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No…. Charlie has never been to the vet.  He would f-r-e-a-k out.  I have given him all his shots – one gets used to giving animals’ shots out here, with this lifestyle.  There are even some great stories from a generation ago of parents knowing the doses and types of various animal medicines they had on hand (for livestock) with which to treat their children.  Some of you can flip out here, I’ll wait.

So, I’ve given Charlie his vaccinations in his home environment with no stress or anxiety surrounding the events.  Charlie doesn’t have fleas or any other conditions so I don’t treat him with any other medication.  I have trained him to wear a muzzle in the event that serious veterinary care was ever necessary.  And I recommend to anyone with a skittish/fear-biter or aggressive dog that you take the time to do this!

I use a coated metal basket muzzle and Charlie thinks it’s his special treat pouch.  He dips his snout right in the basket and wears the muzzle without complaint.  I modified the straps – I took off the buckles and replaced them with a hook similar to this so that there’s no fussing around his head to put the muzzle on.  One fluid motion while he’s munching the treat in the basket and it’s on.  The open work of the basket allows me to feed him treats through the bars and Charlie can drink and vocalize while the muzzle is on.

We spent about a month, perhaps six weeks, working on this last winter.  Very, very slowly, every evening at exactly the same time.  It was a special, predictable one-on-one time with Charlie that he quickly began looking forward to.  First, the muzzle would just be in the room, and he could sniff it and get “brushed” with it.  Then, he discovered there were treats in the muzzle and he could dip his snout in the basket and get the treat.  Then, perhaps a week or ten days later, the back strap would be held around the back of his head but not attached while he ate the treat.  Then the muzzle went on for a very short time, like a minute, with treats after it came off.  And then the time he wore the muzzle was gradually lengthened.  The key is to go at the rate of the animal, so that the activity (or in this case, the muzzle) is never associated with stress.

This post has taken a tangent!  But, not really.  The work we’ve done with the muzzle and Charlie’s ease in wearing it provides me with massive peace of mind: if Charlie were wounded and needed a vet to come treat him (I’d pay the big bucks for a housecall rather than taking him to the vet), it’s now possible, and only because of the muzzle.

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Please don’t take this personally, but Charlie doesn’t want to meet you.  Strangers are a significant stress on Charlie – he is tame to me and to Mike but he is still a wild animal and this is one area which that really shines through.  Charlie’s well-being (both physically and psychologically) is my responsibility, and so, on his behalf, the answer is no.  There are no exceptions.

If you’re going to be in the area and would like to meet up with me, please email me ahead of time and we can see what shakes out!

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Yes, I am going to write more on Vespa Vagabond.  My ride across the continent was too spectacular and too special to simply leave that blog and that story half-told.  I just don’t know when I am going to do it.  (As for a sequel to The Daily Coyote, perhaps, down the road.)

Writing memoir, at least for me, demands that I go back completely to the time and relive it – every detail, every smell, every feeling – I have to see it and feel it in order to write it. I become fully immersed to the point of probably seeming crazy and the past is more real than the present. I don’t know how other writers work, but this is the only way I know how.

While writing The Daily Coyote, I split my time between working with Charlie, and going into the past and writing. I did nothing else. I did not cook, I did not see my friends, I rarely showered. I lived and breathed my first year with Charlie in order to write the book, breaking only to spend time with Charlie.

And while I loved living that way for the time that I did – it was surreal and dreamlike and so utterly romantic – I am not ready to go back into that space quite yet. I want to live in the present. I want to do things, notice what’s around me, create with my hands, have adventures with my animals and the people I love.

And with the way I work, I can’t do all those things and write about the past (Vespa Vagabond) at the same time. I have no idea if I’m explaining myself very well, but the point is, I love Vespa Vagabond. I will return to it. Sorry I can’t give you a timeframe.

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In my previous life I shot models, muscicians, all sorts of people, and there are certain individuals who innately know how to work a camera, who love being in front of the lense.  I am the exact opposite – I hate having my picture taken unless I’m the one doing it (ie. self portrait).

Charlie has the gift.  When the camera comes out, he turns on.  I’m truly convinced he knows something significant is taking place, that we are creating together, that he is being seen…. His wariness drops away; sometimes he shows off and does tricks, sometimes he poses, sometimes he just is: the way he looks straight down the camera is rare even among humans.

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The dynamic between Charlie and Eli has never changed.  Even when Charlie was challenging me, even as he has matured in himself, even with the added dimension of Chloe, Eli reigns, and Charlie always, always defers to him.  Chloe caught on quickly and, while she is a bit more brazen and fearless in her licking of Eli’s head, she, too, knows he’s in charge.

When Charlie sees Eli, he starts whimpering, wagging his tail quick and low, and bows down to lick him.  It is so funny to see a 2-1/2-year-old coyote curling himself towards the ground in an attempt to get his head below a cat’s chin.