Talking to Bear about her Masterwork

“What’s this, Bear?”

“My project. I’ve been working on it all my life.”

“Would you call it your life’s work?”

“Life’s work?”

“You know, your Magnum Opus. Your great achievement?”

“It’s just a hole, but I work on it every day. A good hole like this one needs a lot of maintenance and constant refinement.”

“I see it is kind of a double hole.”


“Is there a special reason for that?”


“What do you do in this hole?”

“You see it’s in a shady spot so sometimes I sleep here. Sometimes I hide from Martha. I use it every day to ambush Teddy Bear T. Dog, my buddy and sidekick. He’s so dumb. I can hide here, and he’ll run right by me a hundred times a day, and he’ll still be surprised when I jump out. It’s a riot.”

“Do you have other holes?”

“Yes. I have many other holes. I have a hole beside the fence there, under the hanging bird bath. I like to sleep there when the weather is hot. It’s where the snow is, but not now. I have a couple of hobby holes here and there.”

“How does Martha feel about all these holes all over her yard?”

“We’re a team! She fills them in so I can dig them again!”

“You’re not mad when she fills in your holes?”

“Of course not! I love it. She understands perfectly that, except for the hole by the fence and this hole, that Holes come, holes go. You can dig a hole and, the next day you want to dig a new hole, and you fill the old hole with the dirt from the old hole. Happens all the time.”

“Do you have plans for any new holes?”

“If I feel like digging, I dig. If I don’t, I don’t. I don’t plan. How can a dog ‘plan’ a hole? Everything depends on the condition of the dirt and the way I feel. Sometimes I might want to dig a hole but I can’t even get a paw in the ground, even with big paws like mine.”

The Bear Report

Just took Bear to the vet to learn why she is limping. She has reduced muscle mass in her shoulders, and the doc thinks she might have a couple of compressed vertebrae in her neck, a common problem in giant breed dogs. The symptoms appear as the dog ages.

It’s a depressing reality that a giant breed dog at 5 years old is older than a normal dog at 5 years old. Bear now has pain meds, and we don’t have to do anything different than we do anyway. Otherwise Bear is in very good condition and was loved on by everyone. 

Some of the people at the vet have known Bear since she was a puppy and were very glad to see her (me too, I think). 

Sonnet 64:

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-ras’d
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the wat’ry main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

It was weird at the vet. I’m obviously 70ish and not absolutely normal walking. One of the techs asked me how I could handle such a big dog. I was flummoxed. I’ve had big dogs as long as I’ve had dogs. Bear is always aware of me, even if she pulls ahead, she stops and looks back. She’s pulled me down ONCE in her whole life and that’s because I didn’t let go when I should have when a dog was charging her and barking at her (on leash). I thought about people and their dogs. When Bear and I walk, we walk together. We’re both engaged in something that makes each of us happy individually but is enriched because we’re together. It’s been like that for me with all my dogs, but Bear most of all.

I don’t know that it’s about controlling a dog as much as understanding the dog. Teddy is learning, but he has a way to go. Still, he’s only a year old. It takes time to know your dog.

My theory of dog training is you teach your dog what he/she needs to know to be safe in the world of people and otherwise, you just cooperate. Bear was really beautifully behaved at the vet. I don’t know. Everyone thinks their dog is extraordinary, but I think Bear might be objectively extraordinary. These dogs are bred to be calm and aware of their environment at all times. That’s translated for me into a dog that’s almost a friend as much as a pet.