Dusty and Mindy Move to Colorado in a Dodge Van with Lily and Me


“What the fuck? This isn’t our car. It smells weird. I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all. I might lie on my back and pee in the air. This is awful. I’m scared.”

“It’s OK, Dusty. She’s here. We’re all here. Our beds are here. It’s all fine.”

“How can you be so sanguine, Mindy?”

“Well, first it’s my nature. Second, I think if she’s here we’re fine. If she comes back when she leaves us, we’re fine. I don’t worry about every little thing like SOME dogs I know. She always takes care of us.”


“It’s OK Dusty,” I tell him from the front seat. “We’re going home. You can quit pacing and breathing hard.”


“See? I told you, Dusty. Lily isn’t worried.”

“Yeah but she’s a wild animal. We’re pets.”

“There is that. But really, Dusty, learn to keep it under control a bit. You’ll have a happier life.”

“You’re probably right, Mindy, but when I start getting scared, it’s a fast and slippery slope all the way to terror.”

“Lie down, Dusty,” I say.

“Do what she said. I have a feeling this time home is a long ways away.” Mindy closed her soft, sweet beautiful eyes and as a model for Dusty, went to sleep.



When ON the Course of Human Events…


Yesterday I got a canister of bear spray — it’s pepper spray. The canister is a lot larger than I expected — between 10 inches and a foot — and it has a holster. I don’t see me strapping that on and going to walk the dogs at the slough. I was hoping it was a simple four-inch can of spray with a holster I could clip to my pocket or pack strap in front, but this… I don’t need it for a bear. I need for a grubby man who makes me nervous and scares Dusty.

So, last evening, as I took Dusty T. Dog and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog for our usual walk around the hood and high school, I noticed the golf course was empty. Really empty. Two cars in front of the club house. A familiar high school golfer walking around with his bag to the holes that challenge him.


They close next month, but right now the course is beautiful. In the beginning of the summer — May, June, most of July — it was aching from the drought like everything else was, but six weeks or so of regular rain and careful tending…

Why was it empty?

“Don’t look a gift course in the mouth,” I said to myself.

It was really good to be back. I’m pretty sure “Grizzly Man” won’t take daily walks there and as much as I love the slough, the views from it don’t compare to those from the open plain of the pasture, I mean driving range. As for animals, I’ve seen more at the golf course than at the wildlife refuge. This isn’t cold comfort at all.


Care Bear

“BEAR!!!! I want to sleep!”

“I have a job to do, Aunt Lois. I need to make sure my flock is well and safe all night.”

“But you’ve woken me up four times! I’m tired! It was a long day! Fun, but long.”

“OK. I’ll go check on Mark.”

“You do that.” Lois gets up and slams her door shut, hoping that this time it latches. Martha wakes up at the sound and knows the whole story. She laughs to herself and goes back to sleep.

Morning comes. Martha’s up first. She looks in her friend’s room and sees the sheet pulled up over her face and laughs to herself again. Bear doesn’t give up. Bonded to humans rather than sheep, she is taking care of her flock. Lois and Mark are her flock and when they come back to the fold after a long absence, Bear is visibly relieved.

In the solitude and silence, Martha makes coffe and a smoothie, taking the blender to her room so she doesn’t wake Mark who’s sleeping in the semi-bedroom/studio off the kitchen with only a curtain, no door. She sits down at her laptop and with amazing tenacity continues looking for agents who might possibly represent her book, The Price. She does this only because it’s the right thing to do, and necessary, not because she has any hope. She doesn’t.

Lois wakes up.

“I guess Bear checked on you a few times?”

“I finally gave up keeping her out of my room.”

Later on, Mark stumbles out.

“Did Bear check on you in the night, Marky?”

“Her nose.” Mark had slept on a mattress on the floor, an easy target for Bear’s cold nose.

This is the hazard of spending the night in the same house with a tenacious livestock guardian dog who loves you.


(Some of the conversation in this post is possible but imaginary)




Four years ago I set out for Colorado. I’d sold my house, I’d quit my job and I was leaving California behind, hotel and all (ha ha). In my rented van were Lily T. Wolf, Dusty and Mindy T. Dog, the only companionship I’d have on that journey and in my new life in a new town where I knew no one.

Life in the mountains of CA had been hard on Dusty T. Dog. My neighbor hated him and was abusive and mean to both of us. Yes, Dusty barks, but 1) He was never outside unchaperoned after 8 pm, 2) I scrupulously cleaned the yard and their dog run, 3) Dusty would not leave the yard even if someone left the gate open.

One day I went out and my asshole neighbor was standing next to the fence in front of my house (at that time it was a 3 foot fence; it was soon changed to a 6 foot fence) shaking the fence, screaming at Dusty and yelling, “Come on you son of a bitch. BITE me!” He threw rocks at my dog. He hoped to provoke Dusty so that Animal Control would haul Dusty away.

Animal Control came in response to a formal complaint the guy lodged against me. They found three friendly dogs and a clean yard. I conferred with Animal Control and my trainer and the consensus was that if Dusty wore a bark collar it would control the barking. It didn’t. Dusty’s urge to bark was stronger than the pain of the electric shock. One day I felt a scar on my dog’s neck, took the batteries out of the collar and put it back on him. To the world it looked like he was wearing the bark collar, but it would never shock him again. Grrrrrr.

Dusty was a rescue. I got him from a shelter. He was on his way out as an unadoptable, nervous and aggressive dog, but I didn’t know it when I met him. He was a 4 month old black puppy who let me know as soon as he saw me that he wanted to be my dog. The Animal Control people who ran the shelter warned me that he was not adoptable, but when they put us in a little room together, Dusty laid his head on my chest and talked and talked and talked. The Animal Control officer said, “I guess he’s your dog after all.”

I spent $1500 to have him professionally trained and socialized because where I lived he would not meet people or dogs and he needed to. He never really got calmed down with either (though he is a very sweet, affectionate and friendly dog if you get past the bark) but he did learn to love horses. Dusty barks at people as a warning, to protect me, and to protect himself. You see, when Animal Control picked him up, he was a two month old puppy who was injured and left by the side of Interstate 8 outside of Alpine, CA. Someone had intentionally hurt that dog — puppy, rather. How could he trust anyone?

But he does trust a lot of people. He’s come a very long way from the scared creature he used to be. He used to be terrified at the vet — scary terrified, and now he’s happy to see Dr. Crawford, Dr. Ratzlaff and all the other people who work at Alpine Vet in Monte Vista. He loves my friends (and their dogs). He adores everyone at the kennel where I board him. He likes other dogs, just not from a distance or if they charge him.

Still, my early experiences with Dusty made me wary, and I have always tried to keep him from scaring people, even when it was the people who were the assholes.

Until today.

There’s an old guy who sometimes walks where I do. When I see his truck parked, I go somewhere else. There’s just something about him that creeps me out. The first time we met, the dogs and I had just arrived. Dusty was off leash, and the guy pulled up beside me in the parking lot. Dusty barked and ran to him. The guy was obviously (and naturally) afraid. Dusty’s a big dog.

“I’m afraid of dogs,” he said. “I used to be a mailman.”

“I’m sorry.” How many times have I said, “I’m sorry” because of Dusty? Thousands.

“Keep him away from me.”

“He’s friendly.”

“I don’t like dogs.”

Somehow, that guy’s “I don’t like dogs” trumped my dog. Until today.

We got to a spot to walk. I let Dusty out (off leash because he heels off-leash very very well) and Bear (on leash because she catches a scent and she’s GONE) and off we went. Dusty pooped on the edge of the parking lot. This parking lot is used by teenagers for, uh, parking, (snicker, snicker) and it’s replete with used condoms and beer bottles and dog poop. Lots of people take their dogs there. There is no trash can. Sometimes I pick up my dog’s poop, and sometimes I don’t. It depends whether I am prepared or not. Lots of people don’t, but it’s the country, it’s out of town and who cares?

On the trail are cow pies, road apples, coyote shit, cat shit, elk, deer and rabbit droppings along with god (and Bear) knows what other excremental delicacies.

Today we took a walk by the river (humid, mosquitoes, flies, horseflies, not fun) and then we turned back. I saw the guy walking toward us with his stupid ass hiking stick and not wearing a shirt. Did I say mosquitoes? Flies? Horseflies? I leashed Dusty, took both dogs to the side of the trail, pointed their noses toward the woods, away from the trail, and held them tight.

The guy approached. The guy approached me. “Don’t stop,” I said. Dusty was barking like crazy, of course, because a guy with a cudgel was coming toward his human. “DON’T STOP!!!” I said again because the guy just didn’t get it. Finally he walked on, and I got back on the trail. He stopped and said, “Someone let their dog poop in the parking lot.”

I’ve been Dusty’s human for 12 years. For 12 years I’ve taken the peoples’ side in their objections to my dog. Today, I didn’t. “Big fucking deal,” I said thinking of the museum of excrement that is a path along a river.

The guy yelled toward my quickly retreating back, something about “Don’t talk to me that way.”

The thing is, I never wanted to talk to him at all.


Dogs R Me

I love dogs; in fact, I’ve always been a little “dog crazy.” I’ve “owned” more than twenty dogs since my first dog, Truffle(upagus), who came to live with me when I was 35 and she was 6 months. She was a lab/springer mix. I know about the lab for sure as her mom was my pal, Shadow, who came up to my house every day (she lived down the street) to see if I wanted to play. She would bark once in front of my door and I would come out and take her to fetch tennis balls in the canyon. I’m pretty sure Truffle was springer because of her looks. Here, you judge:


Truffle and me, 1988

Truffle (at about 8 mos) and me at Big Dog Health and Fitness Spa


After I had Truffle spayed, I got her a puppy. In doing that, I got myself a best friend, Molly Woof, an Aussie/Malamute mix. Molly was an exceptional dog. As a friend said, “…more than a dog.” It’s hard to know what could be “more than a dog” but I got his meaning. She was smart, intuitive, passionate and had a sense of humor. She was my first experience with a canine “soul mate.”


Not long after Molly was fully grown, one of my friends told me that her neighbor wanted to take her purebred golden retriever to the pound. The neighbor had had the idea that when her baby was born she should get him a golden retriever puppy, but she knew nothing about dogs and the poor dog was relegated to the backyard 24/7 just for being a puppy. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d always loved golden retrievers and here I was getting a big red one for free! Kelly was great, reliable, sweet, and easy to love. Her passion was, of course, tennis balls, but we also spent time at the beach together. I had to teach her to swim, but once she got it, we body-surfed together.

The featured image is Molly and Kelly, the golden retriever, at the Garden of the Gods. They were traveling dogs and we spend a couple weeks in Colorado back in 1997, staying at Chatauqua in Boulder and traveling slowly back to California when our time was over. It was their second trip to Colorado, and the longest. On the first trip, we visited my Aunt Martha in Denver and did a hike to Lost Lake.

Other dogs came — Maggie a Girl of the Streets, half husky/half golden retriever came as a stray. I took in a few strays, cleaned them up and found them homes. The most dogs I ever had at once is six and that was incredibly fun.

My first male dog was Lupo. Lupo was amazing, with an immense soul that grew as he got older. He existed to protect me and keep his “girls” in line; he adored Kelly but was afraid of the ocean, so if we took him to the beach, he panicked when we went into the water. Once he swam out and grabbed me by the, uh, tit and dragged me back to shore. Kelly he grabbed by the collar. We learned NOT to take him to Dog Beach if we were going into the waves. Because of Lupo’s wisdom and intelligence, I was able (out of necessity during a dark time in my life) to leave them home alone for two or three nights at a time with a bin of food and water dripping into their LARGE waterbowl.


Lupo and Molly

Lupo and Molly on South Fortuna Mountain

He died at twelve years old of a rattlesnake bite. He had a pretty spectacular funeral.

…I wrapped my arms around my beautiful friend, put his poor snake bitten head on my shoulder. The vet inserted the IV, and within seconds, Lupo was gone.

{My friend] Kris and I took Lupo’s collar up to the Lagunas to put his tag on the post with [that of my other snake bit dog] Ariel.


We hadn’t gone far on Sunset Trail when we noticed a coyote walking beside us a few feet to our left. She stayed with us until we were nearly at the post, and I began removing the tag. As I did, I noticed the brand on the collar: Coyote. A shiver went through me. I showed it to Kris. Just as I got the tag off the collar, the coyote crossed the trail about four feet in front of us. She paused to look at us then ran off across the hills, her tail erect like any joyful dog. I looked at Kris, he at me, and we both said, “She took Lupo with her!”

That was Lupo’s funeral. He runs forever across those golden hillsides where he rambled so often with me. (My Everest)

I have had several Siberian huskies — amazing dogs but not for everyone. My last one, Lily T. Wolf, made it out to Colorado with me four years ago. She got to enjoy a real blizzard with deep snow before she died at age 17.

And now I have two great dogs, and great friends. Dusty T. Dog — a 12 year old Dobie lab mix and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog, three year old Akbash. I would have to write a book to tell you about all my dogs and the wonderful things we’ve done together, so I’ll stop here.

Dogs make more sense to me than people do. My mom once said that they were “child surrogates” but that has never been the case. I never wanted children, surrogate or otherwise, but I have always wanted hiking buddies, easy-going, affectionate friends with a good attitude. I’ve found only a very few humans to fill that role, but I’ve found more than 20 dogs eager for the job. Hitting the trail with a dog is one of life’s great joys.

IMPORTANT NOTE: All my dogs — but one — were rescues or would have ended up at the pound. My ONLY dog-owner failure was the dog I bought at a pet store and that story is too grim to tell. Many of my dogs were adult dogs when I adopted them. Lupo was two, Maggie was at least three, Ariel was four. My four purebred Siberian huskies were all rescues: Cody O’Dog was over six, Jasmine was eight, Lily was three, Cheyenne was two. The list goes on. Stray dogs I brought in, cleaned up, neutered and trained included a border collie, a Springer/poodle mix, an immense and beautiful German shepherd, and a purebred springer. ALL of them appeared at my door. Back in the 80s, there were no foster programs. For years my truck wore a bumper sticker, “Don’t breed or buy while shelter pets die.” I believe that still. Unless there’s a compelling reason to buy a dog, if you want a pal, remember the really great dogs are already waiting in a shelter or rescue or foster somewhere and one of them might choose YOU!!! ❤

Bear -- the first time I saw her photo at the shelter

Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog in the Facebook ad posted by my local shelter — my first sight of this magical being who is my best friend. She was four months old.



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




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



“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




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



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.



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.


“I missed my coffee!!! Thanks human!”


What Happened…Hip Replacement Update

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


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.”


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.