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Friday, September 30, 2016

Happy Golden Friday

Our golden world never ceases to awe my senses.

It's been such a gorgeous autumn so far. We've even been waking up to the sound of bull elk bugles! It's an eerie and beautiful sound. Bull elk make this sound only during mating season, when they are trying to gather a harem of cow elk.

The bull in these photos is not one of the biggest although he has a decent sized harem. We are heading out in search of bull elk and their harems this afternoon. I hope that I can bring home some fun photos.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thankful Thursday

I like Thankful Thursday - it makes me stop and realize what I have so much gratitude for. The biggest one is R's recovery. We've managed to win back some more romping for him through surgery and then lots of hard work. We smile and smile at his happiness.

It doesn't take much to make him overjoyed - just a stick and some water to play in.

The same is true of Shyla, who has truly found her confidence when playing with her brother. She now wins a lot of the races to get the sticks.
I do still feel worried about Shyla's seizures. She's restless most nights around the time that all her seizures have occurred. We may have to go back to the normal version of Keppra (not the extended release) to get her out of this worrisome pattern.

We're having a warm bluebird day, and we know that a long winter isn't far behind it. So, we're going to try to get to a mountain lake to let the dogs swim and play in the water once more before the snow flies.

Happy Thankful Thursday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - An Alpine Edition

We hiked up high for sunset last night... and for some dog playing.
Who me? I did NOT do any digging.
Our Girl

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Autumn Bear Escapades - including some funny mischief!

Autumn bluebird days make me smile! This meadow is just behind our house. I can't ride through it without stopping to gawk at the beauty.

Many autumns, our bears seem to go elsewhere, and I don't get many glimpses of them. This year is different, perhaps because bear foods have been so abundant here.

Some bears are still busy marking trees. I think that this might be our youngish female who I call "Dot" for a tiny white dot on her chest. She's marking a small tree that has nothing left but its trunk. All the branches have been ripped off by bears marking it.

Dot is not a big bear. It's amusing when the large males mark this one because the trunk reaches only to the middle of their backs.

One strategy that the huge males use is to squat down so that their back is at the right level for the tree trunk. Here's a large male marking it early this summer.

Indeed, we've had a large male around who might be "Tiny" although I'm not absolutely certain. He took a long bath in some of the yuckiest smelling water from a spring that flows into a muddy area. I can't believe that the bears like bathing in something so awful smelling. However, dogs like that particular spring too so I guess that we just can't understand the likes and dislikes of other species!

After the big bear bathed, he checked out the area around a marking tree. Then, later that night, he mauled a small bear marking tree. This tree still has branches but you can hear as he snapped some of them off as he attacked the tree.

Then, a couple of days later, a bear checked out a marking tree in close proximity to the spring and the other marking trees. This bear ended his visit by "rearranging" my trail camera. It's funny footage.

I hope that you enjoy this video of bear activity in autumn. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

I've realized that I want to finish showing you the best of the footage from the bear den, up until the date that the family departed in mid-May. My goal is to finish picking out the best clips and show them to you before our bears go into hibernation again. It made me laugh to realize how much I've stretched out the fun of looking closely at every clip. So, bear den videos will be coming!!!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Onward with Nosework!

Shyla and I have continued with our nosework, having so much fun with it. We did take a week off because I read that "essential oils" (which are the odors that dogs search for in nosework) can cause seizures. It was before Shyla was taking anti-seizure meds, and she continued to have seizures even though we weren't doing nosework. Phew - that convinced me that nosework wasn't the culprit! I would've hated to have to stop nosework.

Since then, I've talked with vets who have told me that a dog must ingest a large quantity for an essential oil to cause seizures. So, we can continue to do nosework! We jump for joy because we love it so much.

I wanted to share a recent round of nosework that we did. The short video has 2 clips. In the first clip, I hid a tiny odor source in a crevice within huge pile of firewood. Shyla worked it beautifully. She seems to be figuring out wind direction and how to search most efficiently by starting downwind and working her way upwind.

In the second clip, I put a magnetic tin with a little bit of clove oil high up on the yellow sign in the video view. Shyla did a fabulous job of finding it. Hides that are way over a dog's head are the hardest.

Without further ado, enjoy the video either here or at Youtube.

Thanks for watching!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Incredible Autumn Weekend

The leaves are still hanging on, and we had a blast mountain biking through the aspen groves over the past two days.

We saw the first snow on nearby peaks this morning. That snow-dusted peak to the left is near where Shyla and I hiked recently. Look at the golden and red aspen groves in the midst of the pine forest below the peaks. This is a transition that I enjoy but not as much as I enjoy springtime.

I do think that it's our peak autumn weekend, and I'm glad to be here to enjoy it!

We had tentatively planned to go to a high alpine spot to camp this weekend but we decided not to go because of Shyla's not-quite-stable status on her new epilepsy medicine.

Shyla started the extended release Keppra yesterday. I must admit that I feel slightly worried about seizures because Shyla was restless in the middle of the night last night (for the 1st time since her last seizure), which is sometimes followed by a seizure. That didn't happen last night. I wish that I could chill out about seizures - I'm guessing that it will take time for me to learn not to worry so much.

Shyla sure seems happy! What a grin!
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Summer "Vacation" Memory

It's cold here in the Colorado mountains today. Feeling chilled while on my mountain bike reminded me of a day during our last summer vacation.

We awakened to sunny weather. We were surprised because we'd heard that storms were bearing down on our location that might even bring snow. For that reason, we'd decided to cut our time short at our high altitude campsite.

As I took off for my ride, I thought that we were making a mistake to leave so soon. Our campsite was warm and inviting.
My plan was to ride out to a high mountain pass, retrace my route, and then go down about 3,000' on a jeep road to meet the Runner and the Duo.

I set out full of energy for a great ride. Angry clouds invaded the sky quickly. However, I'd seen dark clouds over the mountains every single day that we'd been at this campsite, and no big storms had ensued.

In fact, I'd taken this photo from my "phone booth" the day before. It was the spot where I accessed an on-line course that I was taking (it was in the 50 yards of trail where I got good cell reception). I thought it was a spectacular spot to "work"!

On the day of my "departure ride", it looked less threatening than on other days. Sure, there were clouds, but none looked immediately dangerous.

Here's another view from that day about halfway to that high mountain pass I wanted to "tag" before heading down to the LabMobile.

Since the skies didn't look too bad, I kept hammering my pedals with the goal of quickly riding up to the pass. In fact, I barely looked up at the sky for a long time because I was so fully engrossed in the flow of the ride.

About 200 yards from the top of the pass, a rumble of thunder broke my trance. I looked behind me. Oh my. I needed to ride back in that direction - and it looked scary.

As I paused, I decided to risk those last 200 yards to the top. Just as I restarted pedaling upward, a loud CLAP of thunder made me hop off my bike, turn it around, and start zooming downward. I have almost no photos from that rapid descent. It started hailing and then pouring rain. I made it back to the vicinity of our campsite fast enough that I thought that perhaps the pack hadn't departed yet. I was already soaked and freezing so I wanted to avoid riding the 3,000' descent if possible. There is nothing colder than going downhill in a freezing rain.

Alas, they were gone. The view from the campsite showed snow on nearby peaks.

I already had all my rain gear on, and the rain had already seeped through it. I was wearing mittens (one smart thing) but they were soaked. So, I just put my head down and descended as fast as I could. It felt like I was crawling because the rocky road was so slick that I had to be careful. However, I passed two jeeps on my way down so I knew that I was moving pretty fast.

I became so cold that I couldn't feel my handlebars with my fingers. I started to worry about hypothermia. I felt relieved that those two jeeps were behind me in case I needed to stop and ask for help.

In the meantime, I kept riding down as fast as I could. I realized how totally dependent I was on the Runner meeting me at the designated spot. Worries about whether we both understood our meeting spot to be in the same place invaded my mind. I wanted to use my DeLorme satellite messenger to check with the Runner but I was too cold.

The bottom of the descent flattened and smoothed out. I rode as if I was possessed, and eventually, I spotted the big white LabMobile parked by the side of the road and sighed with relief. The Runner was ready for me with the propane heater going, warm towels, and a hot drink to help me dry off and warm up.

I was pretty helpless for a while because I couldn't feel my hands. Then, finally, I felt myself starting to thaw as comfortable warmth invaded my extremities. Just as I started to relax, I got a wicked migraine aura. I couldn't see anything but the sparkling zig-zagging lines that filled my visual field.

With the Runner's help, I gulped a migraine pill and hoped for the best. The good news was that nothing but a minor headache and a slightly queasy stomach followed the aura. Thank goodness! I think that was a classic example of physical stress inducing a migraine. In other words, it was my own fault!

Days like that one are almost inevitable for someone like me. I'd rather take a risk or two while having an adventure than living a more conventional life.

Due to the wintery weather predicted for the high peaks, we headed toward a high desert area. We drove through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison on our way there. It is an extraordinarily deep but narrow canyon. It was beautiful.

However, I have to admit that I always feel like National Parks are museums. You can look but you can't touch anything. The dogs' paws can't leave the pavement and don't even think of riding a mountain bike there.
So, it was a beautiful drive-through experience before we went onto where we planned to ride out the wintery storms before heading up high again.

The cold snap here today made me remember that bone-chilling mountain bike ride vividly!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Delicate Aspen Leaves

When autumn reaches her full glory, we mountain folks want it to last forever. It's as if the world has been magically transformed into a golden paradise.

A little of the paradise is red. I savor the red aspen leaves because they are rare.

Alas, all it takes is a strong wind (like we have today), rain, or even snow to bring down all the leaves in an instant. We don't want that to happen yet, for obvious reasons!

Luckily, Shyla and I have a friend named Enzo. He's a Golden Retriever who lives at over 10,000' here in Colorado. He is busily gluing aspen leaves back onto their branches as the wind brings them down. His mom thought that this was so magical that she drew a picture of him hard at work.
Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this wonderful drawing with me and letting me show it in this post!

As an aside, we didn't switch epilepsy medicines yet because the pharmacy had to order it for us (we will switch tonight). Shyla seems like she is feeling quite good, and she's had no seizures. She even did nosework last night and was as sharp as usual. I'm feeling optimistic.

I'm also feeling so grateful for all of you - you have made suggestions that have literally changed our course of action. Thank you!

Happy Friday to all my friends!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Golden Tunnel of Aspens

Today was a good day. Shyla seemed to feel good. The sky was blue and the aspens were golden.

I love the sight of the golden aspen leaves against the blue sky. Due to my surgically fused neck, I can't look straight up. So, sometimes I blindly turn my camera that way so I can see the view. Beautiful!!!

Today is Day 2 of Keppra for Shyla, and she seems much better than yesterday. Tonight, we transition to a new kind of Keppra that is slow release so she should have a steadier blood level of the medicine. I hope that's an easy transition. For today, she seemed to feel fabulous!

We wove our way around mazes of golden tunnels where the trail was barely visible in the midst of the aspens.

I decided to try something new. I've had a GoPro for a long time but I've never videoed my view of a mountain bike ride. Today seemed like a day to try it. You'll see Shyla running ahead of me (our usual positioning so that she can set the pace), and you'll see the glorious autumn colors all around us. The soundtrack is a little corny - John Denver "Rocky Mountain High". He expresses my feelings about our mountains so beautifully.

It's a short video, and I hope that you enjoy it. It lets you see the joy that Shyla and I share every day when we go out on our trails together.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lots of Words Wednesday

This has been a day of rapid-fire education about canine epilepsy and the medicine that Shyla is taking for it. She took her first dose last night and then another one early this morning. When I took her outside this morning, she stumbled and almost fell. Her hind legs kept crossing as she tried to walk. I asked her to do a few simple obedience things, and she didn't seem to understand my verbal cues.

That was scary but my friends with canine epilepsy experience immediately eased my mind that these are common side effects when a dog starts an anti-seizure medicine. When my vet touched base with me, she said that the side effects should be gone in a week or so.

I also have received so many great suggestions from you all! Much to my surprise, I've heard from readers that there is an extended release version of Keppra that can be given every 12 hours!!! It may work for us, and it would make dosing so much easier! Thank you for educating me!

Back to this morning.... when I saw Shyla's side effects, I thought that we'd just do a short outing. However, within about 15 minutes of running around outdoors with me watching her like a hawk, she ran gracefully like usual and she could respond to obedience cues. That made me feel much better.

Here are a few photos from our gorgeous autumn outing and from my bike ride this morning.
Autumn's Glory

I feel fine!

I feel better than fine!

The gold is starting at the top and working its way downward

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shyla's Vet Visit - Probably Epilepsy

This will be a short post today. We took Shyla to the neurologist today. The two most probable reasons for her seizures are epilepsy and a brain tumor. Because her neurological symptoms haven't progressed since her first seizure in mid-July, the odds are that it's epilepsy.

We are starting Shyla on Keppra, an anti-seizure drug, tonight. We will keep watching in case her neurological signs and seizures are "progressing" in a bad direction. If that happens, she'll have a battery of tests to figure out the culprit.

Life is so full of twists and turns. My hope is that this is just a sharp curve in the trail, and that we'll be able to keep the seizures at a minimum. For now, I'm going to act as if nothing has changed (except that she *must* get a pill every 8 hours).
On a technical note, we may occasionally have trouble having someone home to give her one of her scheduled pills (and staying on the schedule is very important). Does anyone know of a timed device that we could use to release a pill pocket for her in her crate at a set time? I know it's a long shot - but I thought that I'd ask. You all are fountains of good information!

We've known Shyla for four years, and she's become part of the fabric of our hearts. I love her like crazy - and I hope that we are given many more years with her!
Carpe Diem!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bobcat Tales

I have a tendency to take our abundant bobcats for granted. However, I love watching them, especially at this time of year.

I see two special things in the fall. One is that bobcats start marking like crazy. They love to rub their faces and bodies in the area of the base of a bear marking tree, probably due to the many scents that the bears leave behind there. I'm not sure why bobcat marking reaches a crescendo at this time of year.

A bobcat starting to mark

A bobcat looking up in the middle of marking

The second reason why bobcats are such fun to observe in the fall is that they bring out their kittens to areas where my trail cameras can capture footage of them. For the summer, the kittens spent most of their time in dens, with their mother nursing them and then progressing to bringing them prey to eat in the den. They switch dens frequently to avoid being discovered.

I was absolutely thrilled with some bobcat footage that I captured this summer. In the first sequence of the video below, a bobcat is determined to mark an area in the far left of the frame. A striped skunk is equally determined to chase the bobcat away. I laughed and laughed as I watched the chases!

The second clip is of a mother bobcat and her two kittens who are marking the ground and a rock at the base of a bear marking tree. I adore seeing bobcat kittens - they are so cute! And, I'm thrilled for this mother bobcat. After years of having only one bobcat emerge in the fall, this is her second year in a row of having two!!!

Enjoy the video either here or at Youtube.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gratitude

I am so grateful for the beauty around us and the gift of no seizures for Shyla for a few days. Perhaps her meds are helping. I'm not sure yet but I am trying to simply enjoy each day.

The other evening, I wanted to be out for moonrise. First, we stopped at a good viewpoint to the east. Yes, behind Shyla and the golden aspen, clouds hovered on the eastern horizon.

The clouds were beautiful but they were also blocking where the moon was going to rise.

I had a time limit for waiting on the moon because I needed to go out to dinner. The Duo and I watched the clouds fade but the moon was still hidden.

I gave up on it and began the walk home. Then, I caught a glimpse of the full moon just above the clouds. It was gorgeous!
Our world is so filled with beauty, and I am grateful for it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Black Dog Update - CUE Surgery Recovery

We are having a happy day here in Colorado. Shyla didn't have a seizure last night - that makes two good nights in a row. My mood seems to rise and fall with her health these days!

Today, we are participating in the Positive Training Blog Hop. This month, I want to tell you about R's progress since his CUE elbow surgery 5 months ago. The overwhelming message is that we are overjoyed. He's like a new dog!!!
And, believe it or not, the maximum benefit from the surgery isn't supposed to be reached until a full year after it. So, he may get even better.

It was a scary decision to make - having CUE surgery on his elbow - because it's a fairly new surgery with a long recovery period. We both felt very worried for the first 3 months or so, fearing that he'd never recover. Now, we just SMILE when we see him walk and sprint without limping. We still see an occasional limp but it's getting less common.

The reason why this is part of the Positive Training Blog Hop is that I've continued to spend at least 30 minutes every day (and often much longer) on his rehab exercises. Without a clicker and knowledge of how to use it to train R to do his exercises, the rehab would have been impossible!!!

I made a video of our newest exercises. We still do many of the older exercises (walking forward/backward with front paws on the peanut, standing on the peanut, high fives, pushups, crawling under NINE chairs!). However, a video of every exercise we do would be way too long.

Most of the exercises that I show in the video focus on side-to-side strength in his left front limb. Some of them are silly looking but important. For example, he stands on the peanut, and I gradually give him less and less support so that he must use his muscles to stay balanced and prevent the peanut from rolling to the side.
The peanut is in a trough so it's stable for this photo

I use a clicker for the newer exercises that he's still learning. My rule is that I click and give him a treat as long as he is *trying* to achieve the goal of the exercise. For example, when he's balancing on a wobble board, he gets rewarded when he is shifting his weight around in a controlled way that will eventually lead to him balancing. If I waited for him to be 100% successful before rewarding him, he'd get much too frustrated to learn.

Without further ado, here's the video that you can watch either here or at Youtube.


Believe it or not, walking or running in water is one of his exercises. We can't do that one with him everyday but we did when we visited a lake recently.
R is thrilled with his new elbow! Happy Saturday!