Missing the HR Department


Sally having a strong conversation with Braeburn, who was bothering Hen (on the end) with Liam intervening as a peace-keeper

Nothing has highlighted the recent loss of many of our pack leadership like the introduction of a new member.  Since Pedro’s arrival, we are really finding that we miss the particular roles that Sally and Liam played as our “HR Department” for the newbies.  While all the dogs lend to the successful blending of new dogs into the pack, it turns out that Sally and Liam both had fairly critical roles that we may have underestimated.

Of course, we knew that Sally was a very dominant pack member, and Keeper of the Rules.  Many of the rules were passed along to Sally from previous Rule Keepers, Trout, and Bizzy (who created the rules and taught them to Trout).  But Sally also had some of her own rules that she enforced.  The Rule Keeper task hasn’t really been filled by anyone yet, although both Braeburn and Anvik have sort of stepped into the role.  They are just not as effective (yet?) as Sally was.

Sally was UNQUESTIONED.  She was calm and confident, and just took care of the education of new pack members as to what was tolerated and what was not tolerated.  She wasn’t mean, but she was authoritative in a way that no one ever wanted to see if she could back up her role.  There were no questions:  Sally enforced rules consistently and effectively.  She would break up disagreements before I was even aware they were happening.  She directed the pack and they respected her entirely, even as a very frail old lady.


Anvik keeping an eye on things.


Braeburn drama.


In comparison, both Braeburn and Anvik ARE questioned.  Their rule-enforcement approach is quite different than Sally’s in that they both know the rules, and know when rules are broken, but are not exactly sure what to do about it.  Both Anvik and Braeburn look to US to do the enforcing, so it comes off more of a tattle-tale sort of “Hey! You broke the rule and I am telling mom” type of thing.  Anvik has a bit more authority over the situation, and will confront the violator and inform everyone a rule has been broken, but Braeburn is much more of a pesty little brother, sticking his nose in other people’s business.  And when you are an annoying little guy sticking your nose in other people’s business, it often gets bit, creating more drama than is needed.


Liam the benevolent

Now, the loss of Liam is interesting because we really didn’t understand how important his role was for the new pack members until now that he is gone.  Liam was a dog who got along with pretty much everyone.  He was a big, bouncy, goofy lover, and he was really great as a mentor ambassador to pack life.  He would gleefully show the new dog around, introducing them to the sticks, rocks, digging spots, and cool shady places, but always in a way that mirrored the other dogs’ level of comfort.  If the dog was shy, Liam would coax him out of his shell; if the new dog was boisterous, Liam would have a calming effect.  He could be kenneled with anyone, and since he was pretty much raised by Sally from 8 weeks old, he knew and never questioned the rules.  He was enthusiastic, happy, and a really positive “buddy” dog.


Finny the over-enthusiastic

We thought that maybe Liam’s grandmother, Finny, would be a good ambassador substitute.  She has a lot of Liam’s happy enthusiasm.  But she also tends to come off as a bit of an over-passionate, ultra-gung-ho, camp counselor on WAAAAY too much coffee, singing camp songs with such over-the-top gusto that it gets a bit creepy and off-putting….  In Finny’s defense, she really did give the job a good stab, she just took it to a level 15 when it should have stayed at a level 7 or 8.  “Sing with me!  Come on!!  SING WITH ME!!!!!  SING!!!!!”


Dreamer, warming up the licker

Then there is Dreamer, who loves everyone, but is such a fervent love sponge, she just sucks up all the space and energy with her assertive attention-seeking.  When she can’t demand human attention, she resorts to head humping whatever dog happens to be nearby.  Not exactly the best first impression one wants to give a new pack member.


Pedro feeling more at ease

Even given our lacking HR group, Pedro has settled in quite well and is feeling more comfortable with us and the pack.  He has become quite sweet with us, asking for ear scratches and enjoying hanging around near us.  He enjoys playing with the other dogs, and even made a special friend with one of our frequent “guest campers”, Cayton the Dangermouse (who is not a husky, but don’t tell him that).


Pedro and Cayton being buds


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Patience for Pedro

Meet PedrIMG_8977o, the newest member of the Odaroloc pack.  He is a handsome yellow guy, around 6 years old (a baby in our kennel!) and he has been getting to know us for about a week.  He blended in with the dogs just fine, without a hackle raised, sniffing everyone with a friendly greeting.  The pack humans, on the other hand, he has warmed to a bit slower….

IMG_8988Which is fine.  We learned long ago with other shy dogs, that time and patience is golden in learning to trust.  The first few days, Pedro kept way out of arms reach, almost like a feral dog with no interest in human activity or goodies (who turns down a hotdog??), preferring to keep to the shrubs.  We spent hours sitting in the back yard, talking to him, brushing other dogs, scratching ears, or sitting quietly and just observing him.  He was not afraid, rather just not at all interested in us.

IMG_9009Over the week, however, he has learned the routine and the rhythm of life here, and as he gets more comfortable with the dog happenings, he is starting to become interested in these humans that hang out all the time.  He started coming closer and closer.  Then he would come up from behind and give a sniff.  This is all VERY good dog behavior.  Pretty soon, as I sat and scratched various ears and rumps, a yellow head showed up to have an ear scratch!  And maybe hotdogs aren’t so terrible after all!  And hey, maybe hanging out on the sun porch with the other dogs is a nice way to pass the afternoon.  He even got bold enough to check out a neighbor who stopped by to say hello to the pack.IMG_8955

IMG_2121We are really looking forward to learning more about Pedro from Pedro, and having new adventures with him exploring trails once the weather cools down.  He seems like a really interesting fellow with new lessons for us.


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Progress in AK

20160709_232746_resizedDave writes:  Earlier this month, I traveled to Alaska to help complete a few more projects on the house and yard; mainly things that we couldn’t get done during the winter months.  After a nearly all-day long process of getting to Anchorage, I arrived at a friend’s yurt to spend the first night, trying to fall asleep in the 1:30 am “dim” part of the day – you can’t quite call it “dark” outside.  I fell asleep and slept straight through until morning, which happened at about 4:15 am as the sunlight re-emerged from its (and my) brief slumber.20160710_065943_resized


Our builder/friend Dan had been hard at work in the cabin for several weeks, getting the bare drywall transformed into real walls with mud, tape, texture, and paint.  He found our paint sample colors that we had been playing with during the winter and painted the walls to match.  TC now claims that we must have been hungry when looking at paint samples, as the interior wall colors turned out to be “cheesecake”, “cranberry”, and “sage”.
They look amazing, and delicious.  The exterior painting was subbed out to an old Army veteran who shared stories of the Vietnam supply depot at Kam Ranh Bay while we applied paint to the house (driftwood gray walls, chocolate brown soffits and gable ends, and forest green trim to match the metal roof).  The paint looks much better than the former primer, and will protect the house for years of Alaska weather exposure.20160710_092259_resized

Meanwhile, we installed floor tiles in the bathroom and mudroom, and necessary items completed in anticipation of the new floors through the main room.  Prep items included finishing some ceiling texture and paint, sealing the upstairs window trim (in order to remove the giant scaffolding in the main living room), urethane coatings on the exposed wood on the kitchen beams and ceiling, kitchen window trim finishing, etc.  The stone fireplace hearth looks amazing with assorted collected rocks.

IMG_14321Between coats of urethane on all the wood surfaces, I worked outdoors to better secure the dog yard fencing, which was hastily installed after the ground froze solid last winter.  Base timbers keep the fence solidly along the ground, and rebar pounded into the ground at each end of each timber prevents the fence from moving.  Other projects that week included the vent system is installed to better circulate and exchange the cabin’s air with outside air, Dan fabbed up some concrete countertops to the exact size of our little kitchen and then polished them to an amazing finish, undercabinet lights will provide great illumination during the winter months, and eventually the laminate floors were installed in the main room.

The cabin tasks fully spanned each day, and the days are very very long in July in Alaska.  Again, we couldn’t have gotten it all completed without a little help from our friends!  So additional thanks to the following people: Peter and Joyce for a spontaneous housing option the first night; Dan for hammering through tasks like a madman and letting me harass his sweet puppy Opal; Jodi for letting us continue to borrow Dan for extended periods of time; Hans and Kelli for the ride from the airport to Willow and having our 4Runner “Shifu” ready for use; Rich for dirty chainsawing efforts and half a ride back to Anchorage; Tom and Mary for the ride the rest of the way and some great dinner company while waiting for the plane (and a good book for the flight); Lev, Ginny, and Sue for visiting; TJ and Lindsey for their good humor, heavy lifting, various tool loans, a cot and blankets to sleep on; the Townsite Grill for a decent greasy burger; the Stitts for fantastic homemade salmon/halibut kabob dinner; Newman’s for offloading our oil tank so that we could move it to the north wall of the cabin; and everyone else who offered to come by or take me fishing or visit or any of the many things that I wanted to do but was too busy getting things ready for another wonderful stay in our little TajMa-Small!


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Dirty Wow-Wows

A while ago, my sister found a neat coffee table book called Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories by Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz.  The book is a tribute to those special lovies everyone seemed to have in their youth – the bunny or bear or blankie that you just could not go to sleep without and hauled on your childhood adventures as a filthy bit of security against a big scary world.  (One of the authors had a bunny named Dirty Wow Wow, hence the name of the book.)  One of my favorite past times is asking people about their “Dirty Wow Wow” and listening to the resulting flood of memories about the time Bear had to spend a summer on the cabin roof because a mean brother had thrown it up there, or the time that Bunny was accidentally put in the luggage and lost for a bit during a plane ride.  It seems everyone has some childhood lovie (that many still have, myself included) that is an interesting thread of common humanity in the world.

One of the common themes of a true “Dirty Wow Wow” is the thread-bear nature that time, adventure, and love has on it.  Whether Dolly got a haircut and had to have surgery to have her arm sewn back on, or Bear just had his fur loved off and is missing an eye, they all start to wilt a bit to time (although are not any less loved).  The worn fur and the holes are just a testament to all the amazing the stories behind the friend.

Sometimes our older dogs start to resemble the worn appearance from many miles of adventure of a true Dirty Wow Wow.  Liam, in particular, has a certain “moth-eaten” appearance, is missing an eye, has considerable wear and tear about his seams, and just fits the overall picture of a teddybear that has spent many hours of play and fine adventuring over the years.  Liam is truly a Dirty Wow Wow, including the dirt!

I also feel that each dog that comes to us has a very special lesson to share and teach.  Liam’s lesson is most definitely one of living each day to the absolute fullest, enjoying every moment, and being just FINE with who and what you are.  EVERY DAY of Liam’s life has been filled with joy, enthusiasm, and wonder.  By all measures, Liam has been – at his very best – a mediocre sled dog.  Most definitely he would not be on very many dog teams based on his (lack of) pulling and focus.  He also flunked out of obedience school, is a horrible fetch player, and is terribly injury prone.  But that is not what Liam is about.  Because each and every time we do anything or go anywhere, Liam is the first one to be ROARING with enthuisasm about whatever it is.  Vet visit?  CAN’T WAIT!!!  Walk around the block? “BEST DAY EVER!!!”  Having your matted coat washed and then brushed out?  “YAY!!  I LOVE WRESTLING!!!”  And that is the true joy of Liam.

Liam is one of two of our dogs that we truly know everything about.  I was there when Liam was made, there when he was born, there before his eyes opened and he snuggled down in my lap and I just KNEW he was going to be my puppy, there when he first put on a harness, there each year we proclaimed “maybe this is the year it will click for him”, there when he lost his eye, when he got cut, when he started to limp, when we did a new technique to remove part of his scapula that was growing cancer, we were there.  I know who his mom is (Biann), his father (MacPherson), his grandma (Finny), his great-great grandfather (Worf), his siblings (Rainy, Bernard, Little Dude) as well as the people involved with each of them.  Unlike our other dogs, I know for a certain fact that Liam has been loved and cared for every single day of his life.  And by US.

Today Liam almost 14.  He is resting on his dog bed in the cool of the house, watching me.  I can feel his one eye focused on me with intense energy, waiting to see what is next.  He isn’t much to look at from the outside, but on the inside, he is a golden dog, who’s verve and zest for life will never ever dim.  I will end this and go promise my little Monster Dog that I will continue on living with the enthusiasm and love of the world that he has shown me, and that I will be exactly who I am and be proud if it, even if other people cannot see my special spark.



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Happy Birthday Grant!

A couple of weeks ago, one of our young friends – Grant – celebrated his 10th birthday.  After watching our Great Big Story video, Grant’s mom (one of TC’s college friends) contacted us because instead of presents for Grant’s birthday, he wanted his friends to donate items for our dogs!  We were so honored that Grant wanted to pay it forward to our dogs and our kennel for his big “double-digit” celebration.

This morning, we met up with Grant, his younger brother Grayden, and mom Natalie and took a nice walk with Tuff and Finny.  Grant and his friends managed to get the dogs some new cozy dog beds, water buckets, some play toys, a brush, and even a big bag of dog treats!  What extremely thoughtful and generous kids!!!  Tuff and Finn were more than happy to spend the morning with the boys and test drive all the new stuff.

As a way to help pay it forward, I know that Grant and his family are huge supporters of The Arc, and do a lot of fundraising and donation collecting to help out right in their own community.  So if you have an urge to support their cause, you can find info here.

Thanks so very much Grant, Grayden, Gary, Natalie, and their friends for your support and the wonderful gifts your boys bring to this world!  Happy 10th birthday Grant – BIG sugar!!


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Rainy Day Song

Inspired by one of my favorite Beatles songs, I present today’s Blackbird improv:


Tuff dog sleeping on the kitchen floor
Hoping for dropped food to fall his way
He is only waiting for his moment to arise

Tuff dog sleeping on the kitchen floor
His eyes closely watching every plate go by
He is only waiting for the moment he gets to eat

Tuff dog waits
Tuff dog waits
In the center of the kitchen floor


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B2W 2016

Bike to Work 2016

Dave writes:  A friend and I were chatting in his garage the other day, he pointed to an older road bike hanging in the rafters and asked, “know anyone who wants to buy a bike?  $50.”  The bicycle looked to be in good shape, if a little dated.  I considered buying it on the spot, as last year’s little triathlon had me borrowing a friend’s bike for the race; if I lose my mind again and attempt another then I would have my own bike to use.  After a few days of thinking about it, I let him know that I would buy it and give it a good home.


credit: vintage-trek.com

The rear innertube was torn, so the bike sat for a few days until I bought and replaced the flat tire.  Finally the bike was ready for use, and the next day was Colorado’s “Bike to Work Day”; I had signed up for Bike to Work thinking of mountain biking through Chatfield State Park, but now I had another option.  Why not commit to ride an as yet untested road bike that I am not completely comfortable on?  This story has eerie parallels to this spring’s trip to Moab for a few days hard trail riding on an untested mountain bike, and a spontaneous half marathon this spring with only a single warm-up run [insert spousal eyeroll from TC here].  I took the road bike out on a shake-out ride on Tuesday morning on the concrete trails in Bear Creek Park to make sure the bike was roadworthy, and everything seemed good to go.

The intent of Bike to Work Day is to encourage people to be active and highlight alternative transportation to minimize pollution.  “Normal” suburbia living usually offers access to a network of bike trails conducive to riding door-to-door from one’s house to one’s workplace.  We live several miles up a mountainous canyon, which includes a main travel route of a busy, winding, 2-lane highway full of under-caffeinated drivers, so I opted to first drive down the hill to a friend’s house before hopping on the bicycle.  There is an alternate route to work from our house via a different canyon road, but it is also a narrow, twisty road and I wasn’t entirely certain that I could trust 20+ year old brake pads to control my speed and prevent a sub-orbital launch off the side of the road.

My intended route mapped out as a 15-mile ride each way, enough to feel good about riding to work without being excessively painful on anatomy that was not yet conditioned to a hard bike.  The path passed through a few neighborhoods before feeding onto a dedicated concrete bike path.  I was able to try out some of the higher speed gears along the descents, and a small front sprocket offered reasonably easy climbs on the uphill grades.

About halfway along my route, Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) had set up an aide station for people participating in the bike to work day.  I was already somewhat fatigued and worked up a good sweat.  I stopped there to thank them, catch my breath, grab a quick water, and maybe put a granola bar in my pack.  As I grabbed a cup of water to drink, one of the hosts mentioned that they also had coffee and sausages.  Sausages?!?  Are you kidding me?  I am slightly lightheaded and nauseated from the exertion, and I have 8+ miles to go.  Although the thought and effort was appreciated, nothing sounds better for a roadside vomit within the next half mile than some wolfing down some sausages.  As hard as it is to turn down free food, I thanked them again and continued on sans sausage.

My internal monologue from the first half of the ride (before the sausage checkpoint) included such random thoughts as, “I’m glad it’s slightly overcast,” “the wheels on the bike go round and round,” “man, these tires are skinny,” “fifteen miles isn’t that far, it should be fine.”  Aside from the triathlon last year and one practice ride on the road bike, the balance of my bicycle experience (limited as it is) is exclusively trail rides with my mountain bike.  The transition to road bike made it immediately apparent that the lack of suspension routed all bump impacts directly through the seat to my backside.  The brake levers mount exclusively to the lower curl of the handlebars, so I can ride more upright at times, but sacrifice the ability to stop when in that position (what happened to the secondary brake levers of old 10-speeds?)

The final few miles travelled along a flat roadway to the facility.  At least when driving the road seems flat.  When self propelling, the undulations became much more apparent and every grade burned the undertrained leg muscles a little more.  By this point, my internal monologue included thoughts as “this must be what Sisyphus felt like,” “perhaps some training ahead of time would have been a smart idea,” and “I sure wish I had some of the anti-chafing cream we had for the Moab mountain bike trip.”  The final 100 yards to the plant property was a crazy steep uphill that I began in the completely wrong gear.  Unable to shift as my speed bled off, I tried to get hard onto one pedal and slowly grind up the hill.  Instead, the excessive chain tension pulled the rear wheel axle directly out of the frame.  What would a road trip be without a little field repair?

I made it in to work, showered and changed, and had a productive day.  Around 4:30pm, I realized that I also had to Bike Home from Work as well.  I left my windowless cubicle area to change and prepare to leave, when the building rattled with a loud thunderclap.  Looking out the door, there looked to be a brief window in time to hit the road before the imminent storm; I quickly changed and started pedaling.  The return trip was uneventful, other than additional some additional fatigue and chafing.  I arrived back at my Jeep just before the next wave of storms started some wind and rain. b2w

Overall, it was a great experience, another opportunity to better understand the dogs’ efforts when pulling us on sleds, and satisfying in the knowledge that I had the ability to pedal myself (mostly) to and from work.


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