Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2014.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Black Bear Appears!

I've noticed that our dogs have been obsessed with scents recently.
They are always turning their noses in exactly the same direction - the direction where I know the bears like to spend their time.
As a photographer, I've been settling for profiles of the dogs, as they cannot be deterred from the scents.
Today, Shyla and I were near the top of a ridge, and I know that there's a bear den and bear trees just over the ridge. She did this almost the entire time, with her nose pointed toward the bear area.
So, I made a special trip to a trail camera where I get the most black bear photos, and voila!!!!
This is a young bear, who I've seen in the past. His "mane" that sticks straight up along his spine is my identifying mark. This year, as you can see the above photo, he has another identifying mark. He has quite a wound on his right hip and butt. It looks almost healed so I'm guessing that it happened last year. He seemed to be moving fine. I captured photos of him here, and then about 2 miles away a fairly short time later.

He marked this tree!
I made a video of this bear at the two sites where I got photos of him. It's a rapid-fire compilation of still photos, taken 2 per second. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

I find bears to be the most fascinating animals in our forest. When I see the first one of the year, I know it's truly spring. All of a sudden, the forest feels more alive to me. I know that bears are hard at work - raising cubs, finding mates, and foraging for food.

At the end of today's bike ride, Shyla looked like the definition of happiness, reflecting my sky high mood!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Darkness and the Light

Life sometimes feels like a dance between the darkness and the rays of sunshine as we struggle to find our way among the difficult hurdles we encounter. I feel like that dance defines my life. I try to cope with the hurdles and come away from each difficult situation stronger than I was before. There is something to be learned, some wisdom to be gained, and some insight to be captured in almost every tough situation.

I find that the struggle between dark and light draws me into photography. I love trying to capture the rays of sunshine in the midst of a dark forest. Yesterday, Shyla fell asleep in a warm sun puddle while I photographed her in the forest.
It's easiest, in terms of telling the stories of our lives, to focus on only the rays of sunshine - the happiness. Yet, we all have struggles of one kind or another.
As you know, Shyla struggles with fears - mainly of interacting with unknown dogs, some people, and the bustle of town. Recently, she's made big strides with one of those struggles.

There's another young female dog who runs with her human on our trails. The other young female dog tends to greet canines with an emphatic signal that she considers herself to be the boss. It is often a growl, an air snap, or a pounce - but it never goes beyond a ritualistic sort of behavior. Confident dogs, like R, simply ignore her greeting behavior. In contrast, fearful dogs, like Shyla, can be terrified by it.

Something has shifted in Shyla's relationship with that dog recently, partly because the other dog has recently dialed down how she greets Shyla. In the next photo, Shyla has just spotted the dog coming up the hill toward us. Her reaction was to wag!!! Look at her tail - it's in mid-wag.
In recent encounters, the other dog has done something very funny when she arrives just ahead of her human. She runs in between me and Shyla, and she sits, appearing to "pose" for a photo. So, I obliged the other day. She's a pretty dog, and I'm so glad that she and Shyla are getting more comfortable with each other. Her owners are friends of ours, and it's fun if our dogs get along!
That's an example, in non-literal terms, of the struggle between darkness and light that goes on all the time in our lives. Shyla adores running in the forest but she's had to find the courage to face the few scary situations that we encounter out there. The light, Shyla's confidence, is winning in this case.
But I think it's worth remembering and acknowledging that life isn't always a picnic. We don't have to paint our lives like Hallmark cards.
But I do love the glow that emanates when the light and the darkness meet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

It's been a week of stunning natural beauty. Here are a few snippets.

In the last photo, the King was contemplating his song of joy that he broke into a minute later...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Joy to the World

Some of you jokingly said yesterday, "Maybe this will be your last snow". I chuckled. The next storm is forecasted for late Wednesday and then there's yet another storm in the long term forecast. Thank goodness that Spring snow is alright with us!
Like most spring snows, it melted down by about half yesterday even though the temperature barely broke freezing. There's no more lightweight powder for Shyla to frolic in this morning but I still have wonderful memories of yesterday.
The snow was bottomless in some places yesterday, leaving Shyla floundering.
Unfortunately for R, he cannot play or run in deep snow yet due to his elbow surgery. The orthopedists say that deep snow is one of the toughest challenges for a dog with a bad joint. So, he ran on plowed surfaces with the Runner in the morning.

During our hike yesterday morning, it was 20°F with fresh snow but birds still sat atop the pine trees and sang their Springtime songs.
Bird songs followed us everywhere as we wandered the snowy but sunny hills, making me smile.
By evening, the snow had melted enough that R could hike on the trails. He threw back his head and sang with joy!
As the Duo and I finished our evening hike, we saw the full moon rise, a glorious sight, especially knowing the Eclipse was coming later that night.
The world is unbelievably beautiful.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Snow-laden Bluebird Day!

Although yesterday's snowstrom made Shyla giddy with happiness while it was happening, the day after the storm is always my favorite.
The world is utterly transformed after a big snowfall. The most mundane details are beautiful.
Shyla was ecstatic with the light powder that fell overnight. She dove in first thing this morning, coming up for air every now and then.
The pine trees held pillows of snow on their boughs with blue sky behind them. Glorious!
Shyla and I had a enchanting hike. She frolicked in the snow and I soaked up the beauty with awe.
It was a Rocky Mountain spring day that made me smile from ear to ear!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April Madness - A Snowy Day

April is bipolar in the mountains. From warm Spring days like this one...
 ... to snowy days like today.
As an aside, the boot was for a photographic challenge that I participate in on Flickr. I enjoy photo challenges that require me to make the best of whatever light and conditions the world throws at me. I do one challenge called the "Daily Dog Challenge", and I am also doing a 365 day challenge for 2014.

Despite a wet and cold snow, Shyla and I had an enjoyable hike this morning. Like all our dogs before her, Shyla adores the snow. It makes her zoom.
It was a typically wet spring snow, and it selectively melted and then stuck to Shyla's ears and whiskers, giving her a distinctive look. It gave me a hint about what a Chocolate Lab with white ears might look like.
We had some quiet moments interspersed with zooming. The forest was silent, with white flakes falling all around us. Except for the birds who were mobbing our feeders in droves, the wildlife seemed to be denned up, waiting out the storm. I even led us into "bear territory" hoping that maybe the recent warm weather had lured some of my favorite wildlife out of their dens onto the hillsides. Alas, there were no tracks. I'll keep watching and hoping!
This crazy world is my home, and it's the only place in our world that has ever truly felt like home. I love the peace, the solitude, the mountains, the pine forest, and the reality of mountain winters that hang on into May. Thank goodness Shyla loves it too!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Labraduo that makes me smile

It's a gray day here, as a snow storm is creeping toward us. In addition, I have a migraine, leaving me feeling a bit blue (my meds let me be functional for brief periods). Prior to this one, I thought that I'd made big strides toward better health. I now have a whole routine of supplements, a TENS headband, and mindfulness meditation that feels as if it helps keep migraines away. I guess my routine is not foolproof.

I have had time on the trails with the Duo over the past 24 hours, and it's made me smile. R has been able to do more hiking and playing, which makes everyone happier.
His little sister looks up to him, both literally and figuratively, and she loves having him with us for our evening hikes again.
Shyla tends to seek the higher perch when the Duo is together, which puts her on level with R.
While I was feeling decent earlier this week, I restarted training with R - something that's been on my "to-do list" since my shoulder surgery. This trick, "take a bow", is one that he knew from the past but we hadn't practiced in a year or more. He was thrilled when I took out the clicker and we practiced. In fact, he was so over-the-moon happy that it made me feel guilty for not doing it sooner!
You can also see R's ribs in the photo. After his January elbow dysplasia surgery, the vets asked us to keep him extremely thin to help slow the degeneration of his elbow. I commented to the specialist and our regular vet that I thought that he was too thin, and they disagreed. Apparently, with a joint as bad as his elbow, it's okay to be able to see almost all of his ribs if it reduces the impact on his elbow when he walks and runs.

I hope that all our efforts to help his elbow work. For now, it seems as if his January "clean out" surgery was a success. If another surgery is needed in the future, it would be a truly major reconstruction. We hope to avoid that.
And, now, we and the wildlife await the snowstorm that is creeping up on us.
Spring snow helps the insects that Mr. Mountain Bluebird needs in order to raise his young. Happy Mountain Spring!

Friday, April 11, 2014

See Beautiful: Fleeting Spring

It's springtime for now. Let your ears go wild and enjoy it!
Kick up your heels and have some fun in the warm sun!
Turn your face toward the sun, close your eyes in ecstasy, and absorb its warm rays.
Lie on the ground and admire every detail of the delicate flowers that have dared to blossom already.
Even gaze at the tiny Spring Beauties that are barely visible in the meadows. They are miniature gems.
I truly mean to do this today because, on Sunday, it will be snowing again. Such is springtime in the mountains. I love it all, springtime and snow.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Springtime and Shyla's Diet

I know it's springtime when I see these rascals almost daily.
They like to block roads at this time of year. It's the most enjoyable traffic jam I can imagine.
"Nope, we're not moving", they said to me! In these situations, I can see a herd rule in action that I've read about in wildlife books. Apparently, an older cow elk is the herd leader. In my experience, it is always a cow elk who eventually leads the herd off the road.
With the first true sense of springtime, I've gradually been reintroducing trail riding to my mountain biking (I was mainly riding on dirt roads for quite a while). I am thrilled. With a very slow increase in trail riding, my surgery-addled shoulder is getting stronger rather than more sore.

Shyla is happy about that because she joins me for part of it.  She's saying "I refuse to look at that camera because I want to RUN" in this photo.
I made many mistakes after my shoulder surgery - and one was that I failed to reduce Shyla's food rations to match her reduced exercise. I remembered to limit my own calories but not hers. So, she's on a small diet right now. Here's what she has to say about it!
Shyla gained only a few pounds but that's a fair bit on her frame. She needs to lose one more pound, according to my vet. My vet likes to be able to see the last two ribs in a dog as active as Shyla. Every step Shyla takes when she runs involves more impact if she's a tiny bit too heavy. Over a lifetime of running, that takes a toll on her joints - so I follow my vet's rule.

Shyla says she's going to head for the hills if this diet continues!
Don't worry girl - the diet will be over soon. You're looking good!