Red and White Blues

The best discovery I’ve made in a long time is an Apple program that makes it a lot easier for me to make Kindle books. I have found that process tedious and boring, never mind not knowing if they work or not other than the various simulated eReaders offered me by Amazon’s publishing platform.

I’ve long had the theory that no one WANTS me to do that particular formatting task myself because people want me to HIRE them to do that for me. I’d love to, but I haven’t discovered buried treasure, well, there were three antique burlap potato sacks in my crawl space that were pretty cool. The name of the program is iBooks Author and maybe it’s been around for a while and I just didn’t know it.

Anyway, I’m now putting the trilogy of Savior, The Brothers Path and The Price together in one Kindle book. I can’t see putting them together in a paperback unless there is a market for door stops that I haven’t heard of.

Meanwhile, here we are at the 4th of July. Other than the random firecrackers being blown up in town, scaring Bear (and though through it all she feels she must protect me) I think it best to draw a veil of silence over the whole thing. I have a lot of opinions, substantial anger and even more substantial sorrow over the state of things in “my” country.

I’m telling my dog — and myself — it’s just one day and soon (maybe next Monday?) our wildlife area will be open to the public (and the black Angus herd that’s there now). Hopefully the shady trail by the river isn’t underwater, but I think it probably is. I can’t wait to see how things are going out there.

If you live in the US, have a safe 4th of July.

Teddy Bear Day Three

It looks like Teddy will be staying and I’m very happy about it. This morning I got up and put them all outside, shut the back door and went to bed. When I got up for “reals,” it was clear they’d all be playing hard. I was very happy. I got Teddy as a playmate for Bear. At first Bear’s nose was out of joint and she sulked in the back yard

I got to see them play this afternoon — it’s pretty funny to watch a giant breed livestock guardian dog play with a small mini-Aussie puppy. First they chase each other, then they wrestle. Teddy needs to be neutered, and it’s obvious in his play strategy which starts with him humping Bear, Bear walking away and laughing in his face. There’s no way he can dominate her.

I think dog play is good for dogs. It develops good manners in puppies, entertains them and makes them tired. I’ve felt bad that Bear has had no playmate since she moved here. Dusty also appears to want to play, but he’s bad at it. I also noticed he is protective of the puppy which astonishes and pleases me.

They get very dirty in the yard they’ve customized which is OK. It’s a chance for me to teach Teddy to like getting his face washed.

This afternoon, we took our third walk and practiced “stop/sit” commands again. Teddy met the kids at the end of the block, and that was great. We haven’t seen them in a while so Bear and I were also happy to find them outside. They loved Teddy but in their eyes NOTHING compares to Bear.

Teddy is younger than I first thought which is fine. Someone already did the hard work of housebreaking a male dog (thank you unknown person) and I just have to teach him good manners in the house and with people. He has Australian shepherd nature which means he’s loyal to his person. I went out to get the mail and found he’d climbed up on one thing that would allow him to look outside to watch what I was doing — the coffee table. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t be angry. I just have to teach him that’s not OK and an easy way to do that is to put barriers there.

I’d say so far we’re happy he’s here. Bear has her hiding place from him, his from her and Dusty has the potential to be VERY assertive (which I want to avoid), but so far it’s just been a very clear, “No!” when Teddy trespasses Dusty’s space.

Bear and I Attend Winter’s Goodbye Party

“See, Human? It’s not over.”

“Bear, don’t be fooled. It’s just a spring snow.”

“But it’s been falling all day!”

“It will be gone tomorrow.”

My dog is suddenly on high alert, looking ahead at something that moved on the snow-covered dirt road. I look.

It’s a robin. I think the scene is a perfect metaphor for this moment of the year when winter drags its feet on the way out.

“That’s what I mean, Bear. It’s spring.”

“THAT’S spring?”

“No, that’s a robin, but there are more of them, see?”

“I can catch them all.”

“It won’t help. There are millions of them all over the place. I think one is even building a nest at our house.”

“OUR house?”

“Every year, Bear.”

When we return to the golf course after our long ramble in the fields, the groundskeeper/superintendent has just arrived. He hops out of his truck.

“I see you found your dog.” When Bear ran away, I alerted him.

“Yeah. Thank goodness.”

“Does she run away a lot?”

“No. That was the first time.” In fact, Bear has gotten loose a couple of other times, but she never ran away. She ran TOWARD. It’s very different.

We talk for a bit, he relates a saga of a woman who came that morning, let her dogs out of her truck, how they pooped right by Mark’s workshop and then the woman and the dogs went on a walk around the golf course.

“I put a note on her windshield,” he said. “I was nice, but I asked her to clean up after her dogs. She did.”

“I think we need more trash cans.” There are none.

Mark threw his cigarette on the snowy parking lot and smashed it with his foot. “Maybe. I’m not worried about you. You and your dogs are all right with me.”

Maybe because I take time to talk to him? Maybe because I’m truly sympathetic to his situation? Maybe because my dogs are leashed so I know if and where they poop? Maybe because, for me, the golf course is a way out to the fields and dirt roads, not my real destination? I thought about that and I think it’s the first. His job is pretty lonely and most of what he hears are complaints. Or maybe because my dogs and I are just all right with him.

Winter’s goodbye party ended with a nice gift for Dusty, Bear and me. We get to “keep” “our” golf course.


Meanwhile, I’ve deleted more than a thousand posts from this overgrown blog. I’ve reposted several and found a few good short stories. I’m clearly not writing stuff equal to the stuff I was writing a couple of years ago which is mildly discouraging. Maybe I’m done or maybe I’m done for now, I don’t know. Time will tell. OH should you decide to do the same with your blog, I found the easiest way is to go into WP Admin and use the old blog list and old “Classic” editor both for eliminating posts and images which is a separate chore.

Interviewing Bear as a Puppy

“What’s your full name?”
“Polar Bear T. Dog, but I just go by ‘Bear’.”
“Are you a bear?”
“No. I’m a puppy. I’m a big white puppy. That what she says I am. She says, ‘You big white dog, you’. The vet, too. He says I’m just a ‘big ol’ white dog’.”
“How old are you, Bear?”
“Seven months and change.”
“And you’re already THAT big? You’re as big as your older brother, Dusty T. Dog!!!”
“‘I’m quite as big for me as you are big for you‘.”
“How do you like living with your – mom? Is that your mom?”
“Adopted mom, I guess. We call her our human. I like it a LOT. I LOVE my big brother, Dusty T. Dog and my sister, Mindy T. Dog. Our human is nice to me and loves me and takes me for walks and gives me food. We even took a long trip to Colorado Springs and I got to visit my cousins, Shoe, Coda and Satchmo and we went on two hikes! She even teaches me things. I love learning things. I’m pretty smart. Our human says I’m VERY smart. But I just want to stay here so I try to make sure that everything goes OK.”
“Where were you before?”
“I was in a big pen. There were a lot of other dogs around. They had their own pens. I was only there a little while. Before that I was just wandering around trying to find a place to live.”
“When was that?”
“Three human months ago. I know this because my human told me. I was a young puppy when she found me.”
“Where did she find you?”
“On that stupid Facebook thing she looks at when she could be playing with ME. I knew when I saw her the first time that I wanted to live with her.”
“How did you know?”
“She came out to meet me. She stood a few feet from my pen and I started to run to the side near where she was standing and I was going to jump up, but something about her told me ‘No. Sit.’ So I sat and looked at her. Then the nice girl who takes care of the dogs in that place let my human come in my pen. At first I was shy, but when my human started to leave, I was afraid she wasn’t going to take me with her after all.”
“What did you do?”
“I was just a puppy and I lost control. I jumped up on her back.”
“What did she do?”
“She turned around. She put her hands on both sides of my head. She told me it would be OK. Then she kissed me and held me close to her. She came back a few days later and brought me here to meet Dusty T. Dog and Mindy T. Dog.”
“Then what happened?”
“She took me back to the place. Now I know she wasn’t ready for me yet. A couple of days later, she came and got me for reals.”
“So you’re happy now?”
“Oh yes, and I have work to do every day.”
“I help my human break down cardboard boxes so she can put them in the trash. I have other jobs, too.”
“Like what?”
“I have to guard our stock against large predators such as bears and mountain lions.”
“How’s that going?”
“Pretty well. So far, they’ve all stayed away.”


Snow Angel(s)

“It’ll be a long time, won’t it.”

“It could snow again this year, Bear, but it’s not likely.”

“Who took it?”

“See that thing over there? That bright thing?”


“That’s the thief. He stole the snow and he bullied winter out of the way.”

“Where did winter go?”


“I have no idea what that is.”

“I know, Bear.”

“I’m really thirsty, Human.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t bring us water. I had no idea it was going to be so hot.” The human, worried about her dog, was already resolved to find water somewhere between here and home. When they saw a patch of snow hiding in the shade of some willow trees, they both headed straight to it. Bear looked at it, and at her human. “It’s OK, Bear. It’s for you.” The human took some steps toward it, but didn’t want to stand in it. There was barely enough for her dog. Bear always wanted to share. The human hoped she was close enough that Bear would feel they were sharing the winter’s white gift. The big white dog put her nose down and took bite after bite of God’s sno-cone before lying down and rolling in it.

At home, the human, feeling sticky and melancholy, took a shower and, for the first time in months, put on a cotton shirt instead of a wool one.

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.




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?”


“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.


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.

The Outer Frail

Lily was fifteen years old when she came to Colorado from Southern California in mid-September, 2014, in a Dodge minivan with her person — the captain — and her two sidekicks, Dusty and Mindy. It was a journey fraught with dangers — like the time when, all by herself, she got out of the mini-van at the rest-stop on the Planet Mars (El Centro). Fortunately the captain of the minivan saw her and jumped out to rescue her from the two friendly but bewildered Martians who were looking at her in puzzlement; “How did a Siberian husky arrive on Mars, alone?”


Lily on Mars (El Centro rest stop), this time with life support

Lily was blind and nearly deaf. Her hips were tired from a lifetime of hikes and hunts. But when she got to Colorado, she found her power-place. Outside the small cabin in South Fork, Lily’s first Colorado home, there was a field with a trail beside the river. Never in her life had Lily experienced such wonderful smells or the coolness of the evening breeze. She woke up the minivan captain every morning at first light to go out and hunt. Some nights Lily smelled bear and coyote on the wind as she licked it with her tongue.


Lily of the Field

After a while, the captain packed everything and they went to their house in a small town. The yard was covered with soft green grass, which felt so much better to Lily than had the hot dirt and foxtails at their old place in California.

Lily spent as much time as she could outside, especially at night, because it was cold and clear. If she’d been able to see, and had the inclination to look up (but being a Siberian husky it wasn’t very likely) she would have seen more stars than she’d seen in her whole life. She liked being part of a pack and Dusty and Mindy were good and loyal pack mates. Then she met another dog named Shoe when the captain’s friend, L, came to visit. Shoe instantly recognized Lily’s advanced age, her frailness and her heroic nature. Lily and Shoe exchanged stories, and they were friends from then on.

Lily Shoe and Mindy


At Christmas time, Lily went to visit the pack in Colorado Springs and had a very happy Christmas with treats, turkey, giblets, a dog door, cool evenings and lots of love. Though there were young dogs in the pack, they recognized Lily’s advanced age — now 16 — her wisdom, humor and frailty and they were considerate and playful at the same time. Lily was happy. One of them, Satchmo, the youngest of all, kept an eye on Lily at all times and one night when Lily got herself stuck under a patio chair (she was blind, remember) Satchmo sent up an alarm and the captain went out and freed Lily. (In the photo below, he is lying with his back against Lily)

Christmas with the pack

Christmas Morning, 2014

Life was uneventful for a month or two until, in February, there was the first real snow of the year. Lily was in Siberian husky Heaven and spent hours walking back and forth in the snow in the yard.


Pulling the Dogsled of Dreams

Then, in March, Lily began having nightmares and she woke up every night screaming and crying. The captain couldn’t comfort her and neither could Dusty who stayed with her all the time. After a while, it was clear to the captain that Lily’s mind and spirit had become frail and that Lily was suffering. They got into the car and this time the captain came home alone. Dusty and Mindy read the story in the scent on the captain’s clothes.

Dusty missed Lily very, very much and so did the captain, but there was no way to bring her back. After a while, the captain began looking for a new dog, a young dog, to keep Dusty company. She found one at the local shelter who looked at her with Lily’s blue eyes. The dog had been born around the same time as Lily died, so the captain thought, “That’s my dog,” and she was right.

Jaded — but Better

It finally snowed. Well not so “finally” as it is only the end of November and there’s no law saying it MUST snow on Halloween, but… Four inches followed by wind that lifted and drifted the snow. I expected Bear to greet this with vigor and joy but she seemed nonplussed. I guess she’s a fully grown dog, now. I took her on a walk alone, without Dusty T. Dog, and I expected great rolling around in the snow, great scooping up snow with the snout. She liked it, but she wasn’t enamored of it as she was as an 8 month old puppy.

Which has given me paws. Is it really that we lose enthusiasm as we get older?

Bear hasn’t suffered any disappointments that I know of to make her look at life with a jaded perspective. It’s not weltschmerz. She still shreds a box with as much joy as ever. Her new toys are decimated in minutes AND she’s figured out a new strategy that yields both cookies AND gets Mindy off the sofa. But snow!?

But I have to admit that I’m also suffering an absence of enthusiasm in general, and I think our “moods” are contagious to our dogs. She may have felt that I was just there, trudging around in the cold without any real desire for said trudging. Not that my trudge lacked vigor, but I was not as excited about snow as I have been wont to be.

My favorite months of the year are the coldest — the ones after the holidays. January, February even March (because the cranes arrive). The holiday sign is up over my street (1/2 block to the west to greet people as they arrive from Del Norte, Pagosa, Durango). Signs of Christmas are everywhere and have been for several weeks. Sometimes I feel that we are pressured into joy and that joy now translates as buying things. When I think about the recent presidential election — as, of course, I do — I think that many of the problems those two strident candidates went on about could be solved by people just not buying so much stuff. If Chinese stuff (Vietnamese stuff, Indian stuff, etc.) is so much cheaper to produce than American stuff why not produce everything in America and be happy with fewer choices and higher quality? I got a catalog (one of innumerable catalogs I get in spite of having signed up on the “don’t send me catalogs” list). Everything in it is beautiful (in a way) but who NEEDS a blown glass pumpkin that costs $100 (full price, on sale for $50)?

I think, for Americans (maybe everyone?) buying is like a drug and a way to feel we have control over our world. Ironically, it actually makes things worse by increasing peoples’ debt and dependence on out-sourced labor. I dunno. I guess, ultimately, I feel that everything comes down to each individual doorstep in one way or another.

Eh, everyone knows this. I guess I just woke up on the curmudgeonly side of the bed this morning.


Dusty and Bear and I took a long walk in the cold and the snow and Bear realized it was snow and was suddenly ecstatic! She tried to get Dusty in on the game, but he wasn’t having it. 🙂 The mountains are amazing. There are clouds and behind the clouds, above the mountains the sun was shining making a very dramatic view of the Sangre de Cristos.

Nothing like dogs, snow and beauty to perk up a curmudgeon.

Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog, My Giant

Bear is a giant breed dog. She’s an Akbash, similar to a Great Pyrenees, but more slender, less massive. When I adopted her I wondered what in the world I was going to do with such a creature as a pet, a house dog. I wondered how I’d train her. I wondered a lot of things.

I didn’t know HER, that she had a giant heart and brain to match her size. From the very first day I saw she was a different kind of dog. She was calmer, more attentive and responsive. She thoughtfully (at four months) evaluated her new pack and determined her place within it. As time went by, she learned to walk on a leash, sit, down, wait, stop, stay. She even taught my scaredy-cat neurotic boy dog, Dusty, to play and they play for hours in the back yard.


Dusty smiling!!!!

When she and I walk alone together, without Dusty, she wanders contentedly on the end of a six-foot leash and obeys commands from that distance as if she were held at heel. She loves everyone, especially little kids. She doesn’t jump on people, but sits and lies down when she meets them on the street. In my house, she jumps up on her chair so she’s at eye level with humans and puts out her paw to shake.

Yesterday I learned of a new litter of puppies — half golden retriever and half Great Pyrenees. I am NOT going to look at them… I don’t think my house is big enough for two giants!

Big White Puppy

When I brought this giant breed dog into my house last August 1, I had a lot of apprehension about it. I mean a puppy is a PUPPY, right? I expected all kinds of damage and training “challenges.” I read up on them and learned that if a family wants a puppy to play, tug, fetch and tag with, a Great Pyr (which is what I believed she was) was not the pup for them. What? An un-playful puppy? Bear destroyed a few socks and dishtowels. Had two accidents inside (she was sick). That was it. From day one, Bear has been the easiest dog I have ever lived with. Lucky because she’s now mid-thigh height on me.

It’s not that she doesn’t play, but truly not like other dog breeds. She plays fetch to a limited degree (she’s letting ME play fetch, I think) in fact she just brought me her Liberty Ball. She loves to shred cardboard boxes. She plays with my friend Lois’ dogs some, but she’s so much larger than they are that when she gives them a gentle body slam, they go under her legs.

Most dog toys aren’t large enough for her, anyway, and she decimates them in minutes — if she notices them. I subscribed to Barkbox for the treats and toys (a good deal, by the way, $19 for about $40 worth of treats and $25 worth of toys and part of the money goes to help shelter dogs) and the best part of that, for Bear, is the box itself. Last month I ordered a new Liberty Ball and she got to destroy the box it was in to get it out. Wow. That had to be her best day EVER.

Bear has taught Dusty to play. Dusty is a truly SERIOUS dog for whom everything in the world has terrible consequences. Dusty is Bear’s size, more or less, and when she body-slams him, he stands his ground, often looks puzzled and frequently plays. Bear has been a “therapy dog” for an extremely neurotic canine.

She loves to go for walks. Her passions are snow (in which she plays) and the scents she finds out in a field or on a trail. She is gentle and aware of her surroundings, as a livestock guardian dog should be. I’m sure if Bear were around when mama sheep was giving birth, mama sheep would let Bear clean the newborn lamb.

This type of livestock guardian dog was also described as “serious” and that got me thinking. Plenty of playful people are deadly serious people (including me). Playful is NOT the opposite of serious. And, having seen a few livestock guardian dogs at “work” I don’t think they’re working at all, not from their point of view. I think they’re having the time of their lives. I think in their minds there’s nothing BETTER than wandering around the hills watching and protecting a herd of very silly animals even if it means taking on a cougar. I (personally) think sheep and goats are funny, and I have learned how very intelligent Bear is. I think it’s entirely possible those big white dogs are out there cracking up inside at the idiotic antics of the creatures they’re “guarding.” Maybe life is a continual Far Side cartoon for the livestock guardian dog.

As it tends to be for me…

I’m a playful person, and that has caused me problems with other people over the years in that the more serious the situation, the more goofy I become. It doesn’t mean I’m not coping with the situation (I’m very effective in a crisis), it just means that somewhere inside me is a mechanism that believes “getting all serious” never helped anyone through anything. Unless it’s a grizzly attacking my goats. That would be serious.