Dogs Aren’t Human, Thank Goodness…

Yesterday the little guy and I got to go out just us. “Just us” was a promise when I was a kid that meant my little brother wasn’t going along wherever it was we were going. “C’mon little guy. Let’s go. Bear won’t come, if I know her.”

And I know her. Teddy was effervescent, rapturous, overjoyed to be going out “just us.”

It was overcast and warm. Soon after we got out of the car, I heard Sandhill Cranes. They’re returning. The larger pond had geese. In just the couple of days since I was there last, and the San Juans had small patches of gold where the aspen had turned. Nature is such a precise clock. Just at the moment the sun is at a certain point in relation to our latitude all this happens. Temperature is irrelevant. I know humans have noted this since forever, but it still amazes me, surprises me.

A friend who loves dogs is writing a dog book. Someone took gentle issue with her referring to her dogs as “girls” and “boys,” calling it anthropomorphization. I get that. I’ve heard it my relationship to my dogs, and I even get mildly irked by some things some people do with their animals — like dressing them up in human clothes. A dog is a dog is a dog, right? Yeah, but…

Between the human and the dog is something else. I’ve thought about that, too. Long ago my mom told me my dogs were child replacements. They never were and aren’t. Because she wanted children so much, I guess she assumed every woman would feel the same way even her recalcitrant daughter who didn’t want (and ultimately couldn’t have) children. “No they’re not, mom. They’re dogs.”

“But do you need to have so many? You’re just lonely and feel empty because you don’t have a family.”

I wasn’t lonely and I didn’t feel empty. The dogs were allies, friends, accomplices. They liked to do what I liked to do, and, after hours in the classroom and teachers’ meetings, coming home to friendly, sympathetic NON-human beings who didn’t talk and wanted to take a hike? What could be better! As for companionship? They’re not called “companion animals” for any other reason than that they are companion animals.

A lot of people walk their dogs past my house to the park two blocks away. There’s a man who walks his Yorkie past my house to the park. Yorkies are tiny little beasties with big brains and hearts. That dog is 100% pure dog to this man, his friend and ally. The dog is the man’s reason or excuse to get away from home, from routine, and walk around the park. Both of them were obviously happy being together. A young woman — a nurse — runs with her Labrador a couple times a week. The dog is filled with energetic joy, a lot more than the woman is, the dog is duty, which doesn’t mean the woman doesn’t love him, she does, but they are not partners. Another woman, who volunteers at the rescue, and who alerted me to Teddy needing a person, walks her son’s Airedale (a rescue) who ended up with her and whatever other dog she might be fostering. She walks them out at the cemetery so they have peace and some privacy from unleashed dogs. Her dogs are both duty and love, but the walk is meditation, an excuse (and a way) to find solitude.

Every human/dog relationship is unique, and the relationships between humans and their dogs vary as much as the humans and the dogs. For me? For one, they are freedom. A woman hiking alone is vulnerable. A woman hiking with a couple of big dogs is free. I love nature, but I know that my ability to perceive my surroundings is limited by my busy brain, my expectations, my limited senses. My dogs expand my senses and, over the years, have taught me a lot about being out there. Never mind the effervescence of their rapture when they realized we were going to be “running up that hill.”

They are also social magic. My dogs are/have all been beautiful and friendly; people want to meet them. All the times Bear has met a child, and the child has melted in wonderment at Bear’s mythical beauty and gentleness? Imagine being a 3 year old girl, filled with fairy tales, looking into Bear’s blue eyes? Bear will let them kiss her — and they do. I wouldn’t miss that for anything. Or the time the 6th graders up in the Laguna Mountains (6th grade camp) met Jasmine, my black and white husky? One little girl said in an amazed voice, “It’s Balto!!” Or coming home to my Aunt Jo’s house in Billings, and finding Uncle Hank sleeping on the living room floor, back-to-back, with my big husky male, Cody? The little kids up the alley used to put snow in their freezer for Bear to have in the summer. Watching the eyes of a depressed friend change to joy when Teddy climbs up on his lap and gives him kisses? Visiting my Aunt Martha in Denver when she had a cat. I had brought Molly, my Malamute/Aussie. My aunt and I went out, a little worried about leaving the dog and cat together. When we came home? Amiga, the cat, was lying on my bed with one leg and paw hanging over the bed, touching Molly who was sleeping on the floor beside her. One of my Aunt Martha’s last memories — and as she had dementia it was kind of important — was of a little white dog who came to visit the nursing home.

I tend to think that anthropomorphizing dogs might be a grave insult to the species. But calling them “boys” and “girls”? No. That explains the relationship and identifies their gender. What kind of person calls their dog, “it”?

A Walk

Sneaked (well, hardly) out with Bear yesterday in the early afternoon. She has come to understand wind = a walk. In summer, yes. The rest of the year? We are liberated from this imperative. Any time is a good time to get out there. We’re like postal carriers, neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow — we LIKE all that.

In the grand design of things, this is the quiet season, quiet and determined. I can feel it when I’m out there. Few cars wend their way around the loop. This moment is the early transition between summer animals and winter animals. Soon the winter birds will return — cranes and geese — to stay a couple of weeks or a month or two. With them the Subarus, the long lenses, the out-of-state plates.

But the ungulates are coming down from the high country.

Bear was enchanted the moment she was out of the car. So many smells that, I could see from her reaction, weren’t the same old. It’s a way dogs have of knowing if there’s a new threat in their world which is one reason walking a dog is important. It’s part of who they are.

As we wandered along our way, I saw the visible part of the story. Elk tracks on the road. Another sign that it is the quiet time of year. Bear loves (I don’t know really how she feels; I’m judging from her behavior) elk piss and elk scent and all things elk. I understood her excitement. Since I saw a big herd out there last weekend, I wasn’t surprised.

Later, I saw more of the story. Something had chased this elk. I couldn’t tell what, but I could tell that the elk got away.

I can’t say our brief jaunt was a transcendental experience; it was a walk. It was hot and breezy. We enjoyed it, but we both wished I’d brought water. The way I see it — and, of course, the way my dogs see it — it’s important not to miss an opportunity to go out. Shortly after we turned back toward Bella I found a red tail hawk feather tail feather, tired looking, and bedraggled. I picked it up and thought it was a fitting analogy for the world — my world — this time of year, and for me. “I kept flying, but…”

The Chamisa is doing its autumn thing. Here are all the life stages on one extremely intelligent plant. “I’ll put some seeds out now and then some more a little later and then the rest a little later. Something will have to work.”

Chamisa — seeds on one side, fresh blossoms on the other.

I screamed at a garter snake — embarrassing myself in front of myself — but old habits die hard. “If snake then rattler,” doesn’t hold here though the possibility exists. Bear reacted to my scream, and I had to pull her back. It was a smart garter snake, larger than I’ve seen which is probably what startled me.

A gust of wind roared through the small line of cottonwoods, wind from the south. They bent and thrashed, their still green leaves holding on for dear life. My bean plants are weighed down by long bean pods, and I harvest a couple of them every day. A couple of tomatoes are actually ripening. Frost has usually hit us by now, but it seems we’re getting grace this year. I feel right now the same as nature seems to feel about the passing summer, kind of “Well, THAT was interesting, but good God!!!!”

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope that describes me. 💚🐾 It certainly describes every dog I’ve ever had the privilege to live with.



P.S. Can anyone tell me what this means — “QUOTE — under the title???? This isn’t a reblog or a quoted work. It’s 100% this morning’s stream of tedium. WordPress is its own little world, and I don’t mean us bloggers. 😀

Potato Festival and THEN…

Yesterday was a hugely busy day for three people who pretty much got no sleep the night before. Morning took us to the San Luis Valley Potato Festival of Song and Story. It was fun. For me the amazing thing was being recognized by people who’d come to hear me read at various times over the last few years. That’s something I never expected. We talked to lots of people. Lois had her sweet dog, Satchmo, so we got to experience dog meetings as well. Lois and Adriano celebrated with free baked potatoes but I don’t really like potatoes so I saved them seats under the cover of the picnic area.

After that, we came home and I think we took naps. I did, anyway, then we headed out again for scenic (it actually is) Del Norte. From there we took a short road trip north a few miles to Elephant Rocks. I hadn’t been there but had long wanted to go. I want to go back when it’s cold, so we made plans for December. Most of the Elephant Rock photos are courtesy of Lois.

Then we went to Three Barrels Brewery and Pizza and had, uh, pizza. On the way home we saw an amazing phenomenon: a Lenticular Cloud building above a thunderhead. It was the meeting of fall and summer.

Back at home, Lois and I leashed dogs (I got Bear) and we headed out to the Refuge for a sunset walk and it was spectacular. Pictures are worth a thousand words and in this case, maybe more, even, than that.

THEN on the way home from the Refuge, Lois spied a herd of elk grazing in the pasture, another sign of fall.

Teddy had a challenge adjusting to Satchmo whom he really didn’t know, and spent the early interval attempting to herd Satchmo somewhere. But Teddy remembered Frosty well from staying at his house last year, and they were glad to see each other. It didn’t take long for them all to be pals. Here they are, a lot like the Three Stooges… Hmmm…

Teddy, Satchmo and Frosty. Teddy is winking. No one knows why.

My friend Adriano really loves Teddy, so Teddy got all the pats, snuggles and kissing opportunity he could ever want. Satchmo is a very low-key, friendly, easy-going, perceptive, sweet dog. One of the coolest things he ever did was, long ago, 2014, when Lily, Dusty, Mindy and I were visiting Lois, blind and deaf Lily got trapped under a patio chair and couldn’t find her way out. Satchmo came and got me. After that he stayed near Lily during our stay. And Frosty? One of the sweetest dogs ever to walk the planet.

Bear was pretty over it yesterday and spent a lot of time deep in her masterpiece (hole).

“I’m over it.”

But, after she got her walk last evening, she was much more social. I enjoyed having my friends here very, very, very much 🙂

Trivia (?) The San Luis Valley expects to harvest 1.6 billion pounds of potatoes this year. Mexico is now a big market for our potatoes, bigger than Idaho, because we’re a LOT closer to Mexico than is Idaho.

Mid-Autumn Festival (Almost)

Bleary-eyed and confused, woke up this morning and realized that — OH NO — what? Well, the bleary-eyed and confused part is right. Company coming today sometime and a trip to the store in the meantime and I don’t even know if I ordered anything edible! This post-Covid brain is easily taxed.

I’m going to remember 2019 as the Golden Age of Lost Innocence and Retained Brain.

Last evening, to our surprise, the wind came up and the clouds came over. By now you know what that presages. Four hot days in a row, one small escape, hardly right, is it? I looked at Bear, Bear looked at me. I went to the kitchen and closed to door, preventing her escape, and leashed her. Teddy had it all figured out, of course, as always. Assembled the appropriate fardels and we were out the door. Dusk fell a little early. Clouds and smoke from distant wildfires obscured the mountains, but the sky above was a kind of veiled blue. As we approached the Refuge, I saw the moon was rising golden behind the thin clouds.

“Wow,” I thought as any sane person would (breathe a sigh of relief) and pulled in, parked, and got the dogs out as fast as I could. I didn’t want to miss this. It was too great. And…

Mid-Autumn Festival. OK, it’s not until tomorrow, formally, but clouds and rain are forecast for Saturday evening. Carpe Noctem!

Our crepuscular walk wasn’t very long — 1/2 mile, but WOW. A black-crowned night heron in flight, more birdsong than I’ve heard in my life, an owl in the distance and this beautiful Moon as golden as the chamisa. My first Mid-Autumn Festival was in China, and I try to keep it somehow every year. It’s a celebration/remembrance of distant friends. 💛

Moonlight shining through the window
Makes me wonder if there is frost on the ground
I look up and see the moon
Looking down I miss my hometown

Li Bai

The moon remained bright and visible, unclouded, until we turned around. It was as if the sky and valley said, “Here, Martha, something for you to think about.”

On the way home, Mohammed’s Radio played the song the valley gave me as I drove home from seeing an ortho in Salida a few years ago. It was before my most recent hip surgery. The doc was abysmal and meaningless, “One of your legs is shorter than the other! I can’t fix that!” was about all he had to say along with, “I can’t read your X-rays,” as if it were my fault that his computer system couldn’t open the DVD my doc sent up with me. Driving home, I felt so disheartened, a little frightened of hip surgery, and unsure about everything. It is a song I never liked, but as I dropped down from the top of Poncha Pass into the Valley, it was as if I’d never heard it before.

When I heard that song that day, I understood something about this place where I came to live 8 years ago (September 20, 2014). It wasn’t only that I felt I belonged here; the valley thought so, too. The valley is like a person to me, maybe it’s my family, too, along with Bear and Teddy.

Last night the salient lines were:

“When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes…”

It’s been a tough summer, but what a wonder I got from that short and beautiful evening walk. Thank you, Heaven.

Vertical Travel

I’ve been thinking of D. H. Lawrence’ New Mexico essay all day, wondering if I’ve ever known a place “vertically.” I have. A couple of places, in fact. Realizing that, I thought about what it takes to know a place vertically, not just by cruising along the surface of it, but being IN it.

It takes time. A LOT of time. Less time, maybe, if you’re a kid because you’re not dragging as much “world” around with you, but it still takes time. Vertical travel is travel in time at least as much as it is travel through space. More, I think.

The first place I knew vertically was the small forest by my house in Nebraska. I can still look at it on Google Earth and find the trails I hiked and sledded. I know where the ravine is across which we rigged a tire to “Tarzan” across. All those things are — as long as the forest stands — in me just as they are outside of me and that seems to be the point of vertical travel.

The next? A few thousand acres in Southern California — Mission Trails Regional Park, part of it. (It’s grown in the meantime.) “My” part is roughly 5800 acres. Another part is a small fragment of the Laguna Mountains. I’m in the process of traveling “vertically” here in the San Luis Valley.

The thing is, vertical travel takes, maybe, years and years, and it cannot possibly encompass the whole world. Thank goodness we have literature, history, and museums — lenses through which we can gain some knowledge to add depth to our flatter travels.

What Lawrence is really talking about in his essay is intimacy and that takes time, patience, humility, acceptance, and faith. Most of all, time. I remember the day I surrendered, first to the coastal sage chaparral of Mission Trails, then in general. I stood on a higher trail and looked out over green hills that had been black and sear only a month or two before. I asked it, “Why are you so beautiful?”

Well, it answered. “So you would love me.”

I answered, “I do love you.”

It said, “No, you don’t. You only come when I’m cool and green. I don’t see you in the summer when my snakes are out or in the rain.”

(You can call the guys with the white coats and the vans. It’s OK. I realize this isn’t normal…)

Well, that was clear. I didn’t hike in the chaparral in summer. I didn’t like snakes or want to see one. I didn’t like being hot and sweaty, but I had my job description, and a definition of love. I surrendered. From then on? Vertical travel. The absolutely BEST school I ever attended. Among my lessons was how amazing the coastal sage chaparral is in the rain, how fragrant, how filled with color — and how slippery.

It also takes a long time to see more than what we are looking for, to see what is THERE rather than what we expect. At this moment, I’m living near wetlands. I began not knowing anything about them, but since I am constrained by age and ability, and have some concerns for my safety because I’m usually alone, I look for flat places to walk. Wetlands are flat. The Refuge is flat. The San Luis Valley proper is flat. It’s a lake bed. I had no idea what to look for, how to see it, nothing. The Sandhill Cranes were my doorway to this amazingly diverse world.

I’ve also realized that our limitations are an element of vertical travel. Surrender. Within our worlds we are all “selves.”

Today out at the Refuge with Bear, unhurried because her pace is slower and more investigative, I thought about my relationship with that place. I remembered my first visit and wondering if I would come to “know” it. It didn’t become a regular “place” for me until 2020. Like the small fragment of Nebraska forest of my childhood, Mission Trails, the Laguna Mountains, it is a protected area which largely means it mostly gets to be what it is. Humans are involved, but as participants not exploiters.

As I looked around me, I saw the experience in layers of time. “That’s where I saw the hundreds of elk.” “That’s where the herd of mule deer were looking at me in surprise.” “That’s where I showed the crane tourists the bald eagle hunting and told them cranes were somewhat easy food for them.” “That’s where Mark saw the owl during my first Crane Festival.” “That’s where I saw the avocet chicks.” “That’s where the elk fell getting up this slope.” I didn’t see that, but Bear showed me last winter and the story was clear. Bear is a help with this because she has an astonishing memory. “This is where we saw the tiger salamander.” There was one in the same place today.

It hit me; that’s vertical travel. It’s context of a place, knowing where, in February, in which small crevices, the shooting star will bloom in the Southern California chaparral, and it means going there to see it. It’s knowing the grandfather of all manzanita in the fault between two mountain ranges, mourning its loss when an October fire takes it down and celebrating its rebirth from its roots the next spring.

Grandfather manzanita, me and Molly

D. H. Lawrence might have understood this, I don’t know.

As I was walking with Bear today I realized that I read Lawrence’ New Mexico essay in a grad school seminar. I remembered that Lawrence’ idea of vertical vs. horizontal travel had affected, influenced me, left me with the idea that vertical travel was good, better, and what I wanted from life. I sought it every where I traveled which is why I’m not “widely” traveled more “deeply” traveled. Yet some destinations — all destinations — are too immense. I think the only place we can ever hope to travel vertically is the place where we live. And there, we don’t think of ourselves as traveling at all.

When I began reading the paragraph that began with, “As a matter of fact, our grandfathers, who never went anywhere, in actuality had more experience of the world than we have who have seen everything...” I thought Lawrence might be going there, to the kind of travel that leads a person to know a forest, a trail, a wetlands, a rock wall, a mountain face, but it isn’t where he went.

Anyway, Bear and I had a wonderful time. No deer flies, for one thing. A gently overcast sky, and all the time in the world to meander in our own way in this beautiful world we’ve only begun to know, but which has given us something of itself, some context and some depth. I love it so much.



Here’s a link to part of the essay. I haven’t been able to find all of it online. The featured photo is a desiccated garter snake, the kind of thing you only see with a slow dog.

“I’m a REAL Dog!” “I know, Teddy.”

Teddy is the smallest dog I’ve ever had. He’s incredibly cute, very fluffy, very affectionate, even cuddly, and, in a way, is more like a toy to me than a dog. Dogs are large animals who weigh at least twice Teddy’s weight of 30 pounds/13kg. He doesn’t run; he flies. He moves around on little feet — Bear’s feet are as big as my hands which is normal for my dog reality. Teddy likes to jump up on my bed when I put on my socks, and when he’s there, he looks like a large stuffed animal.

My vet calls him, “Mr. Happy.” Perfect.

But he’s not a toy. He’s very much a living, breathing canine with intelligence and a soul. It’s been interesting getting to know him. Most of my dogs have been accomplices and partners. Teddy is, too, but differently. I’d like to say he’s loyal but I don’t know that for sure; it’s never been tested. He loves all the people in the world. He likes chasing cars which is OK as long as he’s in my fenced yard and the cars are going up and down the alley. When we return from a walk, though, he waits in the garage for me to finish up after he and Bear are liberated and we come to the house together. Bear lets him drink first.

He spends most of every day in the house with me. At night? Bear comes in and Teddy goes out, as if they’ve arranged to take shifts. At 9 o’clock everyone comes in and they go to bed. I didn’t teach them that.

I started doing exercises to help repair my hip. The first day? Impossible and not because of my hip, but because I couldn’t quit laughing. My “spotters,” “coaches,” or “trainers” were no help at all. The featured photo is Teddy on top of me while I try to do clamshells. This is Bear who’s very worried because I’m supposed to be on the Sainted Bike to Nowhere — which you can see behind her — not on the guest bed doing clamshells.

The Way the Cookie Crumbles…

Can’t win for losing. Hung yesterday around until 5 waiting for a call from the doc, not like I need to “wait” in these cell phone days, but I wanted a good connection. Then, just after 5 I took the dogs out (another perfect afternoon) and saw I had a voicemail from the doc. Office closed when I called back from my car at the Refuge. SOOOooooo…I’ll call them as soon as I finish my coffee.

OH WELL.

The way I see it, I’d have missed a beautiful walk, and, if the hip is going to need invasive “treatment,” I need to collect as many of these as I can. Brushed deer flies off both me and Teddy. All of us are very happy right now. It’s not called a Refuge for nothing.

When I got home, and saw this photo, I realized that it’s very similar to my first photo of the Refuge 8 years ago, below 💙 proving that it’s what it is.
Same place, more or less, 20 feet to the north 💙

In painting news, the panel on which I hope to paint Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming, 1957 arrived yesterday and it’s beautiful. I put it carefully in a safe place so that when I’m ready for this, it will be, too. Painting on panels is wonderful, but they’re fragile until they’re framed. They are basically Masonite with some kind of magical surface painted (yeah) onto them. I’ve used these panels for oil painting, acrylic and water color, but never this one made for pastels. It’s a lovely medium gray, perfect for night, “toothy” enough to grab the conte crayons. My challenge now is to get a lamp post in the right scale to the floating princesses. I’ve also tentatively decided to add an old Coke machine to the gas station, so more drawing before I take a crack at the real thing.

This project has been fun, but I have another one in mind. I don’t think it will require all this effort to visualize, but who knows?

In the words of Denis Joseph Francis Callahan (RIP) after he would regale me with a long self-absorbed monologue, “Thanks for hearing my confession.”

Summer Walk

Yesterday Bear, Teddy and I made an escape. We had a small window of opportunity — clouds covered and the wind came up. Both dogs looked at me like, “And NOW??? What about NOW???”

Perfect summer Refuge experience. No people. The only sounds? Crickets. The windchill was about 80F/26C, but I wasn’t complaining especially when I saw two dragonflies happily making love in the air. That was useful information that meant no — or far fewer — deer flies. In case you were worried about this, deer flies are NOT top level predators. God! What if they WERE??? What do the dragonflies have to do with it? Ahhh. They think deer flies are yummy.

All around me the chamisa (gray rabbitbrush) was blooming, covered in buttery, yellow flowers. I imagine there was a time when the whole valley floor was covered in this plant as most of it is now. It’s beautiful and in quantities like it is out there very fragrant mixed with clover. Apparently not everyone likes its fragrance as its Latin name is Chrysothamnus nauseosus. I do like it. I find it a beautiful way to say farewell to summer and hello to the good times ahead. Writing about it here, I’m thinking Chamisa would make a good addition to next year’s front yard wildflower (mowing? just say NO!) garden.

Not much to say about our walk. No adventures or dangers or great sightings of animal poop. Few birds remaining, but the Sandhill Cranes are on their way, I’m sure. I’m grateful right now that walking makes my hip feel better. Today I hope to hear from my doc about what I’m going to do next. I hope it’s a cortisone shot. I hope to hear, “The hardware looks OK, Martha. Let’s do something about the pain.” The strange thing about this is that I will live with it. Realizing this, I thought about humanity and how we are. “Well, OK, this hurts and it’s kind of fucked up but whatever.” I rediscovered my cane (s). Very useful tool. The dogs are getting used to it.

Beautiful, Unexpected Adventure

Looking at the news for the last few days, specifically the FBI executing a search warrant on Old 45’s basement, a phrase — some idiom from my childhood — waved and flapped through my mind, “It’ll all come out in the wash.” Maybe it’s about to.

In more personal news yesterday I took Bear for her rabies shot. “My” vets have both, apparently, retired. That’s OK. They were around my age but I really liked them. The practice was bought a couple years ago by some young women vets and they immediately set about girly-fying the place appropriate to a vet clinic but also to young women of their generation. I miss the old vibe but change is the nature of things.

The first time I went to the vet was with Mindy 8 years ago. I was still staying in a cabin up in South Fork. The vet examined Mindy (a guy who is now about to be the new County Commissioner) and explained that her legs were not the same length and it caused pressure on her hips. Well, I know THAT story. I was instantly impressed. Anyway, to get to the present moment, Bear and I walked in and there were kitties on leashes. A young German shepherd, leashed, and a puppy. A black and white short-haired puppy with it’s very large person. Bear was very happy to meet the puppy — Bambi. In fact, she was more chill with the other dogs in there than I’ve ever seen her.

Debbie, the practice manager said, “You and Bear are all checked in, Martha.”

I’m not the new kid any more.

Lots of new people at my vets. A kid from UNC interning as a tech. A new vet who’s 12 years old. She examined Bear and asked, “What do you use her for?”

Yeah, dogs like Bear are usually employed. I told her Bear’s story and she looked very sad at the thought of a puppy being tied up at a gas station and rescued by the sheriff, but such is life. “So, she never had a job. I’m her job.”

“Well, she’s lucky to have you.”

12 year olds at their first real job are often pretty nervous and many people go into the vet field because they’re not people people. My heart went out to that young woman. She’ll get it. Some young people think we “boomers” are “against” them. I’m not. While I feel more comfortable around the two old guy vets, I’m happy that this girl has entered the field. I want her to do well. Yesterday I learned of a kid who just got hired to teach high school math; I almost wept. “Yay, guy,” I thought, “young teacher the brave and good.”

I met a very lovely old old kitty on her last few days of life and her wonderful person. The kitty was skin and bones. Her skin so fragile it was splitting. “She has liver cancer,” said the woman. “She’s 14. I think I should put her down — I know I should — I just can’t stand to say good-bye yet.” The lady was a remarkable older woman wearing shorts, a leopard print top, gold earrings and embellished sandals. When we were in the vet’s office, standing behind the woman and her kitty, Bear had pulled the leash, trying to reach the kitty to take care of it. She’d startled the woman by touching the lady’s bare leg with her cold nose. “Oooh! OH! Hello,” she said turning to see Bear. Bear nudged the kitty’s tail. I took Bear to the car.

I met a German shepherd puppy belonging to another intern. I talked to the puppy while Debbie — the practice manager — took my credit card. The puppy, as usual with dogs, gave me its undivided attention. “He’s amazing,” I said to its owner. “Very smart puppy. Oh well,” I said. “I just love dogs.”

“That’s obvious,” said Debbie handing me my receipt.

The manager of the Vet clinic is one of the first people I knew here. We had hip surgery and did PT at the same time. We were very happy to see each other. It feels like there’s a kind of awakening (in me? in everyone?) “Oh, you’re still here. I’m so glad to see you again.” Fuck their politics. I’ll vote my vote. And I’ve had Covid and all my shots, so???

After all that I decided to reward Bear if I could. My hip hurt like hell yesterday (I overdid it Weds and Thurs) but I wanted to take a walk if we could find a good trail. Because they’re close to the vet, I turned toward the lake and the wildlife area where we used to walk all the time. I headed down the road and saw that all the parking areas were empty. Waaaaaa-HOOOO! I pulled into the spot that leads to a walk by the river. The trail was open but overgrown. The sign makes a point — in red — that without the proper permits the area was closed. Well, I have the proper permits. I was so happy to see that sign. I quit going out there because people were abusing the trails and the area, turning loose their dogs, spending the night out there were there were no facilities, etc. Yay Colorado Parks and Wildlife! Plus, the permits help support the wildlife areas.

Bear immediately noticed scents and was more driven to explore them than I’d seen her in a while, but I figured it was a place we hadn’t visited in 2 1/2 years. Bear sniffed, left scent, sniffed, left scent. I walked up and down hills in no pain trying to figure out “What’s up with that?” meaning my leg. We finally got to the river and I was so happy to see it again. Then, I looked at something that had caught Bear’s eye (meaning nose).

Mountain lion scat. Pretty fresh. Thrilling.

I looked at my partner and thought, “Well, this is as good as it gets without seeing the lion.” I looked around for tracks, but it is a mostly grassy trail and what isn’t grassy is packed pretty solid. Even though I’m alone out there, I’m not alone. Bear was bred to defend her “herd” against animals like mountain lions. Lions are shy animals, generally don’t like dogs and can smell them. I talk to my dogs when I’m in a place like that and never hike in a wild place in silence. I have hiked for decades in mountain lion country and I’m glad they are there. The greatest day of my life was August 4, 2004, about 6 pm, when I finally saw a cougar. If you’re interested in the story, you can read it here.

Another Doggone Post

Bear is amazingly eloquent in her gestural language. Yesterday she came in wanting a walk. How do I know? She made eye contact then nodded toward the back door and made eye contact again. “Can’t do it, Bear. I just rode the bike to nowhere and as I rehab or whatever this thing, I’m not doing everything at once.” I think I’m “rehabbing” my hip but I don’t actually know what I’m doing. I just need a lot more exercise than I’ve been able to get since this showed up. It really affects my perspective on life the universe and everything when I can’t exercise. Bear “shrugged” and laid down on the floor by my feet.

Part of understanding Bear is related to the limited number of things she has to “tell” me. Part of it is having known her all her life. Part of it is that I probably taught her some of this — but not all. That said, she’s articulate, especially for a dog who isn’t all that verbally attuned. She has learned a LOT from Teddy who is.

Somewhere along the way, Teddy learned “Go to bed,” and it had to have been one of the other people he’s lived with, because I didn’t teach him that. Still, his verbal acuity is related to wanting physical contact. You can teach a dog a bunch of words but what they want is a closer bond with you. Words are just a way to get there. The only “trick” my dogs are rewarded for with food is coming in the house when I call them.

Dogs are usually easy for me to understand. People are more complicated (who knew???) and difficult to understand. Kids are OK, but grownups? Some how two dogs can meet and know immediately what’s going on with the other one. Two people meet? Confusion reigns instantly. If we had tails to drop when we’re unsure of a new contact or wag when we’re hopeful, if we were as open about our curiosity as our butt sniffing canine companion, or had giant teeth to rend and tear the enemy — and the other guy knows it — “Be nice or!!!” Maybe that was the whole philosophy behind the nuclear stockpile? The thing is, humans can devise bigger and bigger and “better” canine teeth. I don’t know.

Dogs aren’t perfect (who knew?) they even *lie. If Teddy wants another cookie he will ask to go out FOR NO REASON than to come in again (and get a cookie). Sometimes Bear follows him then turns around and looks at me with a face that clearly says, “Huh? Why?” and she comes right back. Cracks me up. She is the soul of integrity. Teddy ends up with a cookie and big hugs for coming back in and Bear for her sweet and honest soul.

*Teddy just told me he’s not lying. He really thought going out the back door and coming back was what I wanted him to do. He was just trying to make me happy and get a cookie. I accept that, even if he might be lying. He says manipulation isn’t the same as lying. I’m not going to argue with him.

Bear and Teddy telling me the mailman has come. It’s OK with Bear, but Teddy has some doubts.

Oh, some readers have asked about Lamont and Dude — the two fictional characters who remember many of their past incarnations — who haven’t been around in a while. Dude wrote and told me that last year, Lamont was run over by a Dune Buggy on the beach at Puerto Peñasco. Dude wanted me to remind Lamont’s many fans that they shouldn’t worry; Lamont will be back.

In the featured photo my friend Lois’ dog Shoe explaining how things work to puppy Bear.