Category Archives: Animals

View from Nowhere

The news makes you feel terrible and guilty and ashamed. But you jones for more, popping outrage or fear or morbid curiosity like a junkie on the good shit. These dealers don’t disappoint—they even give it to you free. Brought to you by advertising. Advertising makes you feel terrible and guilty and ashamed. What a loser I am, I’ll never have this thing or travel to this place or wear this style.

Consumerism appears to be a misery-based system, a distortion of reality as unnatural as big fake boobs, yet we desperately need the what’s left of the jobs that make it happen. This polarization of principles is so ingrained we think it’s normal. Exactly how much is the politically correct amount to enjoy life? Is the key to happiness acceptance or aspiration? Gratitude or greed? Or is it just being true to our own delusions?

In an endless cycle of madness, the news stories that sicken us when exposing sweat shops, diamond mines, factory farming  and all forms of human and ecological exploitation are bankrolled by the same companies that produce and advertise these products from hell. Many of us in our hearts feel manipulated. Some of us become freegans by necessity, some really try to break free, and many are just owned by the system—the cult of the follower. In some futuristic world it will be politically correct to effect a global campaign against overpopulation but until then, the planet convulses in desperate imbalance.

I took maybe a thousand pictures this year, making up blog post titles as I went, but in the end none seem worthy of more than a caption. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I have too much. And with the holiday season coming up, I may well augur my head firmly into the hard red Arizona sand, as I don’t wish to get caught off guard hyperventilating through some evil diamond ad or cringing at Black Friday anarchy videos. Consumerism is like a chain of mob bosses, each rung generating new predators in the midst of hard-sell hysteria.

So what is real? For me it’s a brief moment of relief from routine gloomwatch. A blink of anti-bleak. A lizard-brained lapse in my neuro-guerilla-theater-of-the-damned. Here are a few of those moments.

Alligator lizard in my driveway—looks like a snake with legs.

One of my customers throws apples out into his yard at night and they're always gone in the morning. He got a birdcam and we are thrilled to discover who's eating them!

One of my customers throws apples out into his yard at night and they’re always gone in the morning. He got a birdcam and we are thrilled to discover who’s eating them!

What's better than an elegant little gray fox? Two of them.

What’s better than an elegant little gray fox? Two of them.

This has got to be the offspring of an adult regal horned lizard I've seen in my yard in previous years. I am so honored. I keep my water stations clean and they love it.

This has got to be the offspring of an adult regal horned lizard I’ve seen in my yard in previous years. I am so honored. It means I’m doing something right.

Saw this old cowboy traveling down Hereford Rd. with his packhorses.

Saw this old cowboy traveling down Hereford Rd. with his packhorses.

He was a seriously cool guy. Just rides around the country. He gave me a paper about a Christian organization whose purpose is feeding people. I gave him $10 and some directions.

He was a very cool guy. Just rides around the country. He gave me a paper about a Christian organization that feeds people. I gave him $10 and some directions.

Best monsoon ever this year. So many frogs and toads and critters of all kinds. Our driveway is a popular spot because the porch light attracts lots of yummy insects.

Best monsoon ever this year. So many frogs and toads and critters of all kinds. Our driveway is a popular spot because the porch light attracts lots of yummy insects.

A curious leaf bug

A curious leaf bug

The swallows came as they always do and had two broods on the porch light. The juveniles like to snuggle as long as they can, until they're almost full grown.

The swallows came as they always do and had two broods on the porch lamp. The juveniles like to snuggle as long as they can, until they’re almost full grown.

Right before the swallows leave for the winter they are very active and busy. They must be planning. The parents and their two broods of three (one died) gathered on the street cable beginning of October, and then they were gone.

In the days right before the swallows leave for the winter they are more active and vocal and close-knit than usual. Then the parents and their two broods of three (one died) gathered on the street cable beginning of October, and then they were gone.

I borrowed my customer's birdcam and got the best pictures of the Mexican longnosed bats since I've been here.

I borrowed my customer’s birdcam and got the best pictures of the Mexican longnosed bats since I’ve been here.

I wasn't able to record their acrobatics as well with my camera as well as the birdcam does.

I haven’t been able to record their acrobatics with my camera as well as the birdcam does. Look at the barren mulberry trees—we had a Tussock’s caterpillar plague that stripped every mulberry in town. That’s another story.

The birdcam picked up these javelinas too. Nobody really wants them in their yards though because they can be aggressive.

The birdcam picked up these javelinas too. Nobody really wants them in their yards though because they can be aggressive.

I've been going over the border more for a couple of reasons. There are so many strays, it's so depressing. I could not walk by this emaciated, sick little guy I saw on the street. I picked him up and took him home. I thought they might give me some trouble at the border crossing but they didn't.

I’ve been going over the border more often for a couple reasons. There are so many strays, it’s so depressing. I could not walk by this emaciated, sick little guy I saw on the street. I picked him up and took him home. I thought they’d give me trouble at the border crossing but they didn’t.

Here he is a week later, healing physically and mentally. I can't keep him so when he is fully healthy he will make a loving person and wonderful pet. Border Animal Rescue (praise them) are helping me with his vet bills. He weighs four lbs. and how he ever survived on the street is a mystery.

Here he is a week later, healing physically and mentally. I named him Dante. I can’t keep him so when he is fully healthy he will be adopted into a loving home. Border Animal Rescue (praise them) is helping me with his vet bills. He weighs four lbs. He probably wouldn’t have survived much longer because it’s so cold at night now.

Jada, Blitz, Rabbit, Mops. I don't know why people are always saying cats and dogs don't get along, or that you have to be a dog person or cat person. It's a stupid myth that needs to be let go.

Some members of my family, Jada, Blitz, Rabbit, Mops. I don’t know why people are always saying cats and dogs don’t get along, or that you have to be a dog person or cat person. It’s a stupid myth that needs to go.

I was walking out in the scrub with Jada and met an earthy woman who showed me her home. It's an honest to god mud hut complete with outhouse. I had no idea it was there.

I was walking out in the scrub with Jada and met a woman who showed me her home. It’s an honest-to-god mud hut complete with outhouse. I had no idea it was there.

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To Whom It May Concern

Sometimes having a blog with your name plastered all over it can hold you back from what’s really on your mind. When personal crises hit, you desperately want to write about them, but you can’t because you feel watched, like anything you say may be used against you. The same holds true for political opinions.

I’ve been a dimsel in damstress. The curl of smoke over my head rises from an existential blast zone that craves discussion, but I stand stupidly speechless. My honesty, phrased as diplomatically as a seasoned observer of crazy can express, has cost me. When a relationship—whether it work, family, friend, or love—demands more of your soul than you are able to give, we have the right to bow out. Wouldn’t someone want to know why? Not if the parties you’re dealing with are controlling, narcissistic, or immature, and you find yourself the target of blame-laced, ego-driven invective. These true colors, in shades of infection, necrosis, and death, cannot be countered. It’s like trying to respond rationally to an internet troll. I make my choices and take my beatdowns. But I will never, ever respond—that’s exactly what they want.

But frankly, this self-imposed whining freeze is getting old.  Thought I’d start with a few minor rants and work my way up.

Clicking around the blogosphere can be painful. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at one blogger’s About page which read ‘I’m a journalist and shit.’ It hit me hard that it’s a different world now, and helps explain the following sparklers seen on my home page…

By journalist who wants to be a pulp fiction writer:
The mayor has journeyed into swamp-like depths to help people stranded in buildings overlooking the murky waters that flooded their homes and their lives.

By journalist assigned the end of the world story:
World survives Maya apocalypse

By journalist covering the NYC subway beat:
Man faints in NYC subway, not struck by train

We have these ‘After 5’ walks in my town where the shops stay open late. Here’s a press release that showed up in my inbox a few months ago:

Xxxx Originals Gallery is having a Spring Fling and tossing out artwork at incredible prices! New artwork is on the way so we’re flinging out anything that’s been just sitting around. This is a great time to pick up fabulous deals on really spectacular artwork. So come in to the gallery and catch the deals we’re flinging out the door!

So where’s the What Not to Say to Starving Artists article?

I don’t agree with people who insist that humankind doesn’t have choices. If it is the custom of a culture to beat women, and for the acceptance of this to be passed down to sons and daughters, that may make them good citizens, but not good humans. Your culture is not an excuse for your cruelty. If beating, burning, cutting, raping, or murdering your wife or daughters, or the wife or daughters of your neighbors is the custom, and people defend it as that, then we may as well throw the words good and bad right out of the dictionary.

We saw these three beautiful babies on Carr Canyon Road about two weeks ago and stopped to let them cross. The mother had already crossed—but there must be several.

My yard’s been full of cactus wrens this year. They’re not usually so gregarious. Look at this silly nest they built on the tip of a branch—it barely contained them.

I’m fascinated by what people have in their refrigerators, especially when I’m asked to clean them. I arranged this little composition that I think covers all the food groups.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a ghost bike, on a nearby rural road.

My town recently got its first pot dispensary. Some people with medical marijuana cards are annoyed though, because they’re no longer allowed to grow a few plants in their yard, but must patronize this place and pay big bucks. If you live within 25 miles of a dispensary, you have to do business there.

Our precious hardwoods are being defoliated by caterpillars. I think they’re webworms but please correct me because it’s hard to find pictures that look exactly like this. Plus, there are about three different kinds eating the trees—green, yellow, and black.

Check out their suction-cup feet, perfectly designed to climb trees and eat them. They’re everywhere, in house, driveway, yard, laundry shed. At first I thought they were cute—until there were thousands.

Caterpillars in driveway with their scat, which is also everywhere.

This enormous western polyphemus moth was found already dead in a customer’s garage on Carr Canyon Road, a Coronado Nat’l Forest road near Sierra Vista.

This javelina came right up to our car, then stalked off when we didn’t feed it. I think javelinas are beautiful and mysterious, like all wild animals, but I just read there is an aggressive pack in Tucson that is slated to be shot. This is what happens when animals’ habitat is destroyed by humans.

I saw this regal horned lizard in my yard just a few weeks ago. Kind of a rare sighting, they’re only found in southeastern AZ and Mexico.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year, in fact it’s not quite over. I’ve never seen this many tiny frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There was even a huge barn owl couple who sat on the street wires all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats shift takes over and drains the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s awesome.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year. I’ve never seen this many frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There were even two huge barn owls who sat on the street wires every night all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats take over and drain the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s so awesome.

Submerged

We don’t wake up in the morning expecting bad things to happen. Though the realist knows they often do, we don’t plan or anticipate them—if we did we wouldn’t be able to go on. We don’t expect to have a tornado flatten our home, answer our door to a home invader, be maimed in a car wreck, or go see a movie and get shot. Fate affects us all every day in spite of our best intentions—we need only glance at the headlines to have our hearts broken in ways we couldn’t have imagined, with only a shred of luck standing between us and them.

My dog Jasmine was my best friend, co-pilot, and provider of unconditional love. She began her life as a sato, a slang term for the thousands of street dogs hanging on to life in cities and beaches in Puerto Rico. Similar situations exist in many beautiful tourist destinations as well as run-of-the-mill hell holes all over the world, where animals have little value and are poisoned, abused, starved, and sick with parasites and a host of other diseases. But like all animals, they have a strong will to survive. Volunteer organizations do exist, fueled by people who, through meager donations and their own passion, try to make a difference.

I know Jasmine’s life wasn’t important in the grand scheme. But the day we found this pup in a feed store in Connecticut, rescued by an angel who asked for a $100 donation, I knew fate had found me. A lot of dogs have passed through my life but none compared to Jasmine. Her untamed streak only made our bond stronger. She was snippy, growly, had food issues, and would never back down from another dog no matter how outsized. But she was fiercely loyal to me and never left my side during our many long walks together. These traits passed down through generations of her semi-wild heritage only made me love her more.

Yesterday was a normal day, I did a cleaning job and drove home in an intense monsoon thunderstorm. Thunder was about the only element that Jasmine feared, it sometimes provoked her to do unpredictable things even after 11 years. I don’t know how the fight with one of my other dogs started, I was only there to break it up. Breaking up a dog fight is hard when the dogs are determined. But I did, there was no blood, and the dogs settled down. I fed them and tried to anesthetize with a movie. Around midnight I noticed Jasmine seemed lethargic. It happens—the heat, the storm, the fight. I called her to come to bed with me and she was slow to rise. I lay down on the floor with her and held and soothed her. She ignored both me and her bedtime cookie. I got in bed and tried to fall asleep, a nightly ritual of self-torment. I drifted but heard nails dragging on the floor. It was now about 2 am. I sprang out of bed and found Jasmine on her side panting, her belly rising and falling with each breath. I should have picked her up and put her in my bed but didn’t want to move her. I lay with her on the floor but had a sick feeling…I would take her to the vet in the morning. Exhausted, I got back in bed and faded fitfully in and out of consciousness. I was shocked awake at 4 am by a bad dream as is my custom. I flew out of bed to check on Jasmine. She was dead.

I howled in agony and ran to wake Jimmy up. He wrapped her in a blanket and I kept vigil. At exactly 9 am when the vet opened we brought her body in to be cremated and returned. They said that dogs can have heart attacks and strokes just like humans. I honestly do not know what happened.

I have much to be grateful for. Eleven years and a quick death from a condition  she only had to suffer for hours instead of months.

With the horrors of the world in furious abundance, I am not asking for sympathy for the loss of a mere dog, an insignificant creature whose presence meant the world to me—but only me. Those of you whose hearts are held fast by the love of a dog or cat will understand.

My Desert Urchins

The kids in my rough-and-tumble neighborhood range from horrid little beasts to precious souls who just need a chance. Some of them remind me of myself and so many of us from our generation when we were young. They experience life head-on instead of through smart phones or computers. They know every shortcut, dirt road, and chained dog in the neighborhood. There’s not an ounce of fat on them. There are a couple of tough little girls I’ve befriended as they make their daily rounds looking for work. Now they love to come over and play with my dogs and cats as well as performing easy odd jobs, such as sweeping the carport or raking up storm debris. They show their gratitude with hugs and affection and hundreds of thank yous.

These kids are wise and aware and full of curiosity about their world. These are not the kids who take sticks and bash swallow nests full of babies, these are kids who know every dog in the neighborhood and how its being treated—and care deeply when they see abuse. The downside of this is they report these facts to me as if I can fix it all, and that’s just not possible, so I often end up distressed from an overload of depressing information.

What I love most about my girls is their complete lack of the expected sense of entitlement that Americans have become notorious for. They don’t even consider using the small amount of cash I pay them to buy things for themselves, they give the money to their caregivers. They ask for rides to the Dollar Store to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent and other necessary household items, not personal gifts for themselves. I see the stress in the older girl as she worries about shut-off notices and unemployment and things kids shouldn’t have to agonize over. I know of spoiled young adults who’ve wanted for nothing financially whose bad behavior is excused because their parents are divorced—are you kidding? Get over it.

Lately my girls have been on foot patrol and I learned their bikes are in such disrepair they’ve given up trying to ride them. I got excited about providing them with safe transportation that will give them the freedom to roam without stressing over broken seats and shot inner tubes. I asked around town but couldn’t find anyone who had used bikes to donate, so I went on Craigslist and found two nice girls’ bikes for $10 each…but had to drive to Tucson to get them. The bikes were well cared for by a bike-loving family whose girls had outgrown them. The urchins love them but I think I love seeing them flying around the ’hood even more, and always with a tailwhip stop at my house. They’re so damn cute.

But, like other kids living a lifestyle of lack, they have a streak of con artist in them. The other day I came home from work to find they had cleaned the little shed that serves as my laundry room, and they were waiting for me in my driveway. I thanked them but told them they shouldn’t have done that without a mutual agreement first. When they asked to be paid I had to say no. They did this through a combination of innocence and desperation, and I felt bad, but they need to learn they can’t play their customers for suckers.

In the past few weeks the urchins have multiplied. What started off as two became three, and now four.

The girls love to pose and clown for the camera. I debated whether to post some pictures and finally decided why not.

Not enough bikes!

They love to play with my dogs

Sparkle at the wheel

They love the camera

Don’t mess with Arizona girls! I love guns and archery—it’s all about marksmanship, not killing.

 

The Week in the Wastebasket

Freedom. It’s constantly held up as the ultimate human ideal, the be-all and end-all to the world’s problems.  We pay dearly in money and lives so we can help people all over the world be ‘free.’ Sometimes this means the freedom to abuse the group on the next rung down. So just how much freedom do you want?

You could move here, we have enough freedom to make you puke. Many folks here proudly stand by their freedom to be as annoying as possible because there’s no law against it. In seven years I’ve seen a distinct pattern emerge in my neighborhood—as old people who worked for the mining company die off, their relatives come in and dump the houses for whatever they can get. Still, many houses fester behind faded for-sale signs, and sometimes they are rented. Roll the dice. Sometimes groups of people buy them and turn them into their own exclusive heaps of shit and there’s nothing you can do about it. The houses collect more dwellers, junk cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and outside dogs. They degrade property values and quality of life for the few people left here who still care about the neighborhood.

The cars fly by on my street going 50 or 60, the speed limit is 25. A popular vehicle here is the ‘quad’ (satan.motors.com), a machine that is designed to be out destroying desert life, not raced up and down the street over, and over, and over. Ask nicely? Been there, done that.  So now I’m the girl, in an adrenaline-fueled fit, who firmly planted herself in front of a speeding quad. (I too have the freedom to act like an idiot.) The quad stopped, even though he would have been within his rights to run me over. It was a kid and I yelled at him to slow down. I didn’t know it was a kid, they’re all suited up and wearing helmets. Ten minutes later the patriarch of the clan walked onto my property and threatened me. Of course I called the cops, and a sheriff came. The next day the guy stood in front of my house taking pictures. More posturing, obscenities, cops. I was advised to seek a restraining order, which I was granted the next day. Now, members of the clan drive past my house leaning on their horns and sticking their heads out the window while adopting their best menacing glares.

Why? Because they can. There’s no law against childish intimidation tactics.

A couple days ago I received a summons back to court to respond to the neighbor’s legal appeal that the restraining order be dismissed (we all have the right to this). I hate living like this so I was prepared to drop it, under the condition that I be allowed to have an amicable, or at least neutral, conversation with the guy, with a mediator. I was feeling relief. All I want is for them to have some respect for their neighbors. When you move into a neighborhood, trash your house and yard and use the street as your personal racecourse, you have to expect that some neighbors will find this unpleasant. No, it’s not life-endangering—except for our collective blood pressure. I’m not the only one who has called the sheriff. They’ve pretty much alienated what’s left of our little swath of people who give a shit.

I sat in court waiting and thinking. This isn’t a power struggle, this isn’t about control. Trying to maintain your home as a haven instead of a snake pit by seeking just a tiny bit of respect is a basic human desire—but not to some freedom-lovers. I waited, the judge waited, the stenographer waited for half an hour after the appointed time. The neighbor never showed up. He went through some trouble to get this appointment, had the chance to resolve this, and he can’t even man up enough to show.  The judge had no alternative but to let the order stand.

Maybe it’s been bred out of them by the twisted survival instincts of overpopulation, but freedom requires a certain responsibility that many humans simply don’t have. Think twice about asking for it.

OK enough of the dark side. Here’s why I carry on:

Dove in nest tending to her babies.

A customer advised taking a couple of the little plastic tubes off a hummingbird feeder so bigger birds could also enjoy the feast. It worked! Male Bullock’s oriole drinking sugar water. Strength to go forth and multiply!

It isn’t much, but it’s what we’ve got: Wading down the middle of the ancient San Pedro. Local archeological sites date back to Clovis people 12,000 years ago. When we get a really good monsoon, the river floods. It’s a vital riparian gem with enough water to host a huge array of wildlife. Saw lots of raccoon, deer, coyote, javelina prints and scat.

Some parts were deep enough for Jasmine to paddle. Many once-mighty cottonwoods lay across the river, fallen in previous floods, creating pools and dams and little waterfalls.

Tracks of water snakes that swim along the bottom, but I don’t know what kind.

Most of the tadpoles (pic from last May) will be eaten before they reach adulthood, but many also survive…see next pic!

There were thousands of these! One can never tire of witnessing this! Never!

The San Pedro can flood out during a good monsoon. Pic taken a few years ago, recent monsoons have not brought this kind of rise in water.

We had bought this box of Hornady ‘zombie loads’ a while back and kept the box as a novelty to keep on a shelf. But if that bad acid going around Florida spreads out here…

Small Mercies

I’m on a mission, one that keeps me from self-destruction. Each of us in our own spheres of influence have the power to do good. It might not seem like much in the grand scheme, but collectively it matters. Maybe our presence will prevent someone from doing harm. The world is already so warped by meanness the least I can do is stand my ground—if nothing more than to spite the next bully who comes along.

More Verbal Entropy: These portmanteau words are driving me crazy. OK so it’s fun to think of a blend of two words to express a concept. Sometimes you luck out and find two words that roll easily off the tongue or are clever. What’s creepy is how ubiquitous this trend is, kept alive through the vast internet. Here are some we didn’t need: dramality, flexitarian, jealousify, listicle, mirthquake, swacket, undoplasty, welebrity. Worth a giggle if you thought it up yourself, but there is nothing new here, just bland pop culture mistaken for originality. I’ll bet most people who love words make up their own anyway. Here’s one I just thought of…it’s true we live in a mediocracy, but it’s powered by the mediacracy!

Then there’s disemvoweling which evolved from texting, forums, etc. You know it’s a major trend when Madonna puts out an album called MDNA and we all know what it means (though the ‘a’ remains, disemvoweling normally strikes vowels only). There are even apps to help you spell words wrong. I guess we should be happy that texting drivers skip the vowels, but it’s just one more trend contributing to modern-day illiteracy. However, the word disemvoweling itself is an expressive and useful word. Another newish word that fulfills a need is petrichor. The eloquent definition for this glossy word from OUP is “the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Origin: A blend of petro- ‘relating to rocks’ (the smell is believed to be caused by a liquid mixture of organic compounds that collects in the ground) and ichor.” I can’t wait to use this word word when monsoon starts, because who doesn’t love that magical earthy smell.

Search engine term of the month: Search engine terms are bizarre and sometimes repulsive. When I write about pitbull abuse, I get hits looking for how to abuse a dog so it will fight. It’s a depressing way to learn about depravity. A few months ago I posted some photos of a vintage fridge-sink-stovetop unit from the fifties, and this month’s most revealing search term was “sex with appliencs.” Yeah dude, come on over to Find an Outlet for some spicy appliance porn. I’ll show you how to cut a glory hole in the back of a stove, because nothing screams orgasm like 220 volts.

Politics. Ugh. The bumper sticker below sums up exactly how many of us feel. We long for sane leadership but don’t see anyone who is in touch with real life. Six months ago we were confronted with the world population reaching 7 billion—millions of articles addressed it and suggested strategies. Now the biggest issue raging in Republican politics is contraception? How can this be happening? Is the media pushing this to alienate the candidates? It’s working, they’re turning women away in droves. For god’s sake give free birth control to anyone who wants it in the world—instead of aid, send birth control. Think of it as a low-cost contribution to saving the planet before it reaches the 8 billion projected for 2025 (if we’re still here). Do they think people (especially kids) are going to abstain—are they kidding? Anything but.

Some states force insurance companies pay out enormous sums for fertility treatments, and there are movements to lobby the government to pay if you’re not covered. Taxpayers have funded $240 million through Medicare during the last decade for penis pumps for old men—is that okay?  This is not a time to spotlight personal religious beliefs while solid plans for our country’s (and planet’s) future remain hazy. More and more people say they may not vote at all, and that might include me. I absolutely cannot support Obama, but neither can I vote for someone who is so misogynistic that they would deny abortion in case of rape. If this happens, expect protests that will make the Occupiers look like kittens. I really, really want a generator.

Instead of uniting all us Demoblicans and Republicats, they are dividing us into two nasty camps like never before, leaving millions of Americans disgusted. It’s exactly what won’t work.

Bumper sticker displayed by someone who probably won't vote.

Why. Why can’t people proofread. Would you get your new tat done here? Remember that song by Offspring?
"Now he's getting a tattoo yeah, he's getting ink done
He asks for a 13, but they drew a 31!"

There's a joke here about the pervasive plastic bags stuck to prickly pears and everything else—it's the state flower of Arizona.

The barren Huachucas are a stark contrast to the cottonwoods greening up along the San Pedro River. We hope the recent snow helps new life spring from the fire-ravaged mountains.

An amazing old face of someone who looks like she's been through hard times. I'll bet she's got a thing or two to teach us.

Jada, on left, 6 months ago. Jasmine just told her to go lie down and she's pretending she is. If only it lasted longer than 30 seconds.

And here she is now, about a year old. She's now officially the biggest dog of the pack, and I don't think she's done growing. But she's still a work in progress and will be for a while. She's a great new feature of our security system though.

Last year's seed pods and new growth of the scale-like leaves on my favorite southwest tree, the alligator juniper.

Happy little non-killer bee (the plant was full of them) on a gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) doing what they do best.

It's very warm here and everything is either flowering or about to.

Mwahaha! Some people have ridiculous amounts pillows on their beds or sofas, made goofier by all these huge tags sticking out. It's OK to cut them off, really, no one will arrest you! I applied scissors to this one myself. I had to.

We're now boarding two beautiful rescued horses. I'm not doing it for the (nominal) money, nor because I'm in love with horses, though they sure are growing on me. I'm doing it for the neighborhood. People trying to leave are dumping their houses cheap or renting them. The owners of these horses have their home up for sale nearby, and one of the reasons they want to leave is because they were driving back and forth twice a day to a town 28 miles away to board them. Now they're here, minutes away, and I hope the owners won't move, or at least that they won't give their house away for nothing, which is what you have to do to escape. Some of the new people moving in to my neighborhood are real low-rent. We've had the sheriffs out here a couple times in the past month, prompting us to turn our little house into a fortress. And there was a major drug bust here a month or so ago, complete with cops, border patrol, DEA, sniffer dogs, and hazmat suits.

Tiny Speck, Big Windshield

After last year’s Mardi Paws fundraiser post, I received a nasty email from a nonprofit organization in another part of the country who, unbelievably, have trademarked the name “Mardi Paws.” I thought it was spam but it was no joke. Lots of small animal shelters across America have a Mardi Paws fundraiser in February, and for them to be hunted down and threatened with legal action if they continue to use the name astounds me.

Before the Internet they could never have done this. They would never have known. But because folks enjoy posting pictures of dogs in costumes, this organization is spending time and money surfing the Internet looking for all us criminals all over the US who dare to infringe on their “trademark.” How incredibly nonproductive, mean-spirited, and obviously since lawyers are involved, expensive. Isn’t it nice to know that the money you donate to a nonprofit may be wasted on some crack legal team bent on creating ill will?

We are a scrappy rescue group with no physical shelter. We beg for foster homes. Though most people here are violently against euthanasia, just try getting one of them to foster a companion animal. They have a million excuses why they can’t.

Yesterday was our Canine Costume Party and it was both funny and sad. Life being what it is, many beautiful items and services donated by generous local artists and merchants for the silent auction went unsold, including one of my own paintings. It was sad at the end to pack up lush animal-themed gift baskets, gift certificates, handmade clothing and jewelry, pottery, and other artwork. Volunteers had to solicit the merchants, and it’s a lot of work.

It seems there are more small dogs participating in the fashion show than large, I think it’s just because it’s easier to dress up a little dog. Our own big dogs are not comfortable in crowds—just like us I guess. They are wary of humans as well they should be. Instead we brought our tiny Maxi, ambassador to the fact that you CAN rescue and adopt small dogs, you don’t have to support puppy mills or any kind of unnecessary breeding. We had not planned on entering her in the fashion show but we were urged on. They rate the winner by the amount of cheering and clapping, and Maxi came in second! After that you couldn’t talk to her—she claims A-list status now.

As the world becomes more savage and primitive (no matter how fancy your cellphone) many volunteers believe that fifty or a hundred years from now there may be no one left to help stray dogs and cats. It depends on who’s running the world, and it’s clear it won’t be animal lovers. Companion animals may be shot, abandoned, used for food or sport, or outlawed. They already are in many places. An animal rescue colleague in Atlanta reports 80,000 animals euthanized last year. The pound there is packed with 400 dogs and cats right this minute. Conditions are so wretched that it’s hard to find volunteers who can stomach it. Roaches and rats in the cages, filth, neglect, incompetence, indifference. A few people are trying to help, but nobody, I mean nobody, wants to spend a dime on improving conditions in any city pound.

I once read in a PETA book that they would rather have NO pets than see one more animal suffer. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. I love my pack more than anything in the world, but the price in suffering that companion animals pay so we can have pets is almost too much to bear.

An American soldier with his dog.

This princess was helping folks get registered at the front door.

I love this dog's costume, very original.

Some costumes were elaborate, some simple. Some dogs ditched their costumes in their own special way.

Form a line everyone!

This gorgeous two-year-old male boxer mix is up for adoption. Housebroken, trained, and loving.

These little girls won third prize.

This gal made a serious effort with her and her dogs' costumes, and she won the well-deserved first prize.

SO cute. What a little bear.

Kids taught to respect animals are the best kids ever, IMO.

Uh-oh, this cutie has a lot of growing yet to do.

Gratuitous cleavage shot.

Choosing the winners with the "Applause Meter."

Important business to attend to!

A gathering of dog lovers on the porch.

Our Maxi waiting her turn to walk the runway.

Maxi walks the runway to loud applause!