Another Training Walk with Teddy

The new Halti setup wasn’t great at first, but after I reprimanded Teddy, he was ready to surrender and found it was no big deal. The lighter leash and connector were good, too, but strange for me. I’m really NOT used to NOT feeling a dog at the end of a leather lead. This one is a type of climbing rope with what I would call an “ornamental” carabiner as a clip. Ornamental in that no climber would use it as a life-saving or life-preserving climbing tool. It’s good for this, though.

He’s (as is his breed) a very observant dog. He’s seen me walk back to the car placing my hand on Bear’s back or her head. I realized today he’s trying to make that happen with him. The problem is he’s too little. He keeps kind of jumping up to reach my hand which is annoying and, for me, confusing.

I was trying to figure out what he was after, and it hit me. Given the impossibility of my walking with my hand on his back or head, I just stopped every 20 steps or so, had him sit, and petted him. That’s good for him and for training. By the time we were on the last leg of the return, he was walking perfectly at heel like it was the most natural thing in the world. I’m sure he doesn’t realize how absolutely great that would be for him down the road and how it could enhance his social life.

Two cars went by. Teddy was pretty good — a lot better than with the old non-Halti system.

This transformation isn’t going to happen overnight, but I’m glad we have commenced it.

Thought I’d Write About Dogs for a Change

Yesterday was day three of the Teddy T. Dog Transformation Workshop in which Teddy is made over from the land-demon from hell into a responsive, well-adjusted, adorable little guy who doesn’t try to kill his human.

Not that Teddy tried to kill me but a little melodrama doesn’t hurt a blog post that will inevitably be like many others I’ve written.

We had a great walk, again, with minimal fighting of the Halti. I realized that the connection between the leash and the Halti was heavy for such a little dog and when we got home I set up a new system using a lighter leash with a different connector. It worked. I also began training Teddy to put his nose into the Halti. He’s getting it.

On our walk, Teddy was great. It felt as if there was nothing on the end of the leash. When I got home I gave some thought to Teddy vs. Bear. First, dogs don’t really mature “intellectually” until they’re 3 years old or so. Teddy is just 4. Bear did most of the early doghood education. She house trained him and taught him the routine of Casa di Martha. But there is no way she could teach him how to walk on a leash safely with me.

Dogs like Bear are famous for their intuition. Training Bear was no work at all. She picked up most things from Dusty T. Dog who was very well-trained. Besides my work with him, during the six weeks I rehabbed from my first hip surgery (2007) he stayed with a professional trainer where he learned, among other things, to walk at heel without a leash.

Beyond that, Bear can sense what’s going on with me. It’s pretty amazing but true. The livestock these dogs are bred to protect aren’t “teaching” the dogs anything. The dogs are learning from each other if there are more than one and from the livestock themselves. Most of the time they aren’t even near “their” human. Bear learned to walk with me from walks with Dusty (who didn’t need a leash) and from me. I understand that Bear wasn’t bred to be a house dog. I get who she is, and I’m happy to stand there while she smells things, and she’s happy to stand there while I stare into the Big Empty thinking about how strange and beautiful it is. I think it would be a pretty maddening walk for others to share, even a little dog.

There’s not much snow left out there for me to crunch my way through. As my little dog walked beside me (!!!!) I thought of snow and crunch and how we learn words. There are words like “crunch” that always bring up the moment I learned the word and the activity that goes with it. My brother and I walked to school every day. One day my dad asked me (maybe I was in 2nd grade) “Hey MAK, I used to walk to school too. I love the way the snow crunched when I walked. Do you notice that?”

I was bewildered. To me “crunch” required something different from snow. Cellophane paper crunched, for that matter, paper crunched when you balled it up, or hard candy crunched between your teeth, or potato chips were crunchy. Snow??? But my dad was right most of the time. I said, “When it freezes on top?”

“No, honey, fresh snow. Bill Kelly (his best friend) and I used to walk across Pioneer Park (Billings, MT) to school and the snow crunched. Listen sometime, OK?”

The requirements for snow crunch? Fresh, dry snow has the best crunch of all. But every time it happens, I have this conversation with my dad. I was taught to notice that.

I was no different from Teddy. I had to be told things. I responded to what I was told and, clearly, remembered it. Bear, on the other hand? She seems to have been born knowing almost everything.

In other news, the sweet aroma of linseed oil again fills the house. I started a painting yesterday. I haven’t done anything in there (studio) since early last summer. When I got Covid in late June, and then long Covid, I couldn’t hold an idea or image in my mind long enough to imagine how to paint it. It was actually worse than that; I couldn’t imagine even how I would paint something. BUT the cloudy, foggy, gray, lightless day out there last week seems to be where I’m starting.

Teddy and Fall Update

I might be a little achy today, but it’s essential to carpe the diem, so after lunch I put his regular halter on Teddy and then the head collar. He was VERY happy, sure we were going somewhere. I soon took it off. Then I took my time getting ready for a walk having learned he would sit still for me to adorn him in his new control apparatus. The regular halter connects to a “seat belt” in the car and Teddy recognizes it as his “coat.” “Put your coat on” means we’re going for a walk.

When he was a puppy, I tried the head collar, and he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. He did what a lot of dogs do; he pulled at it with his front legs, tried to rub it off on the ground, and generally STOPPED walking with it so I gave up. Today was completely different. He’s not a puppy anymore; he’s a mature dog of 4.

I made Bear stay home since this was going to be Teddy’s Day to Learn, Dammit! My goal was to take him to his favorite place to his favorite walk and show him nothing would change except he’d have a head collar. It was a good strategy. For a while, at first, he tried to get it off but all the good smells tempted him away from that and pretty soon he was just walking along as usual except that when he pulled, the head collar made him turn around and look at me. I’ve long understood that when Teddy is under the spell of “the wild” his mind empties of everything else.

When I took other dogs to puppy school in days of yore, “Watch me!” was the first command they learned. That’s what you want your dog to do; know you’re there and pay attention to your commands. Since I long ago quit commanding dogs around, I didn’t emphasize this with Teddy.

Bear didn’t need to be taught and Huskies don’t learn it. I also think living with Huskies made me a lazy dog owner. They are what they are and it’s pretty much take it or leave it, and, like Huskies, Bear is less mastered by her human than she cooperates with me. Teddy is another kind of dog completely and I haven’t had one like him in a long time — if ever. He’s incredibly smart. Dusty was the last “normal” (and he wasn’t normal) dog I have had. Bear and I did obedience school together, but after that, I used the head collar with her. I knew her by then and there was no reason for me to command her around. She responds much better to a soft voice saying, “Bear, walk with me,” than she did to “Bear, HEEL!” I now know that dogs of her type are just like that. Their whole mission in life is to keep everything calm so they can recognize the enemy if one appears.

Yesterday showed me I had to get on the ball with Teddy. By the time we’d gone 1/4 mile, Teddy got it. The thing about the head collar is that if he pulls too far ahead, the collar will turn his head back toward me. He loved that. It was as if everything that drew his attention away from me happened but then, to his surprise and joy, he found me again. Only one other dog in my experience reacted that way to the head collar; Persie the Sweet Pit Bull.

We had a wonderful walk; slow, because I’m achy, and my knees hurt, but peaceful and successful. A car came by and Teddy was no problem to control. I’m proud of my little dog for learning so quickly.

and yet ANOTHER Snowy Walk with Bear

Very beautiful day yesterday. The snow fell off and on all day but only got as deep as my ankles. I shoveled the walks then sequestered Bear and headed to the Refuge.

The road was treacherous. I have consciously avoided winter roads since I moved here. It isn’t difficult since we have more sunny days than gray, and most winters have been dry. At first it felt a little sketchy. Bella is a jeep but she doesn’t have the best tires for snow/ice. I soon relaxed into the experience and enjoyed it.

It is a little strange to think that most of my winter driving experience was in Montana driving my aunts around the winter-slick roads in Billings in their cars. Front wheel drive and studded tires, but if the snow was deep? Everyone stayed home until the plows came out. As I drove, I felt strangely nostalgic for Billings’ winter roads and my bundled up aunts.

I always wondered WHY my aunts wanted me to drive. It had been DECADES since I’d driven on winter roads, but there I was. San Diego driver. I had learned to drive in those conditions so it wasn’t long before I was fine.

“You’re doing good, honey,” my Aunt Jo would say.

Before Bear and I left the Refuge yesterday, a very amazing snowplow came up the main road. It had a front blade, and pulled a heavy trailer that had another blade, this one pointing toward the side of the road. The plow system was immense and fun to watch. It gave us an easier ride home, though still slick.

Bear and I had, again, untrammeled snow and tracks — fox or coyote, but my money is on fox. The snow was soft and the tracks were a little filled. A male Northern Harrier passed low in front of me and then moved on.

Northern Harrier in the tree…

Bear had the time of her life investigating the mischief made by other animals since the last time we were there.

“Very interesting, Martha!”

The sky to the south was so dark that the shadows of the trees were on the “wrong” side. The storm came from the southwest. To the north the sky was bright with a band of clear turquoise on the horizon.

You can see the effects of the odd light in the photo below. I’m facing east. The sun was desperately trying to shine through dark clouds over my right shoulder. The tree’s shadows would — normally — point in the opposite direction. This can’t be painted. It’s a photo that needs words, a phenomenon maybe unique in my life.

In a place like the Refuge where there is nothing overtly dramatic to look at, a person who goes there often, like I do, is going to notice ambience and detail. It is really not the same place twice.

The day before yesterday I saw a beautiful, huge, pale tan feather. I wanted to pick it up, but as we were just starting out, I couldn’t. I planned to get it on the way back, but the wind and a couple passing cars had blown it away. I thought about that later. Moments of beauty are just like that feather or a harrier’s low, slow flight.

Good News

It snowed — almost .75 of an inch which, as this winter is going, is pretty good. The dogs and I were out as soon as we could and were met by untrammeled snow, beautiful light and fascinating tracks.

Tracks I can’t identify — do you know?

Most of the snow is gone, but the important thing is we carped the diem and had a lovely time. Here’s the long view…


Day before yesterday Bear and I sneaked out without Teddy. I love Teddy with all my heart, but I prefer walking just with Bear. It’s a calmer experience, we walk farther, we see more. Right now Teddy is asleep beside me, but on the trail he is driven and determined, following whatever imperative moves his little Aussie heart. I wish we were in a place where he could just go, but we’re not so it’s my job to make our walks work for him. Usually the three of us are together; only rarely do Bear and I get the chance to go out alone. She’s just a different animal from Teddy, yeah, they’re both dogs, but Bear’s agenda is different from Teddy’s. She, also, wants to smell everything and gain all the knowledge she can, but she seems more confident that she will have that chance. Teddy’s like a little kid who doesn’t fully believe Santa will come. He’s the kid who would stay up to make sure Santa DID come.

Elk track

It was a half-overcast day with a chilly but not cold breeze, and no wind. I wore a sweatshirt over a wool-base layer and was fine. We walked and walked and walked. To all outward appearances, we do an out and back walk, but Bear does a loop. One side of the road and then the other. 🙂 We could do the whole 4 mile loop if I ever packed water for her.

As we were heading back, a Chevy Excursion (BIG SUV) stopped. It was a man and woman I’d seen a few times before out there. Their kids were in the car. I didn’t at first know about the kids which led me to make a verbal faux pas, saying something about “Well, we’re all on drugs.” The dad picked this up and defused it by agreeing, saying he was on BP meds. I felt embarrassed. I have a filter, and I use it when I know I need to. I answered, “I guess they help us live longer.”

“Probably do,” he said.

I responded with, “As long as I’m out here walking I think I’m doing OK.”

When I got home, I thought about the encounter, feeling bad about the drug remark, but struck by a couple of other things. First that anyone who runs into me out there will probably want to talk to me. Bear jumped up to say “Hi!” which impressed everyone in the car. We talked about dogs — they have a 2 year old Sheltie — and the woman turned out to be a painter, a good one. We talked a long time. Inevitably that place — which feels and is kind of “way out there” — draws out conversations between strangers. It’s wonderful in that way. “We come out here because it’s something different,” said the mom, “even when there are no birds.”

“Yeah, right now I’m just seeing a couple of ravens and a Harris hawk,” I said, “but I love the silence.”

The other thing I thought about later was my remark about walking. I meant it with my whole heart. I thought about why walking means so much to me. A lot of people think of it as “exercise.” I don’t and never have. I don’t even really think of “exercise” as exercise, but that’s another thing. Walking is very very important to me. Is it because there was a time when I couldn’t do it? When walking from a wheelchair parking spot into a grocery store was all I could do? When the shopping cart was my walker? No. That sucked, but that’s not why. So, why?

I realized last night thinking about it that it’s because of my dad. There was a time in my childhood when he could walk. We walked together down the streets in downtown Englewood, Colorado or Bellevue, Nebraska, hand in hand. He didn’t walk “right” even then because of the MS, but he was walking. I heard stories about when I was very small, learning to walk myself, that I imitated my dad’s walk. I remember well the stages in the process that led him to being unable to walk. I remember when they put railings on the three steps leading into our house in Nebraska so my dad could come more safely into the house from the car which he was then parking on the yard in front of the house. At that time he walked with a cane, then two, then arm crutches. I remember, later, when I was in junior high how many times I (with mom out of the house) helped him walk down the hallway or use the toilet rather than his urinal. I remember helping him with his walker — but walking with his walker. And then he couldn’t walk any more. There was the wheel chair, the nursing home, and then he died. In my mind not-walking meant the beginning of the long slide into death.

I even dimly remember my dad saying, “Don’t ever take this for granted.”

I wish I could talk to him now and ask him if he meant everything I heard with those words.

Thomas Hardy, whose books I loved, wrote all the time about people walking everywhere. I thought that would be so wonderful, to walk around England, see the Roman Wall and (with a Time Machine) go to the country festivals described so beautifully in his novels. I, myself, walked everywhere as a kid — to school, to the library, in the woods, in the hills, in the rocks, to the pool. Walking was freedom; it was out of the house away from the parents’ jurisdiction (as long as I went home on time). It’s remained freedom. When my dad lost his ability to walk, he lost his freedom.

The people I talked to yesterday were immensely obese. Maybe 30 years younger than I, but they couldn’t have walked Bear’s and my little walk. I wondered if there was a hidden jab in my comment, “As long as I’m out here walking, I’m OK.” I don’t think so; it’s not really my style, but I felt sorry for them. IF they’d gotten out of the car and COULD walk along with me, they could have seen all the things I see that you can’t see from a car — like the muskrat’s nests, the places where the deer and elk sleep, the tracks of animals… This season it seems like there’s NOTHING going on, but there is a lot going on. I’d mentioned I’d seen elk tracks, and they were stunned not knowing that the elk take advantage of the Refuge in winter.

I could never count the many really crappy days that have been redeemed through walking, how many broken hearts set on the road to healing through a walk. Not to mention the wonders of the natural world I’ve been allowed to see by venturing as yet another creature into that world. The best moments of my life might be those moments. I think they were/are/will be.

When I was cleaning out the Examined Life (those 27 journals) I found this page It’s a colored pencil rendering of the area below the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. My friend and I had gotten off the train that went through the mountain and walked the rest of the way down to Kleine Sheidegg. This is our trail and a line of water coming down with us from the glacier. I didn’t draw the friendly and curious Swiss cows that walked along with us. It was an amazing walk. I drew it when I found the ticket. I later found Wallace Stevens’ poem.

And dad, I’ve never taken it for granted.

Quotidian Update 12.25.XX.9

Got up this morning to quiet. People aren’t driving their trucks up and down in front of my house this morning, leaving the small-town quiet that I don’t get often living on a fragment of a highway that crosses part of America. No barking dogs (mine) just quiet. It’s very lovely. All enhanced by the sweet good-mornings of my two dogs. “Merry Christmas, Teddy. Merry Christmas, Bear.”

I learned last night that a friend in Wyoming has puppies like Bear. The parents who gave birth to those puppies are working dogs on her ranch, Ladder Ranch. I looked around my little house and thought, “It would probably work, with Bear here to train it. It would learn fast.” Then I thought, “Martha, are you out of your mind?”

The jury is out on that.

The book reading continues. The big box arrived two days ago — so heavy that no one could lift it. As I rolled it through my front door, I saw that others had rolled it, too. It was broken in many places and taped. But the books are all in good shape and, when I finish with the e-books, I’ll move on to the physical books. I’m reading a couple of new categories this time and they present new challenges and frustrations. Sometimes I want to talk to the author and say things like, “Dude, this is NOT that,” but I’m not teaching any more.

Obviously I don’t have much to say, so I will leave you with a fragment of a beautiful poem I ran across yesterday a winter poem from a great Chinese poet, Chu Yuan:

…Lame Dragon’s frozen peaks;
Where trees and grasses dare not grow;
Where a river runs too wide to cross
And too deep to plumb,
And the sky is white with snow

It made me think of my Chinese brother and my Christmas in China. I’m very happy to have heard from him last night.

Talk to Me, Dog, Horse, Deer, Hawk, Lion

Got into a discussion yesterday about whether humans can communicate with animals. I think we can (and do), but it’s not going to be a language based communication as we know it, as we humans think of communication. I think it requires the willingness to begin again — not easy for us humans. My friend disagreed adamantly, but that’s OK. Animal/human communication has to be between equals, nobody studying anybody, just learning, but not learning as scientists study, examine, test, but the real thing, motivated by curiosity and receptivity.

I’ve lived with more animals than I have lived with people. Dogs are special because they’ve adapted to our use of language. My mom used to say “It’s not the words; it’s the sound of your voice.” She was right, but even the words or sounds don’t seem to say as much to my dogs as “I” do in a way I’m not fully conscious of.

My best teacher in this area was Brownie T. Horse. Until I met him, I’d had nothing but bad experiences with horses. Still, I liked them. It’s just that they’re big and, for various reasons (good horse reasons), all the horses I’d known until then had an axe to grind against me. Horses have deep feelings and are beings of action.

Brownie came to live with my next-door neighbors in Descanso, a cowboy and his wife and three kids. Brownie shared a fence with me. Brownie was determined to make friends, and I liked having a horse — a small horse — so close to me. The first morning I couldn’t believe my eyes that there was a horse virtually in my yard. Brownie was trying to figure things out. That evening on my way home from school I bought carrots. As I was going into my house, I gave one to Brownie. Brownie understood that carrot in exactly the way I meant it — a gesture of goodwill and me saying, “I like you. I’m glad you’re here.”

I spent as much time with Brownie as I could. After a while I understood his language pretty well, and I understood that he was depending on me — not just for carrots but for companionship. My dogs, too. Brownie made friends with Dusty and Lily.

When it was time for me to get up in the morning, Brownie pawed the ground and nickered. When I came home from school Brownie pawed the ground, nickered and kind of danced in his little pen. Because I had the opportunity to get to KNOW him I understood all this as I wouldn’t have before. Sometimes I just stood in front of him, a five foot fence between us, and he hung his head over the fence while I stroked his nose until his eyes closed and he sighed in peace and pleasure. I don’t think I ever “talked” to Brownie, and I certainly never told him to do anything. If I walked past his house he walked “with” me as far as his pen would let him. He knew I loved him and he returned it.

I’m convinced — after knowing Brownie — that human and animal communication is mind-to-mind and body language. Not only my experiences with Brownie (and dogs) led me to this, but watching Brownie’s owner with him.

Andy has been a cowboy all his life. Before he was going to put his little kids on Brownie, he wanted to get to know him. He put a halter on Brownie, saddled him and took him into the yard. I do not know what Andy actually DID but in the space of three or four minutes he knew exactly who Brownie was, how gentle and how kind. I watched this, enthralled. I said something to Andy and he just said, “I’ve been around horses all my life.” He and Brownie were clearly talking to each other. Here’s part of the conversation:

A lot of other things happened over that time, and from it I took the lesson that communicating with animals required communicating goodwill and familiarity. I thought of the wild animals I’d “known” and realized that there had been communication — between me and the hawks, between me and small herds of deer, between me and the mountain lion there had been familiarity. They knew me from having seen me countless times. We shared a world and my habits were predictable enough that they could count on where I would be at a certain time of day. I wouldn’t have seen the lion (August 4, 2004, 6:30 pm) if I hadn’t changed my routine just one time. When I did? She calmly let me pass her and go my way. “Ah, it’s you. OK.”

I have a lot of stories, but all of them based on familiarity and regularity. My dogs, also, want a routine, the certainty of that. It’s how they — we? — know all is well. I was thinking about that and the pandemic. I wonder if some of that hysteria was just because everyone’s routines were upended, leaving them frightened and insecure.

Now is the quiet time in the Big Empty. The deer and elk are here. Very few big birds are here to stay, only the small ones who never leave. Yesterday I looked again in wonderment at the tracks of my deers (ha ha) as they made their way through the tall grass and reeds to their favorite sleeping places. I may never see them, but it’s OK. I tried to take a photo of their track and bed. It’s the featured photo.

The three of us are almost always alone out there. Bear has learned, finally, the cues that mean “We’re going!” I think she learned them from watching Teddy after I made a change in the restraint I use when I walk him. Now she wants me to catch her so she can go. Teddy has learned (from me and from Bear) how to walk beside me so that Bear can smell things. No treats or clickers or anything involved in this. I speak to my dogs in a very soft voice when I want them to do something. Why? Because Bear (and livestock guardian dogs in general) don’t respond well to loud voices or loud sounds. She taught me this when she was a puppy.

Ravens! Two of them are hanging out at the Refuge now. They’re so smart — I call out to them, “Hi Rave!” NOW, because they’ve seen me often, they fly over us and call out. It’s so cool. Not all animals are “non-verbal.” 🙂

There’s nothing new here, I know. I just think if we humans could drop our reliance on words once in a while and approach each other with goodwill and dependability, we might get somewhere.

Sorry. Triple just didn’t find its way into my post. 😦

Gone to the Dogs

Another intense week draws to a close but I KNOW better than to complain about it. It could be a LOT more intense and at least as bad. Yesterday I did the 15 questions, one of which was What are you most looking forward to in 2023? I responded that I had no idea and that, “…it’s all big crapshoot.”

The author of the questions didn’t agree that it’s a crapshoot. That’s OK, but I look back on this year and I could NEVER have predicted anything that happened and NONE of it was anything I looked “forward” to. It seemed that things just happened, mostly randomly. As far as I recall the only thing I looked forward to in 2022 was the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes. I can say the same for 2023, but I’m in no hurry. Soon after they leave, the deer flies arrive.

The past couple of years have shaken us all up, I think. Certainly they’ve shaken me up to the point where I’m afraid even to write something on the calendar like it’s going to happen.

I ended up going to the little art show at the museum. Luckily, I got there after the “crowds” had gone. It was quiet, and I felt, pretty safe from the boogie monsters. The fiddle player was there with his dog, Lola. Lola was actually the draw — I saw a little video of Johnny playing the fiddle, and his dog walked through the frame. I’d heard about Lola at the fancy dinner, so I cleaned up (somewhat) and headed out. Lola is a great dog. It was worth the trip. Not just Lola, but the continual sweet surprise of this community. I will never, never get used to it.

Louise, the former director, used to clear out the museum exhibits and turn the museum into a gallery. This was fantastic. The museum has gallery lighting and big, white walls. Lyndsie chose not to do that. It doesn’t affect where I hang my paintings, but it makes the paintings look like just another museum exhibit and people can’t get close to them to look at them. People LIKE to do that. It’s funny, but I don’t really care. I care enough to notice, but not enough to object. In fact, I don’t object. That old saw about “choosing your fights”? Well I understand it now. That’s not my fight. I know Lyndsie had to advocate with the county on behalf of local artists. I don’t know everything that happened in the last days of Louise other than it wasn’t pretty. I love Louise and I like Lyndsie, but most of all, I appreciate the museum. That is my “job” description. “Hi, my name is Martha and I support the museum.” One thing I would like to do in 2023 is find something to do with my paintings. I don’t know what that would be, but I think it might involve driving. Ha ha…

Yet ANOTHER Walk with Bear and Teddy 🐾 🐾

All kinds of intensity swirling around me right now, at the moment (knock on wood) I’m not the target of the intensity but I know that can change. I am grateful for peace, and yesterday ( Guess what? ) the dogs and I went into the Refuge. They were in search of adventure; I was just mostly doing my job taking out my dogs. The sky was this strange thing that happens in winter, blanched and blank, the clouds indeterminate, vapor trails crossing the sky in immense X’s, shadowless and waiting. The only clear expression in that vast expanse of pale blue was a lenticular cloud riding atop Mt. Blanca, resting there, making me wonder if maybe Goethe was right in his assertion that mountains make weather. I had looked at the weather forecast earlier yesterday morning, and saw snow forecast but in low percentages. The cloud riding there told me that in the Sangre de Cristos, at least, there could be a lot of snow.

We walked. The dogs are getting used to the new “drill” and it’s so much more pleasant than it used to be taking them both out together. I’m proud of them. Teddy’s idea of “heeling” is to walk on my right side, where Bear walks, instead of the left side, the side where he does his explorations. It’s OK with me as long as I can let Bear explore the world on a loose leash.

The moment I turned into the Refuge I saw a large raptor, cruising low. I thought it was my “friend” the Harris Hawk, but no. It was a Golden Eagle. I stopped the car to watch him, then slowly continued on my way as he hunted. He knew I was there but didn’t pay any attention to me, finally settling on a fence post. As long as the ground is clear, there’s food for them. Most of the snow — even in the sheltered pockets — has melted. A little tired snow remains on the deep north of the slope falling down from the road and Bear carped all the diem she could out of that.

It was almost completely silent out there, the companionable silence of nature, a silence through which a person could hear the news he needed if he were a Pleistocene hunter. I wondered how those people would have heard the silence — comforting or threatening? And would it have been as silent with all the big animals roaming around? What would it have been like? I often feel them when I’m out there — people and animals — in the timeless ever-changing wildness of this valley in a time where the road on which Bear, Teddy and I walk would have been a lake. Our routes are their routes, the road that skirts the Refuge would have been their pathway.

In the unchallenging light, the quiet sky, the silence of the moment, I felt tension drop from my shoulders, tension I didn’t know I felt.