by Kathryn Braund
He was tall, slim. Good looking. So gentle, so kind. A perfect gentleman. He walked as straight as an arrow flies, no bend at his shoulders or back, and his smile – you enjoyed it. You loved the quiet way he expressed himself. Oh, he could be forceful in words, if necessary; his anger was usually full of common sense. He taught me to enjoy fishing and hunting. I taught him to enjoy dogs in the show and obedience sports. We were together twenty-four hours a day for forty years, loving each other all that time. But the last few years of his life inflicted such suffering, I wince to look back.
Although not native to Montana, we had moved from Montana to Washington. Quickly, he purchased a load of mountain wood for our stove. When I went to look at it, I jumped away wide-eyed, then immediately tracked a busy trail of Carpenter Ants. Greatly disturbed, I hurried to tell him. He lengthily and completely dismissed my fears. Normally, he would have immediately jumped right up to investigate. (In a few months, ants began dropping on us. Our attic was full of ant nests.) I thought back to several other unusual decisions he had made that had disturbed me.
I went to a doctor for answers. He explained that people can exhibit Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) symptoms, although as the Alzheimer’s Association (ASA) states: “Not all people with MCI develop Alzheimer’s.” (AA)
“Check with the Alzheimer’s Association,” the doctor urged. “Their education programs are splendid.” He gave me their Online address. “It is: ALZConnected.”
My dear husband suffered a TIA (small stroke) in 1991; in 1993 he had a right artery operation. Soon after, he drove to Sacramento, California, to pick up a Dalmatian puppy for me; returning, took the wrong entrance to the freeway. He never drove again. Falling, he suffered a concussion. A pacemaker saved his life. We moved to California to be close to his son and daughter-in-law, and on arrival, a second TIA made his memory take a sharp downward turn. He was not able to truly enjoy his new house. In 1997, he had a heart operation.
There were times he was his absolutely wonderful self and one beams with happiness, convinced he is getting better. But then . . .
The Alzheimer’s Association names three stages of this horrific disease. “Stages may overlap.”
In the Mild Stage, the victim of Alzheimer’s still acts independently, can do everything he’s used to doing, yet he sees his memory of things, people, and places is not as good as it used to be. It worries him. His family notices this slight memory loss also.
- He forgets correct words,
- Has trouble remembering names,
- Forgets what he has just read,
- Has trouble organizing things,
- Misplaces objects,
- Has trouble with tasks he used to do easily.
Alzheimer’s Association says: “Early diagnosis can allow a person the opportunity to live well with the disease for as long as possible and plan for the future.
The Moderate Stage. A good thing to remember is that the way the brain cells are damaged, a person’s reaction to this terrible disease may differ from others. As the second stage progresses, it means almost constant care. The victim likes to wander, forgets where he is or where he is going, and stops enjoying the things he used to enjoy. As the millions of caretakers for those being consumed by this tragic disease know, some days are good, and some bad. You take each day as it comes. There are plenty of difficult moments when you wonder why this awful disease has to be. The sufferer knows he is forgetful, but never how much. That hurts the caretaker as much as it disturbs the victim.
Here are some of the characteristics that may (or may not) occur. The sufferer wakes in the middle of the night, thinks it is time to get up, and may do all sorts of things. One can find a package of brown sugar in the noodles jar, a shirt stuffed under a couch pillow, bread crumbs in the coffee pot, and where did he hide his underwear. As the Moderate stage progresses he may end up sleeping in a closet, and think the spare bedroom is the bathroom. Worse. He may leave the house for a walk and completely forget where he is and no one is there to guide him home. The last was the most frequent condition my dear husband had of the symptoms listed above. Once, in California, it took four hours for his son, a policeman, and me to rescue him. He had been with me shopping in a superstore and disappeared when my eyes were focused on a product instead of him. (He had been asleep in one of the huge empty boses in back of the store). Through this, I learned the catetaker had to install special locks on all outside house doors so the victim is protected. The lack of the caretaker’s sleep becomes a double-edged sword.
Sufferers enjoy rides in cars, even though frequently they won’t know where they are. When you tell them, they might exclaim, “What are we doing here?” Thank goodness, they are easily distracted.
Music is a great helper. Even if the sufferer seldom listened to music when he was well, soothing music becomes a choice he thoroughly enjoys. TV is watched, but the diseased brain often scrambles words and visual perception becomes distorted. Most sufferers cannot work the TV correctly any longer. The same applies to talking books. He is gradually losing his ability to sort things out.
In California, our insurance allowed us to have a nurse help three times a week for a month after his heart operation. She gave him a shower, helped him shave, and then sat and chatted. It was really nice. We also had a visit from a social worker who suggested i might like to enter him in a once-a-week day-care for dementia sufferers. She said we both needed this respite. It would be for almost a full day – 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Arriving, he would have coffee, a sort of breakfast, later lunch and snacks. He would play games and do things with other Alzheimer victims. He did not like the suggestion . He comment was: “They are crazy people and old.” He would not go. I began to laugh inside and then my heart skipped several beats. He had used those very words a long tine ago when I asked him if he wanted to join a Senior Manor club. We left the offer sit. “When you change your mind, call,” said the social worker.
Our doctor suggested a sleeping pill because his sleeping was very erratic. After taking his first, he slept all night, although with quite a bit of tossing. After a week, the sleeping pill appeared to be like most others. They work for three to four hours. I stopped giving them to him.
He appeared to be getting better both physically and mentally. He hadn’t lost his handsomeness. He hadn’t lost his kindness. He did not lose his love for me. One new habit: he kept pushing the thermostat up to 99 degrees. I finally told him that the power company technician said it worked by itself without help. He stopped. A friend’s mother scolded her husband for the same thing and he remembered the scolding. Things kick in.The memory is there. It unlocks, thank goodness. Nevertheless ,my husband often forgot where he was or where he was going.
Some characteristics are completely lost on the sufferer. They do not realize what is going on in this brain cell deterioration. They cannot ever be blamed. “Alzheimer’s disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions.” (AA) Caretakers have to be prepared and patient. That is difficult at times. Daily routines, while not always easy, can be fun, too. Plan them on being that way.
Our dogs were great companions for him. They instinctively knew something was wrong. In the daytime, they would lie or sit beside him and he would strike and talk to them. Our dogs were a great blessing.
Telephone calls and visits bring the sufferer straight back to reality. Visits really boost. He’ll tell stories of things he has done and memories he shares of those who are visiting. It is amazing.
Since I was still employed as Publisher/Editor of “The Courier,” a bi- monthly PWDCA dog magazine, I worked in my home office most often after he went to bed. I purchased a Jacuzzi. He lounged in it daily. He napped quite often, yet when awake, it was always good to be with him. I had to watch what he did.
It was in 1999 that I knew something was missing. I was homesick for Great Falls, Montana. Great Falls is a small city of about 52,000 with homes and ranches spread far beyond the city’s limits. Everything was handy. Every manufactured want could be satisfied. It as an excellent city for families, for kids to grow up in, for those who needed good doctors. It had a large and excellent hospital. We had worked and retired there. I wanted to go back to it and back to my friends.
Here, a fruit and vegetable stand in our vicinity that was so good – I had to drive to it. To get to a large market, I had to drive on crowded freeways for thirty minutes. A mall that offered products for home or person was another ten miles. I began to wonder. When I grew older and if my husband was not here, how could I make my way to these essential stores if I did not drive. Although I had many friends in southern California, the closest was more than an hour away. The doctors here were excellent and very pleasant, but I felt we were like file folders, to be opened and closed promptly. I hated using insecticide on the hordes of insects that thrived here. I disliked the air we breathed in California. I coughed a lot; my doctor told me it was because I had been a heavy smoker (I had quit thirty years ago). I sat down and wrote to our wonderful doctor in Great Falls, who had taken care of both of us so well, and asked if we could again become his patients. His prompt answer was ‘Yes.’
My husband’s son and wife grieved when I told them I wanted to go back to Montana. They understood and promised to visit us often. One of my sons flew in to drive us ‘home,’ When we made the one motel stop, my son and I bombarded my door so I could hear my husband if he decided in the middle of the night to take a walk.
My other son lived in Great Falls. He had everything ready – the house, the furniture and my husband was eager to be settled again.
Our doctor was glad we were back. I told him that in 1999 I thought that my husband was entering the Moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. He conversed at length with my husband, learning the Alzheimer’s effects on him, gave him a thorough physical examination and told me he thought my husband was doing remarkably well for the major medical procedures he had gone through. He told us to call him whenever any problem arose. He would see us immediately.
“The rate of progression varies. On average, those that do develop the disease, live four tonight years after diagnosis.” (AA)
One night softly after we arrived, I woke up instantly, instinctively feeling for my husband’s body. He was not beside me. I looked at the clock – 3 a.m. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe and slippers and sped through the house like a magnifying glass, searching for him. The front door was securely locked. Turning into the hallway, an icy wind pulled apart the edges of my robe. The sliding door in my office was wide open. I ran outside and followed his tracks through the light snow. His tracks were there, both inside and outside of the fence. How could he climb a five foot fence? I shook my head in absolute wonder. The fence did not appear climbable. I found him three hours later. A night-working neighbor had seen him walking on the dark county snow frosted road and took him to town to the police station. He was smiling when I claimed him. He had been sharing his war experiences with a police sergeant. I sobbed quietly into myself. How in the world did my wonderful husband come down with this absolutely horrible Alzheimer’s disease?
What was the spark that set off this decay of his brain? I knew that our brains begin a very slow shrinkage when we reach thirty years of age; that the shrinkage in an Alzheimer’s victim can be dramatic. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, I knew that the human brain contains 100,000 billion nerve cells (neurons) along along with their branches (called the Neuron Forest) with approximately 100 trillion points of connection (called synapses). These depend on signals, tiny electrical charges (called near-transmitters) to transfer or store our memories, thoughts and feelings. Alzheimer’s disease attacks these brain cells, its branches, its points of connection and slowly destroys them. Thus, the brain loses tissue, shrinks, and gradually all mental and body functions die, and when neurons lose energy, as in older human beings, and cannot repair themselves, they fail to transfer signals to other neurons,and cannot repair themselves (Story of Hunan Development). They sicken and begin their downward path into nothingness. As the disease progresses, it slowly affects the victim’s ability to reason, remember, and thrive (Severe Stage). The death of both the victim and the brain’s astounding computer follows.
A friend (former hairdresser) came every few weeks, cut his hair and massaged him. Other friends visited. He sometimes es attempted to perform a few chores around our five acre property, yet everything was too difficult for him to do, and for me to watch.
He developed a health problem in 2001. Our doctor saw him and decided he needed to be hospitalized. After a few days, he had to be placed in a total care facility. It was there that I visited him daily, usually for both lunch and dinner. I also took him home for lunch, often took one of our dogs to see him. It was a marvelous facility, with an indoor garden, an activity center, a dining room and a huge, well-dressed yard in which to walk and sit.He kn ew I was not with him; that was very difficult at first. After a while, he forgot. When he was about to leave us, our family were there to visit, although I was alone with him when he said goodbye to earth.
A year later, I asked for and received a letter from our doctor, allowing me to visit the unit and ask several questions of patients. I needed to learn more. I was allowed to ask five questions of three patients. I could not be told what stage of the disease each was in (privacy). In my estimation, two were in the middle of the Moderate stage and one, possibly, in the beginning of Severe. I was able to communicate with each (with lots of help from the nurse). Question Five asked what they liked best. Each of the three answered, “Attention.”
Daily, I pass by the tall fence that hides the large yard for the Alzheimer patients on my scooter with my Havanese dog, Jazzy. The Manor in which I have lived for ten years is two blocks away.
It’s been sixteen years since he left me (he was born in 1916, I in 1920). I’m still here. I’m glad I am. Yet I miss him daily. And, oh, how proud I am of our wonderful memories – me with that gentle, kind, warm man of my life.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading non-profit organization for Alzheimer’s Disease. Headquarters are in Chicago. The headquarter address is 225 North Michigan Avenue, Fl 17, Chicago, IL 60601. Every state has a number of offices. Each office is available to help you whatever your inquiry is about this disease. You can also make inquires on their website which is: ALZConnected. Also, inquire on twitter: https://twitter.com/alzassociation
A Few Facts and Opinion
This terrible, horrific, mind-blasting disease was not discovered until 1901. The discoverer was Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician. He placed all his findings, including symptoms, in “medical literature” in 1907. There it sat. At the time, Senile was the common word given to all those who suffered some form of dementia (dementia is the father word for Alzheimer’s disease).
You may wonder why so many years went by before scientists and physicians could focus on the disease and its possible cures. The answer is simple. Until technical wizards could sort it out, no one was able to follow through. The steady explosion of knowledge about the disease and how to deal with it began in the 1950s. However, the wizard scientists and physicians did not make much headway during the latter years of the twentieth century. They found out through studying brains of sufferers that died, that amyloid plaques had taken over these brains. But many of the thorough studies they made to find out why and how were disappointing. That amyloid plaques play a significant role in the disease is true, but something was eluding the scientists. The scientists gathered at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association (2019) are revealing recent research that may culminate in successful disease enlightenment. It’s Neuroinflammation.
Even in 1997 when a doctor told me after he performed a CT scan of my husband’s brain (he had had a slight stroke), that the only definitive answer as to whether he did or did not have the disease, could only come after my husband died. His brain had to be examined. I then contacted the Alzheimer’s Foundation to learn about early stage symptoms. Unfortunately, they were as unsure about symptoms as I.
The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Foundation came into being in 1980. President Ronald Reagan’s designation of a yearly national “Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Week” enabled the fledging association to begin funding research into this horrendously evil disease. A drug, Aricept, which slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, was soon developed with several more drugs following. At the time, the questions asked by doctors and lawyers to ascertain Alzheimer’s symptoms were:
- What is your full name
- How old are you
- What is your home address
- What is your home telephone number
- What year is this
- Can you count backward from 10 to 0
I am now aware from what I have gathered in my research that Alzheimer’s disease can strike those over sixty through genetics (carried by a family line), alcohol abuse, smoking, high fat diet, untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes and concussions. The jury is still out on anesthesias used in operations, particularly in older people. Studies continue to be conducted on this issue.
Although not as common as when it attacks aging influences, the disease can also strike people earlier. Scientists have discovered mutations of genes that produce “early-onset Alzheimer’s”. Here are figures researchers in a large study conducted in Milan, Italy, in 2009 about its attack on older people.
- 13.5%, 80 to 84 years
- 30.8%, 85 to 89 years
- 39.5%, 90 to 94 years
- 20.7%, Those over 94
The study author, Dr. Emma Reynish, a geriatrician and coordinator of the European Alzheimer’s Disease Consortium from the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, said in a news release, “Age remains as the single most important risk factor. . . the prevalence of dementia of women over the age of 85 had been unreported.”
So, what should we do to decrease chances of becoming an Alzheimer’s victim? Whatever your age, eat healthy natural foods and do away with those that are processed as much as you can. Exercise is also important. One form for brain health is to practice taking long and deep breaths daily. The brain demands lots of oxygen to enable its best functions. Dr. Oz has written that everyone should practice “deep breathing” for five minutes every day. He also reminds, “Boost your aerobic activity” by walking.
You and I can be reassured that research scientists are doing everything possible to learn how to destroy this disease. There are multi-studies being conducted all over the world into the variances onset, categorization of symptoms, and stages of the disease.
And – as if it were a moment ago – I sit with my dying husband, holding tight onto his hand. I tell him, “Please, my dearest, you can leave. The kids will take good care of me.” That said, he opened his eyes, looked right at me, smiled and with a deep satisfied sigh, expired.
He knew what I had said. Briefly, miraculously, heartbreakingly – his renewal of memory as he said goodbye to life – this smile, this full expression of love – has happened to others. Scientists have something else to study about in Alzheimer’s disease.
One more thing: My next Blog will be about the Alzheimer’s attack on my beloved husband and how the three disease stages affected him.
I’m going to tell you a little story. This happened many years ago. I had left my teens and was living in New York City with a great roommate, Jennie. We shared a large hotel room (a year long rental) in the middle of Manhattan. The hotel was only several blocks away from our swing-shift jobs at the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the daytime, we pestered the offices of theatrical agents for acting parts. We usually met mid-afternoon in front of a building close to a Nedicks (fast food) restaurant, eat, and go on to work together.
This particular afternoon as I hurriedly crossed Broadway to meet her, I saw she was standing in the building’s entrance listening to a girl standing (hunched) almost in back of her. When I reached them, the girl looked to be suffering from something disastrous. Her clothes were obviously unwashed and her face appeared clouded in terror. She must have come up from one of the subway’s dungeons, I thought. She was also trembling so hard that her voice cracked when she answered my roommate’s question, “Can we get a policeman for you?” “No, no,” she was replying, shaking her head with tears streaming. “That will make it worse.” “Make what worse?” I asked, not knowing what they were talking about, only that she needed something desperately.
“Just let me hide behind you,” she pleaded forlornly. “We are going into Nedick’s to eat,” I said soothingly. “Please join us.” Her face turned whiter and she shook, her voice absolutely broken. “Oh, God, they’re going to find me.” With that, she dashed away from us and ran down Broadway, skittering between people as quickly as she could. There was no sense going after her. “What in the world?” I asked Jennie. “I’ll tell you when we get our food.”
“She had run away from home,” Jennie told me.”And she met a man who said he and his family would take care of her. He didn’t have a family. He pushed her into a van that held four other girls. He tied her to a chair just like the other girls were tied. He then drove two hundred miles without stopping to someplace near New York City where three men were waiting. The three men unbound the girls, grabbed arms, and almost had to drag them into the building.” Jennie “
I knew Jennie was talking about human trafficking organized all over the world by criminals. Boys and girls are prime prisoners. I spent the next months at the New York City Library, learning all I could about human trafficking and vowed I would do something someday to try and prevent it.
My second novel, Shattered Innocence, The Adventures of Janice, Melissa and Andrew,” tells the story of three young adults setting out on their own, their father a Montana rancher. It tells about the adventures they have and the perils they encounter when they meet human trafficking head-on. I have copies available. So does Amazon.com. I have two websites (each saying the same things). This one is kittybraundsbooks.com or kittybraundblogs.com and the other is kittybraundbooks.com.
I’ve been told this book should be read by senior teens so they can see, by example, what can happen to them if they are not careful.
There was an article in USA TODAY, under the February 24, 2019 headline, “Sex trafficking is rampant in U.S.” It cannot tell the story of the horrific treatment victims of this world-wide crime receive. My book for the months of June and July, 2019 is $2.99 plus $4.99 shipping. I follow Amazon’s pricing otherwise. Read it.
Dog lovers, if able, will do cartwheels over this Blog (so will cat lovers). For those humans who do not have or want companion animals – SKIP!
We humans express ourselves vocally with forty-seven sounds. We place those sounds into various combinations and our average adult knows and uses, approximately 30,000 word sounds out of these combinations.
Dogs can only express themselves vocally by barking, whining, yelping, growling, groaning, murmuring,and howling.
Several very important differences between people and dogs are the ‘voice box’ (larynx), shape of the face (humans), and the shape of the muzzle (dogs). Our larynx lies deep down in our throat, consequently, the muscles of the larynx, tongue and lips move freely, giving us the ability to speak. The dog’s larynx lies flat in his muzzle, thus its muscles cannot move up and down to give speech. Regardless, the average house dog usually learns up to thirty of our word/sounds and has the ability to learn many more.
The first necessary word/sounds dog owners usually teach their pets are no, sit, down and come followed by other household sounds (mainly commands). While dogs do not have interest in those word/sounds, they do learn what these submissive human word/sounds mean. A dog’s first attention is on physical action.
REMEMBER RULE: All animals are self-fulfilling. They want to do what interests them and makes them happy. They avoid what does not interest them. If, however, you begin teaching your dog word/sounds of things that he is interested in – like food, dish, treat, bone, ball – he’ll then go gaga in wanting to learn more word/sounds. He’ll also become more obedient in answering submissive obedience word/sounds because it’s self-fulfilling for him to know what’s going on.
REMEMBER RULE: Dogs have four basic survival drives – food drive, sex drive, prey drive, and avoidance drive. We harness those drives through training. Teaching our dogs some of our word/sounds is comparatively easy. It only requires a clear voice (clean enunciation), repetition (rote training), and patience on your part. While teaching each word/sound, you must not communicate the word in sentences. You may do so only when the dog truly understands what each sound means. You don’t want to hear “mumble, mumble.” Neither does the dog.
First words taught should be about food. Food words help us harness the dog’s food drive and make word/sounds interesting to them. Teaching Tips: Each time you fill his food bowl and before you place it down for him to eat, tell him what it is. Use dish or food. Repeat the word several times while he eats, so he can begin to associate the word/sound with what he is doing. Dish has a far better sound than food. The word food can sound like poo or foo. These words have negative connotations. When you take a treat out of a container, say treat in a lilting, joyful tone, and when your hand goes down to offer it to him, again let him know what it is – treat. Do the same with a bone. You will notice how quickly he recalls these words.
Each time you place his water bowl down, say water. Water will be the difficult word in this set of words form to remember. Why? Water is necessary for life, but the drinking of it is automatic, an unconscious instinct (like breathing), so the word does not instantly arouse his attention. He will always remember where to find his bowl of water, however, because water is the essence of life.
Test his understanding of each word/sound after several days (or weeks) of repetition by repeating with the food or treat in a different area of your home. Why? You want to be certain he understands that the same word/sound describes the same item or action no matter where he is. ‘Place’ teaching is necessary in all dog training. The dog’s territorial understanding is quite different then ours. If you do not follow through with place training, he’ll only be sure of the word in the exact territory where you first taught it. When you believe he understands, take him to a third area as you repeat the word and action. And don’t be impatient if at first he doesn’t associate or is interested. Each dog learns at his own ability, not what you may think it should be.
Take it easy. Although you do not want to give him too many word/sounds to start off with, each time you perform something for or to him, let him hear the one word associated with the action. Pretty soon his tail will wag and his ears will perk up when he realizes he knows what a word/sound means. If it’s a thrill for a human to learn something that interests that person, think what a thrill it must be for a dog to learn word/sounds that interest and help him fit in with his human environment. Your dog will commit dish or food, treat, and bone to memory fairly quickly. They hold total interest since the food drive is the greatest of his important drives – food drive, pack drive, avoidance drive, and prey drive.
Leash, collar, walk, car, keys. These are exciting word/sounds for dogs to learn. They pick up the imitation actions (your body movements) immediately because dogs’ attention is always first focused on physical actions. This is one reason they don’t always pay attention to the word/sounds you are making. Many dogs, when they hear the tinkling of car keys, go rushing to the door in the hopes they can enjoy a car ride. This tells you that teaching these words should be delivered in a lilting voice (key sounds tinkle). Anyway, dogs respond eagerly to higher pitched word/sounds. He’ll learn words easier by the tone you use, although the word keys will probably be the most difficult in this set, because he doesn’t interact with it. He responds to the physical action of the tinkle of keys hitting together.
REMEMBER RULE: Your dog will learn word/sounds easier by the tone you use. He responds first to the physical action.
Next come toys. A few dogs won’t initially desire to play with toys. These dogs usually have had little or no whelping/litter box or early puppyhood experience with toys. It’s always important to teach a puppy how to enjoy the animal toy world. If not, begin with a ball. Tell him, play time. Shake a ball excitedly while lifting your voice. His interest will expand, because shaking and chasing an object is part of the dog’s important prey drive. Throw the ball, repeating the word ball as you do. If he only goes to look at the ball, that’s okay. For the first sessions, pick up the ball yourself and throw it again. Even the most reluctant dog’s interest will increase if you let him realize that returning it to you means you throw it for him again. If he still appears to be an impossible student to teach to play with toys, or to retrieve, coat a small part of the ball with peanut butter or offer a treat when he returns with it and drops it on the ground. When the lights turn on in his brain and he cocks his head ever so slightly, high praise (and a treat) is an essential reward.
It’s best when teaching toy names to begin with only one other toy in sight with the ball. As you progress, you’ll be amazed how quickly he is able to distinguish one toy from another. In fact, he might decide he likes the second toy better than the ball, and returns to shake and play with it. You should end that session there. He needs to enjoy. Example: add elephant and have him differentiate ball from elephant, praising highly when he makes the correct choice. Play with these two toys a few days before you add another.
REMEMBER RULE: Even as you are teaching your dog word/sounds, he is also memorizing your body movements. So be consistent in your body movement when you teach. Physical body movement is part of one of the dog’s most important senses – TOUCH.
Books Tell Us
What We Want to Know About Anything!
Pictures taken August 2018
Born 14 October 1920
You have to know something about me if you haven’t yet read any of my blogs. Here goes!
Kathryn’s first magazine story, You Can Own a Dog and Work, won 1972’s Best Story of the Year from the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). She’s been writing award winning stories ever since, fifteen at last count. Born October 14, 1920 in San Francisco,California, she was an actress on radio, in vaudeville, and on stage for twenty years, traveling one-third of the world. Mother of two wonderful sons who look after her constantly, her second marriage was with a dream-come-true second husband, Buzz Braund. He had been Captain of a B-17 during World War II. Aided by her husband, she became a highly respected breeder and dog show exhibitor (Dalmatians, Portuguese and Havanese). She also became a well-recognized dog obedience trainer and instructor (40 years). Her own dogs became champions and obedience titled. Her PWDCA “Diver” was the breed’s top-producing sire for 11 years and her bitch “Seeley: was top-producing bitch of champions for more than 15 years. She authored seven highly popular dog books, including two dog training books. Editor/publisher of the PWDCA’s magazine for 12 years, which she built up from a 12 page offset into a 186 color page bi-monthly magazine, she also edited/published her own”Our Havanese” magazine for four years. She retired from breeding in 2008. Her first novel was published in 2001, and she is author of 4 more novels, finishing her fifth at age 97. She does not call herself retired, even though for ten years she has been living in a senior retirement home in Great Falls, Montana. She is presently occupied conducting research for her sixth novel.
Melinda Mahoney Powers; Published November 2017; ISBN: 9780972058575 and 9781981234394; Paperback; Pages 304; Price: $15,00
“I recommend this book to all who love a mystery. Melinda Mahoney Powers is a gritty, gripping, and, at times, grotesque novel. The story encompasses several decades and fascinates with its window on history, but also becomes very relevant to today with its depiction of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. The author keeps you guessing with its story within a story up until the very end. I recommend this novel to all who love a mystery. Billie Cotton
Prisoners in Paradise; Published September 2013; ISBN:9780972058568; Paperback; Pages 216 ; Price: $12.95
Prisoners in Paradise invites you to visit a beautiful tropical island alive with intrigue, danger, and romance. Just imagine sailing away for a fantastic tropical getaway to explore the islands of your dreams. Suddenly your world spins out of control. You find yourself grasping at survival skills you didn’t know you had. You don’t want to miss what happens in this exciting story. Margaret Dominy
Published May 2011; ISBN: 9780972058551; Paperback; Pages 204; Price $7.50
The fun begins when Louise Knight, a Senior Manor retiree, discovers the body of a fellow resident, horrifically murdered. The Sheriff immediately labels her as a person of interest.
The murderer goes one step further. He or she not only labels Louise as a person of interest, but also decides she and her two dogs would be good killing trophies. You are guaranteed fingernail biting time as you follow ninety year old Louise in this bold and whimsical page turner when she becomes in the murder of sweet little old Maddie and tracks down the killer while in peril for her life!
Published October 2009; ISBN: 9780972058544; Paperback; Pages 384; Price $7.50
The Adventures of Janice, Melissa, and Andrew in Shattered Innocence will shatter your nerves on the struggles some young adults need to go through as they start out on their own. The son and two daughters of Marv Alicorn, who owns the Windy Hills Double Bar M ranch in Montana, are innocently plunged into dangerous adventures, after meeting our villain, John Territoni, a smooth-talking, despicable gangster-murderer. Their stories carry you from Montana, to Washington, to California, and to New York City.
Revised and Published October 2009; ISBN: 9780972058537; Paperback; Pages 270; Price $7.50
Rosa and the Prince is a racy and vibrant historical story of a passionate love affair between a celebrated Austrian prince, Prince Rudolph of Habsburg, and a Hungarian girl. It’s a totally engrossing page turner you won’t put down.
Each of the five novels above are sold with FREE shipping.
The Joyous Havanese and Devoted to Dogs are sold by Amazon.com. The two Dog Obedience Training Manuals can be found at the Second Editions Bookshop on Amazon Marketplace. The two PWD books are sold by Turner Publishing Company, Nashville, TN 372009 and/or PWDCA.
Devoted to Dogs
The Joyous Havanese
are sold by Amazon
How do we know if it’s love or mere infatuation? What is the difference? Infatuation is an ephemeral, hormonal attraction. Love is intense companionship in mind as well as in body. The explanation below is mine.
“Oh, how I love John!” Mary exclaimed to her friend, Nancy, as they sat eating lunch at Sardi’s Restaurant in New York City. Nancy took a big bite of her Taco salad before she acknowledged Mary’s words. Then she answered, shaking her head. “No, you are not in love with John, Mary. You just think you are. You are infatuated with him, that’s all.”
“I tingle all over whenever I see him, even just thinking about him,” Mary answered testily. “That’s not love?”
“You hardy know John,” said Nancy. “What you are feeling is a physical attraction that is infatuation. Love has depth.”
“What do you mean, depth?” askedMary. “Explain depth to me as it pertains to love.”
“Many people think they are falling in love because they are physically attracted to someone. The two may go out on dates and have great time together. But, if they do not share common interests, the dates became less frequent and the infatuation gradually dies out. Yes, the individual who still thinks he or she is in love is devastatingly bruised when the romance falls apart. If that individual could see him or herself, he or she would realize the experience was like eating icing on a cake without eating the cake. There was no depth to the romance. It consisted of wanting to be with someone to please one’s own emotions, even if that gratification was an unconscious desire.”
Nancy’s opinion was sound. Yet, one can be infatuated and develop, through mutual interests, love. Friendship is one of the first steps in learning to love another. The two people become as one in enjoying and sharing interests.
Infatuation belongs to the essence of nature. Nature insists on propagation from the lowest to the highest forms of life because without new life there will be no world. That is why you tingle when you are with the one with whom you are infatuated. Just as nature teaches us to try to survive bitter, freezing weather; violent, destroying storms; unbearable, shriveling heat; killing bacteria, viruses, insects and animals; it also unremittingly tempts us to add new life for the future.
Man, who has battled the vicissitudes of nature since his birth eons ago, has been forced to lay down rules to mitigate those perils. One of the unspoken rules frowns upon infatuation because it often causes unbearable distress, not only to the individuals involved, but also to others in the family group. The unspoken rules for celibacy until marriage are designed to save many young people from nature’s edict that reproduction is essential,regardless of the cost.
Infatuation can invigorate the dreams and hopes of both young and old. When we swoon to a picture or media show that depicts a famous crooner, a beautiful lady, an incredible dancer, a worthy writer; when we swoon over a celebrity who comes to perform in our own backyard; it is the sight of this individual doing things we can dream of doing that gives impetus to the young and lightens the reality of unfulfilled elders. These infatuations spur us upward, enriching our lives.
So – if we can keep our egos satiated during an infatuation, infatuation is a good thing. It is ego, not heart, that suffers over a lost infatuation; the temporary loss of pride is what devastates.
There are many vibrant shades of love since love is a primary emotion. Love fans out, like a tsunami. To encompass a few shades, there is love of family, love of children and love of country. In this essay we are defining the shades of meaning between infatuation and love of a man and a woman. Both have bad sides; infatuation can become obsession while love can twist into hate.
Love, as defined by Webster’s dictionary is, “based in part on sexual attraction.” It is much more than physical passion. True love imparts a sweet, almost anguished yearning to please its beloved. To love is to delight in each other’s companionship. It is affection without censure.
Love does not need to be repaid; love is payment in itself. Love is always ready to caress away the mind’s sores when unfortunate changes occur. And it is love that reaches out with a smile when the one that is loved is needy. If the one loved becomes ill, it is with joy that care is given. Loving husbands bathe and dress and feed and perform the necessary everyday chores, yet still shower gentle hugs to their ill wife. Loving wives do the same for their ailing husband.
Love turns a drab sunrise into beautiful splashes of color. It gives reason for moving forward with a dance in the every day step through life. Love imparts reason for laughing at nature’s essential character of change, for seeing the beauty and joy in both good and bad adventures of life.
Although infatuation and love have traits in common, they are different in intensity, in desire, in deed; they are also two primal drives of life that man would not be without.
It’s after eight in the evening of – August 24, 2018. It’s dark. I’ve been reminiscing. I’ve gone back in my memories to think of gladness. The year? It was 2003. Join me.
The months of July and August were awful. I sat in my husband’s chair for hours on end, unmoved by any gladness around me. Why? Alzheimer’s disease had grabbed my beloved husband and forced me to watch his body fail along with his – oh – so wonderful mind. He left me in July of 2003. It was difficult to move on. Alzheimer is a scary word. Scarier still are the terminal, mind-erasing characteristics that afflicts a victim of this slowly progressing yet completely mind-crushing disease. As you can tell, I was devastated. Sitting in my sorrow one early evening, needing something – I don’t know what – I rose and looked out the window. There was a beautiful, glowing but fading sunset in front of me. It was spectacular, I took the lovely view with me to bed. When I awoke in the morning, wondrous colors of the sunrise filled the sky. It seemed nature was talking to me, giving me an example to follow. Think about it. When we realize the sun never sets, but disappears from our view to be honed for the morning to come, you can visualize that the myriad sweet, yet sometimes gloomy sunset and sunrise describe our own emotions. Thanks to God, humans have a gift that enable us to look forward with a hopeful outlook. Nature is telling us to rest on a gloomy evening when clouds sweep over the nighttime sky, yet get up in the dawn like the beautiful sun, and start anew.
So I did. And what do you know. The sunsets and sunrises turned everything around. I remembered that Alzheimers, in spite of mental devastation, gives the afflicted happy moments. He may tell his caretaker(s) of a beautiful trip he just took, of a favorite song he just heard, of his mother’s voice calling him to dinner. You see, while the afflicted gradually loses touch with the present, he is able (at moments) to live in a past that unfolds a treasured memory. Even though this brutal disease can completely wither both mental and physical strength of the sufferer, there are memories of joy.
What do you know. I listened to nature. The sunrises turned everything around. I volunteered and became a Big Sister to a Little Sister. I joined a book club. I wrote a dog book and it became that breed’s best seller. I wrote another book. Life began anew for me just as the sun shines anew each morning.
It would have been easy to wallow in sadness the rest of my life, dwell only in my own problems. Stephen Post, PhD (Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics AT Stony Brook University in New York), says, “Volunteering is a giving activity which rewards donors a forty-four percent lower death rate than those who don’t volunteer.”
It would have been easy to not open the door so I could enjoy the sights of the trees and flowers and rain and snow. It would have been easy to no longer remember what joys life used to have. It is fact that when one holds on to negative emotions like overdone sorrow and bitterness, one’s health suffers. Dr. Post tells us that in a thirteen year study, people with “sunny dispositions” (there is the sun again) “had far less arterial narrowing” than those who complained. Many people enjoy complaining.
I found I could walk with the sun each day. Whenever I looked at a sunbeam I breathed in gladness. Gladness helped me stop moaning about the loss of my dear husband. That brought me to thoroughly enjoy each moment outside, which I had put behind me when my care taking duties took over. Then something – something – happened. I opened my bedroom closet door one morning and saw my husband’s favorite cap (I could not throw it away) had fallen on the closet floor. Lucky, my Portuguese Water Dog, who was beside me, leaned down and smelled it. He sniffed and sniffed it. He looked up at me, wagged his tail, grabbed the cap, and began carrying it proudly around the house. wagging and wagging his tail in joy. That night he laid his head on the cap before he went to sleep. His actions brought many, many tears to my eyes. The long-ago scent brought back joyful memories to the dog he left behind. Amazing.
The gladness I felt spread to a far-away friend who had lost her husband. She too, found it difficult to let go of her grief. When I told her about the glorious sunrises stimulating me because I found them an example of how wonderful tomorrow can be; when I told her the remarkable story of my dog’s emotional reaction to the scent of his master, she oh’d and ah’d . She thanked me for my suggestions. I encouraged her to hurry up and volunteer. “Join a book club,” (as I did), “Volunteer at a hospital,” (as I did). That was the beginning of her new gladness.
Life is really beautifull.
Continue reading “Kitty Braunds Books – 9”
It is now September 2018. Montana has had a long winter, a short Spring, a short but lovely Summer and this morning we had a taste of fall. . . 49 degrees. The day was also the beginning of a smoke-drenched sky from many of the western states fires. I typed this story yesterday, but lost it, so I am retyping it now. Enjoy. Here we go!~
In the heady days of the discovery of America, adventurous and hopeful human beings left their homelands and swarmed over the pristine and wild acres of their new land, settling down with one another in perfect harmony of being alive and productive in a land of opportunity. They were banded together as a great melting pot of humanity. Too soon the togetherness began to change – to evolve into cultures standing alone.
When my mother came to the United States in 1912 on the U.S.S. Cleveland, the ship’s manifest listed the destination point (and sponsorship) of each of the passengers. Most passengers knew only their native tongue and were sponsored by individuals who spoke that language primarily. A jumble of cultures grew. My mother was one of the few who had studied and was proficient in English before she stepped on the ship to America. As a pre-hired governess for five children in the San Francisco, California area, she earned her way into the melting pot section of America. She married in 1913 and began teaching her first-born High German. “Don’t do that,” warned her neighbors. “Germany is an enemy of the United States.” So as a good American she followed their advice.
When I lived in New York City in the early 1940s, I initially rented in the Scandinavian section in the East seventies. Most of the residents there lived in railroad type flats, called cold-weather flats. There was a communal bathroom on each floor and a bathtub in each kitchen. One put pots of cold water on the stove and heated the water to take a bath. These east-side streets were alive with the manners and clothes and songs and behaviors echoing Scandinavian old-time cultures. I went to many a dance and wedding when I lived in that section of New York City. My boyfriend at the time was part of that culture. I was almost claimed as one of their own. Oh, how I enjoyed the friendship and customs of these wonderful people.
I learned while I lived in the city (Manhattan), that many of the streets were open to only one culture – streets in which only Irish or Jewish or African-Americans lived with customs that spoke primarily of the ‘old’ or ‘native’ country. As I travelled around the middle and northern United States as an actress in the late 1940s and lived in the northern states in the 1960s and ’70s, I certainly saw the differences in speech and culture. North Dakota and Minnesota were developed by Danish and Swedish people.
Washington and California became home to those moving away from a single culture, moving to express themselves in a melting pot state. Since those years, sections of California have become one culture proud, particularly in the semi-arid deserts of southern California. When I lived in that area, Mexican nationals streamed there and filled the newly-built houses. Many restaurants and shops evolved into a Mexican culture.
One of my brothers, who lived in southern California, was for many years a radio spokesman for the celebrated Rose Parade. He also announced the horse races for this particular large-network station. But the station was sold. It became a Spanish speaking station to serve the distinct culture in that area. Of course, that was the end of that particular career for my brother.
As a resident of Washington state during the 1990s, I watched the exodus from California to Washington. Thousands of people left the many separate cultures of California for the melting pot area that was Washington State.
Other places with a diversity of cultural traditions are retirement homes. As a resident of a retirement Manor, I am back in a melting pot culture. The over one-hundred residents who live here came from every walk in life, each full of memories of the life they came from – educators, salespeople, scientists, housewives, electricians, plumbers. People from all over our country, full of the traditions they grew up with. Retirement homes generally belong to the melting pot culture.
I have to conclude that America is both a jumble of world country traditions that is of fascinating interest. Americans celebrate a melting pot culture. Certainly holiday celebrations prove the fact that in this great country of ours we are both.
Photo taken June 2018
My dog story book, Devoted to Dogs, published in March 2002, contains fourteen short stories of dogs, mostly mine. I am repeating a story here, entitled America’s Wild Dog, all about the Coyote. You’ll enjoy it. Remember, it is copyrighted. Its ISBN number is 0-9720585-0-8. Please write to me, Kathryn Braund,at my address below, if you want to use it or parts of it. My email is email@example.com Thanks.
Here we go.
In this wide, great country of ours, right in our own backyard, lives a fabulous wild dog more ingenious and intelligent and wily and crafty than any other dog in the world. He has to be to survive for his modern life is very tough. But although life’s a constant, difficult struggle for him, he appears to glory in this struggle. His will to endure is remarkable. And daily he sings a wonderfully strange, lonely, joyful song with which he heralds both the evening sky and the morning heaven.
His marvelous song, KI-YOO-00-00-00-00, is spine chilling and haunting. It is a never-to-be-forgotten wild sound, a soulful two-octave staccato howl punctuating the squalling prairie or hillside winds with special canine music. To the hundreds of cowboys who have stood lonely watch over cattle herds, this music of the coyote has been like the lulling poem of a love song from the throat and lips of some faraway dream girl.
Envision yourself stacking forest-gathered wood on a newly lit campfire in front of your tent at a wilderness site when out of the dusk, beyond the hillock, the cry of the coyote pierces the air – sharp, lusty yip yips rising and falling, a zigzag of extraordinary sound sending shivers running through your body (along with an immense loneliness for you know not what). Suddenly this animal song is answered by similar voices from distant scrubs or buttes; each note of the KI-YOU-OO-OO-OO-OO pitched separately and then “run after and bit into small pieces.”
And as you stand in the aura of the campfire, a burning twig snapping sparks into the night air, the eerie song fading into the blackness of the night, the OOO-OOO accenting the brilliance of the evening stars above, you reflect on all the legends and myths you have heard about this unique animal, this wild dog of America, and all the meanings he has had for the different peoples through the eternity of his life.
Back when the world was young and animals of all kinds lived in immense abundance on the great buffalo-grassed prairies of the Americas, the Indians and the little Medicine Wolf were friends.
Because this prairie wolf was an unusual form of wolf and indigenous only to a certain part of the world – the wide-open spaces of North America from Panama to Alaska and over the prairies of Canada – he was granted a special name by those who knew him best, the Indians of North America. Coyotl was the name the Nauatl Indians of Mexico chose for the Medicine Wolf. They named him after the Aztec god Coyotlinauatl. When the Spaniards infiltrated the Americas, names such as cdiote, coyote, college, kyoto, kayo and cayeute came into usage. The Spanish word coyote (pronounced ki-o’-te) gradually took hold and folklore about the curious and devious-minded creature spread all over the new world.
Indians knew him intimately. The Apaches believed the coyote gave both the gift of wit and gluttony to man, and those of the Apaches that were called Coyoteros were proud of their sub-name. It symbolized their wondrous ingenuity and cleverness. On the other hand, to a Pueblo Indian coyote meant coward.
The Blackfoot tribe gave the wild dog godlike powers and sang the ‘Coyote Prayer song’ when they despaired. The Flathead Indians called the coyote sinchlep (imitator) and regarded the dog as “most powerful and favorable to mankind.”
Whatever stories Indians spun about this animal when their campfires were blazing and when the moon was full, the coyote’s nightly song of distant greeting heralded the approach of friends or warned them when enemies crept near, sang with them to the rain, the moon, the sun, and lamented if death visited them.
Mexican Indian tales are often woven around the coyote’s friendship with the badger (a going-to-earth creature). As a matter of fact, the coyote’s head decorates a pre-Columbian piece of pottery found in the Cases Grandes region of Mexico. This piece is believed by archaeologists to date between 1250-1300 A.D., and it attests to the fact that the coyote-badger relationship is more than myth. On one side of the Casas Grandes pot is the head of the coyote shown in bas relief; spin the pot around, and on the other side his friend the badger appears. Support is given to the odd comradeship by western trappers and mountain men, many of whom wrote or spoke of their sighting the two animals together hunting, each pleased with the teamwork and friendship of the other.
Indians sometimes stole one of the coyote’s whelps from an unguarded den and tamed it, using it as a draught dog until it reached adulthood and became destructive and untrustworthy or ran off to follow the KI-YOO-OO-OO-OO of a kin. Other times, they crossed the small prairie wolf with larger types, and told white men they “always found that the resultant offspring were not only prolific, but also better and stronger beasts of burden.”
The first Spaniard to describe the coyote was Francisco Hernandez who, in 1651, wrote of the Coyote (or Indian Fox): “It is an animal unknown to the Old World, with a wolf-like head, lively large pale eyes, small sharp ears, a long dark muzzle and very thick tail. The coyote is midway between a fox and a wolf. It is a keen hunter. It may avenge an injury and exact a penalty from some troublesome man by finding its dwelling place with great perseverance and care and killing some of its domestic animals. But it is grateful to those who do well by it and commonly signifies its good will by sharing a bit of prey. Its food consists of weaker animals, maize and other kinds of corn and sugar-cane whenever it finds some. It is captured with traps and snares and killed with the arrow.”
As Spanish and American adventurers, explorers, trappers, mountain men, pioneers and wanderers encountered the coyote on their new world pathways, each told a different story about the wild dog, so adaptable were his ways.
John James Audubon, while on a Missouri River streamer voyage in 1843, wrote of the coyote in his Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. He said, “By its predatory and destructive habits this wolf is a great annoyance to the settlers in the new territories of the west. Travelers and hunters on the prairie dislike it for killing the deer, which supply these wanderers with their best meals and furnish them with part of their clothing.”
In the middle years of the 19th century, a Lt. J.W. Abert, on military reconnaissance across the plains, observed that the prairie wolves “congregate in large packs and hang on the heels of the buffalo to pick up the infirm and those the hunters have wounded, as well as to prey on what is left of the slaughtered.”
“There is now no way of computing what were the relative numbers of coyotes to numbers of rabbits, deer, antelopes, grouse and other accompanying species in North America before the advent of civilized man,” wrote the late J. Frank Dobie in The Voice of the Coyote. “We do know that where the coyote was most abundant, game animals he is now supposed to check were also most abundant.”
All who met the coyote agree he would eat almost anything – cowhide straps, watermelon, grasshoppers, snails, fish, dates, cactus fruit, berries, rabbits, mice, birds and their eggs, rattlesnakes and carrion (all kinds, even his own). His taste, they said, “was dammable catholic!” – particularly when times were lean. Everyone who met him discovered the coyote could hunt by himself, with a companion, a pack, with animals of other species; that he often followed the sky highways of buzzards or crows or magpies to carrion feasts; that he could sprint along plains at 45 miles per hour. Each human acquaintance lauded his intelligence in outwitting and ultimately gulping down the smallest morsel of live food; in his commonsense teamwork tactics in stalking game bigger than he; about his hatred of the big wolf and of the slinking bobcat.
Some men called the coyote a predatory thief, other men called him an opportunistic scavenger; all men called him crafty, wary, inexcusably curious, more cunning than the fox, and a wild animal infinitely wise and humorous.
Nature used the coyote as spawn in her law of balance. He unwittingly aided her with the law of the survival of the fittest by eating animals smaller than he and, in the case of the larger animals, dragging down the old, the sick, and at times the helpless young, making for the strong, healthy survivor.
Although Thomas Say, zoologist, labeled the prairie wolf with theme Canis latrans (barking dog) in 1823, the character and habits of this singing little wolf were not familiar to Easterners, except from the romanticized myth and lore that were rising about him.
In 1860, Worthington Hooker MD, a professor at Yale College, wrote of the wolf, presumably including the coyote in his description: “The wolf is a gaunt but strong animal with a skulking gait, and his aspect is marked by mingled ferocity, cunning and cowardice. There are several species of wolves, especially in America, but their habits and character are very much the same.”
The Canis latrans (barking dog) or prairie wolf or coyote stands about half the size of the wolf. He is as tall as a Shetland Sheepdog or a small Collie. He measures from 16 to 21 inches high and weighs from about 18 to 30 pounds (naturally there are variances). On the other hand, the smallest of the gray wolf forms (Sierra Madre) weighs between 60 and 90 pounds.
One of the most important physical differences between coyotes and wolves are skull proportions. Coyotes’ brain cases are large, their muzzles narrow and long, their teeth small, their expression foxy. Wolves (although bigger) have smaller brain cases but large jaws with bigger teeth and their expression is not foxy.
Colorwise, coyotes remain pretty much within the yellow-gray and yellow shades, variegated with black fur tips on their soft coats; underpants usually light or white and the tip of their tails dark or black tipped; when they live at higher elevations their color tends towards grey or black.Wolf color is wide-ranged and can be a mixture of basic white, brown, gray or black.
Psychophysical disposition is also different. The wolf is endowed with a much tenderer nervous system than is the coyote. Wolves cannot adapt to hiding out and surviving in contrived habitats as civilization encircles them. This is proven by the fact that wolves have been exterminated in most countries of the world as people have cut down the forests and refined the terrain. The wolf has been exterminated from England (1350), Scotland (1600), Ireland (1700), and remains only in certain unpopulated sections of Europe, Asia, Greenland and North America.
But Americans, although virtually eliminating the wolf, discovered they could not get rid of the adaptable, versatile coyote. Instead, he extended his territory. Once strictly a Western Plains dweller, the coyote now lines many mountain boundaries and is found in the eastern and northern United States and Canada, areas where once he was completely unknown.
The wild dog, centuries-old animal friend to the Indians, became more secretive and cunning with each advance of the white man. No longer was he seen standing in full daylight – sometimes alone, sometimes in packs of from four to twenty – standing on top of a ridge watching as Indians slew buffaloes and antelopes; then patiently waiting for their departure so that he could clean the bones of all meat.
As the white man moved across America, he shot and killed any creature he saw moving on the plains. “For the sport of it, five points for the man who shoots the most quail. Ten points for the man who shoots the most prairie dogs! Fifteen points for the man who shoots the most wolves! Twenty points for the man who shoots the most antelopes. And twenty-five points for the man who shoots the most buffaloes!” Thus, the coyote became more furtive, his song more plaintive, and his friends not so numerous.
He tasted cattle carrion for the first time when trail drivers in typical “get ’em to the cattle yards” zeal, daily killed the newborn calves that had been dropped during the night and left their remains lying on the camping grounds. He tasted infirm and dying sheep when they spread over his habitat and ate all the grasses and roots so that the ground became bare, and would not harbor his long-time favorite foods – rabbits, raccoons, skunks and other small field varmints.
As pioneers cut down the forests, cultivated fields and pastured livestock, the coyote adapted himself and became belly perceptive to the brand new kind of growing restaurant. He joined the farmer, and not always furtively. While man plucked weeds from the fields and harvested grain and vegetable crops, the coyote plucked up mice and rats from their furrowed farmland holes and harvested the destructive rabbits and gophers. Sometimes he nibbled vegetables and old-world fruit. He then voiced his appreciative thanks by drawing other yellow brethren away from distant dens and prairie sanctuaries into adjacent territories. When harvest was over and blizzards howled and his usual dinners lay under snow, he also ate barnyard fowl. So the once appreciative farmers decided to rid themselves of all varmints in civilized poisoning or coyote ’roundup’ extermination campaigns.
So the coyote left the farm. His KI-YOO-OO-OO-OO song was seldom heard echoed over ghostly hayfields or bottomland pastures. If alive, he was saddened but wiser and moved higher on the land into the mountains and out of the plains. He moved to the boundaries of the forests or wherever he could find food to sustain him.
Since 1825, when the first bounty was placed upon his head, the coyote has been slaughtered intensively. It is estimated that in one period alone, between 1860 and 1885, hundreds of thousands of coyotes were killed – poisoned, gunned, trapped. Then in 1915, the government began a systematic destruction of all predatory animals. While his bigger cousin, the wolf, never fully recovered from this grim onslaught of animal blood-letting and was truly extirpated, the coyote, more crafty than ever, continued living ever unmindful of the fact that his life usually ends tragically.
Until recently, the coyote was poisoned by eating poisoned meat or from feeding o is own dead brethren who have eaten of it. Strychnine was the first poison used, causing a horrible death, the animal burning, gasping, choking, until he died in a strangulating convulsion.
Cyanide came next, hidden in fur-covered scented bait in a device called the coyote ‘go-getter.’ This device, a cylindrical instrument that is hammered into the ground, explodes right into the scent-lured animal’s mouth, the poison pushing against all its insides and destroying the victim within minutes (other animals besides the coyote go for the ‘go-getter’). Now banned, is compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) a workhorse poison which proved to be extremely deadly all the way down the food line.
Death also came to this predator in buried snapping steel jaws. And if the coyote is caught in a grim steel trap and does not die by club or butter when the trapper returns, or of starvation wile waiting for his executioner, and if he was lucky or frantic enough and the trap small enough, he chews his foot off or drags the trap with him and escapes. The coyote can live remarkably well on three feet or two, as the case may be. If he is shot and survives the wound, although unarmed crippled in some way – a jaw torn off, a lung struck, a limb dragging, eyes blinded – he lives, again remarkably, hobbling or crawling to the easiest gained meal. Then he gives no quarter.
Where stock is fenced out, some ranchers use capable cultured dogs such as Greyhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds,Borzois or their cross-bred progeny to run the coyote to his death.
These dogs can usually win this type of “run him down and kill him” hunt.
“One dog leads, and the other two follow, one on each flank of the coyote,” wrote Leon V. Aimirall, a coursing and coyote hunting enthusiast. “Thus, if this nimble son of the West ducks to either side, the move will do him no good, for there will be a dog there to meet him.”
“Our Greyhounds, left loose on the ranch, protect our stock and poultry in this manner,” stated one western rancher. “We are the only ranch in the whole area which has not lost stock and certainly the hounds are to have credit for that. The coyotes stay away.”
Regardless of the hunting of the coyote, every waning winter packs of from three to ten coyotes congregate for mating season. When paired off, the male becomes a fond, devoted mate and while not remaining monogamous all of his twelve to twenty year life span (if he survives civilization’s death traps), he often shares a den with one female for several years.
From three to ten pups are born in a litter (gestation period is like that of cultured dogs, from 60 to 65 days). When the pups have begun to be weaned at about three weeks, the male as well as the female hunts for and regurgitates the food for them. Both parents feed the pups until weaning is complete and the offsprings’ attempts at hunting small game become successful. It is at this time of year, claim the sheepmen, that depredations of the murdering coyotes are the worst.
I reflect on the coyote, the wild dog of America, and I wonder how it was back in the days when herds of buffalo and deer and antelope roamed the plains and when the Indian walked softly over the earth and every plant and animal had its own natural changing place in nature’s balance. Perhaps like the mother who sits in her rocking chair and gazes at the photographs of her sons and daughters who have left their childhood home and gone out into the world to make their own way – I sit and hope the coyote will always, somehow, make his own way, whatever some men have said his crimes against civilization have been.
For if he should vanish, ah! I shall miss his lilting song that heralds the bright morning sun and I shall miss his lonely wail that tells of the evening’s shadows. Even though this may seems like only a sentimental and foolish reason, we have to keep firmly in mind what our scientists and wildlife experts have proven over and over – that to eliminate any species of wild animal upsets the balance of nature and can bring disastrous results on the livelihood of mankind as well as the propagation of wildlife in general.
KI-YOO-OO-OO-OO is the song of the fabulous and ingenious and opportunistic wild dog of America – the little coyote.
Photo taken June 2018
I’m excited. I’m also pensive. I’m going to give you a complete story – yes, it’s short – one I wrote a long time ago, long before I made it part of my book, entitled Devoted to Dogs, published in March 2002. Devoted contains fourteen dog stories written for the young and old and everybody in between.
The story’s title: Sirius The Dog Star. ISBN 0-9720588-0-8 Copyright. No parts of this story, in any form, may be published without permission
Here’s the story.
The sunrise was beautiful. From far away, beyond the junction where earth and sky meet, great shafts of colored light – pink, violet, amber, orange, yellow, red – tumbled through the heavens. Their descent was so swift that when they hit the earth they exploded into dazzling colors of light and then arched, rainbow-like and bounced brilliantly across the whole of the sky.
Sirius sat on the edge of the world and admired the dawning of the earth day. He watched the colors slide down the jagged, sparkling mountains, race across the remnants of churned and silver-flecked glaciers, and roll over the lush green plains. His eyes followed the morning as it awakened the land, caressing it with soft, warm sweet fingers of light.
When the colors came to the edges of the great forest, they halted. Only a few strong filaments ventured inside, several sliding down into the silent green depths from the topmost canopy of branches, others slithering in from the sides.
Sirius rose. He followed the bold swath of daylight until he came to a high place in front of the forest. There he paused. Looking over the tops of trees, his eyes searching the land beyond, he finally saw what he had been seeking – the cliffs bordering the sheltered valley where sunlight could not penetrate. That valley was his destination.
Climbing down from the high place on which he stood, he crossed into the forest. Yet, though he merged his image in harmony with the dense woods, several beasts threatened him. One in particular, a magnificent saber-toothed tiger, tried to jump on him. So Sirius traveled, if not in peace, in watchful quietude.
At last the forest thinned. He came out into a clearing. In front of him stretched an immense wilderness, honey-combed with remnants of recent glacial gouging. He recognized the boulder and gulley strewn wilderness as neighbor to the sunless valley that was his destination. He walked on. perceiving that the wilderness was a sweet, bursting land, rich in vegetation and animal life, massed with bushes and springing grasses. Streams of water nourished the whole of it, each winding rivulet gushing nosily at the luxurious array of blossoming plants that grew along their shallow banks.
Sirius followed one of these streams to the topmost edge of the alley. There the clear water dashed down the steep slopes to end its journey in a deep, fathomless, black pool. He walked under the humps of the cliffs, searching for the cave that the creature, man, lived in. Man, who had been put on earth to master the earth, had secluded himself in this sunless valley and did not venture out into the wilderness.
It was almost dusk when Sirius came, at last, upon an obscure narrow trail, recent footprints leading the way through a jagged split in a bush-clad cliff, back into dank shadows. He smiled triumphantly. He had found man’s hidden cave. Quickly, he changed his form so he could wait in front of the cave and yet observe unseen.
He waited tirelessly. It was only when night had shed the colors of the day and when the air was heavy with black that a man came out stealthily, afraid of what the blackness held, yet courageously, combating his fear. Sirius followed as the man crept down into the valley, his feet hardly breaking ground as he moved cautiously over the moist grass, making his way to the edge of the fathomless pool where he planned to hunt.
But the animals who had gathered there smelled him and avoided contact. And man, Sirius noted, did not smell the animals that brushed close by him on their way to quench their thirst at the water’s edge. Neither did his ears pick up the sound of bodies swiping quietly against the thick-bladed reeds as they moved near him. Never did he see their almost formless shadows cross in front of him in the brush.
When at last, after an interminable interval, he caught a small slimy water creature, his hands proved too clumsy to hold it. It wiggled adeptly out of them and fell, splashing into the shallows. Discouraged, and realizing that his crashing had chased all that were in the area away, the man turned around and wearily retraced his steps back up the cliff to his cave. Sirius heard sighs of disappointment greet his entrance. Then, although Sirius waited patiently for further action, silence, as cold and heavy as the dark night, lay over the cave.
He opened his record book and wrote in it. When he had finished, he closed the book, put it away, and turned around and left the valley.
The next day Sirius sat on Canis Major reporting to those who had gathered on the great white cloud of wisdom.
“It is my belief,” Sirius began, “that man does not know of the wondrous powers he has bestowed upon him. He sees no reflection of them anywhere. Therefore, he is caught on the edge of the valley of darkness, where he lives with fear and loneliness. Until he can free himself from these obstacles, he cannot go out into the bright meadowland of the world and seek his rich future.
“I suggest,” Sirius went on, “that we give man a support which he can grasp and carry with him to help him realize and achieve his potential.”
“That we cannot do,” was the answer. “Man has many powers. We need not add more.”
“But man does not know his powers,” argued Sirius. “There is no sunlight in this valley and he cannot see the reflection of his greatness in its fathomless pool. He must have help to start him on his way.
“There are also gifts man does not possess which he truly needs to survive in the world of the earth,” pleaded Sirius. “For instance, he does not have the gift of sharp, sensitive scent as do all other earth creatures. Neither does he possess a keen ear, nor sight for movement. He has little ability for bodily stealth and drive. These are things that were not given him. These he must have to some degree to survive in the wild land of the earth.”
There was agreement from all who had gathered on the cloud.
“I observed a creature in the forest,” Sirius continued, “which I believe could be given to man as a helpmate. For a time this creature followed me almost as if he wanted to go along my route as my companion. Once, he even forewarned me that a saber-toothed tiger was tracking me. When the tiger appeared, this small creature held it at bay with proud whines and threatening fangs until I vanished from sight. It was not the least bit afraid of the tiger’s extraordinarily long curved upper teeth which were capable of slashing him into two with one downward sweep. I was very moved by this little animal’s attempt to protect me.
“Once he came quite close to me and lay down on the earth and turned on his back in supplication. When I left the forest and went out into the wilderness, he watched me and he appeared only as a tawny finger of color at the edge of the forest. I met him again on my way home when traveling through the woods in the black night. On this second encounter he preceded me along the tracks as if he wanted to guide me.”
“Let us look at the scroll of creation,” said a voice from the cloud. “Read aloud what is written about this creature.”
The scroll was brought and opened, and many lengths were unrolled before the voice read off the list of qualities created in the animal Sirius had met. Many qualities were similar to those of other animals of the world.
“Except here, at the bottom,” spoke the quiet reader, “lies a trait that was not blotted well from the entry of man. Its tracings now sit close beside this creature’s record on the scroll.”
“What trait is that?”
“The trait of love. It is the only animal besides man that has this label added so exactly right next to its name.”
“Love is the reason the creature followed me so eagerly,” exclaimed Sirius.
“Then let us give this creature to man to be his animal friend. He can lead man out of the valley of darkness. Man will look at him and be able to see, by reflection, the wonderful qualities of love and resultant strength and courage he has inside himself.”
The next dawn Sirius traveled once again to earth. He went directly into the green forest seeking the creature who shared man’s given trait of love.
But when he reached the grove where he had first encountered the creature, the earth appeared still and fresh as if it had never been visited by any living thing. He listened to hollow silence. But then, as he turned to leave to search elsewhere, a small sound brought him full about. Sirius knelt down. He caught his breath. Lying under a fallen tree limb on a bed of leaves and needles, he saw several balls of fluffed fur. Petting them soothingly, excitedly, Sirius gathered the small and tender bodies unto his arm. As he did so, he felt a nudge against his elbow. Without turning, he knew the soft, wet nose belonged to the creature he had come to find. Sirius set her young down tenderly, turned and outstretched his hands. The tawny creature met them and moved against him until enclosed in the circle of his gentle embrace.
If there were young, thought Sirius, there must be another large one. Turning slowly, he espied two burning eyes watching him from the edge of the clearing. Again, Sirius stretched out his arms. A deep growl echoed his action. Sirius remained motionless – his whole being intent and eager and beckoning. The eyes came forward. A touch and this one was also ready for man’s company.
Then together, in mute yet eloquent trust, Sirius and the two large creatures hurried through the forest and traveled across the wilderness, Sirius carrying the sleeping young while the two parents trotted along, one taking the lead, the other trailing.
When they reached the valley of darkness, the three stole soundlessly down the track to the entrance of the cave. There, on the stubbed ground, Sirius placed the little bodies still curled in slumber. The two large ones retreated as Sirius retreated. The three crouched in the shadows. Sirius rose from the earth to where he could watch and send down a slender shining ray of protective light until the young were found.
After darkness welled up from the ground and covered the whole of the valley with its night blanket, man came out of the cave. Sirius’ ribbon of silver pointed at the tiny creatures. Man drew back afraid of the strange light. His sounds awakened hunger pangs in the tiny creatures and they opened their eyes and began crying. Man stopped to see what lay on the ground. Uttering soft cries, he picked up the creatures. Other forms came out of the cave and blended with the first. Soon, they began cradling the little animal bodies, giving them new life. Sirius smiled. Man looked up at the widening wash of silver light in wonder. Then he turned his attention back to the tiny creatures. As he did, the two large parents approached from where they had lain nearby and made it known that they were friends.
Sirius stood guard in his place patiently. Spreading timelessly over the valley came the recurring pattern of day and night, inexorably repeating, until at last as Sirius was blinking from the brightness of another new day, the man and creatures came out of the cave.
Only now, the small creatures were no longer leg unsteady and helpless, but romped happily in the clearing. They jumped, they ran, they sniffed the earth, alternately lifting black noses into the wind that tumbled down from the wilderness and swept past them deep into the valley. In the midst of playing, their parents disappeared.
Suddenly, the young halted. Lifting their noses high in the air, they at first stood stock still. Then, with a shrill whine, bodies quivering in excitement, they leapt and ran upward along the track Sirius had once trod down, cup and over the cliffs. Men followed, sprinting, at times unsure and hesitant in their newfound strides, yet loathe to slacken pace lest they should lose sight of the swift footed creature friends.
Near the top of the highest rise, standing over a large antlered animal were the two adults, demonstrating to man how they could hunt food for him. They showed man that they could be his eyes, ears, and scent at the times his ability was inadequate.
Sirius moved down to the horizon of the wilderness where he could observe at better range. After the men and the creatures had eaten, he saw them climb over the top of the highest cliff. There, spread before them was the sweet, wonderful wilderness and the endless beauty of the sunlit earth. He saw their faces illuminated not only with reflected sunlight but also with humility and awe as they looked at the absolute glory of the world.
Clouds passed by. When they had moved on, Sirius could see the men hurrying through the green meadows where the clear water rushed and the herbage was lush. The tawny creatures, in turn, ran joyously around their feet, then rushed ahead, making trails for the masters of the world.
Night came. Sirius moved high in the sky. His silver eyes searched the glistening moonlight. At last he saw what he was looking for. The group of men was contentedly sleeping on a bed of grasses under the open sky, the tawny creatures circling them on guard.
At that moment, Sirius knew the gift to man of the creature of sight, smell, sound and love was the gift that would encourage man to have little fear of the future. So Sirius, forever afterwards called the Dog Star, stood in the sky, his soul tenderly twinkling until the wind quickened and the great shafts of colored light gathered beyond the junction where earth and sky meet and heralded the approach of a bright new day.