Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tumbleweeds, Dogs And Cats

There is a piece of residential property right in the center of town.
It is a fully ramshackle-fenced piece of land, has multiple trees, and also has a really awful mobile home right in its center.
It used to belong to a very elderly lady who lived in this town her entire life until she died late last year.
She was the daughter of the founder of the town and I knew her very little.
I had spoken with the woman only a few times before her death, and although someone in town cared for her in her last year and anticipated that the property would eventually go to him upon her death, the land actually ended up in the hands of her nephew.
The deer love this piece of land. 
 It has many trees to provide both shelter from the weather and cover from would-be predators.  And the old lady fed the deer.
Even now - a year after her death - the deer jump over the fence and disappear into the trees.
The old lady was also apparently a cat hoarder, and I have heard stories about bags of cat food simply being broken open in a large empty building to feed the many cats that she kept.
This nasty mobile home and what would be a really nice piece of land if it were cleaned up, are still home to a number of cats that now roam wild.
Kory knows where they live and during the spring and summer when she would break from the house, this cat-haven was always the first place we went in search of her.
Sometimes we found our dog heading for the alley that borders the place.  Sometimes she was headed for one of two other cat-places that are in town.
Thankfully we always got to her before she got to the cats and chickens that wander freely on the properties .
I say thankfully, because I always had this image in my mind of sorrowfully handing someone's cat back to them one piece at a time.
Pasty I'm sorry............Here's your cat back...........Here's the head.............Oh and I found a leg!
Although it has been a year since the old woman died, cats still roam.
Not a lot.  Just a handful.
But the fact that they have survived the coyotes speaks volumes about their survival instincts.
A few days ago I walked with my dog in town and as we approached the alley she became very animated as she always does.
A cat was standing on top of a tree-trunk turned fence post.................
These kinds of interactions happen at least once a week.
Kory dances and lunges and stares, and the cats look down from their safe, elevated perches and hiss angrily.
If Kory ever got one there would be a struggle of epic proportions, and somehow I think that my dog might actually come out on the losing end of those battles.
My goofy, spoiled dog does not realize that these wild cats have survival instincts that she knows nothing about.............
A few days ago I walked on a trail that circles all the way around the back of town.
It is not a long walk - maybe a mile and a half.
I like to wander it late in the day with Kory.  It allows me to get out of town without having to wander too far or be too concerned about coyotes.
It gives Kory one more chance to be off leash.
And it silently allows me the opportunity to look out over an endless and wide open land that is both uncomplicated and beautiful.
We usually enter the trail on the far left side of town, walk up the trail, turn right to walk the length of town, and then walk back down the trail on the far right side of town, hit the road and meander our way back to the house.
At this time of year, and at this time of day, something magical happens to the light, and the colors of the world suddenly becomes sharper................
On this day I turned the corner, moved from one trail to the next and then stopped for a moment, surprised at the sight in front of me.
They were piled high and stacked tightly up against the fence that ran the entire length of the trail.
I smiled when I saw them.
It had been very windy the day before this walk, and I knew that the wind had blown the tumbleweeds across the desert floor until they inevitably came to rest after bumping into one object or another.
In this case it was a fence.
I have dug tumbleweeds out from bushes.............I have even pulled them out of trees in the yard.
LC and I jokingly tell them to "be free little tumbleweed!" whenever we dig them out and toss them over the fence so that they can continue their journey the next time the wind blows.
There have been times when we have stood outside the house and watched one tumbleweed after another blowing across BLM land, and then watched as they blew through town and continued on their way.
Watching the Tumbleweed Races.
I watched a western movie with LC one night a couple of years ago.  
Actually, I half watched a movie - paying occasional attention to it the way I pay occasional attention to James Bond movies.
The female character in the movie was a widow who lived in an isolated homestead with her young children.
As a lonely woman living in a barren, inhospitable land she would write poems and internal thoughts on small pieces of paper, tie her writings to tumbleweeds and then set them free.
Her lonely thoughts scattered to the winds.
Eventually (and inevitably) cowboys out on the range would find her writings, read her deep, lonely, internal thoughts and wonder who that woman was.................
The deer are slowly beginning to return to town.
One here.  Two there. 
A mother and fawn sitting and standing in one of the alleys.
I zoomed my camera in quite a bit to snap this picture, so Kory and I were not close to them.
But they were wary and watchful anyway...............
One more walk with my pup late in the day.
This was actually the same trail that we walked in the pictures above - just walking in the opposite direction.............
Contentedly chewing on a bone that she found out on BLM land................
She was a woman of extended silences, I noticed, and she said very little as we walked the streets of La Boca, looking at its brightly colored houses. It was as if she understood that quiet observation was the key to knowing a place, perhaps even the key to life.............Thomas H. Cook, The Crime Of Julian Wells

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Orange Vest

It should come as no surprise that hunting is a very big deal here in Idaho.
Last fall, after only being in Idaho for a few months, I read stories online with disgust.
Stories written by hunters about other hunters, and how their beloved hunting dogs had been shot while out doing their job in the woods.
Poor dogs that had been shot with guns and with arrows.  Some that had been severely injured and some that had died immediately.  
The rightful anger, pain and outrage was obvious in these dog owners as they shared their experiences, and reading their stories was one more reminder (when I no longer need reminders) of how callous and inhumane some humans can be. 
By the time spring arrived LC and I had had Kory in our lives for about six months, and it was becoming obvious that our new dog would be doing a lot of running and roaming out on BLM land.
 I saw an ad on a local Craigslist site.
A woman made dog vests, and there were pictures attached to the ad showing different pocket options and different color options.
I immediately called the woman to set up a time for her to meet Kory.
A week or so later LC and I drove with our pup to Blackfoot, and Kory happily stood on the tailgate of the truck, in the parking lot of a small grocery store, while this young lady measured our dog.
We wanted it to be bright orange and we wanted two large pockets.
Although her ears don't stand up, Kory (especially from a distance) moves like a coyote and could look like a coyote, and I wanted anyone looking at her through a scope to understand clearly that they were looking at a domestic dog.
A couple of weeks before we went camping at first Mud Lake and then Challis I took Kory out onto BLM land wearing her vest for the first time.
It was a trial run to see how it would fit while she ran and played, and to see how she would respond to wearing a vest.
Until (and unless) we find something that works better, it will do the job.
The vest has two large pockets (one on each side) to carry water or other items .
My orange clad pup..................
Click on any picture and they will all enlarge into a slide show...............
The first thing I noticed about the vest is that it slid off center almost immediately after my pup started to run, so one side of her body had more vest than the other side.
After pulling it back up to center a couple of times I finally decided to just leave it, and see whether the "listing" got worse.
It did not. 
The empty pockets easily flipped over to the opposite side of her body whenever the wind picked up or whenever she ran.
The whole vest looked a little awkward, but I wasn't sure whether that was because I was not used to seeing her wear a vest or because the fit was not quite right.
After having seen her wear it a few times since this first outing, I still do not have an answer to that.
Regardless, my sweet girl was definitely more visible while out on BLM land, and (just as importantly) she did not seem to mind wearing it.
After a couple of initial reach-around bite attempts at the vest, Kory quickly learned to ignore it................
I was walking with my dog late in the day.
Picking up and wandering a trail just on the outskirts of town that I have yet to find the end of.
This time of day is the most beautiful time of day.
North, west and east of us are seemingly endless mountain chains, and during the day the light is such, that the mountains appear as one long, endless wall encircling our tiny desert community.
When evening comes the shadows get longer, the colors get deeper, and suddenly (instead of a static wall of mountain) you find yourself looking at layers upon layers of mountains.
Each mountain distinct.  Each mountain unique.  Each one a different shade of grey or blue in the fading daylight.
It is my favorite time of day.................
I continued to walk on trail away from Atomic City for a long time, deeply embedded in deep thoughts.
My feet provided me the outlet for nervous energy, and I kept walking because I needed to move.
Always needing to think.  Always needing to move.  Always needing to be alone with myself.
I smiled as I looked over at my beautiful dog dressed in orange.
She runs, she plays, she rolls in and eats unmentionable things out on BLM land.
Every once in a while she pukes up whatever it was that she found and ate on BLM land, and always seems to wait until we get home so she can puke it up on the living room carpet.
Her stomach is not the sturdy steel trap that Jamies was.
Like a small child Kory frequently looks around to find me when she wanders.  
Just to check that I am still close by.  
Sometimes she smells something in the air.
Raising her head with purpose my dog will wander with purpose, away from me and I know that she is following........something.  
Something that I cannot see or smell or hear, but she can.
Eventually a sharp HEY!! and she will turn back.
Bouncing and dancing back to me with ears and bright orange vest flapping in the wind.
She pleases me.
I like having this dog around................
During this walk our region was still deeply in the midst of an unseasonably warm fall.
The day had been clear and very warm, and even late in the afternoon and early into the evening, it was still warmer than it should have been into October.
I walked for a long way with my girl.
I walked.  She ran.
Over 11 months we have walked together hundreds of times.  Twice a day almost without fail.  Sometimes on leash around town.  Sometimes off leash out on BLM land.
LC has come with us occasionally, but more often than not it is just her and me, and that's OK.
Walking on quiet public lands I feel as free as I am capable of feeling free these days.  
Endless, quiet time to walk on endless, quiet land.
Woman and dog are bonded.
We have developed a rhythm with each other, and after a frustrating spring and summer, Kory has not run away from me for a long while now.
Which is good because that got very old very fast.................
No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish - consciously or unconsciously - that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown............Dean Koontz, A Big Little Life:  A Memoir of a Joyful Dog