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Friday, April 29, 2016

A Step Forward

Our black dog, R, might get his stitches out today.

I feel as if he's spent the past two weeks lying on this bed, just patiently waiting to get better (except when he's caterwauling).

I take off his Zen Collar a few times a day to let him feel more normal. The great news is that, if the stitches come out, he won't need the collar anymore! He also won't have a bandage anymore!
However, he still has a long period of very little physical exercise ahead of him. Fortunately, he is learning to chill out, with a little help from medication.

We are heading to a Friday afternoon vet visit. Happy Friday!

P.S. Could someone tell the Mother Nature that it's springtime? This was the scene outdoors today.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Day by the Fire

It's a gray, cold, and damp day out there, with a storm moving in more slowly than expected. Shyla and I played some outside today but it was bone-chillingly cold.
Then, I made a brief foray onto Black Bear Trail to get a trail cam ready for bear mating season, which usually starts soon after the bears awaken in May. I was happy to make that ride short and head home to the warmth.

With me suffering a migraine (I don't know what I've done to make them come back with a vengeance) and R resting, we've spent most of the day indoors by the fire. At one point as I typed on my computer, I saw Shyla lying nearby, looking at me with her amazing eyes. They melt me.
I feel lucky that she's chosen to completely trust me after all she's been through in her life. It's a gift.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Our New Chocolate Lab Puppies

A beautiful sight on a wintery day

The wintery day - beautiful but cold

Shyla loves wintery days!

We'll make do with winter for a while longer!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring back to winter!

We had a couple of days when it felt almost like spring. Some sections of the trails were down to dirt although I still needed my snow bike for those nasty north-facing slopes. The birds were singing. And our Broad-tailed Hummingbirds had arrived. Yesterday, I heard the trill of their wings four times during my bike ride. The Mountain Bluebirds were staking out their nesting spots. Here was the male of a pair near us.

Some flowers were starting open. Spring Beauties... These blossoms are tiny, about a half inch across. They grow in meadows and even from under the pine needle cover, like this one.

Some bigger flowers, Pasqueflowers (wild crocuses) opened during the brief window between snow storms.

This morning, we were out early to beat the winter storm here. We got sunshine for our early start!

After an off day yesterday due to meeting a large group of off-leash dogs, Shyla was back in her normal form today.

She even shared today's yucky find with me - a deer jaw.
Although I don't love yucky stuff, it's wonderful when she wants to bring these animal parts to me rather than hiding while gnawing on them. It makes me think that all of our hard work is doing us some good.

Now it's snowing. The forecasters say it will snow almost all week, with possible big snow totals. Here's the sight of the elk antler Shyla found a couple of years ago with the snow coming down around it.


I'm sitting by a warm fire so I'm lucky. However, I am dreaming of the desert. Here's a star trail that I photographed at K's Rock on our last trip. It was during a full moon so only the brightest stars were visible, and a front was moving in from the west, as you can see from the clouds in the lower left.
Spring will be here before we know it! And it's already arrived at K's Rock! I'll just pretend that I'm there this afternoon!

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bear Facts

Yesterday, many of you asked about the mother bear and cubs who are in the den where I have trail cameras. I haven't been to check the cameras in about 7 weeks.

Starting in early March, I felt worried that the bear family might choose to lie in front of the den on nice days. I was "worried" about that because a visit from me might be a disaster in that situation. There is a chance, albeit remote, that the mother bear would flee from me and somehow get separated from her cubs. For that reason, I decided to put off any further den visits until after I felt certain that the family had departed the den.

Most years, I start to see bears on Black Bear Trail around the end of April or the start of May. Last year, the first bear appeared on May 2. I believe it was a young female - too young to have cubs yet.

However, I never see sows with "cubs of the year" until late May. Specifically, it's between May 26 and the end of May. A few years ago, a family appeared on May 26. It was a mother and two tiny cubs.

Last year, a family appeared on May 28. In the photo below, you can see the mother bear, with engorged teats, marking a tree. If you look up and to her left, you can see two cubs climbing a big tree.

As she continued to mark the tree, you can see the black cub watching her from the tree. The brown cub's paws are barely visible in the very top of the photo.

A couple of minutes later, the mother bear passed the camera again with both cubs in tow. As an aside, this is the family that somehow got separated when the black cub hurt his leg very badly last summer. After about 6 weeks on his own, the black cub was reunited with the family.

If I'm going to be very conservative about the bear den, these photos lead me to believe that I shouldn't go check the cams until late May. However, it is known that bear families "lie low" for weeks after leaving their dens and probably don't go to heavily traveled bear routes until much later.  Therefore, it's likely that both of these families left their dens around early to mid-May.

In any case, I probably won't be checking my "den cams" until a month from now. I might consider going in the middle of a big blizzard (when the family is likely to be hunkered down in the den) but I need to check with some experts first.

That means that we will get a TON of footage all at once, at the end of the bear hibernation season. We have something special to look forward to!!!!

A couple of you also asked about R. When one of us is with him, he's doing very well. However, his "separation anxiety" hasn't let up. I just canceled some plans to go to town this week because I'd prefer to stay with him as much as I can. He howls and barks, generally working himself into a frenzy, when left alone.

He got a new bandage. This one is blue! The surgeon thought that the incision looked great. The stitches come out at the end of this week. After that, he won't have the stiff bandage so I predict he'll start using the limb more than he has been.
A last bit of news - we have a big storm heading our way. It's supposed to hit late this week with 2-3 feet of snow. Springtime comes very late to our mountain. Sigh.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Mountain Lion Visit

We live at high elevation in the mountains. I stop and gaze at the mountains almost every day, in disbelief that we get to live here. We are lucky.

At this time of year, however, I do wish that spring would come to our neck of the woods. I'm tired of the snow and the cold.

Recently, a few sure-fire signs have emerged. I heard the trill of a hummingbird's wings, not once, but twice yesterday! I quickly cleaned a hummingbird feeder and put it out. It's not easy for the forerunners of the hummers to find enough food at this time of year. We have very few blooming flowers so the human residents love helping them. I haven't seen any at our feeder yet but I hope that I will soon!

Another sure sign is that the mountain lions start passing through our area again, in their never-ending search for prey. The elk herd likes our elevation at this time of year, and I suspect that their presence is why the lions return.

This is a trail camera that I go near on my snow bike almost every day. A lion passed it at night recently. The bright light in distance is the moon!

He never slowed down by the camera. You'll notice that he doesn't have a collar on. The decade-long study that collared many of our mountain lions has finally ended. I haven't captured photos of a mountain lion with a collar on since last fall. I hope that I never do again!

You might remember that we had a mother mountain lion with two young kittens in our neck of the woods for all of last summer. The mother was collared.

I believe that she moved her kittens to another area around the end of October of last year. I'm hoping that they return again this spring. The kittens will be almost as big as mom by then. I am a tad worried because I thought that mom looked a bit skinny by the end of last fall. Let's hope that we see her again, sans collar and ear tags!

Just recently, we had another mountain lion come through our neck of the woods. He passed in front of one of my oldest trail cams that takes video. He stayed in front of the cam for about 1.5 minutes, rubbing his face on an old elk bone that was lying there. I thought that you might enjoy seeing the video here or at Youtube.

I'm sorry that the video isn't the greatest quality but I hope you enjoyed seeing a cougar doing his "usual stuff" in the dead of night when he thought that no one was watching!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shyla Says Carpe Diem!

I've mentioned previously here that I'm taking a great course about how to adapt my training to Shyla's unique personality. One of our instructors, Deborah Jones Ph.D., just gave a lecture where she said:

"So instead of complaining about the challenges your current dog presents in training, embrace them.  Be thankful that your dog is giving you the opportunity to learn something new, or is pushing you to find a better way.  Those are lessons you would not have learned if you didn’t have this particular dog at this particular time.  Instead of complaining, you should be thanking your dog for providing you with an opportunity for further learning.  "

Obviously, this course is pointed toward people like me who have dogs with personality issues that they didn't expect. I think the quote says it all. Shyla has taught me so much both about dog training and about life. Embracing life takes a lot of courage for a dog who fears many things. Yet, Shyla is continually optimistic and joyful. She makes me smile.
I thought you might enjoy seeing a video of Shyla and me playing during a break in our snowbike ride this morning. Shyla tugged more enthusiastically than ever before in her life!!! She looked nothing like the inhibited and scared little dog who I first met. This course is making a world of difference to me and to her!

You can watch this short video either here or at Youtube.


Shyla says Carpe Diem!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Black Dog Recovery Pupdate

Yesterday, our awesome regular vet suggested some changes to R's medications. Basically, she wanted him on pain meds and anti-anxiety meds more continuously throughout the day. It made a world of difference.

Since his surgery, he was getting very upset when left alone ("separation anxiety" which he's never had before). The new medicine schedule fixed that. Moreover, he hadn't been sleeping through the night due to pain. Last night, he slept all night long!!! He is looking brighter-eyed today!

I've noticed that his face gets "dirty" when he wears a cone or a collar all day long so I clean it for him with warm water. He seems to really like it. He had just had his face wiped down in the photo above.

I also started playing a nosework game with him today. He's not allowed to stand except when he goes potty so I had to think of games he could play while lying down. I decided to introduce him to a new scent that he'll search for in nosework. Prior to today, he'd searched only for birch scent. Today, I introduced anise scent.

He played three little nosework games while lying down, and I videotaped for you, in case you're interested. I asked Shyla to hold a down-stay while I played with R. I thought it was sort of funny how her head gradually crept into the picture over the course of our games. She wanted to play too! She's about to get her chance!

Here's the video, which you can also watch at Youtube if it doesn't work here.


The most important thing was that R loved having the attention and breaking up the boredom of his recovery with some games.

Thank you all for your good wishes for him over the past week. I think they're working!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday - A Symbol from Times Past

I participate in a dog photo group that has a daily prompt. Today's prompt was to photograph your dog with a "symbol". I chose a "bringsel" that my deceased dog, Acadia, used in search and rescue. It was a small soft object that hung from her collar. Here is Shyla wearing it.
Acadia was an air-scenting area-search dog. That meant that she worked off-leash, but under my direction, to search a large area by sniffing the air (as opposed to following a track on the ground). She'd sometimes be out of sight of me while she searched. If she found the victim, she reached down and grabbed the bringsel in her mouth. She ran back to me with it in her mouth, signaling me that she'd made a find. I'd say "show me", and she'd lead me back to the victim.

I was fairly new to dog training at that time, and it took months to teach Acadia to pick up the bringsel as it hung from her collar. Moreover, the teaching method used by the SAR organization was based on "corrections" rather than positive feedback for doing it right.

Just to show how much better positive training is for teaching new behaviors, Shyla learned to take her bringsel in about 5 minutes today. I did about 5 repetitions of holding the bringsel in my hand and asking Shyla to "take it". Then, I hung it from her collar and said "take it". Believe it or not, she did, on the very first try! She repeated it a bunch of times. That was fast!

And, she'd even run to me with the bringsel in her mouth.
Of course, Shyla knows nothing about how to be a search and rescue dog. She just knows how to grab a bringsel. Training a SAR dog takes a long time!

It was wonderful to see my current canine companion carrying the very same bringsel as Acadia used for searches years ago!!!

Shyla has truly "learned how to learn", with all the training we've done. She's such a joy, making me smile every single day, even today when I'm fighting off a migraine that started last night.
Tomorrow, I'll give you an update on R. Generally, he's doing okay but he'd love to rip off his bandage and get back to his normal life!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Wild Snowdog!

Literally swimming in the snow

Coming up for air

Finding her composure despite having snow all over her face!

After a few deep breaths, she was back in action. Turbo Shyla!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Joy of Training

Today, I want to share a brief video of me and Shyla training before our huge snowstorm. The main thing that I love about the video is not Shyla's skills - it's her utter joy in playing and engaging with me. That's what I want more than anything, especially knowing where we started.

For new readers, I met Shyla more than 3 years ago when she was 9 months old. She was very fearful of almost everything, and she was apathetic in her interactions with me. She was the first Lab who I'd ever met who seemed so fragile and scared.

With the help of several people far more knowledgeable than I am, Shyla has come a long way. She's now rarely afraid in our home environment - which includes the area where we live and almost anywhere rural. Anyplace that "bustles", like a town or a crowded event, can still scare her to the point that she is not happy.

I adore the time we spend training together. We do nosework training, and, in addition, I've been focusing on our play interactions through a course we've been taking in the past few weeks. When I watched this video after our training session, I knew that Shyla loves our time together too!

I hope that this short video, taken in a place that was new to Shyla, makes you smile! You can watch here or at Youtube.

I feel that the time that I spend playing with Shyla improves her behavior in every aspect of our lives. Here she is recalling to me off moose tracks today. The same moose as yesterday had made a big circle, leaving fresh tracks on our path this morning.
Both of us were moving more slowly in the snow today. It's hard work, and I'd love to see some real sunshine that would start to melt the snow. Instead, it's snowing again. With all this moisture, we're going to have a brilliant wildflower season!

And, on the surgery recovery front, R seems less unhappy today and is weighting his bad leg a little bit more, which is a good sign!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rambunctious Snowy Shyla and Caterwauling R

The first photo sums up a big part of what I love about Shyla. She started out so scared. Together, we've traveled a long way and now she's never afraid when it's just her and me. Today, near the beginning of our snowshoe hike, she almost flattened me by not stopping as she ran at me and my camera. Look at those eyes, so full of energy, happiness, and a rambunctiousness that I wasn't sure I'd ever see when I first met her.

I love this dog and the bond that we've built.

On these days of very slow snowshoeing through deep cement-like snow, Shyla makes it so much more fun. She loves it. I can't convince her to walk easily in my snowshoe tracks for long. Soon, she needs to run and bursts around me into the untracked snow. It looks like such hard work. She uses a leaping strategy, bursting high out of the snow, flying a little, and then landing again.

Barely above the snow, she leaps forward.

And then lands.

Occasionally, she just stops and rests, with only her face above the snow. The snow is actually deeper than she is tall so I'm grateful everytime I see her snout above the snow!

At our furthest point from home, we crossed moose tracks. They were huge tracks. Walking in them would have made travel much easier for me and Shyla. Shyla really wanted us to follow them. I knew that there was a moose at the end of the tracks so I called her back. I will not voluntarily go near moose after being charged by one. Shyla is so good about coming back, even when it's not what she really wants to do. She motors through the snow at top speed to get her reward from me.
Despite the tough conditions, we had a lot of fun.

That happy and tired feeling disappeared when we walked in the door to the sound of R caterwauling - it's a sound somewhere between a whine, cry, howl, with an occasional yip thrown in. I then spent some time trying to figure out how to make him happier.

I gave him a sedative but he still wasn't completely quiet after an hour. So, I moved him out of his crate, and I put him on a short tether next to his favorite bed. He immediately looked much happier. There was even a little sparkle in his eyes.
Usually he loves his crate. He sleeps in it voluntarily during the day. Not now.

Safely ensconced on his favorite dog bed, he went to sleep and hasn't stirred for hours. That's what his body needs so I'm happy.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Black & White Sunday

I think about 4 feet of snow has fallen, and the snowfall is light now. Needless to say, Shyla was in over her head on our snowshoe hike this morning. She literally disappeared under the snow at the lowest part of her gallop. And I was as slow as molasses. It took 40 min to go 0.4 miles!

Snowshoeing made my back ache so I took the fatbike out for a tour of nearby plowed roads to loosen it up. I love my Meriwether!
R is doing as well as we could expect. He's still whining almost all the time - and we're not sure why. Perhaps it's confusion from the strong narcotic pain medicine being delivered via a patch on his skin. Despite that, we sure are glad to have him home! If the whining doesn't calm down soon, we'll try giving him more sedative so he can sleep.

It's a sleepy snowbound day in Colorado!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Black Dog is Home in the Midst of a Blizzard

As of yesterday morning, the snow had retreated far enough that I found my keys that I dropped near our house last November just before our first big snowfall. Moreover, our agility course was starting to emerge from the snow.

As of this morning, all that melting had been reversed in a huge way. On the left, you can see the high end of our agility teeter-totter, barely reaching out of the snow. And our ring was barely above the snow. Behind it, you can see the tops of the posts for our jumps and weave poles. Oh my!

As of this morning, R was still in the hospital so Shyla and I headed out for a snowshoe hike in almost white-out conditions. Shyla loved it - but it was very hard to take photos because the snow was coming down so heavily.

By the time we finished our hike, R had been cleared to come home. A good friend plowed our driveway and even shoveled a path to the house for R. We feel very lucky to have close friends who live nearby.

Shortly thereafter, the Runner brought our black dog home. R didn't stay awake for long. Now he's wrapped in a sleeping bag by the crackling fire. I noticed him shivering, so I wrapped him in the sleeping bag and moved him closer to the fire. Now, thankfully, he's sound asleep.
The Runner brought home a jar of the bone fragments and bone spurs that were removed from inside R's elbow. It is astounding that he was able to walk at all based on the sheer volume of bone fragments he had floating around. A couple of them are a half inch across! I hope with all my heart that the new weight-bearing implants will mean that he stops wearing down the bones inside the joint.

Meanwhile, it is continuing to snow outside. It is relentlessly piling up but, so far, the roads have stayed open. They're snow-covered but passable to those who must go out (and to snowbikers who must get some spinning for their spines - not that I know anyone crazy enough to do that!). This is our fence that has the road just on the other side of it.
I keep myself happy during our epic spring snowstorms by imagining wildflowers falling from the sky. After all, with all this moisture, the wildflowers are going to be incredible when spring finally gets here.