More Desert Trails!!!!

93 degrees means the kids learn to rest in the shade and inhale water. I thought we would barely be there an hour, but everyone kept rallying. Including me. My legs were dead and my knee was exploding after 6.5 hours and 50 miles through Brown’s Ranch and over Tom’s Thumb yesterday.

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It made completing each sprint up to the dropins on my dirt-jumper so gratifying. I was hard once, and maybe just maybe i can be again. Climbs are fun! I felt looser each run, fatigue and heat melting the mountain of logistics and driving and coaching and assuaging 3 riders. “Have some fruit, strap on your pads, drink, take the high line, don’t cross the trail, commit, be careful.” The good days are redeemed by moments, repeating my friends’ advice to attack the jumps, get into the landing position, and trust.

tinyShredder was feeling it too.

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pretty good pic for a 9 yo with an SLR.

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As we were loading the car Alana finally asked to swap out her 16″ and ride her 20″, and spent another 30 min on the skills track before she hit the green line. Each indulgence buys off a future complaint, reminding her she’s done this before and we won’t condone unwarranted timidity.

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On the drive home the kids were chattering and rambling, littleGirl war stories charged up on stoke. Great session for everyone!

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Brown’s Ranch on My Birthday

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Dog Rides, Dog Souls

I forgot much of what I barely ever learned of the coyote underbelly of N. Snottsdale, with Kila an already old-dog who mostly wanted to nose around for 2-3 miles max. Long gentle miles coasting, thinking, smiling and pondering, not on the trainer not in a room, same calories while absorbing every inch of my realm with much better company than Netflix. Dog rides are not about hammering or vertical or gnar, though we approve of all these things. Dog rides are seeing shadows, silences, sniffs and snoops, the affects and affectations of suburban whether and wild illusions. There are many dark corners and natural corridors, its been a while since drifting through them was an almost-nightly ritual.

Dog rides are not hard, but they don’t need to be easy. Dîa doesn’t want them that way. Tequila Tree, 98th St. Wash, the golf course, Horizon Park. We like our choices. A lot. They are extremely child-compatible or as heart-pounding as I want. Running with my pack again, to the library, the school, this cat in a littledog’s body, this brilliant beast, lithe and learns like she does everything else: fast!

I am thinking about a new tattoo:

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We were out for an hour, more than our 10th but less than our 20th ride, a noncomittal range like the girls you slept with or how many times you tried coke. The still-novelty proved prescient, the last 2 miles 500 feet down, where she lingered just in front of my wheel, so either could wreck the other, and didn’t let me pass. I loved the intimacy, but was frustrated by the confinement. I wanted to rip it, small dh as it was, take a sip of thrill out of another perfunctory commitment commuting my children. She resisted a bit when i leashed her 25 yards before we came out of the desert onto the sidewalk. How just like a dog, transitioning from off-leash to leashed. Selfish damn dog. We rolled onto the sidewalk, she was still elsewhere, still selfish, still a puppy, still so vulnerable. She darted in front of my wheel, flashed across and under it, i sensed impending carnage and for a beat hesitated thinking “you’re gonna get a lesson now, Dia“.

We both did. I went over the bars, she was screaming. Not a yelp getting smacked by a wheel and tumbled in the dirt, but the insuppressible shrill of a dog who must have broken her leg. Oh fuck oh fuck, as i pulled up from my digger, oh fuck she’s screaming I’m gonna see her broken leg, I’m gonna see her twisted back. I saw her twisted tail in the wheel and lacerated by the rotor, cleaved almost all the way through, with three fractures. Tendons rolled up like pink rubberbands, bones glowing pale. This is what i am seeing. I am seeing this, wrapped in the wheel, i am seeing this and need to do something, now, my dog is knotted into my bike and her tail is severed.

I reached for her, she attacked me, grinding my hands when i drew for the wheel. I shrieked back at her stop biting me STOP BITING ME, she gnashed me again. I went for the release on the thru- axel, which spun and spun but did not grab its threads. I went back to the other side of the wheel, Dia snapped and snarled and ripped at me more, while i struggled at the wheel and ripped at her more, rotor stuck in her, tail wrenched and broken, dog weighs less than my bike getting wrenched around from behind.

I flailed with the axel again, braced for the attack on my hands, someone appeared and I yelled at her to not get mauled. She yelled at me, I yelled at her, more shredding to my hands, Beckie, someone had a pliers. I finally got the axel out, the woman grabbed the handlebars while I screeched “PULL HARD!!!!”

The dog stood up, frozen, shocked still. I collapsed on her and cried. I’m so sorry Dia, I’m so sorry. For just one fraction of one second i was selfish at you, I could have stopped this, and I am so so so sorry.  Then there was a long awkward awkwardness. The bystanders were creeped out. Beckie had gone home, looking for a toolbox, unaware one of the good samaritans was the Notre Dame HS maintenance man. No one quite wanted to load the bloody dog into their car. My phone wouldn’t work with gristle and gore all over my fingers, i numbly apologized for the belated arrival of my wife, and some of my random f-bombs. Much more surreal than this freak accident after 20 yrs of riding with dogs.

Beckie said from when i first called to when we were in the car heading to the Emergency Vet was 14 minutes. Seemed longer. The taking of Normandy Beach took like 20 minutes, as per Saving Private Ryan. She doesn’t seem to hold the 14 minutes against me, just like i didn’t complain about my tenderized hands. But getting the wheel off her was terrible.

Animal urgent care provides amazing facilities for a first-world dog, but didn’t have so much as a cotton ball for my ragged wrists. I slumped in the waiting room and bled, signed forms, wiped off their pen. Kids Club Soccer has made me realize that when coaches say ‘this might happen‘ what they really mean is when the Vet says ‘this is probably going to happen‘. And your dog is definitely going to lose her tail for the cost of a semester of college.

I am just so glad you are home.

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I know your ass is so very itchy, and when I feel bad for you or me we will cowdog up. I will stuff your antibiotics in cream cheese and cover your pain-killer in bacon grease, and laugh as you squeeze the e.collar through the dog door and under the bed and crash your bar-ends into the walls as you stumble thru the house. We will cowdog up.

I did some bike work. this is what a rotor looks like when it messes with a dog’s tail.

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yeah Dia, you kicked that rotor’s ass! that muthafuggah is NEVER gonna spin again. booyah!!!

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this is what a dog’s tail looks like when she messes with a rotor

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Everyone keeps saying ‘freak accident‘ and ‘not your fault‘, but my guilt will never go away.  I’m an expert mountain biker and I put her and my kids into positions where I’m the one who keeps them safe. By definition: hubris. I will never be selfish with her, with them, on the bike again. Nunca mas. Wisdom is redemption. Wisdom is redemption.

12 days of lampshade turned into 3 weeks of not riding, wondering how Dia would handle it. The first 30 seconds she was right back in front of my wheel, i was towing a trailer and it might as well have been a freight train vs. Dia’s 25lbs. I panicked, jacked the brakes, wanted to bail. My left arm found my hip and Dia’s 25lbs were off the port bow. And after 200 yards, it seemed like she even wanted to be there. Then it stopped, we skated, and headed back.

The next ride she blasted a mile 6 feet to my left, mostly listened to me, but would not come the moment i let her offleash. I ignored it, there were two owls hooting down at us as we rolled through the golf course.

they look like this to us
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we look like this to them
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I rose goggled the dysfunction.  Dia ran from me at the trailhead, hid behind the bathroom, peed when i leashed her and pulled as we rode off.

Two nights later we set out for Tequila Tree. Dia peed in the garage, then 100 yars away ditched me and ran for home. She peed in the driveway, then .5 mile later ditched me ran through a neighborhood across Bell Rd. and home. She peed in the driveway and I rode her slowly a mile up the road and down the 104th St. trail into the McDs. She seemed happier when i took off her leash, and trailed me for 2 miles until I got off to walk a 20 yard stretch. Then she was gone.

I found her an hour later. 10ft off 200 yards from the 104th St. TH right where i let her offleash. I was there 30 min before, so were the kids when they came looking for her, when I circled back down the lower trails and back up the road, calling. I was calling, unmistakeable in my light, and only saw a glint to double back and find her. Terrified in the dirt, not responding. I’m just so glad you’re home.

And then this happened.

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things we did different this ride: fluffed Dia with proclamations of eternal devotion, rode in daytime, licked her face, rode with children with busy hands that like to scratch and praise, rode the Firebird — maybe Dia just hates 29ers? Gave her bites of leftover Pollo Loco every 10 min from the moment we stood in the garage.  She pood, she stayed in her space, she was magnificent. I gave her more chicken, the girls are, sorta, capable of selfless love. So good ride, we needed it.

 

Rocky Point Spring Break 15

new beach entrance
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Dia approves of this hole
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Dia approves of this hole
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Birthday Marathon

Happy Birthday to my best little girls! You are always here with me.

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For the math geeks: this is the one and only birthday where their ages and birthdays are mirror flipped! 69 dudes!!!

still very small
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growing so fast

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We have done bdays together, and back-to-back, but never multiple weekends. Don’t ever do it. Its a death march of caffeine and estrogen. There is planning, execution, followup, then the actual date, then another iteration. I think i caught diabetes.

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is it cheesey to say how long i’ve known and how much i care for some of these other random kids? I kept the pics here to G and Lana, but it is so good to see all our other little kids having fun.

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i got your name written here in a rose tattoo

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dang its hard to get pics worth.a.shit of kids in the gym

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then there were 2 more days of leftover cake and pizza, i peed gold, i tore my calf, i stayed up 4 nights in a row because my system had so many extra carbs. And then there was the actual birthday!

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G’s party agenda went thusly:

LittleGirl PartyBus to watch G play soccer
Soccer and DogRomping for 2 hrs, eating donuts and watching a proposal.
PartyBus->pizza party
presents
art projects
hot tub
art projects
hot tub
pile in the truck, flashlight tag in the park for an hour, pile in the truck
hot tub
showers
midnight cake
hide and seek, more shit nonstop until 4am
bikes and scooters down the street from 7:30-8:30
pancakes, bacon, strawberries and diet coke
hot tub
bouncy house
bikes and scooters
pass out

 

A lot of dog, girl, goodkidsawesumsauce.

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an hour of art and tubbing, meta, art and gadgets.

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what do you do when your kids and their friends start catting about a another kid? I don’t like some kids either, so how do you convey to them not to be mean without making your comments irrelevent about that shitty other kid?

Don’t be mean, you are not mean kids, even if what you say is right don’t be mean.

I dont think it will keep them from talkng about it, but it might make them reflect on themselves while they do.

There was an hour of running themselves retarded in the park with their flashlights, hottub and showers before midnight cake.

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Things went roman terms during which i pseudo slept. i cant believe i had no alcohol. i stumble into the garage at 7:45 and they are all FIP asking Mr Alexander could you raise the seat on this bike? I wanted so badly to take a pic as 5 9yo’s found portage in my garage…I should get a medal for that.

WTF?! WTFF?!?! When this shit gonna end?

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its nevah gon end
i aint so bad now, am i?

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stop swiping me asshat

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children suck!

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the party has moved back to the hot tub for the 3rd time, no, 4th time. on to the bouncy house. great idea, thanks Beckie. taking a moment to myself to scream.

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but wait, its Presidents’ Day Weekend! Sleep late, we all took Mommy to lunch, then spent MomMom and PopPop’s money. We appreciate the gift so much more when i can turn it into an Econ 101 lesson.

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Mine

Mrs. Kar’s class collaborative drawing to show good character.

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It took me about 90 seconds to find hers. I looked at the handwriting, the artistry, the message. Neither of us could quite believe it when on my first guess I said “You wrote this.”

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School decisions, which have 38x more effect on your self-worth than a comparble decision you would just make for yourowndamnself

So hard. So full of doubt and remorse. 38x more guilt-ridden, confidence uninspiring, Here it is, another ride in the school Board chaos:

My Summary from Elementary Master Plan Community Meeting at Cheyenne 1-29
The meeting was presented by the staff of the architectural firm the District hired to assess the usage and condition of its elementary schools. It was not presented by District staff. The architectural firm’s reps went through each school and listed: the year it was built, % utilization of physical space, # of kids currently enrolled, projections for enrollment for 3 and 5 years out. They laid out a plan to rebuild and refurbish each building for $150 million dollars, and asked the crowd to complete a simple survey on if they would like the District to 1) consolidate, 2) rebuild, or 3) do nothing. 

The Arch.Firm’s reps reviewed each school. But, within minutes, one person commented that the numbers used for enrollment were very wrong, and that the District’s own numbers on enrollment from Fall 2014 were lower. Those current numbers are reflected here: 

https://drive.google.com/…/0B_L8v…/view

and also here:

http://www.azcentral.com/…/scottsdale…/15514469/

BTW, audio for the whole meeting can be found here.

The Reps from the Architecture firm wavered here, stammered and sweated, and stated that these were the numbers they were given from the District. Their numbers, from the District, were more outdated than those published in the AZ Republic. The presentation went on, and soon I questioned their enrollment projections. I asked if those projections included recent enrollment trends, affects of Charters opening in the areas, and Gov. Ducey’s plan to make public school lease excess space to Charters. The Arch.Firm folks said that the projections were strictly demographic with no consideration for business analysis.

The meeting turned to Q&A, with visible frustration being expressed in the crowd for the inaccurate and 1-dimensional presentation from the Arch.Firm’s reps One woman commented that its embarrassing for the District to not own the presentation, to let it go out with so many blatant errors, and to allow such an important topic to be managed by a contractor with a limited context for the District’s challenges. Meanwhile, Superintendent David Peterson stood in back and did not say a word. It wasn’t a full room, there were about 50 people total… how can you as a leader let an employee take the bullets for you like this? 

I could not help but reflect on the presentation I attended the night before at Cactus&Scottsdale roads, for a new k-4 that the Basis Charters were opening. It was presented by Basis’ CEO, and had several hundred people beating down the doors for 150 spots next year in the unused Sunday School rooms of a Church.

Many more questions and comments, the major themes being: 

1. Why are you even proposing a $150M bond for buildings when you are losing enrollment, and when the overall demographic trend that the Arch.Firm announced was 5-10% fewer children in Scottsdale in the coming years?

2. Many comments from Cheyenne parents about how are other schools losing enrollment when Cheyenne has a waitlist? Why dont they copy that model, or build a magnet school?

3. What are you doing to put money into the classroom, not the buildings, so that our education is as good as the local Charters? So many people who had opportunity and means to attend Charters expressed their belief in public schools. This very morning I attended a tour of Great Hearts Archway. Its a very tight, low-frills facility. It has a lot going for it, but also has its cons. Today I also received an email about the Great Hearts lottery and waitlist. There are 10,000 people in the Valley waiting for 2,000 spots at Great Hearts schools, despite most of us loving our public schools. There was so much expression of anger over the District’s disconnect.

I commented that the entire analysis and rebuild option is premised on a neighborhood school. It was ironic given that the meeting was in Cheyenne, which is an open enrollment school and must be thought of as a regional or ‘mega-neighborhood’ school. While we all want an awesome neighborhood school, its just not the fact anymore. In the last month I visited 4 Charter schools. Education is the most important thing to me, but followed closely by community, continuity, and letting my girls enjoy their childhood. Once you get in the car, 2 miles vs 5 miles is meaningless. If we attend Redfield or Copper Ridge, I will be ok with that as long as the education and options comparable to a Charter are there. I also commented on how the District should not base building projections on changes occurring outside of the District, that the mission is to the families of Scottsdale and not to empire building.

More comments were made about frustrations over this meeting not addressing consolidation and the economic realities of the District. One person commented that for every 6 kids that leave SUSD, they must fire a teacher. Another mentioned the example of Yavapai elementary, which was rebuilt in 2011 and still only has 63% enrollment. ROSS posted number today for the fixed costs (Admin, District staff, facilities upkeep, bussing) of running a school, and how teacher\student ratios only reach acceptable levels as the school approaches 80% enrollment — facts like this were also not addressed at all. People said many times that there is no chance a bond for rebuilding the schools would pass.

I shared these thoughts with Beckie, who is very into her kids’ education but not as up on the District politics like I am. She is a PhD in Economics, and leads the Pricing Department for a large firm in the Valley. You could comfortably call my wife an expert in consumer-side supply and demand. Her immediate comments were: 

1. WTF? WTFF?
2. Peterson is basing his strategy on something his customers don’t want and the business trends don’t support.
3. He is not replicating the model of his one school that is oversubscribed (Cheyenne).
4. He utterly refuses to acknowledge that charter after charter is expanding in his market. Basis, Great Hearts, and Arts Academy of Scottsdale are all increasing their seats next year largely at the expense of SUSD. We have attended all their tours and seen this all first-hand.

Peterson sat in the back of the room and didn’t say a word, while people he hired got thrown to the lions and his customers fumed repeatedly that “The District doesn’t get what we want”. I met with Peterson 1-on-1 in December. He was very gracious in giving me some time and very nice to speak with, but he was a complete uninspiration when he laid out his plans to rebuild the District. He anti-sold me. Loss of faith in the leadership is the reason why my family stepped up its pace to get on waiting lists, as much as we really really really want to stay at SUSD. The teachers, communities and schools have so much strength and potential, but they depend on strong finances which the current central administration will not, can not, deliver.

Ride #2

Día gets better every day, every night i spoon with her, every time the garage opens she’s less awfulness unleashed upon the world while still mostly being leashed.

We took a spin around the Eagle last week, to stretch her legs and see how she reacted to the bike. Magnificently, of course. Trotting a wheel’s width away at pace. Then i upped the challenge and rode us to school in traffic to ride the girls home. I whopped her once in the face with the 4 inch-wide tire on the PhattyCatty, the moment was there to teach her a lesson about crossing under the bike. I am 6x heavier than Día, I am immune with stability. She learns even small mistakes upon me result in comic-book *POWS* to her snout. The best part is she sees me trying so hard to hold back.

Good Dog.

There is a crack in her cranium, for intellect. I haven’t figured it out just yet, its tirelessly spinning away from me. but i am getting closer. It is facing me more and more while she reels after the cats, then it stares at me. She doesn’t stop, then she is still, and snuggles next to me all night. 8hrs of nonstop nonpissing. I am a dog-whisperer.

self-ay

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She barked at her food dish filled with Kila’s old food. Was it stale, or full of death, or bland vs puppy formula? I thinked upon it that she just didn’t like the metallic slap of her new tag against it. She ate it empty after i took off her collar. Then ate the collar. She jumped on a chair to jump to the table to lick plates. She knocked a pizza off the counter. She walked on the end table. She is a cat and a dog, with the best of both.

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Friday we rode slowly out in the dark to Tequila Tree, saw 1 person in 8 miles of 99% dirt. Nothing but the night and my wheel to fixate La Diabla. As I was wobbling up to the saddle she dodged, hopped adroitly, meat-shadowed, dazzled.

We rested at the Tree, and as I sipped in the Valley lights…
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…i noticed her fretting, flailing, gnashing.

“OMFG, the dog got a chollaball.  I have to find the ball NOW!!!! 

*blink*

i have to get my gloves on NOW!!!!’

I held her mouth shut facedown in the dirt while i grabbed a glove, another. Running my hands lightly over her, taking out a big bit and a small one.

Removing a glove, she only had a few spines in her muzzle and none i could find in her mouth, most of the damage was 2 feet. Just!In!Time!!   SAR on top of the mountain, we are better friends for it. We saw 4 deer on the ride down.

Bike Park

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La Diabla

I don’t feel guilt over Kila, but I needed to wait for dog-need to ache, to melt me so wet again I would embrace the work, the pissing, the apologies to countless strangers, bags of poo, the ruined collaboration chair, and whatever penitence for Kila remained.  It took 11 months. Welcome René Desbarkes! Thank you ACDR.

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For a few minutes the Chollaballs and their new dog were an internet sensation! My favorite comment: “you can barely see a puppy in there amongst all the love.

werd!

I’m sorry I peed in the house 15 times in 36 hrs. Can I jump in your lap while you’re driving? Can i cross under you while onleash? I was planning to  chase the cats over the fence, wouldn’t that be fun??
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G got a dog and a bike for xmas, ish. Close enough that she is still very stoked about close enough. Here’s how i know this – last trip to Rocky Point i went out on the SUP in January, told G I was afraid of falling, and asked her if she’d laugh at me if I did. “Absolutely” she deadpanned. We’re good like this, tinyMusher and I. Merry Xmas.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a warm Scottsdale welcome to tonight’s featured act: Día, La Diabla, the Annnnnnggggggggggeeeeeeeeeellllll of Darknessssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!

We all liked Rene Desbarkes, a lot, but it just didn’t resonate with us. Picking names was the main topic of discussions for the 5 days from when my friends Kathleen and Robin at the rescue agency told me they found just what we wanted – a young female, smart, ready to nuzzle the world with my daughters.

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A spot! A spot!
A magnificent spot!
My dog has a magnificent spot.
I’m so glad for a dog with a magnificent spot.

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And the most beautiful bentley. Tsaina’s blaze was askew, a brown vein pulled to the left by her magnificent spot. Kila’s forehead was precision striped, so balanced and integrated with her countenance i’ve lost its details in its perfection. I remember it as the cleanest and most resplendent, kissable patch of her. Día’s fur is so short that you feel her warmth waving your hand near any part of her. I like getting all up in that, any of it,  and not getting sticky and stinky and dirty.  I hope she will live in harmony with Arizona.

She follows you differently than Kila, who was always in front, or behind, enough that you could see her and hear her and she did not invade your personal space. A 55lb predator, as cozy as a fleece pullover, if and only if it was needed. I imagine Dia is following me, and look back to see and hear nothing, then look down to find her on me. She sneaks up and herds. She is a shadow, a smell, a smokey meatsack trotting an inch off me.

I have been sleeping on the couch all week, full of love and wonder for a new best friend, in these precious weeks when i get to build us together. I remember what Kila’s nape felt like. I still remember what Tsaina’s neck felt like – it was softer and smoother and shorter. And Dia’s is different from them both. I am at the beginning and see the end. Which makes enjoying this beginning so sweet.

Bugs: not stoked.
Cue the music from the finale of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.

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the crate came from a friend, the next day. It was dirtier and rustier and absent my fresh spraypaint. It took a few hrs i should have been at work, a few dollars, and Beckie’s I-told-you-sowing for not getting a new one from the store. I never needed a crate before, but never had a 6mos-old aussie cattledog before. I happen to like visiting a buddy I haven’t seen in awhile, restoring something, keeping it out of a landfill, like adopting a dog from a rescue group. It was a quicksilver nesting phase, just like a cattledog.
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she revs about 30% higher than us. and I picked her. If I was playing Dungeons&Dragons, she would be an elf. And so too, i think, would i.