Good Wolf Dead Wolf

intelligence

I’ve tried not to take a side in this debate, but something happened the other night that finally threw me over the edge. I follow a page on Facebook that is devoted to pictures taken in the state of Wyoming. A new member in that group got the shot of a lifetime, that of the Lamar Valley Wolf Pack starting a hunt of a herd of elk. I knew the second that photo hit cyberspace, the debate over the wolves would start all over again. Less than a minute later, more than thirty comments had been made. Three—count ‘em: THREE—comments were on what a great picture it was. The rest were comments about killing the wolves and the rebuttals. (And for inquiring minds, other to comment what a lucky shot it was and to ask why people just couldn’t comment what a good picture it was and leave it at that, I didn’t respond.)YNP wolf

 

I got curious about those people screaming for the blood of the wolves and started clicking the public profiles of the people who commented negatively about the apex predator in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 85% of them don’t even live in the state of Wyoming. The other four comments came from people who have a vested interest in seeing the wolf gone. One leads guided pack trips for elk hunts. Another works for a feed company that specializes in feed to finish out cattle prior to slaughter. One more is from a ranching family—near Wheatland on the other side of the state. Anyone want to take a guess at how big Wyoming is? One of the comments made was that wolves kill for the sheer joy of killing and that the reintroduced grey wolves are bigger and more aggressive (a claim repeatedly debunked by scientists) and this person also posted a picture of elk killed by wolves all lined up in the snow. My first thought to that was “You mean wolves kill just like trophy hunters do?” and my second thought was I never would have thought wolves would line up dead elk like that.

 

I started digging deeper into the effect the wolf has had on Yellowstone. Biologists call what is happening in Yellowstone over the last twenty years a trophic cascade. Usually, biologists have the depressing task of documenting what happens in an environmental situation when an integral part of the ecosystem is removed. Yellowstone offers biologists a rare and unique opportunity to document the changes when an integral and apex predator is reintroduced.

elk

When the grey wolf was reintroduced into Yellowstone’s ecosystem, there was one colony of beavers. Twenty years later, because of that trophic cascade, there are nine beaver colonies. Because the wolves put so much pressure on the elk, the elk no longer linger in the winter along streams and rivers in Yellowstone. Because the elk no longer linger and are more migratory in their grazing patterns, the stands of young willows, aspen, and cottonwoods have a chance to grow and to provide food for the beavers through the winter. Because those stands of willows, aspens, and cottonwood are stronger, thicker, more resilient, they have helped to stabilize the river and stream banks. And yet, the elk population in Yellowstone is three times greater than it was a mere twenty years ago, even with the wolves hunting them. A study done in 2010 by Idaho Fish and Game revealed that the wolves have had minimal impact on elk populations. (https://idfg.idaho.gov/old-web/docs/wolves/articleHowling.pdf) Frankly, I’d be more worried about Chronic Wasting Disease decimating the elk herds than wolf kill (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/06/researchers-make-surprising-discovery-about-spread-of-chronic-wasting-disease/#.WeK7LtNSyM8) and the effects of CWD on guided elk hunts.

 

Because the wolves kill coyotes, there are more rodents in Yellowstone. Because there are more rodents in the park, there are more foxes. More eagles. More badgers. More hawks. More ravens. More magpies. More of every predator that feeds on small rodents.

 

The wolves even benefit the bears—both black and grizzly—in Yellowstone. Because of the wolves, there is a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout the winter and into the spring. When emerging from hibernation, the bears depend on wolf-killed carrion for their first few meals in the spring.

 

Some conservationists, such as The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, propose responsible state-level management involving an established minimum gray wolf population, monitored by federal agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife; monetary aid for ranchers who lose livestock—which Wyoming already does, and generously, I might add at seven times market value (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-plight-of-the-wests-wolves-1507302000); and regulated, fair-chase hunting (i.e., no poisoning or trapping) of wolves in numbers based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife reports. Revenue from hunting licenses could be used to help fund state wolf management programs. This would work fine—if Wyoming could prove itself capable of managing the wolves. Unfortunately, the state that I’ve often called my adopted home state, hasn’t proved they’re up to the task, if the manner that they’ve set up wolf hunts again is any indication. Every single trophy wolf hunting location in the state borders either Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park. The rules are set up so that hunters can actually lure the wolves out of the park with bait, wolf call, and just about any other means. The moment a wolf sets one foot out of the park boundary, they can be shot. That’s not management. And when, as has happened in the previous week, more wolves are killed in those areas than has been designated, that’s criminal mismanagement. As of October 4th, three of the trophy hunting areas have been closed and in two of them, more wolves were harvested than should have been. Just writing that word “harvested” makes me nauseous.

trophy wolf hunting zones

I also think it’s the height of stupidity that ranchers are allowed by the federal government to lease (for a mere pittance) and graze livestock on national forest land—the exact same land that the wolves roam—after spending decades and millions of tax payer dollars to re-establish not only the wolf population but also the grizzly and expect these two apex predators not to prey on cattle and sheep. Albert Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

 

And, I have one last thought on this. If you don’t pay property taxes in the state of Wyoming (guess what, I do!), keep your comments about killing wolves in Wyoming to yourself. We have enough people here who want to kill them. We don’t need you chiming in.

 

I’ve tried to see both sides. I’d like to think I’m smart enough to realize that this shouldn’t be and isn’t a simple “us vs them” argument, but unfortunately, that’s what it’s become. And, the side I’m choosing is for the wolf. I want my great grandchildren to be able to see a wolf in Yellowstone. I want them to be able to hear that haunting call echoing across a dark and star-lit landscape.  We just visit Yellowstone. It’s their home. And even the ranchers who lease land adjoining Yellowstone are just visiting because those leases are only temporary.white lady killed outside of YNP boundaries

 

 

 

 

 

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A publication date–my kingdom for that date

I so need a publication date. My fourth book is coming soon from my publisher. I have the official cover. I have the official blurb. I have the official excerpt. My editor and I have signed off on the final galley. All I need now is a publication date.

I understand that there is a process and West of Forgotten is very near the end of that process to being a published book—but there are times that I envy my writing friends who self-publish. Write the book, look it over for typos, have a few beta readers go over it, send it to a hired editor, buy a cover, put it all together and hit “publish.” Done.

In all honesty, I am NOT that brave.

I want a publisher. I like having my own editor and the great rapport Anne and I have in our working relationship. I love the cover artist I have through my publisher. Everything Deb touches turns to gold when it comes to creating a cover. Have you seen my covers? And, I like that if I have a problem once the book is published, I can shoot an e-mail to Rhonda, or RJ, or Lisa (depending on the problem) and have a resolution within a matter of a day, and sometimes, just in hours.

So, now that I’ve talked myself out of thinking about self-publishing my next book, I’m going to share the cover, the blurb, and the excerpt from West of Forgotten (coming soon from The Wild Rose Press).

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Jacket blurb:

Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly.

For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter.

Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.

Excerpt:

“You are an interesting woman. Beautiful, fascinating, and so full of contradictions.” He levered back from her and lifted his hand to cradle the side of her face, the pad of his thumb feathering along the slope of her cheek. “A seemingly very strong woman and yet terrified of a kiss.”

Rachel’s mouth was dry and she couldn’t pry her tongue from the roof of her mouth. Her limbs trembled. Surely he had to hear how fiercely her heart was pounding, so loudly she heard it echoing in her ears.

His voice deepened, grew quieter until it was almost a whisper and she fought the urge to close her eyes and let the warmth in his voice wash fully over her. “A woman with a child but so frightened of intimacy.” He leaned even closer to her, his mouth almost on hers, yet not touching her except where his warm palm held her face.

In the darkness, she could just make out his features. Her hands slid up his chest and she didn’t know if it was to push him away or pull him closer. She was aware her breathing was shallow and she held her breath when he brushed the pad of his thumb against her lower lip.

“You have a mouth made for kissing, my beautiful wife, but I’m not going to kiss you. Not until you ask me. And, I promise, when that time comes, you’ll be asking me to do a whole lot more than just kiss you.”

 

Greetings from The Bridge

The rules here are rather strange, but like all places, there are some who view rules as set in stone and others who view those rules as much more in line with strongly worded suggestions. Supposedly, I am only allowed one time to contact my human in such a manner once I crossed the Bridge and I used that one time when I hacked Vander’s Facebook page. But, as I said, there are some here who view rules as little more than suggestions—and for that I have to thank my old feline friend, Ding. If anyone could find a loophole, it would be her. I also figured if Vander could take over HER blog for a day and write a post, it can’t possibly be that hard to do.
I have waited some time before I decided to steal HER blog and send HER a message because I know how deeply HER heart hurt when she kept the promise she made to me when I was a small puppy. The last thing I ever want to do is hurt HER. She was—no, she is my human and hurting HER is something I never want to do. I know the day I left HER and went to the Bridge she hurt so much.
I remember I woke HER up that morning because I was in horrible pain. She tried to make it better and the only thing that helped was when she laid down on the floor with me and just held me in HER arms. She held me when the doctor lady came out to help me go to the Bridge. Having HER hold me when the doctor lady helped me was so nice because I wasn’t alone. I always trusted HER and she said that the pain would be all gone.
I can’t really explain what happened next, but some of the others here said that my body died. I could still feel HER holding me, feel HER gently stroking my head, and kissing my muzzle—but—I was also looking at all of this. And, the pain was gone. She very carefully placed my body in a pretty wagon and a nice lady pulled my body away. I heard HER say to Aunt Jacque, “I can’t watch him being taken away,” and she and Aunt Jacque drove away. I tried to tell HER that I was still there, in the car.
When we got back to the house, all the dogs I knew were still there and they could see me. I could see them. I could see HER, but she didn’t seem to be able to see me even though I know she could feel me next to her. She kept telling me it was okay, that even though it hurt her, she would be okay and I could go.
I couldn’t leave HER. Only thunderstorms scared me until that day. If I stayed right next to HER, I didn’t have to walk across a large black area. There was nothing in that area. NOTHING. She was on this side of the emptiness. On the other side was a place so beautiful and bright.
Our friend Johanna sent HER a text message. HER response was that I was scared and I wouldn’t go to the Bridge. I didn’t see a Bridge, only that horrible, black emptiness. Johanna said she was sending help. And, then in that empty blackness I saw a large tri-colored smooth walking to me. And, behind him were a lot of other dogs and a cat. Some I knew: Belle; my half-sister E.B.; my friend Cara; and my best cat friend, Ding. The tri said his name was Elvis and his human, Johanna, had asked him to come walk with me across the blackness. He said when HER dogs and Ding heard I was joining them across the Bridge, they all wanted to come with him.
Another tri smooth crossed the emptiness. For a minute, he leaned against HER legs and I could feel HER happiness to sense him by HER. He said his name was Boots and he was the smooth who made HER fall in love with tri smooth boys. Boots is a very serious dog. (Vander, take note, please…) And, then I saw HER very first heart dog. I have never met royalty, but I knew beyond a doubt, this tri rough girl is the embodiment of regal and royalty. Lena looked at me and said, “You aren’t leaving HER forever. You’ve done this before. Many times in HER life. Heart dogs like us, we find ways to return, again and again.”
Lena and I started to walk into the blackness and I got very scared when I felt HER fading away. I ran back to HER. Lena walked back to me and she growled at me. “You are hurting HER. Walk with us. Cross the Bridge with us. It won’t be forever. You can come back to HER. She will always hold you in HER heart.”
And, then Ding rubbed her head against me and whispered, “I will walk right next to you. Lena will walk with you, too. And, Boots and Colt and C.J. will be with us. Just look across the emptiness and you’ll see the Bridge appear.”
There was a Bridge. I could see it, then. Elvis asked me if I was ready to cross the blackness. I wasn’t ready. I told him I wasn’t. All the dogs she ever loved just sat down or lay down around HER and Colt said they would all wait with me until I was ready.
Two more collies crossed the emptiness. That blue smooth doesn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he said something that made me realize I have a promise to keep to HER, too. When she became my human, I promised I would never hurt HER. I had to leave HER.
Whiskey, the other collie who came across after the others, has a very sick sense of humor. He told me not to worry about falling through the blackness. He knew of only one dog who fell through it and that dog came back as a cat. Ding didn’t appreciate the humor.
I’ve been on this side of the Bridge for a little while now. Every night, I hear HER say, “Good night, Snapey-baby. Mommy loves you. Always.” I have gone back to HER, mostly when she’s sleeping because the two times I went back when she was still awake, I heard HER say how empty the little cabin still feels. I don’t want HER to feel hurt still.
Mommy, you were the best human a dog could ever want. All the dogs you ever loved and still love are here. Beary wants to know if you still have “his rock”. I don’t know what that means, but I promised him I would ask. Ding said to tell you “Thank you.” Lena thinks you’ve waited long enough to find another spiritual companion. I’m not sure what that means, either. Boots is proud of Vander. (Someone should be, I guess.)

And, Mommy,  I love you, too.

Always.
~~S

Ghosts, book signings, and Deadwood

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…Then Come Have Fun in Deadwood this Summer!

Special Places in the Heart

8512snapeBecause of his age and the arthritis in his right front wrist, my old champion Snape (Gr.Ch. Wych’s Prince of Summer) has become a house dog. Because of his age, getting him up and down the stairs into the basement for a bath is an ordeal–for both of us. He’s no longer completely steady on his feet while navigating stairs so he relies on me to prevent a fall. Until yesterday, even though he was slow, he could still climb them without assistance. Yesterday, after he had a bath and a complete blow-out with the dryer, I had to lift his back end on each step.

 

That assistance brought home just how old he really is. He’s eleven and a half years old. He’s been with me since he was eight weeks old and when I first picked him out, I really didn’t want another male. I was tricked into meeting him. I’m glad I fell for the ruse perpetrated on me by his sire’s owner and the owner of his mother. As a puppy, he was a bright red and for some time, I thought like his sire, he was going to be a pure for sable. Until he started to grow his adult coat when he was about 18 months old…and then that rich, deep mahogany began to fill in. _eag2742-edit-1820183777-o

Finishing his championship took time–because he is one of those dogs that doesn’t really look a lot like other collies in the ring and the right judges had to be found for him–older judges who’ve been in the breed for decades. Every one of those judges who put him up, whether all breed or specialty judge, all had the same comment–that he has a “classic look” to him. He finished his championship with all-breed points and specialty major wins.

 

Snape is my pet. My highest aspiration for my collies is that when they are retired from the show ring, they become “pets.” There is life after the show ring. Most of us will never have a top stud dog. Most of us will seldom have a top ten winning dog. Most of us will never win the Nationals, but I think most of us have these dogs who hold a special place in our hearts. The day Snape finished, while I was crying tears of joy, another person in this breed was very angry. Perhaps forgetting that I was set up behind this person, this person threw a pin brush into their tack box and announced that they couldn’t believe “that f$&^ing pet won.” Whether or not I was meant to hear that comment is neither here nor there. I did hear it, and I have not forgotten it. I have since come to realize this person is no more than a bully, just as fierce in the bullying as those who bullied this person in high school. I actually pity this person. And, I’m very proud of my “f$%^ing pet.” He holds a very special place in my heart and none of the insults hurled at him will ever take away his championship, his grand championship, and most certainly never take away that place in my heart.

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We’re Not Getting Out of this Alive

It’s not a damn competition. Life, I mean…it’s not a damn competition. I’m not supposed to be in competition with anyone other than myself. Yet, I keep getting sucked into competitive mode. Maybe it’s part of human nature but the competitiveness can also manage to suck the happiness out of a being.

When I’m not writing and masquerading as a published author, I show my collies. This year has been an ugly year. I’m not sure what shifted because I’m still winning as much as I usually do, but something changed and it just wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. Competition became cut-throat. Back stabbing became the norm. And, when that wasn’t happening, and there wasn’t enough sh*t flying, some people took it upon themselves to out and out lie. Twice this year, I seriously considered hanging up the leashes, putting the brushes in the tack box for the last time, and calling it quits. A few years ago, I had already retired the “professional” shingle because I was well over the drama. It used to be what happened in the show ring didn’t affect the friendships and relationships outside of the show ring. Not any more.

And my writing career—I’ve seen far too many authors attacking and slurring other authors. We’re all in this together. I guarantee, it’s a really big pool of readers out there. There’s more than enough readers to go around. The only thing that happens when two authors go at each other in public forums like Facebook and Twitter is you make the rest of us look bad. So if you could please knock it off and at least try to act professional, the rest of us would appreciate it. If Author Aaaa says something you don’t like or says something about you, you don’t have to respond. When you do, you’ve given Author Aaaa a much bigger audience than they probably would have ever had and you’ve given them “street cred” because you’ve responded.

The only exception to that response has been another ugly trend I’ve seen in the writing world—and that’s the bad behavior of some of the male cover models. Gentlemen (and I am using that term VERY lightly), it is NEVER—I repeat NEVER acceptable to intimidate, harass, and belittle any woman for any reason. When you attack, mock, and degrade the very women who write the books that you appear on the cover of, you better believe the rest of us are going to sit up and take notice. And, we’re not going to want you on the cover of our books. Ever. We’re going to respond to that bad behavior.

Politics—Oh, dear God—I am sick to the death of the political posts. The election here in the U.S. is over. One side lost. One side won. For the love of all that’s holy, can we please remember we’re all supposed to be Americans and work to making this country better for EVERYONE? I have lost track of the people I have unfollowed on Facebook; some I’ve had to unfriend, and about half a dozen, I’ve actually blocked because of the vitriol. Guess what, folks. In two years, we get to vote on most of the Senate and almost all of the House, AGAIN. We get to do this all over, AGAIN. I can’t wait (and add as much sarcasm as necessary to that last statement).

The only thing I can attribute all this nastiness and ugliness to is competition—competition for readers, competition for modeling gigs for those covers, competition for championship or national ranking points, and competition for which political ideology will govern for the next few years. But you know what—at the end of the day, all the competition gets us very little. Oh, there is some monetary compensation, I’ll admit that. But, when the competition becomes so intense that it makes us into ugly, hateful people, it’s not worth it. Personally, I like to be able to look at myself in the mirror.

 

 

 

The Knight of the Plains

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What is it about the cowboy that is so enduring? What was it about this breed of man that has made the cowboy such a part of our national mythos? Sometimes, the word “cowboy” has been used in a derogatory manner—but for the most part, the cowboy is the good guy. He might be taciturn, but when he spoke, people listened to him. He was as careful with his weapons as he was with his words. He tipped his hat to a lady, regardless of her status in life, because that was just how he was expected to act toward a member of the fairer sex and this myth of the cowboy and the frontier West was born shortly after the Civil War, when heavy industrialization was the experience of many Americans, and out of the need for a unifying image after the bloody and deadly divisions of the Civil War. “It’s a kind of fiction with a traditional shoot ’em up formula. A hero who is tall, handsome and taciturn and skillful with a gun and a rope rides into town, and he saves everyone” (Don Graham, professor of English literature, U of TX).cowboy

 

I can only speak for myself, but I know why it is I look up to cowboys and why they hold such a large part of my heart. I grew up, figuratively, in the Old West. My childhood heroes were John Wayne, The Rifleman, Matt Dillion, the Cartwrights, the Lone Ranger, and Superman. Superman? Yes, the Man of Steel, too. The cowboy lived by a creed—don’t lie, don’t take advantage, respect and defend women and children, stay on this side of the law, your word was your bond…sounds suspiciously like Superman fighting for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

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In those Westerns I cut my television viewing teeth on (and in the novels, as well), the good guys were discernible from the bad guys, and it just wasn’t the white hat which let me know who the good guys were. Those good guys lived that cowboy creed. Call it chivalry, if you will, because it was a form of chivalry. It was a much simpler time, then. You knew who the bad guys were. They didn’t live that creed. They didn’t care, so long as their nefarious plans didn’t go awry. Cardboard villains shooting it out with cardboard heroes. Those Westerns offered predictability and simplicity. Most are morality plays—set against the backdrop of a landscape huge, sweeping, and intimidating. It was the simplicity and the predictably which made the Western and the cowboy so much a part of our national psyche.

 

Yet, there is something to be said of those simpler times. Perhaps that’s why even though the genre fades in popularity (including in the movies), it will never go away. The cowboy has made comeback after comeback because I think deep inside of us, there is a longing for a bygone era when we knew who our friends were, who we could trust, and who was the bad guy. It’s certainly not so simple today.

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