The Desert Bear

Our dog Bear sits near desert plants at the end of the street in Scottsdale, Arizona on August 27, 2022. Original: _Z724553.NEF

I haven’t been up for a sunrise hike lately but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been up, just a bit too knackered for a short drive to the trails. I have kept up my usual wanderings around the yard at night, yielding sightings of Sonoran Desert toads each of the past two nights, and two tarantulas in the previous weeks. Our sprawling cactus out front has gone nuts this year with a dazzling display of flowers, but since they only bloom at night I have to try and grab a few shots in the morning if the bees aren’t too active, which is why I’ve been getting up early.

That’s meant I’ve been up a few times when my wife took Bear on his sunrise walk and I was able to join them for the first time in months. While he still needs improvement with people and dogs he feels like a different dog compared to when we adopted him, the training has helped tremendously. I had him pose at the end of the cul-de-sac as the sun rose with Troon Mountain in the background.

Ordinary Days

Our dog Bear sleeps on his dog bed while our cats Boo and Trixie sit on the futon on April 10, 2022. Original: _Z721143.NEF

If this seems like a picture of an ordinary living room, it is, and it’s why I love it. When we first adopted Bear we kept him in our large bedroom as he would sometimes chase the cats. I wasn’t too worried he was going to physically hurt them but he needed to be calm around his furry masters so they wouldn’t live in terror of him. He had lived with cats before but I didn’t see much indication of it and felt if he didn’t get better quickly we wouldn’t be able to keep him.

I took the picture in April on a day off when I brought him into the living room and had him stay on his bed and let the cats come as close as they wanted. The cats grew up with Ellie so were willing to give him a chance but not if he was going to chase them. The first day I had to keep him on a pretty short leash but on this the second day he was much more relaxed. When he fell asleep I got up and sat on the couch and Trixie came in and sat behind me, eventually even Boo worked up the courage to sit beside me. When they were both a little more relaxed I got up to take a picture of the three of them, and while I did Boo stole my spot. Some traditions must be upheld even in the presence of a scary dog.

I’m thankful to say Bear’s cat manners did improve as he got used to the little ones and he eventually earned his freedom to roam the house. With Boo I would feed both he and Bear some of Boo’s favorite treats and Boo would come right up next to Bear for those, which helped them get used to each other. I had to laugh when one day I came home from work and both Boo and Bear came to meet me at the door, with Boo standing underneath Bear, a sign of how far we had come. Trixie was less afraid of him from the get go but I knew she was getting used to him when she was sleeping on my legs and Bear came in and gave her a good sniff and then licked her in the face and she took the indignity in stride.

Twenty

Our cat Scout sits beside the catnip on our back porch in Portland, Oregon on May 6, 2005. Original: IMG_8116.cr2

Twenty years ago a feral cat gave birth under the house of one of my wife’s friends, the mother soon disappeared so the family raised the kittens until they were old enough to adopt out. We were offered one of the last of the litter and named our tiny tuxedo Scout. I’m close to all our pets but even so Scout and I had a deep bond, sadly cancer took her from us after 12 years but I’m thankful for every day we spent together. I’ve been having off-and-on trouble sleeping lately but it was never as hard as when I came back from a long hiking trip, she’d wake me up throughout the night either to reassure her that I was well and truly home or to tell me I was never to leave her side again, I’m not sure which.

She was four in this picture, sitting beside her favorite catnip plant on the back porch.

Deadlines

Our cat Templeton sits in my chair on the patio beside a glass and an Apple iBook on May 6, 2005. Original: IMG_8097.cr2

“You want the what by when now?”

Templeton working under a deadline in the spring of 2005 during his supervised outside time. He was actually doing what he always did, stealing my spot when I got up. I think I was prepping an older laptop to give to a friend as I had moved onto a 15″ PowerBook a year prior, but the old gray cells are a bit fuzzy on this one.

The Teacher & the Student

Our dog Ellie lies on the throw rug in front of the door in October 2014

Taken two minutes apart on Halloween of 2014, Ellie teaches Boo how to wait by the door so they can greet me when I come home from work (he was always eager to take her spot after she got up). Our first cat Templeton used to wait by the door for me, then Scout learned it from him, and Sam and Emma from Scout. But after Ellie arrived the cats learned to hold back a bit as her feet started dancing but she was looking at me and not at cats who might have wandered underfoot. Sam and Boo sometimes greet me at the door now but not with the consistency of the old days.

Our cat Boo sits on the throw rug in front of the door in October 2014

Smiling and Not Smiling

Our dog Ellie sits with her mouth closed in fallen leaves beside a tree near the dog park of Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011

With her mouth closed Ellie’s drooping jowls made her look sad and/or bored. In truth she was a bit bored on this occasion in the fall of 2011 and it’s why I didn’t take a ton of pictures of her on our walks even though I often took quick snapshots of the neighborhood itself. She loved going on walks with me and photos were an interruption in our fun time together, she couldn’t know I was capturing those fun times so I could look back and remember. My trick was to wait until she saw someone walking close or another dog approaching and she opened her mouth, for then the mix of sweetness and happiness that was our Ellie was on full display. These two pictures were taken less than a minute apart.

Our dog Ellie sits with her mouth open in fallen leaves beside a tree near the dog park of Irving Park in Portland, Oregon in November 2011