Dogs x 6

It’s a beautiful morning here in Colorado Springs where I am hanging out until tomorrow. My friend L plays in a little band and tonight they’re performing so I came up (north) to see the show and see my friends.

Among my friends are three dog friends — Shoe, Satchmo and Coda. My dogs love them and they make a very cute extended pack. Shoe (the black and white one) hurt her paw on some garden edging so she’s not quite herself but as she is a dog, she is putting a good face on the fact that her foot is bandaged, has a sock on it, and a plastic boot.

Shoe and her boot and her bestie, Bear

To get here is a 3 hour drive, the first half over the mountains. La Veta Pass is nothing now, but in winter it can be a nightmare. The long, straight road through the big empty that leads to the pass is one of the deadliest in the United States, and now the Colorado Department of Transportation and posted this on the lit-up sign that normally warns of elk and avalanche ahead, “313 Deaths in 2016. Don’t meet by accident.” People are careless on that stretch of road; most deaths result from illegal passing. I think a lot of drivers look at that landscape and feel oppressed by the emptiness and eager to get it over, or they think, “Let’s GO!!!” or they want to make time before the get to the pass. I have no idea. I’ve seen a couple bad accidents and I’m extremely cautious when I drive it. An example of driver stupidity, I was tailgated yesterday by a gas truck… Why? I just don’t play. I pulled over and let him get WAY ahead…

Yesterday was beautiful, and as I got to the top of the pass, Jimi Hendrix started singing “Voodoo Child” — one of his two songs that I actually like ¬†— and I thought that was cool.

It’s probably glaringly obvious from this post that I don’t have anything to write but that’s the way it goes. ūüôā

Too Much Drama

Periodically WordPress does something with the blog editor and it’s almost always buggy. Then the kinks get worked out then you go on to use the new blog editor with its spicy alterations and then they do it again. The most recent iteration has hidden my favorite blogs from view on my Reader, has given me a strange jumpy screen that will not properly load, has frozen my laptop attempting to load. Yesterday it told some of my readers that my blog was “not on this server.”

I’m a paying customer (as it happens) so this annoys me a little bit. I’m the first to say my blog is not the most important news of the morning, not to me or anyone else, but it’s a thing I do while I drink my coffee, the dogs chew their rawhide and I make the transition from sleep to wakefulness (probably obvious from my posts). Sometimes I am even inspired to write a spicy story.

Writing a blog is a completely elective activity for me. I’m past the point in life where I want drama or gratuitous change. In fact, I feel that’s a problem in this country. Rather than changing important things, we fuss about a lot of stuff that doesn’t matter.

In other news….

Yesterday my dog ran off. Bear. It was a terrifying event since I love Bear probably more than I should AND I live on a highway. She dived through the lilac hedge and got to the front sidewalk. I saw her and yelled, “Bear!” and I guess she thought she was in trouble because she high-tailed it toward the golf course, away from the highway, thank goodness.

Dusty and I went out to find her and failed. I came home to be sure Mindy was still inside because I left everything open. My neighbor, E, ¬†texted me that she had some freshly picked green beans and I texted back, “Bear ran away,” and headed out the front door with Dusty. I unleashed Dusty so if he saw her, he would go get her (he would). I hadn’t gone 30 feet when I saw first, my next door neighbor, Tom, was outside in his front yard and Bear was coming up the street. I was behind a honeysuckle bush so my neighbor didn’t see me, but I saw what he did. He called Bear to him. Dusty went to Bear and both went to my neighbor. By then I’d caught up to them and we had a happy reunion. Meanwhile, E caught up to all of us. It was a really beautiful moment.

“I saw her run past so I decided to get out here and see if I could catch her and put her in my yard,” he said, “then come get you.” Tom is an old guy who just had a hip replacement.

E is in her mid-seventies. We stood in Tom’s yard and I tried to introduce Tom and E properly, but I was distracted so E finished what I started. We chatted and Bear leaned against me and Dusty got pats. I was pumped with adrenaline — a feeling I don’t like and have felt far too many times in my life.

We all went home — well, Tom stayed home — and Bear was exhausted. She was also strange. I realized she felt she’d been bad. I didn’t think she’d been bad. She came home. She was headed toward me when she saw Tom, whom she knows and likes. Probably when I yelled “Bear!” she thought I was angry — though I’ve only been angry with her twice. The day wore on, the adrenaline was slowly backing off, but I decided to take everyone for a walk at the slough before it started raining.

It was a miserable walk. It was humid, the air hung heavy, there were mosquitoes everywhere and none of us were happy. It was so strange. We came home and the afternoon routine unfolded in the predictable way dogs prefer. Then someone posted on Facebook a video of Glen Campbell singing “Gentle on My Mind” with John Hartford, who wrote the song. I’d never heard them sing it together. It was on the Smothers Brothers show.

I’m not a big fan of Glen Campbell and all of that was so long ago, but somehow it seemed to bring back eons of time, memories, events, visions of the future (in which I’m now living and it’s NOTHING like I envisioned) and the sense that it’s too late now for me to straighten THAT out (ha ha). I began to cry — I know it was an emotional release of the adrenaline and fear of Bear being hit by a semi-truck.

Bear climbed up on my lap (she is an 80 pound giant breed livestock guardian dog), put her muzzle on my cheek and looked at me. I was still crying. Bear went to sleep. I thought of the day and the incredible sweetness in that moment when two friends stood beside me because my dog had run away and I needed help.

Later on, a police car went by, its siren going. Dusty looked at me as if to say, “Well? It’s the right time for a howl, Martha” and I agreed. Dogs and wolves howl for many reasons, but one is to reaffirm their ties to their pack. When I had the Siberian huskies, it was a common thing at the end of the day when I came home, if they heard a “howl” (coyote or siren) they would come to where I was and we would assert our unity. It’s strange, but it’s what they do. Dusty learned this from his Siberian husky mother/sisters. I don’t remember Dusty EVER starting a “howl” but last evening he did. He doesn’t howl well, Bear mostly barks, Mindy only gives it a shot, but we all put our heads back and did our best.

Dogs aren’t people. Sometimes you have to meet them part way.

OH BTW, I’m composing this on WordPress’ old editor which is reliable, not difficult to use, and is accessible under WordPress Admin in your drop down menu.

Just a Casually Terrifying Bark

Dogs are everywhere and if you’re walking with Dusty T. Dog in the evening, it is never a casual walk. It involves strategy, lightning reflexes and a good, strong hand on the leash. Why?

Dusty T. Dog is known in his inner circles (me) as “El Barquero Grande.” Part Doberman Pinscher part Labrador retriever (two barky dogs), Dusty T. Dog has a formidable and quite barbaric “Yawp.” It usually means, “Hey Dude, ‘sup?” But you’d never know that. And, if Dusty gets “wound up” — shudder.

My neighbor in CA wound up Dusty with the intention of getting Dusty to bite him. He hated my dog (I kind of don’t blame him) and wanted him hauled away and put to sleep. What my neighbor didn’t understand is that, because they were seldom at their house — it was a part-time home for them — Dusty felt it was his duty to protect everything in sight, all Dusty was doing was protecting that man’s house from intruders. He also didn’t understand that Dusty loves his yard and he loves people.

It got very ugly with a note pushed into my fence saying the neighbors were all afraid of my dog, that my fence wouldn’t keep him in the yard, that there was fecal matter everywhere because I didn’t clean up after my dogs (completely untrue as I have always done that daily), that the cops had been called. In reality, Dusty COULD but wouldn’t jump the 4 foot fence and, when I was not home, Dusty and the girls were all confined to a 100 square foot dog run behind a 6 foot fence. The dogs were always inside for the night by 8 pm so it wasn’t a question of their barking all night, either. Most of all, if the neighbor had ever come into my yard and met Dusty, he would have understood the whole story, but it was more interesting for him to curse and yell and bait my dog and call the cops.

So the Animal Control officer came out and I happened to be home. I saw him taking photos of the yard from outside the fence. Dusty liked the guy and was just standing beside the fence waiting to be petted. He didn’t bark. I let the guy in, showed him the dog run — into which all the dogs happily ran when I said, “Go to yard!” — and explained our routine. The guy looked for fecal matter and found none. Then he said, “One of your neighbors complained.”

“Yeah, I know. I got a letter from them.”

“Can I see it?”

I went in the house and got it for him while he hung out with “The Models” (my Siberian husky girls) and El Barquero. After he read read it he said, “I guess I need to talk to all your neighbors. I’ll get back to you. Sounds like a problem between neighbors more than a problem with Old Dusty here.” Dusty was leaning against the guy getting his ears scratched and groaning happily. “I wish every dog complaint I answered was like this one. This is Dog Heaven.”

I felt tears welling up.

The upshot was my neighbors were educated that I was a very responsible dog owner but I would be taking steps to keep Dusty quiet. I ended up buying a bark collar that was supposed to train Dusty while I was gone by delivering a shock to his neck when he barked. The collar worked great, but Dusty LOVES to bark and he would rather be burned than stop barking. Ultimately I took out the battery and left the collar on Dusty’s neck for show. I put up a higher fence in front of my yard as well, not to keep Dusty in, but to make my life more peaceful.

Here in Monte Vista people are a lot more tolerant of dogs and things dogs do. I even apologized to a guy for Dusty’s bark and he just said, “He’s a dog. Dogs bark.” The delivery guys think it’s good because I’m here by myself. “It’s better for you, ma’am,” they say. But, on a walk, if Dusty becomes aware of the presence of anything that might threaten me, he will bark fiercely. To some dogs, it’s a provocation.

El Barquero’s nemesis — Ace the Chill — is a black lab who lives on the corner by the alley. Ace has been known to occasionally go to the fence and bark at El Barquero Grande and El Barquero remembers this. When we walk by, Dusty gets nervous and alert, smelling the presence of Ace the Chill. Ace usually just watches us go by with nary a flick of his tail. He likes Bear and sometimes lumbers over to the fence to say “Hi!” if he sees Bear and I are alone. He has no interest in meeting or engaging with El Barquero.

Dogs all have different, sometimes complex, “dogonalities.” Even a fierce barky dog like El Barquero Grande is more than one thing. But I totally get it that he can sound scary to the casual observer.

Disastrous Post

I live in an alternative universe in which workmen take on jobs and then never show up. I’m about to fire the garage door guy. I wanted to fire him last night in a voice message at his work phone, but when I called it, his wife answered and I hung up. Ha ha, that should give them an interesting conversation. Not disastrous, I hope, but interesting. Anyway, I’m torn between calling him and firing him or waiting for him to call me and firing him or waiting for him to show up ( ha ha ha ) and firing him. A little voice inside says, “Don’t call. He blew it,” but that reminds me of dating…

In other disastrous news, the US has, as a “leader,” a guy who doesn’t see anything wrong with his son having met a representative of a foreign and inimical power to get the dirt on the “leader’s” campaign opposition. This is a person with absolutely no ethical center. Such a person cannot be moved or defeated in any normal way. There’s no appealing to his “better” nature. “My son is a quality person.” Well, yeah. Low quality. The “leader” is not the disaster as much as are the people who elected him and the representatives who continue to support his bizarre and nefarious agenda. OH WELL.

Disaster was averted yesterday when Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog got out of the side yard. Once out of the yard (a major highway 50 feet away) Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog dived through the self-same lilac hedge into the front yard where Mindy was lying on the front porch waiting to be let in. It could have gone so wrong, but thankfully Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has a strong attachment to her house, her pack and person. But she no longer gets to “run” FREEEEEE in the side yard. Her person has a strong attachment to her and doesn’t want a disastrous outcome.

Dusty T. Dog Speaks Out on Dog Food

I haven’t written a blog post before because I’m a dog, and the whole idea is silly since I don’t have disposable thumbs. What? OPPOSABLE thumbs, and I can’t see in two dimensions and, as my human says the whole process is fraught with problems so lets go take a walk. But it’s important that everyone know what my sisters and I find edible. What? It’s NOT important? My human says it’s not important.

When it comes to things to EAT it’s important to note that Mindy T. Dog, my sister, especially finds poop edible. I, personally, do not and neither does my “little” sister, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog though, what Bear? I know you tried it when you were a puppy, I was about to tell everyone that. No, they won’t think you are a poop eater. For the record, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog no longer eats poop.

Some of the food our human eats is very edible. Especially apples. All of us love apples and tomatoes, peas, zucchini, raspberries, watermelon, cantaloup and carrots. When Mindy T. Dog was on the slenderizing program, she never got a proper cookie, only carrots. Many humans think dogs are carnivores but we’ll eat pretty much anything we find edible. That can include cardboard and junk-mail. Some dogs will eat anything, but I know that leads to the V-E-T where I don’t want to go so I only eat what my human gives me.

Most of the time we eat dry dog food. This is good for us because it keeps our teeth strong. I’m 11 years old now and I still have all my own teeth. Mindy has hers, too, but they’re pretty ground down from chewing on rocks back in the sad days of her early life. Once in a while our human gives us tuna fish with our kibble. Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog gets wet food with her kibble every day because she’s a giant breed dog and some long story about that I don’t understand.

We also get a cookie in the evening and rawhide after breakfast. Our human gives us special treats, too. My special treat is the coffee and cream left in my human’s cup in the morning. Mindy gets a bit of banana and a strawberry every morning and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog is the only one who gets wet food. The treats our human gives us are for each of us individually which makes them very special.

That’s the story on dogs and food as I know it.

Your friend,

Dusty T. Dog


Yesterday I talked to one of my cousins, the remaining son of my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank. It seems my Aunt Jo — 94 and dealing with dementia — is on the way out. That right there is not news. The word “imminent” is the big change. My cousin — whom I like very much — and I talked a long time. He doesn’t like his mother much, and I thought it’s interesting how most of the cousins — children of my mom’s sisters — don’t like their mothers much. Something in the gritty past of all those girls left them warped in some mysterious way. They could all be very, very mean given the right (or wrong) concatenation of events.

After my cousin and I talked, I was very sad. I love my Aunt Jo and she has been unfailingly kind and loving to me. I owe her many of my good memories, some of my good habits as well as the knowledge everyone needs that they are loved.

I fed the dogs but didn’t feel like cooking or eating supper at all. I’d told my cousin i would come up to Montana, so I sat down and tried to find a good air fare and a place to stay. “I still have the folks’ house,” he’d said, “but there are no beds in it. I don’t feel right about you spending all that money to come up here and stay in a hotel and all that.”

I haven’t gone to Montana for 7 years for that very reason. To fly, stay somewhere and board the dogs is a huge chunk of change. It’s more than a garage door. It’s a third of a garage roof. It’s money I don’t have.

Finally I gave up. I couldn’t think clearly, anyway. Memories and images of past moments pressed against my eyes; I could SEE them. I sneaked out the back door with Bear and went to the slough.¬†Besides sadness, I was carrying loneliness. When someone we love dies — or stands on the brink of death — loneliness is part and parcel of mourning.

It was nearly 7, an hour away from sunset. A good wind was blowing, promising rain to someone but not to us. Perfect. The light was soft and healing. The clouds blue gray. We hit the trail. I noticed the milkweed were still blooming, and I wondered if I’d ever see a monarch butterfly (I never had). Soon, I did. She flitted up above Bear and then in front of my face. “Bear, we’ve finally seen a Monarch butterfly,” I almost whispered to my dog who was watching it fly away.

We turned the corner and there in the near distance stood a large mule deer doe. I was downwind of her so she was calm and unaware of me for a while, then the wind shifted for a second or two, and she looked right at me. I watched her. Bear was very still. The doe finally decided that while I didn’t seem to be a threat, better safe than sorry, and went bounding back in the direction from which she’d come. I watched her go and saw her stop in the tall chamisa a ways away, still watching me.¬†Bear and I continued. A large bird approached and flew overhead; an osprey.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

Mindy T. Dog

Mindy has pluck and a good attitude. When the bombs were bursting in air last night (well into the wee hours of the morning) Mindy was chill. She was chill during the fireworks the night before and the night before, while big, strong, fierce Dusty T. Dog was about to shit himself (expression only, please, don’t get all imaginative). Even Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog did not have the resilience or fortitude of little old Mindy T. Dog.

Mindy is an Australian shepherd with, apparently, a congenitally bad hip. When we (a friend and I) adopted her 6 years ago, we thought (and the rescue though) she was a 10 year old dog. Nope. She was probably 3 or even 2 — in any case, she is today the same calm and plucky creature she was back then. My vet examined Mindy soon after we moved here and said, “She was born with one leg longer than the other. Maybe a puppy-mill dog.”

She is now an old dog, but she still dances in rapturous joy when she sees me and hears the word, “Eat.” ¬†She also plays with Bear who is twice her size.

Mindy was the victim of a divorce. Her “person” (the wife) left and the husband had no idea what to do with Mindy so he left her in the back yard and put out bags of dog food. When we first saw Mindy, she looked like Jabba the Hut with curly fur…

Now she’s svelte and fit. She has a heart-melting face and a sweet personality. She has the magical ability to make everyone around her feel better.

Fourth of Whatever….

They woke me up before I wanted to wake up, damned dogs. Now they’re happy. They’ve been out, fed, given their morning “toothbrush,” and they’re back to living large. I’m sleepy and cold, wondering what to write for “dash” since I don’t dash, they don’t dash (particularly Mindy and Dusty don’t dash; Bear been known to dash around the yard). It’s kind of a “dashless” world I’m living in. I’d say Monte Vista in general is not big on the dash, maybe at track meets.

So here we are at the fourth of July — almost. Tomorrow. People are already shooting off firecrackers and fireworks. Dusty is actually taking the explosions more in stride than he was wont to in the past. The noise terrifies a lot of animals. Over the years, I’ve found lots of lost dogs seeking shelter in my yard. Once it was a beautiful German short-haired pointer, quivering and quaking against the fence outside my kitchen door in San Diego. I kept him over night then called Animal Control. Thank goodness his owner had reported him missing.

I have some philosophical and political thoughts of my own this Fourth of July, Every day I get disgusted anew by the antics of that ugly, stupid man. That a man with the poor judgment and lack of class to Tweet (I could just leave it at that) a video inciting violence against the media IN HIS OWN COUNTRY is allowed to speak to the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea on the phone regarding North Korea sickens and terrifies me. That the Republican leadership of this nation is not equally horrified sickens and terrifies me even more.

Anyway, there isn’t much I can do about it.

In other news, Bear’s most recent Barkbox included an incredibly cute toy — a sloth. I finally broke down and gave it to her, and she is tearing into it even as I write. She’s gotten the plastic squeaky part out, has shaken the life out of it and is about to proceed to the disemboweling. Fortunately, she doesn’t eat the fluff inside.


Life is Never Mastered

Everyone is an apprentice all the time. Everything we learn takes us to a different place which is at least a little unfamiliar. We finish things and move on and where we move on is terra incognita. At this point in my life, I think any feeling of certainty I have about something is probably an illusion to make me more comfortable for the moment.

Even Bear.

Lately I’ve had the sense that Bear is trying to tell me that she can be trusted. I stopped trusting her two years ago when she discovered she could dive through the very dense and tall lilac hedge and get out of the yard. That meant she has never been FREEEEEE to just go out the backdoor. I go with her to the dog run and be sure she is secured inside. Yesterday I didn’t close the back gate completely and suddenly, as I was uncovering the peonies, there was a dancing Bear right beside me. I said, “What are you doing here?”

She ran a circuit around the side yard ¬†(where the hedge is) and came back to me; then she did it again. When she stopped she looked at me like, “See?”

It may be that Bear has completed her apprenticeship and is ready for me to regard her as an adult dog who can make smart choices. But if not… You see, there’s a highway in front of my house ūüė¶ and I¬†love Bear a LOT.

Chilly Dog

Mindy T. Dog is one of those long-haired dogs my grandma would describe as “messy.” ¬†My grandma always had one — a cocker mix of some kind — whose¬†fur was curly, fine and copious, matted easily and could actually be a danger to them. This spring Mindy has had mats everywhere.

dogs 1

Bear, my friend’s dog, Coda, and Mindy pre-clip, Dusty in the Background

Mindy T. Dog was clipped for the first time on Tuesday. The groomer — Muddy Paws Dog Grooming — is a country groomer with a pen of sheep in the back yard, a small stall for horses, a hutch for rabbits, her own¬†4-H kids and a sweet little shed fitted up to groom dogs. None of the fancy-schmancy urban dog grooming paraphernalia of the city. The shed is perfectly set up for the work she does. Four crates to hold the dogs who are waiting, a high table for the dogs who are being groomed, ¬†and a big horse trough for a bath tub. Everything is shiny, comfortable and dog friendly. I was astonished when my Australian shepherd from the burbs of San Diego reacted strongly to the sounds of the sheep bleating outside.

“Mindy,” I said, “you have instinct!”

There were two lambs, one of which had been adopted by the groomer’s daughter because its mom rejected it. ‚̧

When I went back to get Mindy, the groomer and her daughter had fallen in love with her. “She helped us!” said the groomer.

“She has a magical quality,” I said. “Mindy makes people happy. I don’t know how.”

“She was so easy to work with!”

The freshly denuded Mindy beamed at me from a fluffy face. She’d¬†had a good time.

“She liked our treats!” The groomer cooks dog cookies.

“Great,” I said, not revealing that there has yet to be a treat made Mindy did not like. I was sent home with two small sample bags for Dusty and Bear.

Unfortunately for Mindy T. Dog it was the coldest day we’ve had in weeks, and there she was, naked to the world. When I got home I called my neighbor who knits and crochets to see if she had knit or crocheted a dog sweater lately, but no luck.¬†There’s a sweater on the way — a good thing as snow is predicted to blanket the ground Saturday and temps are supposed to drop to¬†19 degrees.¬†Winter DOESN’T let go easily in the San Luis Valley.

Meanwhile, Mindy is now proudly wearing my Dead Kennedys T-shirt.

Mindy D