February 25, 2012


an eagle's nest on the llano

some days you know you'll remember forever...

...like the day my son invited me to an overnight backpacking trip at Enchanted Rock.

February 23, 2012


Not bad for a telephone.

(Oh P.S. Ondine behaved beautifully on our walk tonight. I don't want to say it too loud 'cuz I don't want to jinx it, but wow!)

snippets, 2-23-12

Maybe when I retire...The myth of the eight-hour sleep.

February 22, 2012

field notes, ii-xxii-xii

Ondine and I saw a flight of several dozen black vultures heading northwest into a beautiful pink and purple sunset; the late-evening sun turned the leading edges of their wings gold.

I have great respect for vultures. As I watched them, I thought about how society portrays them. Granted, they're lice-ridden, filthy animals whose poop will peel the paint off of any surface, and they're likely to vomit on you if you get too close, but all that aside, they really should get more credit. Say whatever else you will about them, but no vulture has ever harmed another living creature. Vultures don't cage other animals and force-feed them to monstrous proportions, and they don't cruelly slaughter and eat their victims. They take whatever comes to them and make the best of it. We could learn from them.

In other news, earlier in the evening Ondine and I met a beautiful young couple in the parking lot of the frisbee golf course. The man was tall and slender and had great skin, and the woman was bronze and tawny and breathtaking. The man asked if he could pet Ondine, and I said yes, if he approached her slowly. She doesn't like it at all when people come at her too quickly - who does? The man seemed to understand and stood quietly and allowed Ondine to approach him, and then knelt and gently stroked her head. She responded by giving him her "Oh, b'gosh and begorrah, you're the most special person in the whole wide world" look. The couple gushed over her, and the man said, "Oh, we need a dog, bad." As I watched how he interacted with her, I said, "Seems to me you're ready for one."

a furry tale

Tanya's long beautiful fur sometimes clumps and mats and has to be shaved; picture an out-of-sorts ball of fur, awkwardly pinned and squeaking pathetically. Aries and Ondine were hovering nearby. I looked at Ondine and said in my quietest voice, "Would you mind going to bed for a while?" She looked at me and thought it over, and decided it was a good idea. She trotted off to the bedroom. I looked at Bren and said, "You know, that's a VERY good dog."

Later, after Bren was done with Tanya for the night (they were both tired, and it will probably take a couple more rounds to finish the job), Ondine came out of the bedroom and began nosing and nudging and nuzzling Tanya. She was behaving downright motherly. Ondine gets along with all the cats to varying degrees (she wrestles with Fawkes relentlessly, touches noses with Autumn once every evening, generally ignores Whiskers, etc.). Tanya adores her. She often rubs up against her and tells her all about her day. My impression is that they really want to hang out together, but they don't have many common interests. Cats don't do tennis balls or chew toys, you know.

At any rate, watching them together after the shearing got me wondering. I don't think sheep and sheepdogs ordinarily become friends, but maybe the relationship isn't always as antagonistic as it appears? Do shepherds allow their dogs to watch their charges being shorn? How do the dogs react? It certainly seemed to trigger Ondine's protective instincts. But then again, it could have been something much simpler altogether. Maybe Ondine was just being curious and cautious in the presence of obvious trauma, or she could have just been trying to puzzle out what happened to the rest of Tanya. You know, "Dudette, you're nae but half the kitty ye used to be!" (And yes, Ondine says stuff like "nae but." She is also good at maths, at least up to three.)

February 20, 2012

who's uptown now baby

Our phone contract was up so we bit the bullet and got iPhone 3Gs. We've always just done voice and text before this, but the iPhones were free with the new contract, and we got the least expensive data plan. We'll see how it goes. Welcome to the machine, huh? I put mine in my room. Bren got mad because I set a timer with a duck-quack alarm and then forgot it and went outside to play with the dogs. Old people shouldn't be allowed to play with technology.

In other news, I just got a ridiculously expensive and beautiful pair of old-school, hand-stitched leather hiking boots. Hiking in them without breaking them in, though, was a mistake. I wore them to walk Aries a mile and got home thinking they might need liners, so I bought some liners at Academy and then walked Ondine two miles, which resulted in blisters on my heels. So, um, duh, for now I'm just wearing them for knocking around, at least until we get to know each other better.

February 19, 2012

February 18, 2012

garden puddle

We don't see these but once every two or three years.


February 16, 2012

February 14, 2012

field notes, ii-xiv-xii

Valentine's Day seems early for mayflies. Everything's beginning to blossom - the dogwoods and redbuds are beautiful. Looks like early spring.

Ondine wasn't great tonight, but she wasn't her worst. Notes:

Right after work, about 5:15, before she ate.
Nice weather, cool but sneaking up on warm.
Magnificent on the trail, squirrely on the roads. (Lots of traffic.)
Very good crossing the street into the park.

Aries was good, too. He's been cranky and aggressive toward the other animals lately so I'm trying to get him out more consistently. It would be nice to walk him and Ondine together but we're not there yet. And also I'm not crazy. Oh - he got startled by a large, metallic "I love you" balloon that was trapped in a bush. He investigated by nudging it with his nose, which dislodged it, and then he stood quietly and watched as it floated away.

Do dogs form 'real' friendships? is fascinating - both the post and the comments. I'd love to go work on a master's in biology. I'd do my thesis on social relationships in feral dog packs. My hypothesis is that the process of domestication degrades canine social cohesion. As canines drew closer to our human ancestors they became less reliant on hunting and more on scavenging. Competition became more important than cooperation with each other, and cooperation with humans became more beneficial than cooperation with others of their kind. I think I'd have to seek out a wide variety of feral packs to study, representing several different stages of domestication - you know, village dogs in Afghanistan, landfill dogs in Tijuana, carrion dogs in India. I'd probably want to compare them to jackals in Africa and dingoes in Australia, too, just to round out the study. (Though I must say I wholly disagree with the premise that dogs don't form real friendships. That's ludicrous. I'd much rather say that we can't apply human standards of friendship to dogs as the standard, especially if the behaviors we would define as friendship are the behaviors we've helped nature breed out of them. We have to study them to figure out what friendship means, on their terms, first.)

February 11, 2012

mantel update

We put together a puzzle of Roy De Forest's "Country Dog Gentlemen" this weekend and we liked it so much that we matted and framed it and hung it over the mantle. (We got the puzzle from pomegranate.com - highly recommended.)


we have a slight chance of ice pellets and snow tomorrow

February 9, 2012

field notes, ii-ix-xii

I took Aries out first this evening. He's pretty good on the leash most of the time, but sometimes he stops to sniff and it's hard to keep him moving. I brought some treats along, but he seemed to lose interest after the first few. I thought to myself, "What? Aries uninterested in food?" That was odd. He is food-possessive at home. But as I watched him ignore a treat I was waving under his nose, I realized that just being out and about is, for him, a greater reward.

I followed that train of thought back to Ondine. She never tires of treats, but I wondered whether they weren't really motivating or rewarding to her after all, or whether she's just greedy, and I wondered if I ought to try another kind of reward.

Lately Bren and Ondine have been playing with the squeaker from a gutted squeaky toy; Ondine gets excited and squirrely when Bren hides the squeaker in her hand and squeaks it quickly. When I took Ondine out this evening, I grabbed the squeaker. I kept it in my pocket for a while and then surprised her with it along the trail.

Sacre bleu, she likes that toy. A few times I kept it in my pocket and squeaked it only once, just to break her concentration from mild distractions, including a couple passing dogs. She responded to the single squeaks with a swivel-snap of her head, and then continued to check in often. We tried the rapid-squeak thing a few times when cars were passing, but the results were hit and miss. Seems like if I can get her to stop and play before she gets locked into her target, it's OK. We'll have to keep working on the timing.

Apart from all the observation and analysis and problem-solving, something light was dancing around in my head for a good part of the walk. Some of our stop-and-play sessions are as fun as fun gets down here on this planet, you know, kids and their dogs. Part of me is still nine years old and Ondine is a beautiful goofball.

snippets, 2-9-12

From The Atlantic: How your cat is making you crazy.

There is a theory of mind floating around out there (not necessarily in the linked article, but bear with me) that our brains are more like radio receivers than, uh, thought factories, and that they spend most of their time tuning signals and sifting and interpreting a huge variety of inputs not only from our six or seven senses, but from all the different communities of bacteria that make us who we are. My feeling is that toxo, the bacterial subject of the article, is just one among many bacteria that influence "our" behavior. I mean, c'mon, those little dudes ruled the planet for 3.5 billion years before "we" came along. (Experienced meditators know that the deep center is a really quiet place; many of the voices we think of as ourselves, if you let them come and go, start seeming like they're coming from somewhere else. That's the little dudes talking.)

February 8, 2012

field notes, ii-viii-xii

Ondine was as bad as she's ever been this evening, though she did surprise me once or twice with good behaviors, such as sitting politely as we waited to cross Liberty Walk into the park.

A later start, 5:45, after she ate
Lots of evening traffic
A little cooler than usual
A slower pace

Yeah. Oh, we watched a jogger with a spitz mix pass, and Ondine looked at me like, "Why aren't we doing that?" And just before we turned into our driveway, I looked up to catch the last pink embers of the sunset and saw the evening's first star. I wished right away, "O please help this young lady learn to behave around cars."

February 6, 2012

snippets, 2-6-12

Another terrific article: Wonder dog.

February 4, 2012

February 3, 2012

February 1, 2012