Monday, May 11, 2009

Swimming with the Crocodiles

Mother's Day--the biggest dining out day of the year--yes it even beats Valentine's Day.

So how did I spend Mother's Day this year?

Did we wear our Sunday best dress with matching Easter bonnet and white gloves and eat at the table with intricate, lace tablecloth and antique gravy boat dating back to grandma Gertrude? Or did we dine at fancy schmancy restaurant with overpriced menus?

This year, with a tanking economy, we turned to affordable mother nature and joined her other children in the outdoor playground. We decided for an outdoor adventure where we risked losing fingers, toes, life and limb!

Yep-- I took my mother and aunt--alligator sightseeing in the Everglades! And did we have fun! Where else can you sunbathe on tropical beaches, dine in five star restaurants next to a celebrity and within 30 minutes lose yourself in the wild of the Everglades? Only in South Florida!

This is my personal story. For a complete review of the park, CLICK HERE.

Warning #1--Wear mosquito and anything-that-flies repellant. In spraying every crevice of my exposed body, I missed my ears and sure enough I was bitten on the earlobe. For days it was red and swollen that soon I could audition for the next horror movie without a mask. Thankfully my long hair hid the alien-looking deformity.

The airboat ride--basking in the South Florida sun, the wind blowing through my hair and male species ready to tear off my clothes--not so different from South Beach, right?! Well this male species bites off more than cotton and polyester garments. The alligator, a reptile species, has survived extinction and dates back a million years or so. Their secret? To find the answer, click here.

Pictured below is my aunt Carmita to the left and my mother Elizabeth to the right on the airboat. Don't they look like sisters? Hard to tell them apart isn't it? Hey those are my hats!

My aunt Carmita is fascinated with alligators and literally jumped at the chance to hold Snappy--the one year old gator. In the photo below my aunt is cooing at this baby gator that could bite off those slender french fry fingers. I applaud her bravado--I'll stick to chickens. No wonder I worked at Pollo Tropical. I can change the car oil and filter of my automobile, replace a flat tire (as long as lug nuts are not too tight), drill holes with cement drill bit, but I couldn't even pet the tail of a baby alligator! Does this disqualify me as future sidekick of Samantha Brown? I hope not.

My aunt, who was visiting from Quito, Ecuador, a refined woman with a flair for the arts (the curator for a leading art museum), never ceases to amaze me. My mother, always open to all adventures--from high class events such as performing arts to the rugged and wild outdoors is where I inherited my versatile genes (well Dad too--a ballroom dancer, engineer and father who taught me hiking, boating, fishing and how to shoot with a rifle). It's all in the family! We all had a wonderful time and I am blessed to have spent this day with two special mothers.

You see, Miami isn't just about transplants (flamingos are NOT native to Florida), implants, and celebrity-wannabe's. Some of us actually venture outside the nightclubs, and name-dropping restaurants where all the beautiful people go. Some locals pay a visit to our native neighbors and appreciate the natural surroundings. It was memorable.

To build my courage of just petting an alligator, I came across the book "Swimming with Crocodiles" as an invitation for a discussion with the author. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to an "accident". Images of the author's flesh shredded by crocodiles passed through my mind. It turns out the author, Will Chaffey was in a car accident. My prayers are with him and his family.

To order the book, click below and join me in reading this true story of courage and adventure:

In the tradition of Into the Wild, the riveting story of a young man seeking his own truth and finding adventure and the awesome, unforgiving power of nature. Will Chaffey was 18 when he boarded a plane in New York bound for Australia. Taking time off to work and travel, Will met an enigmatic wanderer and herpetologist named Geoff there and with him crossed the inland desert to the tropical northwest coast, home to the saltwater crocodile, a predator surviving from the age of dinosaurs and a known man-eater. Together they devised a plan to explore the remote Prince Regent River, a trek so dangerous it had never been attempted by white men. Passing through harsh, primeval country, shadowed by Aborigines, and physically worn down, they find themselves locked in a life-and-death struggle when their food runs out and, unable to leave, they are stalked by a hungry crocodile. Filled with scenes of great natural beauty, Swimming with Crocodiles is at once the affecting account of a journey into adulthood and a hair-raising epic of survival.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

South Florida Dog Rescue in Trouble

As you many of you know, I'm passionate about pets (especially dogs and cats) and helping to raise awareness and funding for various organizations including rescue organizations. This morning, in checking my emails, I came across this story from about the troubles facing Sabbath Memorial dog rescue. In this story we learn "appearances aren't always what they seem". In this case the dog shantytown, with donated used mattresses, trailers and kiddy pools, provide a happy haven for abandoned dogs.

The owner, Robbie Coy, is facing technical difficulties--zoning laws. Please read the full story. While he has not asked for any help, as a resident of South Florida or if you're just a dog lover, I encourage each of you to consider helping in some small way. Visit the site and play with the dogs, donate a nominal amount toward Robbie's uphill legal battles, or donate an item--dog food, used mattress, a cleaning crew! Now there's a thought.

There are few options for protecting abandoned dogs. The Humane Society rarely accepts them because they have a limit. The Animal Services (run by the county) will accept any dog or cat (stray or abandoned) but after a time period of no adoption, they are euthanized. Animal Services receives HUNDREDS of pets a week! There's just not enough space, people or care for thousands of dogs and cats. The bigger dogs have a lower rate of adoption for various reasons--they're not small, cute and cuddly, and many condos do not allow dogs larger than 10 pounds, and the cost of food and care is relative to their size.

Next time you're considering adopting a dog--please visit the Miami Dade Animal Services and not just the Humane Society! More on this subject on my next posting!