Independence Day—Annebäbi 18 months

Color photograph of the head of a young Bernese Mountain dog.
Annebäbi – Photograph copyright © 2015 Mignon Naegeli

In a few days we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July.

This great day is not only the United States of America’s anniversary of independence. In my life, and my feline sister Verushka’s, this special day also commemorates the year and a half since the birth of our sometimes exuberant, often slightly annoying, and always beautiful, exquisitely smelling, fluffy, gentle female companion Annebäbi.

About this time last year, our whole family went on a trip up north to visit friends on a serene lake in the Adirondacks. The Female and the Wolfman had visited the area many times while he was at Cornell University and several times since. He studied the park in depth, including the environmental impact assessment that was done to limit damages from the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics conducted in midst of it.

Larger than any National Park in the contiguous USA (indeed larger than the Yellowstone, Everglades, and Grand Canyon National Parks combined), the Adirondack Park is not only a very beautiful area, but also an early example of far-sighted conservation. The concept of interspersing strictly protected habitats and outstanding viewsheds with compatible commercial and private uses, the Adirondack Park has become a widely acclaimed—and often controversial—model for ecosystem protection and sustainable development. The idea was adopted by Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere program. The Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve, which also includes parts of Vermont, earned this designation in 1989.

On our way from Plattsburgh to the town of Lyon Mountain, we passed a very old concrete structure, looking like a scary fortress out of a Victor Hugo novel. On the main highway through Dannemora, even a big truck seemed pretty small as it drove in front of us smack along the bottom of the gigantic perimeter wall of the Clinton Correctional Facility. We caught glimpses of the maximum security prison’s guard towers high above us. I remember well when my Female said, half jokingly, “what a good thing that we don’t hear choppers overhead.”

A few minutes later, we turned off the highway onto a side road and then we stopped to take a picture of this lovely pond.

Color Photograph of a pond with water lillies in front of a densely wooded area of mostly pine and few deciduous trees. The pond has a narrow grassy shore line.
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mignon Naegeli

And then, the Female spotted a lone helicopter hovering here and there over the woods just a few hundred yards away. She got pretty nervous. The Wolfman, tried to calm her down, saying that even if they were looking for a runaway criminal, chances were slim that it would be one from the penitentiary we had just passed. At the time he didn’t know that there had never been an escape from the maximum security area of the Clinton Correctional Facility in its 169-year history, but he knew that the prison industry is the region’s largest employer and that many lower security prisons are in the area.

Little did he anticipate that—merely a year later—two convicted murderers would escape from this very prison and hide in the wilderness for weeks. And, this pond is very close to the middle of a straight line between Dannemora and where the escapees have now been caught.

Verushka and I, being rescue pets, remember well what it was like to live in the wilderness, to have ticks jump on the delicate parts of our skin to suck our blood until plump, and to itch like hell even after they let go. Some would infect you with a disease whose name sounds like a yummy pie that originates from the Florida Keys. I wonder whether those nasty creatures contributed to the final downfall of those fugitives.

Happy Fourth, to you people of Upstate New York, who can sleep and live without worry again, to all our compatriots, and of course to Annebäbi and the gentle creatures big and small.


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