More Pictures of Bailey

One of my readers wanted more pictures of Bailey, my new dog, a geriatric golden retriever. Today we went on our first solo-walk and he was perfect. I use a head-harness/Halti/gentle leader and once he got the hang of it he was great. He got to walk around the hood smelling and leaving messages.

He’s terrified of thunder and actually has a prescription for Xanax. Since it is now thunder season here in Heaven I’ve had to give it to him. Yesterday he was funny. He got relaxed and realized this house is full of toys and commenced ripping them apart. He tried to toss balls for Bear to toss back but she’s not that kind of dog. He does retrieve.

I like him a lot. He and Dusty had one scrap — no one was hurt — and it seems to have established the scrapping order.

Here’s Bailey yesterday — on Xanax — having discovered two toys

 

 

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“What are you doing, Martha?” (I was riding the bike to nowhere)

 

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“You’ve been warned. If you don’t take me to the slough, your hiking shoe is toast.”

Dusty and Bear are OK with him. I don’t think he’s a very “dog-social” dog, but he is definitely human centered. He sleeps in my room. Wherever I am he will go there. On our walk today (his second walk in Monte Vista, his first walk alone with me) he knew which alley was our alley and which driveway was our drive way. I let go of the leash and he went to the gate and waited. He’s just a very nice dog. Undeniably he has slid into Mindy’s old place which is somewhat eerie, but very right. The vet conjectures that Bailey is about 8 years old.

When I was a little kid I saw my first golden retriever and I thought they were the most beautiful dogs in the world and I decided I would breed them. Of course, I didn’t. Bailey is my second. My first, Kelly, was taller and more red, but just as sweet and responsive.

 

 

Kelly O'Dog

Kelly O’Dog sometime around 1993

 

 

Bailey

I knew when Mindy T. Dog went to the Enchanted Forest that a dog would show up who needed to live with Dusty, Bear and me. This dog is Bailey — and because of his Viking appearance, I’ve named him Bailey Egilsson after Egil, my favorite (and most bizarre) hero from the Icelandic Sagas.

Bailey was — long ago — tied up in a yard and abandoned, then my friend rescued him. This happened in San Diego. My friend moved to Colorado Springs but Bailey wasn’t happy there because of the VERY numerous and long thunder storms and a puppy who harassed him. This past weekend, he came to live with us in the relative calm of Monte Vista.

He’s very sweet, rather elderly, and just an all around good dog. Dusty and Bear don’t seem to like or dislike him. The dominance fracases which are inevitable have been brief. Dusty is not a dominant dog and neither is Bailey. I’m sure Dusty could have lived without having another dog in the house, but he doesn’t really mind. Bear likes to play with Bailey who will play hide-n-seek with her.

 

A Painless Hike and a Kind of Prayer

Thinking back over the past several months, all the kindness that’s come my way, finding the best possible doctor, having a hospital stay that was comforting and healing with wonderful, caring nurses, being surrounded by friends, and cared for in the most intimate ways by a friend who was willing to give up ten days of her life to see that I was ready to be on my own, finding out that shopping with a friend is fun, having a friend fix me food that might make me want to eat something, being joined in walks in my hood by people I like, knowing that my dogs weren’t just being cared for but actually LOVED, well — the list is way, way, way too long.

I’m not a church person. I don’t think God is in a building — well, he is, but not only — and at the end of this day I looked at Dusty and Bear and thought, “I have to say thank you somehow for this miraculous moment of my life, but what?” Of course, they had the answer.

So out we went. I walked the entire mile loop — it took 45 minutes but that’s fine. I was there expressing and feeling gratitude plus it was my first walk on uneven ground, though very familiar ground. The wind blew, it was dinner time so no one was out there and Dusty was free, the dogs walked carefully and slowly beside me, the light was beautiful, meadowlarks sang, a redtail hawk swooped. I saw that the the wild iris HAD bloomed there after all and I was happy, even though I missed them. I love that nature is going to do its thing whether I’m there to see it or not. I thought for a moment about how inconsistent my parents were and realized one of the reasons I grew to love nature so much is that it is not inconsistent. It can surprise you, but the reason behind it will make perfect scientific sense and can be understood. It’s not just drunk or in a bad mood.

About 3/4 of the way, I began to feel tired and we went more slowly. Bear pulled a little but a gentle “No” brought her back to my side. It was paradise and in the midst of it I realized that there is no way I will ever be able to express my gratitude, but these months have changed me and not just the first pain-free “hike” I’ve had in years, but in other ways that I will learn as time goes by.

Gratefully back to Business as (Somewhat Slower than) Usual

 

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Bear, happy to be home

 

Lori, the owner of Noah’s Arff, brought Dusty and Bear home to me yesterday afternoon. They were so HAPPY! Lori pulled into the alley, I left the back gate open, both dogs went straight to their yard and into their house. Dusty spent the first hour glued to me and Bear spent her first hour exploring the vastly overgrown wilderness that was once her yard. She was VERY impressed, however, by her favorite hole because now the lilac has leaves and has grown around the hole so she can not only dig, but she can hide.

 

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Dusty in his favorite spot

 

I have always been amazed by dogs and I was curious to see what Bear and Dusty would do when they came home. They were gone for 6 weeks — 43 nights. They learned a whole new schedule, new life, new people, new regimen. They had fun and playmates and sometimes a lot of time in the VERY large kennel that is “theirs” (it’s easily 10 x 10 feet). But once home, it didn’t take long for them to reassert their dog-status and re-assume their habits. The REAL test was last evening, after dinner, about 7:30 pm (a beautiful time of day on the longest day of the year, the first day of summer) Bear stood in the kitchen giving me a certain look which means, “C’mon! Let’s go! C’mon! The alpenglow! You’re going to miss it! I have messages to read! Let’s go!”

I wasn’t sure I was ready to walk her, honestly. I’d half planned to wait a day or two, take control of the moment, make it my own choice, but I love that dog and I thought she was right.

“Dusty, you have to stay here. I can’t handle you both.” Dusty seemed to nod in understanding. I leashed Bear and out we went. She was eager, but responsive to a command I’ve taught her which is, “Go slow.” So we had our evening walk on the longest day of the year, slow and peaceful around the high school. I met a neighbor with her sweet, smart and very loyal little white poodle. Bear sat and listened to our short chat about stuff. Then we went on our way Bear read messages, left a couple, while I looked at my mountains and thought to myself that there’s nothing more beautiful than a simple moment with a good dog.

I’m so glad they’re home. Now I have to go clean up their yard. There’s probably even a pond out there somewhere I don’t know about.

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“I missed my coffee!!! Thanks human!”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/rdp-22-pond/

What Happened…Hip Replacement Update

I slept pretty well last night in my beautiful B&B four poster bed.

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Got up, dressed kind of and went out for a delicious breakfast and good coffee. The hour neared — it was a 30 minute drive to the doc in a part of town that — when I lived here — were inscrutable boondocks where you went four wheeling but times change.

They called me right away, took X-rays, put me in the doc’s room, doc came in, said “It’s beautiful. You’re free to bend 110 degrees, pretty much everything. Do you have any question?”

I didn’t. I should but I don’t. I showed him that I can walk pretty well without my cane. He smiled a huge smile and put his arms out for a hug. I said, “Thanks for everything. Thanks for everything. Thanks for listening to me. Thanks for saying fuck. Thanks for explaining, And thanks for this.”

I sat down and I told him something that I completely surprised me. I explained that while I don’t know about other people, but that for me without the ability to move freely in nature I really didn’t know what my life would be. I told him about my dad having had MS and dying young. He said, “So you know exactly what it means to lose the ability.”

“Yes.”

In the room — unsaid — was, “So that’s why you’ve been so frightened, so emotional and so desperate.” I hadn’t realized it before. I told him about taking my dad out to see Pikes Peak with a storm coming over it just a few months before he died and how soon after, my dad go pneumonia. I said, “I think it was the kindest act of my life.” The doc nodded. “It was,” he said.

So that moment passed and he told me I am able to to anything I want that’s low impact for the next three months. I can hike anywhere, anything, ride a real bike, whatever I’m fit and ready for. I go back on September 20 — that’s the fourth anniversary of my return to Colorado. And if all is well at that point he said I can run and I can ski (X-country).

I am not sure anyone else can know completely what this has meant to me — maybe. But today I got my life back. I have a lot of work to do and I’m not young any more but I won’t get any younger and I have nothing I’d really rather do motr than the work. I have a good team of allies and my dogs will be home tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for all the encouragement and moral support. I know I’ve been a cry baby sometimes and pretty self-indulgent other times. Forgive me for that. I’m just a little lady after all.

Tomorrow Lois will join me for breakfast, then I’ll leave this place which has been a little haven and a little dream come true and return to Heaven where I will work toward a more active life with my two best buds.

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Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings

During this period of hip surgery and rehabilitation, I admit it. I’m not the most emotionally stable person in the world. My feelings are easily shaken. A little research online has shown me that’s pretty normal for people after joint replacements. They give a lot of reasons from the anesthesia, to the pain, to being dependent on others, to the one that struck me most was the most ineffable, most difficult to describe but it’s that for months I lived with pain. Months leading up to that I lived with a deteriorating ability to walk. And then, in something like an hour, some guy cut me open, did a repair job, sewed me up and turned me loose. After that I’m supposed to believe that it’s going to be a WHOLE LOT BETTER. But it doesn’t feel better — not initially — it’s weird. You find yourself in a kind of surreal world with shots and drugs and peculiar S&M devices you’re supposed to wear at night.

How is this better?

Meanwhile your brain tries to eliminate the weird shit that was pumped into it so your body wouldn’t notice the guy going at it with a hack saw.

“Because of all these factors, depression,” said all the articles, “is common among joint replacement patients.” I’d add that many of us are already depressed from pain and immobility before the hacking even begins.

When I met with my physical therapist and told him my goal to take a two mile walk along the Rio Grande with my dogs, he smiled and said, “You’ll do it. You’ll definitely be able to do that.” I cried. He said, “You’re an emotional person anyway, but the anesthesia makes lots of people more emotional.”

“It’s good tears,” I said, “not bad ones.”

And they kept flowing. Triggered by almost anything.

Yesterday I drove to the Big City (Alamosa) to buy groceries and dog food because Lori had let me know Dusty and Bear were out of food. Another weird thing of anesthesia is time is negligible. I thought it was only a couple days before that I’d sent 30 pounds to the kennel but it wasn’t. It was WEEKS!

When I got to the kennel yesterday with enough dog food for three day, I asked Lori if I could see the dogs. There’s a sofa in the front office. I said, “I can sit here and they can come in, can we do that?”

She was worried they’d knock me over and sitting on the sofa solved that problem. First came Dusty T. Dog, talking and looking around, sniffing the air. Then he RAN to me for loving and talked some more. “You can let Bear out too,” I said.

“Are you sure?” Lori asked.

“Yeah. If I can’t be with them now, I won’t be able to bring them home Thursday, right?”

Bear came out, saw me, gave me a half smile and was all over me. I haven’t been able to hug my dogs in 43 days. I was so happy, they were so happy, but I didn’t cry. I guess the anesthesia is finally out of my system.

Today I drive up to Colorado Springs. Tomorrow I see the surgeon. Thursday I come home and so do Dusty and Bear.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/rdp-19-shaken/

Dog Stars

“Dude.”

“Right?”

“Yeah. I had no idea. Stellar.”

The golden retriever and the indeterminate mutt shook the water from their coats and headed back to shore.

“My human taught me that.”

“No way.”

“Way.”

“I was really scared the first time. I mean, that stuff is for drinking or drowning, right?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“But! Exactly!” So she took me out there with her. I was trying to get away and then all of a sudden — BAM — I got it and she let go. I was riding a wave, she was riding the same one and we were looking over at each other.”

“You did this with your HUMAN!”

“Yep.”

“Stellar.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/rdp-18-stellar/

Manzanita and Rocks

The manzanita in this photo was a destination for Molly and me — a minor destination. The kind where you stop, look in awe at a hundreds of year old immense beautiful plant, sit down, give your dog some water, get up and keep going to a real destination. In this case, our destination was a small spring fed pool in a narrow fissure between some of the earth’s oldest rocks up in the Laguna Mountains.

I’ve known some rocks that are more than 1000 million years old — very common rocks, the bedrock of the Earth, pre-cambrian gneiss. They offered a lot of good lessons in patience through change.

Truffle Swimming

Truffle “fishing” in a seasonal pool in the “Indian kitchen”

These particular rocks had been used by Indian tribes for hundreds (thousands?) of years for all the things Indians can use rocks for — weapons, tools, cisterns, grinding holes, laundry. A person who was paying attention could imagine a small band of Indians doing their chores with the help of those ancient rocks, grinding acorns or maybe releasing the fibers of yucca to make sandals and ropes.

In October 2003 an immense fire — 273,246 acres — swept through parts of Southern California — both of these places, in fact. The ancient manzanita was burned to the ground. The oak trees north of this seasonal pond where my dog is swimming were burned to the ground, too. But the rocks — except for some staining from orange fire retardant — were still there, still the same. And the manzanita? The roots hold a manzanita’s life. By spring, shoots of the future had already emerged. I wonder what she looks like now, 15 years later.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/antediluvian/

Great Love Begins with Limerence

In 2015, few months after I put my last Siberian Husky, Lily T. Wolf, to sleep (she was 17) I saw a puppy on the Facebook page of the local shelter. I was instantly obsessed with this dog. She had my beautiful Lily T. Wolf’s blue eyes but something else. Some je ne sais quoi. I contacted Brandi, the girl who ran the shelter. She said, “We have to wait two weeks in case someone claims her, but you can come visit.”

As I stood about 10 feet away from her cage — the quarantine cage, a big one off by itself —  she ran to the wall and then stopped. She cocked her head and looked at me seriously, as if she were thinking. Then, she sat as if to say, “See?” Brandi came out of the office with the key to the cage and we went inside. The dog was gentle, happy to see Brandi, curious about me. I didn’t want to stay too long because I wasn’t sure at all. She was beautiful but at four months almost as big as my Australian shepherd! I was in love with her, but since I turned 60 I’ve developed a brain.

I didn’t know what kind of dog she was. I hadn’t lived here long enough to know the breeds that are most common out here in the wild and (literally) woolly west. I thought she was a Siberian Husky/Great Pyrenees mix. I knew Huskies well, having had several, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy to be her person. I researched Great Pyrenees, and I had big doubts about being able to deal with a giant breed livestock guardian dog who wasn’t intrinsically very social and who liked to roam. I had visions of being dragged down the street by this immense white, blue-eyed dog.

The two weeks passed and I went back to see the dog. When I approached her cage, she was clearly happy to see me again. She’d been moved to the regular kennels. Brandi brought her out, I put Lily’s halter on her (it nearly fit) and took her for a walk. She didn’t quite get what was going on, but she kept checking with me (looking up at my face) for clues about whether she was getting it right. That’s a very good sign in a dog.

“Take her home and see how she does with Dusty and Mindy,” Brandi suggested.

“OK,” I said and we loaded the puppy in the back of my car. I turned on the mysterious oracle known as the car radio and this began to play:

Dusty wanted nothing to do with her and Mindy was gently indifferent. The puppy liked Dusty anyway and snuggled next to him on the floor when he napped.

Once at home, we faced the house-breaking challenge, but within the first few hours, the puppy knew where to pee. I took her out with Dusty and Mindy and she saw what they did. She never had an accident.

 

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“WTF?”

When the “test drive” was over, I took the puppy back to the shelter, knowing that someone else could still adopt her. I still wasn’t sure. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking. There was the “Oh my god, she’s going to be a BIG dog. Can I handle her or am I too rickety and too old?” I sought advice from everyone — and Marilyn had experience with Great Pyrenees and explained how it might work. I read everything I could find online about Great Pyrenees. When morning came, I called the shelter and said, “I’ll be there at 10:30, is that OK?”

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“Am I going home with you, Human?”  “Yes Bear.”

Her name was “Silver” and if I’d see the Lone Ranger at that point, I’d have kept the name, but I hadn’t. I named her “Polar” but she didn’t like it. She responded very well to Bear.

I have had upwards of 20 dogs, all of them have been good, some of them have been good friends, wise, funny, goofy, wonderful beings. But this one? She turned out to be something completely different.

She’s not a Siberian Husky and not a Pyrenees. She’s an Akbash Dog — a kind of common dog around here though generally pretty rare in the United States. She’s a Turkish breed of livestock guardian dog. These dogs are gentle, calm, patient, and affectionate — but also intelligent, independent — bred to be a partner to man, not a pet. That’s fine with me. Akbash Dogs are powerful enough to protect a herd of sheep from bears, wolves and mountain ions. She has the most amazing intuition. She’s wise, funny, low-energy and very very very loving. As a friend said recently, “Bear is just love.”

Mysterious forces — limerence? —  brought Bear to our lives at just the right moment. Her calm, dedicated love for Dusty helped him recover from the loss of his best friend — Lily T. Wolf who’d raised him and whom he’d known all his life. Now they are close, close friends.

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Bear and Dusty at Noah’s Arff Boarding Kennel

Bear’s love for me persuaded me to go to Colorado Springs for hip surgery.

In less than two weeks they get to come home from the kennel where they’ve been while my hip replacement healed. I can’t wait.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/10/limerence/

Dog and Bird Report

Big day yesterday. It didn’t start out as I hoped — lunch with a friend in Del Norte — but sometimes your body isn’t with the program, and mine is a little archaic to rebound instantly. 😦

I drove for the first time and the journey was out to see the dogs. Mary Lou, the woman working at Noah’s Arff yesterday, let Dusty and Bear out into the play yard and I stood by the fence with my walker (because the ground is pretty chewed up there). They ran to me and jumped up and there was much kissing. The arthritis in Dusty’s righ hip was more pronounced — perhaps because I haven’t been around him in nearly 3 weeks. Then, they had other and better things to do — most of all, they are happy. They were happy to see me, happy to play with each other, happy to see what the other dogs are doing. They are NOT pining for me.

You might think, “Dogs don’t pine,” but that’s not true. Anyone who’s seen Hatchi knows that. I’ve had three dogs who pined, one of whom, Molly, killed herself by sticking her head between two boards she thought were a fence trying to get out of a friend’s yard. She wanted to come home to me. Molly knew my friend, she’d been at this house many times and it seemed like a good place for her while I went to see my aunt in Colorado. But, it ended in one of my life’s saddest stories. 😦 Cody pined, stopped eating and wouldn’t move but lay in his pee and poop for two days when he thought I wasn’t going to adopt him from a shelter where he’d been for 3 months. I was adopting him; there was just a delay because of Sunday. Ariel threw herself on the floor of the vet’s office and howled bloody murder when she thought I was leaving her behind.

I’m really glad Dusty and Bear are NOT those dogs. I’m relieved that they’re happy. They’re going to stay at pre-school (ha ha) until after my doc visit on June 20. I’ll go get them on June 21 and I really cannot wait because I’m pining, but at least I can see them whenever I want to.

After visiting them, I decided to drive to the slough to see if the wild iris were blooming. They should be. My gallant steed (cane) and I headed up the dusty trail, slowly. Summer has arrived in the interval. There are leaves on the trees, birds singing everywhere, swallows swooping and water in the river. Wild iris, however? I don’t know. Maybe winter and spring were too dry for them this year.

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Shriver/Wright Wildlife Area

I was hesitant to go too far on the trail. The ground is uneven and so am I; not a good combination, but then I thought that without the dogs, I can walk the beautiful paved trail around the lake across from Homelake Veterans Home. I can join all the other disabled veterans. They, of course, are veterans of wars while I’m just a general all-around veteran of stuff.

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My Gallant Steed

As I was driving home, my phone rang in my back pocket. “OH well,” I thought. I got home and saw it was my artist friend with whom I sometimes go to Taos. I called her back and learned she was in my town. She’d been in Creede — a small beautiful town to the northwest — all day where she has working hanging in a new gallery. She lives in Alamosa which is 18 miles east from me — not far but far enough that hanging out is seldom spontaneous. We had our conversation (there are people with whom you have ONE conversation and it’s great) and then she said, “Don’t hurry. You need to heal, for yourself and your dogs. Don’t bring the dogs home.”

I already knew I wasn’t bringing them home for a while, but I was glad to hear it from her. I was also impressed by my own self. Time was I didn’t listen to anyone. 🙂