The Bear Report, Chapter 1, My Real Human

My Real Human says most stories start at the beginning, but my story has to begin when I remember something. Forever and ever I was with my mother and brothers and sisters in a warm barn, but then I was in a machine going very fast, and then I was all alone. Someone said, “Blue eyes,” and another voice said, “No one will want her. They’ll think she’s blind.” The Humans put me beside the road and drove away. I waited but they didn’t come back. I smelled something to eat and went to find the food because I was hungry. Then a man came and picked me up and put me into a machine and took me to my second home. There were many other dogs there and we lived in our own cages.

Maybe this sounds like a sad story, but if I hadn’t been left like that in Center, Colorado, and picked up and taken to My Second Home, my Real Human never would have found me.

There was a Kind Human there and she took lots of pictures of me. I know about this because my Real Human also takes pictures of me.

When my Real Human came, I knew her the moment I saw her. She walked toward me in that strange, awkward way humans have. If I walked that way I’d fall. I was jumping up against the fence to see and make sure there was no danger. When my Real Human looked at me, I sat down so she would know I recognized her. She understood.

The Kind Human said something to my Real Human. They both came into my cage. I felt shy. I put my paw on my Real Human’s lap and she pet me. I could feel she knew I was her dog.

The Kind Human said some words, that my Real Human would have to wait.

“OK,” said my Real Human and she left.

When my Real Human returned, I was happy. Other humans had come to meet me, but they were not my Real Human. The Kind Human knew this, too. My Real Human brought what I now know is a way for me to stay close to her to keep her safe. She fastened it to my collar. We took our first walk. I smelled other dogs mixed with her smell. I sensed she was not sure they would like me.

“Take her home and see,” said the Kind Human.

For the third time I got into a terrifying machine — now I’m used to it — and went to Our House for the first time. There I met the Other Dogs. El Barquero Grande, (Our Human calls him Dusty) and Fluffy Poop Eater (Our Human calls her Mindy).

El Barquero sent me messages that said, “Leave me alone. I am sad. You are not Lily T. Wolf.”

Now I know that Lily T. Wolf is one of the Old Ones, and she is in the Great Forest now. Our Human explained this to me. I understood because there was a smell in our house that did not match Fluffy Poop Eater or El Barquero.

After a while, Our Human put me back in the machine and we went back to the Kind Human.

In two days, my Real Human came back for me. I was so happy!

The Day I got Bear

My human showed me where to pee and poop. That was easy because the smell of El Barquero’s pee and poop was already there. I put my smell there, too, so El Barquero would understand.

El Barquero was inside sleeping on the floor, so I laid down next to him. His body tightened, but I didn’t move. I was very quiet. I know if a creature is nervous, the best thing is for me to move slowly and to be gentle. El Barquero relaxed a little bit.

When it was dark, and time for me to go outside and guard animals, Our Human tried to put me into a cage. She did not put El Barquero or Fluffy Poop Eater into cages, so I did not want to go. I did not want to be different, and how would I guard our house if I were fastened in a cage? I kept trying to tell this to Our Human. Suddenly I saw that she got the message. She went into her Sacred Sleeping Chamber and I slept with El Barquero and Fluffy Poop Eater.

And that was my first night at home.


On Facebook, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has a small following (because I have a small following). Some people think I should write her story. Here’s my first attempt… Do you want to read more?

The little bird sits at his door in the sun…

“What is so rare as a day in June, then, if ever, come perfect days…”

My mom had a poem for every season, sometimes a precise month — the two I remember best are “What is So Rare as a Day in June” and “October’s Bright Blue Weather.” She grew up in a time (and with a dad) who required that kids memorize poetry. Then she became a school teacher back when teachers did teach a whole school.

Yesterday was a perfect June day for Dusty, Bear and me. It was blustery and gray, a strong wind, the threat of rain (but not the realization, though that would have been OK with us, too).

About 5 o’clock, when the wind had died down a little, I said, “What the heck, dogs,. Let’s go.” We headed out to the slough. Lovely though it is in all seasons, its not that much fun right now. It’s a mosquito wonderland with a few horseflies just in case the mosquitos don’t do a good enough job. It’s fine, it’s nature, and every little creature has to do its little creature thing. Besides, the birds are hungry and feeding babies, so the more bugs the better. With the wind blowing so hard, though, neither mosquitos or horseflies would have a chance.

Dusty and Bear are in “summer walk” mode which means they are leashed, walking beside me, at heel. There are also rattlesnakes which have their important place in nature. I’m not challenging that with a big, loping, goofy, curious dog.

We were so happy to be out!  The river was very, very high. The air was crisp. The wind blew in strong gusts. Undaunted, the birds swooped and hunted anyway.  The wild iris were blooming, having lifted their miraculous perfect heads out of the snow-smashed morass of dead grass. Near the end of our walk, the dogs stopped and looked up, alerting me to a golden eagle flying above the river.

Today, however, is the kind of day Lowell has written about. The plants are rushing to make the most of the short season. The robin fledgelings are on their way — one was in my yard yesterday. It was my job to see she was safe from the dogs. She looked up at me like, “Dude, I’m going to be fine just keep that big white beast away from me!”

What is so rare as a day in June?

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
‘Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season’s youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep ‘neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

James Russell Lowell

Dusty T. Dog’s Recitation of the Legend of the CATapult

There are very few objects in history or daily life that bear the imprint of canine thinking. Canines are creatures of action and response. They are pack animals, who cooperate with each other, sharing the responsibility for the welfare of all. This does not make them creative or innovative animals and for this reason about the only objects or ideas in our world that have come from dogs are “doggerel” and “doggone it.”

Cats, on the other hand, being independent thinkers, spend their time on their own rather than caring for their pack-mates or their humans. They have come up with many interesting ideas and objects.

Two that are most striking are the “catapult” and the “catamaran.” I want to talk specifically about the catapult and how and why felines invented it. The catamaran is obvious. Felines dislike water and they needed a way to get across a river. But the catapult has a more interesting — and less obvious — story and it involves a canine/feline relationship.

As everyone familiar with felines knows, they like to climb. Many felines are willing to climb very high and leap off, almost taking flight, before they land perfectly on four paws. This is something canines also enjoy, but differently from felines. We like to jump so that we can see over walls and fences.

Long ago, many thousands of human years ago, a canine and feline were walking past a city wall. Their noses were sniffing eagerly because they smelled fish on the other side of the wall. The wall was too high even for the cat to climb and the dog, of course, could only jump a couple of meters straight up into the air.

The cat decided to take a nap and think about it while the dog ran back and forth along the wall barking, digging and sniffing. You might think the dog barking would keep the cat awake, but it didn’t.

When the cat woke up, she had figured it out. They would build a machine that would send her over the wall. Once on the other side, she would throw fish over the wall to the dog. The cat sent telepathic blueprints to the dog who immediately set about gathering sticks, old tires, worn socks and gunny sacks to build the machine. In just a couple of days — even without opposable thumbs — they had built the machine. In truth, the dog built it, but the feline gave directions.

“We only have one shot,” said the dog. “It had better work!”

“How can you doubt my powers?” responded the feline, in a snit, feeling insulted.

“I’m sorry. I just meant…”

“It doesn’t matter what you meant, dog. Did you think of this? No. I thought not.”

The feline often took an imperious tone with the dog which was not fair. While the cat was a decent hunter, the dog was better at it and was able to catch bigger things than the cat and he always shared. She never shared. “Share does not exist in any feline vocabulary,” she would say refusing to part out the miniscule mouse she’d killed one afternoon after playing with it for several hours.

“Keep your mouse,” the canine replied. “I’m going after a rabbit.”

“Ooooh! Rabbit! Will you share it with me?”

“Of course. Sharing is a canine’s purpose.”

Anyhooo… The feline jumped up in the bucket from which she would be sent over the wall. “Pull down on this with all your strength, dog,” she said.

“What if you’re hurt?”

“I won’t be hurt. I’m a feline, remember? I will land in the city and find the fish.”

“All right.” The canine pushed down on the bucket with all his strength and when he couldn’t push it any lower, he let go. The feline went flying over the wall.

The canine never knew how his friend fared. No fish ever came back over the wall and he never heard from her again.

Another Doggone Blog Post

“Your weather forecast is a farce, Human. The sun is shining.”

“What, Bear?”

“You said there was a good chance of snow.”

“I know I did.”

“You were just trying to get my hopes up so you could dash them against the fence.”

“That doesn’t sound like you, Bear.”

“No, Dusty said that. He’s a little paranoid. But he said you didn’t mean anything bad by it.”

“My hopes were dashed too, Bear. Those weather guys just make their best guesses based on the data they have. Nothing in nature is 100% down to such a fine point as a weather forecast four days in advance.”


“Spring is weird, isn’t it.”

“I think so.”

“That’s why tomatoes are growing in the house. Mindy explained that to me.”

“Good old poop eating Mindy.”

“So, uh, is there more rawhide?”

“Nope. Sorry. That’s all for today.”

“I think I’ll lick my feet then. Where I held the rawhide there’s a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of rawhide flavor. Then I’m going to continue shredding this box. Is that OK?”

“Good idea. Hey, Dusty. Relax. I’m almost done with my coffee.”

Life is Never Mastered

Everyone is an apprentice all the time. Everything we learn takes us to a different place which is at least a little unfamiliar. We finish things and move on and where we move on is terra incognita. At this point in my life, I think any feeling of certainty I have about something is probably an illusion to make me more comfortable for the moment.

Even Bear.

Lately I’ve had the sense that Bear is trying to tell me that she can be trusted. I stopped trusting her two years ago when she discovered she could dive through the very dense and tall lilac hedge and get out of the yard. That meant she has never been FREEEEEE to just go out the backdoor. I go with her to the dog run and be sure she is secured inside. Yesterday I didn’t close the back gate completely and suddenly, as I was uncovering the peonies, there was a dancing Bear right beside me. I said, “What are you doing here?”

She ran a circuit around the side yard  (where the hedge is) and came back to me; then she did it again. When she stopped she looked at me like, “See?”

It may be that Bear has completed her apprenticeship and is ready for me to regard her as an adult dog who can make smart choices. But if not… You see, there’s a highway in front of my house 😦 and I love Bear a LOT.

Chilly Dog

Mindy T. Dog is one of those long-haired dogs my grandma would describe as “messy.”  My grandma always had one — a cocker mix of some kind — whose fur was curly, fine and copious, matted easily and could actually be a danger to them. This spring Mindy has had mats everywhere.

dogs 1

Bear, my friend’s dog, Coda, and Mindy pre-clip, Dusty in the Background

Mindy T. Dog was clipped for the first time on Tuesday. The groomer — Muddy Paws Dog Grooming — is a country groomer with a pen of sheep in the back yard, a small stall for horses, a hutch for rabbits, her own 4-H kids and a sweet little shed fitted up to groom dogs. None of the fancy-schmancy urban dog grooming paraphernalia of the city. The shed is perfectly set up for the work she does. Four crates to hold the dogs who are waiting, a high table for the dogs who are being groomed,  and a big horse trough for a bath tub. Everything is shiny, comfortable and dog friendly. I was astonished when my Australian shepherd from the burbs of San Diego reacted strongly to the sounds of the sheep bleating outside.

“Mindy,” I said, “you have instinct!”

There were two lambs, one of which had been adopted by the groomer’s daughter because its mom rejected it. ❤

When I went back to get Mindy, the groomer and her daughter had fallen in love with her. “She helped us!” said the groomer.

“She has a magical quality,” I said. “Mindy makes people happy. I don’t know how.”

“She was so easy to work with!”

The freshly denuded Mindy beamed at me from a fluffy face. She’d had a good time.

“She liked our treats!” The groomer cooks dog cookies.

“Great,” I said, not revealing that there has yet to be a treat made Mindy did not like. I was sent home with two small sample bags for Dusty and Bear.

Unfortunately for Mindy T. Dog it was the coldest day we’ve had in weeks, and there she was, naked to the world. When I got home I called my neighbor who knits and crochets to see if she had knit or crocheted a dog sweater lately, but no luck. There’s a sweater on the way — a good thing as snow is predicted to blanket the ground Saturday and temps are supposed to drop to 19 degrees. Winter DOESN’T let go easily in the San Luis Valley.

Meanwhile, Mindy is now proudly wearing my Dead Kennedys T-shirt.

Mindy D

When Dogs Get Avid

Overall, my dogs are pretty calm. But they have their passions. Bear, as everyone knows, avidly loves snow. Mindy loves food. Dusty T. Dog loves me. Right now we’re visiting my friend in Colorado Springs who also has three dogs — two of them equal one Dusty. It seems like I brought up a herd of small horses to hang out with her dogs.  All six of them bark with passionate avidity at the mailman and the trash man and anyone who walks by with dogs.

Dog Avidness is pretty avid and can be scary. It can be accompanied with bared teeth and loud barks. Bear is currently perched on the highest spot in the living room watching for enemies outside.

All six of these guys are avid about rawhide chews, running out the dog-door at my friend’s house, and playing with each other.

Dusty’s Harmonious Memories

When I had a bunch of Siberian huskies they, naturally, loves to howl at the right times. They knew when those times were. A siren, coyotes in the distance, Eminem (yeah, truly), and once the Evil X. The thing is, they find a pitch and they all howl in harmony.

Lily and Cheyenne

Cheyenne T. Wolf (front) Lily T. Wolf (back)

Dusty T. Dog really wanted to be like his husky sisters/moms and from the time he was a puppy, he tried to howl with them. He did pretty good for a dog of undetermined parentage but certainly not husky.

Sometimes now I’ll play a video of huskies howling, or wolves, and sometimes I’ll just hit a howl pitch, and Dusty will tip back his head, make a “howl” mouth and do his best. We howl together for old times sake, saying “We remember you!” to our huskies in Husky Heaven.

This is Cheyenney T. Wolf’s favorite howl along song by Eminem.

River, Wind, Frogs and Birds

The first time I saw the Rio Grande I thought it was a road. I was staying in South Fork, a mountain town west of here, during the transition month between arriving in Colorado and finding a house to live in. I looked down from the field where I walked my dogs every day and saw an asphalt gray ribbon, as wide as a car lane, winding through the golf course below. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a road until 3 am one Sunday morning when Lily T. Wolf needed to go out. There were no trucks on the highway; the night was silent and I heard the river.

When daylight came we were, of course, out again and in the morning light the “road” was no longer gray but silvery blue. At that moment, it became my river.

This afternoon, Bear and I went out to the slough. The Rio Grande is now the highest I’ve seen it, and the channels that run through the slough are also deep and fast. Today all I heard on our walk was wind, the river, some frogs, red-wing blackbirds, and an annoyed goose. To me it’s really something to hike along a trail, listening to a river.


One of the channels in the slough

A Walk with Bear Alone

Most of the time I take Dusty and Bear on walks together, but once in a while I just take Bear. As Dusty is in his 11th year, there’s every chance that a time will come when it will be just Bear and me on the trails. I don’t want that to be strange for her, and, for a while, she was afraid to get into the car if Dusty weren’t there.

As someone once said, when you walk with people, the people are the focus of the journey. When you walk alone, nature is the companion. Walking with Bear has all the benefits of a solitary ramble, but I have a responsive and protective companion. Our walks are often leisurely and meandering. We stop to listen to and watch birds, hear the frogs in the vernal ponds, take in the changes in the landscape that is now very familiar to us.

Bear loves these walks. Her “livestock guardian dog” mentality clicks into full alert status, and she stays very close to me instead of going to the end of her leash to explore. Because she’s mellow and doesn’t bark, I’m more relaxed knowing that if we meet another dog or people, there won’t be the bone-chilling Doberman Dusty bark (of friendship, but still…)

We just came back from just this kind of walk. We saw robins and bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, Canadian geese and an egret. The shadowless white sky of high clouds shone soft light on the slowly greening Chamisa. My hikes in California taught me how to look at an “ordinary” place and I’ve come to like them best. My big white dog and I strolled along the path, feeling the wind, happy to be out there beside the river and between the ranges of snowy mountains.

There’s a stone monument/picnic area where we stop at the end of a walk. There I pet my dogs and enjoy the moment. I sat down on “our” stone bench, and Bear and I watched a robin hunt. A pair of blue birds joined her hopping on the ground.

A young man who had been fishing in the slough came toward us and Bear became alert. “I have a ridiculously friendly dog here,” I said.

“That’s good,” said the man, walking so he avoided Bear.

“What do you catch in there?” I asked.

“I was hoping to catch some browns and rainbows, but the river is too low. It’s higher in Del Norte.”

“I think they’re irrigating,” I said, “Last week the river was four times that high at least. Well, good luck somewhere else, man,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said and headed toward his truck.

Now as you read those words, you cannot hear him, but to me his voice was music. There is a Spanish accent in northern New Mexico and in this valley that stirs home-strings in my heart. He spoke in that tone, with that inflection.

“Bear, you want to go home?” I asked the big dog who straddled my knee, her version of sitting on my lap. She didn’t seem to care much. I guess she was fine just like that.