|My Beloved Castaway Cassie|
| My Beloved Honey|
Every time I hit the Wind Cave trail at the Usery Pass mountain, I always enjoy getting up to the cave and taking in the beautiful view of the valley down below.
However, my time at the cave would never be complete without my squatting down next to Honey, my special prayer rock, and enjoying our peace and quiet together. We've watched numerous sunsets together, and the golden reflections coming off her surface right before the sun goes down have always been so interesting to watch!
Honey has always been a true source of strength for me. I always feel uplifted every time I get to the cave and spend the time with Honey. I always feel at peace every time I get in my hike, and knowing that I've had the opportunity to go all the way up to the cave to be with Honey is definitely a stress-buster!
Honey: named after the honey bees at the cave.
My sunglasses and car keys are on Honey's surface.
|This is the front part of the cave at Usery Pass. Honey, my special prayer rock, is right out in front. Every time I get up to the cave, I'd walk to the front and take in the beautiful view of the south, west, and northwest parts of the valley while squatting next to Honey.|
The northwest view of the distant mountains is shown in this photo. Fountain Hills, one of the suburbs of Phoenix, can be seen right by these mountains. Fountain Hills has a large pond with a huge fountain that shoots water into the sky every hour. The little white mark as shown in the top half of the photo is the water that shoots from the fountain!
|This is the south part of Usery Pass. I photographed this view while I was on the Wind Cave trail. The two thin black lines with the 'u' in the middle as seen in this photo is the cave. The cave is close to the top right corner of the mountain (as seen from the left of the tall cactus). The steep, rocky trail is 1.6 miles from the trail head to the cave. The view of the valley and the surrounding mountains from the trail, as well as from the cave, could not have been more spectacular!|
|I consider this to be one of my favourite winter shots. As you notice, there is absolutely NO snow where I live! I took this shot while I was heading up the Wind Cave trail at Usery Pass. This lovely cactus is one of my favourites. Because of her multiple limbs, the cactus is quite photogenic, and I have taken numerous shots of her over the years. The small concave feature as shown distinctively in the upper elevations of the mountain is the cave where Honey has the 'best seat' in the entire valley!|
|The scene with the lovely cactus is the same as the one shown above. The main difference is that this shot was taken during the summer time when the temps can reach well over 100 degrees! But still, it is dry heat!|
I would like to ask if you notice something else here that is different. (Hint: The interesting shadows that the sun casts on the cactus' limbs.) The position of the sun during the last hour before sunset is different during the summer time than in the winter time. The sun is more to the south during the winter time, whereas the sun is more to the north during the longer days of the summer. Take a good look at the shadows of the cactus' limbs in both photos, and you will know the difference!
|This is one of my favourite shots of the desert outside of Usery Pass. I'd take a few quick glances of this most unique cactus every time I drive up the road to the Usery Mountain Regional Park that leads to the Usery Pass mountain. Because of the saguaro's two short limbs that rise into the air, the cactus appears as if to say, "hey, what's up?" I always get a kick out of seeing the cactus' expression. What an appropriate way for me to be greeted when I am on my way to Usery Pass for my hike!|
|I am dedicating my dA to Castaway, an offshore Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin, who is now with her beloved son, Wilson. They are both back together in peace.|
I would like to share a bit about my special connection with Cassie and how I got to know this beautiful, mature dolphin. Back in early 2006, I was working on getting the word out to the public about the annual dolphin drive hunts in Japan after learning of such barbaric acts through the Internet. I also spent some time writing to the Japanese and United States governments to ask for their help in abolishing the dolphin massacre altogether. My efforts seemed to be going nowhere, and I could not have been more disheartened to have spend so much time on something that had proved to be quite difficult! Since I needed some diversion from the stress that I was dealing with in my advocacy, I decided to do some research on dolphin echolocation. I wanted to learn more about the dolphins' ability to listen and communicate underwater and the benefits of echolocation on the survivability of wild dolphins in the open seas.
While I was working on my research, one thought came to my mind that made me truly wonder. The thought had to do with some degree of hearing loss in dolphins that would prohibit them from using their echolocation to the fullest. I figured that since dolphins rely on their hearing 100 percent of the time underwater, being completely deaf would be much worse in dolphins and other cetaceans than in humans. Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) use echolocation to communicate and socialize with one another, navigate in the vast oceans, hunt for available food, and avoid predators. After doing some search on Google, I came across a news article regarding a bottle-nose dolphin with hearing impairment through tursiops.org [link] a cetacean news site. I learned that the bottle-nose dolphin in question was Castaway who happened to re-strand four times and was brought to the Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) in Key Largo, Florida for evaluation, as well as some additional rehabilitation, in January of 2007. (Castaway was rehabilitated at the Mote Marine Laboratory and was deemed releasable by the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS). After 79 days of rehabilitation, she was all ready for her release to the Atlantic Ocean where she originally stranded from.)
At the MMC, Castaway was discovered to have profound hearing loss. In addition to her hearing impairment, Cassie experienced some sensory/neurological problems. At the time of her original stranding, Cassie was about five months pregnant. All of these required special, round-the-clock care and attention from the MMC. After reading the first news article, as well as several other news about Cassie at the MMC, I decided that I would help raise funds so that Cassie and her unborn Wilson would receive the utmost care possible during their stay at the MMC.
While devoting to my fund-raising endeavors which I felt that I was doing my very best, I followed Castaway's progress through the MMC website, as well as through the cetacean news site, tursiops.org. Cassie gave birth to her very special son on the 11th of June in 2007 and did her very best in her new role as a devoted mother to Wilson, despite her difficulties. It was with great sorrow that Cassie lost her beloved little one four days later. This was the most devastating time for dear Castaway who had already suffered so much because of her disabilities. I was truly crushed to hear about the loss and could truly feel Cassie's pain over losing her very own Wilson.
After one more month of enduring hardships, as well as depression, at the MMC, Castaway was transported to Dolphins Plus, her permanent home not too far from the MMC. I had been keeping close tabs on how Cassie was doing through the Dolphins Plus website. While following Castaway's extremely difficult life during many months in captivity, I developed a very special affinity for this wonderful dolphin. Because of the difficulties that I've experienced due to my profound hearing loss, I could truly identify with what Cassie had been experiencing during her life as a captive dolphin with disabilities. My hope was that I'd have the opportunity to be with Cassie at Dolphins Plus one day.
The day, 20 January 2009, came when I was able to get in the water with Castaway! Please do click the following thumbnail photos of Cassie so that you'd learn more about my very special visit with her.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it was for me to be with Castaway! Since I had never touched or swam with a dolphin in my life, Cassie was the first for me!
Castaway could not have been more enthusiastic to spend the time with me! I was told by Sarah, one of the trainers at Dolphins Plus, that Cassie had had her ups and downs and that she did not have to participate in the visit if she did not want to. When I held Castaway, she rested her head on my shoulder and truly felt at peace being in my arms. She stayed with me throughout the entire visit. I truly believe that my physical presence truly touched Castaway tremendously. My time with my non-human sister, Cassie, in Key Largo is something that I will always remember for the rest of my life!
After so much physical and emotional suffering, Castaway's life in captivity ended on the 18th of January of this year. Cassie no longer suffers from her disabilities that were quite persistent and rendered her unable to do all the things that she used to do while she was living her life in freedom in the Atlantic Ocean. Especially echolocation which is so important for all cetaceans to survive in the wild!
Wilson, now a youngster at 3 years of age, has called his Mama Cassie to come to him. Both mother and son are now reunited and experiencing freedom at last!
Both Castaway and Wilson will always be alive in my heart and thoughts. I will always be forever grateful for the physical (as in my visit with Cassie), emotional, and spiritual connection that I have with this wonderful mother-son pair. And part of me will always be with Castaway and Wilson as they continue to experience peace together.
Summer of 2010
Elizabeth Stroud's beautiful poem and piece dedicated to Castaway:
A Tribute to Castaway CassieThis body was weight that kept me below,
Please do check out her dA: *BritishViper
The following links include the news that I submitted to tursiops.org regarding Castaway: