Walking Martha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotidian Update 8.2i.a

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

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

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

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

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

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/rdp-monday-quench/

Squirrel or Cookie?

“Bear! Dusty! What the hell???”

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

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

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

“Come inside. You can have a cookie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/rdp-sunday-squirrel/

Training Dogs

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

 

Truffle and me, 1988

Truffle and me

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

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

Here’s what I’ve learned.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/rdp-friday-skill/

Take Two — Empowered Dogs

1

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

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

I let my dogs go.

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

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

Well, I was hurt.

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

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

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/rdp-wednesday-empower/

Bearendipitous

One of the best moments of serendipity in my life (and there have been several) was that I happened to look on Facebook the very day this dog was brought into the local shelter, and, without hesitating, I contacted the shelter to meet the dog. She looked at me with my  Siberian husky Lily’s blue eyes. I’d had to put Lily down only a few months before and I knew another dog would be coming into my life. When I saw this puppy, I knew I’d found my dog. I still had doubts, but…

At the shelter, I met one of the coolest young people I know. More serendipity. Brandi knew that I was Bear’s owner – though Bear was then called Silver, a good name, too — and though others came to see Bear, Brandi gave them no encouragement. “I knew she was your dog as soon as I met you,” she told me later.

 

Bear appeared to be a husky/Pyrenees mix. I didn’t know anything about livestock guardian dogs except I’d seen them working. I knew huskies were higher energy than I could deal with at that time. It turned out that Bear is an Akbash dog, a livestock guardian breed from Turkey. Livestock guardian dogs, in general, are calm, pretty low energy (they’re bred to keep sheep from going crazy which, if you know anything about sheep, is not that easy), independent, intelligent and they bond tightly to whatever they’re supposed to bond to — sheep, goats or me.

I like this dog a LOT. She’s turned out to be a good friend (for a dog). She has some odd behaviors — she hugs people, for one. She sits on her haunches and wraps her arms around people who come to my house. It’s her way to say hello rather than jumping on them. She’s pretty forceful in this demonstration of affection. She really wants my friends to feel welcome but I think sometimes they feel frightened because she’s so large. She’s very gentle and slow moving with small kids and kitties! She’s especially attentive and loving to my friend’s developmentally disabled son.

She’s a lap dog — but that’s normal behavior for her breed, too, to sit or lie on the creatures they care for. She’s openly affectionate — I’m used to Siberian Huskies who are very independent dogs, somewhat cat-like in their show of affection. For a Siberian Husky, showing love is going “hunting” with you for several hours. So having a dog who seeks and gives affection has been different. Often, on a walk, Bear will stop gathering her messages and tracking animals, and snuggle up beside me so I can put my hand on her back as we walk along. She loves this and I do, too.

Before getting Bear, I’d already had, probably, 20 dogs, but never a dog like this. ❤

 

image

Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/rdp-tuesday-serendipity/

The Dark Side of the Bright Side

My dogs got new meds. These meds gave them both seriously upset tummies and, this, morning a seriously upset human companion. Consequently, the Afghan rug in the studio is damp and the rugs from the kitchen floor are in the washer.

Oh well. At least they didn’t wake me up to go out, right? 😦

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/rdp-friday-damp/

Around Here, It IS all Black and White

Me 05:05:2018

Dusty T. Dog is an all black dog, Dobie and Lab, with short fur, “dog-ear” ears, and brown eyes. His adopted sister, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog is a white Akbash dog with silky, long fur and blue eyes. Akbash is a livestock guardian breed that originated in Turkey. Dusty is high-strung, nervous, scared of many things. He has a loud, fierce, hysterical bark that sounds aggressive, but Dusty is a lover not a fighter.  Bear is consummately chill. Her bark is loud, deep and scary, with no notes of fear. In a clinch, I think Bear would kill and Dusty would run. Dusty is hesitant, Bear is confident. Dusty is very obedient and needs no leash to stay at heel. Bear was very easy to train, but if she catches a scent, she’s gone. It happened only once, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.

We look pretty striking when we go for a walk together, Dusty on my left, Bear on my right, little white-haired lady in between. This photo was taken two days before my hip surgery. A few things strike me — one, it’s May in the San Luis Valley. Looks like winter. In town, however, trees were bursting out their leaves and blossoms and when I came home a few days later, the mock-crabs all over town were gorgeous. I’ve lost about 20 pounds since this photo which is a very good thing for my arthritic knee. I DON’T want knee surgery. I’m really done (I hope).

Seems like it was a short summer. For the first time that I can remember I’m sorry to see  summer go.

Another contrast.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/rdp-tuesday-contrast/

Old Dog

Dusty is suddenly old. He was a young 13 two weeks ago and now he’s an old 13 (which is to say, 13). Dogs his size and the two breeds he seems to be made of have much shorter average lifespans than that. He’s restless and frightened at night. He can’t see. He’s scared (his basic nature) a lot of the time.

Tonight he’s kept me awake at night pacing on the hardwood floors, panting, looking for me. He has challenges controlling his bowels that he never had before. I don’t want to drag this out, either.

I know where this ends. I know it’s considered wrong to jump the gun. We have to wait until he can’t move under his own power and is urinating and pooping everywhere. I hate this dilemma. But we’ll visit the vet this week and see if there’s relief for Dusty’s nighttime anxiety.

Then we’ll see. He’s been a hard dog to love since the beginning, but I do love him. His early puppyhood trauma left him scared and aggressive (sounding). He was hard to train and ultimately needed a professional to see that he was properly socialized and calm enough, in general, to ride in a car or go for a walk. I also don’t think anything or anyone has ever loved me as much as Dusty does.

I’ve drugged him (mildly) hoping we can both get some sleep now. I’m very tired from my trip to Colorado Springs. I slept badly Sunday night and went to bed early tonight (9!) and went right to sleep, to be awakened by Dusty pacing and generally freaking out.

Anyone who rescues a dog from a shelter (which I highly recommend) could face a challenge like Dusty T. Dog. Some dogs are just easier than others.

He’s lying here at my feet, finally calm. I don’t know if it’s the drugs finally kicking in or whatever was disturbing him has stopped. It might have been the sprinklers (which switched on about the time he started pacing and I have now turned off) or maybe it was a bad dream. There’s no question in my mind that dogs have more access to our thoughts than we to theirs.

He’s finally asleep. Dare I? ❤

 

Dusty and Mindy Move to Colorado in a Dodge Van with Lily and Me

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“What the fuck? This isn’t our car. It smells weird. I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all. I might lie on my back and pee in the air. This is awful. I’m scared.”

“It’s OK, Dusty. She’s here. We’re all here. Our beds are here. It’s all fine.”

“How can you be so sanguine, Mindy?”

“Well, first it’s my nature. Second, I think if she’s here we’re fine. If she comes back when she leaves us, we’re fine. I don’t worry about every little thing like SOME dogs I know. She always takes care of us.”

“But?”

“It’s OK Dusty,” I tell him from the front seat. “We’re going home. You can quit pacing and breathing hard.”

“OK.”

“See? I told you, Dusty. Lily isn’t worried.”

“Yeah but she’s a wild animal. We’re pets.”

“There is that. But really, Dusty, learn to keep it under control a bit. You’ll have a happier life.”

“You’re probably right, Mindy, but when I start getting scared, it’s a fast and slippery slope all the way to terror.”

“Lie down, Dusty,” I say.

“Do what she said. I have a feeling this time home is a long ways away.” Mindy closed her soft, sweet beautiful eyes and as a model for Dusty, went to sleep.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/rdp-thursday-slippery/