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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dog Tricks

I spend more time practicing tricks with the Duo in the winter than at other times of year. Shyla and I have mainly been working on her learning the names of her toys. I say "Find Ring", and she needs to go to the big pile of toys and bring me the one we've labeled "ring". She's learned pretty fast and knows the names of four toys so far.

We've also been practicing the trick of balancing a treat on Shyla's nose, tossing it in the air, and catching it. She's mastered the first two steps. Balancing it and tossing it.
The problem comes in the catching the treat after she tosses it. This one was a definite miss.
Closer on this one...
A success!!!
R is a master at this trick except when I try to take photos. He's learned that I can't enforce that he must wait with the treat on his nose while I get ready with the camera. So, he tosses it and catches it before I snap a single photo. He's smarter than I am!

We've also had fun with the dogs trying to learn to do tricks next to each other. They each independently know some of the same tricks. However, I've discovered that they immediately "forget" how to do the tricks when they are side-by-side. Over the winter, I taught them to wave simultaneously while side-by-side. However, I don't have any photos because they "forget" how to wave when I take out the camera! Slowly introducing the camera is the next step in that trick.

But, they did let me take a photo of them taking bows next to each other! You can see their different styles - Shyla likes to have her chin on the ground and R doesn't. But I was thrilled that they cooperated for a photo!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Shyla at Sunrise

The days of experiencing that special sunrise light are becoming rarer, making these photos more precious to me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Mornings

Sunrise is accelerating earlier and earlier, making it harder for Shyla and me to see it.
I can't complain - that means that spring is here. The Robins have returned, much to my delight!
And they sing in their beautiful voices when Shyla and I are out early in the morning.
I love the sound of birds singing on a springtime morning!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Moose Monday

When the moose cow and calf were hanging around near our house, I watched the calf closely one day through a telephoto lens. First, he scratched his face with his rear hoof.
And then, he shook, like a dog does after going in water.

He ended his "shake" by sticking out his tongue!
One of the very nice things that I learned about Shyla during the moose visit was that she's a very calm and quiet wildlife watcher. She'd gladly sat close to me while I watched the moose from afar through my telephoto lens.
R doesn't have the patience for this role but I'm glad that Shyla does!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Silhouette Sunday

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring - Rocky Mountain Style

On the first day of spring, Shyla and I started with playing in the snow. I asked her to "bring" the toys, and she was temporarily confused about how to "bring" two toys. She decided to make two trips. Smart dog!
Then we visited a trail camera that has been "snowed in" for 6 weeks. I found two fun photos on it. Look in between the trees at the flying deer. What an athlete.
And then, a couple of days later, a coyote passed the camera. He sure looks young and cute to me.
Although it doesn't look much like spring outside yet, we have daffodils in our kitchen to put us in the spring state of mind.
Happy Spring to all my northern hemisphere friends!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Moose, moose, moose!

The past few days have brought winter back. It's been cloudy, colder, and snowing at times.
We've had a moose pair hanging out nearby. I've been seeing them a couple of times per day. I feel pretty sure that the mother moose must recognize me by now.
I can't believe that they can survive on what I observe them eating. Douglas fir branches? They can't be very tasty.
They seem to eat for a while and then lie in the snow. I've never seen them lie on bare ground (there are some snowless areas now!). I think that they must like the coolness of the snow.

Here was mom, chewing as she lay in the snow.
Here was Junior, lying near his mom one morning.
I also see them in the evenings. I imagine mom thinking, "You again?". They've been smack in the middle of one of the only packed and easily traversed trails so it's been hard to avoid them.
 And, after spotting me the other evening, she turned around and did this!
I think that maybe it was a message! Actually, I believe that the pair moved on this morning. Although I've enjoyed watching them, I'll also enjoy a break from worrying about them!

I'm starting to know how to read the mother's body language better now. The pair was in a big open area where I could watch from far away for a couple of days. I could see how the mother's posture changed when she got nervous about me, and then I could discern when she relaxed again. Knowing more about their body language and how I can prevent them from getting nervous will help me in the future, assuming that I don't accidentally ride near one without seeing her ahead of time.

With all the clouds, we've had a few nice sunsets. One was absolutely spectacular but I couldn't find any way to go around the moose pair to photograph it from a high point. Another was also pretty, and the moose pair had kindly vacated my favorite spot so I could photograph it. It was foggy and cloudy, creating a muted but colorful sunset.
Life has become quite exhausting all of a sudden. I've had a string of small health setbacks, and they've left me tired. I'm going to take it easy over the coming week so my posts may be short and sporadic. Thanks in advance for your patience!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

New Arrival

Still Here

Definitely Still Here


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thankful Tuesday

I'm in a reflective mood today, thinking about my life, and how lucky I am. I never visualized all the twists and turns in the trail of my life so far. Life has dealt me many gifts but also some setbacks. I think that both have shaped me equally, and somehow a bit of good has arisen from the setbacks.

Here are a few of the things that I've been reflecting upon.

I always knew, from when I was a small girl, that I wanted to live in the midst of nature. And I am living that dream. I get to watch our local vibrant bear population via trail camera. And I sometimes get to see them in person, like last summer when I met a sow and her cub in the forest.
I also feel so lucky to have dogs as an integral part of my life. I've been blessed with the love of a series of amazing dogs. I love that I live someplace where my dogs can have full lives, running and playing in the forest. But most of all, I feel lucky when I earn their love.
And I love our pack. Desert season is almost upon us - and it's the start of the season when our pack can spend lots of time together enjoying camping in incredible places. I happened to open this photo today, and it made me yearn to see the desert sky again soon!
In this reflective mood, I've also thought about my mother. I've lived more than half my life without her. Yet, she's still part of me, with every heartbeat and breath. She gave me the confidence to be the person who I am - a person who is not following a conventional path in life but is following what she loves. So, in a sense, my mother is still here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring, moose, and elk

Shyla and I have been enjoying what are truly bluebird days here in the mountains. It's been a blast of springtime but long-time mountain dwellers know that this warmth is just a teaser. If the past is any indicator, we will have more snow storms and freezing temperatures before true springtime hits.

We've been continuing our streak of seeing moose. It used to be that I'd watch Shyla's body language to find out if an interesting animal was nearby. Like this wide-eyed look...
Or this one...
Or air-scenting like she did at sunrise this morning...
This morning, I never saw what had caught her interest but last night was a different story.

The Runner and I took sunset hike with the Duo up a south-facing slope to a ridge. After we climbed steeply and attained the ridge, we started hiking directly toward the setting sun with the dogs on leash. Fortunately, the Runner was looking far ahead because a pair of moose were directly in our path.

I had my wildlife lens with me so the Runner retreated out of sight with the two dogs, and I stayed to get a few photos from behind a stand of pine trees (so I had protection if I was charged).  It seemed almost risk-free because I was so far away from the moose. I did talk calmly to them so I wouldn't surprise them.

The calf looked over toward me as I talked.
And here was his mom, who was paying no attention to me.
Just for context, we've done this hike at sunset innumerable times, and we've have NEVER seen another person on one of those hikes. Well, last night was a first. As I was taking these three photos, a hiker with a loose dog approached from the other side of the moose.

The calf immediately focused on the approaching person and dog.
That was the last photo of them I took because it felt like all hell broke loose. The mother and calf started retreating from the approaching hiker and dog but coming straight toward me. I yelled to the hiker and somehow communicated, by yelling as loudly as I could, that she needed to stop and control her dog because she driving moose straight at me. She did stop, and I started moving toward her and out of the path of the moose. Then, the crisis was averted as the moose pair ambled through an opening in the forest away from me, the hiker, and the Runner/Duo.

After it was all over, the hiker told me that the mother moose had treed her last week. She literally climbed a tree to avoid being hurt by the moose. Apparently, another hiker's dog was pinned to the ground under the hoof of the mother moose. Fortunately, the mother released the dog without harming it badly.

Whew. I love moose but their presence has changed the stakes for hikers around here. Unlike ever before, we have very large mammals whose first reaction to people is not necessarily to flee. They are aggressive toward people fairly regularly, as I learned earlier this winter.

This is very different from our herd of elk who invariably run from people. We saw part of the herd at a distance just after sunset last night.
The presence of moose certainly has changed how seriously I take body language signals from the dogs. If they tell me there's an animal nearby, my first worry is no longer that the dogs might chase the wildlife. My first worry is now that it might be a moose, and that moose might chase us!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

See Beautiful

It has been a gorgeous few days. I forgot to participate in the See Beautiful blog hop the other day but I wanted to share a couple of glorious things I've seen in the past few days.

I saw a subtle but beautiful sunset the other night. It looked very wintery but also vibrant.
Then, a gaggle of Mountain Bluebirds arrived in our meadows yesterday.
Mountain Bluebirds are the quintessential sign of spring up here in the mountains. I rejoice when I see them!
Happy Beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Being Shyla's Protector

I feel lucky that this dog, Shyla, has chosen to trust me. When I first met her, I wasn't certain that she would.
Of all the dogs I've had, I find that she relies me to help her navigate the world more than the others. We've worked out routines to deal with the things that scare her. We have a different relationship than I've had with previous dogs because Shyla needs me to help her cope with scary stuff.
For example, she is very afraid of loose dogs or strange people on the trails. Normally, I try to avoid meeting anyone by being out on the trails very early but that's not foolproof.

When Shyla becomes aware that loose dogs are approaching us, she freezes in place, standing directly in the middle of the trail. She shrinks by lowering her body so that she looks smaller. And, she becomes unresponsive to verbal instructions or even treats.

I've finally found a strategy that prevents her from being surrounded by the dogs and bullied. Before they get to us, I gently lead her off the trail by the collar. If there's a high spot, like a boulder, I guide her to stand on it. Then, I serve as a blocker, keeping the dogs or curious people away from her. None of the dogs who we normally see on our trails are aggressive. However, Shyla's fearful demeanor seems to make them overly focused on her.

I'm so glad that we've figured out a way to cope with it, assuming that we see the other dogs soon enough. Shyla has started to look to me as others approach, waiting for me to lead her to safety.
But, as much as I love being needed by Shyla, I am still hoping that she will learn to stand tall on her own. My latest thought is that she might eventually figure out that she can leave the trail and stay off to the side all by herself - and thereby avoid the onslaught of a group of loose dogs. She does initiate this strategy, but only when she becomes aware of the other dogs before they see her. After they see her, she's paralyzed by fear.
She's come so far that I have hope that she'll someday have confidence in herself around strangers. Look at those eyes - they have a spark and determination that make me believe that she can do it.
In the meantime, I'll continue to help her when she's afraid. There is something gratifying about being needed by her. However, I hope that someday she doesn't need me to protect her because that would mean that she has self-confidence!