Friday, May 30, 2008

In honor of Molly

Every morning, for the past 20 years or so, I wake up wondering what I will learn in the course of the day. It never has to be anything huge like a new calculus formula, a conjugation, or even a new recipe, but I have to learn something by sunset that I didn't know at sunrise. Of course, professionally I'm learning to recognize the presence of certain plants thanks to their connection to grazing history. Too, I learn everyday that somehow, persistence pays off. While I'm learning bigger lessons, I try to learn a new plant, warbler call, or how to better prepare curry.

Earlier this week, I spent a day in the Gasconade River Hills, an area characterized by shortleaf pine, white oaks, and an understory terribly compromised by an earlier clearing for agricultural purposes. While I was out there, I learned a new fern (Athyrium pycnocarpon, pictured) that closely resembles the more common Christmas fern. I also indulged my inner 12 year old by grabbing at every animal I encountered, barring the exquisitely colored diamonback water snake, basking bright red scales on a log.

My little 15 year old dog Molly, a stubborn quadroped, would likely be disheartened to learn that for every 10 plant photos I post in this medium, I post a single animal photo. I don't pride myself on knowing wildlife very well, and I certainly don't photograph wildlife seriously. Nevertheless, the canine who serves as the wildlife disturbance in my backyard, Molly, had a crummy day today. In her honor, I'm posting mediocre pictures of wildlife: little turtle hatchlings, a gorgeous pumpkinseed sunfish (a common Ozark river species), a bee gorging on the ubiquitous Texas blue star, an extremely young crayfish (I venture O. luteus, but I'm not certain). Actually, I don't know who had the crummier day, my dog or myself.

Today's lesson was in animal husbandry, and it was a terrible lesson that I don't wish on my worst enemy (you know who you are, mwahhahahaha). In 3 short hours, Molly's kind doctor (my brilliant boss' wife) taught me how to feed intravenous tubes through an elaborate system of valves and gadgets that I will employ eight times over the course of two days in an effort to flush toxins out of my little dog's system. Anyone who knows me may recall that I ran 4 blocks out of the doctor's office at the age of 24 when I saw the needle for the required gammaglobulin vaccination.

So, today I learned that I have to overcome my fear of needles and blood for the sake of my dog's health. I learned that the aging process is cruel. I learned that Molly will have to forego periodic smoked salmon, treats of sausage grilled over fire, leftover trout from Columbia's great Sycamore least for now. I learned that my boss can be terribly sarcastic when he asks, "what did you do, feed her antifreeze?" and deeply caring when he softly says "I'm just a botanist, but I hope your weekend gets better." I learned that even though I cried mightily in front of my esteemed colleague, he likely understands my genuine love of Molly and won't judge me too harshly for crying emphatically while sitting on the floor with my arms around her neck. Molly's wonderful vet whispered to me, "I'll hit him if he does."

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