Monday, May 18, 2009


There is a new dog here, a German Wirehaired Pointer who goes by the name of Gil. He's an ugly thing, tall and lanky with an unruly mop of spotted coarse brown fur and orange eyes. He looks like a mutt, the kind of dog which always smells bad, but his companion, Pete, a young guy who can't decide between a beard and a goatee, seemed quite proud telling me all about the breed. I only half listened, keeping my eye on Gil as he kept himself busy trying to mount poor Duncan, who was attempting to be polite, trying his hardest to avoid conflict by spinning in slow circles, always keeping Gil at his flank. He's quite willing to go along with just about anything, but the one thing Duncan won't tolerate is being mounted. After several attempts he turned and snapped at the red-eyed devil and reared back on his hind legs to demonstrate his authority. He is older than Gil, after all, and even though he's not quite as tall he's been roaming and marking these grounds since before the damn Pointer was even born. Pete seemed shocked at Duncan's behavior and said something about it.

"Well," I said. "Your dog is being is a bit domineering."

Pete shook his head. "Nope. No way. There's not a domineering bone in Gil's body," he told me and then went on to explain how Gil had been the sweetest little dog, blah blah blah, on and on, finally wrapping up with, "He's not the dominant type."

I glanced over to find Gil hovering above Duncan, his leg raised.

"Then why is he pissing on my dog?" I snapped as I pushed Gil out of the way and pulled Duncan to safety with only a little damage.

I don't think we'll be playing with them any time soon.

And it was time for a bath anyway.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


On the south side of the lake, not too far from the prairie dog town, where the first of the trees spring up along the water's edge--my precious Russian Olives among them--I have spent the last several weeks watching two magpies build an enormous nest in the heart of a young elm tree, at the juncture between its trunks and three solid boughs. For a long time it has been a silent thing, like some forgotten and useless organ, flimsy looking and not very practical. But the magpies, purple in some light, an astonishing blue in others, but always mostly black and white, have been persistent and diligent gathering sticks and twigs and all manner of grasses and binding them together with mud. Yesterday, as Duncan and I strolled along the shore, we were awarded for their work by the feeble calls of a nest full of hatchlings. We stood a long moment under the tree watching the parents come and go, swooping low and gliding from the taller neighboring trees down to the nest. Upon their arrival the little ones erupted in a chorus of want and need and I could imagine five or six bald, pink heads rising up from a mass of grass and feathers, supported by impossibly thin and wavering necks. We stood there a long time as the other walkers passed us on the trail, Duncan sitting at the trunk looking up as a does when he's treed a squirrel, waiting for a glimpse of the singers, their parents chattering as they worked.

Neither of us could sleep last night. We'd had a full day of cleaning, long walks, a long bath and what seemed hours of brushing, and even though sleep came easily with Duncan's head perched on my hip as we cuddled on the couch, it did not last. When I finally dragged myself to bed a little after two, Duncan and the kittens padding down the hall after me, I was unable to drift off again. Duncan curled up on his big wide pillow at the foot of the bed and it seemed the two of us spent a good deal of time turning and sighing before the persistent call of an owl outside my window convinced us we needed to venture back outside for a starlight walk.

It was a cool night but still warmer than the days we had only a few weeks ago. The sky, which was supposed to have been cloudy was clear, and the Big Dipper has finally began to rotate into her summer spot. The sprinklers were turning on and off at the edges of the parking lots and hissed and misted around us. And from some unseen vantage our owl continued to call. Even after we'd stepped across the street and skirted the edge of the park––silent and glowing orange under the lamp posts–– the owl followed us. Duncan kept his nose low to the ground, not pulling as he is wont to do when he is more awake, and while I watched for the coyotes and fox which claim the park not long after the rest of us relinquish it to the night I also kept my eyes peeled for signs of our owl, which must've followed us. Its call did not fade the further away from home we moved but stayed always above and quite nearby concealed in shadow and the new growth in the trees.

Thirty minutes we walked with our invisible friend, serenaded by the coming summer. And once we returned home, climbing the thirty-seven stairs before falling into bed, the owl fell silent and let us find our dreams.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

An Unexpected Kiss

It was not supposed to be a beautiful day, but the rain managed to pass overhead while we slept, leaving a wide blue sky in its wake. The sound of the drops striking the window and dripping off the roof to slap against the cars and the cement below kept us in bed long after we should have gotten up. By the time the cats, curled in their three familiar places, allowed me to stretch and slip my feet out from under the covers the rain had drifted eastward and the morning mist was just melting off in the thin, cautious sunshine.

As I stumbled down the hall into the kitchen for my morning tea I couldn't help but notice that Spring, slow and bashful this year, had exploded in a frenzy right outside my window. The tree which sits even with my desk and whose branches have offered the birds a lovely perch has erupted in wide green leaves, full and new and not yet inclined to droop with summer's weight. They are young and reflect the light, golden and delicate, not yet fierce, more truthfully than any mirror. Olive has taken to sitting on the sill in the tall window to watch the little brown birds, or the dark ones with the red swatch on the tips of their wings, humming and cooing to them, trying her hardest to whistle at them, lure them somehow through the screen and onto her whiskers where she promises to let them perch.

Not knowing how long the sun would last I turned the red tea kettle on low, leashed up Dunc and took him to the park, crossing under the three giant cottonwoods, barely green and still mostly gray but magnificent nonetheless. The park had filled up with the Saturday soccer throngs so we took the back way around to the management office where Duncan surprised the bunnies earlier this week. It's become his new favorite spot, shaded and cool, nestled as it is against Rebel Hill.

The bunnies were out again this morning, three of them, their tiny backs rising out of the grass like furry mushroom caps. Duncan spotted them a long way off but neither of us kept our eyes on them for long. Almost immediately a rather gangly doe scampered zig zags down the hill in our direction, bounding over the little ones and sending them running for cover amid the downed soccer goal posts and discarded street lamps. She paused only a moment at the edge of the lane directly across from us, sniffed the lilac-scented air and hopped forward.

I tightened my grip on Duncan's leash and moved in closer to him as his body tensed, pressing my thigh against his ribs where I could feel his every movement. His eyes trained on the advancing rabbit, who either did not see us or did not care we were there. Duncan leaned slowly forward as she moved within range, his tongue slipping into his mouth while he held his breath. Still she came, passing to our left, a foot away, her ears up, her body far more relaxed than I've seen from a rabbit so close.

Duncan was stone. I was stone. The rabbit, however, was not. While we stood motionless and as silent as statuary, she stopped, looked at us and blinked, sat back on her hind legs, leaned forward, paws dangling limply at her billowy white chest, and touched her nose to Duncan's. The world stopped, the traffic on Bowles and in the parking lot fell silent, as did the noise of the soccer drones and the four games of baseball coming from the diamonds. Even the breeze fell dead at my feet as all the morning's sunlight focused on that single spot at the joining of their noses.

And then it was over, as though some spark drove them apart even as it drove the world back into motion. Duncan lunged, she jerked, skidded one way then the other and then darted around the side of the building, her body lean and taut, her ears flat against her back. Duncan's mouth fell open as he took a great galumph of air and pulled me in her direction. I dug in my heels and pulled back on the leash until he stopped and sat hard in the pine needles all around us, his tail swishing through and scattering them.

I knelt down and touched my nose to his, the place where they had kissed, he and the rabbit, looked into his eyes and wondered if she had seen what I have always seen: innocence and joy, delight and gratitude for the unexpected, a profound appreciation for all the surprises life throws our way. No wonder she could not resist him. Not many can.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The world is suddenly overflowing with baby rabbits, cinnamon and bark-colored balls whose hops are barely discernible above the jagged line of the tall grass. I could cup three of them in my open palm at one time and still have room left over. From my third story windows Duncan looks down on two patches of grass and spends his days watching the bunnies, babies and otherwise, covert, lounge and sprawl out on their sides, half sleeping as their ears droop lower and lower while the honey bees glide over them.

This afternoon at the park, behind the management office where the broken goal posts and street lamps lay in rusted, discarded piles we watched two babies pounce in tight circles around each other, darting in and out of the hollow, steel posts and then back again, both completely oblivious to our presence until their mother appeared, ears raised and back tight. They paused, as though listening to her and then scampered for safety into the post. I released Duncan from his leash and he sprang forward, nose pressed low, head moving swiftly back and forth from side to side tracing the path of their romping. From where I stood three feet away I could hear the bunnies scampering down the length of the pipe. Duncan followed their sound and a moment later they emerged from the other end, their eyes wide, the joy of galloping delight still spread across their tiny, elven faces.

I'm not sure if they saw Duncan standing directly over them when they stepped back out into the damp Spring afternoon, but when he leaned down, his mouth open, his tail wagging, and touched his nose to their backs, his pink tongue flicking across them both in a big sloppy mess, they jerked and did a little hop which startled poor Roo and caused him to mimic them, shooting straight up into the air, his feet straight lines pointed at the ground. They darted back into the dark safety of the post and peeked out at us, one standing on the back of the other. When Duncan flopped down on his belly and crawled toward them, pressing his nose into the tight opening, they turned tail and scampered back toward the other end. He smiled and followed the clattering sound of their tiny feet and met them once again when they peered out.

Back and forth, back and forth they played. I could've stood there in the misting rain and watched the three of them for hours, those new bunnies and my big-hearted golden friend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On the Radio

Recently Chelsea, friend and owner of Hero's Pets–– was a guest on the internet radio program Awakening Denver. She spoke for an hour about natural, healthy pet products and had a lot of interesting things to say about the pet food industry as well as general pet care and nutrition.

You can listen to the entire interview either from Hero's home page or here. Simply look under Past Shows for the April 22nd show titled "Natural Pet Products--Doggone Good." There's even a shout-out to Duncan, myself and the blog somewhere in there. It's a great program and Chelsea did quite well. Not only that but you can learn a heck of a lot about what's good for your animal companion and what isn't. Let me know what you think, and if you have time, drop Chelsea a note at