Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog’s Scientific Method

Bear loves snow and we haven’t gotten any to speak of since October 9. Crazy? Yeah. It’s very dry here in Heaven, so dry that they haven’t covered the greens on the golf course.

In fact, they’re watering the greens.

Yesterday we took a small jaunt out into the gorgeous December light and I saw “drifts” of white stuff where snow should be. I told Bear, “When we come back, I have something nice for you, but right now, let’s GO!!!!”

Walking hurts at first and then gets better. I got a new cane yesterday and I’m eager to “try ‘er out” but the UPS hadn’t come when we took our walk, so I used my old trekking pole. It works fine.

So we walk into the dry pasture that is the driving range and we walked on the dusty dirt road beyond.

We tried to see “our” horses, but tank trucks being stored on the train tracks blocked our view. There’s a big dark bay mare who now comes to her fence to greet us — she’s still almost 1/4 mile away in a fenced pasture across the tracks, but it’s pretty clear to me she’s LIKE to say hello. Dusty and Bear now automatically stop at the Horse Viewing Area and they did yesterday. “Sorry, guys,” I say, peering as hard as my dogs do trying to see through the tank cars.

Bear has steadily checked her messages and some of them seem to have been very interesting and quite long. She left one. I don’t know who for; I don’t know which correspondent merits her pee, but he/she must be something.

We go back a different way and cross the golf course. Earlier, an anarchistic golfer had disobeyed the large sign, “Golf Course Closed. No Play or Practice” and was buzzing around from hole to hole on a golf cart, but now he was gone. We crossed the golf course, past the small grove of tall spruce, and headed toward what I think is hole 6 (don’t know for sure). There in the shade of the small hill below the green — and on the green itself — was something large, white and gleaming in the sun.

“I dunno’, Bear,” I said. “Maybe.” I was hoping it was a little melted, a little slushy. She caught the scent of the ice and moved quickly toward it. She experimented. She started with a theory, “This is snow? Maybe. Maybe not.” She threw herself down on the hard crust. She dug her nose into it, hoping that it was just a crust, and maybe, maybe, maybe? It had happened before, an icy crust like this and then SNOW below.

She took a few bites. No, well, maybe over here… She got up and moved to a sunnier patch. Smart dog. She’s learned a lot about how snow behaves during her short life. She flopped down a bit more gingerly and rolled. It really wasn’t better, maybe a little. She sighed, maybe thinking, “It’s what I have. Better make the best of it.” She dug, rolled, bit the snow, and rolled some more.

When she was finished she came to me and leaned, ice crystals melting quickly on her fur. I am pretty sure she was saying, “Thanks, human. You did the best you could.”

And we went home. Here’s the video 🙂 


360 Degrees

Last night, I gave up on the hiking book. I’ve published five OTHER books using Createspace, and they did NOT fuck up those covers, but EVERY cover I’ve put on the hiking book, Createspace has defiled. I’ve complained, tried different designs, done everything I could think of since it’s the inside that matters most, but in this case…

And the inside. I thumbed through one of the ten horrifically ugly copies I had ordered as Christmas presents for people, and found two mistakes, just at random.

As I went to sleep last night I decided it was just fucking hopeless and maybe the book is not meant to be a slender paper back volume. Maybe it’s supposed to be something else or maybe it’s not supposed to be at all.

cover My Everest 12:8.001

RIP Hiking Book


IN OTHER NEWS, the temperatures have arrived at their early winter manic state; 2 F degrees at night, 45 F in the day. It’s gorgeous if the wind isn’t blowing. My professional trainers (Dusty T and Polar Bear Yeti T Dog) took me out yesterday for a long walk. They were determined to test my abilities and we went farther than we have been going.

“You’re not going to get anywhere if you always do the same thing!” said Dusty T. Dog who hates change. I was completely startled by that; first, talking dogs don’t exist, and second, Dusty would never say that.

“It’s the voices,” I say to myself in one of those voices. Still, sometimes we give ourselves good advice.

The trail is a rough dirt road on which only BLM vehicles are allowed. It’s in one section of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area. Dusty wears his hunting vest like a magic cloak although there is no one there in the middle of the day in hunting season. The slough, a marshy collection of lakes coming off the big ditch and the river, is a nesting area for geese in spring and it is closed to people from early March to my dad’s birthday in July. I watch the ground. It’s uneven enough that I could trip on something. There are some HUGE human footprints, but not many.

There’s a north wind and I wear the Hellnarian Icelandic wool cap I bought in Bogarnes at the supermarket after going to the Settlement Center to see the exhibit of Egil’s Saga. Those must have been the days. Little Egil, six years old, in trouble with his dad for getting drunk at a party.

Truth be told, the walk is boring. It’s flat. There is nothing but dried cattails, tall grass and distant bare cottonwoods to look at. And, I have to pay attention. BUT, the light this time of year is exquisite and mysterious. It lies almost flat against the ground. A herd of Angus cattle in the pasture to the south are silhouetted against it, but they’d be cattle of color anyway. A hawk flies low over the pasture. A couple of magpies fly past against the wind. I think the cranes have finally left the valley.

At .75 miles, I turn around. My goal is 1.5. Nothing, but not that easy with arthritis all over the damned place. My NEXT goal is FARTHER. I’m aiming for 3 mile walks two or three times a week.

In every respect, I have a ways to go.

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area



Wise Words from an Old Dog

“Underdog, human?”

“Yeah. Sometimes you’re under Bear, sometimes you’re under Dusty.”

“But not in dog reality. I’m the Alpha Female, after you, of course.”

“I don’t know about that, Mindy. Sometimes Bear knocks you completely over when you guys rush outside.”

“An ‘underdog’ is not the same as the smallest dog. YOU should know that!!!”

“Touché, Mindy. Touché.”



Since 1987, when I got Truffle, my first real dog (on my own; the family experimented a couple of times when I was a kid, experiments that lasted days, weeks or months) I’ve had upwards of twenty dogs living with me. Not all at once. My upper limit was always six, as defined by law. As soon as I learned that two dogs were less work than one, I always had at least two, and usually three, dogs.

My dogs have all been large dogs from most people’s perspective, usually between 60 and 80 pounds. There are larger dogs, but none of them ever made their way into my life. I don’t think they’re that easy to come by. Only one of my dogs was bought at a pet store and she ended up the saddest dog story of all. Big Puppy was an overbred, over sized, yellow Labrador retriever who killed her adopted mom (Cheyenne T. Wolf) and then tried to kill Lily. These events happened with no provocation, no food involved, no crowding at the door, nothing that normally triggers dogs to scrap. The fights were to the death, too, also very unusual among a pack of dogs and not typical of the Labrador retriever. I had to put her to sleep when she was only two years old. The vet suggested that maybe her mother was also her sister and her dad her brother. “It isn’t uncommon,” he said, “breeders are often in it for the money.” We both cried in that little room at the vets’ office as this beautiful golden dog slipped into death.

The rest were rescues. All of them, though two were adopted from their “mom” it was find a home for the pups or they go to the pound.

I didn’t set out to be a dog rescuer, either. Back in the day, there were no breed rescues or fostering or anything like that. I took in a lot of strays, cleaned them up, neutered them and trained them then took them to the shelter and pretended they were my own dogs and I had to relinquish them. The end result of that was that when I wanted to adopt a dog from the shelter, they wouldn’t let me. I fostered a springer/poodle mix who was happy, bright and loving and quickly found a home. I fostered a pure-bred English spaniel who was adopted while I was signing the papers “relinquishing” her. I fostered other strays, too, and found them homes by walking them at a nearby park with a sign around their necks saying, “Please adopt me.” A well-mannered, leash-trained dog in the company of a happy person is pretty attractive to someone looking for a dog. I always checked up to be sure the homes where the dogs were adopted were legit and the dogs were happy.

There’s no way to keep all the dogs.

I have loved dogs as long as I can remember and wanted one from the time I was born, nearly. I used to put my stuffed dog under my pillow at night hoping the dog fairy would replace it with a real puppy. My mom said I always “pet” things, velvet, fur, the satin edging on my blanket, and she always found it odd, but I think it was like the Dalai Lama who is “recognized” because of what he chooses as a small child. Once I finally had my own dogs I felt more at peace with my life.

And I can’t explain it.

I like being around dogs. Dogs also like being around me. I’ve had several experiences in which a completely unknown dog will see me from several yards away and come running to me with no encouragement at all. It’s pretty freaky when it’s a pit bull, but they’re a happy, enthusiastic and passionate breed and it’s been pit bulls more than once. My first year here my neighbor’s dog — who was tied to a tree 24/7 — broke free and came to my house. Why? He’d seen me walking with my dogs and I’d talked to him. What I’m saying is not that I’m Dr. Doolittle or something, but that it’s not only that I’m attracted to dogs, they’re attracted to me. I think I emanate a, “I love dogs,” pheromone and they sense it.

My mom said they were children replacements. That wasn’t and isn’t true. I’m not their mom and they’re not “fur babies.” My dogs are something else, not quite pets, either. Companions, definitely, but what does that mean? Living with so many dogs has taught me a lot, some of which is inarticulable. I think it’s in “dog” not human language.

So pet? Child surrogate? Friend? I’m dubious about all those terms. But having had not “one” but many dogs during some hard times of my life, and feeling their company was sufficient, has made me think about the canine/human connection.

When my alcoholic brother died, and I learned about it five months after the fact in a strange and unsettling way, I came home from work alone with that knowledge. I remember opening the door to my very cold, very dark house in the mountains, starting a fire, feeding the dogs — at that time five dogs — cooking dinner, all with a numb, sad, cold place inside of me for which I had no words. What do you do, what do you feel, when you learn about your brother’s death five months after it happens? How do you even think about where he might have been when he died? How do you face the questions you will have to ask? How do you even think about finding his remains or what you will do with them? How do you confront the absolute loneliness of that reality? There is no consolation, really. In time you’ll talk to friends, family members will call, there will be sympathy, flowers, even, but that first realization is as lonely and cold as a stone house on a dark night.

There were the huskies, Lily, Cheyenne and Cody. Dusty T. Dog, of course, and Big Puppy? I don’t remember, but I think so. When the initial bustling of a return home was finished, and I sat down to collect my thoughts (which was not possible) I noticed that all of them were there, as near me as they could get. Cody suspended his vendetta against Dusty, and  sat quietly beside me, my Knight in Furry Armor. They were simply THERE. I am not sure that any person could have accomplished that much-needed companionable silence. There would have been words and in those moments, there were no words nor should there have been. There was sorrow, dark, purple, bleak, silent, exhausted sorrow.

There have been many times in my life when dogs have been “there for me,” so to speak. I’ve left my house and all my possessions in the care of my dogs during a few dark times, never imagining that there was any better way or any better guardians of our lives. It isn’t really strange. Shepherds trust their life’s fortune to their dogs and have for thousands of years. That I, a single woman, would entrust myself to dogs doesn’t seem that strange to me.

So I do not know really what to call them. Not pets. Not “fur babies.” For me it’s a relationship between equals who have different abilities in interpreting the world. That many of my dogs have learned I love watching birds and learn to show them to me is beautiful. I didn’t train them; they have the instinct as predators and they are aware of my behavior all the time. I’ve seen them work it out — most recently Bear. It’s as if she has thought it over, “Oh, Martha likes to watch hawks and cranes. We always stop to when she sees one.” Suddenly (it seemed to me) she was watching for them, too. Her breed is part “sight hound” and seeing that gift of genetics play out to help me enjoy birds is pretty wonderful. But most of my dogs — one way or another — have learned to read me and to relate to me with that knowledge — the same gifts that make some dogs guide dogs and helpers for handicapped people.

Cody O’Dog — above — was an exceptional being and someday I’ll write about him, but he embodied that human/canine partnership best of all my dogs, so I’ve put his photo here. In the photo, he’s in the backseat of my car and we’re heading for Montana. 🙂



Call Your Neighbors; Don’t Shoot their Dog

Dusty T. Dog wrote his first ever blog post today. Unfortunately, one of my blogging friends’ little dogs — Duke — also barky, but little, was shot by the neighbors today. He was shot with a pellet gun, it isn’t fatal or even (hopefully) serious.

I see no reason to shoot someone’s dog unless that dog is killing your livestock. Even then I would try to contact the owner first. But my first reaction when I heard of it was that it’s a good thing I wasn’t there. THAT’S the problem. This stuff can escalate FAR beyond what anyone in a fit of temper with pellet gun in their hand probably expects.

It’s just wrong to injure an animal wantonly and sadistically. It’s also wrong (and risky) to be unkind to your neighbors.

SO, I reposted Dusty’s once and only ever blog because it had taken on a sad life it didn’t ask for on another topic completely. More important, the topics of neighbors and bothersome animals is real and serious. A dog writing a blog is not only NOT serious but unlikely.




Here is Truffle, with the “WTF? I thought this was MY rawhide bone!” expression. The fluff ball in front of her is Mal-du-Mer (she got carsick a lot as a puppy), known as Molly, Molly Woof, Molly McButter. Yep. These are my first two dogs.

Here Truffle is making the face that always reminded me of this portrait of our first president.

Imacon Color ScannerGeorge

Truffle had a few names, too, George was one of them. She was sometimes Truffleupagus or Lup a short form. It is very strange to realize that this photo was taken about 30 years ago in my back yard in San Diego.


Truffle and Molly, 1998

Here they are in the bed of my Ford Ranger about 10 years later. The topper and carpet kit had finally fallen apart and they were relegated to being harnessed and tied in the back, but they didn’t mind. It was all about going. They’d jumped up in the truck bed even though we weren’t going anywhere. You can see beach sand on the bottom of the truck bed. You might think taking two such hairy dogs to the beach is asking for trouble, but I had a system. I usually took them to Dog Beach at the north end of Ocean Beach in San Diego.


Dog Beach

I parked in front of the do it yourself dog wash and we walked the two blocks to the beach. When we were done playing, we walked back and I bathed them. Still, beach sand is ubiquitous.

Truffle was a great dog. Her mother, Shadow, a purebred black lab, was a friend of mine. She lived down the street, usually tied to a tree. But often she’d break loose, come to my house, sit on the sidewalk and bark ONCE. Woof!

I went out, took her for a walk in the canyon, threw the ball for her and petted her. Then she went home. When she had her litter of puppies (at least three different fathers, I think) she brought them up to meet me. I kept Truffle, the only brown and white dog in the bunch. Animal control ended up taking all the rest — including the mom. I wish I’d known then what I know now about dogs. I’d have kept Shadow, but I didn’t know that two or more dogs is easier than just one.

Truffle and I went to obedience classes and faithfully did our practice. She learned. She was just a basic, friendly, smart-enough dog. She lived a long, happy life of hiking, fishing (fishing is standing in water watching water-skippers and wagging your tail) and chasing quail out from under bushes. ❤ She trained Molly who remained her best friend for life.

I got Molly at the swap meet. She and her litter mates were in a box being given away. Her mom was a Malamute. Her dad, pretty obviously, an Australian shepherd. Molly was the BEST of both breeds. Independent, intelligent, humorous. She was one of those ‘lifetime’ dogs. Training her was “different.” We went to puppy school, but as soon as Molly learned something, rather than practice, she went to sleep. When graduation day came, I didn’t want to take her but my ex did. Molly passed with flying colors, top of the class. Not that she availed herself of all this mastery throughout her life. Molly had an agenda of her own and more wisdom, often, than I have ever had.

In other news, well, you can read it on your own. I just hope it doesn’t devolve into presidential pardons.



Quotidian Update # 4.1.b

Sleep doesn’t come or stay easy these days. It’s almost more work than being awake. But…

Morning arrives and with it the ritual of the first fifteen minutes of my little life. Up, dress, etc. emerge from the Private Domain of Humans. Dusty walks around behind me for a head scratch, then they all go to the back door. I follow, open the door and out they go.

Dusty and Bear head for THEIR yard and Mindy for the garden. But invariably, Mindy waits for me on the walk way. This morning I am a little slow out of the chute and there she is, looking over her shoulder, “Are you OK?”

“I’m coming Mindy.”

I lock the gate to the Dusty and Bear yard, and Mindy feels free to do what she came out to do. As I head back to the door, Mindy passes me doing her perky little once-a-day run. I come in, make my coffee then go to the door to see if Mindy is waiting. She is. I let her in. I peel a banana and give her the last inch. I open the frozen strawberries and give her one. I make my smoothie and we go get the bigger dogs and I feed them.

I’m grateful for these dog mornings. It’s fifteen sweet minutes out of every day and at the end is coffee.


Dusty T. Dog and His Scary Bark


Dusty loves Bear

Everyone who gets to know Dusty T. Dog realizes he’s an exceptional being. Sure, other dogs are big, black and barky, but how many of them are also incredibly sweet, can jump six fee straight into the air and do yoga?


Which is the REAL Dusty?

In the three years I’ve lived here, Dusty has blossomed. His true nature has been allowed to flourish because people here like dogs, big dogs, and know how to be around them. Last week — the day Dusty wore his hunting vest for the first time on our walk — we encountered a dad with his son and his son’s friend. The dad was teaching the boys to fly-fish. Dusty, of course, started barking as if they were deeply violating everything he held dear. I said to the man, “He only sounds mean. He’s not.”


The man smiled!!! Then he said, “You want to run, boy?” (Dusty was leashed). I took that to mean I could unleash my dog. The man held out his hands in welcome and Dusty ran to him for pats. The man loved on Dusty and Dusty ate it up. Honestly, Dusty’s wonder is often eclipsed by Bear’s beauty. Then the man said, “Your other dog is pretty, too.” ❤

So Dusty made a friend. On our return trip (it’s a loop) Dusty didn’t bark at all or run over to meet them. He’d checked them out, found them safe to be around me and all was well with the world.


Dusty and K at the Sand Dunes

Dusty’s job (as he sees it) is to make sure nothing bad happens to me. He really likes people. He loves my neighbor, K, and I think she’s fond of him, but sometimes I think of all the times she and her husband walked past my house before I had a fence to keep Dusty out of the front yard. He must have terrified them.



Dusty’s De-Cloaking Device

It is now hunting season out here in the Wild West, and on our walks, Dusty T. Dog wears his hunting vest. Most of the year, Dusty looks like a moving shadow, but between now and March next year, Dusty will have heightened visibility — day or night. This vest has reflective strips so if we were EVER to go out walking in the dark where there are headlights, Dusty would shine.

He also wears a little LED light on his leash for that purpose. It’s great because it lights up the ground where we’re walking.


It’s been said that Dusty is not the brightest dog on the planet, but I think that depends on the time of year.


Electric Collar

Obedient dogs?

When it matters. But I try to give them orders only when it matters or I’m simulating a time when it matters. I’ve never had a dog from a breed that really liked doing tricks or lived to please its owner. Most of my dogs have been working dogs which means they have a brain already wired for a job. Only Dusty T. Dog gets joy from obeying me. But there was an exception.

Cheyenne T. Wolf (the husky in front in the photo above) was a completely untrained and very stubborn Siberian husky. Lucky for me, she was also friendly. When she came to live with me, she knew NOTHING. When she jumped up on the kitchen counter and opened the door to the cupboard, I knew I had a problem.

I found a professional trainer. She was reluctant to take on a husky saying, “They can’t be taught. I don’t even like the breed that much.” Well, what trainer would? Finally she agreed and Cheyenne went to live with Lisa for a month. Lisa got NO where with that dog for the first three weeks then, out of a kind of rebellious desperation, she put an electric collar on her. She had to work at that, getting the pointy-zappy things to the skin through Cheyenne’s thick ruff of fur. And out they went.

Cheyenne responded not just WELL to the E-collar, but happily! She LOVED it. She really GOT it. She walked at heel and got treats. She sat and got a treat. She did tricks and got treats. When Lisa brought her up to my house to show me how to work with her, Cheyenne was a happy dog. I realized she WANTED to do things right but somehow voice commands weren’t penetrating her Siberian husky skull.

She did tricks. All I had to do from then on to make my stubborn wild girl obey was put the collar around her neck. She didn’t even need to be zapped, in fact, I never even brought out the hand device that was my end of the training program. If the collar was on her, she started showing off and obeying like it was the greatest thing in the world. She LOVED that collar. It occurred to me that Cheyenne was just not an aural learner.

Dusty T. Dog went to the same trainer, but not so much for obedience training as to have a shot at becoming a well socialized and less fearful canine companion. He LOVES obeying. It makes him so happy to do what he learned to do. Bear is another creature completely from any dogs I’ve had before. She learned everything I had to teach her pretty much the first time. She does what I ask about 90% of the time. If she doesn’t, she has a reason. Sometimes her reasons are good and sometimes they’re pure whimsy like, “C’mon, Martha, I want to run around out here and hide behind this lilac bush just a little longer.” What matters to me is that the time she ran off, she came to me the moment she saw Dusty and me, before I even called her.

I don’t think I’d like an obedient dog or a dog who depended on me to know what to do. I have always enjoyed being surprised by some of the really wonderful things my dogs have done because they wanted to. ❤