Thursday, September 1, 2016

2016 Connecting with Animals Calendar – September Story


Play time for this silly, enormous bear!


For the second month this year my calendar features a photo of a huge animal named "Samson." (Remember the hippo photo back in June?) I'm not sure either beast is more aptly named than the other but if I were pressed to choose I'd have to say "Samson" better suits this guy – but only because he has far more hair! In my July post I spoke of my "method" of photography (I call it "Brute Force Photography") and how my biggest advantages are patience and time to exercise that patience. This month's shot is another supreme example of exactly that.


Samson on the prowl (look at those claws!!!)
The photo at left is one I took in the summer of 2014 and I absolutely love it. I was unable to use it in last year's calendar because it was unavailable to me at the time I created it (due to my devastating hard drive crash) but I managed to recover it and was 100% sure it would appear in this year's edition. That all changed last July (almost exactly one year to the day after I took this prowling picture) when I again found myself at the bottom of the Canadian Domain, watching two sleepy grizzlies dozing in the sun. While I was there I noticed a lot of people coming and going without staying long at the exhibit; I imagine that was because the bears weren't being active. But, you see, I have no problem with the animals not being active: I find simply sitting there and watching them snooze to be an extremely relaxing, Zen-like experience and I usually hang around for quite some time when I encounter a sleeping animal – if it's in full view. On many of those occasions (I would guess the vast majority of them) I end up watching them so long that I am rewarded with the sight of them rousing themselves and beginning to move about. This particular afternoon would prove to follow that pattern right to the letter.


Shintay playing with the water stream
After I had been there for a few minutes, I noticed that the bears' pool had been drained and was being refilled via a spout built into the side of it. The sight of this cool, clear water filling a basin on such a hot summer day added to the pleasure of the quiet time I was spending there. As I idly watched it filling up, Shintay – who had also noticed the water entering the pool – suddenly came into my field of vision, knocking me out of my reverie. She approached the far side of the empty rock pond and looked at the spout for a moment or two, then circled the perimeter to the near edge, climbed down into the pool, and began to play with the jet of water, directing it with her paw at first and eventually lowering her face and other body parts into the stream, I was wondering if she was trying to get a drink from it but it was too powerful, but I was disabused of that notion very quickly by the obvious and unbridled joy she was displaying as she ran into and out of the path of the water. Once the pool had filled enough for her to submerge herself in it she changed her tactics and started to roll around on her back in the shallow water, allowing the replenishing stream to bounce off of her belly. I could go on for hours with this story, but I think a few bonus photos here will tell the tale in a manner that is not only far more illuminating, but exponentially more entertaining. So here is a brief interlude from my writing. :)




















Samson starting to take an interest in the pool; Shintay not having it.
Shintay happily played by herself for a while, until finally Samson awakened and noticed that the pool was filling up. He ambled over to get a closer look, but when he showed signs that he might perhaps want to join Shintay for a refreshing dip, she went straight over to that end of the pond. Now, ordinarily Samson pretty much gets his way between the two of them because he's much bigger (and male, obviously) so I was a little worried by Shintay's apparent aggression. Unnecessarily worried, as it turned out. When Samson made his first attempted foray into the water, Shintay reared up and chased him back out this caused a bit of an argument, which I took in with a mixture of fascination and dread as they circled around each other for a short time. Samson puffed himself up to his fullest size but Shintay never once backed down from him, instead glaring right back at him and making sure she was just out of his reach. Eventually, Samson either realized that he wasn't getting anywhere with this tactic or simply grew bored with the proceedings; in any event, he shuffled off to inspect the remains of an earlier herbivorous snack they had each been given while Shintay returned to the far end of the pool and the spout that was still actively spewing out water, and all was again calm for a while. But soon Samson decided it was worth another attempt and approached the ol' swimmin' hole once again, albeit with a little less swagger this time. Shintay, perhaps emboldened by her recent victory, rose to the new challenge in a far more aggressive manner, again worrying me to the point of checking to make sure I had the Emergency Switchboard number punched into my phone.




First she stood up and whacked Samson on the muzzle, hanging on for a few seconds for good measure:

Shintay/David and Samson/Goliath

This was met with something other than enthusiasm by Samson, who started towards her in a menacing manner:

Samson trying to intimidate Shintay

But even with their vast difference in size, Shintay once again won the day by refusing to back down and, in fact, letting Samson know exactly who rules the pool:

Shintay lecturing Samson on his manners


Shintay enjoying her "alone time" once again




Samson walked away in a bit of a huff, licking his wounded pride. Shintay returned to her aquatic antics for several more minutes until she eventually had seemingly had enough – or maybe she lost interest after it became apparent that Samson had no intention of going for the hat trick? – and voluntarily left the pool, which was rapidly approaching its limit of water volume. From a safe distance, Samson watched her sashay over to a few pieces of carrot and squash, lie down in the sun, and proceed to have herself a quiet, well-earned bite to eat. The big boy got up from his spot in the shade and warily made his way once more to the water, being sure to keep the pool between him and Shintay, even though she was pointedly showing absolutely no interest in his activities by this point. When he was satisfied that he was finally going to be allowed into the water, he climbed in near the spout and began to test it with his paws – not to the same extent as Shintay did, not by a long shot – before he sighed audibly and rolled over onto his back, his entire body relaxing all at once. He lay like that for a while, occasionally making little ripples in the water with one of his front paws but otherwise moving as little as possible, clearly in total bliss for the moment. I began to wonder if it might be time to finally move on to see other animals...and then Samson noticed that there were toys in the water.






Well. You'd think he'd never set eyes on a ball, or a log, or anything else in that pool before in his life.








I could very likely still be there if the Zoo didn't close at some point each day! Incidentally (and coincidentally) I saw these two again on this very date (September 1) last year – with considerably less drama and considerably more fur (especially Shintay)!

Samson eats very roughly...
...while Shintay prefers a more "dainty" approach!


















When I release next year's calendar (details will come out very soon!) there's an excellent chance it will include another photo from this collection. Please note: I specifically did not include it in this blog post. I want it to be previously unpublished!

Extra-special thanks this month to my not-so-Grumpy Partner, Sarah, for creating the photo table layouts when I began banging my head against the wall trying to make them work.

Next month: Wow, do I have a treat for you! The story behind a photo so adorable I turned it into the very first t-shirt with my "Grumpy Penguin" logo on the back. I think you're going to love it!
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