To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton, Don’t roll in stupid shit is a pretty good organizing principle

for dogs.

My sister and her family recently spent ten days in California and Oregon. I called them after they returned home, after our earthquake, after we had power, and I got my nephew. I asked how their new crazy golden retriever puppy fared while they were away.

He said, “He did okay. Didn’t do anything stupid.”

So I asked, “His philosophy is don’t do stupid shit?”

My nephew said, “No, his philosophy is don’t roll in stupid shit.”

Their poor deceased golden loved nothing more than to roll in stupid shit while eating it. She was a remarkably talented dog.

Jake never rolls in stupid shit. Although I am always amazed by the fact that a dog who has no interest in the delicious food I leave in his dish possesses such a voracious appetite for rabbit shit.

But there are times when I wonder why it is people do stupid shit around dogs. I recently had to take Jake to the vet’s office for a vaccination. Nowadays he’s very good at the vet’s. Lays at my feet, waits to be called, goes into the back by himself, gets his shot, no muzzle required. The girls like him lots. But still, it’s the veterinary clinic. No dog in his or her right mind wants to be at the veterinary clinic. So the smart thing is this – Don’t do stupid shit around strange dogs at the veterinary clinic.

The last two times I was there, a strange woman (two different women) went all squeaky on me, said, “Oh, he’s so cute…” because he is cute, and then approached him uninvited, stuck out a hand and asked, “Can I pet him?”

Jake didn’t move a muscle either time, but of course I said no. When each woman looked all sad and insulted, I added, “This is a stressful situation for any dog. It’s not a good time to meet strangers.”

Each woman said, “Oh, right. Yeah, sure. Sorry.”

Believe me, Jake is a cutie pie, and he gets all kinds of compliments, guys even honk when they drive by– guys in pickup trucks. They yell – “Niiiiiiice dog!” It’s pretty funny. Most of the time Jake is sweet as sugar. But he comes from a long line of protection/working dogs and he can be touchy under certain circumstances, like when strangers crowd me or walk right up on me unexpectedly. He might give a little warning back-off growl the way he did this morning when a woman and her Doodle walked right up behind us as I was opening the car door after our walk. She came within a foot of my open car door just as Jake was about to jump in. Because she thought Jake was cute and she thought her dog would like to meet him.

I give strange dogs space. Many dogs don’t like German shepherds. They just don’t. The sight of a German shepherd rubs a lot of dogs the wrong way, makes them defensive and although Jake likes most other dogs he doesn’t like all other dogs. I find it hard to understand why you’d walk right up on a strange German shepherd.

So… I told Jake, “Quit.” Said, “Load up.” He jumped in the car and I shut the door. I turned to the woman. Shrugged. “Sorry.” And I drove away. End of story.

Don’t roll in stupid shit around dogs. It’s a decent philosophy.

Here’s Jake this morning and tonight. I snapped a couple photos of the worst upended sidewalk in the neighborhood. Jake was enthralled, wanted to climb up and over but I didn’t want to risk him.

Upended sidewalk - this morning.

Upended sidewalk – this morning.

Jake climbing upended sidewalk.

Jake climbing upended sidewalk.

The cutie pie this evening.

The cutie pie this evening.



You Tell Me…

I saw the mountain lion again. His absence had been noted, by me. I hadn’t seen him since I caught him sunning himself on a hillside back in early December, before Christmas Break. The park saw a huge increase in hikers over Christmas because the kids were out of school and the weather was perfect. If I were the cougar I’d take off too. I’m not fond of crowds.

On the plus side, the drug dealers have been keeping the area around the picnic table pristine. See?



Anyway, I saw the lion yesterday afternoon, napping in the same pasture. I felt completely safe and at ease. He was dozing and I was way up the hill. If he’d have seen me he’d have done the same thing he did the last time– headed off into the trees.

The weird thing is that Jake and I found his leavings. Well, I’m not entirely certain he ate whatever got eaten. I suspect it may have been a fox that got eaten. The fur looked fox-ish. I took a couple photos but I really didn’t want to pick up fox fur with my bare hands. Tomorrow I’ll bring a plastic bag so I can gather the remains take them to the Nature Center to be identified. I hope it’s not the fox because I’ve seen the fox a lot lately and I’m quite fond of him. He’s a cutie pie.

Which brings me to my latest pet peeve – people who move the tree branch. You see, we are in the midst of a terrible drought. The only source of water at the park right now is the cattle trough. Without the cattle there to drink out of it, the automatic filler does not engage, therefore the water level has been dropping. The birds and other animals who’ve been relying upon this water can no longer reach it. Normally there’s running water everywhere this time of year and in the summer the trough stays filled so water isn’t an issue. A few of us recognized the problem immediately and we maneuvered a downed tree branch into the water trough. Animals can climb up the branch, climb down to the water level and then get back out. Birds can stand on the branch to drink.

Some idiot doesn’t understand why the branch is there and keeps removing it. I assume he or she thinks we’re polluting the water. He or she doesn’t understand that songbirds can’t float. Every day I replace the branch and the birds appear within seconds. It’s really pissing me off. I’d nail up a sign but I know some kid would just tear it off.

So something weird happened with Jake today. There was a college (?) group hiking at the park with a naturalist. Not a local naturalist, just ‘a’ naturalist. The students were strung out along the trail on the west side of the park, the trail we hike down. They carried backpacks, wore hats, looked uncomfortable and a frankly, tentative. (Many of the trails are not for the faint of heart.)

First Jake barked at a girl sitting alone in the middle of a field where nobody ever sits (ticks honey, ticks). I think he barked because she looked so odd, as in just a torso and head sticking up out of the dead grass. With waving arms. I don’t know why she was waving her arms like a windmill.

Then we had to pass this string of students on a super narrow trail. Every single one of them froze in terror at the sight of Jake. I could tell he was getting a little jittery, but it wasn’t a problem. We passed everyone without incident. Eventually we met up with the naturalist, and Jake liked her a lot. He listened with interest to her nature talk and rubbed up against her legs. (Remember, this is a dog who was raised by a cat.) But as soon as we moved on down the trail we encountered this kid and I swear I had to stop Jake from launching himself at the kid’s throat.

If Jake feels threatened, or if he feels I’m threatened, he barks. He gives a warning bark. If the person doesn’t back off he might growl. It’s a rare occurrence. I mean, I can’t remember him barking more than a couple times in his entire life. He doesn’t bark when people come to the door. Hell, he didn’t even bark at the drug dealers.

So we ran into this kid where the trail widens out. It was no big thing. But the kid stopped dead, took one look at Jake and, well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look at Jake quite like that. He leaned forward and stared at Jake. Sort of took me aback. It reminded me of the way a cobra stares at you right before he strikes.

I had Jake on a short leash and I felt the leash shaking. I glanced at my dog. His hair stood on end, his muscles were quivering, his eyes were fixed on the kid’s face and I realized he was about to launch himself. I grabbed Jake by the neck and said to the young man, “Go. Right. Now.” Took him forever to move. There were five or six more students strung out behind him and they were also moving slowly, so I took Jake off on a deer trail.

It was disconcerting. Normally I’m busy apologizing for Jake’s overly friendly behavior. He wants to say hello to everyone, kiss everyone, especially children.

Our Buddha German shepherd dog, Louie, did the same thing once. Launched himself at a stranger without any warning. And Louie was the most unflappable dog I’ve ever known.

You tell me. I’m stumped.

Jake and Oscar watching the America's Cup.

Jake and Oscar watching the America’s Cup.




Fun with Julia and Jake!

So this morning I planned to take Jake to Rodeo Beach.  The drive takes an hour, well, maybe 50 minutes on a good day like today.  Nevertheless I like to get him out for a walk first so he can complete his toilette before he’s stuck in the car for a prolonged period of time.

I decided to stay in the neighborhood – walk a mile or so.  Stress free… Right?

Jake’s dream came true on this little walk and I got to witness the entire episode in slow motion.  At least it sure seemed like slow motion.


We walked up this hill and I noticed him staring off to the right, up a long driveway.  There was a squirrel – one of Napa’s ubiquitous goofy gray squirrels.  It ran off and I’m like… “He’s all gone.  All gone.”  Which in Jake’s mind means we can move on to other things.

We hadn’t gone ten feet when all of a sudden another squirrel, who would have been perfectly safe if he’d stayed put, jumped out of a tree and took a flying leap off a five foot concrete wall.

He was trying to reach a tree clear on the other side of the sidewalk– on the other side of us– but he misjudged his jump and smacked right into the side of Jake’s head.  Meanwhile I’m watching this unfold like a stupid pet trick video.

The squirrel falls to the ground at Jake’s feet.

I see the terror in the squirrel’s eyes, the jubilation in Jake’s!

Jake opens his mouth and lunges for it although I don’t think he’d hurt a squirrel.  I think it was sort of an automatic response.

The squirrel springs straight up into the air.

He lands on Jake’s back– his legs spinning like he’s channeling Wile E. Coyote.

Jake whirls around just as the squirrel gathers itself and leaps from his back into the tree.

Jake tries to climb the tree after the squirrel.

The moral of the story?  Squirrels are kinda dumb.  Now every time Jake sees one he assumes it’s going to jump directly into his mouth.  During our hike this afternoon he was totally obsessed with squirrels and waited beneath every tree to see if a squirrel would come down and play with him.

Once when I was hiking with Louie we came around a corner and ran smack dab into a squirrel coffee klatch.  At least a dozen squirrels scattered in all directions, crashing into each other like furry Keystone Cops.  One ran right into Louie’s nose, giving him the thrill of a lifetime – Louie, not the squirrel.

Oh, the beach was scary cool today!  I was the only person there– who was not in the water.  There were two intrepid surfers.  I learned today what the term sneaker wave means.  Boy, did I have to keep one eye glued to the ocean and one eye glued to Jake.  The surf was insane.  Totally insane.  Thrilling.  Magnificent.  Must be a storm a-comin’!

Big waves today.

Big waves today.


So You Think You Want A German Shepherd Dog Like Jake…

My husband and I were hiking this morning, discussing how much time we both devote to our dog– by necessity.  You know, the woman who bought Jake’s full brother gave him up after nine months.  She couldn’t take it anymore.
At least two or three times a week someone stops me expressing gushing admiration for our beautiful German Shepherd dog and asking where they can get one just like him. We have decided these people should take a quick quiz to see if they are really ready for a dog like Jake.
Get out that pen and paper and take this test.  Scoring:  1-strongly disagree, 2-disagree, 3-maybe, 4- agree, 5-strongly agree.
1. Are there at least two people at home prepared to dedicate their lives to keeping a dog happy? (1-5)
2. Do you enjoy working 10 hour days, arriving home and immediately going out for a 90 minute hike…year-round…in the dark/rain/mud/sleet/snow/wind even when you’re sick and after you’ve already hiked for an hour first thing in the morning? (1-5).
3. Do you sometimes complain that triathalons are not challenging enough? (1-5)
4. Do you not care if your beautiful backyard lawn is turned into a patchwork quilt of brown pee spots? (1-5)
5. Do you not take it personally when some people, upon spotting your dog, immediately freeze in abject panic? (1-5)
6. Do you enjoy chasing your off leash dog as he pursues wildlife into the next county? (1-5)
7. Is your idea of a good time thinking up clever games for your dog to play and then playing those games 3 hours per day, every day? (1-5)
8. Are you OK with blocking off half your house so when the front doorbell rings you have to walk twice as far to answer it? (1-5)
9. Are your neighbors OK with routine raccoon clearance operations carried out at 4AM involving lots of running around and barking? (1-5)
10. Are you OK with waiting to pack for a trip until the very last minute because even looking at a suitcase sends your dog into a catatonic depression? (1-5)
Add up your score:
(30-50) Go for it!
(20-30) Proceed with caution.
(0-20)  No fucking way
All credit for the test to my better half, Oscar.  I merely edited and formatted.
Still the playinator.

Still the playinator.

Monday Morning Update.

I am reading reading reading.  Have quite a list on my Kindle Paperwhite.

In no particular order~

Finished:  Trident K9 Warriors: My Trail from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines by Michael Ritland and Gary Brozek.

Riding Fourth (a prequel to Taking the Highway) and The Caline Conspiracy (Yummy!) by M.H. Mead.

Penguins Have Square Eyes, An Antarctic Adventure by Patrick Trese.

Aire by Lena Goldfinch.

The Language of Souls by Lena Goldfinch.

Frank Herbert: The Works by Bob R. Bogle.

Henry Wood Time & Again, by Brian D. Meeks.

Obsession by Sharon Buchbinder.

The Natural by Bernard Malamud.

The Taming of Lady Kate by G.G. Vandagriff.

Sugarwater Ranch by Stephanie Berget.

In actual hardcover/paperback (and I’m really excited about these books):

The Iron King (The Accursed Kings, Book One) by Maurice Druon.

The Strangled Queen (The Accursed Kings) by Maurice Druon.

And, voila!  My TBR Pile.  What’s in the cube beneath the books?  More books!

Sigh... TBR Piling Up.

Sigh… TBR Piling Up.

What am I working on?  Oooh, it’s a goodie!  Think woman on the mend from a nasty divorce travels to the Scottish Highlands where she meets a smokin’ hot, kilt wearin’ 300 year old Scottish ghost.

I’ve always wanted a bare-chested kilt-wearing Scot on one of my book covers.  I’ll post an excerpt soon.

As you know this past week was a scorcher for us.  The heat dried up the grass real fast and fire season has already begun.  Prayers for the folks down in Southern California who are suffering.  We’ve had some fires here but not nearly as bad.  And my sympathy to all of you in the Midwest where winter must feel like it will never end.  Most of my husband’s family lives in Minnesota while a good portion of my family is back in Iowa and Nebraska.  I hope the farmers can plant this year, especially after last year’s drought.

I meant to post this photo earlier in the spring– unfortunately the blossoms are done now.  I brought this lilac from Iowa.

My Iowa Lilac.

My Iowa Lilac.

Random interesting stuff:

The Fistula Foundation has an amazing Mother’s Day Fundraiser going on right now.  The Fistula Foundation is the most worthy charity ever.  The money goes to help women, not to pay telemarketers to harass you at suppertime.

Are you a migraine sufferer?  I am.  I come from a long line of migraine sufferers.  I’ve always insisted there’s a huge genetic component– vindication at last!  From NPR:  A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines.

And this from my dad– you may have to watch it a couple times.  Well, it’ll keep playing over and over regardless of whether or not you’re watching.