Tag Archives: dogs

Even the Deer Are Different

I could go on and on and on about the differences between Colorado living and Indiana living.  The landscape, the diversity, the climate, the opportunities…

But I’m going to tell you about the deer.

Indiana has white-tailed deer.  Colorado has mule deer.  I could go on about differences in their mass and height, but the real difference is in attitude.

White-tailed deer are anxiety ridden things, truly.

If they’re browsing at the side of the road and a car comes by, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt in front of the car.

If they’re browsing in a large field and see or hear something disturbing, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt toward a road.  Where cars are.

And if they’re just moving from one field to another, they leap onto roads.  When cars are passing.

If the deer is calmly crossing the road, and a car comes close, the deer will sometimes stand in place, or stutter-step back and forth before bounding off.  But—and here’s the crazy part—that deer will often trot out of the car’s path… then change its mind and dash the opposite direction just in time to get hit by the car whose driver thought the deer was (reasonably) going to stay ten feet away.

I lived just outside the edge of town.  I saw this a great deal.

Once upon a time, my late husband was driving on 465, the major highway that encircles Indianapolis.  He didn’t hit a deer.  The deer hit him.  Slammed right into the side of the car, buckling the rear door and shattering the window.

White-tailed deer are skittish and unpredictable.

Mule deer, on the other hand, don’t give a fuck.

Mule deer browse on the side of the road.  And when I say “side of the road,” I mean they’re right there.  Two feet from the pavement.  They really don’t care about the traffic.  They might look up now and then, but it’s passing curiosity and nothing more.

If they cross the road, they usually do it as a mosey, and they’ll make eye contact as they do it.  “Go ahead, hit me,” the even stare says.  “Just wait until you see what I can do to your car.”

(I should mention mule deer look a damn sight more solid than white-tailed deer, too.)

And before they cross the road, I swear they look both ways.

I’ve come upon mule deer while driving, and they don’t spook like white-tailed deer do.  They just give me The Look, and keep on with their mosey.

My oddest mule deer moment came when I was driving home from Tai Chi, on a well-used road with development on one side and open hills on the other.  I rolled up to a stop sign, and glanced both directions before moving forward.

And caught my breath.

Out the passenger window of my little Hyundai sedan, I could just see the chest and chin of a huge mule deer.  I had to lean over to see his antlers.  He was massive.  And he was just standing there, close enough I could have touched his muzzle were I in the passenger seat (and dared to roll down the window), waiting for me to get the hell out of his way.  Sure enough, as I rolled forward, he strolled across the road behind me as if he had all the time in the world.  And he looked at my tail lights as if thinking, “Yeah, you better move along.”

But the most unsettling mule deer moment came last fall, when I’d run away to a local campground for a couple nights.  My little Tanner-pup spotted a collection of mule deer, ran to the end of her lead, and barked like crazy.  The mule deer looked up from their browsing and advanced.  Even Tanner decided it was best to shut up and back down.

White-tailed deer were annoying and dangerous.

Mule deer…  I don’t want to mess with them at all.

 

To Catch A Pup

My sis and her family live on a military base, and I’m on and off the base a few times a week to help care for my nephews.  The road through the base swings around a field of about five or six acres near the family housing.

As I was pulling onto that road last week, I saw a boy walking, leash in hand, toward a beautiful and tall Husky sniffing around the side of the road.  Behind him, his parents were splitting up to close off escape routes.  I drove a little farther down the road, stopped my car beside a couple other cars, and joined a half dozen folks who had the same idea I did.

The Husky walked back to the boy, ducked his head… then tore off for the field with his tail up high.

For the next half hour, I was part of an impromptu mission to capture the pup.  Men and women — some in uniforms, some not — running back and forth in lines and arcs to keep the pup from bolting for the gates, and to gradually shrink his romping area.

And romping he was!  Head up, he pranced and sprinted and leapt all over that field.  Time and again, he bowed down in front of one of us, tail swinging, waiting for a single twitch to tell him where we were going to play next.

Everyone was laughing.  Sure, it was important we catch that pup, but it was so clear the pup was having the absolute time of his life!  And as orders and warnings were called (“HOLE!” was the most common, since the field was riddled with prairie dog dens), we humans played his game in the bright sun and cool breeze until the pup stopped, shook himself from nose to tail, and trotted over to the woman holding his leash.

More laughing, an exchange of waves, and we all piled into our respective cars and went on our way.  I passed that kid I’d first seen, now holding a leash with a tongue-lolling dog on the other end, and grinned all the way home.

As I was driving home, I thought, “This is one of those things that would happen to Francesca!”   Then, in the next moment, I thought, “No, Francesca’s stories have changed the way I see things, and that’s an incredible thing.”

And then I thought I should tell her, and tell all of you, about the Husky and the military folks and the laughter and the sun, and the power of perspective to change a story and a life.

I might have gotten teary-eyed in there somewhere, too.

#SFWApro

 

 

What Does Blair Bring to the Woods?

In my recent post on camping while female, I mentioned I bring weapons that are legal and that I’m trained to use. Out of curiosity, I asked what folks envisioned those weapons might be. Most of the answers involved firearms.

Before I say more: THIS IS NOT AN INVIATION, NOR AN EXTENSION OF PERMISSION, TO DISCUSS OR DEBATE GUN CONTROL AND RELATED TOPICS IN THIS SPACE. ANY COMMENTS THAT CROSS THE LINE—AND I DETERMINE THE LINE, DARLINGS—WILL BE DELETED.

Guns are the default, truly. When we hear armed, we think “gun.” When we hear weapon, we think “gun.” When we watch crime dramas, we see “gun.” When we watch the news, we see “gun.” So it’s natural to assume the discussion of weapons concerns guns. And, for anyone familiar with and comfortable with guns, it’ll seem odd to hear I am, too, but have made the decision to leave them behind when I camp alone.

So here’s why:

One-Mississippi.

Say that as fast as you can while you pretend to draw a gun from your holster (or shoulder a rifle), disengage the safety, take aim at a moving predator, fire, and hit the target.

Certainly there are people who could not only accomplish that skilled feat, but could also count on their single shot dropping the hurtling creature at their feet. Certainly that number is much, much smaller than the number of people who think they could do it.

I do not count myself as one of those skilled people. I don’t spend enough time with a firearm in my hand to count my knowledge as “skill.” And the more I gained actual skill in other areas, the more I realized the limitations of both the firearm and my ability to wield it as anything but a weapon of desperate and last resort in most circumstances.

It seems logical to want a firearm in bear country, but only if the actual nature of bears and attacks aren’t long considered. Many bear attacks happen under conditions of mutual surprise: the bear is startled by the sudden appearance of a human, and so startles the human by charging and mauling. There is a great deal of speed, a great deal of mass, and a great little smidgeon of time involved.

The same is true when it’s a mountain lion, but without the smidgeon of time. I mean, if a mountain lion wants you, it’ll stalk you from behind or drop from above and bite the back of your neck to kill you. A good thing it is mountain lions aren’t much interested in adult humans.

So once I put that information together with the actual cumulative likelihood of being attacked by a bear or mountain lion (it happens to a total of five or six people in Colorado a year), and with the knowledge of what I can do to further reduce the likelihood (safe and simple actions often not taken by folks who are attacked outside city limits), bringing a gun along didn’t seem all that important. In fact, some of the research I looked at seemed to point to bear and mountain lion attacks bearing a striking similarity in setting to sexual assault: wildlife attacks are more likely to occur on one’s home property than in the wilderness.

But there are indeed well-trained and experienced gun carriers who could pull off the shot, and quite a few more who are certain they could if properly motivated.* Are you one of theem? Try it with a stationary target. Then simulate the live attack by having a friend toss a 300-pound sack of unsheathed daggers at you when you least expect it. One-Mississippi.

I mean, absolutely the right gun in the right hands will stop a bear or mountain lion. I don’t dispute that. But the absolutely comes into play only in the presence of the those two “rights.”

So how about two-legged predators? The ones who lie in wait along remote mountain paths in anticipation of a lone victim out for a five-mile hike? Or the ones who cruise through campgrounds after dark in search of a lone victim asleep in a tent?

Well… those are almost non-existent. The hiker or camper is far more likely to be attacked by a bear or mountain lion than a skulking human. Yes, it happens. But we’ve discussed the actual likelihood of a woman being attacked before.  Searching Colorado news reports for the last year—imperfect, but what I have time to do—I find one report of sexual assault in a Colorado campground. It was, heartbreakingly, a crime against two children camping with their parents.

But let’s put the data aside completely. Let’s assume that, no matter the statistical risk, I want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. The rare horrible thing.

I still am not going to reach first for a gun because, as I mentioned above, the more I understand about how attacks actually go down, the less effective I see the gun as a defensive weapon in my hands in most scenarios.

One-Mississippi.

Just as with wildlife attacks, folks consistently underestimate how quickly a human attack happens and overestimate how quickly they can respond. If I’m going to be jumped by someone on a trail, the attacker would have to give me—at my skill level with a gun—about three Mississippis… which means I’d have to count on being attacked by an incompetent attacker suffering from a sprained ankle and a fever.

Or perhaps we’ll go with the creepy nighttime attack, the attacker who will attempt to silently unzip my tent and creep inside before I awake. Do I need a gun to stop that person? Only if I’m unwilling to move from my sleeping bag. And honestly, from the perspective of someone who has camped in Indiana, where many popular camping areas involve sites that are quite close to their neighbors, I wouldn’t want anyone firing blindly through a tent wall within fifteen feet of where my kid was sleeping in an RV.

So what do I bring along? What do I consider part of my self-defense?

My dog. Even though he has the appearance of a dog who could be a weapon, he absolutely is not. He is a defensive tool. An alarm against all attackers, and a deterrent for two-legged attackers. He has given warning of Something Scary Is Ahead during our hikes. He has growled deep in his chest when something walks past our tent in the middle of the night. I’ve watched people give our campsite a wide berth once he stands up to stare at their passing.

I don’t expect him to attack any creature that comes to attack me, but I know I can count on him to warn me, and a heeded warning can be a lifesaving thing. And in some instances, a big dog makes a potential target seem to be just too much trouble to mess with.

Bear spray. This is something I added since moving out here. I’ve carried pepper spray before, but never much worried about it while camping in Indiana because that state doesn’t have the wildlife population of Colorado. Unlike a firearm, I don’t have to be concerned with fantastic aim and slamming stopping power. Bears don’t like this stuff. Bears run away. I don’t think mountain lions would much like it, either, and am pretty sure a human getting a noseful of it will desire to be elsewhere at a rapid pace. Yes, there is a risk of spraying myself. As with any weapon, practice pays off.

My bo. It’s about six feet of hardwood, of a diameter that fits firmly in my fist, and I’ve spent far more hours with it—striking stationary and moving targets—than I am likely to spend with any firearm. It lets me strike and thrust at a distance or at medium range. It can be a shield against attacks at medium or close range. It’s in my hand when I hike, either as a walking stick or in an “at ease” position at my side. It leans against my chair when I’m beside the campfire. I can’t swing it inside a tent, but I can darn sure ram its end into the face of someone trying to sneak in. That would really hurt.

And please—please—understand that bo-as-weapon is nothing like bo-as-baton-twirling. I mean, I can twirl a bo to amuse my instructors, and there’s a whole tournament scene where people compete in bo twirling and acrobatics. But y’all know I’m likely to point out the difference between what flashes and what works. I prefer Yamanni Ryu.

Knife. I’ve a couple I trade off wearing, depending what I feel like. My preferred is better for stabbing, though it’s sharp enough for cutting. One is better for cutting, but can certainly stab as well. One is quite heavy. One is light. But no matter which I have, I know if I’m using it against an animal—four-legged or two-legged—I’m also like to be in the process of being injured myself. A knife is an up-close, personal weapon. I’d be perfectly content to go through life without testing my capabilities with one.

Like a gun, a knife takes time to draw. But, unlike a firearm, I feel perfectly comfortable sleeping with one at my fingertips, even with my dog tromping and rolling around in the tent, as the accidental discharge of a blade is highly unlikely.

There are other things I bring along should the fancy strike me, and a multitude of camping accessories that can certainly be utilized should the need arise, but the four things above are as about as complicated as I’m likely to get. I didn’t feel any more or less safe for the presence or absence of a gun. Others will feel differently, and I respect that. Others will have different skill sets and abilities, and I most certainly respect that.

Should circumstances change, my preferences might change as well.  (I might feel safer, reasonably or not carrying during springtime hikes, when bears have cubs to protect.) But I’m good for now.

And really, more than anything, I was just curious what most folks thought I carried into the woods. 🙂

*This is the same magical thinking that happens with folks who have a few years of martial arts training. “I know how to score in a sparring match, therefore my punch will stop an attacker.”

Frost On the Remnants Of Summer

100_2193That’s my outdoor solar lamp. (Frost is covering the little panel on top.) The citronella candle is hiding behind it.

The boy has taken himself off to work, packing Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. The remaining leftovers are packaged and/or frozen for future meals. The turkey carcass is tucked in the freezer for future soup, and the dogs are mightily disappointed they weren’t allowed to take it outside for themselves. (Raw bones are okay, but cooked bones are not.)

Now I’m settling in with warm cranberry wine, goat cheese and sourdough. I’ve a little noveling to do today.

Making the 50K NaNo goal isn’t going to happen, but I did get 20K of first-draft fiction down.  This is a big deal, since my fiction projects since Viable Paradise have been all about revising previous works that were salvageable.  That 20K of this month is all brand-spanking-new and shiny.  Yes, I stumbled around, wrote and deleted at least as much as I kept, and wandered down some research roads when I should have been pounding out words.  But I am having fun, so screw the wordcount. 🙂

Besides, a bunch of other cool things happened this month, and I wouldn’t have wanted a miss a single one of them.

(Okay, maybe I’d have wanted to tinker with some of the events, but not miss them altogether.  Hee.)

There Is No Such Thing As Typical

Today the 30-day blog challenge is to describe a typical day from my life.

I do not have typical days.

The best and the worst thing about being self-employed in three different fields–karate, wellness, writing–while also homeschooling a teenager is that no two consecutive days will be alike.  Toss in a sister who works as a flight attendant while parenting my little nephews, parents who love to spend time with extended family, and two crazy-sweet dogs, and it is guaranteed days will be interesting in the ancient proverb sense.

Let’s take today, for instance.

Up at eight in the morn (because I suck at early rising) to get laundry rolling and hoe the garden before it gets to muggy.  By nine, the garden has been weeded, laundry is well underway, breakfast has been eaten by human and canine residents, and I’ve settled in to answer wellness emails while the Son works through his assignments in algebra and economics.  We talk about Doctor Who somewhere in there.  At a few minutes after eleven, the Son and I head out the door, with the Son driving.  (We’re trying to figure out how to get the time for his driving test in before the end of the month.)

The Son sees his econ/algebra teacher for two hours.  In that time, I run to the printing shop to pick up karate-related stuff, then see a karate student at his own factory to provide a private lesson on kata and kicks.  We finish ten minutes late, which means I barely make it back to the teacher’s office in time.  But the teacher is also running late, so all’s good.  I return phone calls while I wait: a client looking for info on digestive enzymes, the mechanic trying to schedule what might be an all-day job for my car, someone seeking information on karate classes.

By the time we return home, it’s a little after two.  The dogs dance on their back legs as if we’ve been gone forever and threatened to never return.  Fortunately, the Lab didn’t find any unattended food items to devour, and the Bull-Boxer-Rotty didn’t tear up anything in his crate, so their greetings were well-received.  We indulge in many minutes of playing with the dogs because it makes the entire day better for all involved.

Then came the midday ninety minutes with the Son, when we make something quick and easy for lunch before sitting down to watch one of the nighttime shows we record to watch together.  Today was the most recent episode of Falling Skies.  I ate a Sloppy Joe and salad.  The Son had the Moo Shu left over from last night and a banana.

After the show, we chatted for a bit before the Son had to start his government assignment and I had to be out the door.  I reached the dojo just five minutes ahead of both my instructor and my sparring partner.  Fifteen minutes of kata work and forty-five minutes of sparring followed.  Less than five minutes after the end of practice, I bowed beginning students on the mat for the first class of the evening.  Four hours later, around nine, I bowed my last students off the mat.  In between, I taught some students a new kata, others a new throw, then worked as both teacher and uki for an hour of multiple-attacker self-defense.

Upon arriving home, a shower–quick and cold–was the second order of business.  The first was to hug the Son.  Since the Son is working on a Minecraft something or other video and chatting with his international friends, I am left to my own devices: more answering of email, petting the crazy sweet dogs, and writing this post.  By eleven, I’ll be settled enough to get some fiction in before my eyes begin to cross.  By midnight, I’ll curl up in bed with my yet-nameless Kindle, and read until I fall asleep somewhere around one in the morn.

And that’s about as typical as it gets around here.  Tomorrow I’ll teach karate again in the evening, and the Son and I will still spend our midday time together, but everything else will be different.

That midday time is most precious to me.  Because the Son and I both often work evenings, we can’t have dinner together very often.  Instead, lunch is our time.