Quotidian Ruminations of a Canine Kind 83.2.a.iii

I had to get up in the night with Dusty T. Dog, again, but less drama than last time. I wonder if he knows I’m about to abandon him for the bright lights of the city? And why? My orthopedic surgeon has decided to abandon ME for the bright lights of a BIGGER city and is moving to Denver, so my one year check has been pushed up two months. And if I want him to replace my knee somewhere down the road, I have to go to Denver, too…

OH well…

In other news, I had to make the decision this morning whether to renew the subscription to this blog. There are 2500 posts which is actually pretty terrifying. Some of them are good, most of them are just you know recitations of quotidian reality — and that’s cool, but I wonder how I’m going to cull that herd of verbiage. I want to. I wish it were a little easier to go back to the beginning and delete posts.

I guess that’s a project for a cold winter which is now over…officially. Yesterday Bear and I went to the golf course for a ramble. It was the true Bear Walk. Lots of smells to take in, a little bit of snow left to walk in, beautiful vistas in all directions. We took our time. I love these Bear Walks. They’ve changed me as a walker, that’s for sure. I listened for Sandhill cranes off in the distance, but didn’t hear any. They should be on their way north anyway.

As we reached the end of our block to cross the street to the golf course, the kids came running to the fence, and the little boy opened the gate. “Don’t come out here, C.,” I said. “I won’t be able to hold Bear.”

“OK.” He went back in. We went over and visited. C WANTED Bear to come into their yard. “We have a big pile of snow for Bear, he said.”

That, folks, is the whole point of life.


Morning Chat with Dusty T. Dog

“But I’m not bold, Human.”

“Not true, Dusty. You’re VERY bold.”

“No. I’m scared all the time. That’s why I’m so barky and aggressive.”

“I know that, Dusty. But if you weren’t scared, you wouldn’t need to be bold. Bear’s not bold. She’s friendly and fierce, but she’s never afraid. Fear makes you bold. You have to overcome that and it takes courage, boldness. You know what Hemingway said.”

“No. How would I know what Hemingway said? I’m a dog. I’d rather be like Bear and just get pets.”

“You do that, Dusty. You’ve gotten really good at it.”

“But I have to bark like a, like a, what’s the rating on your blog, Human?”

“‘R’ for language, I think.”

“OK. Well, I have to bark like a mother…”

“A hound from Hell, Dusty, let’s just go with that.”

“That sounds good. But I’m not a ‘hound from hell’. You know that, right?”

“I know that.”

“Where did you go with my sister yesterday when you left me behind?”

“We went on a long walk. We couldn’t take you because we went too far for you.”

“It sucks getting old, doesn’t it, Martha?”

“Yeah, Dusty, but the alternative isn’t great, either.”

“I’m VERY old for a big dog. The vet said so. Is it true?”

“Yep, you are, Dusty, but you’re in great shape.”

“Probably my morning coffee. Did you see anything good on your walk?”

“Yeah. There were lots of cranes off in the distance.”

“Did you see them? I know you like seeing them.”

“No, but they were noisy, cooing and purring softly. Then they got VERY loud. I looked up and there was an eagle circling above them. I watched for a while, but it didn’t seem that the eagle thought his chances were great.”

“Do you think the eagle got some dinner?”

“I hope so. Eagles get hungry, too. Then when we were walking on the ditch bank there were robins and bluebirds. Oh and a redwing blackbird.”

“I wish I could have been there.”

“Me too, Dusty. I’ll figure out a way for you to go that isn’t so far, OK?”

“I love you, Human.”

“I love you, Sweet Boy.”


Three Views of Hope


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson


The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy

As for me it was a long night. Dusty was agitated, I was up with him at 11, again at 1. Awakened from sleep, with no way to solve his problems, I got angry. (“You stupid, fucking dog. What do you want me to do? Out, just get out!”) Bear thought I was angry because of her, went out and wouldn’t come back in. I had to go out and persuade her in the deep cold of the dark morning. There was a 3 am clean up job. I’m not sure I want to keep writing a blog that’s more and more a recitation of events in my daily life, and that’s what this has been becoming. Opinions welcome.

In any case, I love these two poems and this scene from Clockwise is one of the funniest in any film I’ve seen.


Bear Is All Grown Up

When I first got Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle such a big dog or an energetic puppy. I thought she was a mix of husky and Pyrenees. Marilyn, of the blog “Serendipity…” let me know she was familiar with Pyrenees and kind of talked me into allowing this giant breed dog into my family. It went well from the beginning.

A few months into the adventure, a friend correctly identified Bear as an Akbash Dog, not a Pyrenees. Big deal. Both breeds are livestock guardian dogs. The main difference between the two is that Akbash dogs are lighter in weight, faster on their feet and come from Turkey not the Pyrenees. Both are ancient breeds (Akbash have been traced to 300 BCE) and both have guarded livestock, working in a partnership with people.

I read everything I could about them and it really seemed like Marilyn was right. I have had a lot of dogs in my life — more than 25 — and I have gone through a lot of training with those dogs. My dogs have all been at least 50 pounds and my favorite breed was the Siberian Husky which is notorious for being difficult to train and independent of temperament. Everything I saw about the Akbash Dog suited me fine. I wanted a partner, not a pet, a friend on a hike, a dog who was able to read a situation and make up her own mind.

The Akbash is large, strong and fast, as befits a dog whose job it is to guard valuable flocks of sheep. When he’s not taking on wolves, he is a calm, quiet and steady dog with an independent frame of mind and the ability to think for himself in different circumstances. He is accustomed to working with people as a partner, not as a subordinate. (vet street, Akbash dog)

With her mentality, she very quickly decided to go along with my preferences. She liked being with me and understood that’s what she’d have to do. She was housebroken in four hours, had made friends with Mindy and was working hard to win Dusty’s approval (but he still mourned his Lily).

I’ve never known a dog like Bear. She amazes me every day.

She began guarding as soon as she moved in, but it was never very serious until last week when the Australian cattle dog came charging at us, teeth bared. Within seconds Bear had slipped my hand (taking her leash with her) and had thrown that dog on his back in the driveway of his house.

She’s a different dog now. She is far more attentive to sounds than she was before the attack. She stays closer to me and stops and leans when she hears anything she thinks might be a threat. She’s come into her own as a livestock guardian dog.

I have mixed feelings about this. She is no longer what I would call “dog friendly.” Off leash, without me, probably she would be friendly, but definitely if she’s leashed and with me, she’s going to do her job.

She is four years old today, March 12. I don’t know if this is her exact birthday, but she was four months old when I first learned of her in mid-July 2015, and Lily T. Wolf died exactly four months before that, on March 12, aged 17. Bear looked up at me from a posting on Facebook from the local dog shelter and it seemed it was Lily looking at me through Bear’s blue eyes saying, “This is the one.”

I believe it really happened that way. And for her birthday, Bear got a BIG snowstorm that Lily would also have loved. ❤ ❤

Hell (warning, obscenities liberally sprayed throughout) otherwise, tedious small town stuff.

L’enfer, c’est les autres.” Jean Paul Sartre, original French title of No Exit

Yesterday I felt completely daunted, flattened, by no longer being able to walk the dogs on the golf course. A little melodramatic, I know, but some days are better than others and having Bear attacked by a dog while walking in the hood didn’t help my attitude toward life. As we passed the access road to the golf course, Bear attempted to turn. I said, “We can’t go there. Sorry Bear.”

The golf course sat there on a sunny Sunday completely empty and calling to us. “I’m lonely. Why haven’t you visited me in so long?” Seriously. Its little golf-course spirit was sad.

Ultimately, we had a decent walk around the high school, looking at the golf course continually. BUT there were no big (dog attack) events, and we came home.

I wrote about the shared despair of Bear, me and the golf-course on Facebook (more on that in a minute). One of my brother’s old friends, with whom I’m friends, wrote that I needed to protest this to the city council because “retired people” like me with “augmented abilities” need a place like that. She followed with a long lecture about what I should “do” about it.

I wrote back that I don’t have “augmented abilities” but that I have no restrictions on what I can do. I can even downhill ski and run if I want to.

This woman is polemic by nature. She wrote back in defense of her language saying that my hip replacement augmented my abilities. I thought, “You twat. Words have meanings. My abilities were restored by the hip replacement, not ‘augmented’. Not at all. You try to do the things I do. I don’t think you can.”

I wondered why I got so upset. OK, I was already in a bad mood, but, seriously?

This is a woman who could not see or hold her own new born grandson or be with her daughter when the little boy was born because she refused to get a flu shot. I shrugged. Fuck it. It was my fault for posting on Facebook. Facebook. Facebook, you evil bitch.

I thought about it — we all want to be understood. We want to be seen for the person we are. I don’t think social media helps with that. I already have a minimal (comparatively) presence on Facebook. I’m about to dial that back even further.

I then contacted a woman who also walks her dogs on the golf course and who happens to be on City Council. She let me know the whole story. There’s a movement afoot to make it a multi-use area without kicking off the golfers. She explained that golf courses all over the country are having problems making ends meet and the idea is to keep the golf course from going bankrupt by putting city money into it. She explained that the golf course belongs to the city and no one can tell me not to walk there.

I was relieved. I don’t want the golfers kicked off. I don’t want anything to happen to them at all. I think the golf course is good, but it’s also stupid that there’s this big empty place that no one uses for 7 months of the year, and all I want is to walk Bear on the cart roads out to the ditch easement and out of town. I volunteered to help out. I will not be needed, but a small message of support and goodwill probably doesn’t hurt anything. IF the multi-use thing happens, I will donate a dog poop bag station. I priced them yesterday.

Meanwhile, the golf course groundskeeper did tell us that we can walk there until March 20. We’re going today. It snowed last night, not much, but enough to make a beautiful morning.



“What a beautiful dog!”
“Do you want to say ‘hi’?”
“YES! Yes! YES!”
Little girls in pink jackets run up to us
They hug my big white dog,
A dog twice their size…or more.
Bear kisses the two year old who’s a little afraid.
“She’s fluffy!”
Bear’s eyes glaze in pleasure.

Moments later, a Golden puppy charges Bear
Hoping to play.
Bear, growling, throws him to the ground.
“No harm no foul,” said the puppy’s owner coming toward us. “It’s
My fault. Chester should have been leashed.”
“Is he OK?”
“He’s fine.”
“I’m so sorry. She was attacked yesterday
I think she’s still a little traumatized.”
“No, no I’m sorry. Your dog was protecting you.”
Still, a puppy.

Livestock Guardian Dog

Most of the time, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog is a pet. In fact, she’s been exclusively a pet until today. But dogs — even pets like her — have instincts with which they’re born. She is an Akbash Dog, bred for centuries to protect those she cares for (usually sheep and/or goats) from attack by wolves, bears and, out here, mountain lions.


Bear walks well on a leash. She’s friendly to people and friendly dogs. She loves children and is gently enthusiastic with them. She loves tracking a deer across a field. She’s extremely affectionate to all the people she knows who are part of her world. She taught herself to hug people around the knees rather than jump on them. She’s my best friend. But I didn’t know what that meant until today.

Exiled from the golf course, we now take our short afternoon walk around the neighborhood. Today we turned down our usual street and a ferocious, slathering, teeth-baring Australian cattle dog came charging at us from between two houses. I could hold Dusty but not Bear. She went at him with equal ferocity, chased him home, flattened him, made him stay down then came back to me when I called her. I have never seen anything like that. While I know I should hope she didn’t hurt him, in reality I don’t give a flying fuck if she did. I hope she did. If that dog’s people can’t train and confine him, my dog will do it. An Akbash can take down a wolf or a bear.

My blood rushed to my head. For the second time in my life, I saw red. I’m still shaking.

My dogs are always (except for 2 minutes of my life just now) in my control. That is my job as a dog owner. I think that’s everyone’s job if they own a dog. I love all dogs, I want everyone in the world to have at least one happy dog in their life, if they can. Leaving your dog loose in your yard as those neighbors did, free to charge other dogs and passers by in that way, is completely negligent and irresponsible.

But, the good news, my dog came back when I called her after checking a couple of times to make sure she wasn’t going to be followed by the cattle dog.

The Akbash Dog in this video behaves toward the bear exactly as Bear behaved today. I hope the cattle dog got away as safely as this bear, but I also hope he learned not to run into the street, charging other animals, risking his life.


The Chinook from hell is blowing across Monte Vista right now, evaporating snow, drying mud and throwing spring in our faces. It might snow tomorrow, but it won’t last. Temps last night were in the 40s — normal for May.

I took the dogs for a walk on the golf course yesterday afternoon so Bear could enjoy the last bits of snow. The course will open as soon as the ground is dry and the snow is gone. As soon as we set foot on the course, the groundskeeper — a nice young guy I like and whom my dogs love — came out of his shed to talk to me, to give me the news that dogs are no longer going to be allowed on the course.

He felt bad about telling me, that was clear, but it was also clear that he’s pretty pissed off at people who walk their dogs and let them poop everywhere. I can’t say Dusty has never pooped on the golf course or that I’ve always picked it up, but it’s rare. Dusty’s preferred locales for pooping are the alley or the street. Bear never has. I know this because she’s always leashed.

“I have to clean up all that poop,” he said, exasperated. “People let their dogs poop on the greens.”

“My dogs don’t poop on the course,” I said, an irrelevant statement. “And, I carry bags.” I reached around to my back pocket for an illustration and remembered I’d used it already. I shrugged. “But that doesn’t matter.”

“You’re not the only one who walks their dogs here.”

“I know. It’s OK. I love this golf course. I love to see people playing here sometimes a whole family, kid in a stroller. There’s a guy who plays with his golden retriever.” Ooops, I think.

“Yeah, that dog doesn’t poop on the course, either. Great dog. I’m sorry,” he said, standing there petting Bear. “I’d like to let you keep walking your dogs here, but if I did, then how could I keep anyone else off?”

“No, it’s OK. I really understand. It’s been great all these years to have this, but it’s a golf course, not a park.”

“The city wants to turn it into a park.”

Ah, finally I get to the bottom of the feud between the golf course and the city. I, personally, think my town needs a real, legit, large park with a trail around it, a long trail, not the silly little walkways that exist on the other park(lets) ALL on HWY 160 and NONE of them fenced. But even I don’t think “my” golf course should be a park. I think “my” golf course should be a golf course. I’m even OK being forbidden to walk my dogs on it. I never thought it would last.

We talk about the animals who regard the golf course as a giant empty field for easy predation. The foxes who live in the wood pile belonging to the man who lives just north of the course and how they kill the hawks while the hawks are busy hunting for worms on the grass. The deer this past fall. The deer, elk, moose, coyotes, raccoons, beavers and, allegedly, a badger. “I don’t mind them,” he said. “They’re supposed to be here.” I realized then that poop was occupying his mind. The course IS full of various kinds of animal poop. What do you do with a golf course that is bordered by the Infinite Wild?

“You can walk your dogs here for the next two weeks,” he said, remorseful, scratching Dusty’s ears. “I’ll just pretend I haven’t talked to you about it. I’m really sorry.”

No one is invisible in Monte Vista. I don’t think we can pull that off. I can hear some of the other people, people I KNOW take their dogs there to poop, say, “I saw that white haired lady with the two big dogs. Why can’t I?” Probably they know my name.

I told him thanks and said it had been great for us during the time we had it and I’d see him next time we had a real snow. He looked sad. “Go ahead today. Have fun with them.” Bear was leaning against him.

The dogs and I had a great walk, Dusty even went two miles without pain. We walked our favorite walk (we don’t even walk ON the course but on the roads laid out for carts) out into the Big Empty. I watched the storm come over the mountains and thought about the four paintings I’ve done of that scene, each one better than the one before.

As we walked, I was thinking of other ways to get out there. That’s why god made maps.

At home I posted what happened on Facebook partly to let people know about the new rule and partly, naturally, to garner sympathy. What happened from that is the opening of a discussion. The young woman who introduced Bear to me is busy organizing pet loving people and rescue organizations in the San Luis Valley. Another friend has forty acres just outside of town. She owns the kennel where Dusty and Bear stay when I leave town. My story put a bug in her ear that maybe she could build a dog park. It could be that this will all lead to the construction of something my town really needs.

Meanwhile, I now have a mountain car and lots of anti-nausea meds for my big white dog.


Not Just Words

I spent my productive years immersed in language. I taught English as a Second Language and college and university writing and business communication. All this happened in San Diego.

I have also studied languages. I’m pretty proficient in two other than my native language — Spanish and Italian — and I can manage travel in a third, German. I studied Homeric Greek, and I was once fluent enough in Mandarin to live a year in China. Use it or lose it, but I can still tell when the English subtitles in a Chinese movie are off. I prefer the “direct method” or “total immersion” for learning languages, and Rosetta Stone was great for studying German.

I spent a lot of time in discussions about language and arguments (yes!) about what language actually is during the years in which I taught English as a Second Language. My contention — based on my experience — is that language is a tool for communication that doesn’t have to be all that precise in order to work. The contention of my linguistically trained colleagues was that language is grammar.

I think both of us were right, but I still think I’m more right. I had many students who were so intimidated by their mistakes that they wouldn’t even try speaking English out in the real world of hot blond girls, cute surfer guys, margaritas, and the beach — everything they’d come to California FOR. It was sad. The hot blond girls would’ve thought the guys’ accents were sexy and their mistakes would’ve been a way for them to make contact. The cute boys would’ve been enchanted by the “shy” Japanese girls, but never the twain did meet.

Language is not just words between sentient beings. Whenever I go out to langlauf, I meet the snow via the bottoms of my skis. The whole time I’m listening to the snow and feeling it so that I can move through it safely. It’s very expressive. We haven’t had a real snow fall since January, so the snow is also no longer, really, snow. It’s been frozen and melted and packed down and covered with an inch of fresh stuff now and again. It’s been skied on by skiers other than me, skiers with different techniques than mine. So, when I put my skis down and step into them, the first couple of “steps” are a polite introduction, “Hi Snow. How are you?” Quite literally.

So far it has responded with, “Hi Martha! You’re here! Yay!”

Most of all — in any language — is meaning. I thought of that yesterday after my walk with Bear which ended in an exchange right out of a children’s book. There’s a new family in the hood and they have two very cute little kids, around 5 or 6. They’re very friendly with amazing social skills, already adept at the local favorite activity of “visiting.”

I talked to them yesterday on my walk with Bear. It went like this…

“Hi Bear!” they yelled from their yard. Bear and I were walking in the street. The alley is now pure mud.

“She can’t talk,” I said.

“Why?” asked the little girl.

“She’s a dog. Wait. Bear, sit.” Bear sat and I lifted her paw and made her wave. The little girl waved back.

“What are you two doing today?” asked the little boy. 

“We took a walk.” I said. I have a pulled muscle and didn’t want to go to their yard for a visit because it would involve tromping through snow and being pulled by Bear. But… “Do you want to say Hi to Bear?” I asked, hoping they didn’t, but I knew better. The kids jumped up and down. 


So we went to see them. Bear jumped on the fence, happy, but that always startles them. They stood back about 18 inches and we visited about things. The boy had a stick.

“Is Bear the kind of dog that likes to fetch?” he asked. 

“No. She likes to lean on me and visit you and meet people and go for walks. That’s about it.” 

The kids had actually been throwing the stick in their yard and fetching it, pretending they had a dog. 

“We have a kitty,” said the little girl.

“What kind?”

Much inarticulate language coming forward. The little girl has a speech impediment. I nodded seriously, as if I understood. “I had kitty once. He was little, gray and fluffy and he had only half a mustache.” I pointed to my upper lip to show them where Reggie’s mustache had been.

“That’s funny,” said the little girl.

“It was.”

“Our old cat died and some others just went away.”

“Cats do that,” I said philosophically.

“You’re right. They do,” said the little boy.

Then Bear got distracted and I said, “I guess Bear’s done visiting.”

“OK. Bye Bear!” 

“See you next time, guys!” I said, as we walked away.

They waved until they couldn’t see us any more.

A LOT was communicated in those five minutes that was never spoken in words.

All Shook Up

Living on, near and between numerous fault lines in Southern California I got to experience lots of earthquakes. Some of them were barely noticeable. I’d awaken from sleep, wonder why, roll over and sleep again. When I moved out of the city, into the mountains east of San Diego, the experiences were even better.

Some earthquakes don’t do a lot of shaking, but they boom like thunder coming from inside the earth. Others give the world a quick shake as you might shake out a rug, letting dust and dog hair fly. Others make the world rattle, knocking things from shelves and doing damage.

My first earthquake was in 1959. I was in Montana, staying at my grandmother’s, and my Aunt Jo, Uncle Hank, and Aunt Martha were camping at Yellowstone. I wrote about it soon after I began my blog on WordPress. If you want to read the story, you can find it here and here.

Newspaper from the day… 1959

The best was on Easter Sunday, 2010. My friend and I were hiking along Pine Creek which runs along a fault line between the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains. It was a beautiful hike and we had a good time. On our way back, we went through a gate designed to allow horses with riders through and keep cattle in. We kept walking. I heard the gate rattle some twenty feet behind us and I turned. The earth was moving toward us in a wave. We stood still as the earth rose under our feet, settled back in place and continued its rolling motion forward. The trees moved like spectators at a baseball game doing “The Wave.”

When I got home, I looked it up on the USGS site and found it had been a very strong earthquake, 7.2.

We were in the little black circle on the map above. To learn more about this earthquake, you can go here.

Because it was Easter, and businesses in Mexicali, BC, were mostly closed, there was little damage and no real injuries.

I kind of miss them. As long as no one is hurt, they are just fun and very interesting. But I was also in California when the big earthquake happened in Oakland in 1989. It was not even as strong as the Easter earthquake, a mere 6.9, but it was a different type of earthquake, more the shake the stuff out of your rug type. It was classified as “Violent.” It crumpled a bridge.

Collapsed bridge from the Loma Prieta Earthquake

My stepson Ben, who lived in the Bay Area at the time, came down to visit. He was about 10 or so. Both of us had developed a fear of bridges and whenever we had to go under one (on foot) we ran. 🙂

(Featured photo: Cody O’Dog and I on the Pine Creek Trail that VERY Easter Sunday!)