We know that in some species, genetic expression (epigenetics) can be influenced by events twelve generations back. It’s a helpful perspective in working with ancestral trauma in humans: A simple extrapolation confirms how relevant ancestral genetics can be in comprehending inherited canine traits and behaviors. Today I saw in Wren her heritage from the powerful spitz-type sled dogs of the Arctic, coming from both her Pomeranian and American Eskimo components.
Wren is made of seven breeds. I am still excited and grateful to know this, and have been dipping into deeper research on each of them, and into the origins of those breeds. This gives me a map, of sorts, of the world of dogs, dogs of the world, and learning their histories gives me deeper understanding of the each breed. I’m grateful for a glimpse into Wren’s DNA, the fascinating web of interbreeding it reflects, and the technology at my fingertips to explore the implications.
AKC has short, delightfully informative, videos on many of Wren’s breeds including Pomeranian, which I looked up first, since it makes up nearly half of her DNA. Then I looked up Australian Cattle Dog, twenty percent of her DNA and much of her behavior. Altogether, these seven breeds, and their progenitors, contribute to her physical traits, behavioral character, personality, or d) all of the above. Through exploring them, I gain deeper understanding of all the facets of this charismatic, energetic, perfectly agreeable, eloquently communicative little creature who loves routine as much as I do.
The verdict is in, and it makes so much sense. We knew Wren was part Pomeranian, but wondered about the rest. One of her vets guessed miniature Aussie and came darn close. The Australian cattle dog explains both her speckled feet and propensity to herd the cat, and the deer, and me. I can really see that breed in her. I don’t know much about miniature pinschers but find that part interesting.
As for the Supermutt percentage, I’m grateful I finally have the pit bull I’ve long wanted, as well as the poodle. And I’m not surprised there’s a little chihuahua in her, as that’s what her other half was billed as; nor am I surprised that it’s only a small percentage of her genetic material. She’s never really struck me as much chihuahua.
I’m grateful for the science and the top-rated doggie DNA company Embark that made it possible for me to know more about the little mystery dog that came into my life last year.
I’m grateful for the intangibles in a day; not to be confused with the immeasurables, but including them. I’m grateful for the feeling of joy of just waking up alive, for the excitement and potential I feel at the end of pranayama class with a beloved teacher and the sense of understanding that passes between us even on zoom; for the joy of teaching and the sincere caring for the students in my classes (and graduates) to whom I can offer some help and guidance in navigating challenging lives; for the sense of humility I experience knowing that I’m just a step or two ahead of them on this journey to peace and contentment in a culture that demands more of us than we can realistically expect to render. I’m grateful for the facets of my life that I experience and treasure every day which cannot be captured in a photograph. Also, I’m grateful for those moments that can be.
Today winterizing began in earnest, deep-cleaning the sunroom in preparation for bringing in all the cacti, geranii, potted herbs, and a few peppers that I can’t bear to lose to colder nights. Above, one of the two Datil peppers, which I dug up and potted to bring in so that I can at least have a chance of some ripening. These hot peppers are native to St. Augustine, Florida, and apparently need a much longer season than I could give them here. Below, I also potted up the single Tabasco pepper plant, which took so long to produce blossoms, then flourished; but alas, it hails from Mexico and the US gulf coast states, and also wants a longer season than I could provide. Hoping these two pepper plants, and a little Scorpion that hasn’t even flowered yet, plus one of the Jigsaw peppers, will all thrive in the sunroom for a month or two more, without spawning aphids.
I’ve created a monster! My goal in spring was to have Wren trained by fall to race around the yard and find Biko quickly and consistently. She is doing an excellent job of that, when she can tear herself away from nibbling on the lush green grasses brought up by an extra rainy September. She runs ahead of me checking under sagebrush, rabbitbrush, juniper, and sits down when she finds him. However, when I pull him from his burrow each evening to bring him inside, she jumps at him and follows me, dancing around as I set him down in his indoor spot, then barks and sits down beside him to tell me she’s found him again! In the mornings, she yips and prances until I follow her into the laundry nook where she finds him yet again; each time expecting a treat, of course. And of course she gets one.
I’m grateful that my grownup cat Topaz, whose nose has been out of joint since the kitten adventure, and not quite straight even after three months with Wren, finally jumped up on my lap this afternoon for no reason. She kneaded and purred, and curled up for a short visit as I picked weeds out of her thick fur. Wren got a little anxious about it, and came up to inquire; she and Topaz went nose to gentle nose for a few seconds with no tension. It was sweet. We all hung out for awhile in the shade of late afternoon on the east patio, doing nothing, content to just be. I love these peaceful breaks in the day, where I simply pause, take a time out from the busyness of correspondence, work, dishes, practice, anything, just being in open awareness for a few minutes.
I’m grateful for another full day of mindfulness, considering my values and trying to put them into action. One of my deepest values is gratitude, of course; another is savoring wholesome food and making the most of the gifts I’m given; yet another is witnessing the beauty of this fragile planet. I’m grateful for its atmosphere, what I can experience of it anyway: the clouds above, aridity and humidity, heat and cool as they fluctuate with day and night; and each breath inhaling air here as pure as anywhere. I’m grateful for a friend to spend these precious days with, and the atmosphere of playful joy she brings to everything we do.
This evening we stepped outside for sunset. The light was that spectacular low, late light after rain, sun slicing along the horizon under a heavy blanket of stratus clouds, air crystalline cool after a long drizzly day. I’m grateful for this wet respite, and grateful for the spectacle of sunset.
As I stood at the west fenceline snapping images, Wren sat and trembled at my left heel, watching horses in the pasture beyond, itching to investigate them. I lost myself for a moment in the clouds and light. When I turned for her Wren had disappeared. I’ve learned not to panic and yell, because she’s never far and she comes instantaneously when called. I’ve never had a dog like that. Even wonderful Stellar took a few seconds to lug his big beautiful body my way. Wren turns on a dime and goes into warp drive when I whistle or call even softly. So I looked around close, and then farther away.
I felt a frisson of fear when I saw those two big white rogue dogs I lost my hearing over, trotting single file through the woods fifty feet away, heading south toward their home, oblivious to me. Then they moved into a lope, and behind them ran my fierce little watchdog chasing them out of her territory! I laughed aloud as they picked up their pace, and when I whistled she turned and sped over to me, so proud of herself.
It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…
42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.
A. She doesn’t like snow! She did everything she could to avoid going out in it yesterday. Fortunately for her, it didn’t accumulate much, and fortunately for all other living things, it actually carried quite a bit of moisture, leaving good puddles when it all melted this morning, and soaking into the ground pretty well.
B. She got traumatized at the vet this morning. The good news is, she isn’t diabetic; and, she didn’t fight the blood draw as ferociously as she did the other procedure. She’s had loose stools since she arrived almost a month ago, to varying degrees. She got treated a few weeks ago at the Delta vet for ‘stress colitis’ and put on a special, very expensive, short-term diet, which seemed to improve things for the short term. But it’s just been getting worse since we transitioned that diet a week ago to a high-end small-dog kibble. I wondered if maybe she had picked up coccidia from snoofing the kittens, or had not been thoroughly wormed at the shelter she came from. So off we drove to the local vet on this gorgeous, damp morning, Wren snapped into her new carseat, nasty bagged poop sample on the back floor.
I brought them both in, dog and sample, and held her on the exam table as we waited for the doctor. When he approached her behind, I naturally thought he was going to take her temperature, so I tightened my grip. She screamed, thrashed, screamed, bit me, screamed, writhed, latched onto my ring finger and ring (Please don’t swallow that stone!), and screamed some more. She fought every bit as hard as Raven did whenever she was on the vet table, and I was grateful Wren only weighs eleven pounds. The vet grunted “Move her up, move her up.” I didn’t know what that meant or why, imagined the thermometer stuck in her butt, but I scooted her up the table and looked over my shoulder. A stream of poo ran down the table and he stood there with a dry swab.
“Jesus!” I yelped. “What are you doing?! I brought in a sample!”
“Oh, you brought a sample?” he muttered.
It took me a few minutes to regain my composure, and Wren a bit longer than that. I handed her to the assistant, and went to the sink to wash the blood and shit off my hand. OK, that sounds worse than it was, there wasn’t much of either, it was just a couple of small tooth wounds on my pinky and a little smear of poop on my wrist. Though I remained disgruntled, I managed to be pleasant for the rest of the visit as he ran the Giardia test and listened to her heart and lungs. Despite her occasional little cough, her lungs sounded good, and her heart strong. He drew a few drops of blood from her foreleg and found her glucose to be safely in the normal range. But the Giardia test turned up positive.
Giardia is a nasty one-celled parasitic organism that passes through feces and contaminates water and soil. It’s almost impossible for a human to drink from wild water anymore, even in high mountain streams, without getting infected, because domestic grazing animals have contaminated source water. Giardia is not uncommon in kennels and shelters, it turns out, especially if cleaning protocols are inadequate. Not making any accusations, but the most likely source of Wren’s infection is one of the three shelters she passed through on her way here, or else she arrived at the Shiprock shelter with it from her previous home. Fortunately, it’s unlikely that Topaz, Biko, or I will get infected from Wren, as various strains of Giardia infest different host species. But, it’s possible, and we’ll be doing some more thorough cleaning than usual this weekend.
By the time I left the vet, their tiny waiting room had gotten crowded with unmasked people despite the “One at a Time” sign on their door. I was still shaken and grumpy. I carried that grump with me as I drove back to town and went into Farm Runners for a couple of groceries. The mushrooms weren’t in the cooler where they should have been but were in a counter drying out; no one in there wore a mask; the first clerk coughed so much she had to leave the counter; the second clerk nattered on about how good the tortillas are–Like I don’t know that? Like that’s not why I’m buying them?!
I had to laugh to myself about my poopy attitude. I didn’t manage to muster a smile behind my mask, but at least I didn’t voice any of my irritation or act it out. I was, as usual, so grateful for my mindfulness practice, which in this case allowed me to understand why I was impatient and grumpy. Everything in the store that annoyed me was exacerbated by the residual experience of anger, trauma, and frustration from the vet office. I could see clearly that I was in the grip of an emotional refractory period, and was able to get through it without any regretful reactions. Once home, I showered off the bad attitude and ate some delicious spring risotto topped with crispy baby shiitakes, while Wren curled up in her bed and licked her wounded pride.