favourites.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rhino and Hyaena

More pics from a trip to Etosha:

Two Zebra sparring - Spring is in the Air!

These two Gnu were locked in mock-battle - we stopped to watch them ...

... after about a minute, as if on cue, they both paused and turned to stare at us ...

Gnu are You?

It was a chilly morning and the wind was blowing hard ... we didn't expect to see much.

Suddenly, a young male Spotted Hyaena lying in the grass just off the road ...

... and a Rhino appeared from across the open plain.

The Rhino stopped to graze on some bushes and also mark his territory.

Hyaena started following the Rhino ...

... it was then that we spotted the pride of Lion in the distance to the left and on either side of the central tree - it was likely a kill ...

the Lion were watching the Rhino.

Rhino became irritated and started chasing the Hyaena ... it was not a serious charge and soon ended.

The Hyaena slunk away and went to lie down in the grass again.

A few minutes later we encountered another young male heading in the direction of the Lion.

He took fright at the car, turned around and came charging back across the road.

Hyaena have a really strange gait, their hind legs appear weak.

I was really chuffed about the Spotted Hyaena because I'd never seen them before ...

... not bad for a day when we expected to see nothing at all.

Blog buddy Joan, at SA Photographs, recently did an informative post on these fascinating creatures - check it out here.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Jumbo Day In Etosha

I spent two days in Etosha with buddy Stretch - we traveled in his new second-hand Mini-bus Camper which has a cool hatch in the roof, great for Game viewing and photos:

Hand-crafted curios for sale just inside the Namutoni entrance gate.

I was disturbed to also see carved wooden Porcupines covered with real quills - saddened because I know that the animals the quills came from were probably caught in snares and died a torturous death.

We saw many groups of Elephant on day One - the first being these two bulls ambling along the road.

Strangely, on the Second day, a chilly wind was blowing and we didn't see one Jumbo.

Something I've heard about but never seen - people getting out of their cars and walking around at waterholes - despite being given a list of 'Dos and Don'ts' upon entering the Pans and signs at almost every waterhole saying 'Stay In Your Car'.

In one day we came upon four separate groups walking around at waterholes and Stretch, being bolder than me, minced no words when ordering them back into their cars.

For my part, on these occasions, I was disappointed at not getting pics of a Lion Feast ... :)

We encountered two separate pairs of Lion mating.

A Bus-load of Tourists jostle to get a view of the Big Cats doing the Deed.

An Elephant drinking at a waterhole - he surprised us by sticking his trunk through a hole in the ground to get to the water under the ledge ... considering the water level, this shows how long his trunk is.

A Kori Bustard takes off - these heavy birds don't fly very far, just enough to get out of danger.

Black and White.

Young Black-faced Impala drink at a waterhole.

Close-up of an Elephant drinking.

Etosha's Elephants are the largest in Africa but they have the smallest tusks.

Notice how small and worn his tusk is - due to a mineral deficiency in their diet.

A Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk surveys the world from the top of a thorn tree.

A small herd of Elephant approach a waterhole near sunset - the camp gates close precisely at sunset and sadly, it's impossible to linger at a waterhole as the sun goes down.