Sunday, April 08, 2007

Polar dreams

Whenever we think of polar bears, what comes to mind to the Average Joe is not an intelligent, stealth hunter, capable of killing with a single blow. To bring home how severe a bear attack can be, look up images online or in books. I can assure you the photos were horrific enough for me to decide not to post them here. Thanks to cuddly toys and the Coca-Cola Christmas advertisements (that I personally look foward to each year) the polar bear has a reputation more benign than a cold sore. I used to have dreams of picking one up from the Arctic to take home and keep as a pet in my swimming pool or taking it to school for show and tell. I still sometimes dream that if I live in an igloo in the middle of some region of snow and ice, that I can own one like a dog and bring it for rides round the 'countryside' as we look for fish and seals and eat blubber.

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However, reality kicks in and I know that I'll probably never touch one let alone ride one. Polar bears are extremely efficient hunters, relying on their superb sense of sight and smell for survival; a polar bear can smell a dead seal over 100 kilometres away! They are the biggest land predators but are actually classified as marine mammals, ursus maritimus (marine bear in latin), together with killer whales and dolphins because of the vast amount of time spent in the water. They spend so much time in the water, their feet are webbed and their eyes and nose aligned high on their head (like hippos) so that they can breathe and see above water.

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I had a dream two nights ago about polar bears. Unfortunately, it was not one of those happy ending dreams where the polar bear turns into a prince with an ice castle. My polar bear was a psychotic killer out to get me. I dreamt I was working in a vet's clinic looking aftet three polars and they all seemed nice and satisfied until one of them escaped and tried to eat me! I ran and ran and he chased me and nearly caught up when in panic, I hid in the fridge! How the fridge appeared or how it was empty or had space enough for me to hide in it I don't know. All I know was that I was sitting in the fridge holding the door handle (door handle IN the fridge?) shut as tightly as I could. I could see the tip of the bear's claws trying to open the fridge (he was a very clever bear) and I was panicking thinking firstly, that there wasn't enough oxygen in the fridge for me to stay in there very long and secondly, that I wasn't fast enough to run away even if I did get out of the fridge. By some weird dream chance, my co-worker managed to distract the bear by throwing coloured cornflakes at it and I made my get-a-way. Although my friend and I were both running in the same direction, the bear decided to chase me. I ran until I got to a wire fence made from chicken mesh and climbed it. For some reason the chicken mesh was in the middle of nowhere and did not separate one part of anything from the other side so I couldn't leap over it to esape the bear. So there I was on top of the chicken mesh with the bear trying to grab me with his massive paws. When I felt I couldn't hold on anymore and was about to let go, I woke up. Darn! I wanted to know the ending.

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Perhaps it is so hard to read polar bears because of the way they look. Their deep, onyx eyes stare at us unflinching, showing no emotion, whether angry or happy. Their bodies are muscular and powerful yet streamlined and their white fur makes them one with the environment they live in. They have no eyebrows and few facial expressions to let us know what they're possibly thinking of. They hardly bare their teeth except when fighting or defending their young or eating or when it's too late for the person wondering. I think after horses, dogs, big cats and killer whales, the polar bear is slowly becoming one of my favourite animals.

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