You Can’t Drive Around with a Tiger in Your Car

I’m no singer — wait, that’s not true. I like to sing. I sing in the car when Teddy and I are going to the Refuge, or by myself in the car (or even my house!) if a song comes on the radio I like. I sing when I ride the Bike to Nowhere. I even sing with Pavarotti and Zucchero (Miserere). My voice isn’t bad, but I can’t stay on key, or as they say, “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.”

One of my friends — Michael Dunn — is a musician, band leader, band member from a long time ago. He and my friend Lois are both talented musicians, and, in better days, performed around Colorado Springs with their friends and other amazing musicians. It was always fun to drive up to watch them perform but…

I have sung with Michael, usually in the morning while everyone else was asleep (or faking it for their own survival). We sang Roger Miller songs together. Michael helped me stay on key and/or he didn’t care. I don’t know but one day when I said, “I don’t sing with other people,” Michael objected strenuously. “You sing with me!”

I was in choir in middle school. My teacher had been part of Fred Waring’s choir. Her big thing was the Christmas choir and we practiced for the entire fall for that. Then, in spring, we had to do our solos. My first year (6th grade) I performed (ha ha ha) my favorite song, “I Ride an Old Paint.” She stopped me in the middle and said, “There’s more to life than cowboy music.” Well, yeah, but I love that song. The following year I “performed” something from Mary Poppins I don’t remember what. She was pleased.

In high school l tried out for choir, but when I sang my “thirds,” the director said, “Don’t come back.”

It’s OK. Every performance needs an audience. But I love singing Roger Miller songs with Michael. I completely understand how it is a wonderful thing to sing with other people in harmony. Roger Miller songs don’t demand a high level of harmony so I’m capable of it. The other “people” I loved to sing with were my Siberian Huskies, and, by extension, the coyotes. The feeling we shared after a good howl is beyond words, but I would call it a kind of transcendent love.

Singing is a joyful thing even in moments of mourning. It brings other people closer to us without any annoying talk (Sorry. There are times when talking is off target). There’s a beautiful passage in Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire that sums it up for me. It’s in his chapter titled “Water.” If you don’t know the book, it’s about his time as a ranger in the desert, at Arches National Monument back in the day. He writes about the feeling of joy and relief animals feel after a long drought or after a long winter finally thaws. The geographical feature is vernal pools. The actors are frogs.


“Why do they sing? What do they have to sing about? Somewhat apart from one another, separated by roughly equal distances, facing outward from the water, they clank and croak all through the night with tireless perseverance. To human ears their music has a bleak, dismal, tragic quality, dirge like rather than jubilant. It may nevertheless be the case that these small beings are singing not only to claim their stake in the pond, not only to attract a mate, but also out of spontaneous love and joy, a contrapuntal choral celebration of the coolness and wetness after weeks of desert fire, for love of their own existence, however brief it may be, and for joy in the common life.”

Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution? I suspect that it does. I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed too quick extinction. Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless. Therefore, the frogs, the toads, keep on singing even though we know, if they don’t, that the sound of their uproar must surely be luring all the snakes and ringtail cats and kit foxes and coyotes and great horned owls toward the scene of their happiness.” Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

I’ll continue singing semi-privately for the peace of my neighbors and the good of humanity. We have to accept our limitations because you can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd.

P.S. As I played this song, Teddy let me know he LOVES it.

P.P.S. The featured photo is the late, great, Jazz Beau’s Rent Party [my friends Lois Maxwell, vocals, Michael Dunn acoustic guitar (rear right facing), Dan Davidson (bass) and Erik Nelson on guitar 😦 ]

Trip to the Vet

Yesterday I took Teddy to the vet for his customary shots. I had a few strange experiences. One, I have asthma and, in fall, it tends to kick off around 4:30 in the afternoon. Teddy’s appointment was 4:45 right at the golden hour. As soon as I walked into the clinic I had a coughing attack. I said, “I’m not sick. I have asthma. I’ll put my mask on so I don’t scare anyone.”

Debbie, the office manager, whom I’ve known since I moved here, who had hip surgery when I did, who did PT at the same time and place, said, “No, Martha, don’t. That will make it even harder for you to breathe.”

A nice older lady from Texas (they moved here in numbers last year) with a little Dachsund/Chihuahua shaking on her lap said, “No, honey. Don’t do that. You need to breathe. It’s OK. I used to have asthma but thankfully, it went away as I got older.”

“Mine hit me when I was 60,” I said, breathing, finally, wishing I had my inhaler.

I sat down with Teddy, who just wanted to go see everyone, and waited. My turn came, and I was ushered into a little room by a young woman. The vet — Kayla — a young woman who bought the practice a couple years ago — came in and checked over Teddy. “He’s perfect,” she said. “Perfect weight, perfect teeth, everything.” They joked about his determined drive to kiss everyone, “He’d French me if I let him.” One tall girl caught Teddy in her arms as he leaped off the examining table. “He’d go home with you!” said the vet.

“OK,” I said. “There are a lot of dogs out there who’d like to live with me.”

“Really? You’d let him go?” asked the vet.

“No. I think my other dog would miss him a lot. My other dog is an Akbash.”

“Right!” said the vet. “You’re the lady with the Akbash. We don’t seem many of those.” So we talked about Bear. The assistants in the room had never heard of that breed. Anyway, they’ll see her when she goes in for her shots.

When we were finished, we went back to the lobby. There was my favorite vet, Dr. Crawford, the one who took care of Teddy’s leg this past March after Teddy lost in a fight with the glass in my front door, the one who has put down my dogs. After he did the surgery on Teddy’s foot, he came out to explain what he’d done, he cradled Teddy in his arms like a baby. When he saw Teddy, instead of crouching down for Teddy to run to him, he just said, “No, buddy, no happy right now.” Later I saw why.

I took Teddy out to the car, so I could pay the bill in peace and I saw, in the dog pee area, a beautiful, young red merle Aussie and her people. The Aussie was vomiting into a bag. “Shit,” I thought hoping it wasn’t the worst but knowing if it were Parvo, Dr. Crawford would be able to help as well as anyone could. It didn’t seem all that likely as the Aussie wasn’t a puppy, but parvo doesn’t just hit puppies.

When I came back in to pay, the Aussie and its people followed, thinking the Aussie couldn’t vomit more, but she did. When the dog stopped, they put it on the scales. “She’s a little overweight,” said her person. I heard this in the corner of my ear as I paid my bill, words of irrelevancy as a flag of hope.

The vet came in from outside where he’d been looking for the Aussie. He’d come in to fill a syringe and had gone out another door, expecting to see the dog in the dog pee area. He looked intently at me. He sees hundreds of people and their sick and dying animals, and I know from my own experience that sick dogs make him very very sad. He met me at 10 pm one night on the off chance that Bear had bloat. SHE had been vomiting. “I have to charge you for an emergency, Martha.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s OK. I love this dog.”

“She’s pretty special,” he’d answered, Bear was leaning against him and he was scratching her ears.

Yesterday, as we passed, he reached for my shoulder as he hurried to the Aussie.

Driving to the vet, I’d seen the moon hovering just above Mt. Blanca. When I left, there was an amazing sunset. I sent up some good thoughts for that poor dog and her people, but I don’t think they could be in better hands.

Boring Post about Dog Meds

For the last year or so Bear has begun exhibiting symptoms of arthritis, especially in her front legs (she LOVES to work on the big hole she began when she moved here). Summer, 2020, she got an exam and X-rays showing the development of arthritis in her front “elbow.” She got to take Carprofen which helped some, but she had definitely slowed down. She’s a giant breed dog and this is a thing in large dogs anyway. The other thing, giant breed dogs have shorter lifespans than do little dogs so when she turned six and this showed up I felt a twinge. I love this dog (who knew?) and the thought that she was already heading down the hill to her sofa days? No. NO!!!

A friend of mine is a vet tech with his own dog — Frosty — who was born with deformed hips. There’s been a surgical correction on one, but the other is a “wait and see,” thing. The vet my friend was working for recommended Myristol for Frosty, so my friend decided to try. He was surprised one evening when Frosty jumped up beside him on the sofa, Jumped is the operative word.

Frosty, who felt so much better, sent Bear a jar of Myristol as a gift. I’ve been giving it to her. It’s helping her. Yesterday she and Teddy were being driven (more) insane by the malevolent squirrel in the trees who has no scruples about sending my dogs to the loony bin (“Muahahaha”). Bear was leaping and spinning like a puppy — like Teddy who is airborne whenever possible.

Myristol contains: Cetyl Myristoleate Fatty Acid Complex (magic ingredient?), Glucosamine HCl, MSM, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Vitamin C, Zinc, Manganese, and Copper. Seeing Bear pirouette, I wondered about it for humans — so far the clinical trials are not very rigorous and though it’s available for humans, and I’d love to be out there dancing around the backyard — I need to know more before I give it a shot.

P.S. This is also effective on horses. 🙂

Later, I’ll Get to it Later


“Hey, Fred. Why is it you never finish anything you start?”

“I thought about that.”

(He THOUGHT about that???)

“Yeah, and?” I’m looking at ungrouted tile in a corner of our kitchen. It’s been that way for two years.

“Well, I like to know I always have something to do.”

The Good X was NOT like the other kids. Or not like me anyway. I hate unfinished projects hanging over my head which is either why I’m great or crap as a team player, I guess depending on who’s looking. 🙂

I used to ask my students, “How many of you put off your essays until the night before they’re due?”

Masses of hands reach for the sky.

“Why?”

Invariably they would say, “I do my best work under pressure.”

I answered, “If you always do your essays the night before they’re due, that doesn’t mean you do your BEST work under pressure. It means you ONLY work under pressure!”

Sometimes there was a lilt of laughter; usually not. “Tell you what. If you get your work done early, and show me, or take it to the writing tutorial center, you’ll get a better grade.”

Because no one ever understands anything anyone says, especially what the teacher says, most of them thought they’d get extra points for doing that, not that they would have feedback and the chance for revision before they turned in their paper for a grade.

Cracked me up. Students tend to think their teachers are out to get them, but students are out to get themselves. They are masterful self-saboteurs. Someone would always ask, “Can I revise it after you grade it? Isn’t that the same thing?” They just thought I was teaching them writing. Ha.

“No, dude, sorry.”

“Well, why not? It’s the same thing.”

“Uh, no. It’s not the same thing.”

“Well, yeah, it is. I write it, I turn it in, you help me with it and I revise it for a better grade. What difference does it make whether it’s before or on the day it’s due?”

“Here’s the difference. You bring it to me early, it’s the ONLY paper I have to look at and YOU get my undivided, unpressured attention and you inspire me to respect you for doing your work early. How’s that for benefits, dude?”

“Whatever. You’re the professor.” The charming resigned hostility of the 20 year old male who, out in the hall, would very likely mutter, “bitch.”

They were lucky I liked them all so much — I did! They were who they had to be for the moment in their lives…

But…

I often wonder what the purpose of language is, anyway. Bear communicates to me in complete dog sentences with absolute clarity. There are three different ways to say, ‘I want a cookie.’ There is coming to where I am, looking at me and then moving her head toward the kitchen. If I ask, “Do you want a cookie?” by way of confirming that I understand she nods toward the kitchen again. Another is to ask to go out knowing that when she comes in, she’ll get a cookie — but only at night (she used to be reluctant to come back inside since livestock guardian dogs are nocturnal by nature and think they should guard during the night). Then there’s the moment when I KNOW she wants a cookie, but I offer her something else and she shakes her head. Sometimes I wonder when a completely NON-verbal animal can communicate relatively complicated things like this just with her head and eyes, and I do what she tells me, why didn’t my students see that procrastination bit them in the ass?

In the featured photo Teddy is saying, clearly,”Can I have your coffee cup?”

A Sweet, New Animal (but It’s a Bug)

The other day Bear and I took off for the Refuge (how many posts start this way?) it was a beautiful early fall day after rain in the night, meaning the air was soft, the clouds fluffy and and and and… I know there are places in the world where days like that happen a lot, but here they are rare. My view of Mt. Blanca was obscured by soft, fluffy clouds. The loveliest thing about our time that day was that everything was completely still. Very few cars on the road. No crane tourists. The only sound a fleeting breeze that came and went — came enough to make it comfortable, went enough to maintain the silence.

Last year, the first fall I walked out there, was unusual because of the snow we had in late summer. What I’m experiencing out there now makes me think this year is more normal. As we walked I found myself being boarded by tiny transparent creatures who looked like fairies. As many as six would be riding along on my leg or sleeve — and there were probably more I couldn’t see. I took a photo of one hoping to find out what she was when I got home.

After a little work, I discovered that she is a Mayfly. I learned a lot about them. I learned that they were around during the dinosaur time, that they spend most of their lives as eggs, babies and sub-adults, that as adults they have no mouths and don’t need them. The live long enough to mate. Interesting priorities, but apparently good for the survival of these delicate creatures. There’s no way to dispute that such a bizarre evolutionary “choice” makes it easy for them to focus during the very brief moments of their adult lives. Yes, there’s a useful metaphor there.

They are harmless (except, perhaps, for the metaphor) and, what’s more, their presence is a sign of good water quality. They can’t endure pollution of any kind. That speaks very well for the care given the wetlands in my world.

I began to regard them as truly wondrous little hitchhikers. I wouldn’t have seen any last year. This part of their life cycle would have been eliminated by the early snow and hard freezes.

I’ve never gotten to know a wet-land. My life has been spent in dry places, not swamps, so I’m learning something all the time.

Somewhere along the way, Bear stopped, sat, leaned against me, and pointed her nose south. The breeze stopped for a few minutes and I could hear an uproar of cranes in the distance, far out of my sight. Bear, of course, with her amazing dog senses, knew the cranes were there and what was happening with them. I stopped to watch and soon understood what was going on. The young bald eagle had been flying over the group of cranes hoping for an easy meal. That’s what caused the momentary crane-rage. He flew low over the emptiness as I watched. I can’t say I’m privy to the motives of raptors, but I sensed he was trying to save face, kind of, “I didn’t want any of you nasty cranes, anyway. I’m looking for a rabbit!”

Breathing Is Good

Bear’s bronchioles were working hard last night when we were hit by a surprise — and very loud — thunder-boomer. We’ve had real rain twice now and I’m very glad. I was happy to see real mud puddles in the alley, muddy paw prints in the house, new holes in the yard. Best of all (in my little life) no watering of the lawn.

BUT… Bear began her anxiety march which means walking in a circle from the living room, through the bathroom, to my room and back to the living room. She’s recently decided that my bed is the best place for her during a storm — a new thing this summer. I don’t like that. I love my dogs, but I don’t sleep with animals, not even in my room. BUT I finally surrendered and put a cover on the bed. When Bear’s anti-anxiety meds kicked in, I found her sleeping on my bed. And yes, that’s a tiger under the window. No, not a real one. In the window? Old-school air-conditioner. 🙂

No, Bear’s not spoiled.

I’ve been keeping the corner of one eye on national events. After getting expelled from Twitter, I knew I had to take a few steps back. Today, however, I made the mistake of seeking to be informed. This struck me:

“In emotional testimony that recounted the abuse he received while defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges said he was struck by the flags carried by members of the mob, whom he characterized as “terrorists.”

“To my perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us,” Hodges said.

He nodded to the conflict between the beliefs represented by the flags, and the actions of those holding them…”

And…

Men alleging to be veterans told us how they had fought for this country and we’re fighting for it again. One man tried to start a chant of four more years,” Hodges said. “Another shouted, ‘do not attack us. We’re not Black Lives Matter,’ as if political affiliation is how we determine when to use force.” Washington Post

That summarizes everything for me. I’ve come to understand that many of these people are convinced that Biden was not REALLY elected, that the election was fraud, that Trump TRULY won the election. They believe that fighting against what is (in truth) a legally elected administration they are fighting for our country.

I have no answer for this. It’s an absolute mind fuck.

I had a direct experience with something similar not long ago. On the other side of the valley live some truly big-hearted people that I’ve known since soon after I moved here. Last week one of them forwarded me some email correspondence between them and their son who is an artist. It concerned a good deal on some art supplies, but it also contained some passionate anti-Covid vaccination information. I almost wrote a response then I thought, “They 1) aren’t thinking about that, but about art supplies,” 2) “The ARE thinking about this and are (paradoxically) sharing this with me for my well-being. Their intention in this case is loving.”

BAM. These people are conscientious mask-wearers, but they are NOT getting vaccinated.

“As we get older and stop making sense
You won’t find her waiting long
Stop making sense, stop making sense…stop making sense, making sense…”


This Post has Gone to the Dogs

These are my pals — Teddy Bear T. Dog (little guy) and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog (“Yeti” gives it away, I think). They are dogs. I’ve always hung out a lot with my dogs but I feel a bit more “together” with these two as a result of the necessities of the past year.

Dogs are very good at “together.” Recently another dog visited — Frosty — and he soon found his way to be together with Teddy and Bear. (My house is not as ugly as it looks in this photo)

As you see, they are “togethering” like the pros they are

He came together with his person who discovered a lot about Frosty. Until their visit he thought his dog was a pain in the butt but learning how well his dog traveled, how much his dog enjoyed it, how well his dog fit in with other dogs, and seeing that there are dogs worse on a leash than his own (Teddy was a little nuts on our mutual walk), my friend has realized Frosty is a prince among dogs — and he is.

Frosty and his human. Sangre de Cristos in the background. I’m sure Frosty doesn’t remember, but he was born in the San Luis Valley.

It’s no secret that I like dogs. I like being together with them. I don’t have many photos of me together with all my dogs over the years. We didn’t have camera phones and most of the time when I was out being together with my dogs, we were the only beings in the wide world. Here are some of the few photos of some of the great dogs I’ve been together with.

Maggie, Truffle and Molly — my first three dogs

My Brain is Going to the Dogs

“Summer?”

“Australians, Bear. People in Patagonia where we were going if Trump had been re-elected.”

“PataWHAT?”

“Patagonia. Down there. There IS a Southern Hemisphere.”

“A WHAT?”

Women who talk to their dogs end up with conversations like that. Yep, up here in the Back of Beyond Colorado summer is far from our minds. And whether summer is fun or not? It’s not our favorite. You can ask the skiers. Ski areas are beginning to open, cautiously, and with many rules. The one with the most snow so far is the one just an hour away from me. So, while the Australians and others are having fun in the sun, Coloradans will be trying to find open areas to ski.

These geographical niceties are beyond Bear’s comprehension so I never burden her with them. I’ve thought of taking them up with Teddy — who is more imaginative — but considering that in 10 minutes with me in the front yard yesterday, Teddy found the one small and nearly invisible hole in the fence, through which my neighbor’s little kitty comes to visit, I think he should maybe be tutoring me on geography…

I wonder what will remain of my brain at the point in which we are all vaccinated and wandering around out there doing all the stuff we did before. I wonder how that will be. I wonder if we’ll think, “Wow. I missed this?” I wonder if we’ll even dare bitch about being stuck in traffic as we drive a long distance to see our families. I wonder who we will be. I’m afraid I’m permanently altered. I’ve always been more interested in dogs than in people but I think I may have crossed a line… “Teddy, what do you think?”

“Just give me that coffee cup, Martha.”

“But I’m not finished.”

“Oh, OK. I’ll wait, patiently staring at you from down here on the cold floor.”

Teddy Makes Friends

Teddy isn’t any fun to walk, and it’s my fault. I’ve worked with him — sit, stay, heel — and he does all of that perfectly at the place where I trained him, but anywhere else? He’s good at “sit.” Good at “wait.” Good at “stay.” But heel? Forget it. Anywhere but the high school parking lot, Teddy is motivated by more important demands than the needs of the little lady at the other end of the leash. I use a halter that is designed to prevent pulling but I wonder if the designer ever tried it. I wish he’d let me use a head collar on him, but no way. The ONLY dog I’ve ever had who refused that, but I think it might be because he’s so low to the ground that the head collar really doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

Doesn’t matter. I take him out anyway, and while I quickly tire of his pulling me, he has a WONDERFUL time. It’s not all about me, anyway. Yesterday, after I worked on the crane painting for a while, I took Teddy out to the Refuge. Though the time change is annoying and a little uncomfortable, I really do like the early end of afternoon. It means when I head out at my favorite time, the light is already getting good.

It was a beautiful day. The clouds were doing their “Wow, let’s just see what kind of pretty things we can do up here, OK? We have no work to do,” thing, the air was fresh, there was little wind and yeah.

There were thousands of Sandhill Cranes. There were also people. A couple was walking slowly toward Teddy and me so I stopped to the side of the road and studied them to see what they were up to. There were two possibilities. They could have been going to the car nearest them and in front of me, or the car behind me about 1/2 block. Because the cranes kept doing cool things, the couple wasn’t moving very fast. Finally I called out.

“Do you want to meet a friendly little poorly trained dog who will jump up on you and love you to pieces?”

“YES! What’s his name?”

I held Teddy as the people approached. “Just wait, little guy. They’re coming to meet you.” “His name is Teddy. My other dog is named Polar Bear and this is Teddy Bear.”

“Hi Teddy, it’s nice to meet you!” I let Teddy go to the couple and he gave both of them big loves.

We chatted a bit about the cranes that were flying all around us. I love crane conversations. Everyone loves the cranes and a look of wonderment shines in their eyes. They always tell me what they saw and this couple had seen a large group take to the air “…just south of here.”

“I love them,” said the woman. “Their sound is so soothing.”

It is. It’s a beautiful sound between a song and a purr. Whenever I hear it, I look up, look around, try to the source. Yesterday a large group began circling higher and higher, a behavior I’ve learned means, “Sayonara, sweet heart. We’re heading out!” Though their beautiful white/gray forms spun ever and ever higher, smaller and smaller, their calls drifted to me through the lucid day as if the birds were right beside me. The refuge can be that silent. The air that clear.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/11/02/rdp-monday-lucid/

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.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/rdp-tuesday-party/