Sunday, February 28, 2016


Taken a few weeks ago when snow was just beginning to melt and roads in town were beginning to clear..................
A couple of weeks ago a resident at the opposite end of town called me to tell me that Kory was running in his yard.
Knowing that Kory was inside the house I told him that it was not (at least THIS time) my wayward dog.
His response was that this dog looked exactly like Kory.
Curious, LC, Kory and I loaded up into the Suburban and drove the few streets we have to the opposite end of town and pulled into the guys yard.
As soon as I saw the dog I knew who he was.
I did not know the dogs name, but knew him to be friendly because he and Kory had visited with each other through the fence many times while we walked through town.
As we all stood in the yard watching this young dog I smiled at him, realizing that he had gotten free for the first time and was having a great time exploring his new found freedom.
We called to him and he happily ignored us.
We tried to catch him and he happily stayed just out of reach, and we all walked up and down the road watching him as he wandered freely from yard to yard.....................
The dog lived with a young man whose parents had bought him a mobile home in town, and I was fairly certain that the young man was at work, out at INL (the Secret Squirrel Lab that is located about ten miles from town).
With his owner gone, his owners parents not home, and us unable to catch this happily wandering and good natured young pup, LC drove the Suburban home while I walked through town with Kory....................
Later that same day I walked with Kory in town a second time.
We turned right out of the driveway, walked a short way and turned right again, picking up a side road.
I had planned to turn left at the end of the block but as we reached the corner I heard a dog barking.
Standing in the middle of the empty and silent road I listened for a few minutes.
The barking was continuous and excited.
Curious for the second time in one day, I turned the corner and headed toward the sound of the non-stop barking.
One more block and I looked to my left.
Barking and jumping in one place in the snow was the hysterically excited young brown dog of the morning.
I watched him for a few moments wondering what he was so excited about, and then I saw.
There were some wooden posts piled on the ground, still half hidden by the snow, and I caught just a glimpse of a cat before the poor feline disappeared into the safety of the poles again.
Pup had the cat cornered and as I watched this scene play out in front of me I wondered how long this happy-go-lucky puppy had been in this one place threatening the life of this unfortunate cat.
Reaching into the pocket of my insulated pants I called LC and asked him to meet me.
If I was going to try and rescue the cat, I would need Kory out of the way.
A couple of minutes later I had Kory loaded into the Suburban................
As I trudged through knee deep snow headed towards the furry duo, cat decided to make a break for it.
She darted out from the wood pile and scampered part way up one wall of a small, home made storage building.
For a moment I thought the cat was safe, so was caught off guard as I watched the cat (for no apparent reason) fall back to the ground.
At that moment I guessed that the cat had been cornered for a long time and was exhausted.
As soon as the cat fell into the snow the dog pounced on top, and I thought for certain that at that moment the cat was a goner.
Yelling at the dog as loudly and as sternly as I could, he momentarily hesitated.
That gave the cat the brief pause that she needed to make a break for freedom and safety.
Still speaking sternly to the dog I realized that I had the pups' undivided attention.
As I reached him, he immediately cowered and I realized for the first time just how young this dog was.
Less than a year old certainly.
Probably around 9 or 10 months old.
He was just a baby........................
Sternly (but now a little more softly since cat was safe, dog had stopped attacking, and was now cowering and wanting to please me) I cajoled him back towards the road.
When we reached the Suburban LC opened the back door, picked up pup and loaded him in with Kory.
Young dog lay on the floor tired and a little stressed, and Kory walked over to him, squatted over him and promptly peed on his head.
OK............I hadn't seen THAT coming. 
LC and I had always wondered how Kory would react with another dog in "her" vehicle.  
We had visited an animal shelter last year and brought another dog into the Tahoe with her.   Kory immediately dropped down to the floor board, pressed her nose as far underneath the front seat as she could and completely shut down.
We thought at the time that it was because she viewed another dog - possibly competition for our affections - as a threat to her.
But when we visited an animal shelter a second time not too long ago (to leave Piper the little black lab to wait for her owners to pick her up) we finally realized that it wasn't another dog that caused her to shut down after all.
It was shelters.
Kory knew shelters.
And we think that she remembered shelters.
Those places (understandably so) stress her.
Kory was not stressed out by this big, young, red pup.  In fact, when pup loaded into the Suburban our sweet girl immediately demonstrated her dominance.
That was a good lesson for us to learn about Kory.....................

After picking up the pup we drove to the town bar and had the bar owners call the dog owner.
Young, adventurous pup was safe and would be at our house.  He could pick him up after work.
For the next hour Kory and this dog (whose named we eventually learned was Tucker) played in the back yard
They played well together, and LC and I greatly enjoyed watching them romp.  
Tucker (after an entire day of running and playing and wandering and scaring cats) was starving and ate an entire bowl of food within minutes.  And then the two dogs (who were almost the same size)  played some more.
 When we went into the house because of the cold we had planned on leaving Tucker in the garage.
He would have no part of that and barked loudly and scratched at the back door until we relented and let him into the house.
We had always wondered how Kory would react to another dog eating food from her bowl.  How she would react to another dog taking her treats.  How she would react to another dog playing with her toys.
She was fine with everything.  All of it.  And happy-go-lucky Tucker wandered through the house as if he owned it.
When LC finally sat on the couch, this big and so-sweet puppy climbed up onto his lap.
About an hour after we had brought Tucker home with us, his owner eventually stopped by to pick up his adventurous dog.
The entire episode taught us a lot...........................
We had so much snow this past winter.
I loved it very much and a huge part of me is disappointed that most of it is now melted.
Some pictures that were taken in January of winter in Atomic City, Idaho....................
Me skiing down the middle of the road.......................
The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.............Unknown

Sunday, February 21, 2016


 Early last fall, all the deer that had been roaming around town alone or in pairs throughout the summer drew together into one large herd.
It was fall, and for a few short weeks the bucks appeared from the desert, and made nice with the girls before disappearing back into the desert again when they were done.
By that time I knew that one doe had a badly injured shoulder.
She traveled through town slowly with her baby from last spring, and I watched her week after week hoping that she would heal up, until finally coming to the realization that whatever had happened to her had caused a chronic injury that would never heal.
And so she limped along as best she could with the herd.
When they jumped fences she and her baby stayed as close as they could until everyone in the herd could rejoin each other again.
When the herd grazed in the open, she grazed on the outskirts of the herd.
When they traveled through town she slowly and painfully limped along, struggling to keep up.
She was old.  And chronically injured.  And certainly pregnant.  And winter was just around the corner...............
 All winter I watched for her.
I would see her often around town and every time I saw her limping along I would secretly and quietly and internally feel relieved and gratified to see her.
She was alive.
She was toughing out the winter.
Keep fighting to make it Sarah.
One of the town residents had named her.....................
 Occasionally I would wander around town with my dog and not see her, and for brief periods of time I would wonder if Sarah was alright.
Had the injury finally gotten to her?
The cold?
The coyotes (who travel through town late into the night)?
Had any one of those obstacles finally taken her from the herd?
I would wonder.
And then irrevocably I would be walking through town and there she would be.
Fighting on.
And secretly and quietly and internally, I would feel relieved to see her again.
Good to see you Sarah......................
 Early in the winter the number of deer in the town herd varied occasionally.
Sometimes there were more and sometimes there was less, but as winter progressed and the herd stabilized, there were consistently 12....................
 A couple of weeks ago I began to notice that the herd (that had stayed in and around town together throughout the winter) had broken into two distinct herds.
10 still traveled together.
The injured doe and her almost grown baby were now staying in the yard of a town resident.
And the doe (who was now obviously pregnant) was always sitting.
Day after day I wandered with Kory, and day after day she sat in the front yard with her baby staying close by........................
 I took these pictures earlier this month.
The picture at the very top of this blog post is of Sarah..................

A couple of hours ago I was walking through town with Kory.
We had wandered up and down many streets in town, and I gave Kory all the time she needed and wanted to sniff and explore whatever caught her attention along the way.
At the far end of town we turned onto one more road.
Startled out of deep introspection I looked up to see the deer all watching us as we approached.
One by one they turned and slowly began to trot across an open field and away from us.
Without consciously giving it any thought, I silently counted them as they straight lined across the field.
...............9, 10, 11.
Mildly surprised, we continued walking along the center of the road that was now more mud covered than  snow covered, heading towards the back of town. 
That is when I saw her.
She was laying on the side of the road and she was dead.
Sarah had almost made it through the winter........................

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Their Absolute All

 Up until only a few days ago we were still seriously and completely embedded in winter.
And then early this week temperatures began to climb, and for a number of consecutive days we have had temps in the upper 40s and into the mid 50s.
One morning I am coming home from Cedar Butte after an abandoned cross country skiing trip because it was so cold and windy.
By that same afternoon snow was melting all over town.
For days now, snow has been quickly melting.
And LC and I have learned for the first time just what water can do to our house.
On the second day of too-fast snow melt I walked into the mud room and the floor was covered with water.
As I stood in surprise at this unexpected development I quickly realized that the creeping water was headed towards the living room door.
Oh hell.
We spent a couple of hours that afternoon shop vac'ing water inside the mudroom, and then breaking up ice, shoveling snow, moving as much water and melting white stuff as far away from the house as we could.
 That same routine has been repeated twice a day for the past few days, in a (thankfully successful) attempt to keep water out of the house.
As I write this temperatures are still above freezing and snow and ice is still melting.
The ground is soaking wet everywhere, and large ponds of water lay all over town including a few places in our front yard.
In short it is a mess, and with still huge amounts of snow remaining, we anticipate a soggy and muddy mess for at least a couple of weeks.
Snow was SO much more fun when the air was freezing and so was the ground....................

These pictures were only taken a couple of weeks ago when the world was still hibernating in winter.
There was so much snow on BLM land that I had abandoned walking (or even snow shoeing) out there with Kory.
I made that reluctant decision after losing my dog for a couple of hours.........
I had been snow shoeing out on public land with Kory on a very beautiful, sunny and frozen day.
As we reached a trail head I turned right and picked up one more snow-covered trail, while Kory went straight.
That was not unusual.
She wanders where she wanders and when I call my dog she eventually breaks off from whatever intriguing thing has captured her attention so that she can return to me.
Calling her regularly I slowly continued snow shoeing along the trail.
When I reached a post about 1/4 mile away I finally stopped, turned and yelled at Kory in a voice that was meant to let her know that I was serious.
I stood in the snow watching my dog.
She broke off from the old deer carcass that I knew was sitting underneath a sage bush, and began to run in my general direction, bounding and leaping through the very deep snow.
Only..............instead of turning towards me, she turned towards a low rise, and I watched as she ignored my calls to her and then disappeared over the rise.
I called her, and called and called some more, already knowing that she was too far away from me and knowing that I was eventually going to have to head off trail and go across country to track her down, but reluctant to begin that trek.
It would take me 15 minutes to even reach the rise.
10 minutes after she disappeared I called LC, gave him a couple of different areas I wanted him to drive (in case she circled back and hit one of two roads), hung up the phone and headed towards the rise.
15 minutes later I stood on the rise looking out over a vast, uninterrupted, seemingly endless canvas of white.
Usually I love the vastness of this terrain.
At that moment I was intent of just finding my dog and I called out to her while scanning the horizon, hoping that I would quickly see a moving brown spot in the snow named Kory.
The snow was so deep that the only way she could make her way through it was by leaps and bounds.
As I searched the sea of endless white looking for a moving brown spot, I alternated between being annoyed that she had disappeared, worried that she had disappeared, and amazed that she had covered so much territory in such deep snow.
Where the hell WAS she?
There were tracks all over the place - coyote, deer, rabbit, presumably my dog, bird........
It was difficult to figure out which way she had gone.
I headed for another rise.
As I did, I could hear LC beeping the horn of the truck near the trail back to my right.
Calling him again , I asked him to also head down Taber Rd and pick up Big Butte Rd.
I was beginning to get worried.
Kory knew this area very well after roaming with me for over two years, but the clouds were very low and I could not see any of the buttes either in front or in back of me.
If I could not see them, then Kory could not see them.
Between losing sight of those landmarks, and how different BLM land now looked covered in endless, deep snow, I was concerned that she would not be able to orientate herself.
If she could orientate, then I could easily picture my dog wandering aimlessly in any possible direction.
And that worried me. 
Still snow shoeing further and further away from town I stopped when I topped every rise and fruitlessly searched the horizon.
 I called to her frequently, and then stopped when I heard LC calling to her from Big Butte Rd and then beeping the horn.
Long story short (or long story long) 90 minutes after I first lost sight of Kory I finally saw that moving brown spot that I had wanted so much to see.
Even from a long distance I could see that my dog was very very tired.
Jumping and leaping and bounding through snow had worn her down, and she was working hard to slowly but methodically make her way back to me.
Relieved to see her I called LC and then asked him to meet us in back of town at the trail head..  
It would take Kory and I at least 30 minutes to get back to the road.
Very tired, my dog eventually caught up with me and as she approached with head down, she walked up to me and collapsed at my snow-shoed feet...........
I squatted down in the snow to stroke my dogs' head and I continued to stroke her and rub her ears while I gave her a few minutes to rest before we made the trek through the snow back towards Atomic City.
I had not realized how much I had zigged and zagged while trying to reach different points of high ground on BLM land.
Sometimes we followed my snow shoe tracks back and sometimes we had to break through more snow, but eventually we made it back.
That was the last time this winter that I had gone out onto BLM land with Kory.
The snow was just too deep.  The distances were just too vast.   The world looked just too different.   She could travel too far and too fast compared to the slow speed of a middle aged woman on snow shoes.
We'd head back out in the spring.
But not through the rest of winter........................... 

Instead of wandering freely on BLM land, Kory and I over the past while have walked on the snow-covered gravel road that leads out of town.
Taber Road extends almost all the way to Blackfoot, and the start of that road begins about 1/4 mile from the house.
BLM land is on both sides of the road for many miles, and then eventually it alternates between BLM land and huge swaths of private farm land.
I snapped these pictures one day a couple of weeks ago.
It had snowed overnight.
The day was completely colorless.
 As we walked along the silent and empty road I watched my pup happily run and play on the road, investigate new sage bushes and telephone poles, dig new holes, explore this new place with relish, and I smiled.
She was a happy dog, and her happiness pleased me..................  
Buttes were completely obscured by an inversion of heavy cloud cover, and with the new snow it was almost impossible to tell where the road ended and where public lands began...................
Click on any picture to enlarge..................
This was the first of many walks we took over a number of weeks and on this first occasion I was pleased that Kory and I had found a place that worked for both of us.
The road acted as a mental barrier for my dog.
She could have easily wandered onto BLM land on either side of the road and run miles away, but she did not.
Instead, she wandered down the road, wandered off the road to explore briefly, wandered back onto the road to travel further, rinse and repeat.
Yes...............I was pleased with this idea.
It worked when snow was too deep on BLM land for me to be able to keep my dog contained.
A look in the direction of Cedar Butte and Big Butte, that on this day were both completely obscured by heavy cloud cover...............
If you click on this picture you will (barely) see Kory standing at the back corner of one of the old silos that stand silently on the outskirts of town.
On the way back towards town my dog wandered off the road, followed her nose as she followed endless bunny tracks in the snow, and quickly found her way to the back of the silos.
I called to her.    She danced and pranced and jumped in that happy way that she has when she is loving where she is.
I called to her.
She disappeared behind the silos.
Picking up a side road I trudged through the snow in search of my dog, calling her frequently and knowing that there were many bunnies hidden in the abandoned hay bales that were stacked behind the silos.
Endless bunnies for endless chasing..................
As I continued walking down the side road I could barely see my dog, who by this time had now traveled to the far end of the silos.
Heading back the way I had come I again picked up Taber Road and again walked past the last of the four old silos.
Kory was sitting in the snow and I called to her.
Happily, in her happy Kory way, she ran towards me, knowing in her happy Kory way that momma was over it. It was time to go home...........................
Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made............Roger A Caras