by Robbie Davis-Floyd – originally written July 2010
I have a new dog, Violet—she is a Catahoula mix—a brindle—tan with black irregular spiral stripes and beautiful hazel eyes. After my beloved Shadow died of old age, I waited a long while to find a new dog, then tried to adopt one from the pound with no success—somebody else always got there first. Then I just started, and kept on, saying to the Universe, “I just want my dog to show up in my face, please let my dog show up in my face!” A few months later, after numerous repetitions of the plea, I walked into the holistic pet store to buy cat food, and there she was, in a cage with a sign, “Hi, my name is Violet, please adopt me!” I took her home that night, and went creek-walking the very next day—the test was, “if you are really my puppy, you will love being in water as I do.” And she did!
And since then, we have gone creek-walking every day for at least an hour and a half (except of course for when I travel). This is huge for me—I hate all other forms of exercise and absolutely love creek-walking. Shadow and I used to do it often, usually in the Blanco River, but I lost that when he died. I can’t seem to go just on my own—I need the motivation of a dog who needs her exercise just as much as I do! And I need mine even more now as I really need to exercise to heal from my knee and hip replacements.
The preparation has become a daily ritual. I put on a bathing suit and my water sandals, then strap on a waterproof beltpack that I found at REI, containing dog treats, car keys, and even a holder for my water bottle, plus, very importantly in case of accident, my iPhone in a special waterproof case that even lets you talk on it or dial out without taking it out of the case.
Having Violet has changed my life, much for the better! Here is a description of our creek-walking experiences.
The coolest thing about creek-walking is the "presence" it requires. I have to pay full attention to every step, as there are usually rocks, boulders, or odd and unexpected crevasses that can twist my ankle or break my leg at any moment if I take one wrong step. At the same time, there is this stunning natural beauty, intrinsic to the Texas Hill Country—white limestone and juniper trees, lots of wildflowers–around me that I keep wanting to take in fully. So it’s a balance between the wide and the narrow gaze, just like life.
And then there is the surprise of discovering the unexpected waterfall or rapids, the excitement of finding just the right place in the waterfall where it can beat blissfully on my back while the ferns wave above me, or the fun of climbing through the rapids, step by single step, the focus of negotiating the obstacles in my path—fallen branches, long clingy vines full of spider webs, large boulders, tiny tricky slippy rocks–the relief of sinking into the water when it’s deep, the feel of its tug on my muscles when I walk upstream against the current, the joy in knowing that my muscles are responding and strengthening with every step I take. The sudden thrill of the sunlight penetrating a shady glade, the ever-changing configurations of the stones beneath my feet, the constant decision-making–do I go this way or that? The path taken leads to discovery, the path not taken remains a mystery for the next time. No end to the adventure!
The enchantment of a beneficent nature that seems only lovely, the constant awareness that nature is not naturally beneficent and that danger lurks everywhere. The fear of a misstep and a fall on hard and uneven rocks, the thrill of "feeling the fear and doing it anyway." The delight on seeing a turtle hanging out in its chosen spot. The pure fun of watching Violet splash and play, the secure joy of knowing that however far she strays in the pleasure of the moment, when I call she always comes right back to me, water spraying all around her—droplets of reflected sunlight–running full out towards me then stopping at the last second to nuzzle against my hand or leg, licking my face as if to say “Yes, I’m here, I know you, and I love you—you are my human and I am your dog and we are forever together. You don’t want to lose me here in the wild and I don’t want to lose you either! I get it!!”
The wall I hit when I realize I’ve overstepped my physical boundaries–my legs are shaking from exhaustion, I wish for rescue, and I realize that I left the beaten out-of-the water path long ago, and now the only option is to keep creek-walking until I get to the trail at the end that leads to my car and the luxuries of civilization. At that point I stop, find a convenient rock where I can sit half in the water and half out, pull out treats for Violet, which she eats with intensity sitting on a nearby rock, contemplate the beauty around me and how lucky I am to be experiencing it, pull my act together, sink down in the creek water for the simple joy of the experience and of cooling off, and stick it out till I’m home free, one cautious and conscious and delicious step at a time.
What You Need to Know Before Getting Pet Sugar Gliders
About.com: Sugar gliders have become a popular exotic pet. They are small and relatively easy to care for, and have a cute if not unusual appearance. As with any other exotic pet, a potential owner should be aware of their care requirements and personality before acquiring a sugar glider. Sugar gliders are illegal in some places so you will need to check the laws where your live (see "How to Find Out if a Pet is Legal Where You Live").
Sugar Gliders are marsupials; that is their young start life off in a pouch (like a kangaroo). They originally hail from Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and live in forests. Their name is derived from their diet (in part they feed on nectar and the sap of eucalyptus), and from the flap of skin they have between their wrists and ankles that allows them to glide between trees. They are omnivorous, meaning they will eat plant material and meat – food in the wild include nectar, fruit, insects and even small birds or rodents. They live in social family units in the wild, a trait which makes them inclined to bond well with their human family. However, if they are deprived of social interaction they will not thrive (in fact they can become depressed to the point where they may die).
Sugar gliders make endearing, playful, and entertaining pets. As mentioned above they are very social, and ideally they should be kept in pairs or groups, and in any case they should have a good deal of social interaction with their owners. They are fairly clean and do not have complex housing requirements. In addition, they tend to be fairly healthy (although it may be difficult to find an experienced vet to treat them) and can live to be 12-14 years in captivity. They do need a good amount of interaction (even if it is just riding around in a pocket all day), and aren’t great housetraining candidates. Their nails are sharp and will scratch if they need to dig in while climbing or landing on you (keep them well trimmed). They also have sharp teeth and though not aggressive, will bite if they feel threatened or frightened. If not acquired tame and used to being handled, it may take a great deal of time and patience to get them to the point where they are cuddly.
Sugar Gliders do have fairly strict dietary requirements. The ideal diet for sugar glider is still a widely debated topic among keepers. For some recommended diets, see "Feeding Sugar Gliders" for more information on diets and the diet options that are recommended by others. A potential problem in sugar gliders is paralysis stemming from an imbalance of calcium to phosphorus in the diet (i.e. too low in calcium and/or high in phosphorus). This disease (called nutritional osteodystrophy) can be prevented by proper diet and vitamin/mineral supplements.
As for housing, a cage of 24 by 24 inches, by 36 inches high is a good minimum size for a pair. This is a minimum, though – bigger is better and for sugar gliders the height is more valuable than floor space. The cage wire should be no more than 1/2 inch wide, and horizontal cage bars allow climbing. The interior of the cage should provide lots of interest with toys, and exercise wheel, nest box and/or glider pouch. Branches, ropes and ladders provide lots of opportunity for climbing and exercise. For more details on cages and accessories for sugar gliders, see "Housing Sugar Gliders."
If a sugar glider is not tame when acquired, time, patience, and gentle frequent training sessions will eventually allow bonding of the glider to its owner. Gliders adore being near their owners, inside a shirt (hint wear two shirts and let the glider hang out between them, or else their claws will tickle or scratch!) or in a pocket. They will be lovely companions, who view you as an equal. Sugar gliders do not respond at all to punishment or domination, so treat them with respect, gentleness and understanding, and you will be rewarded with a devoted companion!
- Glider Basics – basic facts about sugar gliders.
- Feeding Sugar Gliders – feeding recommendations from an exotic pet veterinarian and an Australian zoo, along with some other resources.
- Housing Sugar Gliders – More detailed information on the type of cage and accessories needed for sugar gliders.
- Photo Gallery – Photos of sugar gliders submitted by visitors to this site.
- Sugar Glider Names – Glider names submitted by visitors.