10 September 2018

Who doesn't like flying with an angry, demented chihuahua?

Otterpop used to like flying pretty good. She could be crabby at the end of a long airplane flight, but generally thought the whole exciting trip through security, airport tours, and a nap under the seat in a tote bag was all a-ok.

Then she got old and her new view on this is, NO NO NO NO NO NO NO WAY.

She made that perfectly clear from the moment of being shoved under the seat, loudly and frantically, much to the horror of many of my neighboring airplane passengers. I threw in cookies, which maybe helped a tiny bit, but mostly just kept my hands in there petting here until she zonked herself out and fell asleep.

Luckily we weren't going far, just up to Portland to teach at a seminar.

The Oregon School for Clever Dogs Clever Confidence Camp was this weekend! A long weekend of talking and helping agility people with nervous or fearful or worried or unmotivated or sensitive or whatever kinds of dogs figure out how to help their dogs feel a little better and less nervous or worried or scared or emotional or even just not wanting to come back over to their people after a run. A lot of start line routines, end line routines, practice patterns of new ways of reinforcing, and playing with toys. And hunks of string cheese.

Everyone had some fun, I hope, except Otterpop. Everyone learned some things, I learned new things too, and had to head scratch on some ideas to help out some of the dogs. Tricky! And then had to pack up Otterpop back into her tote bag and fly her one last time in full meltdown mode back home.

Sorry Otterpop! No more airplane trips for you, I promise.

05 September 2018

Banksy likes to keep me guessing.

In March 2017, she crashed on a jump in the covered arena at Santa Rosa, and for the next couple of months after that, I couldn't tell if she was too injured to jump, or too scared to jump, or both. Mostly she didn't want to turn left over jumps, but it spread to all the jumps. So I gave her a few months off, no vets could find anything wrong with neck or shoulder her after that, and she was good to go. She was still nervous about jumping, and was afraid to jump if I did a lead out, so we just went to the no startlines, all the time style of running, which is thrillingly exciting at best, terrifying and impossible at worst. We scratched from any upcoming trials and she didn't compete or train too often that year, but started competing again in September that year. She made it to the podium in Steeplechase at that Western Regional.

The rest of the year, got to run in just 4 trials, where she earned her ADCh, and get qualified for Cynosports. She won 3 out of 4 Grand Prix's she ran in so had a stack of byes, this would be our year for big events! The plan was to use them up traveling to exotic far away lands like Arizona, SoCal and Washington, trying to get some byes for Cynosports and practicing going to a big event and not messing up, and trying to win. We only made it to Arizona in April, and we did mess up, and we didn't win. So good thing I made the plan to practice!

In April 2018, right after Arizona, she had her mysterious stroke/seizure/mystery weird event. That left her with a draggy right hind foot. I was just happy she was alive after that, and her doing agility ever again would have been a bonus. We just walked slowly around the neighborhood for weeks while she dragged her foot, and I was hoping that wouldn't be her permanent new life. We scratched from upcoming trials, and in our year for big events, I her pulled off our team for the Camarillo Regional. But it started to drag less so she could walk longer and further, and eventually I started to train her a little, to see if just a little toe drag on the tip of her toe would affect her running. It seemed ok.

In June 2018, I started her back to running on contacts. She fell off a dog walk for the second time in her life, the first time being at Power Paws when she was young and I hadn't stabilized it, she never liked doing dog walks there in that spot after that. This time I didn't see, I just heard her come off and when I looked up, she was running next to me. I worried that her still slightly draggy toe talking late to her brain caused it. And later on that evening, when I brought her down to class to demo something, lame on her left front. Vet couldn't figure out what it was. I scratched her from upcoming trials, including pulling her off another team. I gave her time off. And then she was ok.

In August 2018, after just a light training before I taught, I pulled into my driveway after an evening teaching classes, and she climbed out of the car on 3 legs. Her right hind, the neurological foot was all wrong. Next 2 days, every time she got up, 3 legs. Then, magically gone after 2 days. I ran her in a couple classes at a local trial, after winning Saturday's Grand Prix, she was walking funny on that right hind again. I scratched her from the rest of the weekend. Took her to the vet on Monday, she was walking fine, vet couldn't find anything except for the neuro foot wasn't talking to her brain again. I told my team, we didn't have any replacements in mind, so I walked her carefully around the neighborhood on a leash that week. No funny steps, and her brain and foot were back on speaking terms. I let her have one off leash walk in the woods by the end of the week, no funny steps or 3 legs, so I ran her in the Regional. She ran great. Only things that happened were direct results of handling errors on my part.

Right before Steeplechase Finals, she started walking weirdo while walking near a flapping tent. Left hind bad! But not panicking, I suspected a burr and grabbed her and pulled it out, she had the panic attack for us and didn't want to go near the tent anymore, which was right by the ring. That's so Banksy. She got over it though and went in and ran her heart out, but later wouldn't get up on the podium because it was near a flapping tent. So I didn't make her. Banksy's mind just works like that, and I'm used to it.

So Cynosports? No way. She keeps me guessing too much to plan a big trip. Even if I had earned the Grand Prix bye (we only have a Steeplechase bye), too much stress to spend so much time and money worrying about keeping her in one piece. Even training her is nerve wracking since I don't know what happens to her when she's had her weird injuries. Her Steeplechase time was within a second of Kirk's, who is as fast as it gets and we're usually at least 2 seconds behind, so that would have been fun to try for the finals, but I think we'll both be happier staying home and going back to forest running.

So another year, no tries at being champions. But when I remember that 6 months ago, I didn't know if she would ever be able to take a jump again or run another dog walk, there's no way I can be disappointed. After all that, anything active she can do is a bonus, and based on her pattern of the last year, there will probably be more future things that pop up. Banksy definitely does everything on her own terms, and she's so amazing that however she does things is cool with me. Agility is definitely her number one, it beats the beach, forest running, and even her other favorite sport, finding the soccer goals to run around on soccer fields and then catch a low flying flippy. Preserving her to be able to do agility and run fast wherever she wants to until she's old and creaky is my big goal now, that's how she'll be a super champ.

03 September 2018

USDAA Western Regional, Finals.

First round of the Grand Prix, Third Place

The second round didn't go so good. Banksy broke her startline, we took off like rockets, she hit a bar on the double, I thought I kept it together but did make a last minute decision about handling the jump after her dog walk. My hat flew off while I was thinking this so my brain must have been exploding so instead of showing decel I showed EXPLODE and she did then it got back on track until I couldn't find the red jump just past the teeter and I tottered around out there looking for it while Banksy jumped something the wrong way. Trippy!

Nothing like the occurrence of a shit storm in front of an audience!

Steeplechase Finals

This went super! I planned a broken start, almost didn't get her leash tossed away, zoom zoom zoom off we went starting with a rear cross and an extra unplanned off the cuff rear off the frame! She was fast! Best of all we got to go on the podium with our besties Channan and Kirk, they always beat us so we are always happy just to have a time anywhere near them! Also Anita and Veuve, we also can't beat those two. Super fun finals, even with the shit storm of Grand Prix.

Banksy got scared of the flapping tent behind the podium so that was as close as she'd go. Nosirree, not on that box, even next to Kirk! Sometimes that happens to Banksy, she's cool.

OK, edit. I just looked at the results. In the 2 classes she won, Banksy had the fastest time of all the dogs, all the heights in the whole regional. One was Biathlon Standard, Kirk had a faster time, but she had a bar. We are always happy to have Kirk beat us. Also the fastest time of all the dogs, all the heights, in Team Standard. Banksy's steeplechase podium group also had the fastest time of all the dogs, all the heights. With Kirk and Veuve less than a second faster, and they are really, really fast! Also her first round of Grand Prix group the fastest times of all the dogs, all the heights.

Banksy is amazing. And right now, having a nap.

02 September 2018

USDAA Bay Team Western Regional, days 1 and 2.

Team Might Get Hairy. No team Q, due to all 3 of us very democratically E'ed in Team Jumpers. Banksy won Team Standard, came in 4th in Team Snooker, would have been 2nd in Team Gamblers if I had checked her scribe sheet (oops), and bonus E with a classic mistake of drifting too fast across the jump sending to a backside in Relay! But it was no big deal, had a super fun time teaming with Holly and Dianne and didn't need a team Q for any special reason.

Banksy is running amazing. From 2 weeks ago thinking she would have to be scratched to this! She won Biathalon Standard, came in 3rd in the first round of Steeplechase, 3rd in first round of Grand Prix, and overall has had awesome runs with some handler errors mucking her up here and there. An E took us out of Biathalon but the E'less part was awesome and fast. Lots of points in team gamblers and snookers, many startlines, just all in all awesome running from Banksy, I couldn't be more proud of her.

One more day tomorrow for the finals, can't wait! Thanks Banksy and thanks Team Might Get Hairy!

25 August 2018

This happened, then this happened.

This happened today.

This happened, then afterwards Banksy had a sore leg and couldn't play anymore.

I'm hoping her sore leg isn't serious and feels better soon. Very soon. Because she's on a team next week for the Western Regional, the kind of team you wear a wig for. And Grand Prix and Steeplechase and all that agility stuff. Get well soon Banksy!

20 August 2018

How the heck are you, Gustavo?

Gustavo is back to normal. I actually didn't think this would happen, I figured he'd have a new normal, which was perfectly fine with me. Having any bit of Gustavo back is still a miracle. But having him back to normal, unbelievable. Maybe a bit paranoid when he sees dogs appear across the park field, til her registers they're just dogs. But he's his happy self to meet new dogs, follow us around, and chase Banksy chasing her frisbee again.

It's impossible to capture the level of dork that Banksy becomes at the pond. She was not too scared to swim a teensy, teensy bit yesterday. Gustavo puttered and Otterpop stood perfectly still most of the time we were there. Otterpop does weird things now, so she just stood still and looked to the far shore. She did have to stay on a leash, because with zero hearing the last thing I want is her to jump in the pond after a ball and start swimming and maybe forget where I am and I can't call. Most of her things are on leashes now.

Oh, yeah, what else can Gustavo do? Walking in the woods too. On a leash. The littles, forever on leashes in there, anywhere a coyote might ever chance to be, and Banksy always close in. Gustavo and Otterpop were happy as clams to go back to the forest. I was surprised about Gustavo, almost didn't bring him, but decided to just throw it out there. He was all, super! I was a little scared, and we haven't been deep in yet, sticking close by the road. Banksy was paranoid, looking over her shoulder and sticking close, so she's with me on this one. Baby steps.

12 August 2018

Purple is the new black.

photo by Dianne Morey

My size 10.5 foot of reality stomped down pretty hard a few years back. Turns out I didn’t become a rich and famous It-Girl who rose to fame and fortune while never leaving the privacy of her secret, ocean view, mountaintop pony ranch. Being of a somewhat slackerish misanthropic disposition, it wasn’t like I tried very hard to make that happen, but it had seemed like it would have been a nifty career trajectory for me, so go figure. Instead I ended up with the kind of life where you have to remember to drag the trash cans out on Wednesday and pay the DMV on time and deal with the ants. Go to work. Chop up broccoli. Answer the emails. Realize you’ll never have a nice couch. Everything was very serious, even though my job was a capital “V” vocation, it was still mostly scurrying around with a scowl trying to beat the clock.

With one grandiose swoop of the birthday clock, I overnight became too old to be young enough to see bountiful amber waves and fruited plains rolling out endlessly in front of me, but way too young to just throw in the towel at this discovery. I was exactly in the middle, the place where a nagging little brainvoice starts causing you to comment on the old skool way you used to do what’s now the fancy new skool way to do all the things. I believe this is also known as Grandpa Voice. The same brainvoice does the math of how many years came before, compared to how many are left and mumbles quietly cutely scripted slogans along the lines of life is short, enjoy ever moment, then turns into anxiety dreams about evacuating livestock during a wildfire as you fall asleep on the couch before it’s even 9pm.

The art of having a genuine hobby definitely hadn’t occurred to me before. Hobby? Like the skinny old dudes and their pickleball, driving around with their pickleball license plates and flapping plastic balls bobbing on their antennas? Weekend cake decorators instagramming from their home kitchens the construction of towering rainbow cakes in the shape of bashful unicorns, with genuine gold leaf eyelashes? Golf?

Not a thing for me, the hobby. I was too busy having a life that seemed to keep slipping off it’s trajectory tracks. Work that had started gently as hobby, but quickly advanced many years prior to work, sucking all the good juice out of what first brought joy, then brought money. Not like I was sweat shopping on an assembly line or plodding away in some dank warehouse, but just trying to do all the things right while constantly reminding myself how lucky I was to be doing what I love, was so darn time consuming. And financially, definitely on the crummy side.

That first agility class with my lovely pet Ruby was an unlikely gateway into loosening the still fresh ties of adulting and the newish slinking, smoldering sprouts of panic caused by the quiet tick tocks of the doomsday clock. It started innocently enough, with an untrained dog. The obsession crept in all sneaky-like, like when you recognize a lead singer, cap pulled down low in incognito shades, skulking on to an adjacent barstool for a drink. An hour to sneak out of the day, drive to a grassy yard, sit in a chair, and give the dog a treat when it climbed on the thing. Changing the channel from our usual programming. It didn’t always go quite right, but even that upset of the drama, the dog didn’t go on the thing, the dog didn’t stay, the dog is running away, was an escape because of when it worked and there was the moment of rabbit in a hat magic. Hold a cookie and it’s like wand waving wizard school out there, you just turned that owl into a stackable washer dryer set, holy smokes!

Eventually, the dog reliably ran through the tunnel for a piece of cat food. Maybe caused by better reinforcement placement or just better cat food. It was a blissful and amazing satisfaction found nowhere else. Each time, the dog sent through the tunnel faster, with a growing expression of demonic possession on her face. There was a measurable, quantifiable amount of something happening, changing, improving. The dog was going somewhere I wasn’t, she had her own vast future ahead, so many things to learn. The apocalyptic future landscape was fended off for a moment by a dog running around chomping on a cookie in it’s mouth. I was on to something that just might suspend time.

I still hid out behind my ironic detachment. That hour turned into a day, then a weekend, of communing with others who were not like me. They were everything I’d never be. I’d never wear a floppy sun hat, especially not one that had extra long flaps on the back for necks shading and a sturdy chin strap. I’d never wear a baggy man size t-shirt with a cartoon dog screen print on the front. My shirts were carefully ironic, having been hunted and gathered via selective digging through choice thrift store bins. Probably, actually, a legitimate hobby pursuit of days gone by. Ironically though, the dogs of the others, regardless of their fashion choices, could do the weave poles every single time without messing up. I could pat myself on the back for having a really cute tote bag, but started out this quest as the worst in terms of dog agility skills.

Maybe my horror of matching accessories in sturdy purple water resistant nylon was some deep seated phobia that deep down, I was a matching purple accessories person. Purple phobic neurotica? Whatever it was, gradually, I had no time to go hang out with old friends at an art opening, or take students to a weekend horse show. I stopped calling my friends. They stopped calling me. I was on my way to the purple side, me and my dog and our new hobby. There was the weekly dog class. Then classes. Then there was the never, ever missing the classes. Then there was the practicing. And more practicing. And the renting the field for the practicing. And the lugging equipment to all kinds of fields for practicing. Then the fun matches. Then more of those. Then a trial. Then two days of a trail. Then another. Then another. And so on.

Nowadays, the cheerful diversions are super specific, collection turns off running contacts, or perfecting a send to the backside while sliding laterally, that stave off the nagging tick tock of what the heck have I been doing all this time and how much time do I have left to do it now? Back in the day, even not so cheerful diversions were all right. Dog agility used to make me cry on a regular basis and I still couldn’t get enough of it. Things are different now. I get it. Just go back and train it. So simple!

I have friends who think it’s perfectly normal when I text them at 5:30am because I saw my dog take a funny step when she walked across the kitchen. A wild Friday night is dog practice, and a great Sunday brunch replacement is dog practice. My husband didn’t sign up for a garage full of shade clothes and dog beds and blue and white striped pvc, but he’s taken it all in stride. And is mildy interested in this idea I have about us buying a motorhome one day. In the distant future. Except that it’s got to be the not so distant future if we're going to do it, life is short and so on and so forth, says the brain voice.

My dogs don't see that my hair’s a little grayer, and that my middle bits are little lumpier. Otterpop, who spent all those years in the USDAA Top Ten, earning big fluttery ribbons that have long vanished into dust gathering clutter that calls to me, “Downsize, Downsize”, she’s deaf as a rock and waddles across the floor with back legs that don’t bend at all anymore. They just sees me, and that it’s time to train, just like we did yesterday and like we’ll do again tomorrow.

30 July 2018

UKI West Coast Cup, one bar or one refusal.

At least I'm consistent. Always just one mistake.

Banksy ran great and our team work was awesome for the most part. There was some good competition at this event, even though a small event it was mighty. We had some start lines! And some not start lines too. Only one time in a wrong side of a tunnel, in the Blue Ribbon Final. That was a too much, my mistakes are always a too much or a not enough. It's good though to see the mistake and now we have to start practicing more to fix them!

15 July 2018

SMART July Prunedale USDAA.

The good news is that I decided Banksy could run in a trial!

Really no bad news. Maybe a little lite on Q's, because of bars, bars, bars mostly.

One full on brain explosion in Steeplechase, the run I most looked forward to. Banksy's brain, not mine. I just excused her from the ring after the barsplosion.

All dog walk hits beautiful! All teeters stopped, except for Grand Prix where I let her GO! One crazy aframe. One bad slip in a damp tunnel! One off course by me! One stupid gambler rule brainsplosion in our perfect gamble. One perfect start line! A couple so so start lines. A number of terrible start lines!

I can't pull Banksy out for breaking her start. Life is too short.

What do all these runs have in common? A bar! And we're rusty. But I still liked them. Banksy is amazing.

Grand Prix


Biathalon Jumpers

30 June 2018

Did I just see that? Yep, I did.

We were all set for a trial this weekend! Team with friends! One of my favorite judges! Biathlon, our favorite! Running some titling classes for no good reason other than some running! I am bringing the ice!

Had a little practice Thursday, before I taught the classes, I was running hard to get to a backside off the rdw, hear the usual run/run from Banksy behind me which usually sounds like this, run/run/run/run/run and I look for yellow on the fourth run. All I heard was run/run and I kept running except then I quick stopped and turned around when I missed hearing the next run/run and there was Banksy, on the grass running instead of on the plank running.

She put herself back up on, she was off but now she was on and ready to try again. Let's go!

But the point being, for some reason she slipped and fell or bailed off the dog walk as she got to the top plank. A thing she's never done except once when we practiced on a dog walk that had a slope by mistake and she felt the slope and bailed. Other than that she's never slipped off in all this time.

She was fine, we fixed the sequence, she got her toy, victory.

A thing to note. When Banksy runs across the dog walk, there is no other speed than the fastest speed, unless it's a four stride hit and then it's even faster. So the terror of her ever coming off is that she's flying off with the momentum of a rocket crashing back to earth.  Physics, useful for dog agility.

So she had a rest while I set up some things, and she came out to show the first class something, I forget what. And when she came out of her x-pen I thought for a second I saw some funny steps then I didn't. So I thought, that was weird, did I see that?

But she looked great so I figured it was just crazy mind.

If you have horses and dogs, you know that. Did I just see that?

If you've had horses and dogs forever and see them move all day, you know better than to ask, Did I just see that?

Because you did.

But it goes away so you think, did I just see that?

She came out again, for How To Do A Rear Cross lesson. A thing that after all these years, I finally feel qualified to teach. I can do these now. And she came out and same thing, did I just see that?

A student said, oh, she's got a leaf on her foot.

He tried to grab it. I saw no leaf. And then she looked fine and we did a tunnel jump tunnel, of how to do a rear. Did it a couple times. Cross her path. Pick up your left arm. Show them the line in front. All the things.

And she got in her x-pen. And I brought her out while we were walking the course for the next class.

Oh yeah. I did just see that.

So two days in. Rest and rimadyls. Just stay put Banksy. Bailed off my team, I am now the person to not sign up to team with because second time I've scratched and left a team stranded to find a replacement.

I can't tell where it is. Somewhere. Seemed like her wrist, now it seems like I'm not sure. It does seem better with rest and rimadyl, not a limp so much now as a little hitch at the trot, so not to panic, just a little thing, hopefully just something strained, but no running no playing no fun just resting, until there's no question, there's nothing to wonder if I did or didn't see it.

Happy nap weekend, Banksy.

17 June 2018

Bay Team Titlemania West Coast

The best part of the weekend was all the best parts. Banksy got to do agility again, and she did great. She ran perfectly normal and happy and I made some mistakes and she said she still hates start lines and tables, but I got to run Banksy in agility. Gustavo got to walk around and see so many friends, and there was a special mini dog award for Championship and Performance top scoring All American dogs like him. Even though he's Mexican. And I got to walk back and forth from the car and see all my  friends and Otterpop got to sleep in the car and it was just like old times again. And I didn't lose my keys or phone or sunglasses.

Frankly, it was amazing.

That's some of Gustavo's people at the awards ceremony.

Banksy ran 3 standard classes and 3 Masters Challenge Jumpers. I hadn't thought I would run them all, but enter them all to have a choice and see how she was doing. She was doing great, so I just kept running and running and ended up running them all.

Banksy's highlights.

Standard 1. I left on her collar and half way through the course the judge saw it while Banksy was not yet laying down on the table, hovering there begging me to just release her. Toes on the edge, staring at the next thing which I was already led out to, while she was not laying down on the table. I did release her as soon as the judge kicked us out for having a collar on, she was so happy! The rest of the run till that was great, with a hard dw exit right tunnel for Banksy! E

Standard 2. Her dog walk contact was dicey but not called. My hat fell off my head at the beginning and since it was tied to my head with a string it stayed on, but over my eyes. I ran approximately 5 things like that until I could see again while she was laying down on the table this time. Probably a Q.  I have this on video and I think I am running pretty good while hat blinded, actually. Oh, yep, won it and a Q.

Standard 3. A bar between a tunnel and the aframe. Smacked it pretty good. Her table started to be slow again and since I already had the bar I standed her which confused her a bit and she unstanded herself into a down. Rest of it was great, her rdw was not the best hit but it was a hit. We need to practice contacts. Oh, nobody Q'ed so she won this with a bar.

MC Jumpers 1. A beautiful, flawless run but she ticked the broad jump. I didn't hear it but someone said it was called. That's cool. How great is it to run Banksy again? I didn't check to see if a Q because I actually did not give a rats ass at this point since we were actually doing agility. Oh, not called, won it and a Q.

MC Jumpers 2. Oh drat. This is where I sent her to a backside instead of a frontside. I had forgot to remember to do that. I had a refusal elsewhere where I was peeling off too fast for a blind. But I did get it quite nice after I fixed the refusal. I thought this was a nice run but for the enormous error of wrong side of a jump at the end. Even the dicey awful hard rear cross to a push back. Banksy was flying around and doing everything exactly like I told her, no complaints. E

MC Jumpers 3. Because she did everything exactly like I told her, when I told her front side instead of back side, she did this swell! Oops. One more E. I changed my plan, and that's what I get. And a bar, I have this on video, she didn't pick up her front feet enough which means I surprised her with that jump. Banksy no likey surprises. Me either. Her startline was gone by this run, but it was cool, we just ran off the start together, like we like to do anyways. E

No trophies. No dog of the year, which is the magic title you win by winning 3 classes in each division. Dog of the year! It's a title mania! I don't really get it but we had a good time. When we don't win I usually say oh it's cool we didn't win. But am secretly a bit miffed I didn't win. I do try hard and frequently don't win because we still aren't champions. But this time, I can safely say I was completely cool not winning. It was a thrill to run Banksy, and a thrill to have a Gustavo to walk around. They are totally the dogs of the year just by not being dead!

Probably by the next trial I'll be miffed again with myself for not winning. I would like to hope not. Even if I make more of those just one or two boo boos per run which winners don't do. Maybe I'll write The Dogs Aren't Dead in sharpie on my wrist in secret code, just to muffle the miffing. That should do it. You should try it, too.

11 June 2018

I do not hate coyotes.

Here’s a laundry list of the things they did to Gustavo:

bites, bites, bites. puncture wounds in neck, side, back, ears, head. most plentiful near throat.
drain for abscessed punctures.
broken ribs, all on the right side.
bruised lung and liver.
torn salivary gland.
scratched corneal ulcers.
torn abdominal wall.

Gustavo was in the hospital ICU for 4 days on an iv, sleeping mostly, not really moving, in a little dog bed in a kennel behind a sliding glass door, in a dim room full of sick dogs. His iv gets moved from leg to leg. There are a lot of xrays. At some point that drain got put in for festering absessed wounds in his neck causing gas to pocket in his tissue. His esophagus or trachea, I forget which, was not torn, just a bit smashed.

He would not eat. Nothing for a nurse, not at all. I got him to lick some ice cream off a popsicle stick, what they like to call in the hospital, tongue depressors. His tongue was not depressed though, it could only move out the side of him mouth to slurp up a bit of ice cream. We used vanilla as the gateway drug to chicken babyfood. Only the Gerber. Forget the organic stuff I got at Whole Foods.

I think his jaw hurt, I think his everything hurt. He was took by coyotes on a Sunday morning, on a Tuesday he was found. I can’t imagine what he went through those 48 hours. Maybe he hoped to die.

Gustavo would not let the nurses touch him. Nor the doctors. No temperatures no touching no blood draw no nothing. They still loved him anyways, or at least that’s what they said. He would like to leave the hospital please and is not shy to let everyone know this. He fought and wiggled ferociously, even tried to bite with his remaining four teeth. He is very, very happy to see me so they let me come to see him a lot.

I took him out to the parking lot on his feeding visits, he would eat the best for me. He started trying to escape that jail via the car park. He could only walk in the very slowest shuffle of little tiny steps, so it was very easy to capture him as he attempted the jail breaks. I just took one step. We spent a lot of time out there, in the shrubs outlining the asphalt parking lot. I didn't know, did it scare him, like a ptsd coyote would come out from the trash can enclosure? Did he just want to end it all by heading out into traffic on 41st Avenue? Or was he happy to breathe for a few minutes, it was his only bit of fresh air. It was very exciting when he peed.

After 4 days, they let me take him home. Popped out his catheter and released him to be my problem to get him to eat. He was losing so much weight and nobody wanted to put in a little feeding tube. I brought him back a few times for the docs to look at. He needed to eat more, but all the things, they were healing. It was hard to carry him, his ribs were broken, mostly he wanted to sleep in his dog bed, or sniff the air in the back yard.

I do not hate coyotes. If they had wanted, they could have easily torn him to shreds.

Likely I was a pain in their coyote asses, and they dropped him. A screaming lady thrashing around in your thicket hitting things with a branch probably feels uncomfortable for eating a small dog, not so nice for the digestion. I don’t hate you, coyotes, I just wanted my dog back. Whether they caught him to feed some pups, or just wanted to eliminate another potential predator of the woods, Gustavo, he who enjoys chasing squirrels and paper towels, we will never know.

I’ve been a few times to the school where the kids found him. I saw where the path dumped him off, underneath the deck. He crawled under there, probably to die, all his energy used up tromping through the woods when they dropped him, all the way down to the flat path that crosses the creek near the tree stump that looks like a gnome house. He did not take the shortest way to get there, that is clear from the path he chose. On Tuesday, the groundskeeper saw him, some 8th grade girls got him to come out. They said he could walk. One girl said he couldn’t. I don’t know what happened, but they got him out and gave him to the grownups and that’s how I got him back. It’s kind of a hippie school, there’s no uniforms or hard math classes there, they play violin and have plays and social justice. His photo is stapled to the office wall. He is the only dog now ever allowed at school, I took him up there to hang out with the kids on the last day of school, between 8th grade graduation and the picnic.

Four weeks now, he’s been back. Four weeks now, he came back from the dead. Four weeks, all the good wishes and buckets of money throw to me by friends and family and people I’ve never even met, at his hospital bills, with a large sum left over that I still need to figure out what to do with. Maybe in a few months, when they say for sure that tear in his abdominal wall is healed and not going to tear itself up any more. Three weeks back at my house, two weeks starting to feel good and eat more things, one week starting to see his personality come back and he turns back into Gustavo.

I still don’t hate coyotes. I am afraid to take my dogs to the woods, the only place they’ve ever known to walk. I stick them on leashes and walk them on the pavement of the neighborhood, we go to the park and I throw a ball. It's hot, there are very few trees, and we feel suburban and very pedestrian, but seems like fewer ways for them to die. Gustavo can even go on a little walk, I bought him a fleece harness and he can trot along, almost like how he used to. We walk a bit slower, we look out for traffic.

I don't hate coyotes, but maybe this is how we learn to live our lives for now. I don't really care. I had a miracle occur and I got my dog back. Can you see that by peering into my eyes? I had flipping angels fly around and deliver him back to me and then collect the money to pay for his bills. We can walk on the asphalt for now, we can learn to do things different. Nobody usually gets something back that is that much gone, today, I am not nobody.

Part Two: The kind of person who gets poison oak.

Part One: Bambi Quick the Thicket

05 June 2018


Mostly, Gooey is tired. He needs to sleep a lot still. He sleeps in late, goes to bed early. I think some of it is that his diet isn't quite right yet, I'm working on getting him back to eating what he should.  But at least he's eating. The other of it is, I think he's just really tired.

He's a little worried of things. A little jumpy. This isn't surprising, I'd be too. We keep a close eye on him. I took him up to the school where he was found yesterday, we walked back out to the deck, now I know exactly where he came up from the creek, he had taken the easiest yet furthest path, it pops right out at the deck. It's a bit of a project to get to that path, but he knows all the ways to it. He came up out of the woods from where it wraps around, and that was the first place he saw to go to rest or hide or die, maybe all of these, I don't know.

He wasn't happy to be there. He did know exactly where he was, he perked up but in a worried sort of way when we walked down there. I won't make him go back there again.

03 June 2018

The kind of person who gets poison oak.

Part Two, Part One is called Bambi Quick The Thicket

In these bipartisan times, the world is easily divided into two kinds of people. There are the those of us who never get poison oak, and there are the others, the people who do. I’ve always been a never gets it. I spend a lot of time tromping through it, as do my dogs, and the worst rash I’ve ever gotten was a tiny speck on one wrist. Maybe officially that made me a person who does get it, but I always considered myself a not. I can listen to someone who is whining about their rash, and silently label them a weakling. Possessing the skin that can’t withstand the touch of a plant, sensitive skin that must be protected when tromping through the outdoors. Don’t touch the nature, mind the leaves of three, the others with the delicate constitution. Some of us who can move through the woods unfettered, and everybody else must move around it.

The day that followed the loss of Gustavo, I tried to come to terms with some harsh new realities. I now had only two dogs. I had sent my most precious dog out ahead of me into a coyote ambush into instant death. And I was now a fragile snowflake, with a rapidly spreading poison oak rash on my whole left side.

I was sure that he must have died instantly. I never heard any peep, not a sound, from him. Gustavo is a dog who if you even touch his hair wrong, screams. Loudly. Like blood curdling, high octave, scare the neighbors loud. He’s a pretty quiet dog in general. He makes gurgling hamster love noises when he’s happy, growls at paper towels that he’d like to tear up, and barks at the neighborhood cats that climb on our backyard fence. But touch him wrong, pluck a piece of delicate fur or stick a thermometer in his hiney, and you’ll hear wailing at a range that’s surprising from such a small body.

For hours I had thrashed through brush, screaming his name, only being answered by a coyote. Wanting to hear him scream back. Never once hearing anything from him, no scream of dismemberment, no death scream, not a single sound. There had been two coyotes and I was only getting one coyote scream back for each of mine. Was that a system? Or had one taken him elsewhere? All I wanted was some kind of sign, a sound, some acknowledgement that he was in there, possibly still alive.

It was pup season, so that was an idea, delivered elsewhere to a den for breakfast. But where? I had found their boneyard later on when it was quiet in there. But no sign of Gustavo. I’ve seen a lot of dead things. I’ve seen a coyote race from an impossible distance and pluck a chicken from just in front of my nose. I’ve seen and heard a group of coyotes in a frenzy over a carcass they had stashed in bushes, raising such a ruckuss I’d gone out and broke up their excitement throwing branches at them.  I’ve seen fresh deer kill from a mountain lion, neatly slit through it’s stomach, left adjacent to a trail for the next meal, much neater than coyote damage, always mangled and torn and shredded, rib cages pulled out from a deer chest and strewn about. A dog Gustavo’s size didn’t have a chance in the grip of a coyote. He’s not a dog with much fight in him. He can squirm pretty good when you need to draw blood or clip his nails, but that’s about it. He has exactly four teeth in his mouth, one of them being a lower canine fang that hangs sideways that’s firmly rooted in there it’s never going to fall out.

Gustavo is the dog who can trot up to the sketchiest dog on the street, wag his tail, and diffuse the situation with his good vibes. Dogs that raise my hair up on my arms when I see their stance, where I reverse direction fast, dogs that I know Otterpop would get into it with, and that Banksy will run from in terror, Gustavo walks up and says hi. And almost always they offer a hi back. He has a quiet, magic spirit. The only time he’s cranky with another dog is when they push a paw down on his back. That’s it. He starts to scream. Inappropriate touching, he calls out, he isn’t shy. I would have thought a coyote’s mouth wrapped around him would send blood curdling screams to the tops of the highest trees. And while he’s fast, he’s nowhere near as fast as a coyote. Had been ahead of them into the thicket, he wouldn't have stayed ahead long.

I had one hundred percent certainty that he was DOA. We were finally being taxed for our usage of their forest after all these years. Nothing is free. Land’s expensive, and land use comes with a lot of complication. All these years I thought we were sharing, and now we were paying. He was taken as a sacrifice and a toll. It was pretty cut and dry.

But I didn’t stop searching. I stayed home part of the next day to wait for a condolence alcohol delivery from a friend. That’s the thing now, you send a refrigerator full of beer when someone loses a loved one. Flowers are dumb, but plentiful beer is common sense. Another friend stopped by, even though I didn’t want company. She once had a little dog run after a coyote, maybe get plucked up, but make it back with a tear in it’s harness. She also reminded me of the impossible situation when one of her big dogs clawed it’s way out the window of their camper shell on their truck, jumped out of the truck onto the freeway at 70mph, and waited for them, uninjured, in the freeway median. They had arrived home, late at night, one dog short. Not really knowing exactly what to do, they drove back to where they had started, and drove slow down the freeway in the dead of night. And finally spotted her, in the center divider, curled into a ball and waiting for them, right at the Lark exit off Highway 17. It was a very impossible story, one for the record book. Nobody ever thought a dog would survive jumping out of a truck at that speed on a busy freeway and live. Let alone wait there to get picked up. And be found. But it happened. She had been a miracle dog, that one.

So back out I went. Pretty half hearted, but back into the thicket, back through all the trails. We even walked down to the overlook over the creek, where we sometimes either take the really steep trail down, or walk all the way up the hill to take the easier trail to the little waterfall. It’s a project to get down to the creek up there, but Banksy frequently pulls us down there on a walk. I usually have to carry Otterpop now, it’s getting way too steep for her to even get down there the easy way.

I have another nice place to sit and be quiet in those woods. It’s a grove not too far in. Sometimes in the evening, after work, we go for a walk but after a long day, we only walk up the hill and down the fire road and then take a carefully hidden trail into this grove. There’s a good sitting log there, and Gustavo usually sits on it with me while the other dogs putter around and find sticks. Pausing to be quiet on a walk is something me and Gustavo most like, where as Banksy and Otterpop use their time more effectively, finding sticks to poke me with to throw. Which I don’t. Because quiet time. Those two aren’t much for quiet time, not when they’re on a walk. Gustavo’s more like me. He likes to keep moving until it’s time to not move. There’s always room for both.

That grove was about 30’ from where they took him into the thicket.

Anyways, he wasn’t there. He wasn’t anywhere, we walked til dark on all our trails, back to the thicket, back everywhere, and there was no collar, no carcass, nothing. He had vanished. There was no moment I said goodbye. Nothing that day was out of the ordinary, gave me no reason to think I'd never see my dog again. We had got up and gotten in the car and headed out for a walk, just like every single day, except that day turned out to be the last day I’d ever see him again.

Gustavo’s somehow different than the other dogs. I love my dogs a lot. I am a freak of how much I love my dogs. I know I don’t love my horses the same way I love my dogs. And while I think I love all the dogs all the same, it’s not the same. Gustavo has this thing about him that makes him a little more special. And whatever that thing is about him, made it that much worse that he’d died. And not just for me, it was the same for Gary, and as word started to spread, apparently the same for lots of our friends. That little dog had a legion of friends.

This was more than sadness, more a sick despair that sets in with a heart break that also mingles with shock. Where the shock starts to wear off you’re stuck with new reality that sucks your breath away at how unrelentlessly bad it feels. To walk around the block was sad, to walk to the park was sad, his empty spot on the couch was sad. I couldn’t bear to look at his dog crate in my car and had to pull it out so I could drive.

And, for a bonus, I now had full blown poison oak. My whole head puffed up, my eye swelled shut, my left arm and neck was covered in oozing red blisters. I was marked, I was now somebody else completely. Life had to go on, I still had to go to work, and on Tuesday morning, two days after he vanished, I hauled myself and my embarrassingly weak skin up to work, telling everyone not to speak to me. We all have dogs, all us horse people. We all know what it is to lose a dog. My horse shoer expressed his condolences, and started to tell me some story about a friend’s dog and a coyote. I definitely lost it, then and there, holding the pony who needed aluminum bar shoes. Everybody clammed up, and I went about the day. It was possible to sit on the fence and call out to the ladies, more right rein, slow down, speed up, bend a little more to the inside. This was my new life.

We had put out flyers, taped to posts and things in the woods, for just in case. Missing, they read, with a photo and my phone number. Missing. What else would they say? Dead? He wasn’t lost, that forest was same as a back yard for him. He knew every square inch, he’d walked in there his whole life. It’s not that big. If he had wanted out, he’d have found his way. So just missing. People keep an eye out, maybe we get some closure. I had hoped mostly for his collar, sometimes we find those in sad places, a little collar from a cat or dog, a spot of color in some brush. I’d always carry them to the road, leave them on a post. Somebody might spot it, and know how their story ended.

My phone doesn’t work well in the mountains. I can get texts at my barn, but to talk on the phone requires standing in exactly the right spot and not moving a muscle. Voice mails are frequently eaten by the mountain, and only a complicated process of turning the phone on and off near the cel booster on the roof will possibly retrieve them, but not always. Everybody knows, don’t call me. I like this better anyways, with most people, I hate talking on the phone. I get a lot of bogus calls, too. Somebody selling something, somebody wants to come ride a horse, a lot of time wasted trying to talk on the phone at work. So usually it just sits in my trunk and I look for texts when I walk by.

Sometime that morning, I could see a local call had come in. That perked my interest, just enough. Maybe someone found something, so I took my phone to the magic spot to try to extricate the call. I don’t know if it’s the redwoods, or the mountain itself, but prying a voice mail from my iphone when it doesn’t want to give it to me is an arduous process. Turn the phone off, wait a bit, turn it on. Repeat. Maybe you can hear what it’s saying, or maybe you can’t. I’m not always a patient person, certainly not with the technology. I know, it has to talk to space. Steve Jobs figured out how to do it and paid the Chinese slave children his version of a living wage so that it can. Space is far, even though my phone is near, give it another minute, maybe it will give it up. So I waited, stupid phone, and kept trying to pry out the call.

I could only get a bit of it, a garbled voice from a nearby mountain school, the one on the edge of the woods. Something about the school, and a dog. We have Gustavo.

That’s all I needed. We have Gustavo. I didn’t hear anything about dead, that would be a body, this was Gustavo. I ran up to my car, screamed at a customer that Somebody has My Dog. Screamed down our 5mph lane raising dust as fast as I could. I had a new girl coming to ride in half an hour and a horse shoer that needed paying and I was screaming out of work as fast as I could go.

Somebody at the school had Gustavo.

There’s a windy old grade that goes almost to the school, cuts across the mountain the inefficient way. Somebody put those roads in long ago for hauling out lumber, you wouldn’t use them unless you lived on them, they wind around the contours and wind up and down with blind curves the size of pin curls. Always blocked in the winter by mud and trees, they drop down into dark and come back up in sun and down into the dark again. You don’t see the houses on them, addresses marked by signs nailed to trees and narrow bridges somebody’s dad made to get the truck across the creek. I flew across the grade, driving as fast as I could. Got to the straight part and floored it. Screamed down the main road, past the houses by the gulch, past where sometimes the mountain CHP guy sits to get people who floor it on the straight part, flying into the school car park. All the kids out on the field, it’s a private school, looks like a summer camp. And it sits on the far edge of the gulch across the creek.

Me and my swollen shut eye, no shower for days, still wearing that torn up jacket, in my dirty boots, thinking for a minute, maybe don’t look so crazy, school shooters and all. Trying to look calm, finding a grownup, asking is there an office?

A wary blonde lady takes one look at me, then realizes, “Oh, are you the one looking for the dog?”

“YES!” I scream or whisper, I’m not sure what kind of sound I can make anymore. “Yes! My dog! I’m here for the dog!”

She takes me in the little office, and I burst in to a group of surprised looking grownups, wild eyed feral school shooter?

“My Dog!” I think I’m gasping for air now. A lady comes over and takes my arm, she looks like a nice lady who would work at a private mountain school for kids. She has a nice smile.

All the grownups come over and the nice man says, “He’s in pretty bad shape, the 8th graders found him,” as he leads me to a little body in another room, under a blanket, in the corner next to a file cabinet. “We tried to give him some water, I’m so glad you got my message.”

I run in and grab him up, he feels alive but barely so. He feels tiny and light and limp and hardly breathing. His eyes are vacant and gray. He’s sticky. But alive.

I feel wounds as soon as he’s in my arms, I can feel part of his side seems to be the wrong shape. I am thanking, and exiting, thanking the man and thanking the lady and backing out of the office to get him in my car. They are all beaming and calm, do they even know this miracle they’ve induced? They’re talking to me but I don’t know what they’re saying. I only know I have my dog.

I put a blanket on the seat, and lay him next to me. I have to go screaming back across the mountain, because you never not pay the horse shoer. And there was a new girl, coming up to ride. I’m responsible and diligent, and cart my maybe dying dog back across the grade and scream back in and tell everyone my dog’s alive but I got to get him to the vet. Everybody says, “GO! Get out of here! Just GO!”

Back down the mountain I go, back onto the highway. He is laying there and breathing, not the right kind of breathing, he’s never looked up at me. He’s almost not here. I can feel his right side is swollen, I can feel puncture wounds through his fur. Somehow he has survived something, this unexpected tragedy in the woods, I’m not sure how. I tried to call Gary, the phone talks equally poorly through space on the highway as it does at his work, nestled up against the base of the same mountain.

“I have Gustavo!”


“I have Gustavo!”


He is screaming, he wants me to bring him to work. I am trying to explain, while space is crackling our voices, he has to go to the vet. He’s in bad shape, I’m not sure if he is going to live and I am taking him to the vet. One of our vets is just down the road, I’ll see if she can take him.

I carry him in, her husband is in the office. She’s in surgery, her husband sees Gustavo and says get him to Pacific. Just go, go now. I tell him that Gary may soon be in after me, tell him where I’ve gone. Pacific is the emergency and specialty practice, across town. Just a month or so back I went screaming in there with unconscious Banksy in my arms. Not my first rodeo. Back we go in the car, into the traffic, into town and across it, getting to Pacific. This is something I know how to do, drive a dying dog to the vet. Last time I did it, my dog lived just fine. They fixed her in the hospital, made her good as new. They could fix Gustavo.

I keep my hand on him, so maybe he knows he’s ok, that I found him, that it’s me. Well, that the 8th graders found him, then the smiling grownups from the school, but then me. There was too much traffic, it’s so hard to move across our county these days, I hate to have to go into the civilization, to the strip malls and the stop lights, but this is what we do.

I ran him into the hospital, same as I did with Banksy. This time maybe I am walking, he has to be carried carefully, he feels pretty broken. My vet’s husband had thought to call them for me, they were ready and waiting. A nurse came out and got him, transferred him carefully from my arms.

“What happened to him?”

“He got took by coyotes two days ago. Just got found this morning, the 8th graders found him laying under a deck.”

“Coyotes? Two days ago?”

I nod, and she takes him to the back. I go and sit down, and start up my phone. Here in the strip malls, the phone works good. The hospital’s in the old Sizzler building, where they had the all you can eat salad bar and cheap baked potatoes. Now Whole Foods is just down the row, past the dollar store and the bank that gets robbed on a regular basis. Across the street from the mall where you can take kids to go visit Santa surrounded by giant plastic dolphins, by the Trader Joe’s parking lot where everybody tries to hit your car.

Almost as soon as I sit down, one of my vet friends comes out. She’s not an emergency vet, she’s a specialty. Mostly oncology, a doctor for really sick dogs. She’s really smart. She looks surprised. She had already heard he was dead. Everybody had. Everybody loved Gustavo, and everybody already thought he was dead.

“Laura? They just brought a dog in the back and it looked just like him and they said it was Gustavo?”

“The 8th graders found him at the Waldorf School. Just now. He got took by coyotes on Sunday and they found him this morning.”

She goes back in. She comes back out. She says they will fix him.

The emergency doctor talks to me in a room, Gustavo's in the ICU. I told him what happened, about how he got took and we looked for him but we thought he was dead, about the coyotes and the manzanita and about the 8th graders, and he looks at me like I’m crazy, and then he starts to cry. I’ve never seen a vet start crying.

“You can save him, right?”

He's concerned, he doesn’t like to promise things. A little dog shouldn’t have lived through this. But he thinks that they can save him, there's a lot of damage, they need to make sure his insides are ok and no holes inside internal organs, the outsides are all punctures, there are broken ribs, he has teeth holes everywhere, even inside his ears. Something's wrong with his eyes. But he thinks that nothing he can see so far is life threatening, he’s in bad shape but he thinks he can fix him, he'll know more in a few hours.

I go back out to wait, sit in the waiting room and scratch my oozing skin. My vet friend comes out again, in her long white coat. She says you better go on facebook right now because a lot of people love Gooey and a lot of people think he’s dead.

So I do. I go on facebook, and I type in:

Hi Facebook friends. Thank you for all the kind words. I have a legitimate miracle occurring right now. I am at the emergency vet with Gustavo. He somehow managed to survive being taken by coyotes in the woods. He is in bad shape but we are confident he will make it. Please think good thoughts for him as he needs them, but the crazy amazing miracle, a true legitimate genuine miracle, is that Gustavo is alive.

to be continued in Part Three

Part Three: I do not hate coyotes.

28 May 2018

Bambi Quick the Thicket

Under the rules of Bambi, the meadow is bad because of Man, but the thicket is the groovy space for the forest creatures, bunnies, skunks, and flowers. The meadow has a soundtrack, you hear menacing violin strings that inspired the duun-nuh duun-nuh Jaws is coming music, Bambi’s mom looks up with that shit’s about to hit the fan face, and next thing you know, the race is on into the thicket.

Thicket safe, meadow bad.

She doesn’t make it, you know. Childhood blows it’s wad then and there, the saddest day in the forest happens, both meadow and thicket. “Your mother can’t be with you anymore,” from the dad deer, forest prince with his giant rack. Nobody comes back from the dead. They can’t be with you anymore.

Choke back your tears, and move on.

The forest isn’t a fairy tale. Darkness goes down in there. Do you remember the shrewd wolf that ate the six baby goats? Number seven hid in the clock case, when the goat mother returns and goes and hunts that big bad wolf down, she slits his stomach, frees the goat babies and sews heavy stones into the wolf’s stomach cavity, causing subsequential painful post surgical death.

Circle of death, the ways of the world, the forest is where it all goes down.

We usually stay clear of the meadow due to the coyotes. They watch us, they’re cunning and fast and travel in groups, hunt in pairs. When you see one, usually there’s more. They're stealth agents, if they don’t want you to see them you won’t. You can feel it when they’re near. They like it where it’s clear. Meadow bad, if you want to steer clear of them, usually hug the woods along the ridge, they’ll keep to themselves and steer clear of us.

The big cats are usually more on my mind, they’re way bigger and an interaction with them seems certain death. A coyote? Throw some rocks, make some noise, they vanish back into the brush, and we move on. We share the forest with them, they have to share with us. You dig, coyote? Deer and rabbits, pumas and coyotes, bikers and hikers and skunks. We’re all out in there together. Maybe belongs to some of us more than others, we may be daily visitors but it’s not my livliehood, skulking around in there. I can stop at Companion on the way home for a gluten free blueberry buckwheat scone and a pricey cup of coffee. Everybody gots to eat.

When my dogs alerted to the coyote just off the trail to our right, I was surprised. More surprised than scared. He was close, he was big, and he was in a spot I’ve never seen a coyote. He was hunkered down in a dead log, both eyes locked on our little group, and too close and too still. He or she, I don't know. Gooey and Banksy growled, they weren’t happy, they were scared, maybe more scared than surprised.

We haven’t even seen a coyote in a while. We rotate where we walk, when it seems like the coyotes are more plentiful, we rotate to a different zone. When one comes near, the plan is everybody stick together, little dogs get leashed and to my arms if possible, Banksy comes in and we move as a clump. I scream my special anti coyote kung fu scream and throw rocks and generally that does the trick. The human lady looks crazy, and crazy may be best avoided, nobody wants to be near crazy. When that doesn’t work, like with the giant coyotes that loom unwavering, tall like wolves, we retreat quietly but efficiently, and I always keep my voice up, with the hopes that it’s irritating enough to back them down and return to their previously quiet forest retreat.

Here’s where this scenario went wrong. The dogs alerted, we all looked each other dead in the eye. In the blink of that eye, when I called the dogs along to move up the path and away from big guy staring at me from the edge of the wood, they moved forward of me, so I sent them on ahead.


This seemed fine. Go ahead they did. I missed the opportunity to grab Gooey, who weighs in at something like 12lbs as he and Banksy ran on ahead, up away from the coyote. We’d climb up to the top of the path, edge the thicket, and move up to the fire road and on where the trail meanders across a ridge sitting up above the valley, a place I like to walk because of how the sun beams thread through the redwoods every Sunday morning. It’s like church for us, crunching along the path, climbing with the sun.

This should all have been fine. Everything always works out fine, right? We're part of the forest, we are forest creatures. It’s the one place we blend, the one place we feel right, and we’re careful and experienced. Maybe even we're magic. I don't know. Maybe all these years, I've had it all wrong. Because this time, something went wrong. The dogs sent ahead of me around a blind curve, a place where the path rounds a group of redwoods, a place where we’ve walked, maybe one thousand times? How would I count that, how many foot prints we’ve put on that section of path over decades of this is where we walk?

In this one instant, I saw a second coyote appear up ahead on my right, and move as a blur towards where the dogs were heading. And the big one from my lower right shot straight towards me on the path. Ran just behind my ass, where I had Otterpop tottering along on a long line. Another blur, a heat seeking missile, programmed by some unseen force to run to the convergence of two coyotes and my two dogs. A perfect storm, and perfect target, a perfect bulls eye of prey.

It happened too fast but in super slow motion at the same time. You feel this when you’re falling off a horse at high speed, you may very well be moving at 25 or so mph, as the horse lowers it’s head and prepares for it’s hindquarters to fire up into the air. You know the moment when the launch begins, that you’ve tipped a bit too forward to stay put, time slows down while you’re propelled through the air, and the clock only starts running again the moment you hit the ground.

I think I screamed the dog names, I think I started running. I think the only sounds I heard were all the ones coming from me, in that moment that happened in the slowest second ever recorded. The trees hid from me the view of what happened at the junction of dog and coyote, but as I ran into the fray, Banksy ran back to me, Gustavo wasn’t with Banksy, and I saw two coyotes take off like rockets into the thicket. The only place Gustavo could have been, in that one second in time, was in one of their mouths.

Let me explain the thicket. Tall stands of manzanita, with curling witch fingers for branches, old dead logs, redwood and pine and greaseweed and bay and poison oak and low prickly berry vines, and I don’t know what else, all arranged over a thick floor of dead, dried out fallings. Thick and pokey, plants that scratch and damage, carved with low tunnels for the movement of low animals, not passable by humans over the height of eighteen inches high. Thickets of brush are everywhere in the mountains, it fills the spaces between redwood and pine groves where nothing’s burned for many years. It’s a good place to hide out if you’re an animal, for a human, perhaps to cut your way to a clearing and set up a secret camp where entering and exiting are limited to commando crawling over the forest floor. The looming manzanitas have always creeped me out there, in the winter time the light sucks deep into them and if the evil sorceress from Snow White neede a spot to crash in our woods, the manzanita thickets are where she’d build her poison shack for a dry hot summer night.

I can see why Bambi would go there, it’s a good cover to pause and hide from someone like me. He probably didn’t know about witches, just hunters with guns, and a hunter with a gun is no how, no way going to be able to get into the thicket. This fact didn’t stop me. Without hesitation I started and screaming and thrashing and pummeling my way in, with Otterpop swept up into my arms and Banksy following close behind. We were off and running, screaming for Gustavo.

The clock had started again, now running way too fast. For every scream from me, I got one back from a coyote. A chilling, yipping, screaming set of screeches until I screamed back.

“G!” from the top of my lungs.

“Screech yip screech scream yip hip yip screech!” from one of the coyotes.


And only the screeching would answer back.

We went back and forth like this for quite a while. I scream, you scream, I scream, you scream. Never once had I heard a peep from Gustavo. He had vanished into thin air, without a trace. I had two traumatized dogs being drug over and under everything in my path as I tried to get to the screaming ground zero, a redwood I marked in the thickest and densest area that I was having trouble reaching. I was lost and unlost, stuck and unstuck. Never once did I stop screaming, never once did that coyote clam up.

The longer we screamed at each other, the deeper the dread started to seep in. Why was only one coyote screaming? Which one had Gustavo? Why hadn’t he screamed, not even once? And the deeper I fought our way into the thicket, the deeper I crawled with Otterpop stuffed down my coat and terrified Banksy stuck to me like glue, was the screaming drawing us in, calling in more prey? Was my screaming for Gustavo hysteria or a strategy?

My clothes were torn up, I was covered in wounds, the poor dogs getting drug along traumatized beyond belief and possibly in more danger the thicker I was getting us in there. There were places we were completely trapped until I clawed through branches, and had a coyote decided to meet up with us knowing we were at a disadvantage, potentially exponentially, worse. I decided to retreat and run Banksy and Otterpop back down to my car, run back up the hill back up and search again without dogs, maybe now only looking for a body.

This continued on as the day grew brighter. Gary came up to help, we expanded the search area out of the thicket and to nearby trails that we frequented, moving back to the acres of thicket each time. Crawling back through, looking under rotten logs and in crevices and ditches and dirt mounds. At some point, my screaming deteriorated into sad little calls for Gooey. When I finally battered my way to deep into the marker tree, densest, darkest, hardest to get to spot in there of all, I found a small animal boneyard scattered around the clearing at the base of the redwood. Little skeletons of maybe raccoons and bobcats and possum, little skulls and femurs and tibias and rib cages, all laid carefully to rest round the tree. Almost festive, like a birthday party at the animal graveyard. Festive in a Radiohead song way. Never have I felt such a heavyweight feeling of dread, crawling myself into the place where so many little animals were brought to die.

It’s boring to look for a dog you think is dead. It’s an unrelenting sadness, it’s a stinging wall of shock, and a terror and pain you can’t numb of what did that poor dog feel, especially a dog such as Gustavo, perfect and sweet and kind like a baby, being taken and carried off. Usually I like to think of words, but I can’t even think of the words for this one. The words that mean the worst, really and truly the worst. So you’re feeling the worst, while you're looking for clues, paw prints, soft black fur on a bit of bloody skin, you’re seeing happy people on a hike with their kids, as you slink the woods uttering a single syllable, clothes now torn to rags and your face looks like one of the walkers from the zombie show, dead but for needing to find just this one thing, the only thing that matters.

This went on for quite a while. He’s dead for sure, might as well give up the hunt. Sit down on a log and sob, and then realize, perhaps he’s not dead! To search some more. To search and hunt, realize he’s dead for sure, sit down on a log and sob, then repeat the cycle again. Gary went out in the dark on his bike, while I stayed home, curled up on the couch in a ball.

The next morning I knew for sure, he was dead. I did go back up and search, but it was half hearted by then. I was searching for a ghost, so more wandering the woods, no dogs with me, just me and later Gary, walking through the forest, talking to our dead dog.

To be continued in Part Two.

Part Two: The kind of person who gets poison oak.

Dog car parade.

Gooey still can't walk far enough to take a walk. But he sure does love riding in the dog car! Banksy's best frenemy has been going through a rehab for an injury and has her own border collie size dog car, so they came over for an orange dog car parade.

We didn't see the guy who pushes his cat around in a blue dog car. Jeez. What kind of person pushes a cat around the neighborhood in a dog car?

26 May 2018

No surgery today!

One of my friends cooked up Gustavo an entire meal plan of things he could and would eat. I have a whole refrigerator of tiny Tupperware's with little Gustavo dinners in them, and he has gained 1kg of weight now. I would say No. 4 Trifle is pretty high up on the list, so apparently I have to learn dog cooking now.

And best of all, no surgery!

An abdominal muscle wall is less a solid wall and more like layers of lasagna noodles smashed into a basket weave of what holds in your guts. The tear in Gooey's lasagna doesn't poke all the way through, out to where the final layer of bubbly mozzarella cheese goes! It stays in there somewhere near the ricotta and zucchini. If he continues resting, which he is, it should heal on it's own and no guts punching through to become necrotic!

He got an A+ from the surgeon, also an old friend of his, who was so thrilled to give him that grade.

Nobody more thrilled than me, because the last thing I wanted was Gooey to have dog surgery. Gooey now wags his tail all the time and trots and does a lot of things like he did before. He got to take a ride all the way to the sea in his orange dog car, and has asked to do this every single evening. Thank you Gooey, for getting well.

25 May 2018

Goo, who knew?

Gooey is getting stronger in leaps and bounds. He will eat some food! Our friend Holly made him a plethora of home cooked dinners for dogs with weird livers and he's gobbling down the food. From bowls! Best of all, we started to see his old personality emerge this week from the shadows. We haven't really known how Gustavo will recover, and every day I can see he's only going to be better and better.

He went for a car ride in Ruby's orange car! He would now like to jump on to the couch! With broken ribs! He barked at something! He wagged his tail! He trotted across the yard!

He does have to go to visit the surgeon today and get decided on when and if to open him up to fix the little tear in there. Maybe today, or maybe wait? Not sure. I trust all his doctors to figure out what will be best. I'm hoping no surgery yet, let him get a bit stronger but we will see what they say. Gooey is getting the nicest cards and letters and messages, I am still blown away around every corner by how much everyone is helping Gustavo. Thank you.

22 May 2018

Goo improves.

Gooey is improving every day!

He gets a lot of help from his friends. He did go back to the hospital yesterday for the vet to check him and pull the abscess drain.

He needs to eat more, he is still dropping weight. We are working on that, he's picky about his food right now and something he likes at one meal might taste yucky to him at the next. They changed up his meds to see if that helps him feel better, I think his jaw is less sore too as if he can open his mouth he will like to eat more! Hard to eat when you can't open up your mouth!

There's an abnormality on his abdominal wall that is hopefully not a hernia. He is scheduled for surgery on Friday of just in case, if the surgeon feels necessary. His ER doc just isn't sure. I am hoping hoping hoping it isn't a hole and just a swollen abnormality, Gooey does not want surgery. Was hard to tell on xrays and by all the docs poking around in it. The problem of the hole is that a piece of bowel could go through it and then you got a big problem. But I am working this week to fatten him up and get him stronger of just in case. Eat Gooey eat!

20 May 2018

Much better than the hospital.

Gooey has several nice hospital suites to settle in, depending on the sun and breeze.

Today he drank some water from a bowl and licked some food from a stick.

It's going to be a while, but Gustavo's on the mend.

18 May 2018

Gooey is home.

The most dangerous ambulance in the world, with it's tiny passenger laying on a blanket on the front seat, arrived safely at the new westside dog hospital located in my living room tonight. My patient is a little unruly, feels like shit, doesn't want to eat the pills or actually anything else at all, but I think we'll work all that out as we go. Gustavo is home.

He has a long road ahead of him to recover, but he's got a soft bed in the corner, and all the ice cream he can eat, and our hope is he improves a tiny bit every single day.

Thank you everyone who helped him get back with your good wishes, good vibes, and financial donations to his hospital bills. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have such good fortune and good friends.

Goo, whee.

I hope someday soon to get Gooey's happy face back!

The hospital has it's ups and downs. He won't eat for the nurses, so every morning and every night I get to spend a couple hours with him, figuring out things he'll eat. Last night was a bit of a down, there is something new wrong with him but hopefully not too serious.

So far, must be ice cream first. The hospital frig has his little carton of his favorite high end fancy ice cream. Luckily Gary did all his ice cream training before this happened, so we can get him going with that. He seemed a little sad and uncomfortable, maybe from this new neck or esophagus or whatever is happening thing, but he ate his ice cream and a little baby food and even a few crumbs of Charlie Bears and chicken.

He mostly wants out. He decided last night to make a break for it, I had him out to get some nice air in the parking lot. He is sharp as a tack in there, Gooey the escape artist, he saw where a gap in the fence would get him to the hospital neighbor, the most highly robbed bank in town next door. He made his break and took a trip over there.

Luckily he moves slower than the oldest snail in the world right now. But at least he moves! I let him make his break, followed him slowly shuffling to the B of A car park, let him have his freedom for a minute, then carried him back to the hospital. He wants to be OUT. He does not want the nurses to TOUCH HIM AT ALL. Gooey, lover of everyone and everything, now has added some hates to that list. Doctors, nurses, hospitals. He can't even look at them.

Many people have asked to contribute to his expenses. One of my best friends, even though she knows I hate things like this, set up a funding page for him. I am trying to understand, people just want to help, and this is a way they can. She has raised higher than what I hope his bills will cost, my mind is blown with the generosity of so many people. It freaked me out when people started seeing stories of him on news sites on the internet. I don't want Gooey to be news, I just want him to get well. I will donate the extra money to a foundation that helps pay vet bills of people with no means to pay.


17 May 2018

Mrs. Wu, sparkling heart of the woods.

It was exactly one year ago we lost Ruby, Mrs. Wu, Sister Mary Ruby, the sparkling heart of the woods. Maybe she helped send Gustavo back to us. She would do something like that. Thank you, Ruby.

Ruby. Spring-ish 2000-May 16, 2017. Long may you run.

16 May 2018

Goo eats.

We used ice cream as the gateway drug to baby food stick licking. Gustavo ate something! I think something is wrong with his jaw, but he can stick his tongue out the side of his mouth and lick things off of a stick. First thing he's eaten since Sunday.

All the good vibes being sent via intergalactic planetary planetary intergalactic express vibes are working, we saw some improvement today and while he is still a very sick and damaged little guy, the fact that he can lick some food off of a stick and sit up is tremendous!

Keep the good vibes rolling his way if you can. It's helping.

15 May 2018

Goo, ICU.

Today in real time there was a genuine, muthatrucking goddamn triple toe loop quadruple axle of a miracle that happened. Gustavo is not dead. He is alive.

He is in bad shape, I will tell the tale later. But suffice to say, he got took in the woods by coyotes in an ambush, he vanished without a trace or sound, and he lived to tell the tale. I pronounced him dead because we searched and searched, but knew what happens to little guys in jaws of coyotes. How a little guy like him survives being took into the brambles by a coyote I do not know.

He made his way out, went to the Waldorf School, where the excellent 8th graders found him. They called me, I got him to the emergency vet, and he has a very good prognosis to survive his injuries. They include puncture wounds around his head and neck, broken ribs, bruised lung, something messed up about his liver, infection of gasses in soft tissue near his chest, corneal ulcers on his eye, something wrong with his other eye, and there might be others I forgot. I usually take notes. But I couldn't this time.

It's been a bad couple days. I went from living in real life bad dream to one where my life turned into a miracle. I need a beer. My friend Tammy sent me a whole refrigerator full as a condolence card, but I was too sad to drink them. Now I'm going to go raise a glass to the genuine fact of real life miracles that can happen even to someone like me and Gustavo.


Always the happiest boy.

13 May 2018


Gustavo died in unexpected tragedy Sunday, May 13. He died how he best lived, running in the woods. Forest creature forever, RIP our best baby boy.

06 May 2018

Top ten list of things not to try again on the relaxing evening amble.

10. Take that faint deer track down to the creek.

9. With Otterpop in tow.

8. Using her string on her harness to try to hoist her over the rough spots down the cliff.

7. Which also rips my pants and fills them up with dirt and redwood pokies.

6. Although we find two baby waterfalls.

5. And a new swimming hole.

4. With lots of mosquitoes.

3. And a cave den that smells of cattish pee.

2. So we need to get back up to the trail immediately but we can't because, cliff that we all barely made it down anyways, so we have to tromp up the creek which is nearly impossible from all the downed trees and being in a ravine and all and I have an Otterpop in my arms most of it who is now at this point quite unhappy about the situation I've got her in with her little back legs that don't hardly work, but I just keep keeping on and the other dogs think this is absolutely fantastic because bushwacking is usually frowned upon and maybe a big cat lives down here and did I mention creek and new swim hole and who cares about running up the side of a gulch and one wet foot from slippery creek rocks?

1. Next time we just take the trail.

22 April 2018

Otterpop’s aged a hundred years in the last year since we lost Ruby.

Ruby was her joined at the hip, her for better or for worse, her Beyonce to her Jay-Z. When we lost Ruby I think we lost a piece of Otterpop. I didn’t figure this out at first. But Otterpop grew weird stomach tumors, got limpier and lost all her hearing. A few more teeth vanished, and her rancid black moods turned a little drunk, a little silly. She stopped barking.

Otterpop doesn’t bark anymore. Ever.

Otterpop can’t let me out of her sight. I can’t let her out of mine, she wears Ruby’s long deafness string now on every single walk. I hoist her up and carry her up hills, or stuff her in a day pack. She really does try to walk, but her little back legs hobble like crab’s legs now, limpy and sideways and stumbley.

Sometimes I find her wandering wayward in the closet, lost her way on her way to somewhere now forgotten. I set her back on the couch when this happens, and either that’s perfectly cool or she wants to go somewhere. Go! Not sure where she’s looking for. Maybe to find Ruby? Or to find a piece of chicken. Or I don't know. Only Otterpop knows.

She still likes to run, and launch herself off things. High things! Tree things! All the things. And if I don’t watch her, she does. One good run and an illegal launch on a morning walk renders her a cripple by the evening, even with her grandma pills.

The last few weeks has been all about Banksy, Banksy, Banksy. Gustavo’s used to being a bit shuffled in the fray, he’s ok being shuffled, he sits on my lap at night and gets ice cream and he knows I'm sorry for the shuffles. Tonight on our walk, I noticed how sad and little Otterpop looked. A little more faded, a lot slower, like in the last few weeks she aged another fifty years. Her proprioception way worse than Banksy's, I hadn't even known that's what it was, just Otterpop's old lady crab walk legs is what I thought.

Sometimes Banksy looks at her like she’s seen a devil pop up from a dirt tunnel, gives her a creep look and runs to her hidey hole to stare at her. Maybe she saw how old she got so fast, maybe that spooked her, how it could be someday, everything just starts to go all to hell. Banksy avoids her now, takes the long way around the Otterpop.

Gustavo’s all, whatever. Otterpop's all, whatever. Then Otterpop launches herself on top of him, smashes his sensitive fur and feet, gets him all flustered like you hardly ever see him. He screams like a girl and looks all put out. Otterpop doesn’t even notice. Climbs up to her couch pillow and gets comfortable and starts to snore.

That's where she is now. Snoring on a dirty pillow. Til she goes wandering again, and I find her, and put her back. Over and over again.

18 April 2018

Neurologist for dogs explain the weirdo and unexplained.

There was a guy if front of my house the other morning dancing to what I believe was a circa 1979 Queen song. He had long frizzy hair tied up in a pony tail, and a red plaid bathrobe that matches a lumberjack blanket on my bed. He was dancing around in his bathrobe in front of the vacant house across the way, his music coming from some small yet loud enough for me to hear device I believe was riding around in his bathrobe pocket, stretched across his amble stomach. Weirdo jazzercise, bare feet, not yet 7am.

I've never seen this guy before in my life. And I assume that I'll never see him again. A non scientific assumption. But if I do, now I know what he looks like and I may have to work harder on being neighborly. And not chase him off with a big stick.

Neurologists are scientists, this is what she said, the Dog Neurologist with the Not Quiet Voice. Science can't always prove all thing things, sometimes you're left with weirdo. I wrote that quote down. The Dog Neurologist talked fast so I paraphrase. I kept writing down weirdo. Cerebrovascular stuff is weird. Dogs can have weirdo physiology. Weirdo. Weirdo. Weirdo.

Weirdo. Too hot. Weirdo. Blood clot. Weirdo. Flip not.

I think weirdo in the brain is better than weirdo of the spine. Had the Neurologist thought the flippy foot was caused by necrotic lesions or wayward discs in Banksy's spine, we would not have been able to do a short there and back through the forest this morning. But since it was her brain that had some weirdo occur within, the flippy feet have a good chance to go away and Banksy can return to some of the fun things in her life when the flippy becomes less floppy.

I thought Banksy's left hind wasn't flippy, that it was just a foot, but the Neurologist found a flip. The right hind is certainly flippier. If you were wanting to have a contest of this, the right foot totally wins. But since the flippy has slowly been getting better, a grand fact I think about constantly, measuring the lessening toe drag I hear with her steps, the Neurologist said wait for the MRI, wait so long that hopefully she won't need it.

If it doesn't go away, if it starts to drag worse again, drive back there, to a strip mall with a Chinese restaurant and a burrito place and a giant magnet to put your dog in, to take a detailed photo of her brain. Cerebrovascular weirdo that it may be.

A guy walked in with a dying dog when I was waiting for our turn in the lounge. A tiny dog, wrapped in a blanket, the guy in old, dirty clothes. He asked if they could save his dog. I'm not sure if they could. I told him lo siento, I wish they saved his dog, but I think it wasn't saveable. En espanol, conversations about bloody diarrhea and no vaccines and bleach baths for feet appearing in the halls.

I am lucky Banksy didn't die. Maybe she had a stroke, the Neurologist said emphatically, but still with a question mark in her voice, a blood clot stuck somewhere in her brain. Maybe something's off with her internal thermometer that causes her to run too hot. Maybe she has epilepsy and had a seizure. Maybe struck down by sudden onset Border Collie Collapse, a different kind of seizure. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe we will if it happens again.

There is a long list of the things the neurologist says it isn't, and some of these are real doozies so I love this list. I took notes and at the top here, in the swirling scrawl which is my hand writing, it says NOT THIS. Not Not Not Not Not. I didn't write what it was not but I know all the things. NOT them.

What it is, weirdo and unexplained, where it came from we don't know, and if it's coming back. There is something weirdo, maybe in her brain, maybe in her thermostat. That's cool. I will assume, however, like the bathrobe guy, padding around with his chubby jazz hands, that it won't. That it was just for that one time, an event, then is gone. And we go back to our regularly scheduled life, like how it used to be.

13 April 2018

Friday the Thirteenth and Banksy is feeling great!

Banksy is feeling great! She's ready to play, play play!

She's going to visit a neurologist in San Jose next week, but aside from her right flippy foot failing at the proprioception flippy tests, I think she is perfectly fine and ready to GO!

Failing at cp tests though, still suggests the deficit. Which means still the possibility of something bad lurking in the spine or brain which you don't mess around with if you want permanently good back legs for walking and running. So we're paying mind to the deficit.

I've taken her off strict house arrest and increased her slow leash walking every day, as I'm only seeing improvement doing this. I put a handful of cookies in my pocket, and all of us go slowly down the street. We started by walking to the corner, then added on to the alley. Then to the further down alley. These were pretty good places to walk to because of, Oh the Smells You Find in the Alley! And sometimes cool things!

The cookies help the remembering to walk slow and not do things like RUN. Snails. Our mode right now is to move like snails, and we're up to even further than just around the block. Approximately two-three-ish blocks. If you lived in my neighborhood, you would see why blocks aren't really blocks. The Circles twist and turn and spit those without good directions out alive. I think we're walking a good amount right now, not too far and not too near.

There is still no running in the house! SNAILS! No dogs running in the house! NO RUNNING! That shit gets shut down in a flash. Nobody runs nowhere. No how. No way. No playing unless it's quiet bitey face. Much use of puzzle toys with cheese shoved in them while I enjoy a beverage. Basically, we're all on snail rest.

Her toe drag started to improve on Monday. My theory had been scratching her from all the agility trials she was entered in would start improvement. That seemed fairly scientific and has proven correct! As long as it's improving, we keep walking. A happy Friday the thirteenth today where I heard the least amount of toe dragging of all week!

The deficit though, remains. If I stand her and turn her foot upside over, she doesn't jerk it back into place. Which she definitely does on the rest of her feet. Jerks. Fast. Don't FLIP the FLIPPIN' FEET! So that's still a remnant of the neurological event, whatever it was, that foot feeling stuck. But My vast knowledge of dog neurology tells me that if the toe drag is getting better, the flippy problem will as well.

I know her leg is stronger, when she came back from the hospital she couldn't support herself on it at all, it would slip out from under her and drag every step. Last week it stopped slipping out from under her but would drag on a regular basis, not every step but many of them. This week the dragging seems to get better every walk to where I don't think I heard the drag until we were past the next door neighbor's house this morning! And I've seen her stand to pee on it, because who wants to pee like a girl dog when you can pee like a boy dog?

Makes for very exciting walks. Walking as slow as grandma snails and counting toe drags. I'm glad I don't count Otterpop's toe drags. Her toes have dragged for years since her back legs don't really work. For Otterpop, they work ok. She gets shoved in a backpack if her back legs hurt to walk too far or up hills, and she gets delicious drugs to eat with breakfast so they don't hurt too much. For Banksy, we would like better back legs than this. So waiting and crossing fingers she is back to normal soon!