Friday, February 24, 2012


In 2010, on the eve of a Very Important Birthday (you know, one of the ones ending in zero that when you're in highschool you imagine will find you on the steps of the retirement home. Or worse.), we headed off to an amazing adventure to southern Africa. We spent time in the stunning city of Cape Town which is perhaps the most beautiful city I've ever seen.

It is a place unlike any other, where the spirit of the the extraordinary Nelson Mandela is omnipresent, a city of fantastic restaurants and hotels that rival the best in Europe, in a country drenched in sun and wine and oh yes, lions.

And fantastic safari villas

Where monkeys share your deck. And your breakfast.

We saw the big five, we ate fantastic food, and by the time we left South Africa, I was thinking, what could possibly top all this? Then we landed in Botswana.

OK, So you got lots of lions. But can you do....rhino??

Sure. Ok. Leopard?

Nice! Zebra?

Herds of 'em! And elephant?

Cute baby animals?

Awwwww! And to round out the Big Five...

Wait...what's that you say? Wild dog? Whatever. Dogs? Seriously? Yawn. I get plenty of wild dog walking in my neighborhood.

And then in the marvelous tented camp of Little Vumbura, we saw these stunning painted wolves, hunting an impala.

We followed the blood trail and the aftermath as the pack merrily cleaned up in rain puddles. They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

After Vumbura, we arrived at the remarkable Little Mombo Camp. We learned there would be no sightings of a pack of wild dogs, but rather one lone wild dog. What? One dog? Lame.

Tsile, our guide, told us somberly of an alpha female who had given birth and then had her pups stolen by a sub-alpha female who had absconded with them and the alpha male and the entire pack, leaving one sad, lone painted wolf behind, to an almost certain death, as, we were told, wild dogs couldn't survive without a pack. But this wild dog had already astounded observers, as she not only had been successful hunting alone, but she was being trailed by area jackals, who she appeared to be encouraging and even feeding.

On the day we left Mombo camp, she was limping badly, and our guide seemed to have written her off.

We returned home dejected. Z christened her "Daisy" and we began obsessively watching for news of this lone dog's race against the odds. And then, Daisy became a celebrity. Not only building a first-of-its-kind inter-species pack with black backed jackals, but creating an uneasy alliance with hyenas.

And then, mama Daisy did something even more extraordinary. She attempted to poach jackal puppies.


And somewhat successfully!

We are headed back to southern Africa and Mombo camp in eight months, in no small measure due to Daisy, who is an extraordinary example of preservence and courage. This small dog, no bigger than an average family's medium pound mix, dodges the Delta's top predators every day, and not only feeds herself but has sought out the most unlikely of alliances, all in the name of being a part of a pack. She is absolutely inspirational and a tribute to all that is good and right in a species, the embodiment of love and the drive for family and togetherness.