About Lif Strand

I write, therefore I am. Unless I'm taking photos. Or sewing. Or not.

Me & Rosie

photo of a person and a dog

Me & Rosie

This first week of me and Rosie has been full of ups and downs.  I lost my temper with her yesterday.  It didn’t involve hitting, but it involved anger and Rosie knew it.  My day wasn’t going well and Rosie was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I apologized for my outburst immediately.  But I felt like a shit for doing it.  She forgave me, but I’m not sure I can forgive myself.

What did she do?  I wanted to go for a walk.  She was reluctant, mostly because she’s unhappy on a leash.  She’ll come along but not enthusiastically.  I needed her to go on leash for the first part of the walk because we had to thread our way through cows.  I needed her to keep up and didn’t want a 40 lb dead weight on the end of that leash.

I yanked.  She cringed.  I yanked again and demanded that she come.  She cringed some more.  And then when I caught myself — when I realized I was the one being the jerk, not her — I had to make it right.  She watched closely as I reached into my pocket for a doggie treat, but when I bent over her to offer it she flattened herself to the ground.

She expected to be hit.

I don’t hit dogs, but how would she know that?  It was my fault, dammit.  I was in such a bad temper, though, that I could not continue on the walk with Rosie.  So I took the leash off, told her we were going back to the house, and she followed just fine.  She licked me when I sat down on the porch stairs to apologize.  I felt like an even bigger shit.

I have to remind myself that she’s had five years or so being treated one way, and I’ve had a week of my way.  There are no instant results when training critters of any kind, not unless there’s fear or pain involved.  I know that.  I just have to keep remembering that the memory of pain and fear is a very loud one.

Meanwhile, Tux and Lili and Rosie are working out a kind of detente.  I still don’t trust them alone with each other, but I’m talking to them a lot, asking them to get along.  Tux is still the king of outside, but inside he’s not in his own jurisdiction.  Lili and Rosie seem to be getting along okay — no love there yet, but they’re well into toleration.  Neither of them has any desire to share the house with Tux, but if Rosie is going to have access to the yard then everybody knows Tux will come inside.

Always the challenges.  But there are successes, too, or at least signs of progress.

Rosie occasionally chews on the dental bone (gotta deal with that tartar, don’t you know) but is flummoxed by the ball.  I bounce it and she watches it, but that’s all.  She’s still wary of the horses — and rightfully so — but is now willing to go near the horse pens.  She doesn’t pee in the house, doesn’t go in the garbage, and after being told only twice that the slippers were mine and not hers to chew, she left them alone.  In the evenings when it cools down, she gets a sudden burst of energy.  She drives me crazy pestering me for attention, licking whatever body parts of mine she can reach.  She does a kind of little dance when she sees Tux at the door.

And she barked yesterday.  I had run the neighbor’s cows off my property (I really need to fix the fence but that’s so low on the To Do list) but missed two calves that decided maybe they’d come into my yard instead of following the grownups.  Rosie barked at them, twice, before skedaddling back into the house.  The calves weren’t impressed with that bit of noise, but I was.

Rosie is claiming her space.  I like that very much because it means she’s feeling like she’s home.  Rosie is finding herself, but she won’t be able to leave her past behind just like that [snaps fingers].  Part of it is just time but mostly it’s on me.  Human-animal relationships aren’t about making the animal do things as much as the human controlling her own thoughts, feelings, and actions so that the animal can respond willingly.

The good news is that I’m trainable.  The better news is that I think Rosie has faith in me.

 

< Rosie, day 4 (visit to the vet)

Rosie update – day 4

sleeping dog

Rosie napping after a visit to the vet
2019 Lif Strand photo

Just a quick report on Rosie’s veterinary visit today.

She was such a good girl!  She had to be helped up and down stairs — she seems to not have had to deal with them before in her life — but did not squirm or object to being lifted.  She spent a lot of time giving me, the vet, and his assistant kisses, and cooperated so nicely that Rosie earned a treat for her efforts.

Dr. Duncan said that most of her scabs are from fly irritation, and as he poked at them some scabs fell off so they are about healed.  The lump under her chin is a scar from an abscess, now healed, probably several months old.  She has several other old scars.  None of them appear to be from fighting.  What I thought was a hot spot on her foot is also an older scar, but she has been licking it and irritating it.  I’ve got to watch that so she doesn’t make it worse.

She got vaccinations including rabies.  Her heartworm test (done right there at Dr. Duncan’s mobile clinic) was negative (yay!).  He gave her a dewormer for regular worms, too.

Dr. Duncan looked at her teeth and said they’re in good shape other than a little tartar.  There’s some wearing of the incisors indicating she’s around 5 years old.  He could find no evidence of Rosie’s having been spayed, and in fact it looks like she’s coming into or going out of heat right now.  He thought she’s had at least one litter, possibly more.  I got the number of SNAP in Silver City, a place that helps out with the cost of spaying, so I’m going to give them a call.

As for what she is, breed-wise:  No guarantees, but she is more like an American Staffordshire Terrier than an American pit bull.  She’s more delicately built than a pit bull, with a less broad head and jaw.  Which is not to say that she couldn’t be pure pit bull, or a pit bull cross.  But I’m going to tell people she’s a Staffie and avoid the stigma attached to pit bull.

Rosie is sacked out now after such a stimulating day.  She deserves the rest, and when she wakes up there’s another yummy treat waiting for her.

[Edited to add info about SNAP:  They help low income people with spay and neutering, but the dog has to be brought to Silver City.  The participating vets there do surgery before they open in the a.m. so that would mean a 3 1/2 hour drive one way plus an overnight.  The cost for that would equal the savings in the cost of spay.  So much for that!]

< Rosie, day 2            Me & Rosie, one week >

Rosie Day 2

Rosie the dog sitting and looking at the camera 2019 Lif Strand photo

Just look – where is the big pit bull smile?  Rosie is too uncertain still, though she has smiled for me once or twice.

Yesterday was Rosie’s first full day with me. She was, of course, on her best behavior. Rescue/rehome dogs are like that – they tiptoe around, not knowing the rules and not wanting to get busted for breaking one.

Then they start getting more relaxed as they figure out that the new digs are safe. That’s when they start testing the boundaries, which is a way of zeroing in on the rules of the new place. Or sometimes it’s not so must testing as being clueless.  Today, day two of Rosie, is the day of clueless.

I’m pretty sure Rosie is not house-trained. If she lived in a backyard all the time, why would she be? Yesterday she was still too intimidated to test any rules or do much of anything at all except lay on her bed and look around. In the evening she tentatively checked out a radius of maybe twenty feet from her bed but hesitated to do more.

Knowing she might not tell me when she needed to go potty, yesterday I took her on walks every few hours. The last one was pretty late in the evening.  Didn’t matter.  This morning I woke up to find two pee puddles on the floor. One was right next to Lili Kitty’s litter box, so Rosie gets points for that. The other was near the kitchen door that she’d been in and out of, so she gets points for that, too.  She wasn’t sure it was okay but hey, the cat did it there, and the door she had gone out to pee was there…. I sprayed the spots thoroughly with enzyme spray (if you’ve got cats – especially males — you need that stuff) while she watched. But I didn’t say a word to her about it. I just did it and moved on to the next thing that needed doing in my house.

The thing about living with animals is that you have to learn to communicate. For most people communicate seems to mean that the critters have to learn to understand English. For me it doesn’t. For me it’s about body language, intent, and maybe a little bit of ESP.

Animals are masters at reading body language, which makes sense given that their verbal abilities are limited by physiology, if nothing else. Horses are so good at reading body language that some of them have become money-earners for their owners. A hundred years ago Clever Hans could do math problems, and a couple decades after him, Lady Wonder could not only type messages but read minds.

Read minds?

Except that it turned out both horses were just experts at reading human body language. When they were asked questions, the horses could give correct responses nearly 90% of the time when the questioner already knew the answers, but less than 10% of the time when the questioner had no idea — which is not to say that what the horses were doing was any less incredible. They could read body language whether or not the questioner intended them to, including when other human beings could perceive no cues at all.

Dogs can howl, bark, groan, whine, whimper, yip, grunt – but they don’t have spoken language like humans do. Humans can make the same noises dogs do, but humans don’t really know what the sounds mean. They’re just noises to us, not words.

A dog that hasn’t been asked to learn words, that is, a dog that hasn’t been trained, isn’t going to understand the meaning of any words at all. But they can get by just fine without it. They can read body language as well as a horse can.  Better than a human, too.

A rescue dog has way more incentive to be accurate in that reading than a dog that’s comfortable in its own home. I didn’t tell Rosie she was bad for peeing in the house because she would have no clue what the words mean.  While she might not be Border Collie smart, though, she’s smart enough to understand my tone of voice and my body language. I wasn’t happy when I sprayed the pee spots but I didn’t tell her that – I was careful to say nothing at all.  I didn’t have to. Just my having paid attention to her pee made her so nervous that for the next couple hours she cowered anytime I walked near her.

I ignored that, too.  I didn’t want to make a huge deal, I just wanted to make it as clear as I could that yes, there was something about peeing in the house that was different than eating, sleeping, and all the other things that go on in a house — but no more than that.  It was not a punishable offense.  Rosie was not a bad dog.

It was the same with how I wanted her to know that looking too intently at a cat in the house was a thing in itself, and that licking the hot spots on her paws is another  thing. There will eventually be a whole bunch of things that will be differentiated over time, but we’ve started with just these few.  These will become the words in the language that both Rosie and I understand.

Once she learns to differentiate between actions — to identify that there are differences — then those actions become units of understanding.  Meaningfulness, if you will.  After meaning comes learning whether actions are permissible or not.  And from that comes understanding of the rules.

So has Rosie become house-trained, just like that? Not likely!  At best Rosie knows that that there’s something going on.  If I’m lucky she’s already made the connection between peeing in those spots and me being unhappy. She doesn’t know what or why, not yet.  She’s still learning to trust that I won’t hurt her, that I will behave in predictable ways, and that I expect her to behave in certain ways, too.  She doesn’t know the ways, mind you. Heck, she doesn’t really know her name yet.

We don’t have communication established, not yet — but we’re getting there.  It’s early days still.

Oh, and about that ESP?  Next time.

< Rosie, day 1              Rosie visits the vet >

Here I go again

I just picked up — and by ‘just’ I mean a few hours ago — a rescue dog. I know nothing about her except she was abandoned by renters who skipped out on her, another dog, and the rent, too.

Nobody knows the dog’s name.  I call her Rosie, because she looks sweet.  She appears to be a pit bull cross, on the smallish side. She’s adult but more than that I can’t tell.  Her rescuers picked her up yesterday from the back yard where she had been left, took her on a three hour drive — possibly the first in her life, as she had no idea how to get into a vehicle — treated her for fleas, fed her and kept her overnight, then handed her over to me today to deal with.

She’s not starved, but she shows indicators of poor nutrition. She’s got scabs in her ears, hot spots on her paws, a few sores that look like infected bug bites on various parts of her body. She’s got a soft lump under her jaw. She’s got a big pot belly, soft poop, and she farts — though the soft poop and farts might be due to the change in food, and/or the stress of being taken from her yard by strangers and handed off to yet another stranger. I assume that belly does not indicate pregnancy (I pray she’s not pregnant!) because there’s no sign of teat/mammary gland development.

Mostly I’m concerned because she has such labored breathing. She sounds like she’s snoring even when she’s awake.  That could be a symptom of late stage heartworms, but then again, the collar she was wearing was so tight it had to be cut off — it’s possible Rosie’s windpipe is damaged.  It’s possible that the lump under her jaw is doing something.  It’s possible she’s got a respiratory infection or maybe that’s just the way she breathes. I have no clue.

Needless to say, Rosie is going to go to the vet soon as I can snag an appointment.

My tomcat, Tux, took one look at her and it was all-out attack:  furred out like he’d stuck his paw in an electric outlet, fangs, claws, and the Kitteh Voice of Doom.  I have no idea why.  Tux wasn’t like that when I came home with the last dog, Bella.

Rosie, sweetie that she is, just hunkered down and tried to get away.  I got her inside, and shut the screen door (and baby gate) between the two.  I thought Rosie was going to have a heart attack.  Tux spent the next half an hour yowling and snarling and growling before finally, reluctantly, slinking away because it had started to rain.

Tuxedo kitty looking through the screen doorRosie is currently sleeping on a little bed I made for her.  Before I brought her home I was all stressed about needing to bring in a crate for her to sleep in, about her chasing cats, about you name it.  Then I got her home and stressed out about Tux hunting her down and attacking her if I put her out in the dog run, or her going after Lili (my 17 year old inside cat) if I wasn’t watching Rosie every minute.

I forgot that some dogs react to this rescue business by being afraid to do anything lest it is the wrong thing.  Rosie is that dog.  I am not petting her or even talking to her very much.  Reaching for her makes her shrink away and drop her head.  I only pet dogs that want to be petted and she’s not ready for that yet.

She does take treats, though.  A good start.

 

—–

Later:  I took Rosie out for a walk to my property gate and Tux followed partway.  He sat down and watched us.  When we came back and Rosie saw him, she stopped.  Tux hadn’t moved.  So I asked him to be nice to Rosie.  I asked him to let her go back into the house.  He meowed a few times, then turned and walked through the compound gate.  We followed.  Tux settled under the truck and watched us walk by.  There’s hope!

Rosie, day 2 >

But is it fun?

Keyboard  2019 Lif Strand photoThe day after my birthday earlier this year, I complained that I spent it working.  I just looked back at that day in my journal — what I recorded was “wrote, made soup, called Mom”.  Not what I’d call a fun birthday, but it was an okay birthday.

Still, it seemed to me that other people do fun stuff on their birthdays.  So the day after my birthday I declared that the next month on that day and every month thereafter I would have a Lif Day, a regularly scheduled day when I would do only the absolutely necessary chores and I would stay offline so the rest of that day could be for myself.  To have fun.

Right.

Every Lif Day since has been pretty much the same story.  I’m a kind of workaholic.  The To Do list is long and I’m always trying to get one more thing in.  That tends to eat up a Lif Day.  I’m not very good at taking a day off to have fun.

Last evening my friend Laura and I were chatting via email, as we do, and I reported to her that I had spent the day writing a story draft of almost 4000 words.

Me:  I guess I had a lot of word pressure built up in me. I’ll let it sit for a few days then look at it again. I was offline most of the day because I was writing. It was heavenly.

Laura:  A Lif Day in mid-month — what a concept!

Me:  A Lif Day is supposed to be a day when I just relax and have fun. While I love to write, I want my Lif Days to be goof-off, do whatever days.

Laura:  Writing isn’t fun?

Me:  I love to write.  It’s not necessarily fun.  It is satisfying, it is necessary, it is what I love to do.  But fun?  Only occasionally — when the writing is going very, very well.

Laura:  I have trouble matching “love to do” with “only occasionally fun”, but OK.

Me:  Hmmm. It seems clear to me that there’s a difference, but how to articulate it? I’ll give that some thought.

So along with the 4000 word story, I let the difference between “love to do” and “fun” ferment in my brain till it was ready to come out.  It didn’t take long.  This evening I Googled “fun”, and that told the story.

Fun is something that’s “amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable”.

Reading is fun. I enjoy doing it, it’s entertaining, sometimes amusing enough to make me chuckle or even laugh out loud.  So yeah, definitely fun.

Writing is not fun. It is not amusing.  I rarely laugh when I’m writing, even when I’m trying to be funny. Writing isn’t amusing or entertaining to me, it’s work. It takes mental effort, and focus, and it’s something I do because I feel a powerful need to do it.

I could say that writing is enjoyable, in that it’s pleasing to come up with sequences of words that sound good to me, to come up with story twists that add to the richness of what I’m writing, and it’s so very satisfying to be done writing and have the feeling that I’ve written well that day.

The enjoyment factor is important — if I wasn’t able to write at least as well as I now do, I would be frustrated and unhappy, especially if I kept writing anyway and never got better. The reward for writing is when I read something I’m done with and I really like it. As for anybody else liking it — that’s pretty far from a given. Never knowing if my writing’s any better than only good in my own eyes is definitely NOT fun.

What writing is to me has little to do with fun, though it fills a deep need in me.  I have to write.  How different is that from, say, being addicted to heroin? I don’t know.

At least writing probably won’t make my teeth fall out or my veins collapse.  That wouldn’t be fun at all.

 

Website renovation

Raven in Flight 2019 Lif Strand photoI can’t believe it took me the better part of two days to renovate my website.  I did it because of advice on what an author’s website should include in order to get literary agents and/or publishers to bite the hook.

Oh whoops, that sounds so crass.

Except it’s the truth, the whole truth, and I’m sticking to it.  An author’s website is supposed to be professional.  I confess I’m having a hard time toeing that line.

What an arduous task, but it needed doing and I did it.  Now I’ve got a static home page — meaning it doesn’t change each time I post something to the blog (what you’re reading now).  That alone took a bit of reconfiguring of the website.

Most of the work went into the About page, the one that literary agents and/or publishers will go to to learn about me and my fiction writing without having to actually read any of that writing.  The About page includes a link to my resume, which had to be updated, and a link to a bibliography of my writing.  I had to figure out how to upload the PDFs to my domain via WordPress and a few other tricks.

Now that this task is done, it’s time for me to get back to the literary agent/publisher hunt.

Oh, and the raven photo?  Because I love the ravens that live in my valley.  Thought I’d share the love.

Testing 1-2-3

I’ve decided to renovate my website, so if things are a little screwy around here for a bit, don’t be alarmed.  It’s just me messing things up.

Why the buckets?  Because everybody can use buckets, right?  They’re good for tons of stuff.  Maybe not for renovating websites, but hey.  Nothing’s perfect.

Wildlife worker exposes truth about rotted Mexican wolf program

Dexter K Oliver reveals some shocking truths about the Mexican wolf program in a recent editorial, Wolves Behind The Scene.  He exposes the rotten program as “a complete breach of public trust and scientific rigor”.  Over 21 years time the program has sucked up tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Oliver, a wildlife naturalist, works with federal and state agencies and organizations.  He trained for four days in a Mexican wolf inter-agency team training session while working for the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s wildlife division.  Oliver witnessed the  program’s inner machinations first hand.   He got an eye-opening, behind the scenes look at how Mexican wolves are handled.  He saw the wolves being treated like pet dogs even though the program is supposed to be preparing them to be released to the wild.

Wolves kill anything they can eat.  Unsurprisingly, in the first ninety days of 2019 forty-five domestic animals were taken down by wolves.  That’s an average of one dog or cat, calf or horse, or other not-wild animal every other day.  Federal agencies say it will take 25-35 years — and more than $178 million — to save Mexican wolves.

As Oliver says, “something smells, for sure”.

NOTE:  Sorry for the clickbait-type of headline and writing.  But the Mexican wolf program really is a farce.

Wild vs prescribed: Your lungs don’t care

Smoke from AZ prescribed burn impacts NM

Here in the Southwest we usually have very low humidity, which means our air is extraordinarily clear.  Being able to see mountains 50 and more miles away is common.  This also means that visibility can be used to assess air quality by anyone, as long as you have an idea how far away things are.

According to NM Environmental Public Health, if your know your distances and the objects aren’t easy to see in the specific ranges, then you should adjust your activities to protect your heart and lungs.  No mention of sending complaints to the agencies responsible for the smoke, but I do recommend you do that.

Visibility distance Recommendation
5 miles If you can see less than 5 miles, the air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness; they should minimize outdoor activity. These people should reschedule outdoor recreational activities for a day with better air quality. It is okay for adults in good health to be out and about but they should periodically check visibility especially when fires are nearby.
3 miles Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities. These people should stay indoors. All outdoor activities should be avoided, including running errands. Everyone else should try to stay indoors as much as possible. All outdoor recreational activities should be rescheduled for a day with better air quality.
1 mile If you can see less than 1 mile that means the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. People should remain indoors and avoid all outdoor activities including running errands. Unless an evacuation has been issued, stay inside your home, indoor workplace, or in a safe shelter.

Unfortunately, our public resource management agencies are not very interested in the impacts of their actions on human beings, even though the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires agencies to evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions.

The agencies are good at spinning NEPA requirements.  So sure, they evaluate (more or less), but that’s about it.  Somehow evaluation never pans out into modifying their actions so as to minimize negative impact on humans or the environment itself.  Resource management agencies decide in advance what they’re going to do, and compliance with NEPA is just a burden.  Thus there’s a lot of paperwork but little positive and lasting effect from agency actions.  What are the results of the actions supposed to be?  Healthy forests, not burnt stumps, for starters.   Clean air, too.

When I have contacted USFS and asked how much smoke particulate and CO2 a specific fire is dumping into the air the most common response is they don’t know but they are in compliance with the law.  An actual quote from one such response from the Gila National Forest:  “We do not have predicted measurements for anticipated CO2 and particulate matter.  But, every prescribed burn must have a burn plan, and we must ensure that we are in compliance with New Mexico Environmental Department’s Air Quality Bureau.”

Well, gee, that’s reassuring.  NOT.

They’re killing us with the letter of the law

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says “Wildland fires produce air pollution that impacts people’s health and other aspects of daily life… putting more people at a health risk from exposure to smoke.”

Wait, wait. Something doesn’t make sense here.  >> On the one hand government agencies are telling us to protect ourselves from smoke because a) it could kill us directly, and b) it could kill us indirectly (carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is on the rise, contributing to global warming).  >> Yet on the other hand government agencies that are supposed to be in charge of keeping our forests and wildlands healthy don’t have to even estimate and disclose to the public how much those fires contribute to the particulates that destroy lungs, the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses that are destroying our environment?

Huh?

It boils down to this:  Plants soak up carbon dioxide and turn it into leaves and branches.  Plants trap carbonBurning plants — trees, brush, flowers, grass –releases carbon into the atmosphere Not to mention the crap that goes into our lungs.

I can tell you that my lungs don’t know the difference between the smoke that comes from from prescribed vs wildfires, and I doubt the lungs of the people, wildlife, and livestock downwind from fires know the difference, either.

Isn’t it time for resource management agencies to get on board with protecting our planet?’

Seems to me it’s simply common sense to do whatever possible to avoid wildland fires, whether prescribed or “natural”?  I don’t just mean you and me, either.  I’m pretty sure Smokey Bear also meant resource management agencies.

 

 

 

Eat and be eaten

Bread loafOne of the components of dough is yeast, and yeast is a living being. It has been dormant but wakes to its potential when given food and water.  Food and water — along with a few other things — are what all living things on this planet need to survive.

Because they are living things I think of yeast as little beasties that I’ve given the opportunity to make whoopee in wet flour. They live, they eat, they digest, they multiply to eat some more, and in the act of doing so they transform flour + water into bread dough.

And then I kill them.

All things eat, all things are eaten

The above phrase is either a quote or, more likely given my faulty memory, a paraphrase from a science fiction book I read years and years ago. I don’t remember the author’s name, the book’s title, or much of the plot – but I remember that phrase because it is a truth that I remind myself of often.

I feed the yeast and the yeast feeds me. The little beasties perform an everyday kind of act that is easy to let pass by without acknowledging the miracle of transformation and the sacrifice involved. The living beings that are yeast will ultimately be given to the heat of the oven, where they will die. What is left is the structure they’ve built for me, a loaf of bread.

Keeping this in mind as I mix flour, salt, yeast, and water, then let it rise, fold it to give the yeast more to eat, and eventually bake the dough in the oven, makes it easier for me to remember to be grateful for my bread and all the food that I eat.  Gratitude is the only way to survive the harsh reality of eat and be eaten that describes life on this plane of existence.

No-knead bread recipe