Sung to the tune of “I Went To War And The War Won!”
i was going to proof this and add photos but life intervened. i guess the war won, after all. taylor bit my hand viciously this a.m. concerning breakfast preparation……it wasn’t served fast enough….so it was 911, cops, ambulance, e.r. for 8 hours; 2 broken tiny bones on left hand’s back, 20 lacerations, 3 deep enough for stitches. food must have been at the heart of this abused rescue dog’s past, 7 years ago.
Now, this is a long post, but it’s funny, so stick with Taylor and me to the end and we just might give you treats in the form of photographs????
Today is Day Ten of my 3 week arrangement with John and Bettina Caffrey, to watch over their house and care for their beloved girl, Taylor, while they bike through Wisconsin. So, here I am in the gorgeous city of Albuquerque, in the glorious State of New Mexico! You met, Taylor, my hefty, Chocolate Lab charge, in the previous blog. Lucky for us both, I have truly bonded with this dear animal, giving us a true foundation to work with on days like today.
During the past week-and-a-half, as I gradually recovered from my 36-hour, sleepless transit from South America, consisting of four flights between Quito, Ecuador; Panama City, Panama; Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California; and finally, Albuquerque, New Mexico, I slowly adjusted to my new spot on the planet. Oddly, I’m now back home….my home country….where I don’t have to worry about overstaying any visa. I can stay as long as I want! Wow! What a luxury!
It’s easy to forget why I went roaming in the first place. Oh yeah, life is cheaper overseas! Well, if you could see me now! For three weeks, I am living the Life of Riley (coincidentally, that’s my grandson’s name) in a gorgeous house; all because of my darling Grizzly Bear, Taylor; and spending for nothing but gas and groceries.
Oh yes, ahem…. some new clothes on sale at Chico’s! Well, my old ones are very road-weary, though now, my luggage has increased by a third and I haven’t yet grown that third arm to accommodate (ie: drag along behind me) that lavish impulse. This could be one of the reasons that I am newly considering settling down somewhere for a good, long writing and photography binge! And, there’s so much to say about New Mexico, a State that I was only vaguely aware of, previously.
Okay, so what does the above title have to do with any of this? One of the down and dirty truths of life in the United States is that, unless you live in downtown New York City, or the downtown, historic neighborhood of a funky, boutique town like Aspen, Colorado, or Santa Fe, New Mexico, then you simply must drive a car. The only spots within walking distance here are Taylor’s favorite peep and poop sites, and that just doesn’t cut it for human needs.
So, Bettina left me the use of her classy, silver VW Jetta and I have been picking my way to places like Whole Foods, Wells Fargo and Chico’s; all within a few miles of the house. While I was overseas, I had no car to drive but the ability never goes away. However, it takes a bit to get used to the absolute girth of our cities. Frankly, all cities are big but when you operate by foot and bus, you never even try to roam far afield. One reason that I haven’t bought an iphone yet boils down to the simple fact that the Apple Store is not located on Academy Boulevard, where all of the above are.
But, hey, my jet lag is gone, and Taylor and I are bonded at the hip. She sleeps on the floor beside my bed and walks obediently on her leash…. except in the presence of lizards, dead rabbits and cavorting neighborhood dogs. She sits when I tell her to. She easily communicates her wishes for meals, treats and walks; as well as her occasional, unfounded suspicions that there’s a dastardly stranger outside. And, wow! What a deep-throated bark she has! Taylor turns a bit Grizzly in her defense of home and hearth…. basically, her food bowl…which, twice, she has ably defended against……ME!
The first time, as reported here earlier, the engaged only the silver spoon; the second time, she engaged my thigh, which became a bloody mess when the Kibbles canister had the audacity to hang itself up on the sliding shelf and the food server (moi) did not deliver the goods in a timely manner.
So, a four-footed Grizzly she surely is! But, there’s no malice in it. She’s a rescue dog with a long memory, that’s all. It’s reflexive. I can understand that. My surface skin wound is only a scab now, and bygones are bygones! So, this is simply a description of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this usually sweet, calm, gentle giant – Taylor. Oh, another clue: I often call her a “him” just because of the Sumo aura that surrounds this hulk of a canine.
I bought maps a few days ago. One of this city; one of New Mexico….but none of Santa Fe could I find. That famous town is just north of here. I didn’t look all that far on the map and I live on the northern end of Albuquerque, fairly close to the Santa Fe highway. So, that fabled spot was at the top of my list to explore.
Plus, I knew people from there. It was made all the more glamorous by the fact that my movie producer friend, George Burdeau; Jo, a Xerox executive; and physical therapist friend, Francis, live there and had driven here for dinner Saturday night. George and Jo are fellow expats to Montevideo, Uruguay, where I first met them. George had, at that time, come up with the wild idea of producing a Reality TV show about my life and solo world travels and he had already come to dinner here a few nights after I arrived.
These folks seemed to think nothing of the hour’s drive and had suggested that I bring Taylor along soon for a visit, spend the night at their house, and see the fabled Santa Fe for myself.
Well, how hard could it be? Bettina had suggested jaunts in the car with the dog to use my time well in this State. I had a map now and it didn’t look all that far! Quite straightforward, actually. In fact, it might be very smart to do a dry run before making a longer guest-related trip. We set out at 11:30 this morning. Drinking water, drinking bowl, plastic poop bags, doggie treats. Kind of like traveling with a baby…minus the car seat!
A restrained baby seat would have been mighty handy, as it turned out. Taylor clearly indicated a marked preference for the front passenger seat. Luckily, I had filled it with my stuff and I also raised the divider lid thingy to prevent a mid-highway seat shift. My rational mind imagined the dangers of driving with what proved to be a constantly-uncoiling, coiled spring. I hadn’t yet located the air-conditioner blower dial, so lowered the windows in the back by half and the Grizzled One stuck her head and flapping lips and ears out of the window behind mine. Slobber flew! In fact, Taylor’s drool production is always prodigious. Try adding wind to that mix.
On the way out of town, I needed to run into the bank for just one minute. But as soon as I pulled into the mall parking spot, I received a loud and abrasive barking lecture about infants who die when left alone in hot cars! “Oh, stuff it, Taylor! You’ll survive this mad dash of mine!”
My next challenge was finding Highway 25 North. It seemed so clear on my map. Ah, construction woes! Then, the next hour-and-a-half was spent in blinding sunshine, through three Indian Reservations, at 70 miles per hour, with the equivalent of a skittish race horse shifting from one window to the next. That’s a memory I never wish to repeat! I sailed past several of the five exits to Santa Fe, due to smorgasbord brain freeze. I thought this was a little town? But, I finally chose one late in the list.
What will this famously spiritual, world-class resort town look like? Movie stars, jet-setters, and the wealthy, gravitate here; as well as to Taos, the ritzy, nearby ski area. I wonder if it’s anything like Aspen? I lived there for nine years. (Nope!) My gauzy plans were to simply swan around; dog on leash; perhaps locating a sidewalk café for lunch; where said dog would curl sweetly at my feet. I would snap lovely, prize-winning photos of all the intriguing ambiance.
Admittedly, I worried about where I might find a bathroom that would let me take a dog inside. She was going to need a patch of grass soon, too; a fact that she was now, loudly, barking to me as we drove into an obviously peeable cityscape. Her racehorse behavior increased. Oh dear! You know what they say about racehorses in that context!
Now, how did I wind up in the State Capital Complex? And, why are all the parking spots reserved? The backseat din was overwhelming when I finally pulled up to a parking meter. I grabbed Taylor’s leashed collar as she bounded from the door; now acting like a hound on a scent…..twisting around and about, pulling every which way, as if lizards, dead rabbits and neighborhood dogs abounded under every scrappy, available bush. I had only three quarters for the meter and struggled to drop them in while my arm-wrencher acted like a cat on a hot tin road. At last, we made it to the Education Department’s nice green lawn, where she quickly obliged with a pee and then, again, became wired like I had never before seen her. She was pulling for nowhere in all directions.
Luckily, I had already established an Alpha Role with her, days ago; probably beginning with the bite on my leg. Therefore, on the New Mexico Capital Lawn, I took control; realizing that we must now revisit obedience training, with which she seemed slightly familiar. She does always SIT on command. But, that’s about it!
I’ve never experienced dog training classes, but today, I proved to be damned good at faking it! How hard can it be? Bettina’s homesitting notes had mentioned a choke chain for Taylor, but we’d never discussed it in person and her regular collar could have easily slipped off the top of her head. However, I jerked the leash tight and held it close to her neck and made her “Heel!” and said “Walk Soft!” (do they really say that in classes?) and “Sit!” and always, “Thank You!” for her compliance. We made training circles on the manicured lawn. I was even prepared to clean up poop, which, thankfully, never came.
I asked a Cop where downtown was and where to park when this meter ran out. He spoke of a parking garage a few blocks away where I wouldn’t need quarters and I was glad because I was still faintly entertaining the idea of that outdoor café, if the Grizzly beside me would suddenly civilize. Alas, the garage was full and thus, with the Racehorse mollified with a treat, I decided simply to head back home…..if I could find the highway. How ironic, that I had come all this way, simply to school this doggie on the Education Department’s lawn.
Sweet! I’ll bet that this is one statistic that will never be bested!
Somehow, during all this commotion, my Higher Nature was taking stock of my surroundings. Indeed, Santa Fe IS different! I had expected the fuschia adobe, but I hadn’t expected its endless, otherworldly nature. Sure, I knew it was woo-woo but had broadly interpreted that to mean that part of the population was like me….pretty far out in the spiritual life department. This place was not only “terminally” cute…..as in “Died And Gone To Heaven!” attractive and rare; but, its turquoise and rose architecture mixed with the attitude of cowgirl boots, gave the impression of inside-out gift shops with woven wares. A big, draped Russian carpet made me want to jump out of the car and feel it!
I’ve just spent nearly a year in South America! I should be hard to impress by now! They practically invented spill-all-over-the-sidewalk merchandising.
Here’s my take on the subject: Santa Fe is not a normal American town! It’s not even Earthly! It must have originated when an alien, colonizing water-filled balloon of a spaceship splooshed down upon the scrubby desert I had just driven through. Then, eventually, up-sprouted this heavenly architecture, surrounded by shady trees, no less! And that soon became populated with beautiful, talented and unusual people, judging from the five I’ve met so far. Oh, six, including the traffic cop. In addition to George, Jo and Francis, I met Jeffry and Ramona, fellow expats from here, whom I met in Cuenca, Ecuador. I never caught their last name, but their photo is in one of my earlier blogs. She teaches belly-dancing and I hope to bump into them someday on these very streets.
So, that’s my theory! I can’t wait to test it someday, without the dog! In fact, driving through town, I was looking for a way to snag a newspaper so that I could check out furnished apartment ads. Here’s where I want to live! And, it’s only five-hour’s drive from my kids and grandkids! After today’s ride, I’m not sure how often I would manage that. Unless, I leave the driving to Greyhound!
That thought woke me to my present reality. The need to find the way home. As well as hunger. What’s this? A Lottaburger? Shades of the 1950’s! It’s a drive-in, fast food restaurant! Make that alien water balloon a Time Capsule, too! Oh yeah!
I pull into a covered parking space, equipped with a wrought iron picnic table. Each parking slot is a veritable condominium in this manner. My now happy, brown child and I walk to the outdoor serving window and order two Bubba Burgers; a Coke and a bottle of water, sin gas, for the non-carbonate consumer among us. I inquire about the restroom, assuming that I could surely bring the Leashed One in with me at this outdoor spot. But, the girl replies that it’s “Not for the public.”
“But, I’m a customer. Not the public. Ohhhhhh, you mean employees only, don’t you?”
Too bad I’m not trained for the grass like my companion. I collected my bucket of Coke and the water and we returned to the picnic table. Thank goodness for that amenity! I tied Taylor firmly to a table leg, not allowing too much wiggle room and returned to fetch our meals. It had dawned upon me that any café experience would be a shared dining one, given this particular animal’s radical behavior concerning food.
The Bubba Burger is not reminiscent of my youth. We didn’t consume that much food in a whole day. These are the size of a small dinner plate. In Taylor’s state of captivity, she couldn’t quite reach me on the opposite bench, so I got out my
camera and started snapping as I threw buns and burger patty chunks toward her. Catch! She did right well, but wound up with a flattering splotch of mustard on her dark brown nose. Like all good dogs, she said no thank you to the garden weeds: onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
I couldn’t even eat half of mine, so guess who got a second game of catch! All this, plus treats, on a stomach that only dines twice a day! What are we in for tonight or tomorrow as all this processes through?
But, that did buy peace on the drive home! Voila! She slept! Maybe, it was also because I figured out the AC controls and had the windows closed. Good thing, too. At one point, the outside temperature measured ninety-one degrees! Both of us were mighty glad to return to familiar turf and Taylor again became the easy walker in her short and simple, half-block walk on her own street.
But, dontcha’ know? She was very punctual in giving me to understand that it was her 5:30 dinner hour. I didn’t argue, but dished out a slightly skimpy meal of Kibbles. However, she did get a fairly long lecture when she campaigned to be included in my own meal. Alpha Mamma here, doesn’t ever allow that and she usually doesn’t even ask. “Enough already! Go Sit! Lie Down!” And guess what? She did!
From now on, me and the pooch are staying home! If there are any errands to run, they will be solo!
First Photo – Meet Taylor! Queen of the castle I have landed in, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, back in my own home country, the U.S. of A! All it took was a 36-hour, four-flight transit from Quito, Ecuador, over the past two days!
Second Photo – Before that, all it took was an application to Bettina and John Caffrey’s ad for a pet-sitter on my favorite matching site: www.trustedhousesitters.com, for exactly the time period I needed on my slow, winding trail to Denver, Colorado, for my annual family visit. Next, all it took was for them to pick me out from four responses, fire off a few questions and then to type HOUSESITTER FOUND on the posting and give me the good news.
They are a delightful, retired couple, lawyer & teacher, who are hard-core bikers, now on their way to Wisconsin to ride with the Roads Scholars, formerly Elderhostel, and visit family and friends in surrounding states. They plan to be away for three weeks, while Taylor and I soak up each other’s company.
Bettina’s Mother, Renate, came over for lunch today to meet me and we, too, hit it off marvelously. This couple has an enormous number of family members right here in town and they have the house to do justice to family gatherings. What a privilege it is to soak up this new and amplified definition of family as it can be, in the best sense of the word. It’s a second marriage for both of them and John is the oldest of eleven children…for starters.
But now, to the Story Of The Day provided by Taylor, the Rescue Chocolate Labrador, and the whole reason for my being here. As part of my quick briefing about house and habits of domestic canine and wild arroyo-dwellers in the scrub across the adobe fence: rabbits, coyotes, snakes and such, Bettina noticed that Taylor had picked up the scent of rotting rabbit in the shrubs. I remarked that she, no doubt, planned to roll in it; having become well familiar with that fragrant doggie discipline from my own little darlings over the years. However, I had totally forgotten this life-after-death reality when I took my charge for a walk after my hosts’ departure.
Ooops! Taylor had not, in the least, forgotten as she sniffed interestedly and roamed the vicinity, dragging her leash behind her. Forage, forage; scratch, scratch in the natural scrub vegetation and she emerged, victoriously, with half a dangling carcass! Ugh, the smell! She was trying to eat the thing as she ran away from me, full-well knowing that I was not pleased. I did remember Bettina’s story about how she will defend her food bowl with her life and very fierce teeth, if anyone gets too close while she is eating. A small vestige of her desperate childhood before this kind family rescued her.
Nonetheless, she was heading toward the yard’s gate, open front door, and then the oriental rug under the dining table, while swallowing fur and bones as she darted artfully away from me. I worried simultaneously about her stomach’s future and the stinky dead aroma which she was championing. At least, she hadn’t rolled in it…..yet! That would probably happen under the table, if she had her way. I grabbed her slithering leash, yelling ineffectively, “No! No, Taylor! Drop it!” and then whacking the prize out of her mouth with the poop bag I was carrying. That was empty, thank goodness, and it did the trick. I managed to bop the body out of her mouth and under a bush, while dragging her back inside, leading her to her drinking bowl to swish; then, thoroughly wiping off her face with a paper towel.
What was very noticeable, however, was her genuine docility as I exerted my Big Mamma Persona on this rascal charge of mine. She had not growled and defended her right to whatever delicacies her Ladyship might choose from the organic supermarket right outside her door. She knew she was wrong and she knew I was right and full credit was given where full credit was due. I complimented her all over the place for her wit and intelligence! This Mutual Admiration Society is a running theme between the two of us already.
HOWEVER, the story doesn’t end there! At 5:30, en punto, I fixed her dinner. Ohmigod! Rice and cubed chicken, leftover from a few days ago, when she was taken to the Vet’s because of a tummy ache of several days duration. Symptoms were loud stomach gurgles with dramatic moaning and groaning by the patient. The Vet attributed no more of a cause than extreme worry over implications of obvious trip preparation occurring between her parents. “Just give her people-food for a treat and let that belly have a rest!” said the savvy doctor.
Even now, when Taylor seems to recognize my role in her future, she has leftover prescription to consume, and tonight, I heated it making a big fuss over how delicious a dinner it was. Totally approving of this Chicken & Rice meal over her earlier choice of Rabbit Strongenough, I dished it into her bowl. Then, not wishing to deprive her of a single bite, I scooped my finger around the spoon to drop the small remainder into the dish beside her greedily scarfing mouth.
Taylor transformed into something alien! The noises that emerged! The teeth that grabbed that silver spoon! The attack of the Creature From The Black Lagoon! Was I ever thankful that my face was not as close as it might have been! Me and the spoon backed off and Taylor returned to her well-defended dinner. Makes me feel a whole lot safer to be living alone in the house with a warrior machine like that! Of course, I’m not afraid, anyway, but if I were….there’s the answer.
A few minutes later, I emerged from the bedroom to find a penitent supplicant waiting for me in the hallway. Every ounce of that really big and powerful animal was clearly at my service and filled with apology. I accepted. And gave her back her dignity by explaining that I really knew how she must have felt and didn’t blame her a bit.
She was justified. It was her bowl and how could she have known what I was planning to do with my finger and that little silver spoon’s leftover chicken. From now on, I shall remember my lesson.
But, embedded in both lessons is the clear example of the way this dog processes her information and the crucial, moral decisions that govern her automatic, as well as autonomic, reactions.
We’ll do just fine, she and me, with all this mutual respect going on between us!
This is the view from the rooftop of the Secret Garden Hostel in Quito, Ecuador. It’s a five-story, narrow hostel, and the Reception, Kitchen, Bonfire & Dining Area, are all on the covered roof with a glorious view of the surrounding mountains and the steep , gorgeous city. We are right on the Equator, so the temperature is mild. Just a few nights ago, I snapped these shots during and after dinner and, naturally, was unaware of what else was showing up in a few of the pictures. This blog will show you what I discovered when I began to select my pictures. A future blog will have to feature the results when I zoomed far in on the one bright one over the dining table. It is truly Otherworldly and Magnificent, but for some reason, I’m not being allowed to transfer the results of my editing into here. I shall persist! As well as to take Dictation From The Holy Spirit as to what in the “Unworld,” these Spirit Orbs are. But, because I will fly to the U.S. tomorrow (a marathon day, for sure) and will have neither time, nor expert help…. those closeups will have to wait a bit. But here are the unedited versions. No, it’s not the bright stuff on the shirts…that must be reflective clothing. Look at the sphere on the left, over the head of the guy in the striped shirt. It’s very bright for a spirit orb anyway and it becomes wondrous when zoomed in upon. But, it’s apparently, quite shy. Okay, on the night sky, the Spirit Orbs are high. I think those two circles at the bottom are TV receivers. I know these pictures are small in the blog but you can enlarge them by clicking on each picture. Orbs are very shy creatures, but they are in these pictures.
There are some Orbs here, visible in the smoke of the campfire. I know, sometimes, you’ll see them after rain, but only in the photos. Perhaps smoke is also a conductor? In the meantime, These flowers and the lovely night skyline of Quito are the usual result of our camerawork, with no clue of Invisible Entities…. or whatever they turn out to be.
Puerto Lopez is a fishing town and a tourist town on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. I had a cold on this sunny day, so I only walked about taking pictures. And that was a good thing. Because I got lots of good ones.
And I met a new friend from Lithuania, my dorm roommate, Margarita, and by the time I got on the whale-watching boat, the clouds had come in. The whales didn’t behave like they do in Sea World but they behaved as they do in the sea!