The Language of Barks

When we moved to our current home, it was the first time my husband’s princess, Vala, had a view other than woods. There was a road that an occasional car went by. Once in a while an elderly lady walked her dog by. Occasionally ‘Santa’ would go past on a bicycle. Supposedly to lose weight but his pace is so sedate his bushy white beard barely stirs.

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That whole new world became hers to give loud commentary on. Squirrel? Bird? Her own cat sitting on his own porch? Everything was announced. And not only did she bark, she also body-slammed the huge picture window. One day I watched her hit the window so hard she actually did a backflip off the window onto the floor. Obviously that was a serious safety issue that couldn’t continue.


And of course that barking infuriated me. She wouldn’t listen, she wouldn’t stop, the more I yelled the worse she got…until a friend explained how a dog’s brain worked. That she didn’t equate my yelling with her barking. That in her mind there was this horrible thing in the yard that she told me about and then I got upset so that must be a REALLY HORRIBLE thing that needed more announcing.


Needless to say it took a bit to retrain both of us. My husband also built a big sturdy gate to keep her away from the window. The fact that she quickly learned to open the gate is another story.

At this point, she knows to bark and tell us something is going on, but she’s much better at stopping when told. She only body-slams the window when her arch nemesis goes by, but that’s also another story.

And I have learned to interpret her many barks so I also no longer need to rush to the window to see what is going on. Remember, we live in a community of maybe twenty-five people. Not a lot goes on even on a busy day. But when she barked, I had to run. Like I said, we’ve both needed training.


Our ‘back yard’

There is a rather sedate bark that says somebody is going for a walk. There’s a more high-pitched bark that says ‘Zoe is out again!’ That’s come in handy because Zoe is the neighbor’s dog who isn’t supposed to be out again.

And there’s the frantic OH MY GOD IT’S THE UPS MAN!!! bark followed by the OH MY GOD HE’S COMING TO THE DOOR!!! extremely more frantic bark.

The UPS driver is terrified of her. She’s a Rottweiler and she’s barking madly at the window. I keep telling him to trust me enough to allow me to open the door. Because once the door is open, her job of alerting us is done and she loves everyone. Seriously. She’s a sweet girl. She is most emphatically not the guard dog in our family. That job belongs to our old lumpy girl, Arwen.

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Caught in the act

Matter of fact, the one and only time in Vala’s life when she actually listened to me and came immediately when I called was when she was running from a bear. She flew right inside the cabin then turned as if to say ‘hope you’ll be okay out there’.

But anyway, the UPS guy doesn’t trust me. He now stands out near the street and waits for me to come to him. I hate it when my husband orders something heavy.


So for the past week we’ve been down with the flu, which triggers latent asthma so I end up sleeping sitting up. A couple nights ago I was out in the living room sleeping in the recliner, when I woke up about three a.m. to an odd sound.

Vala was growling.

No barking, no dramatic body-slamming. Just this actually quite sinister sounding growl. I’d never heard her do that before. So, a bit nervously, I peeked out the curtain. And saw nothing. But she was on her perch, staring out the window, and still growling. I waited and watched. And here, coming through the trees and into the front yard was a lone coyote. I hit the porch light and it took off, and all was fine.

I realized two things from that odd little moment.

  1. When Vala is barking her fool head off and body-slamming the windows, it’s all for show. Maybe even just a show for us so we believe she’s doing her job.
  2. Or maybe there is a little guard dog inside her and maybe when she’s being quiet is when we need to pay attention.

Or more likely, she was being so quiet because that was the one thing she didn’t want noticing her.


The Balm of Time

I’m waiting for snow to melt so I can go foraging for cottonwood buds with a friend. The plan is to then let them steep for eight-to-twelve months, to make Balm of Gilead. Yep, almost a year. There’s a faster way where a crock pot can be used, but I like the idea of letting time do its thing.

Kind of like I write. Year three and just finishing revising the first draft.

I’m not normally slow in all things. But some things need time. Or at least patience.

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Time flows like a river…with a big happy dog splashing in it

It took me thirty years to make it back to Scotland, to friends I love and places I also love. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but hey, those thirty years actually went pretty fast. Twenty-three of them were spent completely enamored watching a little lump of baby grow to a nice young man.

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A rose between two thorns? My husband’s sister took this photo which is why he’s sticking his tongue out…somethings you never outgrow.

I’ve spent ten years messing around with a couple little cancer bouts, taking my time to radiate and barf and then recuperate. The oncologist last week was thrilled with the latest blood work but not so thrilled, apparently, with other things we talked about.

Like grief.

You know, one of those things that people mistakenly say ‘takes time’ when in reality it’s there forever. She suggested I see a counselor and said that people who have been through cancer can have PTSD, and that maybe current grief is a trigger for deeper grief from those angry, sad, post-radiation years.

No thanks. Cancer treatments weren’t that bad, didn’t take that long, and were probably harder on my family than on me. I can see how they might have PTSD from putting up with me slamming doors and joyfully learning how to cuss.


She used to think her name was G*d-d*mn-it and would happily come running whenever I said it.

Think I’ll try acupuncture instead. I’ve done that before and it’s wonderful. And it takes time. And it’s something that’s been around a long, long, long time. When I did it before, I had time to step away from the rush of the day, to float with stories, to let go.

But in the meantime, here we are, watching life fly by way too fast. Trees were just dropping their leaves yesterday and now they are budding. Where did winter go? Now we move into spring and growing and renewing. Until tomorrow when it will be hot summer days, and the next day when it will be cool fall. That’s what it seems like anyway.

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Time flies, even when it moves slowly.

And so many things never change. When you realize how fast years have gone, you wonder what you’ve done to fill all that time. You wonder if you’ve wasted time. You wonder how to slow it down. You wonder how to fill the time left with meaning.

And then you realize time has flown while you ponder those things.

So you heave a big sigh, get your basket, and wander out into the woods for cottonwood buds.

And for that moment at least, life will slow down until it becomes just you and the tiny buds of a new spring in your hands.

Time between your fingers.


Sun dogs taken by my husband where he works.

Oh, the Drama!

Years ago, a small boy in a small town dropped to his knees at my feet, lifted his hands to the sky and yelled at the top of his lungs, ‘I’m going to DIE!!!!’.

It was Halloween. It was snowing. His mittens were at home and his hands were cold.

And then my son said ‘B… gives full size candy bars!’ and they were both off and running, immanent drama forgotten. Until they came back and this little boy dropped to his knees again.

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I believe that person still gives out full size candy bars. (Name withheld to protect his candy stash) And note this town is small enough that it doesn’t have city limits. Just one limit.

He had my full understanding and complete sympathy with the drama.

Years ago when my parents married, our new family needed a bigger house. In the process I realized I was going to be irrevocably torn from my boyfriend.

I was nine. He was my boyfriend because he always tried to catch just me when we played horses. You know, in the playground at school, where girls are the horses and boys are the horse thieves. And here I was being forced to move.

I knew I’d never, ever be happy again. How, you might ask, can I remember back that far? Because I wrote in my little diary ‘I’ll NEVER EVER BE HAPPY AGAIN!’

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Yeah…I’m also not gifted with being able to read the future.

Yes, I wrote it in all caps. I meant it. So much, that when we moved I took my favorite pajamas and hid them behind the bedroom door. I planned to sob uncontrollably in the new house, knowing my parents would move us back. Those pj’s are probably still behind that door.

So yes, I understood the drama. Have I outgrown it?

Of course not. What self-respecting writer doesn’t live in drama? How else can we give it to our characters?

A couple days ago I was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged with the editing process of the current work in progress. At that point it was the worst thing ever written, etc., etc., etc. So did I get to work editing?

No. Instead I told my husband I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt joy.

And sniffled.

And thought, I should write a blog post about joy. Not happiness, but true, deep, joy that makes you feel almost incandescent. I’d been thinking about the difference between happiness and joy after I heard a speaker ask if what gave us joy aligned with what we did. I thought I could write about how joy has been missing for a long time.

Or so it felt at that moment.

My husband knows me very well. Instead of laughing, he said all the wonderful supportive things that needed to be heard.

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My men know how to find joy, especially in Vegas.

This morning I drove to work very slowly. Luckily I was the only car on the highway. The music was blasting, it was just beginning to get light so the snow was glowing, and…guess what? I looked at the high mountains and the trees and thought, there’s a little incandescence glowing inside at all that beauty. I kind of think my inner joy was laughing at me.

So instead of writing a blog about joy, I decided I better write about the little dramatic child who occasionally drops to her knees and raises her hands to the sky.

She’s alive and doing well.


My husband’s view at work. His place of happiness.