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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Never a Dull Day

Thanks for all the good wishes. I think that Shyla is on the mend. It seems that she ate something outdoors that made her very sick. Based on x-rays, the vet does not think that it will cause a blockage but we are feeding a high volume bland diet to try to push the rest of it through her. She is still not quite herself but she had more energy today, probably because she was hydrated with saline solution yesterday afternoon.
And, my migraine has abated. I think it was caused by not getting much sleep when Shyla was so sick on Thursday night. I feel almost back to normal today.

So, after all that excitement, you'd think we might have had a dull day today, right? Well, no. But the story is still evolving.

When we arrived home from the vet last night, we took a quick sunset hike. It was a pretty sunset, as the clouds from incoming storms hovered over the Divide.
Then, we walked home from the lookout point, with both dogs on leash. We passed a trail camera just behind our house at about 8 PM. Then, at 8:22 PM, a doe that was in the last minutes of her life passed the same camera.
When Shyla and I headed out this morning, we found that the doe had been killed by a mountain lion near the camera where that photo was taken. It was a classic scene - the lion had first removed the intestines and the rumen. Then he'd removed most of the deer's body fur. After those steps, he ate a lot of meat but there was still a fair bit left this morning.

I immediately went to the trail cameras near our house, none of which I'd checked in a while. The lion did not appear on them last night. I'm guessing that he hunted from above the doe, which is also above our house and cameras.

But, I did discover that a mountain lion went past them on 4/13. That makes sense because the elk herd was near our house from about 4/12-4/14. I've had trail cams near our house for at least 6 years, with no photos of lions passing them. Consequently, seeing a photo of a lion so close to our house shocked me.

Here he is, approaching our clearing on 4/13.
And, then he walked within about 15 yards of our house. We were asleep so all the lights were out.
Seeing that photo made my heart beat a little faster. Because I've never documented a lion in our clearing, I tend to feel a little safer there. Not anymore.

This morning, I pointed a trail camera at the deer carcass, hoping to get photos of the lion. I do know that the carcass was dragged about 15 yards between when I first saw it and when I put up a trail camera near it a little later. That makes me think that this lion isn't far away.

I'm very glad that our dogs were on leash last night. We always leash them when the world gets dusky. I'm thankful for that habit because there is little doubt that the lion was hunting near us during our hike last evening.

It's yet another example of how lions are very focused on their normal prey - deer and elk. Thank goodness for that!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Under the weather Friday

We are a little under the weather here. Shyla has a stomach problem, and I was up many times last night with her. So, I am fighting a migraine. We are off the vet, hoping that Shyla's upset stomach isn't anything too serious.

Her eyes are certainly still bright!
I hope that you are having a better Friday than we are.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Feline Surprise

On the day before the snow started, my superstar scenting dog led me to something stinky and sad. Here's the scenting dog looking far more serene than when she smells something interesting.
I'll spare you a gory photo - she found an elk carcass, with what looked like a gunshot wound to the head. All that remained was the ribcage, head, and one hind limb.

The next day, the carcass had been moved a long distance and was sitting in the middle of a path that we often mountain bike. It was a spot where I could put a trail camera to document the scavengers that fed upon it.

This was the first photo after I placed the camera there. The usual Corvids, including magpies and ravens, were feeding on it.
Then, about 10 minutes later, the top predator arrived.
Given how quickly he arrived after I departed the site, I suspect that he was very nearby when I placed the camera. He may have even watched me.
He stood still for a little bit, perhaps listening for other scavengers.
He sneaked a peek over his right shoulder before taking action.
Then, he leaned down, grasping the carcass with his teeth.
Sadly for us, he pulled the carcass out of the view of the camera.
I suspect that he didn't stay with the carcass for too long because a coyote came by a few hours later. Coyotes avoid mountain lions whenever they can. A lion can easily kill one who is competing for food.
That night, we got a few feet of deep sloppy snow so Shyla and I didn't go near that spot all week. In retrospect, I'm glad we didn't. I don't want Shyla messing with a carcass that a mountain lion has claimed.
I hiked to the camera by myself today and found those surprising mountain lion photos. Now, I can't wait until I can check other cameras in the area to see if we captured more images of him. I'll never cease to be thrilled by getting photos of our top predator!!!!

I know, from my cameras, that mountain lions are in our midst far more often than we think that they are. Yet, they leave us alone, focusing their energy on eating deer and elk. I'm glad that most people have accepted mountain lions as a critical part of our ecosystem and are willing to accommodate them within our world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Few Words Wednesday

Snow has dominated our past week.

It's made moving around in the forest almost impossible for anyone less athletic than Shyla.

The winter stormy weather has made me look forward to another trip to the desert both for the warm temperatures and the beauty. Here were the star trails that I photographed at K's Rock in Utah almost a month ago. After 18 minutes of the Earth spinning...
After 36 minutes...
Finally, after almost 2 hours.
I hope that we're back there before too long! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Black Cracker Dog Update

So far, we're feeling pleased with our decision not to have R's elbow operated on until autumn. We've learned the hard way that you never know how long you'll have with your dog so our motto is to seize the day.
We've decided to let him romp like usual (within reason) for the rest of this spring and summer. He and his sister have been making the most of it! You should see them play like maniacs during our evening hikes.
And, so far, the medicines that we're giving him are making him less lame than he was before we visited the surgeons a couple of months ago, and he seems super happy.
He uses his wily strategies to win many recall races with his sister. It is truly amazing that he wins so often because, at this point, Shyla's top speed is much faster than his. R knows how to "block" her with a subtle sideways step at a key instant in almost every race.
This winter, I've also been spending more time than usual doing training games with R. It used to be that he wasn't very interested in training so Shyla and I could do our training routine in the house while he snoozed. For some reason, last fall, he suddenly realized that he was missing out on lots of fun, and he started insisting on participating.

To train both dogs during one session, I first had to teach the two of them that whoever was not being trained had to hold a quiet "down-stay" while I worked with the other dog. At first, that was tough for each of them. But now they're pros at that part of our training routine.

I spend about 20 minutes per day working with them. With R, I first focused on a couple of tricks that I thought would help his elbow and shoulder range of motion. He learned to wave with each paw, depending on which one I asked for. He also re-learned how to take a bow, which stretches his elbow and shoulder muscles and tendons.
Then, independent of taking a bow, I taught R to rest his chin on the floor while in a down. Interestingly, just like Shyla, he's combined it with "take a bow", as you can see in the next photo.
I'm really glad that R insisted on being included in our training routine. I think my bond with him has grown tremendously since he joined the training games.
So, we're hoping that this program can keep him away from the surgeon until autumn. If so, he can enjoy our glorious mountain summer, replete with camping trips, long runs in the high mountains with the Runner, and lots of swimming with his sister in mountain lakes. Then, he can use next winter for his recovery from CUE surgery, a surgery that will put artificial surfaces inside his elbow joint, taking the place of the cartilage that used to be there.

Here's to an amazing dog!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Snow Fun!

Shyla loves all the snow we're getting. Yesterday, she lay on a snow embankment outside our back door, waiting for me to come out and have fun.
Her happiness has been helping me to accept the piles of snow that we have and the ongoing small accumulations each day. I know that we "need it" but I was enjoying spring before this winter surge.

But, even Shyla's funny faces make me stop and smile as I slog through the cement-like snow.
Today was the first day that I even tried to take my fat bike on the trails. I was able to ride a little and walk the parts that weren't packed well enough.

We stopped to play some games. It's amazing how happy retrieving makes a Labrador Retriever! One thing that I hate the most about R's elbow dysplasia is that he's never been allowed to play retrieving games.
Through the magic of a fast shutter, I discovered that Shyla loves to pounce on her Wubba after I throw it for her.
Another pounce!
The funny part was that pouncing made her head dive deep into the snow so her face had snow all over it as she ran back to me.
It looks as if a big warm-up is coming our way so perhaps spring will revisit our region before too long!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Black Lab Sunday

Best friends run together

The race is on!

Our 7 year old puppy

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Duo Romps on Saturday

I had both halves of the Duo for a short snowshoe hike on our cement-like snow this morning. It was still snowing when we started our hike.
The Duo is incredibly happy whenever they have off-leash time together outdoors.  It's hard to contain their enthusiasm.
 My best hope of keeping things calm is to do frequent recalls and some boring stuff like stays.
But most of all, they want to play with each other. This morning, I couldn't bear to try very hard to stop them. The reason for stopping them is the possibility of tweaking R's bad elbow. But, I made the same choice for him as I make for myself all the time, and I let him have some fun despite the worry of injury.
It's amazing the ferocious faces that the Duo makes while they play. They were having SO much fun!
They make me smile with their joyful and good-natured romping. A takedown....
And, in an instant, R was up again...
As the photos show, we had a wonderful time outdoors together this morning, despite the lousy snow conditions. I gave R a dose of anti-inflammatory when we arrived home, and he seems like he feels no worse than usual.
I'm so glad that I let him run and play with his sister. I'd want the same thing, if I were him!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Snow, snow, snow!

Our storm dumped a lot of cement-like snow onto us. I think it was 2-3' this morning, depending on where you measured. It was a lot of snow compared to the length of Shyla's legs!

I took this photo as she headed out into the unbroken snow and rapidly came to a halt with a wide-eyed look on her face.

It was almost impossible to snowshoe or ski in the snow because it was so heavy. The boys had been out earlier than us, trying break trail for skiing. Shyla took advantage of their tracks to move in an almost normal way.

Despite how young and healthy Shyla is, I worried every time she left the slightly packed path. I feared an injury of some sort in the cement-like snow. But that didn't stop her from making occasional forays off-trail.

She had to use a "jumping" gait, where she'd leap almost vertically, up and out of the snow. Then she'd fly until she landed in the deep stuff again.

Here's a series to show you how hard she had to work when she decided to leave the path. Getting ready to jump...

Up and out of the snow...

And flying above the snow.

Then she'd land and start the whole process again. No wonder less than a mile was far enough for both of us!

I just read a forecast saying that we may get another 10-20" of snow tomorrow. I think it's time to break out the hard liquor.
The good news is that the fire danger is presently nil, the electricity is on, and the internet works (although the satellite TV is kaput). The bad news is that I just read one expert's opinion that there's a decent chance of flooding.

Happy Springtime! All we can do is roll with what Mother Nature sends us and hope for the best.