Jake’s Christmas Letter to His Mom.

The drive home.

The drive home.

Dear Mom, I’m sorry I dragged you over the cliff.  But it was a herd of eight deer, mom.  A.  Herd.  Of.  Eight.  Deer.  I counted… eight.  And in my defense, they leaped over the trail right in front of us, all eight of them, single file.  I didn’t have time to think.  You sometimes forget at heart I am a predator.  I may be a doggie genius, but my instinctive prey drive can override my cognitive processes in a nanosecond.  Oh, and I’m sorry for hauling you across the meadow when I spotted that buck, but try to see it from my perspective– he was a six pointer with a massive head and neck, just like Bambi’s dad.  How could I not chase him? I mean, he was an animated character come to life!  Seriously.  On the bright side… It was the meadow and you managed to stay upright that time.

The long drive home.

The long drive home.

Dear Mom, I’m sorry I misjudged the distance during my most recent *fly-by.  I’m sorry I sent you sprawling into the sand.  I know it sounds lame, but I neglected to make adjustments for the strong head wind when I leaped into the air.  But if you look on the bright side it was the beach and you weren’t injured and this is only the second time I’ve miscalculated in two whole years.  So you have to give me some credit.  I was so humiliated and ashamed and filled with remorse that I climbed into your lap and licked your face.  (Never mind that I then proceeded to dig a hole beneath you in case it was necessary to hide the body…)  Look at it this way– Anybody mess with my mom I’m on him like white on rice.  I’ll rip him limb from limb.  I’ll moitilize him (it’s a good dog word).  Why, they’ll be nothing left of him but chum, yeah, chum, for that Red Triangle.  You know, that part of the ocean we were staring at?

*fly-by:  Jake’s practice attack.  He runs at high speed then leaps into the air and sails past my shoulder, barely a hair’s breadth away.  I turn sideways to present a smaller target.  He never comes at me all out and he loves doing it.  It looks like this except no teeth:

The mop.

The mop.

Dear Mom, I’m sorry I mopped the floor with the cat.  But there was water on the floor and the cat was on the floor and he’s kinda fluffy and it was the cat so I figured…  I did clean his ears afterwards.

Dear Mom, I’m sorry I licked that human poop, but in my defense if whoever pooped didn’t want me to lick it he or she wouldn’t have left it on the side of the trail.  He or she would have pooped somewhere off the trail and kicked dirt over it like a civilized creature.

New deck in progress.

New deck in progress.

Dear Mom, thanks for building me this amazing obstacle course!  I love it!

Louie's stash.

Louie’s stash.

Dear Mom, thanks for unearthing my older brother’s secret cache of bones when you were getting ready to build my amazing obstacle course!

Dear Mom, thanks for not freaking out when I found that fawn’s rib cage and chased the cougar and ripped off my toenail and sliced my face with barbed wire.  Thanks for brushing the stickers out of my hair and checking my feet for foxtails every single day.  Thanks for pulling out those nasty deer ticks.  (Yeah, we all know, the entire neighborhood can hear your screams.)

Love ya, Mom!

Chicks dig scars...

Chicks dig scars…

Merry Christmas





Two dog stories.

Dislocated left ring finger, mine.

Dislocated left ring finger, mine.

At least the swelling is down.  But it’s hard to type.  Anyway this is dog story number one.

My son and I drove from Maine to California because he has an eighty pound dog-she’s a very nice dog, a Coonhound Walker/GSD mix with eyeliner.  She looks like a Disney cartoon character.

Puppy Hastur.

Puppy Hastur.

So we were in Nebraska… maybe Wyoming.  I don’t know.  All the days ran together and a river ran through it.  Anywhooo, we stopped to get gas and let Hastur out for a potty break.  I was holding onto her collar – me in the front passenger seat, her in the backseat – and when my son opened the back door she flew out taking my finger with her because my wedding ring caught in the latch on her collar.

Uh… talk about hurting like a sonofabitch.  Damn thing swelled up so fast I knew if I didn’t get my wedding ring off I would lose the finger.  So I’m cussing and sticking my finger in my mouth to try to pull the ring off with my teeth while my son and the dog are hovering and the Dead Heads, yeah, literally Dead Heads in the old Volkswagon Van next to us are shrugging, like, you know, ain’t no big thing.  I’m sure they’d seen worse.

Anyway, got the ring off but then we couldn’t find any first aid tape.  The last thing I wanted to do was spend six hours in an ER so they could buddy tape my finger and charge me $2000.00 and we’d lose an entire day of driving. Popped it back in myself.  Ouch!  Oh Ouch!  You do what you gotta do.  We found tape the next day at a convenience store/Taco Time in Evanston, Wyoming.  They served up a decent grilled chicken mango salsa burrito too.

Have to keep the finger buddy taped for 3-4 weeks.

Just to be clear this was my own fault.  The dog is not to blame.

Dog story number two.

Jake popped his favorite ancient basketball on Monday.  It was such a tragedy that he’s been in mourning ever since.  Stood over it, carried it around, dropped it at my feet and then walked over to the basketball pump, eyes pleading with me to pump up his old basketball.  Tonight is the first night he’s been willing to play with his new ball.  Probably because I finally decided to hide the old ball.

Jake understands the concept of object permanence so he is a challenge.

Old ball next to the new ball - before it popped.

Old ball next to the new ball – before it popped.

Poor dead ball.

Poor dead ball.

Next post – a photo essay of crazy Jake at the beach.  We had it all to ourselves!



Thursdays with Jake.

So I get to talk trash about Jake because he’s off on a play date with his new girl, Ducky.  Poor Daisy.   Jake’s soul mate moved to Phoenix ten days ago.  Waaaaa!

His last Daisy play date was bittersweet.  The two have been pals since they were three months old.  Daisy is one of the few dogs who matches up with him, energy-wise.  Daisy is a Border Collie so she don’t take no crap from him.  He behaves around her or else…

Jake is super smart.  This was clear from the moment I met him at the breeder’s.  He was seven weeks old, hanging out with me on a raised fenced wooden deck– a place he’d never been before– pushing a tennis ball around with a stick, i.e., holding a stick in his mouth and golfing the ball.

However, hubby and I have had many discussions about him during the two years we’ve had him – discussions like:

“It’s a good thing we got Jake because no one else would put up with him.”

“It’s a good thing we got Jake because anyone else would have returned him within a month.”

“It’s a good thing we got Jake because anyone else would have turned him over to German Shepherd Rescue.”

“It’s a good thing we got Jake because anyone else would have sent him to the dog pound.”

That’s for shizzle!  Did you know the word shizzle originated in Vallejo, California?  Since Vallejo is just down the road a ways I can appropriate it.

I think the only thing that saved Jake is the fact he knows I’m the mom.  He respects me and trusts me.  What I say goes, at least 99% of the time.

Shortly before we got Jake I’d cut way back on my day job to spend more time with our GSD, Louie.  Not that Louie was sick, but he was ten years old and my husband got this weird vibe and asked me to spend more time with the dog.  A month later Louie was dead and my world came to a screeching halt.

So I got Jake.

It’s a damn good thing I stopped working part time because it has taken all my energy and most of my time to civilize this dog.  Living with Jake is like living with a wild animal.  He’s part wolf, part lion, part hyena, part dingo.

Jake is the sweetest dog on earth.  He’s affectionate, loving, protective, great with his cat and his birds, follows most commands, he’s never destructive– he has not chewed up a single item, nor has he dug a single hole, yet he’s exhausting.  His energy is off the charts.  His intelligence rivals that of a twelve year old boy… notice I said boy.  He understands so much English, he can even spell.  Gaaaaaa!

I have never ever owned a dog like this.  I swear the average dog owner would have given up by month two.

Jake’s brother’s owner did.  She couldn’t deal with the high energy level.  When Casey was a year old she turned him over to German Shepherd Rescue.  Made me sad because like Jake, Casey is the sweetest – but these dogs take time, more time than most owners are able and willing to put into a dog.

Jake’s older sister, Tula, who is gorgeous by the way, spends time herding sheep.  Her owner decided that was the best way to keep her occupied.

‘Round these here parts Jake’s reputation precedes him.  He’s known as the Playinator for a reason.  He will not stop, ever, until your dog is dead.  There are a whole lotta dog owners who cross the street, or leave the park, when they see Jake coming.

He also has a prey drive to end all prey drives.  When he goes to Montana he will chase a herd of antelope– forever.  He will not stop.  He’s convinced he can catch them.  It’s just a matter of time.  He will get them, his own safety be damned.

And he can outrun Greyhounds.  Unbelievable, I know.  I warn every Greyhound owner that my dog will chase down their dog and nip its butt, and every single Greyhound owner scoffs, until Jake does it.  He’s made true believers out of the entire local Greyhound Club.

TridentReading the book, Trident K9 Warriors by Michael Ritland, opened my eyes.  Gave me incredible insight into Jake’s brain.

Mr. Ritland discusses ‘drive’ and the combination of a dog’s willingness to go after something he wants, unrelentingly, and unwillingness to quit.  Jake is unrelenting in everything he does.  Yesterday he tried so hard to find that dang mountain lion that by the time he finally returned to me he was dragging himself along by his front claws and he still had to climb up a cliff to reach me.  Which he did.

Mr. Ritland says, “…what I want to see are behaviors that would drive most pet owners nuts.  The dog should express its desire in leaping, barking, turning and spinning.  And I don’t just mean the dog does that for  little while, but persistently, for a long duration.  Their desire must be over the top, and they almost literally exhibit that trait by jumping up to nearly my eye level to get that ball….”


He says, “If you’ve ever seen a dog that just shivers with excitement and pent-up desire to get a toy, then you have some idea of what I’m talking about.  It’s as if every fiber of its being is twitching with its genetic desire to get at prey…. For the dogs at the top of my list, the object of their desire is nearly immaterial…  They want it and they will do nearly anything to get it.  They are so highly motivated that is is nearly impossible to describe their behaviors…  In addition to wanting it while it’s in your possession, they will tear off after it at high speed as soon as the object leaves your hand when you throw it.  Their aggressive pursuit of that object, the speed at which they go after it, is again at the very top of the charts.  To say that they take off after it is an understatement.  They launch themselves.”


He says, “I want to see a dog use its nose and not its eyes to locate that object.  Just as the dog has to possess a hyper prey drive, the ideal canine candidate has to possess a hyper hunt drive… Instinctively, these dogs should immediately go into a serpentine-shaped search pattern or a figure eight.  Their noses will either be lowered or up in the air scenting, using the wind and the scent molecules to locate the object.”


I cannot tell you how in awe other dog owners are of his scenting ability and his innate serpentine search patterns when looking for his ball in the tall grass.  We can’t take any credit for that, it’s all Jake.

I could go on, but I won’t – you should read the book.

From the moment I brought this puppy home I realized I had an usual dog on my hands and I would have to work my ass off to civilize him– come up with a plan to make him a house pet or we would both fail miserably.  Like I said, I don’t have a dog, I have a semi-domesticated wild animal.  Which is why he’s fun to write about.

Our current project is city street safety.  Jake’s prey drive is so powerful he wants to chase cars.  Especially any Prius.  I’ve worked until my hands are blistered and bleeding, but we’re doing much better.  Well enough that I no longer feel as if this will happen:  (Because when I tell you the following has happened to both my husband and myself due to Jake chasing a car, a deer, a squirrel or, worst of all, a rabbit, I ain’t kiddin’.)

From Mr. Ritland– “Barco had a real talent for forging ahead, wrapping around a manzanita bush, doubling back, coming around again, straining against his lead, and wrapping that bit of fabric tighter and tighter…  One night, I was out with Barco and a few others, and we came to a downhill section and Barco was on point.  He took off like a shot, and suddenly we were in the middle of an old Hollywood western, where the cowboy is being dragged by his horse or behind a wagon or whatever.  His handler… went down the hill like a rag doll, gravity and Barco determining his speed and direction, bumping along and kicking up a cloud of dust…  Barco’s forward progress was only arrested because his handler’s limbs were entwined within that tangled manzanita.”

I’ve been there, folks.  Oh, you know that uneven area on Jake’s nose?  He ripped it up on barbed wire going after some animal.

That’s my Jake.  My kids think he’s insane, but I love him with all my heart.  I trust him with every fiber of my being.

Jake in profile. His favorite perch at the top of the stairs.

Jake in profile. His favorite perch at the top of the stairs.

P.S.  Sorry for all you folks in Colorado and the Midwest.  It’s like a million degrees here and you’re getting hit with blizzards.  Yikes!  Happy May Day, I guess.

P.P.S.  You all must wonder what on earth is wrong with me… why  I talk about my dog and never my kids.  My kids told me long ago I am not allowed to talk about them.   So with rare exceptions, I don’t.



Thursdays with Jake.

Jake is often mistaken for a Belgian Malinois.

A Malinois.

A Malinois.

Belgian Malinois dogs and GSDs- German Shepherd Dogs- are used for police work, search and rescue, they work alongside soldiers and SEALS.

I guess Jake gives off that sort of fearless raring to go out in front intelligent high energy vibe.  He’s fast, powerful, intimidating, aggressive, determined.  Because he is all those things, I occasionally think he missed his calling.  He really should be a search and rescue dog because he’d love to ride in a helicopter, he loves to track and find things, he stays when I tell him to stay.  Staying is a big deal.  Jake is the first dog I’ve ever owned who actually stays.

Jake down and stay.

Jake down and stay.

People stop us all the time to ask about him.  Everyone wants to pet him, ooh and aah over him.   He’s got those big ears and he’s real cute, but Jake is not exactly a friendly dog.  Like most GSDs and other dogs of this type he’s not unfriendly, but he is standoffish.  He’ll sniff a stranger’s hand, give a quick wag of his tail and he’s done.  Now if he knows someone, like say Pepper’s owners, he goes all puppy and turns into a wiggle worm the minute he sees them coming up the trail.  Pepper was the very first dog Jake met when he was on his very first walk.  Pepper is a Rottie-GSD mix who was great friends with Louie, Jake’s predecessor.

On the other hand Jake has growled at hikers wearing hats and face masks.  If he can’t see a face, he is not a happy hiker.  So I do have to keep an eye on him.  (And them.)

Fortunately Jake is predictable.  I know what will set off his inner alarm bells.  And even better, he likes kids and loves babies.

I recently watched this fascinating video segment about working dogs – here you go.  Made me cry.

From Lara Logan and 60 MinutesMeet America’s Most Elite Dogs

Here’s a book rec:  Trident K9 Warriors:  My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines, by Michael Ritland.


Buy here.


Thursdays with Jake.

Poor Jake doesn’t get his usual Thursday romp.  Because I’m sick, and I’m his partner in crime, he’s going to puppy camp instead.  At least he’ll get to play with his best girl, Daisy.  He may also play with Dopey, another border collie and his new crush.  You know how it is– when you’re as handsome as Jake the girls drool over you.

Jake patiently waiting his turn to enter puppy camp.

Jake patiently waiting his turn to enter puppy camp.

Just found out this morning that Daisy, his best friend since they were both three months old, is moving to Arizona.  Dang!  Well, guess he’ll be playing with Dopey and a new puppy camper, Ducky, a two-year old yellow lab.