Quotidian Ruminations of a Canine Kind 83.2.a.iii

I had to get up in the night with Dusty T. Dog, again, but less drama than last time. I wonder if he knows I’m about to abandon him for the bright lights of the city? And why? My orthopedic surgeon has decided to abandon ME for the bright lights of a BIGGER city and is moving to Denver, so my one year check has been pushed up two months. And if I want him to replace my knee somewhere down the road, I have to go to Denver, too…

OH well…

In other news, I had to make the decision this morning whether to renew the subscription to this blog. There are 2500 posts which is actually pretty terrifying. Some of them are good, most of them are just you know recitations of quotidian reality — and that’s cool, but I wonder how I’m going to cull that herd of verbiage. I want to. I wish it were a little easier to go back to the beginning and delete posts.

I guess that’s a project for a cold winter which is now over…officially. Yesterday Bear and I went to the golf course for a ramble. It was the true Bear Walk. Lots of smells to take in, a little bit of snow left to walk in, beautiful vistas in all directions. We took our time. I love these Bear Walks. They’ve changed me as a walker, that’s for sure. I listened for Sandhill cranes off in the distance, but didn’t hear any. They should be on their way north anyway.

As we reached the end of our block to cross the street to the golf course, the kids came running to the fence, and the little boy opened the gate. “Don’t come out here, C.,” I said. “I won’t be able to hold Bear.”

“OK.” He went back in. We went over and visited. C WANTED Bear to come into their yard. “We have a big pile of snow for Bear, he said.”

That, folks, is the whole point of life.


Morning Chat with Dusty T. Dog

“But I’m not bold, Human.”

“Not true, Dusty. You’re VERY bold.”

“No. I’m scared all the time. That’s why I’m so barky and aggressive.”

“I know that, Dusty. But if you weren’t scared, you wouldn’t need to be bold. Bear’s not bold. She’s friendly and fierce, but she’s never afraid. Fear makes you bold. You have to overcome that and it takes courage, boldness. You know what Hemingway said.”

“No. How would I know what Hemingway said? I’m a dog. I’d rather be like Bear and just get pets.”

“You do that, Dusty. You’ve gotten really good at it.”

“But I have to bark like a, like a, what’s the rating on your blog, Human?”

“‘R’ for language, I think.”

“OK. Well, I have to bark like a mother…”

“A hound from Hell, Dusty, let’s just go with that.”

“That sounds good. But I’m not a ‘hound from hell’. You know that, right?”

“I know that.”

“Where did you go with my sister yesterday when you left me behind?”

“We went on a long walk. We couldn’t take you because we went too far for you.”

“It sucks getting old, doesn’t it, Martha?”

“Yeah, Dusty, but the alternative isn’t great, either.”

“I’m VERY old for a big dog. The vet said so. Is it true?”

“Yep, you are, Dusty, but you’re in great shape.”

“Probably my morning coffee. Did you see anything good on your walk?”

“Yeah. There were lots of cranes off in the distance.”

“Did you see them? I know you like seeing them.”

“No, but they were noisy, cooing and purring softly. Then they got VERY loud. I looked up and there was an eagle circling above them. I watched for a while, but it didn’t seem that the eagle thought his chances were great.”

“Do you think the eagle got some dinner?”

“I hope so. Eagles get hungry, too. Then when we were walking on the ditch bank there were robins and bluebirds. Oh and a redwing blackbird.”

“I wish I could have been there.”

“Me too, Dusty. I’ll figure out a way for you to go that isn’t so far, OK?”

“I love you, Human.”

“I love you, Sweet Boy.”


Bear Is All Grown Up

When I first got Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle such a big dog or an energetic puppy. I thought she was a mix of husky and Pyrenees. Marilyn, of the blog “Serendipity…” let me know she was familiar with Pyrenees and kind of talked me into allowing this giant breed dog into my family. It went well from the beginning.

A few months into the adventure, a friend correctly identified Bear as an Akbash Dog, not a Pyrenees. Big deal. Both breeds are livestock guardian dogs. The main difference between the two is that Akbash dogs are lighter in weight, faster on their feet and come from Turkey not the Pyrenees. Both are ancient breeds (Akbash have been traced to 300 BCE) and both have guarded livestock, working in a partnership with people.

I read everything I could about them and it really seemed like Marilyn was right. I have had a lot of dogs in my life — more than 25 — and I have gone through a lot of training with those dogs. My dogs have all been at least 50 pounds and my favorite breed was the Siberian Husky which is notorious for being difficult to train and independent of temperament. Everything I saw about the Akbash Dog suited me fine. I wanted a partner, not a pet, a friend on a hike, a dog who was able to read a situation and make up her own mind.

The Akbash is large, strong and fast, as befits a dog whose job it is to guard valuable flocks of sheep. When he’s not taking on wolves, he is a calm, quiet and steady dog with an independent frame of mind and the ability to think for himself in different circumstances. He is accustomed to working with people as a partner, not as a subordinate. (vet street, Akbash dog)

With her mentality, she very quickly decided to go along with my preferences. She liked being with me and understood that’s what she’d have to do. She was housebroken in four hours, had made friends with Mindy and was working hard to win Dusty’s approval (but he still mourned his Lily).

I’ve never known a dog like Bear. She amazes me every day.

She began guarding as soon as she moved in, but it was never very serious until last week when the Australian cattle dog came charging at us, teeth bared. Within seconds Bear had slipped my hand (taking her leash with her) and had thrown that dog on his back in the driveway of his house.

She’s a different dog now. She is far more attentive to sounds than she was before the attack. She stays closer to me and stops and leans when she hears anything she thinks might be a threat. She’s come into her own as a livestock guardian dog.

I have mixed feelings about this. She is no longer what I would call “dog friendly.” Off leash, without me, probably she would be friendly, but definitely if she’s leashed and with me, she’s going to do her job.

She is four years old today, March 12. I don’t know if this is her exact birthday, but she was four months old when I first learned of her in mid-July 2015, and Lily T. Wolf died exactly four months before that, on March 12, aged 17. Bear looked up at me from a posting on Facebook from the local dog shelter and it seemed it was Lily looking at me through Bear’s blue eyes saying, “This is the one.”

I believe it really happened that way. And for her birthday, Bear got a BIG snowstorm that Lily would also have loved. ❤ ❤

Hell (warning, obscenities liberally sprayed throughout) otherwise, tedious small town stuff.

L’enfer, c’est les autres.” Jean Paul Sartre, original French title of No Exit

Yesterday I felt completely daunted, flattened, by no longer being able to walk the dogs on the golf course. A little melodramatic, I know, but some days are better than others and having Bear attacked by a dog while walking in the hood didn’t help my attitude toward life. As we passed the access road to the golf course, Bear attempted to turn. I said, “We can’t go there. Sorry Bear.”

The golf course sat there on a sunny Sunday completely empty and calling to us. “I’m lonely. Why haven’t you visited me in so long?” Seriously. Its little golf-course spirit was sad.

Ultimately, we had a decent walk around the high school, looking at the golf course continually. BUT there were no big (dog attack) events, and we came home.

I wrote about the shared despair of Bear, me and the golf-course on Facebook (more on that in a minute). One of my brother’s old friends, with whom I’m friends, wrote that I needed to protest this to the city council because “retired people” like me with “augmented abilities” need a place like that. She followed with a long lecture about what I should “do” about it.

I wrote back that I don’t have “augmented abilities” but that I have no restrictions on what I can do. I can even downhill ski and run if I want to.

This woman is polemic by nature. She wrote back in defense of her language saying that my hip replacement augmented my abilities. I thought, “You twat. Words have meanings. My abilities were restored by the hip replacement, not ‘augmented’. Not at all. You try to do the things I do. I don’t think you can.”

I wondered why I got so upset. OK, I was already in a bad mood, but, seriously?

This is a woman who could not see or hold her own new born grandson or be with her daughter when the little boy was born because she refused to get a flu shot. I shrugged. Fuck it. It was my fault for posting on Facebook. Facebook. Facebook, you evil bitch.

I thought about it — we all want to be understood. We want to be seen for the person we are. I don’t think social media helps with that. I already have a minimal (comparatively) presence on Facebook. I’m about to dial that back even further.

I then contacted a woman who also walks her dogs on the golf course and who happens to be on City Council. She let me know the whole story. There’s a movement afoot to make it a multi-use area without kicking off the golfers. She explained that golf courses all over the country are having problems making ends meet and the idea is to keep the golf course from going bankrupt by putting city money into it. She explained that the golf course belongs to the city and no one can tell me not to walk there.

I was relieved. I don’t want the golfers kicked off. I don’t want anything to happen to them at all. I think the golf course is good, but it’s also stupid that there’s this big empty place that no one uses for 7 months of the year, and all I want is to walk Bear on the cart roads out to the ditch easement and out of town. I volunteered to help out. I will not be needed, but a small message of support and goodwill probably doesn’t hurt anything. IF the multi-use thing happens, I will donate a dog poop bag station. I priced them yesterday.

Meanwhile, the golf course groundskeeper did tell us that we can walk there until March 20. We’re going today. It snowed last night, not much, but enough to make a beautiful morning.



“What a beautiful dog!”
“Do you want to say ‘hi’?”
“YES! Yes! YES!”
Little girls in pink jackets run up to us
They hug my big white dog,
A dog twice their size…or more.
Bear kisses the two year old who’s a little afraid.
“She’s fluffy!”
Bear’s eyes glaze in pleasure.

Moments later, a Golden puppy charges Bear
Hoping to play.
Bear, growling, throws him to the ground.
“No harm no foul,” said the puppy’s owner coming toward us. “It’s
My fault. Chester should have been leashed.”
“Is he OK?”
“He’s fine.”
“I’m so sorry. She was attacked yesterday
I think she’s still a little traumatized.”
“No, no I’m sorry. Your dog was protecting you.”
Still, a puppy.

Livestock Guardian Dog

Most of the time, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog is a pet. In fact, she’s been exclusively a pet until today. But dogs — even pets like her — have instincts with which they’re born. She is an Akbash Dog, bred for centuries to protect those she cares for (usually sheep and/or goats) from attack by wolves, bears and, out here, mountain lions.


Bear walks well on a leash. She’s friendly to people and friendly dogs. She loves children and is gently enthusiastic with them. She loves tracking a deer across a field. She’s extremely affectionate to all the people she knows who are part of her world. She taught herself to hug people around the knees rather than jump on them. She’s my best friend. But I didn’t know what that meant until today.

Exiled from the golf course, we now take our short afternoon walk around the neighborhood. Today we turned down our usual street and a ferocious, slathering, teeth-baring Australian cattle dog came charging at us from between two houses. I could hold Dusty but not Bear. She went at him with equal ferocity, chased him home, flattened him, made him stay down then came back to me when I called her. I have never seen anything like that. While I know I should hope she didn’t hurt him, in reality I don’t give a flying fuck if she did. I hope she did. If that dog’s people can’t train and confine him, my dog will do it. An Akbash can take down a wolf or a bear.

My blood rushed to my head. For the second time in my life, I saw red. I’m still shaking.

My dogs are always (except for 2 minutes of my life just now) in my control. That is my job as a dog owner. I think that’s everyone’s job if they own a dog. I love all dogs, I want everyone in the world to have at least one happy dog in their life, if they can. Leaving your dog loose in your yard as those neighbors did, free to charge other dogs and passers by in that way, is completely negligent and irresponsible.

But, the good news, my dog came back when I called her after checking a couple of times to make sure she wasn’t going to be followed by the cattle dog.

The Akbash Dog in this video behaves toward the bear exactly as Bear behaved today. I hope the cattle dog got away as safely as this bear, but I also hope he learned not to run into the street, charging other animals, risking his life.

Another Small Step

Today I took Bear out for a ramble where we’ve been going lately — along one side of the golf course, along the main ditch, into the Big Empty. To one side nice houses and yards; to the other an empty field beloved by deer. I’ve seen this thing before. If anything EVER happens to make Monte Vista a place where people want to live, the field will be gone, but meantime it’s a borderland between town and farm.

We got to our turnaround point (a mile) and turned around. We’d gone only a few yard when a large black dog came barreling through the neighborhood to the wire fence along the ditch bank. There was nothing to keep him on “his” side, so we turned around. This meant going home ‘the long way.’

Most important, the long way isn’t a lot longer than our original plan, just 2/3 of a mile or so. I just have our walks timed so I can do other things (like langlauf) if I want to. We walked along a small ditch on a muddy path to a familiar road where we’ve often walked to watch the deer hang out under the tank cars. Neither the tank cars nor the deer are there.

When we were done, I had taken the longest walk I’ve taken in years. The big deal about it is that it was no big deal. I didn’t even think about the distance. Nothing hurt. We walked through snow, mud and on nice dirt pathways. It is the first time in a long, long, long time that walking has been easy, has been transportation, has been a way out of a bad situation. It also didn’t take a lot longer than the walk I’d set out to do.

The featured photo is from about a year ago, Dusty, me, Bear and my cane walking on part of the route I walked today. I notice (besides no cane) my recently operated left leg is longer now, closer to the length of my right leg than it was before my surgery.

I know this doesn’t seem like much of a story, but if you’ve had a joint go bad and you’ve had it replaced, there are (I think) stages in recovery and I think I just crossed another one, an important one. It bodes well for the coming summer, I think, and I’m happy.

Not Pets

I’ve had upwards of 20 dogs and they haven’t been pets. They’ve been friends, hiking pals, teachers, and, in the case of Polar Bear Yeti T. Bear, something to hug. I don’t have photos of all of them. There was Truffle, Molly, Maggie a Girl of the Streets, Paddy, Aschi, Xiao, Zorkie, Lupo, Ariel, Persephone Pitbull, Lily, Jasmine, Dusty, Cody, Big Puppy, Reina, Mindy, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog and a handful of rescued and rehomed dogs.

Deep Snow

The snow is deep here in Heaven and it’s GREAT. I didn’t buy skis, my new snow shoes have shark’s teeth on the bottom and they scare me. But we remain undaunted and yesterday we headed out to the golf course to smell things and look for tracks.

The San Juan Nordic Club has groomed beautiful trails and, as it was Sunday, people were using them. It was wonderful to see — and it made me envious. Anyone who was outside yesterday really WANTS to be outside. Dusty made two new friends — a friendly neighbor opened his arms and let Dusty run to him, and one of the skiers — a really amazing ski-skater — stopped and asked if he could meet my dogs. They were all about it.

The tracks for cross-country skiing are really nice — there is a wide one for the skaters, lines for the people like me who just glide, and then a packed part to the right of all this for walkers. In snow over a foot deep it’s nice to have something a little more solid under foot. I love that they do that. It’s kind and respectful and protects their ski tracks from the kinds of postholes idiots like me drop into the snow with every step.

So far this winter I have fallen three times and gotten up three times, twice in deep snow. That was one of my biggest fears thinking of winter sports. Every time it was nothing. “I fell, so what,” not even that much thought or dread went through my mind. When you think of being mobile, you don’t think of falling, but it’s part of the equation. Anyone who moves around risks being attacked unaware by inanimate objects that are out to get them. It’s vital to be able to recover from a fall without fear. Just pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again. Yesterday we walked a mile and a half through this deep snow. It was hard work, but fun. Dusty was suffering by bedtime, though.

But I’m getting skis. This is insane.

P.S. The photo is from three days ago. We’ve had more snow since then. 🙂


“Home” isn’t a place any more, well, other than my house. There was a moment when I realized that I am a snail and home is a thing I carry with me all the time. Even now — in what I believe will be my last house — I feel like a tenant and I’ve been slow to unpack.

When I moved back to Colorado, I learned something about what home means to me by what I chose to put in the rented van I drove over the mountains.

I packed a box of art supplies, another of winter clothes (because, coming from San Diego in October, I would need them), my dad’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and my three dogs. Were those things — and animals — “home?” The animals, definitely.

My goal as a young person was to be “at home in the world” rather than tied to a place. I’m not sure I managed that. If “home” is a feeling, well, I’m home when I’m outside with my dogs experiencing whatever happens to be going on when we arrive.

Nature is not “out there.” It’s right here all the time. In my case, it’s literally a block away in winter. Now that the crepitus of arthritis has been diminished through surgery (I still have it in my left knee), my days are centered around the time when we can go out and see what’s happened in REAL reality while we were sleeping.

We humans with our towns and cities have just carved out little bastions of human safety in the midst of it. All animals do this for themselves one way or another, and all of them are destructive to some extent though I don’t think they regard nature as a foe or friend. I think they get it in ways we humans have forgotten. I like it very much when I’m out there and have to adapt to something I cannot negotiate with like cold, rattlesnakes, heat, whatever. For me there’s liberty in that depth of reality.

I hope this summer to have even more chances to go home. It’s a little difficult now without a 4WD car, but that’s OK. I’m making plans.