Jake and the cheeky squirrel.

Every morning a gray squirrel sits in one of our redwood trees. He’s waiting, impatiently I might add, for Jake to leave on his walk so he, the squirrel, can have the run of the yard. He cavorts! Drinks his fill out of our fountain, chases the birds from the feeder and gorges on birdseed, stashes away his acorns in my garden– where they grow into little oak trees the following year because he’s forgotten all about them. He’s a hoot. And Jake hates his ass.

The little bugger...

The little bugger…

Jake knows he’s up there. The squirrel sits on his branch, chattering away, and tosses redwood cones down at the dog, hoping to chase him off. I’m guessing since Jake eventually does vanish from the yard, the squirrel assumes he’s won. I put Jake in the car and when I come back in the house to get my keys and my cell phone, that cheeky little fellow is already on the deck peering through the sliding door. He’s practically turning somersaults he’s so happy. Our yard is his wonderland. It provides much of what he needs – food, water, soft soil.

It reminds me of Louie and Tub-Tub. Tub-Tub was our neighbor’s cat. Louie hated his guts. All one of us had to do was say the name, “Tub-Tub,” and Louie went crazy, tried to rip the stuffing out of the closest toy.

With Jake I just say, “The squirrel’s out there,” and Jake is out the dog door in a flash, ready to rip him limb from limb. But he’ll never catch the squirrel.

And Jake is thinking, like Hamlet:

Aye, there’s the rub.

Can’t Win for Losin’… Poor Jake. Poor Jake’s Mom.

So I’ve been hiking with the good boy, right?

Because the hubs is in my comfy bed with ice on his knee, right?

I hike at, what is for me, a snail’s pace. Uphill is hard. Downhill is a bitch.

Jake has been amazing. He gets that I can’t go fast. He keeps a steady pace, and if he gets ahead of me on a downhill slope, he stops, sits and stays. Waits for me to catch up.

He’s also been helping me out by wearing a backpack so he can carry stuff upstairs to the hubster. He’s getting really good at it. Saves me a trip every once in a while.

Jake backpack

I’ve been sticking to the flatter wilderness park, doing maybe two miles twice a day. Occasionally I do an attenuated hike at the hilly park (have some pics for you later), but like I said, coming downhill is sort of killer. I have to zig-zag my way across the path if I have the space. If the path is narrow Jake stays behind me so I can see my footing. Can’t risk a misstep.

So I’ve been getting some, well, merde recently. Let me tell you about it.

I decided to take Jake to the flatter park around dusk. Less likely to run into hordes of other dogs because, as you know, I cannot risk a knee-capping. Jake and I got out of the car and headed to the on-leash side of the park. The trails are nice and level and I can warm my knee up before we climb to the higher area. Jake’s been great. I’m using his extendable leash as opposed to his working leather leash. This way he can get out in front of me, do a little exploring, sniff a few bushes. He’s happy, I’m happy. Pulling hasn’t been an issue- except for once and you’ll hear about that shortly.

So we meandered around, climbed up through a ravine– all on leash by the way– reached the higher section of the park, walked up what we call Horse Hill and down the shallow side, along the Vineyard Trail, and headed to the off-leash area where he could have some free time and I could throw his rubber ball for him. We encountered nary a soul.

There were a few people and a few dogs in the off-leash area, a handful at best. One couple had lost their dog in the vineyard and I was able to tell them where he was because Jake immediately spotted him and wanted to chase after him, but he was a good boy and came back to me when I called.

The sun had set and it was growing pretty dark, but the ball is glow-in-the-dark, remember, plus Jake has a great sense of smell, so we hung out for about 20 minutes playing a game of throw and fetch.

At last I decided to head back to the main road– can’t take the trail, too steep, but I can walk down the gravel road. I tossed his ball backwards a few times as we walked along the trail towards the road and at last I said, “Okay Jake, we’re going to the car. Time for your leash.” At which point he sat at my side and waited for me to connect his leash. Because that’s what good boys do.

I glanced up and noticed a woman walking her two dogs, off leash, about thirty yards in front of us. She was on a trail perpendicular to the trail on which I stood. So I decided to just wait and let her pass. I had to cross that trail to get to the road and I didn’t feel like disconnecting Jake’s leash simply so he could greet her dogs. He sat at my side like a perfect angel because I’d told him to sit/stay. He showed no interest in either the woman or her dogs. No big deal. We could wait a minute or two.

Here’s the other thing- cuz yeah, there is another thing. She was on a trail that overlooks the highway. Now it’s a quarter-mile from the highway but still it overlooks the highway. Jake hates cars. He would, if he could, chase cars and get himself killed. So we always leash him before he can see the highway. Most dog walkers allow their dogs to run down to the parking lot– which I find annoying and, frankly, unsafe. I’ve nearly backed over unsupervised dogs. Besides, the drive out of the parking lot opens directly onto the highway. Duh. However, it’s none of my business. I keep my mouth shut.

My dog, however, is my business. I do what I do with my dog– whatever it takes to keep my dog safe, and because he is a German shepherd, whatever it takes to be respectful of other people. Jake is friendly but most people are intimidated by the mere sight of a German shepherd. Jake is my third German shepherd. It’s just fact. I know this. So I am always polite and respectful and if anyone seems disconcerted at the sight of such a big dog, I leash him as a courtesy– more on that later too!

Instead of continuing her walk, the woman stopped.

“This is the off-leash area,” she called out.

Me– “Yeah? So?”

Her– “So let him off leash.”

Me– WTF??? “No.”

Her– “Why not?”

Me– Holy shite, lady, what is your problem? “Because…”

Her– “Well maybe he wants to meet my dogs.”

Me– “Well maybe I want him on leash right now.”

Her– “Well if you have a mean dog I know two trainers up near Windsor and they can train your dog in three months.”

Me– OMG, lady, shut up and move your ass. “I don’t have a mean dog.”

Her– “Well I still don’t see…”

Me– I do not have to explain a single thing to you, ya friggin’ idiot. “What I do with my dog is none of your business. Okay?”

Her– “Hummph!”

But at least she finally moved along. Jay-sus! Meanwhile the other folks managed to get their dog out of the vineyard and they were walking him on leash on a trail parallel to me. I heard one of them say, “Christ. What’s her problem?”

So Jake and I hiked down the road. There were three cars in the parking lot. Mine, and I put Jake in the back, the car belonging to the people who’d retrieved their dog from the vineyard, and they were already backing out, and the car belonging to Ms. Inappropriate. She’d already loaded her dogs into her car. Apparently she’d waited for me because she pulled up right next to me and said–

“Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but you really should talk to the trainers in Windsor. They’ve saved all sorts of vicious dogs from euthanasia. They could work wonders with your dog, you know, the dogs that bite people and have three strikes against them.”

Me– “First of all, I don’t have a vicious dog. Second, why on earth would you assume I have a vicious dog?”

Her– “Well you had him on leash in the off-leash area…”

Me– “So? People leash their dogs in the off-leash area all the time.”

Her– “Well…”

Me– “Well, what? I have my reasons and frankly, my reasons are none of your damn business. I don’t owe you an explanation. I don’t even know why I’m giving you the courtesy of talking to you now.”

She huffed again and I got in my car and drove away. I was so angry. First because she assumed Jake was a vicious dog simply because he’s a German shepherd and second because she thought it was her business to tell me what to do with my dog and third because she imposed upon me– made me feel like I owed her an explanation when I didn’t owe her a damn thing. My dog had done nothing but sit by my side like a little furry angel. What on earth was there to complain about?

So of course I told hubby all about it. All about it. And he was just as indignant as I was.

The next morning I got up early and took Jake back to the same park. Our first stop was the fenced (empty at this time of the morning) dog enclosure so Jake could work off some of his insane morning energy by chasing his ball. Just as we were ready to leave the enclosure and head up to the off-leash area I saw this big mastiff arrive with his owner. This mastiff hates Jake. Every time he sees him he attacks him. But, since his owner is an older man and he can only do one loop around the off-leash area I figured Jake and I would head to the other side, the on-leash area, and by the time we reached the off-leash area, the mastiff would be gone. Brilliant. Problem solved.

Sort of.

In the mornings Jake is effusive. He’s insanely energetic and he really wants to run. And of course, in the mornings, there is game around. So there we were on a flat trail and out pops a rabbit. Jake lunged after the rabbit and dragged me for a few feet before I could get him under control. I brought him back to me but the stupid rabbit turned and ran in our direction so Jake lunged for him again. So I says…

“Damn it, Jake. Get your ass back here!” And I smacked him on the rump with his ball. You see, I was holding the ball thrower. Then I made him heel and I used the ball thrower to tap him on the butt whenever he tried to go after the rabbit – a gentle reminder. Seriously– it’s a rubber ball and a thin plastic ball thrower. And by a tap I mean a light tap.

Picture this – he’s heeling on my left. In my right hand is the ball thrower and I’m holding it behind me on my right. I swing it around and tap him on his right hip if he starts to tug on me. It’s a training technique my daughter uses with horses as well so you’re not in their face freaking them out all the time.

Suddenly I hear this voice–

“You don’t have to hit him.”

OMG. Please tell me it’s not her.

It wasn’t her, but it was this woman with whom I am somewhat familiar. She owns a female yellow lab, a very sweet dog, who would love to play with Jake but who is not allowed any contact with any other dog. The woman always walks the lab off leash in the on-leash area and she calls ahead when she sees me coming and asks me to move off the trail because, as I said, her dog is not allowed any contact with other dogs. In three years I have always obliged her without a single complaint, even though it is illegal to walk your dog off leash in that area. I have never ever admonished her for doing so. I’ve never once said, “Put your dog on leash,” or “Screw you. Take a different trail.” A. I’m polite and B. I’m not the police.

I looked at her. I said, “Mind your own business.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to hit him.”

I really didn’t feel like explaining – I had knee surgery five weeks ago and when he lunged after that rabbit it hurt like hell and he could have injured me and by God all I did was give him a quick smack with a rubber ball on his big furry rump. It’s not like he even noticed.

The look she shot me said– You are an abuser. I should call the Humane Society on you.

Jake was perfect for the rest of the hike, but she’d ruined my day. I told Oscar– I can’t win for losing.

Oh! Oh! Oh! One more thing about that morning– So when Jake and I were on the Vineyard Trail I heard a runner coming behind us. As I always do, because nobody appreciates a German shepherd nose in his/her crotch, I moved off to the side of the narrow trail and had Jake sit/stay. The runner, a woman, was so impressed that she said, “He’s just the best boy. He’s so pretty! Can I pet him?”

And sure, I let her pet him. And then she went on her merry way and we went on our merry way. So when I was walking to the parking lot maybe thirty minutes later I saw her running down the trail opposite. She was passing a man with a dog off leash (in the on-leash area), a dog Jake does not like. Now Jake was on leash and heeling and the dog was maybe fifty yards away so he ignored her. Well, this dog began to bark at the runner, then chased after her, jumped on her and bit her and the owner just kept on a-walkin’. The runner stopped, totally flabbergasted. I went over to make sure she was okay. She was, but she could not believe the owner didn’t even apologize. He completely ignored the situation. His dog is some sort of small sheep dog. Not a Bernese Mountain dog but maybe a Swiss Mountain dog?

Let me tell you, if Jake had done that, because he’s a German shepherd, a hue and cry would have gone up so loud and so vitriolic that Tom Stronach would have heard it all the way in Wessex!

Here are some photos of our hilly hike – FYI – I only climbed a third of the way to the summit. No worries, Jaye.

Jake's feet and wild iris.

Jake’s feet and wild iris.

Wild iris.

Wild iris.

A third of the way to the summit.

A third of the way to the summit.

Crossing the saddle.

Crossing the saddle.







Thursdays with Jake… Small Dog Complex.

I’ve noticed something.  Oh sigh… rant ahead!

(Penny, this is not directed at Lucy the Wonder Weinie.)

Little dogs attack Jake.  A small man, uh, I mean small dog complex?

small dog big dog

The smallest dogs come after him.  Teacup chihuahuas.  They are the worst. They nip at him like mosquitoes.  Usually Jake ignores them unless they persist.  If pushed beyond endurance he will turn on them with a snarly face, although he doesn’t bite them.

The problem is once Jake lifts his lip the small dogs’ owners all throw a hissy fit.  So it’s okay for their dogs to bite my dog, but if my dog raises his lip at their dogs, he’s bad?  And I should get yelled at?  If Jake ever reacted and injured a small dog, even if Jake was on leash and the small dog was off leash and initiated the contact, who do you think would get the blame?  The big bad German shepherd, of course.

The fact is Jake is very polite and kind.  He has been known to bark at certain people and squirrels, but he’s nice to older dogs and little dogs. He won’t start a fight.  He minds his own business.  He can walk past leashed dogs on the sidewalk, greet them, no fuss.  If a dog is across the street he doesn’t pull me after the dog, we simply walk on.

He and I cut through a neighborhood park almost daily – it’s an on-leash park. I am usually the only dog owner there with my dog on-leash.  Many of the dogs mind their own business, but lately we’ve had some unpleasant encounters.

I love dogs.  Don’t misunderstand.  And I love open-space off-leash parks. Love to let my dog run and play.  Jake and I had a great time at the beach earlier this week.  A perfect time.  He played off leash with a bunch of other off leash dogs. But owning a large dog is challenging.  People are afraid of large dogs and they assume a German shepherd is dangerous.  I try to be a responsible dog owner. On the other hand, people think that because a dog is small it’s harmless.  Not so.  I’ve been bitten twice in my life, both times it was by a small dog – a chihuahua and a Sheltie and believe me, that Sheltie meant business.  This was not a herding-type playful nip on the ankle. This was a teeth sinking into my calf I’d kill you if I could bite.

Oh well, rant done.  I know the people who own small dogs love them every bit as much as I love Jake.  I just wish some people were more realistic about dog behavior.  Small dogs are still dogs.  Not children, dogs.

Saw the mountain lion again on Tuesday — We headed down a steep trail and Jake vanished.  I called and called and soon I saw a deer running up the far ridge, followed by the cougar, followed by Jake.  Ah well.  Took twenty minutes for him to make his way back to me.  It was a big wildlife day – since we had an unexpected rainstorm and Jake and I were the only two domestic creatures in the park.  (We did get soaked to the skin, both of us.  Eight hours later he was still wet.)  We spotted big flocks of wild turkeys with their babies, a pair of peregrine falcons, rabbits, lots of deer, and of course the cougar.


Thursdays with Jake. It’s a wild kingdom!

And I like it this way!

So I’m sitting at my computer, which is in the kitchen near the open back door, and when I say open back door I mean actually open so Jake can let himself in and out – the wall is a bank of windows anyway with a glass sliding door so there’s tons of light.

Anyway, he’s laying? lying? (I ain’t lookin’ it up) right next to the open door and Whoosh!  Blam!  Ka-Pow!  A hawk and a crow crash to the wooden deck six inches from him.

Yikes-a-loo!  Jake and I leap to our feet but before either of us can get out the door both birds fly off in opposite directions.  I try to see where they’ve gone but both have vanished.

Apparently they were uninjured, or at least well enough to fly away.

Cooo-el!  How often does that happen?  It was a red tail hawk.  I’ve had my eye on him for a few days.  He’s been hanging out in our redwoods and in the neighbor’s palm tree.

The Weekly Jake List:

A tragedy– I watched the mama and papa robins build their nest with such care.  Found it on the ground beneath the redwoods this morning.  Found the smashed egg on the sidewalk.   So sad.  Now the robins have flown off.  I bet the culprit was either a crow or a jay.

Robin's Nest.

Robin’s Nest.

Poor little egg...

Poor little egg…

Don’t worry, bee happy!

Thousands of honey bees, bumble bees, native stingless bees– see here.

Jake and I keep finding bees performing honey dances on the basketball court. They are sucking the nectar from these plants like there’s no tomorrow.  I only know the jasmine and the lavender.  Haven’t a clue what the white and pink giant flowering shrubs/trees are:

Spanish Lavender

Spanish Lavender. French Lavender will be blooming soon!

White Jasmine.

White Jasmine.

Pink flower giant shrub.

Pink flower giant shrub.

White flower giant shrub-tree

White flower giant shrub-tree

Another white flower giant shrub tree

Another white flower giant shrub tree

The beach!

We had a great time.  Watched the surfers.  Picked up a couple big crabs and carried them back to the tide pools.  Checked out some beached jellyfish.  Jake ran, dug, chased, said ‘hey‘ to other dogs, and I got a little haul of carnelian, jade and sea glass.

my semi-precious stones.

my semi-precious stones.

The Mountain Lion.

So Tuesday was Jake’s first day back on the hiking trail after torquing his toenail while climbing a cliff.  The vet removed his entire toenail.  Ouch!  He’s doing fine – still kinda bugs him but he’s a trooper.

Anywhoo, we headed down the back side of the park and I figured I’d take a couple photos of the spot where we saw the mountain lion.  And I did take a few photos.  Which I lost for reasons which shall be made clear.

So… I’m taking photos, right?  And we hike just past the point where I’d previously seen the cougar and the buck deer.  Jake’s in front of me at the end of his leash, nose to the ground.  I catch movement out of the corner of my eye — up the hillside to my left.  Maybe 100 yards away?  And this mountain lion stands up in the tall grass, front legs spread as if standing over a kill, and it stares at me.

I stop dead.  Because the last thing you want to do is run.  I call Jake back to me because I want the mountain lion to see I am not alone.  I’m with a big and bad German shepherd.  Jake comes and he sees I am staring at something so he stares.  Now we’re all three staring.  It’s the same cat we saw before.  It’s a young cat.  A little darker tan in color than I’ve seen before.  Definitely not sandy-colored like the humongous mountain lion I used to run into at this park.

This color.  Not my photo.

This color. Not my photo.

Okay… okay.  I’m a little concerned now because I can’t go back up the hill – it’s too steep.  The mountain lion already commands the high ground so he has the advantage.  If I go on down the trail he still commands the high ground and he can follow behind me and stay above me, which is a scary thought, but the area is a little more open, a little less forested.  And I’ll be getting closer to the more frequently traveled sections of the park.

I decide to try and scare him off, so I jump up and down, wave my arms, and yell, “Git!  Git!  Hey you, git!”  Yeah, right.  He doesn’t move.  We’re still locked in this three-way stare-down.

I’m wondering if I should call someone, like the police or Penny Watson so she can freak out and call the White House or maybe Tom Stronach in England.  I pull my phone out of my pocket only to realize I no longer have the police on speed dial.  I can’t look up Penny’s number because that will mean taking my eyes off the cougar, and damn it, my hands are shaking so bad I drop my phone.

While messing with the phone I lost all the photos.

At last the cougar lay back down in the grass.  I decided he’d decided I was neither threat nor prey so Jake and I moved off down the hill – not running, not in a state of panic.  Using the eyes in the back of my head?  You better believe it.

When I got home, my daughter said I had to call the Parks Department and let them know.  I was very reluctant.  I don’t want this mountain lion shot.  But she pointed out I would feel terrible if a little kid got hurt or killed.  And I would.  Besides, this lion doesn’t seem too awfully afraid of people and that’s a problem.

I did call the Parks Department, told them I’ve seen the cougar twice in two weeks, and I suggested they at least post a sign.  They didn’t seem very interested.  No sign’s been posted.

That’s bureaucracy for ya.








Thursdays with Jake. Going to the birds!

So every year a pair of mated Towhees builds a nest in one of our trees and has two sets of babies– two babies in the early spring and two babies in mid-summer.  I don’t know if these are the same two Towhees or simply generations of Towhees that were born here and return to our yard to build their nest.



In any case, the pair, sometimes two pair, over-winter and build a nest.  And every spring one of the babies inevitably falls out of the nest and the dog finds it.  He or she- as in Rosie’s case when we had Rosie- finds the baby and alerts me by barking and by standing over the baby bird with the parent birds flying around his head chirping like mad.  Jake just experienced his first baby bird. Now he’s spending whatever free time he has beneath the redwoods searching for another one.

Every spring I try to catch the fluttering baby.  If I do manage to catch it, it goes back into the tree.  If it’s too young to stay in the tree it gets a ride to Birdie Rescue.  If I can’t catch it, well, nature can be pretty indifferent.  In this particular case the baby could flutter but not fly.  It managed to flutter out of my reach.  I’m not sure where it ended up… I think in the neighbor’s yard, but its sibling stayed in the tree and he or she is doing well.

Usually the Towhees manage to raise at least one baby from each fledging (?) fledgement (?) to adulthood and that baby sticks around to help with the next set of babies.

I like Towhees.  They are plain, friendly birds, kind of like the Amish of the bird world.  They’re always with me when I work in my garden.  Noisy though.  Up at 4:45 a.m.  Again, the Amish of the bird world.

Our weekly bird count:

Wild turkeys.  Saw a big flock while hiking.  I can understand why people decided we should eat turkeys.  They are very fat birds.

Wild Turkeys.

Wild Turkeys.

A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers.  They are the size of hawks and they make this prehistoric bird call.  So Jurassic Park-ish.

Pileated Woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpecker.

The Grosbeaks are back at the park.



We arrived early one morning and ran into…

Owl!  Cool, huh!

Owl! Cool, huh!

And we found this in our backyard–



He’s from a non-native (obviously) flock set free in our area over 40 years ago.  They thrive here.  Noisy suckers.

We also have two pairs of robins, a pair of mourning doves, and a pair of bossy blue jays living in our yard.  I do love spring and babies!

So other than a dead baby possum – which had its throat ripped out, probably by a bobcat who probably ate the parent possum and any other baby possums – these are our wildlife sightings for this week.

Jake continues his hunt for the mountain lion.  Look what he did– snagged a rear claw climbing a cliff.  The vet removed the nail.  I have to do a better job of protecting this dog from himself!  Tom Stronach is gonna yell at me…

In his den, sad boy.

In his den, sad boy.

Can anyone identify these flowers?  They volunteered in one of my herb beds.  I have no idea what they are.  Our resident botanist– Penny?  They have a light lavender colored petal with yellow stamens or pistons and long, spiky dark green leaves.  They open from little green buds every morning and close at night.

Lavender-colored flowers. View One.

Lavender-colored flowers. View One.

Lavender-colored flowers.  View Two.

Lavender-colored flowers. View Two.

P.S.  Hubby reminded me about the peregrine falcon.  Flew right past us last Saturday.