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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Glorious Rocky Mountain Sunset

For the first time in a long time, I was able to hike to see an exquisite sunset with the pack.

You might remember my knee - it sustained a serious contusion and perhaps a minor fracture of the top of the tibia back in February when I landed very awkwardly in deep slushy snow on a hillside. I rested it as much as I could, including not hiking, until almost the end of our desert trip. The pain steadily decreased over the entire nine weeks or so. And then, all of a sudden, the swelling shrunk a lot too. I was so relieved that escaped that injury without surgery or complete immobilization.

Because my knee has healed almost completely, I can go for evening hikes with the pack again! We timed our hike perfectly the other night so that we could watch the sun set over the snowy Continental Divide.

We arrived just as the clouds were lighting up.

Gradually, the clouds became a deeper orange.

Eventually, they were as dark orange as they could be!

When I swung my lens southward, the clouds were delicately hanging over the local ski area with a faint glow of orange on the clouds and the horizon.
As the colors faded, it was time for all of us to trek toward home in the dusky forest. I felt so content to be able to walk on our trails again!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Flower Friday!

Believe it or not, we have a few flowers blooming up here high in the mountains. Even more surprising is the fact that one of them is the Barrel Cactus. We have a lot of cacti on south-facing grassy slopes. I am surprised every single year when they are among the first flowers to bloom.

I saw the buds emerging on these cacti this morning, and then I saw the actual blossoms this afternoon. These ones were not fully open because it was still in the 30° range early in the day.

Later in the afternoon when it was warmer, some cactus flowers had opened even further!
When I photograph flowers, I often get down very low and close to the ground. I become totally concentrated on the flower and how to photograph it best. Needless to say, in a wilderness area with lots of large animals, that's a bit of a vulnerable situation for me.

I used to talk about how Angel K seemed to intuitively know to sit close to me and keep an eye on the situation. Shyla didn't do that for the first five years of her life with us. However, she now does it, without any training from me!!!! She sits close to me and patiently watches while I take my photos. It's such a nice feeling having my canine companion watch over me like that!
Each time a new dog joins our family, I "forget" that it took many years before our previous dog settled into the habits of daily life that I treasure so much. I need a reminder of how much time is needed for a human and dog to truly become a team. Shyla and I are getting there - and I've particularly been noticing how we've grown together over this winter and spring.

It's a sweet evolution in a human-dog relationship. It brings that deep bond that we can only really have after a number of years together.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Rainbows and Reflections

One night in the desert, we were awakened over night by rain pounding on the roof of the LabMobile. The driving rain continued throughout the night and into the morning. There is no sound that makes me want to sleep late like that one.

At about sunrise, the Runner was outside the LabMobile making coffee. At one instant, the sun found a slot in the seemingly endless cloud cover and shined through. A clear and gorgeous rainbow appeared to the west.

He called to me to hurry and see the rainbow. It was a full rainbow but I didn't have a super wide angle lens on my camera. I captured about half of it but the whole arc is seared into my memory.

That was a far better start to the day than I'd expected. However, soon thereafter, the rain started pounding on the roof again. My mood soured and then went further south when my phone rang to tell me that someone was trying to use my credit card hundreds of miles away. Argh.

I thought that we wouldn't see the sun again that day. Fortunately, I was wrong! As soon as it burned through the clouds, Shyla and I were out of the LabMobile preparing for a ride.

The rock world was covered in water. I enjoyed the reflections, as you can see!
I am thankful everytime Mother Nature gives us the gift of sunshine. It can turn my day around in an instant!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Golden Light in the Desert

One of my favorite things is that incredible light at sunset in the desert...

P.S. I forgot to tell you that R's appointment had to be rescheduled to next week. So, another week until we know the news. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Desert Views from the Ground and the Air

At one desert campsite that we love, a ridge of spires sits on the horizon. You can see it to the left on the horizon in this photo.

I love those spires. Over the years, I've taken photos of all of  our dogs with the spires in the background.

And here's a closer up of sweet Shyla with the blurry spires in the background.

On this visit, I decided to use my drone to view the spires from above.

I decided that they looked a bit less dramatic from high above them so I did a flight where the drone was floating at about the same elevation as the spires. This is one photo from it. The top of one spire is in the lower left of the photo.
If you look out to the lower right of the photo, you can see a white speck. That's our campsite with the LabMobile sitting in it.

I made a video with my drone floating around the spires that you might enjoy. You can watch it here or at Youtube.






Monday, April 16, 2018

The Bears are awake and active!!!!!

Those who have followed along for a few years know how excited I get when the bears reappear after a winter of resting in dens.

Well, my favorite day of the year happened recently. A huge bear, who I believe is one of our biggest resident males, began to mark trees. He looked magnificent!
I believe that he is "Tiny", the ironic name for our gnarliest bear. Tiny appeared to have an infected wound that slowed him considerably last summer so I am relieved to see him back. I've talked with bear biologists who tell me that it is not uncommon for bears to heal all their wounds while they rest in their dens.

When he first appeared, Tiny marked the same tree FOUR times. As you watch the video, you'll see that he started by leaning into the poor small tree with his considerable weight, as if he was about to fall asleep again.

Then, each time, he'd rear up on his hind legs to rub his scent all over the tree.
After repeating his marking four times, he departed but stopped at one more tree on his way out of this area that I think of as the "Banana Belt" because it melts out before other parts of our forest.

A few days later, a smaller male bear showed up first at the same tree that Tiny had marked multiple times. You can see how much thinner he is than Tiny - he still needs to bulk up to rival Tiny.

This bear didn't dare mark over Tiny's scent. In fact, he seemed to deflate after smelling Tiny's scent (see photo above). However, he was very interested in my camera. I believe it may be "Bandit", the bear who destroyed my trail camera last year. I am very lucky that he didn't attack the camera that he sniffed on 4/7.
Then, Bandit went to the second tree that Tiny had marked. He sniffed it, looked upset, and then heard a sound from a distance. That was enough to make him bolt into the forest, probably out of fear that Tiny was around. Males fight fiercely for territory, and Bandit would definitely lose a fight with Tiny.

After all of that excitement had occurred a distance from our house, I was hiking with the dogs on leash one evening near our house. The dogs seemed extremely hyped about a scent in the air. I thought it was elk or a moose. We kept walking, and we almost walked up to a bear! R went insane (on leash), barking like a lunatic. The bear went straight up a pine tree. He initially stopped about 20' up, making very mournful moaning noises because he was terrified of R's barking. I snapped a terrible photo in the dusky light and departed. I believe that it was Bandit but I'm not certain.
We hiked in the other direction. However, at the end of our hike, we went past that tree again. The bear had gone higher in the tree. He was draped across a big limb with his human-like hind paws hanging down below the branch. It was too dark for a photo but it looked as if he'd taken a nap while he waited for it to be safe to descend. We headed home, and the bear was gone the next morning.

I am overjoyed that the bears are out foraging in our forests. Life is so much more colorful when these characters are around!

Enjoy my video of the first bears of the season either here or at Youtube!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

With every passing day, I adore our black dog even more. He keeps me on my toes because he's so mischievous (he ran off to explore just after this photo)! He has a mind of his own but he's learned how to listen to me most of the time over the years.

During this trip to the desert, I made sure to get some time with him and my camera. With his age having reached double digits at the end of last year, I don't want to miss a single day when he can still run like the wind!

I also don't want to miss a chance to see his eyes sparkle with happiness as he sprints to me across a mesa!
We all love you, R!

He has an ultrasound tomorrow to check on the tumors on his adrenal gland and spleen that were deemed to be probably benign a few months ago. I feel fairly confident that the conclusion will be the same this time... but you all know how it is. I won't totally relax until we hear the results.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Playing with Shyla

Shyla and I are taking a class to try a new way to address her fears. It involves me playing with her. Ideally, we'd play together, just the two of us, without toys or food involved.

We've done a bit of this in the past but not much.

I'm finding it to be incredibly hard to draw her into play without any toys being involved. Then, I realized that it's parallel to how she interacts with every dog on Earth besides R. We've had puppies come to visit many times. R wrestles and fake bites along with them for hours on end. In contrast, without toys being involved, Shyla has no clue how to interact with other dogs or puppies.

R knows how to make other dogs not feel threatened by him. He repeatedly throws himself on his back to "self-handicap". I've never seen Shyla lie on her back either when playing with other dogs or with me.

When we first knew Shyla, she didn't even want to try to play with other dogs - she'd go hide in the bedroom when they came to visit. Now, she wants to try but her overtures are not successful. In this photo, Shyla had just tried to get the puppy to chase her as she carried the nylabone. Shyla eventually gave up and let the puppy have the bone. Shyla is lying in the background.

On the very next day after one of the puppy's visits to our house, we met the puppy and her humans on a trail. Shyla again tried to play with the puppy with slightly more success than in our house. She tried to get the puppy to chase her and was successful. This was Shyla zooming in a circle around us.

And this was the puppy, about 20 yards behind Shyla. The puppy sprinted her heart out but there was no way for her to keep up with an athletic grown-up like Shyla.

The puppy was so cute and beautiful as she ran through the snow. She's growing up so fast!
That was a partial success for Shyla. I'm very glad that Shyla is now trying to play with this puppy.

In the meantime, we thank our lucky stars that Shyla has such a wonderful big brother. She trusts him completely, and they play together almost every day.
For our "fearful dog" class, I'll be continuing to try to figure out how to get Shyla to play with me. I'll let you know how it goes! Do you all have favorite games to play with your dogs?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Beautiful Sights from the Desert

Because we don't have many flowers yet, I'm going to focus on the beauty of the desert for this Flower Friday.

I love the rock formations that tower on all sides of us while we're in the desert. The combination of the deep red ground and blue sky makes me smile the whole time that I'm there!

Even more than the rock formations, I love seeing our Labraduo sprint joyfully on the desert mesas. My favorite spot to photograph them is Shyla's Mesa. That's the mesa that they're sprinting over in the next photo.
The mesa that the Duo was running atop is in the next photo, to the right.

Each night, I set up my camera on a tripod to take photos of the night sky. While we were at this particular campsite, the moon started out half full and was almost completely full on our last night there. It was so bright that it lit up the landscape as if it was daytime. You can see the reddish color of the desert floor due to the moonlight.

For comparison, this is what the same sky looks like when there is no moon. Look how many more stars are visible - but also notice that the landscape is black!

On a night when the moon was almost full, I took a series of exposures over about an hour and a half so that we could see the stars appearing to rotate around the north star. Due to the bright moonlight, a limited number of stars was visible but that actually makes this type of photo better. It's as if the stars are making their own art as they spin around our night sky!
I find the desert to be absolutely gorgeous, both during the daylight hours and the dark hours. I always look forward to our next visit there!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thankful for the Desert and Shyla

I am so thankful to have had time in the desert with our pack. Last year, we didn't get much spring time in the desert due to Shyla's epilepsy. Her recent seizure has reminded me of how much better she is doing than a year ago.

Yes, Shyla, we'd all love to squeeze our eyes closed and forget about that bad phase.

She and I had tons of fun together on our recent desert trip. I especially love sunset with her because of the light and the amazing color of the boulders.

She's learned to be a great model, except for her tendency to squint into the setting sun. I have to click the shutter lots of times to get a picture of her beautiful eyes. But I understand that!

And then she shoots me a look like this one, and she melts my heart.
Although I still often wish that she could shed her fears and leave them totally behind us, I am incredibly grateful for the fact that she totally trusts me. She's funny and sweet. What else could I want?

Sun Halo in the Desert

One day in the desert was surreal with a rainbow circle around the sun shining down on the alien looking red rock formations.




This was the last view of it before it faded.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Visit from a Monster

Just about a year ago, Shyla started taking phenobarbital to try to control her seizures. It took a long time before I appreciated how well it worked because it turned Shyla into a zombie. It wasn't until about six months later that I thought that she was back to about 98% of her normal self.

I'm going to pepper this post with photos from the desert to keep it happier than a discussion of seizures.

Despite the very long acclimation time, phenobarbital worked wonderfully - she had no seizures for a year, until the other night. We had some warning because a blood tested showed that the phenobarbital level in her blood had fallen below the therapeutic range late last fall. Because we didn't want to subject her to the "zombie phase" again if we didn't need to, we decided to wait to see if she had any breakthrough seizures. Darn, now it's happened.

We are waiting to hear back from our regular vet and neurologist to see if this recent seizure means that we need to increase her dose of phenobarbital. I'd rather err on the safe side so we probably need to do so. I truly hope that the zombie phase isn't as long it was when she started phenobarbital. Does anyone have experience with this to share?

Since her seizure in the wee hours of Sunday, she has had no more seizures and seems to feel good. That's good news because she used have clusters of seizures - which were no fun for anyone.

Shyla has proven herself to be amazingly resilient over the years. From a rough start in life, she is plagued by myriad fears yet she's figured out how to navigate our world with happiness (most of the time).
I have little doubt that she'll continue her resilient ways no matter what happens.