Bear and I headed out on this beautiful afternoon for a saunter. The leaves on the mountains are continuing their magical transformation to gold. The air was cool; the sky covered by low, fluffy clouds. Seldom does the sky here in the Big Empty feel so close. The light changed continually. It was perfect.
As we were walking back to Bella, a brand new Hyundai stopped. The driver rolled down his window and Bear jumped up to say “Hi!” which the vast (meaning everyone but this guy) majority of crane tourists encourage and enjoy and which the man did not like at all. Good grief! She could scratch the paint! I apologized and lifted Bear’s feet from the car thinking the guy’s priorities were messed up. Then he said, “Have you seen anything?”
I was thinking, “Everything. There’s all kinds of everything around here.” I thought of another tourist a while back who, when I asked if he were looking for cranes, said, “I’m happy to see anything.” I also thought the paint on a car is meaningless compared to experiencing a joyful, friendly, giant-breed white dog jumping up to meet you. We might try not to be judgmental, but I think we fail a lot at it. I fail constantly.
“You mean cranes?” I said.
“It’s not the best time of day, but they’re around.” I told him and his wife where I thought they were most likely to be (near the barley fields). We chatted for a bit and I seriously plugged the wonders of the Crane Festival in the spring, and explained that while there are a lot of people, most of them like the tours in the school busses because they are sure they’ll see something and they get a wildlife biologist riding along to show and tell. I explained that crane tourists are not like other people, that they’re interested in cranes and very kind and respectful. They got the idea that coming back in spring might be a good idea. They only live 3 hours away so they could do that. Then I explained that there’s more crane activity at dawn and sunset. His wife chimed in with quite a bit more warmth and charm. It was a pleasant, pretty typical, conversation with crane tourists.
We went on our way and here came an old guy (my age) on a bicycle. “Hey, he said, “you dyed your hair to match your dog!” I laughed. He commented rapturously about the “perfect day” and I heartily agreed.
And this is what we saw (along with a Harris hawk and young bald eagle hunting).
Six years ago today I saw my shaggy bestie in real life for the first time. I saw her on Facebook the day before and Brandi, the young woman who worked at the local shelter, had texted me, “Martha! This is your dog!” or something to that effect.
I wasn’t sure. I had two dogs and was thinking maybe I didn’t need a dog who was likely to grow to be very large. “Do I need a 100 pound dog?” I asked myself. I asked people through this blog, too, and got good advice from people who had owned what this pretty puppy was supposed to grow into — that is Great Pyrenees. The shelter thought she was a mix because of the blue eyes and they really did look like they eyes of my beautiful Lily T. Wolf, the Siberian husky I’d had to put to sleep the previous March. She was 17 years old. ❤
So, I met her. She was in a cage apart because she was on “hold” in case someone came to claim her. I walked toward her. She walked calmly toward the fencing of her cage. We made eye contact. She sat. She looked at me as if she knew me and I brought her home to see how she’d do with Dusty and Mindy when I was free to adopt her.
Now she’s six years old, and these big dogs don’t have long lifespans. Thinking of that this morning it made me realize — again — how much courage it takes to love something, but what a loss if we don’t.
In other news, I have a new book project. No illustrations, just designing a book. I’m looking forward to starting. I decided that while I believe that a handshake is enough to seal a deal, I should grow up and execute a contract. I’m working on that today. It’s a sweet project, the kind that historians love, a book that an old sheep rancher published on his own hook some 30 years ago which now a small, local museum wants to republish.
The way I feel for “the west” is mysterious. My mom could have been a better mom, but she left me with some real treasures, one of them an interest in, knowledge of, and love for this world. I was thinking this morning that though I’m no farmer and no rancher, I’m definitely an appreciator. Farmers and ranchers need fans, too.
Beautiful day in the neighborhood. Bear really believes I make the snow. She came inside this morning soaking wet, snow on her back, and leaned against me relentlessly to show her gratitude. Cold, humid, patchy fog, snow showers, occasional graupel, a light breeze.
Bear and I attended holy services at the Big Empty and got to hear a special choir recital of redwing blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, meadowlarks, Canada geese and various ducks. You can see “my” two geese in this little video, the two who make their nest in this very vulnerable location.
We had a little discussion with these two geese who were a lot closer to us than they appear in this video. They really wanted the road. We finally persuaded them to take off. I didn’t see anything that they might have been guarding, but they were very very very vocal. There was nothing, no pond, nesting site or any other geese friendly site around. I don’t think the goslings have been born yet, but who knows. I wasn’t going to discuss it with them. If they didn’t want to leave Bear and I would have turned around. Geese protecting something are not especially friendly (ha ha)
That was the best service we’ve attended in a long time and we’re both very happy.
Bear and I took a Bear Ramble out to the Refuge and were rewarded by getting to see about a dozen happy ungulates trying to figure out if we were a threat or not. Apparently they couldn’t be sure, so we also got to watch them sproing off in a Mule Deer ballet.
Not much snow, but Bear and I have taken an extremely enlightened, Zen perspective and are enjoying what we have, which is a lot, and, at least, it’s cold. There are a lot of stories everywhere, most of which I cannot read but Bear can.
We heard ice breaking apart on one of the shallower ponds. Beautiful walk and inspiring company. Really a balm to the spirit. ❤
“My project. I’ve been working on it all my life.”
“Would you call it your 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.”
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).
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.