I watched three killer whales eat some sea lions.

Rodeo Beach.

Rodeo Beach.

Jake and I went to the beach last Monday. We were the only two people there. Yes, I say people because Jake is people in a dog suit.

The weather was a perfect 59′. The tide was out… far out, so we could hike a long ways.

Jake loved running down to the surf line and then running away from the incoming waves. He also found two excellent sticks to add to the other excellent stick we found on our previous visit so now we have an excellent stick collection. He refused to leave the beach without the sticks.

Jake's driftwood collection.

Jake’s driftwood collection.

I found some pretty big pieces of carnelian and a couple shark teeth. Gotta love those shark teeth. This is the Red Triangle, after all.

Red Triangle.

Red Triangle.

So, ahem, when we arrived at this bare naked beach– which is my very favorite kind of beach– I spotted an enormous flock of brown pelicans flying overhead. They seemed to be circling over one particular area and there were quite a few pelicans floating in the surf beneath those up in the air.

Brown pelicans.

Brown pelicans.

Jake and I romped our way down the beach and I heard this frantic barking. There was a small group of California sea lions out just past the pelicans. They weren’t on a rock or an outcrop, they were in the water, close together, barking like crazy. They were being herded by three killer whales.

California sea lion.

California sea lion.

Two weeks ago Jake and I came across the half-eaten carcass of a California sea lion. It had washed up on the beach. The icky remains are still there.

Last month I watched three killer whales troll the beach area– swimming back and forth along the shoreline. I spotted them after I noticed a group of harbor seals huddled together in the shallows at the far end of the beach. I figured they must be huddled together in the shallows for a reason and sure ‘nuf, they were. Smart little shits, or as my kids like to call them, sea slugs. Seriously. They resemble slugs, albeit adorable huggable slugs.

Harbor seals.

Harbor seals.

Therefore I assume the three killer whales I saw this week are the same three killer whales I saw last month. Hey, if there’s easy pickins’ why would you bother to hunt anywhere else?



So back to the sea lions versus the killer whales. The tide was out far enough and the height of the beach high enough that Jake and I enjoyed sort of a beach-eye view of the sea lion buffet. We really could not see anything gross, just flapping fins, a few things tossed up into the air, and slick shiny black whale tails looking all happy. Happy tail slaps.

Hey, welcome to the natural world. Everybody’s gotta eat. Even the pelicans got in on it. They pigged out on the scraps.

I bet anything this is a group of young males off on their own for the first time. They’re having some fun, sowing their oats, hoping a female passes by. Probably waiting for the humpbacks to move north so they can check out the calves. The fact that killer whales prey upon humpback calves bothers me a little, but again, this is a fact of life.

Pretty much everything is food for something. A pacifist I ain’t.

Oh! How I wish you could join Jake and me on these beach excursions!

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.




So you can stop sticking those pins in that voodoo doll now.

I was talking with J.W. Manus the other day about my broken foot.

Yeah, shaddup.  I’m a klutz. This is not news to me.

Except it was kinda funny in that when one smacks one’s foot against the bed post, typically one hops up and down, cussing for 3-5 minutes. This was more rolling on the floor screaming and cussing for 15-20 minutes.

You see, I was about to take Jake for his evening walk so I says, “Hey Jake, we’re gonna go for a walk but first I need to put the birds to bed.” (Jake knows this means I head upstairs to cover the birdcage for the night.)

I didn’t turn on any lights. I never turn on any lights. I know my way around the house and I’m super careful of our solid oak bedpost because I’ve broken my right little toe by slamming it against that dang bed post so many times the toe is no longer officially connected to my foot.

Anyways, Jake runs up the stairs beside me, brimming with his usual excitement, and he bounds into the bedroom and just as I’m heading for the bed so I can walk around the bed post and reach the birds on the other side he cuts in front of me, sending me flying, foot first, right into the bed post.

And thus I screamed and cussed and rolled around on the floor, clutching the side of my foot for the longest time. Then I laced my hiking boots up real tight and took him for a walk. I swear… my little toe is so purple it’s nearly black, my foot is purple, all my toes are purple, and yes J.W. I did go to the doctor and I made a decision to spend the next six weeks in hiking boots. Yeah, I’m still hiking with the dog, which brings me to the point of this post:

Stop sticking pins in that damn voodoo doll. You. You know who you are. Seriously, I give. Uncle. Whatever you think it is that I did, I’m sorry.

So the next day, after I saw the doctor, I took the dog for a hike at the hilly park. Coming back on a steep trail, the ‘down‘ hurt my foot. I decided to take Jake back ‘up‘ on a trail I haven’t been on in quite a while– for a reason, the first section requires hand over hand climbing.

Back in the days when I hiked the trail with Louie, it was a little easier in the sense that Louie did not have to be leashed because he didn’t run off after wildlife. But unlike Jake, the mountain goat, Louie was not a climber. So I’d climb up, find a place to secure myself, then reach back and grab his collar and haul him up. We’d climb like this until the trail more or less leveled out. Once you reach the top, the path still goes up, but at least it’s a hike-able trail.

This time around, Jake hauled ass ahead of me, on leash of course, which sort of threw me off my game. I was trying to find hand and foot-holds and I had to do it pretty quick because I only had one hand, the stupid broken finger hand– the other held the leash– and Jake was moving fast. He was more excited than usual… A new trail! Wheeeeeee!

Before I knew it, I’d slammed the top of my head against a ginormous low hanging tree branch that didn’t used to be there, by god, snapped my head back, saw stars, lost my hand-hold, figured I was fixin’ to tumble backwards head over heels down the trail that was not really a trail at all, break my neck and lie there until some poor soul found me or the mountain lion ate me. (I wasn’t supposed to be hiking so I didn’t tell anybody where I was going.)

I did the only thing I could think of. I yelled, “Go!”

And Jake went. He jerked me back into the trail, face-first, but still I managed to get a grip on a tree root and held on. Yeah, I did make it to the top, but at that point I realized:

Somebody out there hates my ass.

So stop it already. Thank you. Julia




Because my gut said so.

Never underestimate your gut.  It knows stuff before your brain’s cognitive processing is even awake.

See here–  Gut Instincts: The secrets of your second brain.

For instance– Jake and I were hiking recently.  On the backside of the wilderness park of course, where we are almost always alone aside from squirrels, bunnies, deer and that pesky mountain lion.

I had a funny feeling, or rather my gut had a funny feeling.  Didn’t hear anything unusual, but still I stepped off the trail and took a look back from whence we’d come.  Lo and behold there was a guy back there.  Maybe a hundred yards behind me.  He’d been quiet, a little too quiet.  Creepy quiet.

When I stopped and looked back, he stopped.  He sorta looked around, looked at his feet, looked everywhere but at me.

I sat Jake down and called out – “Go ahead.  We don’t mind.  Pass us.”

He sorta cleared his throat and said, “No, that’s okay.”

So I said, “No, go on.  Go ahead of us.”

At which point he said, “Oh, I need a breather anyway.  This is a good place to stop.”

And I thought, Bull shit.  Like hell it’s a good place to stop.  You’re on the edge of a cliff and you haven’t even hit the steepest section.  You think I was born yesterday?

Either he was up to no good or he was terrified of Jake.  But there was Jake, sitting at my feet, pretending he was Mr. Good Boy.

So I hiked on, and I hiked fast.  Believe me, I had no choice but to climb my way out of the forest and reach the summit as quickly as possible and I had to follow the trail because it’s not like I was packing ropes and pitons.  The great thing about Jake?  Instead of hauling me up the trail he stayed behind me. He stayed between this man and me.

I kept glancing over my shoulder, and whenever I did the man stopped moving.

I once took a self-defense class.  The instructor said, “If you think someone is following you, turn around and stare at them.”  So I did that.  I turned around and stared at him and I let Jake stare at him as well.  Didn’t hurt that Jake is a big ol’ German shepherd.

I finally made it to the open pasture below the summit.  The man was closer now and I decided to take a secondary trail to the top because it is visible from the summit whereas the trail I usually take is steep, slow-going and the lower section is not visible from the top.  Not that there was anyone up there, but he couldn’t know that anymore than I could… Right?

Anyway, Jake and I hauled ass while the man behind us stopped as soon as he emerged from the woods.  He stood next to the barbed wire fence and pretended to look out over the valley below. Yeah, right.  He never did appear at the summit, therefore I assume he headed back into the woods to wait for an easier victim.  Or maybe he just went home, I can’t be sure.

But I’ll say this– I’d never seen him before, and that’s significant because I know all the early morning regulars.  After climbing up that trail, no way does a novice choose to hike back down.  Too dangerous this time of year – slick like ice.  The dry clay soil crumbles beneath your feet.  It’s hard enough to make it up.  In some places you’re practically on all fours.  Any legit novice hiker huffs and puffs his way to the summit and is happy as a clam to take the main trail back to the parking lot.

When my gut speaks, I listen.  I believe in my gut.

Just ask Leroy Jethro Gibbs.



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.