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.

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!


Bear has tonsillitis. She came home from the kennel with a cough and I feared kennel cough. Today she didn’t want to go for a walk just as yesterday she did not want to play fetch. Today we went to the vet.

Bear loves the vet and everyone at the vet loves her. Dr. Ratzlaff checked her over and said, “Her tonsils are swollen and red. It’s tonsillitis. I’m going to give her antibiotics.”

The way he handles my dogs impresses me so much. Bear was up on the examining table and he had one arm around her as she rested her head on his chest as he examined her. It was such a lovely scene that I decided to remember it. He and Dr. Crawford are truly the first vets I’ve ever known who clearly LOVE dogs.

After the exam, Bear and I went out to the waiting room where everyone there had to love her and Dr. Crawford came around the front desk to see her and pet her and apologize for calling her a boy dog. I don’t think Bear noticed or cared; she ate up all the attention.

For the next eight days, Bear will be taking antibiotics, and I’m hoping the infection clears up soon. She has not been the healthiest dog in my experience. Just the sweetest, most responsive, most aware. ❤ No, I’m NOT unbiased.


Spring Snow

Bear and I have been wishing for snow for MONTHS and finally we got a LOT of wet spring snow! This meteorological boon has returned to us our golf course and has given Bear her favorite toy (snow is Bear’s favorite toy). This morning when I took her and Dusty to the back yard she immediately DIVED into what was no more than 2 inches of snow (and several inches of dust and dirt). Dusty, who never played before Bear came to live with us, spent the morning wrestling with Bear in the snow. Then, I marshaled my will (because I still don’t feel great) and took them for a ramble on the paradisial snowy golf course. The wind was blowing; it was snowing pretty hard, the snow is very wet, and it was a good five inches deep (deeper now!)

When we got home Bear and Dusty were soaked. Bear had snow pom-poms on her feet and between layers of fur but we were happy. It’s snowed all day so there will be more snowy golf-course days ahead before the golfers can get back out there. And when they do? I think they might have green GREENS.

The way I see it, Bear’s fate isn’t ideal. She was bred to be a working dog in the big empty with a couple of hundred sheep. Events conspired to make her a stray puppy in a shelter in a tiny town and then the pet of a retired dog-loving lady in a small house. She never had a chance  to be introduced to a herd as a pup and go with her sweet, calm nature into her role as a livestock guardian. Dusty, Mindy and I are all the “herd” or “pack” she’s known and she loves us. And, for my part, I’m going to see Bear gets every chance to be a big dirty rambling white dog. When she’s dirty, wet and tired? It’s a happiness I understand. 🙂



Our Spring Snow ❤

The Object of Bear’s Desire

This was gone. I knew where it was, but I couldn’t reach it. I couldn’t tell anyone, so I forgot about it, pretty much. Now it’s back. What’s strange is that now there are two, I think there are two. One is outside and one is here. I would remember if I brought the outside one inside and vice versa.

She throws it and I chase it and bring it back. I like to capture this object and throw it in the air and then catch it and then put my teeth down hard on it so it squeaks like a distressed rat.



P.S. Martha here — when I play this video, all three dogs get tremendously interested and Bear “talks” to the computer with her head cocked. I don’t know what she thinks.

Dear Polar Bear T. Puppy

Daily Prompt Literate for a Day Someone or something you can’t communicate with through writing (a baby, a pet, an object) can understand every single word you write today, for one day only. What do you tell them?

The last thing I EVER thought I’d bring home from an animal shelter (outside of a Komodo dragon) was a giant white puppy. In fact, I knew little to nothing about the giant whites of the dog world. I was looking for a mature Siberian husky female after Lily died but there you were on the Facebook page of the local shelter. Yeah, yeah, I know you have blue eyes, and, yes, they look just like Lily’s but I think there was an Aussie in the woodpile, not a Siberian husky, waiting for your Great Pyrenees mom.

Bear at Shelter

I stake my claim… 🙂

I recognized you immediately. As with so many others over the years, your being screamed “I’m YOUR dog, Martha! Come and get me!” I was sure it was a completely crazy idea 1) to get a puppy (puppies are generally a POA) and 2) such a big dog, but when have I ever let sanity get in the way of love? Turned out, you were — have been — very easy to train. You’re smart and you want to get things right. You were house trained in four hours.


Bear the First Day

So, here you are. You’ve been my dog since August 1. That’s, what? Four months? What can I tell you in this message that you’re (miraculously) going to read that you don’t already know? You know I love you — that shows in pretty much every interaction we have. You’re such a gentle and mellow dog, with such a positive, responsive nature, that there have only been two occasions when I’ve had to “punish” you. Your response to that surprised me — you just go away. You let some time pass and come back and ask me — with your body language — if everything’s OK again.


Tired, happy, confident puppy sleeping

You try to get things right and you show me when you’ve figured it out. I love the way you showed me you’d finally learned (and would do) “Down, stay down.” At a certain point, it was up to you to learn that. I’d done all I could. I like independent dogs (and people) who can reason things through — it’s why I always liked having Siberian huskies — but you ALSO want to please me.

You are wonderful with people — people are (naturally) attracted to you because you are a big white dog with blue eyes and that’s pretty amazing (and amazingly pretty) but you have a special way, probably because your ancestors were guardians of the most skittery and stupid animals on the planet — no, Bear, not people, SHEEP. Luckily, you love people, too. You’ve even helped Dusty overcome his fear of human beings and he’s let people pet him who, a year ago, couldn’t have gotten near him. My favorite, though, is the way you are with my friend’s (equally gentle) developmentally disabled son who loves all animals but is especially enamored of you.


Bear jumped up on the couch with my friend’s son, wrapped her self around his back and asked for a cuddle.

You’re hilarious to watch with a cardboard box. I got you “Barkbox” so every month new toys and treats come to you (its a good deal, as it turns out) but the “new” toy you like best is the box it all comes in. You’ve even taught Dusty how to play and I love in the morning when I wake up and find you romping with Mindy.


Bear vs. Box

Your whole idea from the first day you came here was to fit in and make friends. You succeeded even though Dusty wasn’t very enthusiastic at first and I had my doubts. Mindy? She was just going to guard her corner of the sofa and her dish, but now she lets you sleep on the sofa. I think she would still draw the line at her dish.


Bear snuggles up to Dusty on her first day in our house. Dusty is ambivalent.

It seems silly to write you a bunch of words when you already know what I have to say. I hope I tell you all the time that you’re a great puppy and I’m so glad I let my heart trump my mind and brought you home with me.

Living in a Dog House

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Our House.” What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.

I wrote this back in March 2014.

It’s still the first house; it’s still the first memory. Meanwhile in this, presumably my LAST house, the floor is covered in dog pads (left over from Lily T. Wolf), not because the puppy, Mindy or Dusty is incontinent, but because I have an extremely loving and social outdoor kind of puppy with strong pack/herd instincts. If she has a really nice lilac branch it MUST come in to be pulverized. If she’s finished digging a nice hole, she has to bring in the muddy feet. If she has a card board box she’s recently shredded, it must come in so we can all appreciate it. Every wet, muddy and dilapidated toy.

My houses — since 1987 — have all been like this. In 1987, Truffle came to live with me — my first puppy — and that was the beginning of bi-species decorating.

Truffle and Molly in the Medicine Wheel 1992 or so.

Truffle and Molly in the Medicine Wheel 1992 or so.

I’ve never had a small dog, either. I see the convenience in a small dog — my neighbors across the street have a little Pomeranian. Their four foot fence is, from his perspective, a 12 foot fence. My mom’s poodles — one a toy and the other a miniature — were every bit the dog my big dogs are. Long ago I read that, generally speaking, larger breeds are more mellow and less neurotic and hyper than are small breeds. Over all, my experience has borne that out, and this giant puppy I have now is the mellowest of all.

Back in the early 90s? Late 80s? The book Women Who Run with the Wolves came out and my colleagues (women, mostly) were enthralled with the book’s message which was (here’s the blurb):

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Dr. Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, and stories, many from her own family, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine. Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul..

Every time I heard a group discussing this book, or someone brought it up to me, I had to laugh. Daily, in that era, I loaded my six big dogs into the back of my Ford Ranger and went to the hills to run. My wolves and me. It was not some attempt to get back to my atavistic roots (though some of my friends and colleagues who’d read this book thought it was). It was our joy. We were free in the open air. Sharing my house and life with big dogs has shown me — often — how strange people are, how second-hand our lives can be.

Pupdate… 10/3/2015

Bear is now 6  months old and she weighs about 50 pounds and is nearly as large as Dusty. She’s a lanky, clumsy, goofy, sweet and somewhat capricious though generally calm and gentle dog. She’s also incredibly beautiful. Everyone who meets her is enchanted because she’s obviously a puppy, though she’s so big, and she has soft white fur and beautiful blue eyes. I’m happy that’s the case because I want her to like people. Her breed is generally a guarding breed and I’m hoping Bear learns the difference between a menace and just ordinary life. She seems to be getting it. She especially loves children.

She’s like most other 6 month old puppies, but she’s twice as big as an average medium sized full-grown dog. Some of my friends argue that she won’t grow much larger, she’ll just fill out. For my part, I don’t know. I think she’s going to be a giant dog. I’ve raised many large breed puppies and they were never this big at 6 months.

So she’s a teenager and she acts like one. One minute she’s Miss Independent “You can’t tell me what to do!” and the next she’s “Look how good I’m doing this thing you asked me to and now I’m going to walk at heel just because I know you like it.” The other morning, having noticed I hadn’t completely closed the guest room door and being upset that Mindy was in my room, she went onto the guest bed and made a nest with muddy feet. She knew she’d been bad and she knew I knew she’d done it on purpose. It wasn’t our best day…

A friend of mine showed up this afternoon and hung out for a while — a new thing for Bear — and since then Bear’s been as close to a lap puppy as she’s physically capable of being. Here she is sleeping on my shoulder… That never happened before.

Bear sleeping on my shoulder

I’m so glad I got her. She’s just a great dog. And a GREAT dog!

Pupdate — Bear the Akbash “Little Big Dog”

A couple of weeks ago I took Bear down to the co-op store to meet a friend who’s lived here a long time (came from here). Bear has nice manners and my friend likes dogs. She looked at Bear and said, “I don’t think she’s a Great Pyrenees at all. I think she’s an Akbash.”

I’d never heard of this “Akbash” of which she spoke.

“A lot of ranchers use them to guard their sheep out here.”

“A lot?” I wondered. That couldn’t be many. There are 40k people in the San Luis Valley and 10k live in Alamosa and 4k live here and 2k in Del Norte and there are other towns, though not as big. And not all the people living on the land are ranchers; most are farmers. Still, there are a lot of dog breeds out here that I have almost never seen in my life, though the most common is the Australian cattledog.

“Yeah, here, look.” She’d found Akbash on her phone and they looked a lot more like Bear than Bear looks like a Great Pyrenees. They are longer, taller and leaner than Pyrs; often have spots on their ears and different places on their body and they can have blue eyes. Their fur is not as thick and fluffy as a Pyr, more often it is silky and not as long.


She’s doing great, still. She’s the star of obedience training, and she’s the youngest “student.” She likes doing what I ask her to (she likes me) and we’ve been practicing this stuff since she came. I’m also around her most of the time, and I realize how much a difference that makes in training a puppy. She’s very responsive and very affectionate. She sits and is getting to “sit stay.” She does “down” and is learning “down stay.” She heels more or less well if Dusty walks with us, otherwise, she gets too captivated by the “news” all along the way. I’m now working with her on respecting my space and accepting “intrusive” touches like me checking her teeth, rolling her around and messing with her feet. I can just imagine her as a 100 pound dog who doesn’t let the vet touch her — a nightmare! She’s getting it. She no longer gets emotionally devastated if I say, “Bad dog!” so I can see she’s more secure. Dusty and she have had a few mild spats but it’s Dusty telling her what’s up and not to come up on him from behind. Dusty does not know how to play, and that’s been hard on Bear to understand. She loves all people she meets and doesn’t jump on them. She especially loves little kids who are generally fascinated by her. She weighs 45 pounds and is as tall as a full grown Aussie. (Mindy, to be precise.)

I’m so glad I got her. She’s a wonderful “little big dog.” Given her nature and the nature of the breed, I’m also glad I’ve had several snow dogs over the years and am used to dealing with an independent dog who believes she has a job to do.

Here’s a photo of a full grown Akbash. I took it from — this dog is a male and his name is…Bear. Oh well!


Here’s an Akbash at work. Not a bad job, standing around in a field under the open sky!


If you’re interested in the breed, here’s good information.