Thursday, May 31, 2007

Neighborhood Mystery # 3

Alice sometimes takes me on a long walk to the main Post Office downtown. A tree there is a bit mysterious. It's called a Dawn Redwood. It smells different from all other trees. Sounds different, too. A bit like the California redwood in my backyard, but the whole vibe of it is different. Softer needles. Alice says that's because it is not from here, but from China. It also turns brown every fall and drops its leaves which our redwood never does. The prime area of interest for us dogs - that sweet spot from ground level up to one or two feet is like nothing else. There are butresses on that tree! Lots of wonderful curves to save important dog p-mail. But... there's something about that tree.... something very special, dare I say "sacred"? I've sniffed it a lot but never left a personal liquid message.

That particular tree was planted from samples taken in 1948 from China. They grow so fast - even in standing water! - people are considering growing them for lumber and to reforest places where they used to grow. Alice saw some petrified wood from these trees at the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. They used to grow there 55 million years ago, but now it's just eroded badlands, nopal cactus, and a few trees along the streams. Quiet. Very quiet there. Quiet too in the Scottish Highlands where Alice has seen hours and hours of hills from the train with stumps like that on poorly sodded soil. Quiet and sad. Waiting.

Maybe that's what makes it feel different from all other trees in my neighborhood. A sort of hushed feeling. Waiting patiently to come back to life all over the world in great numbers. Knowing it will happen one day. It knows how to wait. 55 million years of waiting.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Trailhead Dog of Namtso

Alice went to a slideshow about trekking in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan the other evening by Cathy Ann Taylor of Mountain Travel Sobek. She wanted to see how things had changed in Bhutan and Nepal since she had been there in 1985.
Lots more metal roofs in Bhutan. Thousands of new tourists from China in Tibet. Maoist troubles in Nepal are easing so travelers can go there again. Cathy Ann is married to a Tibetan man from Darjeeling. A few in the audience asked her how much of the tourist money from Tibet goes to Beijing and not the Tibetans. She punted that question saying the Dalai Lama encouraged *all* to travel to Tibet to see things for themsleves and tell about their experiences back in their own homes. Lots of new reconstruction of the old monasteries in Tibet from the damage during the Cultural Revolution. Much was flattened.
But they could not flatten Lake Namtso! It's already flat. I just hope the government authorities do not let happen to Namtso what the Soviets did to the Aral Sea. But Namtso is a saltwater lake, so hopefully it won't be desalinated and drained for agricultural use.
Alice's favorite slide was of one of Cathy Ann's tour groups sitting at a table on a lush yak and sheep mowed field by the shore of Namtso. A large white and blonde-patched dog was at their feet. Looked a bit like me! But with longer legs, neck and nose. Cathy Ann said he'd attached himself to her trekking party until the end of their trek when he wagged his tail and dashed off to follow the next trekking group at the trailhead.
I bet that dog has some good tales to tell. And I bet he's a champ at begging. A Google search of images located for Alice some pictures of Tibetan Mastiffs playing on the shore of Namtso, but none of that white and blonde dog yet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Begging Basics

Yes, I beg. All dogs do. We can't help it. It's tasty, fun and yet another way to be involved in our people's lives.
There is an art to begging. First, one must sniff the air. Do the people have Something tasty or not? Sometimes they eat what I call underwater insects. Prawns and such. Not worth the bother. Plain bread? Fruit? Walk away. Usually one knows on first paw in house if there is something good. Anything beefy. Chickeny. Liverey. Gravies of all kinds. Roasted slow cooked meats. With those I usually get my own small plate of it with some barley or rice in the kitchen on the floor. Then the people sit down to eat a larger portion. A portion with enough for me I say!
OK. Here is where the high art of begging begins. Show an interest in the food. Make eye contact with the most willing human. Don't bother with Alice. She doesn't give handouts from the table often. Start with step-sister. She is *always* good for lots of tasty handouts. Start on the right. If that does not work stretch out on a carpet nearby maintaining that important eye contact and pout. And look cute. The people like cute. If you are a card-carrying member of the Cute Guild: work it!!! Go to the left side next. This 3-step procedure of right-pout-left always works.
After your fill be sure not to gloat too much. Show some appreciation. Get ready for the next sit-down meal.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


"Woof! WOOF! WOOF, WOOF!!", I said to Alice. She finally got the message that teenagers had stopped outside our house today. What were they doing? I worried and wondered. Alice didn't. She said kids that age like to hang out. Outside and away from their own homes. I'm trying to understand that concept.
Had to relax with a sunsoak in my backyard. Alice is very happy I'm starting to use the doggie door instead of waiting for her to open the office door for me to get to the backyard.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Yesterday afternoon, I noticed terrier Trace was walking by my house. I barked and barked for him and Alice to know I knew he was there. Alice took me outside for a sniff. She said she'd remembered she needed to talk to a neighbor about something.
Trace is still a bit of a puppy. He tries to jump all over Alice. Lick and licks her. I had to let him know he was going to far twice. GROWL! He backed off - but when Alice's camera came out he couldn't resist lunging at her.
Sasha, the neighbor's terrier is becoming quite the elder lady. She is slowing down a lot lately. But she still gets around and I do enjoy sniffing where she has walked on the block. She's had hepatitis and all sorts of other troubles, but you'd never know it the way she bounces around most days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hyotan kara koma ga deru

Been thinking about the neighborhood mysteries today. How it is so hot but the construction workers are going full blast on the five big jobs near our house. Several are down in a new basement laying metal roads on top of white plastic which is on top of new concrete, gravel and a big hole. Alice considered taking me down there for a photo of me "on ice" but it was much too hot. The men at the other nearest teardown have been putting on the second floor roof while singing rancheros. Today it was, "No tengo orgulloso ira el Norte!" A block away, guys from the Philipines have moved the front door of one house to another side of the house, added a new mini-roof to the new door, and are sledge-hammering out the old brick walkway today. In the noonday Sun! So much for just Mad Dogs and Englishmen being out working on days like these.
It all makes Alice think of the jungley home of an Englisman in Mexico. He liked to build wild staircases and garden things. He was said to be an illegitimate son of Queen Victoria's son Edward. His legacy is now that surrealistic jungle garden in Mexico, his old house in England with its famous Mae West Red Lips sofa made by Salvador Dali, and a school where one can learn things like tassel-making and go to an annual Chilli Fiesta. Alice tells me that's her kind of place.
These odd things all make me think of the Japanese proverb about eight traveling Chinese wiseman. (Yes, those Japanese got a lot of their culture from China.... who got a lot from Tibet..... And round and round it goes....) How at night the wiseman with the horse would fold up the poor horse and stuff him in a gourd for safekeeping. In the morning the horse would spring out of the gourd. "Hyotan kara koma ga deru". But the lesson of that story is not moralizing about animal cruelty or the unknown abilities of the horse, but how unexpected things will sometimes come out from the middle of nowhere. That's why gourds are so popular in Japan as symbols of unexpected good fortune.
You never know what may happen! A front door changing its position from one week to the next. A couch shaped like red lips. British spawn going wild in the Mexican jungles. And a horse springing out of a gourd.
A fun life, no?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Watchdog Duties

Being a watchdog is one of my prime duties in life. I use my great ears and nose to help the people know about possible dangers in the world. Anything out of the ordinary. Like the banging sound outside this morning. Might have been someone messing around in our garage. Was just a neighbor doing something. It always surprises me when Alice can diagnose a sound better than I can. She knows a bit more - have to admit - about people behavior than I do.
This old painting of a Japanese watchdog got Alice's attention. She wonders when the dog lived. Who loved the dog enough to have its portrait painted and then cherished. How the artist got down below the eye level of that dog. Captured its strong feet and legs. That steeley eye.
Yes, it helps to be huge for watchdog duties. But smarts and conscientiousness are more important. I am never off duty. Wellllll. OK.... a few times I have slept through someone coming to the door, but in all those cases the newcomer was not a stranger to the people.
And yes, it is tough. Very tough, to try to do one of one's main duties in life when Alice leaves me all alone. At least that is not often. And even when alone I do my watchdog job. Like I said, I don't go off duty. OK....except when I have backup from the people and I need to snooze.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mysteries of My Neighborhood #2

Here's a very strange yard. All the ground, including the parking strip is covered in black plastic then tanbark. There are a couple of street trees, an oleander bush or two and a couple of fruit trees. That's it. The windows always have the shades down. Alice saw a young man step out of the house once. We met once there those Guatemalan greyhounds walkng by. Those are the only signs of animal life there.
Why the sterile zone? Allergies by the human occupant(s)? No one seems to know.
Alice says it reminds her of the little house on one of her classmates' family farm. A little house that was really just to disguise an air shaft and elevator down to a US Air Force forward controller bunker for a big field of nuclear missle silos in the area. The people below came up a few times a year to mow the prairie grass around their house and once a year to a BBQ given to them by Alice's classmate's parents.
Maybe the people in the little white house near my house are just retired USAF missileers wanting to feel at home?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mysteries of My Neighborhood #1

An entry path for humans.... leading to a wall of ivy. Why? Alice wanted to take my picture on the concrete path, but there is something..... didn't want to tarry there.
Nearby is a fancy metal plaque cemented into the ground for a sculpture long gone. I've never seen the sculpture. Alice "says" there was once a carved limestone heart behind these clipped box bushes. I doubt it. I rarely linger over there, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Right where I was looking in that last photo of me by the yellow flowers was Danny! Today! With Miranda!! Oh, how exciting to see them both. I could not stop smiling and wiggling. It'a still like a dream.I last saw him over at Palo Alto Coffee in Midtown about a year ago. He was in town for just a few days - just like this time. And we met both times unexpectedly. It's fate.
Let me explain why he is so important to me. For the first year of my life, my first forever person could take care of me all by herself. The next few years, she had trouble walking long distances fast enough for me so she asked Danny - Dan, now - to take me around the neighborhood. Oh! I waited and waited hours and hours and hours for him to come up this driveway. I pined and pined by the front door. Some wonder today how I can be so patient! I learned.
Dan would sometimes take me for walks with other dogs. Best was when his special human friend Miranda would come, too. A big family pack. "Joy unbounded!!", as W.S. Gilbert would say.
Dan now lives in Santa Barbara and goes off on photography assignments. He still has that touch for all animals. Especially shy ones like me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Human Terriers

The empty lot nearby now has a big hole in it. Last week, people dug lots of shoring holes by Pugsy's house. Then a huge digger truck and a small one were delivered. Alice looked at the trucks, I preferred to look at the weeds and sniff across the street at the delicious bushes by the local school.
Diggy, diggy for three days. Huge pile of dirt this afternoon. Lady truck drivers have been hauling away the dirt. Neighbors Fluffy and Tuffy are exhausted by all of this next door to their house and yard. After two years of that lot being empty, the people are finally getting busy there. Alice said if the lot had been hers and she didn't build on it for that long she would have planted a big field of sunflowers. The squirrels would have liked that! Fluffy and Tuffy's person puts out sunflower seeds for our fluffy-tailed neighbors. And, the birds, too.

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's My Birthday Today!

I'm now eight years old. In human years that's 56, so I'm now much, much older than Alice. I think she is finally starting to respect my wisdom of old age and dog experience. Like Ryokan Taigu who liked to give presents to others on his own birthday, I'd like to give presents to my friends and family. To all my doggie friends may you have lots of walks, lots of attention from your people, and plenty of chicken, Greenies, and sun spots for soaking. To the cats, may your people respect your independence. To my human friends and family, I give you all a press with my head on your legs wishing you peace and happiness for another year.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

BIG Dogs!!

Alice took me to the Palo Alto May Fete Parade this morning. She wanted to see the Jordan School Band. They've been practicing their marching song every school day by marching right by stepsister and brother's house a couple of times a day. Neighbors come out to watch and applaud them. They are that good.
Have to admit, I much preferred the very BIG dogs with sharp paws. I could not sniff them enough. Alice lifted me up to get nose to nose when they stopped a few doors away from our house. Wow! Are they big!!! They pulled a huge wagon to carry the martial arts children who pooped out during the parade. I wonder if they also pull the old taxi carriage from Vienna their people have? With flowers in their manes and tails?
The parade theme was something about "make believe". So, lots of Disney princesses and pirates. Alice, however, chose to wear a green, white and red sash from Zacatecas on her hat because today is, afterall, Cinco de Mayo. So, to my minky chica pal south of the border: Viva Mexico!! Y Viva los perritos Mexicanos!!! Y viva Jordan, la escuela de la persona de Pika!!!!