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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Letting Go

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You probably noticed that I changed my banner photo a few days ago. You probably also noticed that I had a banner photo of K up for years after her death. She died of bone cancer at age eight in July of 2012.

You probably have figured out that I'm not good at "moving on". I'd known for years that I should change the banner photo - but I couldn't bear to let go of that tangible reminder of K that I saw every time I opened my blog. I've found that "letting go" of K has been a multi-year process. For me, "letting go" has meant that I've gradually accepted that, although K isn't here physically, she's still in my heart.
Just recently, I consciously acknowledged two things. First, K was far more than what can be seen in a photo. Her true essence was in her loving heart, and that spirit is now in my heart. And, the spirit of K is what I want to keep alive rather than the physical reminders of her. Living the journey of her life, including the poignant final months of her life, changed me forever.
The second thing that I realized is that now is Shyla's time. She's in the prime of her life, and her bond with me has blossomed like I never truly expected that it would. It's time to celebrate Shyla.
R knew that it was Shyla's time right from the start. I took this series of photos of the two of them, in a sun puddle, during Shyla's first months with us. Obviously, they were immediately smitten with each other.
For those of you newer to this blog, just so you don't think that R is neglected, let me explain that he and Runner have an incredible bond. R's heart belongs to the Runner, and R spends most of his outdoor fun time with the Runner. They run on the trails behind our house daily. They share an exuberance for life that makes me smile.
Regardless of whether I have K's banner photo at the top of this page or not, she is still with me. She taught me so very much about the kind of bond that's possible with a dog. She helped make me a better human for Shyla.
Shyla is her own dog with her own heart. She does things her way... and I love her for it. In the next photo, she is standing on the perch where I took K's banner photo years ago. My two girls...
I cannot imagine how I possibly became so lucky as to have K in my life and now Shyla.
Yes, Shyla it's your time. Angel K is guiding both of us but I celebrate your unique spirit.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Quiet Sunrise

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Winter Bobcat Pair

I just returned from a sunset hike with the Duo, made possible by our longer days!
The light is changing so fast, and I am cheering it on!
But I guess the later sunset is keeping R up past his bedtime!
We hurried home after sunset so I could finish this post. The first part was about an innocent trail camera attached to a huge old aspen tree. It has been pointed at a bear marking tree for a couple of years. The bear marking tree is the small pine tree in the center of the photo, just above the bobcat's head. Many other species, like this bobcat, also pass this spot and often sniff the tree.
In the next photo, you see the entire world starting to tip as the old tree toppled in high winds.
Then, I got approximately 3700 photos of the forest canopy, some at night and some during the day. Lucky for me, the tree didn't fall onto the camera, and the snow cushioned the camera's impact. So, it still works!
Around the same time as that tree toppled, a nearby trail camera was capturing bobcat activity. Very early in the morning of 1/16, a bobcat sniffed the area in front of the camera and then paused to look at it before departing.
A few hours later, another bobcat (maybe the same one) showed up to sniff that spot.
This one was also mesmerized by the many markings this spot has received from mountain lions and bobcats.
But, this bobcat was also concerned about something behind him/her. The bobcat kept turning and staring up the gully.
This next photo looks very "kittenish" to me, so I started to wonder if this bobcat was waiting for his/her mom.
The bobcat shook, making a funny photo!
And then another bobcat arrived. There are definitely two bobcats in the next photo but I don't which one is which.
 The pair reconvened at that interesting spot.
They rolled around together.
It looked as if they were leaving their scent marks by rubbing their faces on a rock that was jutting out of the snow. At the same time, they appeared to play with each other.
At times, they looked like one big ball of fur. I could barely distinguish two separate bobcats.
Then, one of them briefly focused on the trail camera, before the two strutted off into the forest together.
I am assuming that this is a mother-kitten pair. But, it is conceivable that it's a mating pair. Bobcats are said to mate in "late winter", giving birth to kittens 50-70 days later in early spring. For us, 50-70 days from now would be very early spring, with our biggest snow storms likely to occur after the birth of kittens. For that reason, I tend to think this is a mother-kitten pair. Kittens stay with their mothers for the first 8-11 months of their lives.

In any case, the Duo and I wish this pair of bobcats good luck for the rest of the winter!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bright Spot of the Day

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Today hasn't been my best day ever. The discs above and below the surgically fused section of my low back are giving me pain. I was "worked over" by my physical therapist, and it was bordering on agonizing. Shyla comes to my appointments because my PT loves her - but even Shyla seemed worried about all the needles being put into me. I'm hopeful this will help so we don't have to even consider any more surgery.

But, on days like today, I'm so glad that I get outside bright and early with Shyla so I can look back our morning fun as a bright spot in my day.

This weekend, I was looking for something in my closet, and I came upon a toy that was a favorite of Acadia, a chocolate Lab who lived two generations before Shyla. I pulled the toy out, and I thought it would be fun to have Shyla play with her departed big sister's toy.

This morning, the two them watched the sun rise together.
And then Shyla jumped around in the boulders carrying her new treasure. She has that wide-eyed look because she'd just leaped off a boulder and was getting ready to land.
I had the feeling that Shyla really liked her new-old toy! As for me, I love the toothy smile on the face of the ball!
We even made it all the way up to Hug Hill, thanks to a recent thaw that has reduced the snow depth to some extent. Shyla and I played retrieving games with her toy up on our local peak.
I love having links among our generations of dogs. The most important links are the dogs themselves - the ones who span generations, like R has done with K and then Shyla.

But, the toy that I found this weekend was a fun link. I know that Acadia ran around carrying that toy just like Shyla did today! For some reason, that makes me smile.

Tomorrow, I'll share a couple of trail camera stories. One involves a tree that was blown down by high winds - and it had my trail camera attached to it. And another involves a mother bobcat who is still hanging out with her kitten from last spring! Their playful behavior, captured by a trail camera, made me smile!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Siblings Snoozing in a Sunpuddle on Sunday

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After a good romp in the snow and breakfast, the best thing to do is snooze with your sibling.
Can you see R's right paw? This Labraduo is so intertwined.

The title was inspired by the Wordless Wednesday titles by our friends at A Tail of Two Cardis.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Letter to Shyla

We are participating in a Blog Hop hosted by Murphy and Stanley called "Letter to my Dog". If you read this post anyplace except at romp-roll-rockies.blogspot.com, please visit that link to go to the original copyrighted and complete version.

My dog, Shyla...
Cozy Labrador

Dear Shyla,

You came into my life 2 ½ years ago at a time when each of us was in the throes of tough times. I’d lost my beloved K, way too young, to cancer shortly before I met you. And, you were a young dog who was filled with fears of almost every aspect of our world. When I first saw you, you had bite marks on your face and unknown aches in your heart.

You needed me to teach you how to stand tall in our world, and I needed you to let me cry in your fur. We weren’t ideally suited to each other at that instant in time but I knew that we’d somehow find our way, dancing among the obstacles like you do everyday in the forest.
The level of your fear of everything in our world was incomprehensible to me. With lots of help, I learned how to guide you so that you can happily live in our world. Along the way, I learned patience, patience, and more patience. I know – I still forget to be patient sometimes, and I apologize for that.

But, despite my shortcomings, you’ve grown up into an amazing, loving, and sensitive dog. I feel lucky that we have you in our lives.
I’m starting to feel as if you watch over me like I watch over you. We've become like sisters who have each others' backs. I'm savoring every day we have together.

Now, you are my constant companion. You're the one who endures the cold to see the alpenglow on the snowy mountains at sunrise with me and then endures the cold again to watch the sunset with me. You join me on snow bike rides in the winter, mountain bike rides in the summer, and lots of hikes all year long.

You've recently become comfortable with snuggling - which I adore. You love to crawl from the foot of the bed and put your head on my shoulder as I hug you. There was a time, soon after we'd met, that I didn't feel sure that you'd ever trust me enough to let me hug you tight. Now you do.

Now I know that our bond is forever. You're my girl and I'm your human. You can count on it.
Me and My Shadow


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Duo at Sunset

I had the chance for a sunny and relaxed sunset hike with the Labraduo yesterday. That meant that I could take photos of my favorite black dog, R, in the sunset light.
For the first time since winter really hit, the sunset rays were shining on an open area, rather than a tiny section of the forest, so we played out in the meadow. I love the small signs that spring will eventually get here, like the gradual changes in the angle of the sun rays at sunrise and sunset.

I played recall games with the Duo and took photos as they sprinted toward me. The synchronized tongue flicks are becoming a trademark of the Duo.
The area where we were playing will be the first spot where our wild crocuses (Pasqueflowers) sprout in a couple of months, probably because it gets both morning and afternoon sun. The day when I see the first one is a day of rejoicing. It always feels as if it's the beginning of a long stretch of glorious entire spring and summer.
The area is a mixture of meadow, patches of forest, and the "rocks" that give the Rocky Mountains their name. Both of the dogs are very agile as they dance among the rocks and boulders.
I just adore seeing R so happy and puppy-like.
Off to the Races
He's a puppy at heart. Many people still ask me if he's a puppy when they see us for the first time. My reply is a happy, "Um, no. He's seven years old but he has the spirit of a puppy.".
The Duo was pleasantly tired and curled up to sleep together when we arrived home.
It's a sight that I adore. These two are truly brother and sister.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter's Return and Our Tough Wild Cats

We've had the return of winter after a major melt over last weekend. Yesterday, it snowed feathery light flakes all over our world. Shyla and I were out snow biking when the snow fell the hardest.
This morning dawned very cold but clear and still. As we started our morning fat bike ride, I felt as if we were riding out into a winter painting, with a bluebird sky and snow covering every pine bough and boulder.
It was so cold that my fingers hurt almost instantly when I tried to use my camera. Shyla just kept running around with frost forming on her whiskers and her paws kicking up the powdery snow.
 When it warmed a tiny bit, she sampled the snow cones.
The well-below freezing temperatures and new snow have made the trails much harder to navigate on a snow bike or on foot. So, I'm very glad that I seized that day last weekend to visit some faraway trail cameras that had been snowed in for almost 6 weeks.

Over the 6 weeks of human absence, the animal activity was subdued, mainly due to deep snow. But, the rabbits and the cats endured the snow and continued using the area. At one camera, a mountain lion walked past, sinking into the snow with each paw. I believe this is the same mountain lion whose photos I showed you from another (less snowy) site a few days ago.
Despite the snow, she took long determined steps. I think that she is the mother mountain lion who we followed last summer and autumn. Her kitten was almost as big as her when we last saw him so I won't be surprised if he has now struck out on his own.
Then, two nights later, a bobcat followed, literally in her footsteps. The big indents in the snow are where the mountain lion put down her paws two nights earlier.
But, this comparatively tiny cat took about twice as many steps to pass the trail camera as the mountain lion.
If you look at the photos closely, you can see that this bobcat made sure to use each of the lion's pawprints, since they were packed down by the lion's weight. However, the bobcat had to take extra steps in between the lion's tracks because his legs are so much shorter.


I find it so fascinating to get these glimpses into what goes on in our big forest when humans are not around. I think it'll be a little while before I can visit those cameras again so it'll be interesting to see the wildlife traffic over the coming weeks/months.

I am awed by these animals and their ability to survive such harsh conditions. The area where these photos were taken is usually substantially colder (5-10°F colder) than anyplace else in our neck of the woods. Yet, the cats, with their thick coats, still patrol the area in the depth of winter.