Church of the Big Empty

I don’t know what it is that makes one walk a walk and another walk a spiritual experience, but I think it has to do with my attitude, the ambient air temperature, the wonders of things around me. Still it’s a mysterious concoction, and I see no point in analyzing it very much. But today Bear and I got to attend the Services of the Big Empty.

I didn’t even want to come home. 🙂

There were hundreds of cranes. Having that amazing and angelic choir around is always inspiring. And there was a strange coincidence. As I walked along thinking, “Hmm, should I give Bear a DNA test? I don’t really KNOW she’s an Akbash dog. Maybe she IS a Siberian husky/Pyrenees mix.” That was the shelter’s guess back in the day when I adopted Bear, who was four months old. Time has shown me she has no Siberian Husky and I would know. I’ve had five. Just then, a car pulled up along side us. A nice woman was driving and to my utter surprise, Bear’s double was looking happily out the partly open back window.

The woman and I started talking but I was really mostly interested in the dog (duh). I asked, “He’s beautiful. Does he have blue eyes?”

“No,” she said, and told me his story. He was rescued from a hoarding situation in Colorado Springs, fostered for a while and then she adopted him from the Humane Society. “They say he’s a husky/Pyrenees mix. He’s 7 months old.”


He wanted out so bad and I wanted to meet him. I could tell Bear wanted to meet him too, but the woman was driving a brand new expensive car and yeah, Bear would scratch it up. Then the puppy began talking to me in Siberian Husky, one of the languages in which I’m fluent.

“Definitely husky,” I said, and answered him. That was a mistake because he almost crawled out the window. The beautiful big, white puppy’s name was “Anjo,” Portuguese for “angel.” His name at the shelter had been “di Angelo.” He was perfectly named.

The woman wanted to see cranes, and I told her where I’d been seeing them. They were flying over us at that very moment, but you don’t see as much from a car and she couldn’t see them. I also suggested she come back in March. She drove away.

From the Livestock Guardian Dog Facebook Group I’ve found that some people find they are having to move off their farms and they want to keep their Big White Dogs as pets and worry if it can work. I can speak to that. Owning an LGD as a “pet” (they’re never pets) means you just have a hairy, independent roommate of a different species to support 🙂 To live with one of these dogs, a person has to understand who they are and what they need. They don’t need to be run, they won’t like the dog park, they need a serious fence, they need something/someone to take care of, they respond to training that’s low-key, tolerant and cooperative. They learn from what their human does. Bear alerts me to cranes, hawks and hoofed animals because she’s seen that I stop to watch those things. She doesn’t bark or chase anything when we’re out there, but I think she would bark pretty fiercely if a threat appeared. She protects me if an animal seems to be charging me. I’ve had to learn to be somewhat LGD just as I had to adjust to being part Siberian Husky.

I know when I’m out there with Bear several things are going on, and they aren’t all human. In our time together I’ve learned to “be” with her. She hasn’t stopped being a livestock guardian dog just because she lives in a house and has a small yard. She’s still what she is. I’ve always given her as much of a livestock guardian roaming life as I can while keeping her safe. I LOVE being with her.

She’s also taught my mini-Aussie, who was a puppy when he came to live with us, a lot of LGD behavior. She’s trained him to live here with us.

Out at the Refuge she has her preferred routes and I have no idea why she prefers them. I believe it has to do with messages and scents she leaves and receives along those ways. One is a little nature observation loop that I’ve avoided all summer because it just has too many good hiding places for rattlesnakes.

One of Bear’s favorite trails

“Our” cattle were where we like them to be and “Bessie” was there. I called her name and she turned to look at me. Huh? I looked at her a long time and tried to figure out WHAT it is about her that makes her so much prettier than the other virtually identical cows in the pasture. It might be her eyelashes which you can see pretty well in this photo…

Bessie the Beautiful

As we walked along the road beside the fence, the little herd followed along. Bear loves them. She was as excited to see them in the distance as she is to see the kids on our way back from a neighborhood walk. These are now Bear’s cows.

I had a heart-to-heart with them, seeing as one is visibly pregnant. “Have a little girl,” I said. “Please. No more little boys. All of you, girls, from now on.”

The point was made that they had little to say about it and one of them mentioned, “Yeah, but what about the rancher and his family?” Truly unassailable bovine arguments and I nodded my assent. Still.

And the cranes kept flying over and the breeze kept blowing and Mt. Blanca offered her infinite benediction and I offered up my thanks.

22 thoughts on “Church of the Big Empty

  1. I love that you speak Husky and LGD so fluently! I’m fairly fluent in cat and guinea pig… The joy of the Big Empty and having your soul refreshed is delightful to read about so I’m sure the actual experience was the kind of spiritual renewal that we mostly dream about….

  2. Yet another of your beautifully-written examples of why dogs/animals are our best teachers. Your descriptions of outings with both your canine companions make it clear how much we can and must learn from them and from all animals, and from the natural world in general. Thank you for being their translators.

  3. Like usual your words hit straight to my heart. 💚You, nature, and animals are a trifecta of tranquility. Yesterday, for the first time since my fender bender, I went to my Big Empty for two glorious hours. My mind was completely clutter less and my heart wide open ready to listen and receive. When I returned to campground Finley and I visited a retired nurse with two large Poodles. Little Finn was so cute sniffing and playing with her “family”. One of the large ones sat near my lap so Finn had to squeeze her 4 1/2 lb self right in.
    Oh, Bessie is beautiful! I’ve never seen a crane in real time. What a beautiful post Martha. 💚🐶💕🤗

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