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

When Dogs Get Avid

Overall, my dogs are pretty calm. But they have their passions. Bear, as everyone knows, avidly loves snow. Mindy loves food. Dusty T. Dog loves me. Right now we’re visiting my friend in Colorado Springs who also has three dogs — two of them equal one Dusty. It seems like I brought up a herd of small horses to hang out with her dogs. ¬†All six of them bark with passionate avidity at the mailman and the trash man and anyone who walks by with dogs.

Dog Avidness is pretty avid and can be scary. It can be accompanied with bared teeth and loud barks. Bear is currently perched on the highest spot in the living room watching for enemies outside.

All six of these guys are avid about rawhide chews, running out the dog-door at my friend’s house, and playing with each other.

Dusty’s Harmonious Memories

When I had a bunch of Siberian huskies they, naturally, loves to howl at the right times. They knew when those times were. A siren, coyotes in the distance, Eminem (yeah, truly), and once the Evil X. The thing is, they find a pitch and they all howl in harmony.

Lily and Cheyenne

Cheyenne T. Wolf (front) Lily T. Wolf (back)

Dusty T. Dog really wanted to be like his husky sisters/moms and from the time he was a puppy, he tried to howl with them. He did pretty good for a dog of undetermined parentage but certainly not husky.

Sometimes now I’ll play a video of huskies howling, or wolves, and sometimes I’ll just hit a howl pitch, and Dusty will tip back his head, make a “howl” mouth and do his best. We howl together for old times sake, saying “We remember you!” to our huskies in Husky Heaven.

This is Cheyenney T. Wolf’s favorite howl along song by Eminem.

Dusty’s Territorial Pissings

I have my territory. I make sure every morning that its boundary is reinforced by my Magical Territory Defining Urine. Especially the fence because Joan, the cattle-dog, lives on the other side of the fence and if I don’t let her know every morning and several times afterwards until night, she might penetrate the territorial boundary and all order in the universe would be upended.

Then there are other territories and I share them with many other canines with their humans and creatures such as Pungent, Solitary Red Brother with a Sense of Humor (fox), Goofball Howling Pack Brother (coyote), Wandering Large Animal with a Family (elk), Graceful Furtive Leaping Creature With Yummy Poop (deer) and Large Scary Predatory Mammals (cougar and bear) as well as some other creatures such as Masked Short Rolling Catlike Thing (raccoon) whose scent I find near our territory, too.

My favorite of these is the Land of the Eastern Smells by the River. When we arrive at the Land of the Eastern Smells by the River, I leave my messages using Magical Territory Defining Urine several times at the beginning. Then, once my presence has been made known, I am free to explore, leaving Magical Territory Defining Urine only where necessary, for example, were another canine has left an unfamiliar scent. Possibly that canine is hostile and I need to let it know that this is a shared territory.

Once I met two of the canines who sometimes visit the Land of the Eastern Smells by the River. They were familiar to me from their scent, but their human was afraid I would hurt them because they were smaller. It’s very difficult for a canine to express himself fully to a human through scent, but if I could, that human would have known I knew his canines by their scent ,and I was happy to meet them.

There are many amazing scents at the Land of the Eastern Smells by the River, so I like going there very much. Here is one of the things I smelled and showed my human:


My other territory is the Land of the Northern Scents by the Burned Farmhouse, but we only go there once in a while because there are often humans with big metal sticks walking around. My human usually doesn’t go there unless there is Bear’s Magic White Ice covering the ground..

We canines have many kinds of territory, but the most important territory is that we share with our humans. Our territory, which I share with Bear and Mindy, houses my human whom I love more than anything in the world. This is our Sacred Territory and unless our human says it’s all right, no one can come here.

Morning Instinct

This morning — because I didn’t want to wake up when the¬†dogs did — Bear instinctively destroyed a former bathroom rug that had been doing late-life duty as a mud collector.

“Instinct tells me that if I finally shred this, she will get up and feed us.” That had to have been the message she was getting from her canine language center, “Tear up rug = Let me out. I have to pee.”

“I don’t see the logic,” Dusty must have answered (telepathically). “She can’t even see you and how is tearing up a rug going to open the back door?”

“Whatever, Bear. She’ll get up. She always does. I’ll just do a body slam against her bedroom door to be sure,” said Mindy, less telepathically.

“Maybe we could wrestle. If that doesn’t work, I’ll get my squeaky ball,” Bear threw herself down on the floor.

Meanwhile, I was dreaming that I was on an amazing long hike along the eastern side of a volcanic cone that looked like Mt. Shasta. The dogs were with me, but after the long — I mean 100 miles or so — trek, and I was home again, only Mindy had returned with me. So there I was in my dream, completing some kind of art project and once in a while yelling out the window, “Dusty! Bear!

When Dusty appeared, he acted like he’d done something wrong. In my dream I said, not telepathically, “You’re a good boy, Dusty. I missed you! Where’s Bear?”

Some woman — no one I know — was trying to get me to go for lunch but I said, “I dunno. If Dusty is here, Bear can’t be far behind.” But I wasn’t sure of that.

Out in the real world (the living room) Mindy rearranged herself forcefully against my door; Bear woofed instinctively at the prey (the rug) she had reduced to maroon filaments attached to bits of rubber; Dusty waited faithfully knowing that soon I would get up, I would let them out, I would make my coffee, I would feed them breakfast.

The Language of Love, Dusty Style

WARNING: Because of the content of this post, NO TABBY CATS ALLOWED!!!


Dusty T. Dog is a dog as in ‘You dog!” He does some “dog” things which are not always very appealing to non-dog creatures (as in me). When he first came to live with me 10+ years ago, he was so happy to have a home that he would not leave the yard, not even to go on a walk, or a hike in the mountains. NOTHING. No way. When I came home from school in the evening, Dusty would invariably piss on my foot the moment I stepped through the gate. Fortunately, I wore rubber flip-flops so it was not a big deal. He was saying, dog that he is, “She’s MINE and she’s not leaving AGAIN if I have anything to say about it!”

When Dusty arrived, there were three Siberian husky girls to welcome him — and they did. They adored him. He loved them, too. They did their best to turn this dobie/lab mix into a Siberian Husky, teaching him to hunt and howl. But, things started happening. Jasmine died of cancer, and Cheyenne had to be put down after a dog fight. All that remained of Dusty’s Huskies was Lily T. Wolf.

That’s when he began peeing on her. He peed on her every morning. He peed on her if a male anything — such as a handyman — came into the yard. Dusty was determined Lily wasn’t going to leave him.¬†I had to figure out ways to keep Lily somewhat house-worthy. Baby wipes…

Once in a while — very, very seldom — he pees on Bear in the early morning when I let them out first thing. Yesterday — I guess because my pack is out and I’m getting ready to go on a short journey (with them!) — he regaled Bear with his love and uncertainty.

Snow Angel

When Bear goes on a walk with Dusty and me, she is not on the same walk I’m on. She is acutely aware of scents, far more than Dusty or any dog I’ve ever had. I think it would be amazing to go on Bear’s walk sometime, and maybe see all the animals she “sees” with her nose. In the perfect world, each animal would “pop up” like a Princess Leia hologram that Bear couldn’t see (so she wouldn’t chase it) but I could know who visited each spot. The more recent visitors would be clearer; those who passed by days ago more faint.

As a human, I like tracks which makes walking in snow very rewarding. Yesterday on our walk (the first since I got sick, so the first in 3 weeks) there were thousands of tracks. Human tracks had made a packed-down narrow pathway on the trail. I noticed that the elk (shortly before I got there?) used the packed down trail, too. Their hoof-prints were on top of the most recent human boot prints.

There were dog, rabbit, mouse, fox tracks and (I think ) cat tracks. I’m not sure and I can’t trust myself there because I WANT a bobcat to be there. Desire can color reality.

Bear doesn’t just receive these scent messages. She wears them home and leaves answers¬†herself. Here she is reveling in the wonder of it all and saying “Hi!” to everyone. ‚̧

My Marathon

A long time ago in a far away place my dog Molly and I hiked a marathon. We didn’t set out to do that, but by the time we finished, that’s what we’d done. It was December in the year 2000 or 2001. Molly was already a pretty old dog — 12 years old. She was my best friend. She was — to me — much more than a dog though being a dog is already a pretty amazing thing. I¬†thought we’d hike 7 or 8 miles, but the day was so beautiful, windy but not too windy, just windy enough to clean the air an bring the sky close. As we hiked, I’d think, “Wow, I wonder what THIS looks like today” and we would go there. Fortunately, there was drinking water on the trail from a good well that flowed into a trough for the dog.

We started at the Meadows Information Station on the Sunrise Highway about 9 am. By the time we got back, it was dark and my feet hurt in a wonderful new way. The bottoms hurt when I put my foot down; the tops hurt when I lifted my foot and the top hit the laces and tongue of my shoe.


I checked my map when I got back to my truck and computed the distance. I was stunned. I had walked the distance between the mountain and the outskirts of San Diego. 26 miles. And, I was starving.

Not long after that, Molly was no longer up for a long hike. Time began to tell on her joints as happens with larger old dogs. I think that day was a great gift of long distance spontaneity, my only marathon and I shared it with her. ‚̧