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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Boots—A First Dog

We’ll continue in a more orderly way for a while, viewing life as a continuum of nonlinear interactions that weave us into a complex universe, making things unpredictable at every level for at least six reasons. I’ll be including stories from my forty years with domestic birds and dogs. Many will add to the current flood of wonderful anecdotes and studies that illustrate how we have finally come to realize how much we humans share with other life.

My life with animals began at age three in San Leandro, California, when Ma and Pa gave brother Harold and I a string to pull. We did, and in came two white legs under a waddling ball of brown fluff. We named her Boots. During World War II we had a Victory Garden in the hills above Hayward, California. My dad kept a few chickens in a pen in the apricot orchard. My job was to herd them back into the pen.

I wish I could remember if Boots was any good at helping me herd the chickens. I don’t thing so, but she should have been. She was part shepherd, we thought. She had the run of our forty-acre ranch, but she liked to follow my brother and me down the creek through the overgrown bushes to the eucalyptus forest. I didn’t dare go there alone, preferring to hang by my knees from the smooth horizontal branches of the green fig tree. It didn’t rip the jeans that were the everyday uniform for exploring the fruit orchards and crawling under the huge cedar hedge that separated the lands invaded by Madeiros Avenue from upper D Street.

The stream cut the forty acres in half. The half near D Street bloomed every spring with the white flowers that would become apricots. Four pear trees and six peach trees lined the dirt road between Pa’s land and Mr. Madeiros’ orchards. It was just smooth enough to ride a bicycle on, except for the steep rutted place where the stream cut across. At the bottom of that little hill were three huge cherry trees—Bing and Royal Ann—big enough to sit in surrounded by tall branches loaded with cherries to pick. The challenge was to pick more that you ate.

Boots was my constant companion, when she wasn’t off with Oscar the calico cat, who had taught the dog how to hunt gophers. If Oscar missed the first attack, Boots would jump after their victim and dig it out. Together they would share the fresh meat, unless it

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