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Dog Stories

Linda snuggling Toby.

What's Here?

Bunny Tales
Dogs who love rabbits and the rabbits who scorn them.

Addiction: Subtle, Frightening, Hard to Break
Cosmo needs an intervention.

A new adoptee, name and all, from Westie Rescue Colorado, 2009.

Saying Goodbye to Mac
Linda, Jerry and Toby lost a buddy in 2008.

Toby and the Goth Maiden
A story of puppy-love in Cheyenne.

Toby Joins the Pack
A new dog came into Linda's life in 2007.

Duggan: in memoriam
Ten great years as a travel companion.

"The Westie's Nightly Game"
Linda's poem dedicated to Duggan.

The neighbor-dog has moved.

Loki Goes Camping
In Norse mythology Loki is a troublemaker-god.
But how much trouble can come to a little poodle on a camping trip?

MacDuff: A Scotty's Adventurous Life
King of the ranch, happy-hour at the bar, a kidnapping or two, and a run-in with the namesake of a gangster.

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Cosmo hunting for rabbits under the junipers on a snowy day.

Bunny Tales

Every day Jerry and I go out at noon with the dogs and circle the four spreading juniper bushes north of the house. The bushes are like hobbit houses, with arching entrances over dusty trails the rabbits make dashing in and out. Cosmo usually dives into the bush while Toby stays outside. And every day, a rabbit zings out from under a bush; we never know in advance which one it will be.

If the dogs happen to see the rabbit, one or both of them chases, and sometimes the rabbit keeps hopping until he reaches the Botanic Garden Headquarters a quarter-mile away. We crawl through the barb-wire fence and trot along behind the dogs, and wait while they sniff around the pile of logs waiting to become fence posts. Then we all stroll home.

Toby jumped a rabbit in the Writing Retreat yard the other day and went yipping after it-- followed by another rabbit, apparently confused about how these things work. Cosmo swung in behind the second rabbit and they all disappeared into the corral in a flurry of dust. Needless to say, when the dogs came panting back, they weren't carrying rabbits in their jaws.

# # #

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Cosmo getting another bath.

Addiction: Subtle, Frightening, Hard to Break

July, 2013
. . .

Here’s the latest in the story of Cosmo’s addiction to-- er-- cow manure.

Cosmo has, since we’ve known him (2009) been fond of cow manure. And for folks who live on a ranch, this presents an ongoing hazard. We don’t keep Cosmo on a leash when walking him here, of course, so he has learned not to run toward the cows that are occasionally on the other side of the fence. He’s learned not to bark at them, most of the time, though when we drive through the herd, he sometimes loses control.

When we walk the dogs, though, we usually walk the quarter mile between our house and the old ranch house and corrals, and usually have the dogs in sight most of the time. Because we know about Cosmo’s weakness, we pay particular attention to him. If he’s out of sight for a minute or two while we’re engrossed in conversation, one of us will call out, “Cosmo!”

He almost always comes right away these days, in part because he knows that when he does, he’ll receive a treat, a fragment of a bacon-flavored snack.

From the first, he’s been a lover of cow waste products. The first time we learned of this predilection, he vanished briefly and then reappeared. Not only had he rolled in cow manure so fresh it was still dripping in green hunks from his sides, he’d rolled so that he wore a kerchief of used grass around his neck.

Often since then, we’ve referred to “Cosmo’s necklace,” because sometimes we manage to spot him in time to keep him from rolling his entire body in the stuff.

Still, he’s often the cleaner of the two dogs because he gets bathed more often.

But his addiction hit a new low recently. As you may be aware, addicts can become extremely clever in getting supplies of the material they crave. And Cosmo is no exception.

We’ve had cattle grazing in a circle of pastures around the house for several days as part of our program of fire suppression. Grass that is tall and green now will be tall and dry very soon, a perfect medium for lighting a fire from lightning, a hot tailpipe or catalytic converter, or a carelessly tossed cigarette. So we like to have the cattle graze a firebreak around the houses in summer, before the fire danger becomes acute.

With the cattle so near, we’ve been walking the dogs on our hillside, close to the house, keeping them out of the area where the fresh deposits lie.

But we invariably drive through fresh cow patties when we go to the highway. Yesterday we saw Cosmo standing at the back of the car parked outside the garage, not in his usual attitude of tire-marking, but kind of bending over.

“Whatcha doin’ Cosmo?” Jerry asked.

Cosmo turned with a big grin on his face: wearing a necklace of cow manure he’d acquired by rubbing on the fresh stuff on the tire.

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That's Linda between Toby (left) and Cosmo (right).


January, 2009.
. . .

When we lost Mac in December, I immediately notified Westie Rescue, Inc., where we’d gotten him 15 years ago, and asked for a young dog as a companion to our Toby, now 3. We thought we might have to take a "special needs" dog, and were willing to consider it, but we did want a younger dog. We’d also been looking at the pet ads in the local paper, calling Westie breeders (until we decided we just didn’t want to train a puppy), and visiting the local animal shelter.

Then we got a call that Westie Rescue Colorado had Cosmo, a 3-year-old male with no problems whatsoever. (They do a complete medical check on all dogs they take in.) Cosmo was surrendered by his loving family-- no reason given. He was so matted that he had to be shaved and he was also terribly skinny, but his health seems to be perfect.

When the Westie Rescue person started looking for someone to bring Cosmo to us, she remembered one woman saying she was from South Dakota. So she called her-- and the lady was planning a trip to SD that weekend.

When the Westie Rescue lady said she had a dog she'd like delivered to "a writer in Hermosa" the former South Dakotan, Becky, said, "Oh my gosh-- is that Linda Hasselstrom by any chance?" It turned out Becky had studied my work at SD State University.

Becky and her car full of children very kindly delivered the dog to us at the gas station in Hermosa. She now has a couple more Hasselstrom books to read, and I promised those kids I'd send some photos of Cosmo in his new home.

So we’ve been working on incorporating Cosmo into the family. He already knows how to sleep on beds. We walked him on the leash at first, introducing him to cattle-- at a distance-- and teaching him that they are not for chasing.

Toby is delighted, after his years with slow Mac, to have another dog to play with, and I’m having fun throwing balls and chew toys.

# # #

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Hey, Lady! That's One Funny-Looking Baby.
Linda, Jerry and the dogs enjoyed long walks on the Oregon beach during their vacation in 2008. When he became tired out, Mac rode in the stroller and enjoyed all the attention he received from passers-by.

Saying Goodbye to Mac

December, 2008.
. . .

We’d started telling everyone that Mac was the oldest living Westie. If you accept the idea that 1 year in a human’s life is 7 in dog years, Mac was about 119. When we walked-- three times a day-- we’d walk as slowly as we could. But Jerry and I would start visiting and Toby would start exploring, and when the three of us got to the bottom of the hill we’d look back, and see Mac still at the top, marching alone, unhurried. His appetite was good, and though he slept a lot, he also was eager to charge outside with Toby and compete in marking territory. When Toby chased a rabbit, Mac’s ears came up and he yipped in excitement and trotted along behind.

Then one day when we’d been to town and hadn’t had the usual walks, Jerry let me and the two dogs out of the pickup at the bottom of the hill so we could walk to the top. Mac walked a few steps and stopped. When I picked him up, he shrieked, so I had to carry him to the top of the hill. After that, he couldn’t seem to raise his head above the level of his back. We took him to the vet, and got various medications, then spent several more days trying to assess the situation. Finally, on December 16, 2008, we decided he was so tired and sick that it was cruel to make him go on. Jerry held him in his arms, and I held Toby next to them on the table, but Mac was sleeping so deeply he may have been almost gone by the time the euthanasia shot took effect.

Toby seems to understand that his pal is gone, but he is lonely, and hates having me and Jerry out of sight. We are looking for an adult Westie to be his buddy.

# # #

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Toby and Mac behind the fence in the front yard, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Toby and the Goth Maiden

Written in April, 2007, when Linda still lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming in a large house on a busy street.
. . .

Toby is an excitable dog: he whimpers and moans and chirps and cheeps and thus comments on nearly everything that occurs in his world. Sometimes in the afternoons I let him and the stoic Mac into the front yard, from whence they are banned all morning.

They cannot use their front yard in the morning because the mail persons do not understand that if you find a gate shut, you should shut it behind you. Nor do they seem to grasp the meaning of the sign on the mailbox.

PLEASE SHUT GATE WHILE DELIVERING, it says, above the picture of the two Westies.

Over and over I have chatted amiably with the mail persons and said that if you leave the gate open while you deliver, these excitable dogs may rush into the street after a squirrel. And if you open the gate on arrival and wander off down the street after delivering without shutting it, the situation will be dire.

My solution must be to keep the dogs out of the front yard until the mail arrives, and look to be sure the gate is shut before letting them out. When I do let them out in the afternoon, they are ecstatic, because the front yard has chain link (the back has plank.) Thus they can observe exciting things. Passing cars! Schoolkids wandering by to the tennis courts! And back! The two druggies heading to the shelter! Teachers walking home! The guy running with the three Malemutes!

In each case, Toby greets them with glad cries, follows them along the fence, and whimpers if they stick a finger through or greet him. Then as they walk on down the street, he laments pitiably.

A few days ago my study window was open to the spring air. From it I can see and hear the dogs when they are in the side yard which connects to the front yard. Toby's wails seemed more piteous than usual and I looked down to see a vision: A Goth Maiden was kneeling by the fence, talking sweetly to Toby and letting him lick her finger.

This girl was a vision. Black hair dyed red around the edges. Huge black coveralls. Chains around her neck, hanging down her back.

She stood up and headed for the library, and Toby went wild with heart-rending cries. She turned back to apologize, and I saw her face: a Botticelli angel, pure clear skin, dark eyes-- gorgeous.

I got a good look at the rest of the outfit as she walked away: huge pantlegs dragging on the ground, a black t-shirt. More chains hanging down her back and along each leg. Dangling along one thigh was what looked like a set of handcuffs.

That was several days ago. Yesterday, I happened to be in the living room with Toby and Mac when Toby suddenly went wild. He was lying on the couch on the inside porch, so he could see the school across the street. He leaped up, yipping and whimpering, quivering all over. Raced to the couch in the living room, shoved his head between the curtains so he could see out the window, screeched some more. Leaped down and ran to the bench under the window in the dining room, sobbing wildly. By that time I'd caught up with him and looked out over his head.

There was the Gothic Angel, stalking down the street in the same outfit, jingling and jangling, headed for the library, completely oblivious of how she had broken the poor boy's heart.

# # #

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A new home on the range. Toby cuddles with Linda on the Windbreak House prairie.

Toby Joins the Pack

Did I say I was hoping for an older, quiet Westie? Well, that's not what I got, and I am lucky. I don't feel that I can disclose Toby's story, but he seems to be about a year and a half old, and has probably spent a considerable portion of his life in a crate to protect him from larger dogs.

I got Toby from Westie Rescue, and I heartily recommend that if you want a specific breed of dog, or even if you don't know what you want, you look for these rescue organizations. The dedication and zeal of the people who voluntarily save dogs from abuse is terrific, and the costs to adopt such a dog are as cheap as they can manage. (I've already served as a stop on the Westie Underground Railway to take a Westie in need from a home where he could no longer stay to rescuers who are getting him medical attention and finding a new home.)

Toby arrived with his leg in a cast, and hopped around the house for a couple of weeks. Taking a Westie out for a walk with his leg in a cast seems to bring out the Protector in a lot of folks, who march right up and demand to know what you did to that poor, cute little dog?

Toby with his cast.
No, his smile was NOT photoshopped.

The terrier knows how to go quietly into a crate and stay there, but he doesn't care for it. He'd rather run around the yard sixteen times with a couple of loops around Mac. When I start up the stairs, Toby races up ahead of me, and is waiting on the windowsill of my study when I sit down. He loves big dogs, having been fostered with a Briard for a week, and tries to zing over to talk to any large dog he sees.

And he's incredibly affectionate. I teased Duggan about being aloof-- he would stay on my pillow until I went to sleep, and then go downstairs to the couch. Toby flops onto my pillow and stays right there, demanding just a lii-iiiittle more room each time I roll over. He'd really like to be on my lap all day, but I get cramps in my wrist trying to type around him.

Still, he doesn't seem to know much about toys or playing, and it's been fun introducing him to new things-- stuffed animals that squeak, the stuffed Kong, the tug rope. He's brought laughter back to our house.

Mac, a 14-year-old Westie also rescued from an unsatisfactory home, was enjoying being the Only Dog, but he has adjusted with his characteristic charm and aplomb to the new situation. When Toby bops him with a stuffed bunny once too often, he growls a little and retreats to his own chair for a little peace and quiet.

# # #

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Duggan and Linda at Windbreak House.

Duggan -- December, 2006

Duggan, Linda's canine companion for the past ten years, died peacefully at home in Cheyenne on the Winter Solstice, 2006.

Linda acquired Duggan in November, 1996, while driving on a speaking tour across eastern SD and into Minnesota. This was the infamous winter trip when Linda hit some black ice and rolled her Ford Bronco. Happily, Linda was uninjured and she had not yet picked up Duggan. (Showing her dedication to the job, Linda rented a car and completed her speaking tour, though from then on she seldom scheduled winter trips.)

Many Windbreak House guests will remember Duggan, who often traveled with Linda. He loved attention and appears in many photographs in the Windbreak House albums. Each time he arrived at the house after the commute from Cheyenne, he marched directly to the cupboard in Linda's bathroom, inserted his pointy nose behind the door, slammed it open, and looked over his stuffed toys before selecting one to drag back to Linda's bedroom to play with.

After Duggan had convulsions during a retreat in June, 2006, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. An operation to remove some of the diseased pancreas disclosed that his liver was also cancerous. Linda left him in Cheyenne for a July retreat, and came back to find him too weak to greet her at the door. "I told him if he wanted to live, he had to give us a sign that night, or in the morning we would put him to sleep," she says. And within a few minutes he started to take a little food from her fingers. After that, Linda only once left him alone for more than a couple of hours.

The day before he died, he bounced along the fence barking at the neighbor's dogs, followed an interesting scent trail down to the edge of the lake and wanted to go into a drainage pipe after it on his traditional evening walk at the park, and ate heartily.

"But after he chased the neighbor dogs, he stopped and got a strange look on his face, laid his ears back as though he were in pain," Linda says. "I told him he should go when he needed to, and to look for a big guy with long hair, and two Westies" -- Linda's husband George, who died in 1988, and their Westies Cuchulain and Frodo. -- "I wrapped him in a blanket and sat beside him on the couch."

Duggan was cremated (along with his stuffed animal toys) and his ashes were scattered on the ranch, near Cuchulain's grave. Linda is hoping to find an older Westie to keep her 15-year-old Mac company.

# # #

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The Westie's Nightly Game

Linda writes of this poem:

"I always feared Duggan's life would be shorter than normal, and had written this poem to try to exorcise that idea. It was published in the spring of 2006, just before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer."
. . .

The Westie's Nightly Game

--For Duggan

The mangled purple ball
bounces off the planks, smacks
the little white dog's nose.
He shakes his head,
dives behind the hollyhocks,
bites and brings it back,
his plumy tail waving.
I kick again. Thwack
and bite and back again.
His pink tongue dangles.
He's not building equity,
or obsessed with hair loss;
he hasn't noticed the drug dealers
moving in next door;
doesn't care how much
our taxes have gone up this year.
On the street in front of the house,
folks rev their engines, heading home.
Work day over, people honk, curse,
squeal their brakes. Every dog on the block
barks and barks. Kick, thump, slap.
The Westie grins and runs.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Summer 2005

# # #

Accepted by The Bare Root Review, Marshall, MN,
published online February, 2006

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Who could resist that pirate eyepatch?

Riley, the Neighbor-Dog

Through the years many Windbreak House Retreat guests came to know Riley, the neighbor-dog, who often trotted up the driveway to Windbreak House looking for companionship and table scraps. Riley frequently accompanied hikers out onto the prairie, though her tastes ran more to mud puddles and bunny hunts.

Riley was a puppy in the Rapid City Humane Society Shelter in 1994. Her photo appeared in the local paper as the "Pet of the Week," finding her a good home.

In March, 2007, Riley, along with about a dozen cats and her human family-- who rented Homestead House for many years-- moved to a new ranch home some miles north of Hermosa.

Homestead House became the new retreat house residence in 2008 when Linda, Jerry, and the dogs moved back to live full-time in Windbreak House.

# # #

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Loki Goes Camping

My second husband, George, had a little white poodle; a ten-pounder. Before we were married, I stopped at George’s house unexpectedly and Loki bit me on the ankle as I opened the screen door. For a week, we snarled at each other.

On a trip west, George and I stopped by the Lochsa River in Idaho, and waded across at a shallow spot, Loki picking his way behind us.

“Shouldn’t we carry him?” I asked.

"I don't want him to be a wimp," said George.

When we started back, the dog somehow missed the rocky, shallow path and got into deeper water. Instead of paddling toward the shore, he turned and tried to paddle toward George, who was trying to catch him by wading into the river. The river carried Loki backward, moving him out of George’s reach faster than George could move.

I had been ahead of George and reached the bank first. By that time, Loki’s head was barely above water, but he was still pointed toward George rather than toward the bank only a couple of feet away. The river curved just there, and I waded into the shallows and grabbed the dog by the collar just in time.

At least he didn't nip me that time.

Then we all went on a backpacking trip near Granby, Colorado, in a high mountain area reputed to be a little dangerous because of the resident grizzly bears.

George had been hospitalized and was weak, so darkness fell before we found a good campsite. We bedded down between the trail and a rock slide. After we crawled into the sleeping bags in the tiny tent, George and Loki went immediately to sleep.

I finally dozed off, only to wake up at midnight to the sound of footsteps: something heavy was crunching over loose rocks. The sounds came nearer and nearer. I shook George who continued to snore. At the front wall of the tent, something snuffled at the zipper.

Loki was awake, staring. I recalled hearing that a bear will snatch a small, tasty dog, especially if it yaps. For a few minutes I wished Loki would bark but I didn't want to see claws rip through the tent. Instead, Loki lay silent as the wavy hair on the back of his neck straightened. He curled his black lip over his teeth and barely breathed. Together our heads swivelled to face the heavy breathing as it circled the tent. I stared at Loki, thinking of pushing him out the door so the bear would grab him and go away. The dog stared back. I assume he was thinking the same of me.

Engulfed by the heavy breathing from outside the tent, the dog and I looked at George who snored in comfort, filling the tent between us. We looked at each other, the same thought in both our minds: roll George out the door. A meal that size would keep the bear engaged while we ran back to Denver.

Eventually the footsteps went away, but whenever I woke up the dog roused too and we listened carefully before smiling at each other and going back to sleep.

In the morning, George insisted that he’d been awake the whole time and the intruder was a deer. Loki and I knew better. We respected each other after that, though we were never friends.

# # #

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MacDuff: A Scotty's Adventurous Life

While we still lived in Missouri, my first husband and I got a black Scots Terrier named MacDuff.

After I finished graduate school we moved back to South Dakota. During the year we spent on the ranch, MacDuff kept the cats confined to the barn, kept the rabbits a quarter mile from the garden, and enjoyed lying on the back porch surveying his kingdom. Then he moved with us to Spearfish, where he lived with me while I taught at Black Hills State College (now University), while my first husband pursued other jobs and interests.

Once when my first husband was walking him without a leash, the dog ran away. He was gone for two days while I walked the neighborhood calling, and putting up signs everywhere. Then someone told me about a little black dog who lived in a local bar, begging food from the customers by sitting up. I retrieved MacDuff in the middle of happy hour, and he wasn’t especially happy about it.

When we divorced my first husband moved to Montana; he took the dog, as well as the beautiful icebox I’d refinished. Before long, I heard rumors that MacDuff was being left with discarded girlfriends whenever my ex discovered a new one, and that the dog had epilepsy.

Invited to Montana to interview for a job with the same organization for which my ex worked, I wrote him to ask if I could take the dog back to the ranch with me. He didn’t answer.

When I arrived at the office and asked for my ex, a secretary told me he’d be out for several hours.

My interview was nearly finished when I heard a familiar gruff from the next room and MacDuff shouldered through the door. He greeted me with as much enthusiasm as a Scotty ever shows, leaning on me and gazing up at my face. After I hugged him and he licked my face, I walked to the outside door.

"MacDuff, want to go to the ranch?" I said.

Everyone looked up. The dog knocked over a wastebasket galloping toward me, leaped up at my legs, and scratched at the door, trembling all over.

"Anyone object if I take my dog home?"

No one said a word. The rumor mill never revealed my ex’s reaction when he came back to the office.

MacDuff followed me to the barn the first morning but he’d been gone long enough that he’d forgotten about ranching politics, and the balance of power had shifted.

He barked at the female cats to announce his arrival. When they ran, he chased them through stacks of cattle feed while C.W. Moss, the reigning tomcat, watched from atop a pile of hay. (C.W. was not alone; we also had cats named Bonnie and Clyde.)

When MacDuff paused, C.W. leapt to the dog’s neck and fastened himself on with one set of front claws. With the back set of claws extended, he whipped the dog's haunches. MacDuff yelped and ran for the house, carrying the cat. On the back steps, C.W. dismounted. While MacDuff circled, growling, the cat licked each paw neatly before strolling back to the barn, tail cocked.

MacDuff settled into ranch life, marking territory and eating the leg bones of butchered cows, until he died of epilepsy.

# # #

Note: C.W. Moss was the name of a fictionalized character in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, based on a conglomeration of the famous duo’s criminal sidekicks.

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