On April 13, 2005, my 12-week-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, born in Temple, Penn., arrived at the Palm Springs International Airport. From the moment I saw her, it was love at first sight. I named her after a splendid Hawaiian tree – Naio (pronounced Nie-oh).
Naio journeyed with me everywhere. She sat on my lap in the driver’s seat. I cannot recall how many times policemen across the western United States fined me for this infraction. However, I will tell you that it was worth every penny because my girl liked to ride shotgun on her daddy’s lap.
Naio outlasted a miserable marriage, and a mean, spiteful head of department at college.
The pure joy she gave me, each time I opened my front door, reminded me that unconditional love is the richest most meaningful reward a human can experience.
Chessies are legendary swimmers. When I moved from Palm Springs to Tucson and then on to Los Angeles, priority No. 1 for the new digs was a swimming pool. Miss Naio swam every day, 365.
Not only did Naio keep me company during the research and writing of eight books, but she also joined me on many exciting forest and ocean adventures.
The two most memorable experiences were chronicled in my books: The Insatiable Bark Beetle and Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save our Oceans.
A vast epidemic of bark beetles, numbering into trillions, has occurred in British Columbia, particularly over the past two decades, due to an absence of lethal early fall and late spring temperatures from -13 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, in 2002 and again in 2006, billions of British Columbian mountain pine beetles were sucked into the upper atmosphere and spat out hundreds of miles to the east, onto the east side of the northern Rockies into the region of Grande Prairie, Alberta. Millions of the beetles that experienced this forced migration not only survived, but also successfully reproduced.
Coincidentally, in 2006, my indefatigable Chessie, Naio, and I were exploring the woods near Grande Prairie when the sky rained billions of beetles on us. It felt like we were being pelted relentlessly by popcorn kernel. The shower continued for at least 10 minutes. When I figured out it wasn’t popcorn, but beetles, I was absolutely shocked. Fortuitously, there was a big, old spruce hollow nearby, so Naio and I took shelter from the beetle bombardment.
In early spring 2012, off the coast of Malibu, Calif., Naio and I had a rare privilege of getting extremely close to the largest animal on Earth – an exalted Blue whale. This beauty, the size equivalent to 69 African forest elephants, remained within six feet of our dingy for 30 minutes. We were awed and soaked from the spray of its five-foot-wide blowholes shooting water, resembling sheaves of wheat, 26 feet into the air. It totally thrilled us. Its dark eyes, strong sea scent, unearthly groans and complex, contralto voice was truly mesmerizing and life altering. Blue whales are monarchs of the sea: Invincible yet gentle. With a heart weighing 900 pounds, or the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, it pumps 14,000 pounds of blood, providing strength to the enormous fluke or tail, which rivals a 500-horsepower outboard motor. These 200 ton giants, twice as heavy as the largest known dinosaur, cruise at 26 knots for two hours and race at 37 knots for 10-minute intervals. That morning with the Blue was the most humbling experience of my life. It conveyed a message to me for our species: A message of respect for one another. Respect for every strand within nature’s magnificent interdependent web of life.
Last Tuesday morning in Malibu, my dear, sweet, faithful, loving girl was called home. She enriched my life with a million memories and comforted me during my darkest moments as a warrior fighting to save nature now.
That afternoon, along the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where I’ve shot many Earth Calling SOS videos, I read aloud this Hopi prayer. It helped soothe my aching heart.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Oh, for the love of a dog – my Naio – thank you, Daddy.
Earth Doctor Reese Halter’s upcoming book is “Save Nature Now.”