Going to the Light

Much of my time in the past few weeks has been in a pretty dark place; learning things I wish I didn’t know about some hunting practices that occur in northern Wisconsin. (Not to mention reading death threats directed toward me and colleagues.) I’m not opposed to hunting, but I am very much opposed to some of the practices I’ve learned about recently while researching the use of dogs to hunt wolves. I’m not going to be more specific; I don’t want to take you there for your own sake, and I need to take a break from it. (If you want to know more, you can start by googling wolves, dogs and wisconsin, or hound hunting of coyotes, bear and bobcat).

Tonight I get to shift focus in a wonderful way: doing a fund raising speech for the Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton,  Wisconsin. If you are coming and are a blog or FB reader, please come up and say hi, I just love meeting you. I had the pleasure of meeting several active readers in La Crosse last week, and it was truly fun.

For now, I’m going to focus on the stunningly beautiful fall weather we are having. Here’s new kitty Polly early this morning waiting for me to bring breakfast:

The barn in early morning light:


Camel sister Red, the one who is still so flighty that she panics even when I enter the pen. Notice that all the sheep behind her are eating their breakfast, but she always stops eating if I come out, even without Willie there.

I’m expecting some gorgeous fall colors on our way up to Appleton. I’ll take some more photos and post them when I can. I’ll end this post with the hope that, wherever you are, and no matter what else is going on, there is light and love and laughter in your life right now. Tell us about it, if you’d like, I’d love to hear.


  1. Wendy W says

    I found your blog a couple of springs ago, and within days of seeing the beautiful photos of your spring lambs, I read the following, which was written in the seventeen century by the founder of the Quakers during a period of persecution.

    “…Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day, and of the Light; for the Lord is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt. And the Truth doth flourish as the rose, and the lilies do grow among the thorns, and the plants a-top of the hills, and upon them the lambs do skip and play.”

    I thought of how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful place, and how lucky I am to be able to “visit” Wisconsin through your photos. Here’s hoping that the ugliness of the wolf hunt proceedings will fade as sunflowers, pretty kitties, blue skies and fall colors bring joy back into your days.

  2. Kat says

    Something that made me laugh recently was watching The Great Catsby and Finna play together. They have an altogether fascinating relationship. He is a very confident, self-assured cat and she is my seriously damaged dog. The game that made me laugh was played across a box on its side. Finna would lean over the box and lick The Great Catsby’s head then lift her head back up. Catsby would rear up on his back legs and wrap his paws around Finna’s neck for a few seconds before disappearing behind the box again. They were trading “kisses” for “hugs.” It was adorable.

    Just for fun here are two other Catsby and Finna stories. Catsby is an indoor cat and he waits on the stairs near our front door for Finna to come back for playing outside. When she comes in she chases him half way up the stairs–never more than half way. I’m not a real fan of this game and was trying to discourage it so was delighted the day I managed to have her walk past the stairs without chasing the cat. Catsby saw it differently he followed her down the hall, jumped up and grabbed her stub of a tail so that she turned and chased him half way up the stairs.

    Catsby and Finna are hunting partners. Catsby surfs the kitchen counters for anything tasty that wasn’t put away. Bags of dog treats that didn’t go back in the treat jar are particular favorites. He throws it down to her and her bigger teeth make short work of getting into it. The part that fascinates me is that if he hunts it by himself he will not share and runs her off. If she “hunted” it herself she won’t share with him. Sharing only happens if they hunted it together.

    And thank you for your work on the wolf hunting issue and for sparing us the ugliness you’ve been immersed in. Death threats are terrifying. Holding you in thought and prayer.

  3. Mireille says

    Shadow an d Spot celebrated their first birthday. I bought them both the same ball. The Rogz Grinz ball in the hope of making silly pics. Not quite there yet, especially with Spot since the Shad master claimed both of them. In fact, he managed to steal the third one from a closed cabinet, that was lying there as a gift to my co- worker who is getting her first puppy in november.
    Shadow is in his ‘stealing phase’ . He picked up the habit of picking something up whenever we go for a walk. Usually my shoe since I leave them lying all over the place. I think hubby is truly hoping that Shadow will train me to put my shoes away. But with lack of shoes, he will find something else. So last week he also picked up my sunglasses, my wallet and my ‘big shopper’. Just some extra training, maybe he’ll be able to go out and get some fresh bread on saturday morning?!
    Anyway, here is some silly footage of sharing the yoghurt leftovers;
    Actually, I’m proud of this, because when they were younger there used to be some squabbles of food and we have besn working on selfcontrol. They are getting better; Shadow has stoppex using thefurniture as obstacle course, Spotty is no longer batting my face with his paw when he wants attention. Off course they still use the garden as an example of how to dig trenches – either that or they are in their way to Australia to chase rabbits.
    Patricia, hope I made you smile a little, I know my guys make me laugh every day. Good luck with the trial and I hope the ugly emailswill stop.

    Love from the other side of the world,
    Mireille and the Siberian terrors 😉

  4. Merciel says

    Oh Patricia I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been drowned in darkness these past weeks. Please take consolation in the knowledge that what you do is badly needed, and not in vain.

    In my day job, I’m a prosecutor; I spend most of my days immersed in the ugly details of murder cases and child abuse cases and all the horrible things people do to one another out of stupidity and selfishness and anger. On the side I’m deeply involved in dog rescue, so it’s a lot of the same stuff, except the victims are even more helpless and the penalties for the perpetrators barely exist. It can make for some very, very dark days.

    You take beauty where you can, and you hug your dogs (and they tolerate it, because they love you and they know your need), and you nurture your garden, and you go on.

  5. says

    I’m sorry to hear about the Wisconsin NRC’s decision. It is devastating on many levels.

    Our governor here in California just signed into law a ban on the use of dogs to hunt bobcats and bears, a blessing for the dogs, bobcats, and bears.

  6. Aurora says

    Jo Jo, my parents’ samoyed, is having puppies in a month, and eight weeks after that I will have my own dog in my own full-time home for the first time since I left for college in ’03. It’s been far too long.

    It was rainy today, but there was tea and knitting and time with my wife, entirely uninterrupted by tiny-creature bathroom breaks. I’m looking forward to that changing, but for the moment, it’s really nice.

  7. Kerry M. says

    I have a new CCI (Canine Companion for Independence) puppy which I’m puppy raising. I got involved with my last (and first) dog at 10 months old, so it’s fascinating to see a puppy at 2 months who might someday be able to tear herself away from pouncing on leaves to truly help someone with a disability. That’s definitely my happy.

    Also, I’ve been watching some of the CCI videos and this one makes me very happy. It’s about a kid who decided to puppy raise for his bar mitzvah project. Absolutely inspiring. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3sBMkw3t0I

  8. Trisha says

    Loving your stories (and Merciel, your courage). Gotta leave now to tour the Fox Valley Humane Society shelter after last night’s talk (great fun), but thanks for your stories and love the yogurt video! More soon….

  9. Kelly says

    Thank you for battling the “forces of darkness.” You might be interested in the following passage from an article in Reform Judaism magazine about “mistranslations” from the Bible.:

    A picture emerges of shepherds as being fierce, powerful, royal, and romantic. In addition, as tenders of livestock, shepherds were responsible for providing sustenance, care, and defense.
    Looking at these attributes as a whole, we see that the biblical shepherd was a brave, strong, regal protector of the weak, providing safety, food, and tranquility—quite unlike our associations of a modern “shepherd” as a marginalized loner for whom gentleness is more important than power.
    In short, the biblical shepherd was a “hero.”

  10. Beth with the Corgis says

    Sorry you have to deal with the dark side of hunting. My own personal experience with hunters is with people who actually care deeply about not causing animal suffering; their hunting dogs are their bestest friends and they go to great lengths to bring only quick death to their quarry. I will never forget watching my father sit for an hour at the kitchen table with his head in his hands; he shot a deer and grazed it and it ran off. He was pretty sure he hurt it badly enough that it would not survive, but he could not find it. He even came back and got a dog to try to track it but to no avail. He was so gutted by it that he could not even bring himself to talk about it for several hours.

    But there is another side and a different, less noble hunting culture that exists right alongside. And it sounds like that voice has gained some sway in Wisconsin.

    Your new white kitty reminds me of my Boo, who is white with blue eyes and lovely shell-pink ears. And the flighty sheep reminds me of a funny story from when my husband and I walked through a large petting area of a small zoo to see the tame sheep, goats, and deer. All the other animals (even the deer) would start following around the employees when they saw them going for feed buckets. Except the sheep, who were so spooky that they would start milling and heading the OTHER way whenever a keeper came into view. Oh deer. My husband, who is English, said they used to say that sheep would try to hide under each other when they’d see the sun in the sky. Of all the domestic animals, they are the ones who seem most aware of their likely fate…. People ARE scary.

  11. Trisha says

    Kelly I love your story about shepherds. Willie and I just sat in the grass together, shepherding the sheep who were out on the front lawn, eating the only forage left on the farm. It was so peaceful, listening to the sheep tear grass into their mouths (it’s actually a lovely sound!). But you are right, it takes strength and wisdom to protect the flock, and that is a truly wonderful perspective. Thanks so much.

    FYI, the speech in Appleton for Fox Valley Humane was great. Over 160 people came, we had a wonderful time together and raised pots of money for the shelter. I got a tour this morning of their facility, and it is cutting edge, and deserves all the support it can get. Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks to Fox Valley for hosting me. So good to be around good people who care so very much about animals.

  12. Chris from Boise says

    A lovely happening this morning with our reactive border collie on our morning walk (it’s taken four years to get to the point of regular morning walks – we’re loving it!). Two doors down the street live two small dogs, who tend to trash-talk from behind their backyard fence. Habi can now usually handle it, but today she had just gotten a treat for walking nicely when they charged the fence and caught her by surprise. She started to lunge – the treat popped right out of her mouth – she stopped, picked the treat off the driveway and swallowed it – then had to decide whether to react again or pretend that nothing had happened and continue on. I was laughing so hard that she decided everything was in fact just fine, and off we went.

    Hope that brightens your day a bit. Habi has come so far because of you and all the resources you have led us to. Three days after we brought her home from the shelter a friend handed us The Other End of the Leash, and said “You need this book”. It was the start of a very long and ultimately very rewarding journey – life-changing for Habi and for me.

  13. liz says

    Beautiful photos (which do well to capture an equal beautiful closing wish).
    If only the dog-endorsed methods of bringing comfort to another would always work. I’d fetch and offer a ragged toy or used sock, then drop my head onto your knee with a reassuring weight. That, however, is both impossible and weird in this case.
    It is a natural tendency to try to predict outcomes. It serves many functions and has great benefit including occasional efficiency. Despite the ease and likelihood of feeling awful or becoming pessimistic towards a situation when times are tough, it can close off possibilities for betterment. The last gift I was given by my mom was a card trying to illustrate this, I think. The front was a drawing of a mouse in a bonnet holding a bouquet of flowers. The words inside read: someday soon you’ll realize all your trials and tribulations will be blessings in disguise. Now, I don’t believe this is always true, but I have used it as a reminder throughout life. Dark and light are often tied, possibilities are endless when remaining open to them, and that simply trying to get through things can be affirmative of life. So if only on that note, I have light and love and laughter. Sometimes I’ll forget, but I won’t be able to help being reminded… as my dog bows, spins, and does a cow-like impersonation of a moo while tearing through the living room. Best wishes.

  14. Amy W. says

    I would like to salute a good samaritian who helped me nearly five weeks ago when my dog fell over the edge of a ravine (she fell about 8-10 feet) and fractured her leg. This man’s help was the difference between me struggling for what would have been who knows how long to get her to the car on my own, and being able to get her the ER for treatment in under an hour. This man was a light to me, and I am very grateful.

  15. Free Spirit says

    I’ve started the task of looking at data from the informal “compassion stressors” survey I collected this summer. It both *excites* me and daunts me! There are so many cool ways to look at and compare the data!

    In response to the question about stress felt when one participates in a public forum about laws affecting the species one volunteers with, almost 60% of the dog-folks answered “somewhat” to “extremely” stressed. This is by no means any type of formal finding, but it goes to show how important you are when testifying.

    Thank you, Patricia, for being a voice for those who have “none” and for taking-on the stress of this important issue. Nes sends bun-Zen from his snooze corner. ( >’.'< ) -Amy

  16. Marianna says

    Saturday, I took my border collie rescue to a frisbee contest to have a table for Phoenix Rising Border Collie Rescue. I have worked on his barking for a year and a half since I adopted him. We started classes this summer and we have come so far. I am so proud of him and how well he did yesterday. I have done a lot of training in the past, but this dog was above my pay grade.

    Today, I drove 9 hours round trip to pick up a former foster that is coming back into rescue. He is as sweet and lovely as ever. He deserves a perfect home. I will see to it.

  17. LaDonna says

    I have so much enjoyed reading the stories on this post, and as always, enjoyed your insightful thoughts Trish. “Dog people” just seem to get it. It makes me wonder if we have dogs because we are the kind of people we are, or perhaps we are just people who happen to own dogs and have learned how to relate to life through them. The stories sometimes make me laugh and sometimes cry but they always make me think. Thanks everyone for sharing.

  18. Laura says

    i’m so sorry you’re in such a dark place. I’ll keep you in my prayers of course, and hope this sadness lifts soon, but in the meantime, I hope, you seeing the little things that are good in life helps. I know, sometimes that’s all we can do. One thing Seamus does, which always makes me laugh is when I’m sad, he brings me a toy. “See Mom? This makes me feel better, so it’ll make you feel better, right?” It always makes me smile, if not laugh, because he has that classic Golden wiggle when he has anything in his mouth, but especially a toy, and his tail is wagging so hard I can feel the wind it makes. I wish I had a video clip for you to see, so you could giggle along with me, but I hope you can have a nice image in your head. In anycase, I’m sending prayers and Seamus sends tail thumps and wiggles.

  19. Nicola says

    How is Willie’s shoulder? Any improvement? You may not believe it, but you are so lucky (and kind and dedicated) to get him back so far. My kelpie broke a bone into 5 pieces, and with some unfortunate vet advice, was never able to return to the work she loved – in her case, competition obedience and agility. At 13 1/2, Rally obedience came to Australia, and she adored getting back in the ring – you could see her smile. Unfortunately, there are jumps in the Advanced and Excellent classes – her return was brief, but much enjoyed. Enjoy every moment Willie still has the shine in his eyes from doing what he loves – and I hope, for both your sakes, that it continues for a long time.

  20. mireille says

    Today I drove two hours to visit a friend who I had not seen in a long time. She recentky lost a dog to cancer but still has another dog, Greek by name and Greek by origin. Found with her head bashed in and paw broken, left for dead between her littermate, this girl – now three – is a symbol of resilience for me. SHe was rescued, then kept in isolation because of her broken paw that had to be operated. My friend adopted her at six months old. She then lived in Greece, moved back to the Netherlands with her dog. I saw Greek only once. She is a bit shy to strangers and to strange dogs. We had a great walk, between two canals so my dogs could run loose too (Spot learned an important lesson about steep banks, ducks and the wisdom of not leaning too far forward. He got soaked… ), had lunch and coffee at her place, talked about past and present dogs, cried about our losses, alughed about the silly fun things. At the end of the day Greek (25kg Sheperd mix) sat in my lap, gave me kisses and started inviting my guys to play. They slept nose to nose, we think she is in love with Shadow. There were so many things I “had to do” today, instead I did this really important thing!

  21. Trisha says

    Thanks again for all the good stories, they are just wonderful to read. And Willie, Tootsie, Jim and I had a wonderful Sunday: a gorgeous walk with a good friend, lots of gardening and time to cook a yummy dinner of roast lamb (ours) with local, organic roasted potatoes and sauteed Bok Choy. Yummy yum. Everyone slept well last night!

    Nicola, I’m so sorry your Kelpie can’t do the jumps in Advanced and Excellent. Damn. Willie and I went to his PT this morning, and it’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s very doubtful that Willie will be able to pursue sheepdog trialing. The actions required in precision driving are just what his shoulder doesn’t need. Maybe maybe it’ll be okay, but he had a setback that required going back on leash for a week, and I thought his heart would break. He’s off now though, and happy happy happy again cuz he can run and play. As long as he can work sheep at home and play with his toys, he’ll be happy. I don’t think he cares if we compete or not. It’s me that will miss it, I sort of caught the bug again, but I’m keeping it in perspective. As long as he can play with toys and do some sheep work at home, I will be grateful.

  22. Angel says

    Thanks for the post and the reminder to look for the wonderful things in life. This weekend I took care of a friend’s dog while she was out of town, including sleeping at her house and making sure I returned about every 3 hours during the day, as she is having some digestional issues right now. I also took care of another friends “zoo” – 6 dogs, 3 cats, and 2 farm pigs. Plus taking care of my own dog and cats, as my husband was supposed to be off work but had to work Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning. The weekend was exhausting, physically and mentally. There were a few times when I was close to tears.

    BUT, I also got to spend the weekend with some wonderful, funny, loving, amazing creatures. And last night when I finally got to tuck my own dog in for the night and go to sleep in my own bed with one of my cats purring next to me (instead of a 90 lb dog who gets up repeatedly during the night, lol!), it was heaven.

  23. Krista says

    I just wanted to let you know how much it means to me to know there are others out there fighting for the safety and rights of animals. As I write this my three rescue dogs are chilling in bed with me and I’ve just wrapped up a day working with severely abused children. We need each other to be the light on the days we go into the darkness, and today you were my light. Sometimes I feel very alone in my quest to protect the innocent in this world and reading your blog has reminded me that I am not alone. There are others out there fighting the good fight. Keep up the good work, and know that you too are not alone. Sometimes the ignorant win, but we must keep standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves!

    To share a happy story, this Saturday my wolfhoud/lab mix Oliver who has been deathly afraid of people ever since I got him, actually did a sit/stay with me at the end of a 30 foot leash and people walking nearby him. He has been in training, not because he needed to learn commands, he’s brilliant, but to socialize him and day by day I see him opening up to the world of people who want to love him and it means SO much to me. And my Chihuahua mix is curled up under the blankets next to me. It took me two hours to catch her years ago when I found her, emaciated, on the edge of the desert and now she is the friendliest, sweetest dog. Even people who dislike Chihuahua’s like her because she is such a grateful little thing. And I have a vet who, when my other little dog broke her leg, spent five hours in surgery with her to put a plate in her leg and reconstruct the tendons rather than amputate. I must always remember all the amazing people there are out there who DO cares.

    Thanks for blogging!

  24. mireille Wulf says

    Hello Trisha, sorry to hear about Willy, I forgot to say that. We are a small problem with Spot, nothing like as serious as yours but he is developing a ‘strange gait’ because of not strechting one knee properly. Since he needs to run (being a working line Sibe) it does concern me for the future. We do not race them in competition, but I do hope he will get better with the exercises we now give him so he can keep up with his brother and can accompany us on long hikes through the snow coming winter. I hope for you and Willy’s sake that he can keep up running and playing at home and work some sheep.

  25. em says


    So sorry to hear about Willie’s competition prospects (though glad to hear that he won’t have to give up the sheep altogether), and sorry likewise that you had to ‘take one for the team’ by going seventeen rounds with the would-be wolf hunters. (I can only assume a great deal of self-selection in this group. The sort of person who WANTS to use dogs to hunt wolves is not likely to be the sort of person who enjoys civil discourse. I can only believe that they represent an extremely small, if extremely unpleasant minority.)

    On the bright side, Sandy and Otis have been loving the advent of fall weather. Running like maniacs, scarfing down every scrap of food they lay eyes upon, revelling in car rides and long walks in places that are too hot, dry, buggy, or crowded in the summertime. I’ve always loved the autumn, but until I had my own dogs, I never looked forward to the coming of the frost as I do now. That first day when they come home blissfully exhausted from running and playing but NOT covered in mud? Heaven.

    On a nerdier note, I was watching my dogs play on the beach (reopened to dogs now that the swim season is over for humans), and thinking about one of your posts several months back; the one about emotion in animals and how rats and human infants make the same faces, indicating pleasure or disgust, when presented with sweet or bitter tasting items.

    At the beach, there is a boat shack, a largish shed where an attendant presumably stands to rent out row and pedal boats during the summer. One of Otis’ favorite beach games is ‘peek-a-boo’, in which he and a friend (Sandy sometimes, but usually his best dog friend, Jax) circle to opposite sides of the shed, then attempt to sneak up behind one another- sometimes circling one way, sometimes another, sometimes stopping and reversing to go the other direction. In all cases, the point of the game seems to be to build up suspense until they spot one another, then Surprise! exploding into a short, intense chase for a moment before ending up on opposite sides again and repeating the whole thing.

    Here’s why I though of your blog post- watching closely, Otis and his friends make the VERY SAME physical gestures that my three year old nephew makes when he plays the same game around the kitchen island in my mother’s house. They open their mouths, squint their eyes, scrunch their shoulders a bit, jump and wiggle their bodies in a way that I can only describe as delight. My nephew laughs like a lunatic, which they don’t do, but they DO make that chuffy, audible exhalation that I associate with dogs in play. The fact that they repeat the activity, not once or twice, but over and over for ten or fifteen minutes at a time would seem to indicate that they really, really enjoy this game. So what does this mean?

    I can’t say for sure, but reflecting on it, it seems to me that this chain of responses…suspense, surprise, delight… are the foundations of humor in its most basic, most universal form. A baby anywhere in the world will laugh at peek-a-boo, and rare indeed is the toddler who does not enjoy the very same game that Otis and friends play at the beach. In children, laughter makes their emotion crystal clear, but I strongly suspect that dogs feel something very similar. As adults, much of our expression of humor is abstract, cerebral, and linguistic, requiring us to think in complex ways. Surely dogs don’t understand ‘jokes’ in this sense, but on the most basic level, maybe it would be fair to say that they do have a sense of humor.

    Cats too. Though I can’t say that I’ve observed the same physical gestures in my cats, they certainly love to play “death from above/below/behind the door”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>