It’s been a weird few days but after a wonderful walk with Teddy, and all the helpful comments on the post I put up this morning, I realized there’s nothing I can do about “those people.” I don’t even have to understand them. And, while I’m not a praying person in the usual sense, this is the time for it. Someone or something with more influence than I will ever have is going to have to bring home the point to “those people.” It’s not my job. Anger and bewilderment over them is just a waste of my life.
On our walk today, Teddy had a great time with many splendid smells and I enjoyed the comparatively cool breeze. The same three cranes (I’m pretty sure) I’ve been seeing flew over us. Later on, I watched a young bald eagle carry out a successful hunt. Lots of raptors right now as they’re migrating south.
Teddy would like everyone to know he had a great time.
The featured photo is one of the larger ponds. The cattails right now are so pretty. This is looking southwest.
I was driving home from the shelter with Teddy, I’d just gotten him, ostensibly to foster (ha ha) Eric Clapton started singing from Mohammed’s Radio. Little Teddy, still with his puppy coat, sat in the seat next to me. Teddy is absurdly friendly and manically alert. He was hiding his nervousness (fear?) in a little coat of cuteness. For some reason I started singing along with the radio, and Teddy’s little ears perked up. He cocked his head, he looked at me. I put my hand on his little head and I kept singing. In the back of my mind were the words to the song. Promises. I’d just made one.
How had Teddy — the cutest smartest little dog ever born — ended up tied up and abandoned outside a convenience store? Who would not want him? I thought of the nice lady who’d rescued him and then brought him to the shelter in case someone was looking for him.
I didn’t know it, but only a few weeks later my 15 year old barky black dog, Dusty T., would have a stroke, and I would have to put him down. I didn’t think that in Teddy I was bringing home a pal and a job for Bear who was going to mourn that big black dog as much as I would. I didn’t know any of this.
The sky is clouded over. The smoke has dispersed. The wind is blowing from the west. Drops are falling. The temperature is cool. Teddy got a new harness as a present. Clearly the imperative is a jaunt to the Big Empty.
It was lovely. No dramatic photos, but this beautiful primrose was blooming by the road and Teddy is, of course, superlatively cute.
Walking with Teddy is a different experience from walking with Bear, but it’s still fun. He’s alert in a completely different way and his method for showing his happiness is as over-the-top as his personality. He just stops in front of me, stands on his back legs, wraps his forelegs around my arms and looks at me in adoration.
For that he gets a big hug.
No cranes today, but HUNDREDS of Canada geese moving from pond to pond.
I also found a huge nest fairly low in a cottonwood tree. I’m pretty sure it’s a magpie nest since they LOVE the four or five trees that line the road in one spot, there was a male in those trees in the spring ACTIVELY begging for love last spring. and photos on the sagacious Internet look a lot like what I saw. Like this…
Today we heard a truck coming and turned out it was driven by a friend. Seeing friends in these times is just incredible, and that should remain the case when this bizarreness is over.
Teddy and I headed out to the Big Empty on the spur of the moment because I had a theory that it would be cool at the Refuge, and the wind would be blowing. I was right. I do know my world. Fantastic skies the whole time. I don’t know anywhere where you would find — in one 45 minute walk — a variety of cloud formations like I saw today. I’m sure such a place exists, but where? Mongolia? Montana, certainly. Canada’s wide open spaces? I would add Iceland, but Iceland hates me. Fuck you, Iceland. 😉
The goslings of the two geese families have grown, and some of the babies didn’t make it. There are feathers in the carnivore scat along the road which probably explains that. The “little” ones now look like small versions of their parents. The Yellow-headed Blackbird who appeared so tame the other day behaved similarly today and I now think he’s guarding his nest. It should be up off the ground, but even so since it seems they build their nests in reeds, it would not be very high. He’s vigilant but very chill about his guardian job. I kept Teddy from testing the bird’s patience, though. I’ve studied that bird at length at this point and he has a sharp little beak.
I also decided that my Indian name shall henceforth be, “She Who Walks in Bad Weather with Dogs.”
Changing it to; “She Who Walks with Dogs under Wild Skies.”
“Many are the stories in the naked city.” Same with the naked Big Empty. Today temperatures remained almost Bear comfortable meaning that The Big Empty was comfortable at midday, my favorite time to go out. At that time of day, my brain goes on walkabout, and all I can really do is physical stuff. It’s not the prettiest time of day or even the most interesting, but you know… I took Teddy as it was his turn.
I love nature for nine million reasons including my conviction that it loves me. “Come on,” it says. “You know you want to.”
Midday is a good time to watch raptors and the other birds at the Refuge are pretty active then, too. It’s not the time of day to see mammals. Coyotes and cougars are crepuscular (great word, isn’t it!) and Teddy pointed out a lot of carnivore scat today. Whose? Farm dogs? Coyote? No idea. It will be easier for me to tell when it’s dried out and the contents revealed.
Today I saw two hawks. The Harris Hawk flew low about 50 yards in front of us and when I caught up to the spot where his flight had passed the road I saw he’d dropped his lunch. My best guess is that he’d grabbed the mouse, taken flight and something came up behind him. It could have been one of the Red Tail hawks I see often.
Later, towards the end of the walk, just passing the marsh with the small walking loop around it, I heard a sudden commotion among the Red-winged and Yellow-headed blackbirds who call it home. I looked over at the racket and saw the male Red-tail hawk was flying low over the marsh causing the blackbirds to send up the alarm.
At one point in our walk, Teddy (who’s only about 18 inches tall at his highest point) ducked. I saw a small black and white duck flying low over the trail in front of us where Teddy was walking. Cracked me up that Teddy literally DUCKED (c’mon, laugh, you know you want to). I don’t know what the duck was; possibly a Coot.
There were people out there today, too. An elderly couple sat at a picnic table then took off each in their own cars. As he passed Teddy and me, the man rolled down his window, “Isn’t this great?”
“Yeah. It’s not hot, it’s beautiful.”
“Right? And the goddamned wind isn’t blow 60 mph. Have fun!” He waved.
“Have a great day,” I said, still feeling that COVID-19/we’re all isolated tug at my heart (and eyes)
Early in the walk, I had noticed a strange looking plant that was hit by frost last night. What could it be? I saw more of them as I went along, and figured it out.
Here’s the thing about nature. Even if you walk the same 1 1/2 or 2 miles on the same road every single day, and you THINK you see things you’ve seen before, you really haven’t seen anything before. I had never seen milkweed in its “baby” stage before, but I’ve “known” milkweed since I was a toddler. Now I can look forward to the beautiful flowers, the arrival of Monarch Butterflies and all that comes with this amazing plant.
The familiar things — Canada geese, for example — anchor you. They’re like old friends at a party full of strangers. Then you get more comfortable at the party, more curious about the strangers and you see more. I’ve only seen Northern Harrier hawks twice (to know it).
The yellow-headed blackbird is found all over the U.S. EXCEPT in the part of California where I lived so long and hiked so much. Wetlands? I’ve never spent time in this landscape.
The sky tells me we will get rain in a couple of days. Weather.com agrees with the sky.
Free to study Nature’s mysteries, He breathes in the divine; His spirit grounded in Truth, Sure of himself, he casts off all restraint. Wide sweep the winds of Heaven, Grey loom the distant hills, And with true strength is Creation spread before him; He beckons sun, moon and stars, And washes his feet in the stream where rises the sun.
The kids came over today with a beautiful present for me — a planter they had made and painted me for Mother’s Day. That was awesome but what was REALLY awesome was Michelle.
When she met the dogs in my house last week, she was terrified and panicked. It was bad. Bear went into major livestock guardian dog to try to comfort her which just made it worse since Bear’s way of comforting a scared little animal is to get on top of them. And Teddy was apeshit because of the chaos. Michelle loves them, but they terrify her.
Last week, Bear “wrote” Michelle a letter and explained about herself to the little girl. “Bear” also explained to Michelle that Teddy is still basically a puppy and very excited all the time about everything. Today Michelle wanted to come in and see the dogs again and try everything Bear told her in her letter.
Again, she was terrified. I sat down on the sofa with her and wrapped her in my arms. I was amazed that instantly she relaxed. Bear relaxed, too. Little by little, Michelle was ready to try again. She even stood up and got a toy for Teddy. She sat back on the sofa with me. That is when Bear saw that Michelle was scared of Teddy. Bear put herself between Michelle and Teddy and didn’t move. I told Michelle what Bear was doing and she understood that it would make it easier for her to interact with Teddy if Bear were between them. I told Michelle how great she was doing, told Bear what a good dog she was and told Teddy he was a good boy when he sat or went down on command. I told Michelle to tell them, too. She learned that Bear would rather have pats than cookies.
It was really, really cool. When she left she apologized for being afraid. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a brave kid in my whole life.
The box is really beautiful and they were so proud of it. There are good paintings of Teddy, Bear, me and one of their kitties. There are GREAT color combinations. Rumor has it that the orange glows in the dark. I’ll check that tonight.
“Nope. I’m not going to spend time trying to catch her when I have another perfectly good dog who DOES want to go, right?”
“Yay! Yay! Yay! I’m going to sit here and you put my harness on, OK?”
“Good boy, Teddy.”
“Bye Bear! Bye Bear! Can’t we take her? She’s looking at us through the fence.”
“That’s her thing, Teddy. She has free will. She chose not to come.”
“Up, puppy. You do that so good, Teddy.”
“I know, Martha. I’m the shit when it comes to getting in the car. Is that a good song, Martha?”
“Yeah, it’s a good song.”
“Why don’t you sing?”
“I can’t sing this one.” (Truth is, only Teddy thinks I can sing ANYTHING.)
We arrive, park, get out of Bella. I take my handy-dandy poop bag for my little guy just in case and we take off.
“Martha, there is all kinds of NEW POOP everywhere! Martha, my geese are out of control. Wait, there’s more! More geese!”
I look and there are goslings.
“Stop, Teddy,” I say and take a zoomed in photo of tiny birds. OH well.
We go on and then, suddenly, beside the trail…
“MARTHA! MARTHA! MARTHA!!!”
“No Teddy. You have to leave that alone. That little guy has enough enemies already.”
“What IS it? What is that miraculous beast? I WANT it!!!”
“Cottontail rabbit, Teddy.”
“Probably somewhere in your ancestral memory.”
There are other signs of spring in the Big Empty now. The trees…
Look, more poop. And more. I’m going to taste this one.”
“Don’t eat that shit, Teddy.” I laugh to myself. Here in the Big Empty who’s going to laugh with me?”
“Martha, listen. There’s that sound you like.”
“Hang on little dude. I’m going to try to take her picture.”
“Are you going to stop here?”
“Yeah. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see the osprey or the hawks again.” I sit down on a rock. In fact, this walk has been slow and painful. Various parts of my body hurt from wielding the pick-axe. I’m no spring chicken. But, you know, it’s just one foot in front of the other and there is NO race. I don’t mind at all because walking is better than NOT walking. Left, right, left, right, left right. No one is here. No one is judging me. Just this little guy who stops periodically to jump up on me for a hug. He thinks I’m great.
While I’m sitting on “my” rock, a pair of ravens flies over, surfing the wind. Teddy climbs up into my lap as much as he can. I think of the thousands of times I’ve sat on a rock somewhere in the turn around or half-way point of a hike and a beloved dog has sat beside me or laid its head on my lap while I watched birds. “What’s better than this?” I think from my “lofty” promontory of roughly 28 inches. “A great dog and ravens playing on the wind.”
On the way home (the walk back was easier and less painful than the way out which is why it’s better to walk) I hear a good old song that I LOVE and that I can sing. Nothing deep, no Rocky Mountain High or anything, but Teddy was happy, licked my hand (probably thought I was in pain) and snuggled beside me.
Teddy and I headed out to the Big Empty hoping that today it would indeed BE empty. Yesterday Bear and I went and found PEOPLE! And one small group and an OFF LEASH yellow lab! and THEN, hoping to have a chance in another spot, two farm dogs out having an adventure. They were incredibly cute, but Bear went apeshit IN the car. So…
We returned to the abandoned golf course, the road to which is barricaded, and parked beside the tennis court which has caution tape across the gates.
Bear LOVES the golf course, as do I, but after a month or more in the Big Empty, it seemed a little, uh, small and urban. And wrong. Much as I like having access to it, the place should have golfers on it. The sprinklers were going, the greens were beautiful, everything was saying, “Golf on me!” 😦
We headed out past the driving range (pasture) to the dirt road and farms. At the end of this dirt road is a farm and this farm has a very large mare, dark brown with a star on her forehead. She’s beautiful and she loves me and Bear. I don’t know why. I’ve never been within touching range of her though dozens of times I’ve wanted to be. I’ve even carried apples in my pocket for her, but I hesitated. Then the owner of the farm put a gate up to close the road. It’s often left open (it was yesterday) but still. For all I know it’s because people were bothering the horse.
Whenever the horse sees us she runs to the very edge of her “yard” — something more than a paddock, something less than a pasture. Her “run” is actually a beautiful dance. She runs all around her yard, tossing her head and bucking, then, she comes to the edge of the fence closest to Bear and me. We are probably 100 yards away. I have told her that I love her and Bear loves to see her, too.
Yesterday, however, she got out of her yard and into the pasture. I never even investigated it before to see it if were fenced. It was clear to me what she was doing. She was trying to get to us. She’s not quite a Percheron but definitely not a quarter horse. She’s not built like a thoroughbred. I have NO idea what she is except very large. As she ran, she tossed her head. I thought, “That horse wants to follow me home.”
I don’t know all that much about horses, but I do know two things. One, they like to be with other animals. Brownie, the horse that lived next door to me in Descanso, CA, made a herd for himself out of Dusty, Lily and, of course, me. I know a horse’s herd doesn’t have to be another horse. Second, I know that horses are incredibly empathetic, and I believe they read minds. I’m SURE that horse knows I like her A LOT and would love to make a herd with her. She’s always alone. I’ve only seen her with a person once. She also recognizes that Bear is a chill dog who’d get along with her fine.
Anyway, I could see she could get out. I turned and walked away resolutely and fast. No other way to communicate with her, really. I didn’t turn around, but I kept listening for hooves on the dirt road.
Today at the Big Empty there was nary a soul for a good reason. It’s a very chilly day (snowing in northern parts of the state) and the wind is blowing like a MF. Teddy and I took off and enjoyed ourselves anyway, though, between us, I’ve had more fun. When you’re walking against the wind, your dog insists on hiding behind you (smart dog), and you have 3/4 of a mile to go, well, it’s almost like walking uphill both ways to school, barefoot, in the snow.
Practicing social distancing with Teddy is very different from social distancing with Bear. I imagine some of it is that I haven’t even been walking with Teddy for a year yet so we don’t know each other to the same degree.
Teddy is so small (to me). Only 25 pounds and maybe 14 inches tall at his shoulders. He’s a bundle of energy, curiosity and affection. From time to time in his exploration (leashed) he seems to feel, “I must now love Martha!” and he’ll jump up on me for a hug. To my surprise and joy, he is learning NOT to jump on me in the house. I think he is making a distinction.
One thing my life with dogs has taught me is that you get to know your dog best by going out “hunting” with them.
Teddy is a fun little guy who is just as determined as Bear to pursue his education in mammal and avian scatology with a specialization in Canadian goose scat.
There is more coyote scat than there has been and much less elk. I have a different perspective on all this poop, not having to smell it to identify it, but I think my dogs might have more data such as when it was placed on the trail and the diet of the corresponding animal.
The cranes are all gone and now the magic lies in birdsongs. The video is kind of lame, but the sound is absolutely beautiful. Western meadowlarks. Oh and the little guy… ❤
In this photo, if you have a very good eye, you can see a magpie.
When I took the photo, was drawn to the laciness of the aspen branches against the blue sky, but then I saw the magpie. The magpie was fluffing his feathers and calling out, “Would someone PLEASE share a nest with me for the love of God?” This is reminiscent of a scene in Fellini’s Amarcord.