Not What I Thought I’d Write. WordPress Made Me Do It

Dear Happiness Engineers,

This is my second time working with the new editor which you’ve hubristically named “Gutenberg.” Seriously? Frankly, it’s kind of annoying. I don’t like taking instruction (period? ever?) from my computer screen, and, at this point in my blogging “career,” I don’t need you to tell me to “add content.” I wouldn’t be typing here if I didn’t plan to add content. Right? Whomever this is designed for, I’m worried about them but it’s OK. 

Of course you might have a different audience in mind than me, I know, I know… But here’s the thing. I just wanted to write a little blog post. Seriously little. Neither long nor meaningful. I’m tired, kind of brain-dead, and might have a sinus infection (again). Those conditions do not make a sharp tool out of my brain.

I see what’s going to happen. Every time I move to yet one more of your “add text or type/to add content” (I like that creative syntax by the way, very, uh, strange) I get a new “block.”

Listen, sweet cheeks, I’ve been through a few blocks in my time…  This will be the third WP editor I’ve been privileged to use. Deep down in the bowels of WP Admin I find the original editor. I still use it sometimes — no no don’t take it away! Its simplicity is refreshing. 

SOOOOO…since I have nothing of import to say this morning anyway, I slept in, the extra 30 minutes of snoozing led to some  scary dreams, including the part where the demented child stole Bear and though I yelled, “Give me my dog!” loudly over and over it didn’t avail until I spoke French, “Donnez mois mon chien!” With that, the demented child calmly handed me the leash, and I got my dog back. I don’t think you can generalize from that. And no, I don’t know why I sometimes dream in French. Je ne parle pas français.

P.S. The “preview” feature is not working well.

Walking Martha

Bear’s Bliss fell last night, so today Bear and I went tracking ungulates on the golf course. Moose, elk and deer.

When it snows, I can SEE what Bear smells. We get to be a team. I see footprints and , where snow has blown against a cottonwood, even urine splashes on trees.

There are a lot of low leaves on the elm and cottonwood trees between the second and fourth holes so we started there. If there had been no tracks, we’d have left the golf course and wandered out into the fields beyond the driving range where, often, we find fox, raccoon and deer tracks and sometimes animals. But we were lucky.

Tracks and tracks and tracks. Rabbit, squirrel, domestic cat and

Moose??? Elk??? Whitetail Deer???

My personal jury is out on that one. I’ve seen moose tracks on the golf course before, but these seemed a little small, though the right shape. Whitetail deer, possibly. They are around here, too.

Bear caught scent after scent. It was nice for me because I could look ahead and see where she was going. When there’s no snow, I might be yanked in a random direction — random to me.

Once we’d exhausted the tracks, and Bear had several chances to roll in the snow, it was time to check messages. On the map that’s the straight line at the bottom, on E. Prospect Avenue, right in front of Monte Vista High School. Many people walk past there with their dogs, and Bear has many messages to collect — and leave.

My dog walks me, and I love it. It’s never a brisk walk, but Bear is a constant reminder to stop and smell the elk urine.

P.S. Yes, my golf course looks like a glue gun

Quotidian Update 8.2i.a

We got about an inch of snow out of our most recent storm. It’s enough to quench Bear’s yearning. It was the real thing. Cold, night, drifting sparkling flakes. The happy snowplow came by at light speed. The sun is rising in a foggy sky. Tonight we’ll be getting real San Luis Valley winter temperatures. They’re predicting -4 F (-20 C). Of course, there are days coming when -4 will be the daily high.

I’m a few days over six months out from my non-invasive hip replacement procedure. Rehab continues. A month or so ago I added a simple yoga routine to help me develop more flexibility and balance. It was difficult at first, but I was happy just to realize that I could do — on a very low level — most of the poses I wanted to do. It gets easier every time, and now I think anyone who saw me would recognize what I’m doing. I’m not a major yoga enthusiast, but I learned several years ago how really good and helpful it is. 🙂

I’ve also “run” a couple of times. I know I’m running because Bear runs beside me. I think the last time I attempted it, it might have been recognizeable to anyone that I was running (poorly, slowly, awkwardly). I have run 20 yards at a time. I would probably run farther but Bear would (I think) think we’re in it for the long haul and take off. Mostly I’m afraid of falling and yoga is helping me overcome that fear. Down on a yoga mat you’re essentially in the “post fall” position. I don’t expect to return to running. My knees wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I want to be ABLE to run 50 yards. It’s a funny goal for a person who used to run miles and miles, but it’s OK with me.

The Schneebelis Go to America is moving along on its trajectory to being a book. This past Saturday I set it up for Kindle and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon under its real title, The Price. I am waiting for a second proof copy to arrive (tomorrow? day after?) at which point I’ll finish it and it will be a legit paper back. I’m using LULU rather than Amazon’s platform this time. There’s no advantage to it other than their product is nicer. The paper is higher quality and the binding more stable. The downside is that it’s more expensive and I will make less per book sold, but obviously I’m not in it for the money. It will be available in all the usual place on December 5. It looks like there will be a little book review blog tour for it. I hadn’t thought of it, but one of my readers did. If you’re interested in participating, let me know. I now have the book in all formats thanks to help from readers of my blog. ❤

I’ve begun research for what I think will be my next project which, I think, is going to be the story of Martin of Gfenn’s teacher, Michele, who (according to my own story) got in trouble in Verona (you either had to be there or read the book, Martin of Gfenn) and was exiled to Zürich as punishment. I’ve always known (because I invented him?) that Michele fell in with a bad crowd (in this case “bad” is truly subjective). Anyway, Michele is — or at least aspired to be — a Goliard. I think he will fail at this, as it seems for a lot of medieval humanists it was a passing phase. It’s not easy living “beyond the pale.” A person can get hungry out there. I really won’t know until I get there. Meanwhile, I’m learning, reading about them and soon reading more of their (very secular) poetry.

Squirrel or Cookie?

“Bear! Dusty! What the hell???”

“There, human, over there! BARK BARK BARK BARK!”

“C’mon guys you’re driving the neighborhood crazy.”

“Don’t you humans recognize the danger? BARK BARK BARK!!!”

“Come inside. You can have a cookie.”

And in this way a squirrel on a wire began to mean “cookie” to my dogs.

I’ve had dogs to whom squirrels THEMSELVES meant cookies. The huskies were very good on the job of squirrel control. In Southern California, the squirrels were ground squirrels. My husky, Jasmine, was VERY good at catching them. Another was the esteemed and missed Cody O’Dog. Here’s his squirrel story, retold from the post “Cody O’Dog.”  The year was 2010. The occasion my 40th high school reunion. Cody and I had driven to Colorado Springs from San Diego. After the reunion, we headed north to Montana to visit my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank and Aunt Dickie.

…Cody and I got back in the car and drove to Caspar, Wyoming on our way to visit my Aunt Jo and Aunt Dickie in Billings, Montana. We stayed at a great motel next to the river and had a long walk that evening before turning in. The next day we got to Billings.

My Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank were astonished at Cody’s size. We went out to the back yard to talk and Cody lay on the grass enjoying the cool, but, in his husky way he was also vigilant.

“Is that what he does?” asked my aunt. “Just lie there? He’s so big!”

“Well, he’ll be up in a flash if there’s a reason.”

Just then an immense red squirrel came over the back fence. Cody was up. Noticing the dog who was NOT supposed to be there, the squirrel made a leap for the front fence.  Cody caught it in the air, rang its neck, and gave it to me. Unfortunately, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead so I had to finish it off. My aunt and I took the squirrel’s body out where some scavengers could reap the benefits.

Training Dogs

Since I got my first real dog (real meaning I was an adult and I got to keep it for its whole life!), Truffleupagus, in 1987, I’ve had something like 26 dogs — not all at once, though.


Truffle and me, 1988

Truffle and me

Dog training is a skill, and I didn’t always have it. Now, I have a pretty good idea of what’s involved when I get a new dog. I’ve learned that sometimes I need expert help, and twice I have sent my dogs to “boarding school.” One of them was Dusty T.  (T for “traumatized”) Dog, the other was the beautiful wild thing, Cheyennie T. Wolf, a smart, willful, humorous three-year-old Siberian husky who’d lived in a backyard all her ilfe.

I have never trained a dog to do anything fancy like agility or even go precisely through movements of a dog show. My dogs have all been taught to be companions in the house, to go on hikes and walks, and to have decent manners with my friends. They’ve been trained to be nice to children and (mostly) not jump up on people, something that’s necessary when you have big dogs.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Different breeds have different needs. Sometimes the things they have been bred for are at odds with what humans need. Dogs like Siberian Huskies have been bred for centuries to do specific things that aren’t always in line with human expectations (unless you live in Siberia, have a dog team and need furry babysitters). Breeds like golden retrievers, Aussies, Labs (and Bear) watch and observe you to see what you would like and then do it. Study up on your dog’s breed and tailor your training to that. Here’s the list from the American Kennel Club.

I have not had terriers, non-sporting dogs or toy dogs, but I’ve had herding dogs, sporting dogs, a hound (beagle), working dogs (huskies) and now I have a mutt (Doberman/Lab and a livestock guardian dog (Akbash). They present different challenges in training. Some of the easiest dogs to train are mutts, dogs whose ancestry is a mystery.

  1. Walk your dog and if you can’t, get a breed that doesn’t need to be walked. Cesar Milan is right that walking a dog establishes a bond between the dog and the owner AND it tells the dog who the pack leader is. I believe in leashes, but not everyone does. Some dogs (like Dusty) can actually be trained to stay beside you and in your control when they are off leash, but this training takes time. Leashes help keep your dogs safe.

    Leash training can be difficult or easy depending on the breed, age of dog and the amount of patience you have. Ideally, you’ll have a golden retriever puppy who will arrive at your house and hand you a leash (ha ha).

    I took Truffleupagus to school so I could learn how to train her. The school used choke collars. The way a choke collar works is when the puppy pulls, you pull directly up on the choke collar. This is supposed to communicate to the puppy that you don’t like what it’s doing. For this to actually happen the collar has to be on properly and the person has to be attentive and demanding. Honestly, they never worked for me with Truffle or any other dog. But the IDEA is sound.

    In the meantime, other devices were invented. Because I’m a little person with big dogs, I use a Halti brand of gentle leader. These are very useful. For training, the dog is stopped in a body-part it understands; its nose. For just walking a dog who is not a champion on-leash heeling hero (such as Dusty T. Dog) the Halti prevents the dog from pulling (except maybe in extreme situations like a C-A-T or something).

    How you train your dog depends on you. Bear is a breed who cannot go off leash ever. This kind of messes with her instincts (which are also why she can’t go off leash). She wants to track, guard, protect and what that means on a walk is if she smells something she must find it or I am in danger. Dogs like Bear wander the hills with their sheep all on their own for days. Bear doesn’t have that possibility so we compromise. Most of her leash walks are random wandering around places where she can smell and track to her heart’s content — but she wears a Halti. Today we covered a couple of miles on one tiny part of the golf course where roam raccoons, badgers, elk, deer, feral cats and other dogs. She needs this and a mile is a mile.

  2. Spend LOTS of time training your dog but keep training sessions short. From your dog’s perspective, basic obedience is GREAT. It’s FUN. You’re there with the dog, it has your undivided attention, it’s making you happy (it wants to!) and it knows this because you’re giving it pats and treats. Training sessions should start with puppies and continue for the dog’s whole life. From the dog’s perspective, it’s not training, it’s sharing a special moment with you. It reinforces the bond between you and teaches your dog what makes you happy.

    It’s important that a dog (even a Siberian husky anarchist from hell) learn sit, down, stay, stop, wait, come.Treats are a dog’s language for “good dog” but so are pats and toys. You can teach your dog to accept all of those as rewards just by switching them around and not being predictable.

    Bear loves to heel at the end of a long ramble of smells and snow. She will position herself under my left hand and walk close enough to me that I can pet her as we go along. It’s all she wants and it makes both of us happy. Her behavior has reminded me how MUCH our dogs want to be near us.

    Bear went to puppy school and we learned the routine for performing at a dog show. She LOVES it. I practiced with her at the local high school parking lot and still, three years later, if I turn into that parking lot on one of our walks, Bear immediately shifts into her obedience routine. We usually do it two or three times a week. Obedience is not fascism.
  3. Don’t be afraid of electronic training devices that “hurt” your dog HOWEVER you should try to avoid hitting your dog. Cheyennie T. Wolf was incorrigible, having spent the first years of her life in a back yard ignored. My trainer had to resort to an electric collar to get Cheyennie to stop counter surfing, pay attention on a leash, and not run away. Within two hours of the collar, Cheyennie didn’t need the collar any more. The point of this kind of training aid is that it’s temporary. After that, whenever Cheyennie wore her training collar (I put it on her without ever turning it on) she got incredibly happy because she knew she was going to get undivided attention and treats and she was going to do things right.

    Hitting your dog is a bad idea, but sometimes it happens. Hitting a dog with a newspaper or something soft or occasionally because you’ve had it and can’t take any more, well, it happens, but your dog doesn’t know why it’s happening. Punishing a dog after the misbehavior is meaningless because a dog doesn’t have the same concept of time humans have. You want corrections to coincide with misbehavior.

    This is a “sentence” translated from dog immediately after a dog is corrected for doing something wrong RIGHT THEN — “If, I, the Dog do this, this bad thing happens.” Dogs do understand cause and effect at that level very well. If you’re very very very angry with your dog, go take a walk yourself until you calm down.

    Crates should never be used for correction or punishment. If you put your dog in its crate because you need a break (totally cool), make sure the dog thinks it’s being good by going into the crate.
  4. Two dogs are easier than one. Dogs are pack animals and they need company.
  5. Housebreaking is not difficult. It’s more difficult for some breeds than others, but I’ve usually been able to housebreak a dog in a day just by consistently taking it outside several times. I’ve taught most of my dogs to pee on command. Pooping is really up to them, though. If you have a multiple dog household, they will teach each other where to go and they will often go as a pack. When I had five dogs, it was hilarious to take them out on a rainy night to pee. They would form a circle, each dog facing outward, and pee in unison. (Truffle, Molly, Kelly, Lupo and Ariel)
  6. Crate training is good. Using a crate is not putting your dog in prison. It’s giving them a den of their own in which they feel safe. Crates are also VERY useful for housebreaking because most dogs (past the early puppy stage where anything can happen) will not poop or pee in their den.
  7. Get your dog from a shelter or foster. The ONLY bad experience I had with a dog I owned was with a yellow lab I bought at pet store. Daisy — known as Big Puppy — was overbred. When she was two years old, she killed Cheyennie T. Wolf who had, until that horrible nightmarish moment, had been Big Puppy’s mother. Big Puppy knocked out Cheyennie’s canine teeth and then ripped open her neck. The emergency vet wasn’t able to save my husky. A week or so later, Big Puppy went for Lily T. Wolf in the same way.

    One of the saddest days in my life was the day I had to take my beautiful dog to the vet to be put to sleep because she was a murderous bitch, literally. The vet and I both cried as we killed that beautiful young murderous creature, then the vet asked where I got my dog. I told him and he said, “I see it a lot in purebred dogs. Her father could have been her brother and her mother could have been her sister. We never know. I wish they’d shut down pet stores. It’s the only way to stop puppy mills.” He was ferocious, passionate on this point. As it happens, the pet store where I got Big Puppy was shut down the next year.
  8. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to train a dog. It mostly takes patience, consistency, frequency and a sense of humor. It helps a lot if you’re willing to develop a friendship with your dog, get to know it and don’t feel you need to dominate it into cowering submission. Dogs and humans have worked together for eons in a very successful trans-species partnership. Your dog knows this as well as you do.

First Snow — Report


Knowing perfectly well that March or April could arrive and I could, by then, be thoroughly sick of this stuff (doubtful but possible) here are some photos of our first snow of the winter. Last year we had ONE good snow storm on October 9 and that was it. Drought, no snow pack in the mountains, bad news for both of the “industries” in my valley — farming and tourism.

This year the local ski area, Wolf Creek, was the first in Colorado to open on weekends — two weeks ago with a foot of snow. Since then they’ve had (now) two more storms so it has to be pretty decent up there.

As for my big white dog and I? I was so excited at the prospect of snow I could hardly sleep. Lucky for Bear, she had no idea — or every idea through her nose that it was happening. It was wonderful to wake up to the miracle of a world transformed and quieted by snow.



Not a lot of danger on the golf course today…but something smells good.


We were out by 8:00 to catch the snow before the day warmed up, and the snow stopped falling.

I love the feeling of cold air on my face and the vision of trees covered in hoarfrost and snow. I knew it would fade fast, and I didn’t want to miss it.


Some of the trees still have leaves. I guess they just aren’t ready to move on. Snow on still golden branches of aspen trees is very lovely.



Snow on Narrow-leafed Cottonwood


After about an hour, we came home and shoveled the sidewalk. The snow was like concrete at that point as the temperature had reached 32 (0 C). I shoveled my walk and my nextdoor neighbor’s because they’re out of town. There was no real need. I knew it was going to melt before night, but I like to shovel. My neighbor came across the street and helped me finish up and we visited for a while.

Bear and I just got back from the second walk. She checked her messages and then we went back to the golf course to see if we could find any tracks. Elk, I think, much to Bear’s delight, and pee on the side of a cottonwood.

There’s a lot of drama in my world during the hours from dusk to daylight, but I don’t interfere with it. I like seeing animls, but I think, even more, I like it when animals are free from me looking at them. I love the accidental meetings, though, during what I call “human” hours. We’re both surprised at the sight of each other. No sightings today.

My dog is tired, I’m tired, but we’re both very, very happy. We’ve waited a long time for this and it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to walk through the deep snow without even thinking about it. I’m looking forward to the coming months and maybe the chance to Cross-country Ski.

Halloween Snow

There were a lot of years when I was a kid when it snowed on Halloween. It’s kind of a tradition. Bear’s happy. I’m happy. I’m about to put on my boots and take Bear for a ramble and then come home and shovel walks. I know there’s a chance (slight) that by March I’ll be sick of snow, but right now, I’m very happy. The world is costumed in moisture and white silence. The happy snowplow came by (comforting sound and sight) and all is right with the world.

Take Two — Empowered Dogs


I had kind of a bad day yesterday. It involved a stupid man on the golf course not knowing how to act around a woman with two large dogs, one of whom is barking his head off. Ultimately, the man walked about 4 feet in front of me (for no reason as it’s a GOLF COURSE which means acres of empty space). I felt he was baiting my dogs, but maybe he was just stupid. I got pulled down. The guy passed and said, “Hi.” He was a guy from my generation and I have to say that my experience with these guys has not been mostly positive. Sorry. I was finally able to get up, but I’d landed on my shoulder and it hurt. I continued on, grumbling, “Were you born an asshole or have you practiced your whole life?” Grumble, grumble. He wasn’t even actually PLAYING golf. He was going from hole to hole, getting his ball in the hole, pulling it out and going to the next one. Reliving his disco days, I guess…

We got to our alley and there was a Dachshund. Well, I couldn’t go down there. I turned to go down the street and saw a kid calling his dog. “Are you looking for your dog?” I asked while Dusty barked like a fiend. He was pretty wound up. “He’s in the alley.” I told the kid who headed across a yard into the alley. His little brother showed up, also calling the dog. I told him to head the dog off at the pass, so to speak. Just then, the dog darted out from between two houses, into the street, caught sight of Dusty and Bear, and in true Dachshund fashion, bared his teeth, put fire in his eyes and charged us. The picture is ridiculous — a 8 inch dog charging two dogs that stand more than 24 inches tall — but it wasn’t funny. I wasn’t going to be pulled down again, and certainly not on a hard surface.

I let my dogs go.

I learned what Bear will do when she’s charged. She will chase the enemy down, throw it on the ground and wrap her mouth around its neck all quite calmly. Dusty will warn the enemy; Bear will kill the enemy. The dachshund might as well have been a bear. Dusty, however, came when I called him and that got Bear’s attention long enough for the owner to get the dog in the house. She and the kids were all apologies. “He’s not a very nice dog,” said the owner.

She explained that the dog had leapt out of the car when she got home from picking the kids up from school. Bear saw a cat and thought that might be fun. I yelled at a kid to grab Bear’s leash. No one was hurt.

Well, I was hurt.

I hobbled home, proud of Dusty and amazed by Bear who is normally the paragon of gentleness. I’m very glad she’s my dog. I thought, “People should leash their dogs, even when they just take them to pick up their kids,” but I’m a leash fanatic. Quietly. The leash empowers people to control the forces of nature that lurk within the canine mind.

Today I took Bear on a ramble back out to the golf course and beyond. We’ve just had a storm and the mountains are white, and the sky is wild. Our walk was peaceful and beautiful, and best of all (maybe) is that I am now empowered to walk a lot faster without even knowing it. What felt like a slow, Bear walk saunter was done at an average speed of 2.5 mph. I wonder what we could do if we tried?

Conversation with PBYT.Dog

“Yes, Bear.”
“When will it snow?”
“About the time you have my yard completely dug up, I think.”
“I meant to say no one knows.”
“Last year we’d already had a blizzard.”
“I know, but it was the only real snow we had. I think that sucks.”
“We went out in it.”
“Of course we did because we’re idiots like that.”
“I love snow.”
“I love it too, Bear. It will come, sooner or later, but we live between two mountain ranges. They catch most of the storms. It’s just how it is.”
“Why don’t we move?”


PBYT.Dog = Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

A Warm Puppy

This might be very hubristic, but here goes. I’m writing this down for myself (because I need reminding) and anyone else who’s struggling with some personal problems, the angst of our times, or the inscrutable pain of depression.

  1. Not every day is great. Most days are neither great nor lousy.
  2. Often the greatness of a day depends on a person’s outlook.
  3. Sometimes a good outlook is an act of will.
  4. If you go outside for thirty minutes and walk around, you’ll see something beautiful that will cheer you up.
  5. Change is constantly happening and often disorienting. I’m experiencing that now. Somewhere deep inside me, in a repository void of logic, I thought getting my hip fixed would transform my life. It only transformed me. Transforming my life is my business, not my surgeon’s.
  6. That serenity prayer from AA is actually pretty good. There’s a lot of stuff out there that can make us miserable but we can’t change it. We can change our perspective on it.
  7. Everyone is fucked up one way or another so compassion is important.
  8. Everyone is afraid others are judging them.
  9. Smiling at people can improve their day and yours. Where I live, an idle and obvious comment on the weather is a big part of communicating goodwill. We’re all equally subject to the vicissitudes of weather and here weather is often extreme. In CA, we commented on the traffic, Santa Anas or the surf. In China, after the Cultural Revolution, the most common greeting between friends was “Have you eaten?” because food was — and had been — scarce.
  10. Doing something for others — even a very small something like holding the door for a lady who’s taking two dogs and a big bag of dog food to the vet — can help us see where we truly are in the world.
  11. A good way to fight depression (yes, folks, I’ve suffered from it off and on since my teens) is to do one thing every day that materially improves one’s life whether it’s cleaning out the garden for winter or washing your clothes. It tells the psyche that it’s NOT impotent, but has the power to improve something.
  12. Bad stuff happens. If we survive it more-or-less intact, that means we get to plant another garden, pet another dog, make another friend, smile at another stranger, look at another snowy mountain range, take another hike, write or tell another story.
  13. We lose people we love all the time. Sometimes they die, sometimes they move away, sometimes we grow apart, sometimes we don’t like each other anymore. It’s just how it is. We might miss them forever, but the good part is that we knew them, they were part of our lives for a while, and we don’t forget them. It sounds like cold-comfort but it isn’t. There’s a Brazilian Portuguese word for this emotion, Saudade. It means missing someone and feeling sad but, at the same time, being happy that you know them.
  14. Loneliness is a choice. My mother died of loneliness. She thought all the time about how my dad had died and she was alone. This blinded her to the love of her daughter, her sisters, and her friends. Maybe nothing could make up for losing my dad, but with 20+ years left on her personal horizon, it wasn’t a very useful world view. The presence of another person cannot fix our lives. See number 3. 😉



1 Bear and me at Noah's Arff

Going to the boarding kennel to see my dogs a few days after my surgery