Quotidian Update 305.a.iii

Well, here I am almost 2 hours earlier than normal because there was a draconian thunderstorm at 5:30 am. Thunderstorms are hard on Bear because she is afraid of thunder AND she feels she has to protect me. For Bear, that’s Gordian knot. I was fine until the power went off. If you’ve lived through a California wildfire, you might also be traumatized when the power goes off. To me it means, “Things are majorly fucked and you’d better get out.” Then there’s added terror of “what if I can’t make coffee?” When the power comes on, it’s “Thank you Whomever,” and the added gratitude for first world problems like scared dogs and no coffee.

Yesterday Teddy and I took off for the river, a shady trail I like in summer, but can only walk from July 15 to March 1. Last time I was there it was February. It’s in a wildlife area and, this year, Colorado is requiring a hunting or fishing license for people who use these areas just for walking. I bought my fishing license a while back. The Rio Grande is very low. I saw a gold finch catching bugs above the river and a hawk took flight in front of me. Otherwise, it was a path between immense cottonwoods and the tired undergrowth of the end of summer. I told Teddy I like the Refuge better. I like being able to SEE. That might be part of why I like winter when the trees are bare.

In other news, a few months ago I bought a book for the kids, a book of “general knowledge.” It’s really cool with beautiful pictures and little flaps you lift to learn more. Around 5 o’clock I took it to their house because school starts tomorrow, and I wanted to make a big deal out of it.

They loved it. C helped me walk Bear to the end of the fence and Bear and I finished our walk. On the way back, the kids were waiting. We all went into the alley so M could keep working on her “courage” merit badge. There’s not really a badge, but one of the statements in the book Bear and Teddy — wrote for her is, “Smart people are brave. They get to pet and hug us.” She was a little scared as always, but Bear sat calmly and before long, all was well.

Their world is really small right now so even the alley behind their house is a kind of adventure. C has all kinds of questions about the house behind theirs — the blue house I came to Monte Vista to see so long ago. Then he noticed something unusual in the alley. “What is that?”

“Pottery, I think,” I said.

He got a stick and pried it out “like a jack,” he said using the stick as a lever. He got the two pieces of pottery loose. They were glazed dark brown and had two circles and some lines on them. I believe they are ancient (meaning maybe 60 years old) sewer pipes but I didn’t say that. I showed him how they fit together and he was amazed. He wanted to know how it was made, so I explained it.

“Maybe there used to be a pottery place here.”

“Could be. This is a pretty old place.”

“I’m going to take some of that clay you gave us and press it on this and maybe I can find out what the letters are.” He’s 7.

“Perfect,” I said. “Let me know what you find out.

“If mom would let us, we could walk Bear all the way to your house,” he said. “I don’t know why she won’t let us.”

“She loves you,” I said. I thought of the absurdity. They could walk with me to my house but I’d have to walk them back home. It would be an infinite loop.

“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe she thinks someone would steal us like they tried to steal our trailer and they stole your wood. Do you think it’s the same people?”

“Could be.” In fact NOT having that faded cedar fencing is kind of a hardship to the furthering of my garden sign business.

I headed home on cloud 8 or maybe higher, thinking of that adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” But ME?

Then I thought of my first student ever. Ramon Hurtado who wanted to learn to read so he could read to his daughter. He came to the then-new Adult Education Tutorial Program. I’d never taught anyone. It was the summer before I started grad school. We started with the alphabet! He wanted what I had; literacy. Just like Ramon, these kids want what I have and it means a lot in our Covid circumscribed lives. They want the world.


Random Stuff…

Last night I watched a couple of speeches from the DNC. They were both good. Bernie Sanders’ had substance; Amy Klobuchar’s didn’t, but it wasn’t meant to. Michelle Obama? I watched, she’s a good speaker, but Bernie Sanders laid it all out.

I wasn’t interested in most of the stuff going on and I decided to come back when it was all over and watch some speakers on Youtube instead, even though I was mildly interested in how a political party would do a convention without doing a convention. I briefly remembered last year’s which I found a grotesque and offensive display. In any case, we’re where we are. I hope this convention succeeds in its goal of inspiring people to get out (or in) and vote. I’m glad Pelosi recalled the House to work on the postal crisis. But basically I’m very tired from living and breathing crises and politics for the past three+ years. I think a good government is one that doesn’t need the relentless attention of the people in the nation.

In other news, on Facebook, I got turned on to the Livestock Guardian Dog group, and it’s the first time I felt that phenomenon of being unable to tear myself away. People are posting their experiences, challenges and questions about their working LGDs — all breeds. Yesterday I decided to share Bear’s story since the only job she’s ever had is taking care of me which she’s awesome at. Not all livestock guardian dogs get to live on farms, but it’s a little unusual for them to be pets, not that I consider Bear to be a pet.

One thing that’s incredible about the group is the universal respect people have for these dogs.

In other news, the Etsy shop has had its first sale to someone I do not know. That’s pretty meaningful for an artist. Friends might buy my work at least partly because it’s connected to me — I do that, anyway. I don’t buy art I don’t like, but when its art done by someone I know whose friendship I value, I really want it. In my kitchen is a pastel drawing by my friend Wes that I got for $40 just because he needed groceries, but I also happened to love the piece. I still do, and now that Wes is dead (HIV) it is a whole world in its way. It’s a real treasure. But, selling to someone who doesn’t know you or care about you at all is another thing.


Not Quite Raw Hide

“That’s gross, Bear.”

“I didn’t bring it in. Teddy did. But I plan to steal it.”

Now that the ground is soft and damp after several days of rain, Bear is digging again. This is good and bad. It means the meds are relieving the pain in her shoulder AND it means there are more holes out there, but I’d rather have her dig than be crippled up and in pain. As Tabby T. Cat (RIP) used to remind Dusty T. Dog (RIP) dogs bury bones. Lacking bones to chew, Bear buries her rawhide.

When the rawhides are the RIGHT texture, either she or Teddy brings them back inside to savor, deriving the maximum enjoyment. They are slimy, covered with dirt, and if they’re the rawhide pencil type of rawhide, unwound. The big ones, the stout flat ones, don’t usually make it back inside. I don’t know why.

I think they are a great metaphor for these days. Slimy, covered with dirt and unwound.

For those of you needing a Scarlet Emperor Bean update…


One Hundred Dogs and Counting by Cara Sue Achterberg: Book Review


In 2019 Cara Achterberg set out to learn the reality of animal rescue in parts of America where even people often struggle to make a good life. Her hope in writing her second dog book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and A Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, is that the stories will stimulate people to foster dogs, volunteer at their local shelters and do whatever is in their power to improve the lives of dogs who, for what ever reason, find themselves without humans of their own. Cara fosters dogs for OPH, Operation Paws for Homes, a foster-based rescue in Chesterfield, Virginia.

One Hundred Dogs and Counting is filled with heroic characters, hopeless situations, and wonderful dogs, many of whom have no chance at a good life in a loving home. It is a detailed collection of personal experiences derived from Cara’s journeys to visit dog rescues, shelters and, yes, pounds in some of the most economically depressed regions in America. One Hundred Dogs and Countingasks the important, serious question. Do dogs in rural animal shelters suffer and die “…because [people] don’t care or because they don’t know?”


The most basic question the book seeks to answer is “how do dogs end up in shelters?” There is a variety of reasons, but it’s often just because the dog’s people aren’t up to the job. Not all dogs are “good dogs” right away. Training a dog needs patience, optimism and time — and sometimes a professional. As Cara writes, “So many people want a “turnkey” dog, one that requires very little of them. A dog who is housebroken, crate-trained, good on a leash, loves everyone, listens perfectly, doesn’t chase cats or deer or squirrels, one that, effectively, doesn’t act like a regular dog. Turnkey dogs are rare. And they don’t happen without a lot of work.” 

In One Hundred Dogs and Counting Cara paints a vivid picture of the effect of human poverty on domestic animals. Still, human poverty is not the only driver leading dogs to be abandoned. “Much of [what I was seeing in these shelters] was a culture problem. I was learning that many people in rural, poor areas simply did not value their pets. Dogs were more like livestock…they weren’t as much pets as property. ‘It’s just a dog/cat’ was a phrase we heard again and again.”

Poverty, culture, and something more; gentrification.

Visiting a sad shelter in Shelbyville, Tennessee, Cara asked a deputy sheriff why he thought so many dogs ended up there. 

“He offered an interesting perspective I hadn’t considered. He said that the history of dogs in rural areas was that people owned large pieces of land and the dogs roamed freely, but as development came to Shelbyville, open, unoccupied spaces filled up as neighborhoods and businesses came in. Yet many people continued to allow their dogs to roam free as they always had. More run-ins with people, more contact with other (unsterilized) dogs led to more Animal Control calls, more dogs seized, and more unwanted puppies…there never seemed to be an end or even a slow-down. When would all the dogs be safe?”

One Hundred Dogs and Counting


As bleak as many of these stories are, One Hundred Dogs and Counting focuses on the success stories and positive steps to change the dark, nearly overwhelming, situation in these shelters — or shelters anywhere — where dogs languish in filth and disease waiting for death.

Cara writes, “…an animal shelter is a service to the community.” Mixed among the many stories of over-crowded shelters where dogs suffer until they’re euthanized or, miraculously, adopted, Cara writes about the magic effected by Kristin Reid, a passionate woman in Tennessee. The Cheatham County Animal Control “…is an open-intake shelter with a tiny budget of only $60,000 a year, yet for all intents and purposes, Kristin [the director] has managed to turn it into a no-kill shelter, even if she doesn’t have that status officially. She works hard to move dogs out through rescues, which allows her to work with some of the harder to place dogs longer.” 

What Cara describes is amazing. 

“After tackling the shelter building, animal care, and staffing, Kristin set her sights on rebuilding the respect and support of her community. Instead of focusing on what she didn’t have—volunteers, money, community support, or a fancy building—she instead looked at what she did have—plenty of land in a beautiful part of the country. The shelter sits on one side of the Cumberland River and most of its community is on the other side. To reach the shelter, you have to drive over one of the bridges and follow the long, winding road that Nancy and I had just traveled. Kristin needed something to draw the people to the shelter. 

Kristin set to work creating trails through their woods and began a rock- painting program. The staff and fledgling volunteer program began painting and placing rocks with positive messages on the trails. Then they invited the public to come and hike, paint a rock and place it, or find a rock and take it home. She enlisted the local high-school students to create storyboards and post them along the trails, giving young families even more incentive to come to the shelter. The only price for using their beautiful, interactive trails? Walking an adorable, adoptable shelter dog! Talk about a win-win. I loved it and was fast becoming a member of the Kristin Reid fan club.”

One Hundred Dogs and Counting


One of the keys to saving dogs, as Cara has written persuasively and demonstrated in her own life, is fostering. Fostering dogs takes them out of shelters leaving room for more dogs to be taken off the streets and placed where they might get some of the help and care they need. 

People who are able to invite dogs into their homes and lives until the dog finds its people are unusually big-hearted and emotionally brave. “…people fostering dogs all over our country [are] connected by an invisible web spun from our shared passion…All these dog-hearted people, working together, [is] the only way it was possible to save so many lives.” 

Maybe every dog owner has a favorite breed, and Cara’s heart goes out to pit bulls, though, she insists, there is no such breed and she’s right. It’s a “look” with a bad reputation. She describes one encounter at a high-kill shelter that marked the kennel cards of dogs who were to be euthanized with a large “X.” 

“I lingered outside the kennel of Sheba, a cute black puppy with a white nose. She was friendly and eager and grateful for the treats I passed through the fence. I looked past the enormous X scrawled across her kennel card and read that she was six months old and picked up as a stray and had no bite history. And then I saw her crime. She was a pit bull mix. …Ultimately, OPH would save Sheba. She would…prove to be a delightful foster dog and get adopted faster than most. But would we have been as convicted to save Sheba if she didn’t have an X on her kennel card?”

One Hundred Dogs and Counting

This is not an easy book to read, and it shouldn’t be. “…Words were my only weapon in this war to save dogs, and what I saw each day of the tour only sharpened my sword.”


One Hundred Dogs and Counting is dedicated to her beloved blue-eyed pit bull, Frankie, a dog she had rescued, the dog of Cara’s heart. Frankie had to be put down during the interval in which Cara was visiting these shelters and seeing one bully dog after another, good dogs with wide smiles and wagging tails and no chance of adoption. I know that Cara was reluctant even to think of another dog. She found it hard to believe that the sad space in her heart could open again after Frankie, but a little brown dog, covered with excrement, cold and neglected in one of the worst shelters, was waiting for her.

In my experience as an owner of many dogs over the years, almost all of them rescues, adopted after the loss of a beloved friend, the dog who is meant to be ours recognizes us before we recognize them. ❤

“She wiggled her butt and danced around as I led her back to her kennel, as if trying to convince me to take her somewhere else instead. On a whim, I asked Trisha if we could get a video of her with another dog, just in case I could talk somebody at OPH into rescuing her, even though I knew that person would likely be me. Trisha pulled out the blond dog from the back and we introduced them. My little girl, who I was calling Fanny, only wanted to play. We caught it on video, and I hoped it would be enough to convince the powers that be that she was dog-friendly. I didn’t want to put Fanny back in her kennel to die. Why couldn’t I just take her with me? Sensing my hesitation, she glanced up with at me with impossibly sad eyes, even though her tail never wavered. 

“I’m sorry, girl,” I whispered as I opened her kennel gate. She walked slowly inside and then lay down against the fence, watching as Trisha sprayed out another kennel. We moved all the dogs to clean runs, gave them fresh water, and fed them before reluctantly leaving. Later, when I talked to [my husband] Nick on the phone, I told him about the little brown dog. There was something about her that touched my heart, it was as if I knew her already. Her pain was my pain. I would study the pictures Ian [Cara’s son] took of her and those eyes would haunt me for months.”

One Hundred Dogs and Counting

Cara’s broken heart fully opened for that little brown dog, and Fanny now lives with Cara and her husband, Nick, at their home in Pennsylvania. Fanny is a bundle of life and love and is the BEST friend of every foster dog who spends time in their family home.


The net result of these difficult journeys? 

“If my trips south had taught me anything, it was that this problem was fixable. It will take all of us. Every person can do something. In this country where we love dogs to an extreme, spending millions on grooming and dog walkers and daycare, there is no shortage of people who care about dogs or have money to be spent on dogs. There are solutions, but the first step is awareness.” 

One Hundred Dogs and Counting


One Hundred Dogs and Counting is available on Amazon or contact the author at any of the links below.

You can learn more about Cara’s journey on her website, Who Will Let the Dogs Out. Some of the proceeds of the book go to Operation Paws for Homes (OPH). The book is also beautifully illustrated with photos from the journey and the dogs Cara met. ❤

In her first dog book, Another Good DogCara tells about her experiences with the first fifty dogs she fostered. To learn more about Cara’s fostering and rescue efforts, enjoy her stories and lovely writing — Cara also writes fiction! — visit her blog, Another Good Dog  

Quotidian Update Where there Could Have Been a Story, Damned Dogs

I’m sorry, Rag Tag Daily Prompt. I got nothing for the word “gossamer.” Lovely word, but nothing about my state of mind is gossamer except the thread that contains my temper.

Dogs. They’ve dug in the garden and in the little bark plots I worked on so hard. Every inch I claim from the dust pit that is my yard involves some pretty hard labor. The house is a constant mess because of the dust and I’d just like LESS of it. This morning I lost it, called them stupid fucking dogs and tried to close the back door before they could come in. But I failed. They thought it was a game.

They don’t understand that every bit of destruction they cause takes away from cool stuff like walks in the Big Empty. Dogs are all instant gratification. No way to negotiate with them, saying, “If you would stop digging there, I wouldn’t have to take fifteen minutes out of my ever-shortening life to fix the damage.”

I don’t get why when they have a HUGE yard in back of the house all to themselves, they don’t hang out there. It seems if I’m going to have a garden at all I’m going to have to get a legit fence and keep the dogs OUT.

Yeah, that’s free.

I have all my favorite books here in the living room (or room of all work that is not sleep and cooking and painting) but that has to change. This house is tiny, so I don’t know HOW that’s going to change or where they could go that’s less dusty. I’m on the verge of throwing everything out the front door. The last time I set a box out there for people to take what they wanted, the “village idiot” (he’s not really an idiot, but definitely mentally different. He’s the guy who used to stop at my house come into my yard and pet Mindy every day when she was alive) complained that there were none of his favorite authors. Then he told me what he liked and asked if I had any of those books. He was prepared to wait while I went back into the house and checked.

And we had a freeze last night that took out one of the little tomatoes. Frost was NOT in the forecast.


On the bright side, Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho seem untouched by the frost.


Yet Another Quotidian Update, this One Without Beans

Every summer I have to make this adjustment from going out with the dogs in the middle of the day and surrendering to going out in the evening. Last evening Teddy and I headed out to the Big Empty. Normally I’d just take the easy way and wander around the hood through the golf course, but it was Sunday meaning league golf. So, why not head out and see what our friends the geese, blackbirds, meadowlarks, mountains, sky and light were doing at 7:30 pm?

The Refuge was beautiful. Mt. Blanca was lit by the sun coming from the west, every valley and cornice visible and luminous. The little bit of remaining snow tinged golden in the late-day light. Teddy, of course, was very happy to get the chance to take his inventory of goose excrement. According to him, there was no new carnivore scat to report.

He really wanted to see the bunny again.

I’ve been communicating with the director of the Rio Grande County Museum and something she wrote made me feel the urge to get on with the project — Swiss Immigrants in the San Luis Valley. Sit down, sit down. I know you’re excited and can’t wait, but I have no idea when or if this will happen. I started writing my little talk and, as I did, I began to wonder if the community could endure a series on this topic because I think that would be epic (literally).

Most important, I became absorbed in what I was writing for the first time since the virus. I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff done in these two months but none of it was really interesting. Maybe this is a step in the evolution of living with this thing. Maybe this is a stage a lot of other people are reaching, maybe it’s (along with money) a reason for the strong urge to “open up” the country. Down here that’s a huge thing. Tourism and potatoes are the biggies in this economy and people down here — where most businesses are small businesses — are eager to get on with life. We’ve had a total of 75 identified cases and one death down here which, for me, is an argument AGAINST opening to tourism but…

I made my every-two-weeks trek for groceries yesterday, ski buff at the ready to pull up over my nose and mouth. As I waited in the parking lot, I saw that most people going in and out of the store were wearing masks. It hit me that IF people did not resist that small thing, the business of opening up might be OK.

In other news, Ancestry DNA has revealed yet another amazing trait: I like coffee. Don’t be fooled by “You said you have 1 to 2 caffeinated drinks a day.” It is one giant cup of espresso = 6 little espresso cups. 😀

Although I promised no beans, Tu Fu wanted to share this with you.

Night in a Room by the River

Evening rises toward the mountain trails.
as I climb up to my high chamber

Thin Clouds lodge along the cliffs.
A lonely moon rocks slowly on the waves.

A line of cranes flaps silently overhead,
and, far off, a howling pack of wolves.

Sleepless, memories of war betray me.
I am powerless against the world. ❤


Organizing “The Examined Life”

Definitely a project I would not have undertaken in normal times, but there’s something about the virus that makes creative work difficult and life itself kind of off-center somehow.

I have been through all 23 of these tomes and it’s been interesting in so many ways. Most interesting was the evolution of my knowledge of the chaparral in San Diego County. I moved to San Diego in 1984. For two years I had no idea there was anything beyond the beaches, the bays, bougainvillea and hibiscus, then my ex saw an article in the Reader that said, “Fall color in San Diego? YES!” and on Thanksgiving 1986 we went to Old Mission Dam where the cottonwoods were golden and, when the leaves were trodden beneath my feet, sent that smell that means, to me, fall. I started taking my puppy — Truffle, then only five months old — up there and began the long journey that has not — thank God — ended yet. I thought that there was no good hiking in San Diego, that I was truly living in exile. How wrong I was!

The journals are full of hikes and what I saw.

They are also filled with perplexity about marriage, love and self. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that I sought professional help with these things. There, in one journal, maybe 2004 or 2005, it’s spelled out. My therapist said, “People who are raised by mothers like yours have a difficult time seeing relationships as anything but absurd.” As she was French, her use of “absurd” was more profound that the words “silly” or “pointless.” Think of Ionesco or Samuel Beckett. I wrote a long (typed) entry about this that showed that, on some level, I understood this but it wasn’t until I tried another romantic relationship that I got the full meaning of her statement.

It’s interesting that it’s our relationship with our mom that determines our ability to form relationships, life partnerships. The fact that I never knew where I stood with her, that she was constantly manipulating and controlling me, that in the court of mom I was always guilty, damaged me in my ability to choose partners and my ability to maintain a relationship. It’s OK, but reading through all those (sometimes tedious) journals showed me my struggle to find love, to understand myself, to figure out what I wanted. That’s not a stupid or embarrassing thing. I think love relationships are a fundamental human need, but I also think that not everyone is conditioned to have one. I saw through all that that my most successful love relationships were those that had little chance for permanence. It was clear I didn’t want permanence. To me it equated to my mom yelling at me for closing my bedroom door.

Do we ever get over that stuff? No. It is part of the adult we grow up to be. We can make some choices about ourselves and where we go, but the deeply engraved stuff like that? It’s always there. Understanding it helps and is, I think, the only way out. Now I see that (embarrassing) aspect of the 23 Journals is me fighting an invisible enemy to find my freedom, freedom that can come only through self-knowledge. I still cut a lot of it out, but…

Along with the search for love and the self-questioning are good stories about teaching. Letters and emails from my family and beloved friends. Notes from students, tickets from Italian trains, Swiss concerts, photos of people I love — all kinds of wonders. There I also recorded my hopeless attempts to get tenure — somewhere, anywhere, for the love of God — then the realization that what I had teaching at San Diego State was really what I wanted. I’ve written about the Cedar Fire, adjusting to life in Descanso, the mountains, the beginning of my osteoarthritis (at 51!!!) and how it had been misdiagnosed… Life is in those books.

One of the journals has an entire photocopied book I borrowed from a friend, poems by Rumi. Other books are filled with Goethe — and my conversations with him. There are drawings of hikes and flowers. Eulogies for my dogs when they died. ❤

On each journal, I have taped a note indicating something about its contents and I’ve labeled those with spines the years between the covers.

When I reached the last book (2006) — which is only half-filled — I wrote an entry that explained, from this distance, what happened, a bit about how things turned out. In 2008 when I threw out the Evil X, I began writing an online journal on Blogger, a private blog. I liked it. Who wouldn’t that types 100 wpm? I was already typing journal entries and gluing them into books. The online journal allowed pictures. That journal was my way of overcoming a very dark time and I did that by, every evening when I got home from school, writing one good memory from earlier years. I got this idea from Dostoyevsky who wrote in one of his books that one good memory from childhood can save a man’s life.

As I was writing that final entry, I checked my email and had to laugh. This quotation was on top of the first email, an advertisement:

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

-Frank A. Clark

I would add that even the path that’s FILLED with obstacles might not lead anywhere. 😂

Entitled and Exceptional

It’s a cool rainy day here in the Back of Beyond so Bear and I headed out early to the Big Empty. It was fantastic. Cold. Windy. Rainy. The next best thing to snow. The air was soft and humid. There were more birds than I’ve seen out there since the cranes left. Bear was so happy to be cold she actually wagged her tail and ran a bit which is a challenge for me but hey, I rose to the challenge (somewhat).

I stopped and watched swallows flying inches above an irrigation canal, catching insects. I noticed that there are now grebes in the pond with the geese and a wider variety of ducks. I even got a half-way decent shot of a yellow-headed black bird.

Paradisal, even to the wind blasting my head on the way back. A friendly couple Bear and I have welcomed several other times drove by in their old Subaru and we waved in COVID-19 style passionate recognition of mutual humanity, and then…

Two words I’ve heard for years and never fully understood — entitled and exceptional. Today I got it. Bear had jumped up in Bella and I’d fastened her leash to the carabiner that keeps her from jumping out and AWAY!!!! As I got into the driver’s seat, I saw an SUV pull in with a little U-Haul trailer behind it. A fat blond woman got out. She watched me and I got the impression she needed help. When I pulled around I stopped and said, “Are you OK?”

“Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’m just going to let my dog run.” I saw a large dog in the back seat of her car.

I’m sure she saw my face change from helpful friendliness to something resembling, “No you fucking don’t you whore.”

“Just around here,” she said. “I’ve done it before.”

I thought to myself, “Martha, you have no authority here.” I just said, “You don’t want to get yelled at.” The rangers DO live there but they’re NEVER out.

I drove away thinking, “Sweet cheeks, there is a LARGE SIGN saying dogs are allowed but must be leashed. It asks us to clean up after our dogs. It’s very clear. That is because this is a WILDLIFE REFUGE. That means it’s a refuge for wildlife, all the birds all the animals the rabbits the snakes the deer, the coyotes, the elk, the foxes, and whatever else wants to live here. It is not a fucking dog park. There are dozens of places within a few miles of here where you could let your dog run and shit. You don’t have the RIGHT to do what you’re doing, and I KNOW (now that I know about you) that you don’t clean up after your dog. And, if anyone ever needed to put a leash on a dog and take a walk with it, it’s you.”

I am pretty unhappy. I keep my dogs leashed for good reason. Bear will roam and doesn’t take kindly to other dogs unless properly introduced. Teddy is young and excitable. I NEED places to walk with them where I won’t encounter unleashed dogs. Beyond my own (selfish) needs, the birds and animals need a refuge from us. Humans are so selfish with the world without understanding it, without understanding that they DON’T understand it.

Brief as Dandelion Floss

Wednesday was the little boy’s — Connor’s — birthday. He’s 7. His mom texted me yesterday to see if I wanted some birthday cake. I knew they were on their way down the alley by Bear’s and Teddy’s happy barks along the lilac hedge. Michelle had a tennis ball for Teddy. The little boy brought his favorite birthday present to show me.

We stayed out in the front yard talking (virus), all the while Michelle asking, in various synonymous sentences, if she could see the dogs and me answering, “You won’t like it.” At one point Michelle stood beside me in her “grown lady” hat, her pretty dress and her gold, glittery Uggs, blowing the floss from the dandelions. I was struck by the beauty of that image and thought, “It’s never a big thing.”

Finally Connor said, “Can we see your house?” I didn’t mind, but there’s this virus thing… I looked at their mom.

“They’re used to ‘no’.” I knew that. I never knew two kids so willing to roll with that little word.

“OK, but only the living room. I don’t want to give everything away. You need stuff to look forward to.” They only heard “OK.” The rest was for their mom. I have learned, over the years, the value in saying stuff that doesn’t make sense to kids but communicates to adults. Mom laughed. Maybe I learned that skill from my own parents.

“I’m going to let the dogs in. They will be VERY VERY VERY excited. You have to sit down and be very quiet and calm.”

It was a start, anyway. They both sat down. I went to the back door. The dogs raced in, knowing already WHO was in our house. OH BOY!!!

The kids never believe me that the dogs are WAY to exuberant for them, but yesterday they learned. Teddy’s joie de vivre (Aussie puppy) is too much for most people. But he is learning to sit to get pets. Bear — as a livestock guardian dog — reacts to the nervousness and fear in people she loves by wanting to climb on them to make them safe. So, because Michelle was afraid, Bear thought she had to go to work, making it worse. Really how many little girls in pretty dresses want a big dog who weighs more than they do to jump up on the sofa with them? It was kind of a circus. I got dog cookies and the kids managed to get Bear to go “Down!” And Teddy even managed once or twice. “Will work for cookies.”

Their mom — who grew up here near the Refuge — recognized immediately what I had painted years before I moved here in the painting below. “That’s the valley!” she said. “That’s the exact view from my grandma’s window! I guess you were meant to be here.”

When the dogs had calmed down, and the moment was over, there was much hugging. I know all about the virus but sometimes you have to weigh mortality against the spontaneous affection of children. 

I’m going to have Bear write the little girl a letter and explain how dogs behave differently than cats.


Pumpkin Destiny

I have a couple of pumpkin plants. Not Aussie pumpkins, anonymous pumpkin plants my friend Elizabeth was given. The other day, while they were sunbathing, Teddy ate the leaves.

Where I live, pumpkins don’t have much chance for a full life, full in the sense of complete, not rich with experiences. We cannot safely plant anything outside until June 1 and we can have a heavy frost in early September. But, these guys are already on their way so maybe they’ll make it. They’ve already shown the indomitable spirit of pumpkins. In spite of having been maimed and, in one case, de-potted they stick their mangled solar collectors into the light as if no rapacious Australian shepherd had chomped them into tiny broken umbrellas.

Everywhere I’ve lived — until moving here to Heaven — it was illegal to plant a vegetable garden in the front yard of one’s house. I always wondered WHO enforced that law and WHY, but I suspect it was enforced by hostile neighbors and was related to the reality that veggies are often fertilized by manure which (to some people) stinks. Also, vegetable gardens are clearly functional and not necessarily aesthetic, but seriously. A plant is a plant and a plant that provides food should be a high-priority plant.

I remember reading articles about this, including one about a woman who had an amazing (and aesthetically beautiful) vegetable garden in her front yard. She resisted law enforcement which ultimately gave her no quarter and came with a little tractor and tore out her garden.

Taking the pumpkins out to the front yard (instead of the backyard and the avaricious maw of Teddy Bear T. Dog) for their daily sunbath yesterday I thought, “I wonder if there’s a stupid law like that here?” I did get a warning last year for an egregious branch from a noxious elm tree that was intruding on the egress and ingress of my neighbors through the alley. There is a certain amount of herbage enforcement in this small farming town.

SO…I posted on Facebook asking for an answer for that question. Looks like I can plant my pumpkins in the front yard. What’s more, my neighbors think the question, “Does Monte Vista have a law against planting vegetables in the front yard?” borders on the absurd, like, “Are you kidding?”

One of my friends — who lives halfway between my house and the Refuge — gave me a line of laughing yellow heads and said I could plant them on her farm if I came out and took care of them.

I am so glad I live here.