The Key To Survival: It Takes Cooperation, Not Competition, To Keep a Community Strong

By Georgie Gurl

I still remember the first time I ever set eyes on our strange, long-legged neighbors. I was just a wee pup then, enjoying the crunch of the warm St. Augustine grass under my paws and carefully selecting the perfect spot to do my business and earn my treat. But as the rising sun transformed the pinkish clouds into fluffy white marshmallows, the two odd creatures swooped in over the field in front of our house, trumpeting their arrival with a haunting, primordial call.

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Their wingspans were as wide as a 747 jet, and as they crept closer, they glared at us sideways through their beady eyes. My heartrate quickened. “We have come to eat you for breakfast,” one of them declared. The other just stood there blinking and occasionally plucking a bug from the ground. Appetizers, I guess.

I tried to warn my human of the threat. “STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE,” I attempted to scream. “HEY LADY! RELEASE ME FROM THIS LEASH! THE BEASTS ARE UPON US!”

But she was clueless. She just giggled and snapped a photo.

As I sized up the situation, I realized our fate was in my hands. In fact, it was at that very moment that the blurry confusion of my early weeks of life came into razor sharp focus. You see, I had always sensed, from the moment I was plucked away from my litter mates, that I was destined for greatness. But now, I understood my mission in life: My neighborhood was the infamous kingdom known as Jurassic Park and my humans had selected me, Georgie Gurl, to protect them from the Pterodactyls.

If you know anything about Wheatens, you can probably guess what happened next. I went into beast mode. (Some breed bragging rights here: In addition to being absolutely gorgeous and brilliant, we’re also known as a “confident, steady and fearless” dogs—and I always do my best to uphold that reputation.) So yeah, I went into beast mode—or, as much beast mode as you can muster when you are tethered to a pink leash—and I stared the pterodactyls down.

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It didn’t take long for them to see that I wasn’t fooling around and they were NO MATCH for 11.5 pounds of razor-teethed Wheaten wrath. My bravery paid off. “You know, Irving, I’m kind of full. I think the bugs will do this morning,” one of them said. “Yeah, let’s go, Myrtle,” the other replied. “I’m not in the mood for Wheaties anyway.”

Life was better after that. Myrtle and Irving stopped threatening to eat us and eventually I came to learn that I was altogether mistaken about their identity. It turns out the couple wasn’t actually a pair of ancient flying reptiles, but rather, just a pair of middle-aged scraggly Sandhill Cranes. And truth be told, now that I look back on the whole situation, Irving might not have actually said that he’d come to “eat me.” He might have said, “we have come to greet you.”

Anyway, despite my initial misgivings, the Sandhills really have turned out to be stellar neighbors. They love all the neighborhood kids, just like I do, and they entertain the curious youngsters by eating breadcrumbs. They also hate drivers who speed and sometimes they’ll just stop and stand in the road when they think people need to slow it down. I even heard Myrtle laughing the other day about how fun it was to make the “that lead-footed a$$#&@* in the BMW” late for work.

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But what really impresses me about Irving and Myrtle and all the other Sandhill Cranes here in Jurassic Park is how they come together and help each other out when they need to.

Normally, the cranes live in pairs, but I read on Google that during migration or during harsh weather, unrelated Sandhill Cranes will even form temporary little families, or “survival groups” to help each other roost and find food. No wonder these birds have been around for at least 2.5 million years. A little cooperation, it seems, can go a long way.

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I noticed that humans can be smart and kind like that too. For instance, when Hurricane Irma recently blew through here, our two-legged neighbors couldn’t have been nicer. A really nice couple from Miami helped us board up all our windows before the storm hit.

We shared our hard-to-find tapcon screws, bottled water and gas cans with other neighbors who needed them. And the nervous lady next door even brought us extra bread she baked. On TV, recently, I’ve seen countless other examples of people, often strangers, pulling together in the wake of other storms like Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean.

It all reminds me of the words of a very wise man named Mister Rogers. He always said, that when things get scary, like in a hurricane, to “look for the helpers,” because the darkest moments often bring out the very best in humanity—and that’s definitely the truth. Cooperation is everywhere. Look for it, and you will see it. Even here in Jurassic Park.