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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Scenes from a Rainy Spring

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A New Big Bear Dances with Enthusiasm

Bear mating season has finally gotten into full swing. Our late snows and all the cold and wet weather seemed to dampen their enthusiasm for tree-marking and traipsing around looking for mates. Now, every bear tree has many visitors every week.

We have a new big male in the 'hood. He's not quite as big as Tiny but he's dancing his way along the mating trails. His dances are so enthusiastic that they even break off the tops of trees.

He has a magnificent "cowboy walk" as he marks the ground with his paws' scent glands. Bears mark the ground so vociferously that they leave paw-sized impressions in the ground that often lead away from a marking tree for 10 yards or so. The dents in the ground persist over years. They can be hard to see but easy to feel if you get on your hands and knees. Yes, I am crazy enough to do this!

This new big bear looks crazy as he uses a stiff-legged gait and changes his step length to make sure that his paws fall in the impressions. You can see that most obviously at the very end of the video as the bear walks away. See if you think that "cowboy walk" is a good moniker.

I have a short video to share with you showing the amusing dances of this enthusiastic bear.
PS I picked up some more footage of our local bear cubs from a trail cam today. I will post them soon. Cuteness overload!

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi seems to be calming down. The meds have brought down his intensity quite a bit, and the Prozac isn't even supposed to take effect for a while longer. For his mellowness, we are grateful.
He will be separated from the Duo within the house for the foreseeable future. The good news is that the separated pack is becoming more routine for us. We have an ex pen, extra crates, tethers, and gates. With all those options, we are finding it to be easier to move the dogs around the house without interactions. And, doors no longer have to be closed to separate the pack. It feels much better that way.

Hachi's mellowness means that some of his training is going much better. He does something called the "Relaxation Protocol" which is often prescribed for reactive dogs. It involves him lying on a mat while we do all sorts of silly things, including pretending that someone is at the door. He now can handle all the crazy things that we do - and remain quietly in a down-stay, even when we go to the door and pretend to talk to a visitor. That's a huge step forward.

Every morning and evening, Hachi has played with the other dogs with no problems whatsoever. He and Shyla love chasing each other and playing stick.

He has such a blast sprinting around outdoors.
We are glad that he has an outlet for his puppy energy. It keeps him happy.

Most of all, we are feeling far more upbeat this week than last week. We feel some hope but we also feel like our current routine is sustainable for the long term. That's a big step forward.

Thanks so much for all of your support.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Life here at R and Shyla's house is calming down. The Duo are back to their snuggling ways.Today, I found them lying together.

Then, R decided to really cuddle with his sister.
These two make me so happy. And, I'm starting to think that Hachi might be back in the snuggle piles with them someday. But, I'm trying not to accelerate past all the work to be done before that happens.

In the meantime, we will enjoy what we can do.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Shyla on Saturday

My time with Shyla on the mountain trails fills me with happiness. One day, we stopped on Hug Hill for a photo. Shyla was standing in her favorite spot...

... when a youngster came along and photobombed! It's not focused well because I wasn't expecting our photobomber but it's still funny.
You might remember that youngster. She used to come over and play with the Labraduo when she was a puppy. She's grown up into a super sweet dog.

My favorite thing at this time of year is the wildflowers. They are just starting to bloom.

And sweet Shyla loves running through them. 
It's one of my favorite sights.

The week ended well. During this week of bad things, I damaged a tooth  - and it was fixed today. If only all the other things could be fixed so easily.

Enjoy your Saturday.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Nature Friday: Big cats in the Night very Close to the Camera

I have one trail cam very close to a small spring. Every summer, the mountain lions love to drink from the spring. I think that this big male had stashed a kill nearby because he drank there on two nights in late May.
His muscular front limbs and neck are almost scary from so close. After his drink, he walked up the trail to a spot where lions have scraped frequently for years. Of course, he left a scrape. He's a big male mountain lion, and they never miss a chance to declare their dominance!

A few nights later, he passed the same spot again and stopped for a drink. Look at his reflection in the water.

Lions often like to mark in spots where other species mark. In this case, a lion scraped under a tree where bears frequently mark. This "leaning tree" may look familiar to those of you who follow along with this blog. Tiny and other bears mark it regularly.

Here's a short video from the drinks and travels of our late May mountain lions. Check out his tongue in the "cover still" for the video.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For Play!

In the midst of the tumult in our lives, a great source of happiness has been continuing to let Hachi play outside. Despite his issues, he's a puppy at heart.

The behaviorist felt that we could let him play outdoors with the Duo. He has never been aggressive toward them anywhere but inside the house. Each morning, he plays outside with R. And, each evening, he plays outside with Shyla.

He's been doing a lot of appeasement behaviors with both of them, licking their chins and acting deferential. They seem to accept his good intentions. Dogs are amazing with their capacity to forgive.

He and Shyla mostly play chase games. They are SO fast, zooming in circles around us as we hike. They both seem to have a blast. They are very well matched in speed and play style.
I hope with all my heart that the fun that they can have together continues! I am filled with gratitude for this good sign in the midst of a ruff week.

Many thanks to our friend Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tiny the Black Bear takes an Early Spring Bath

I've been searching for good news in my life, and I found some. Tiny the Black Bear appears to be walking more comfortably. He's still not standing up to mark trees but his walking gait looks much smoother. Here he is next to a tree that he's been marking for years and years.

The other day, I checked a cam that I haven't checked since late last winter. It is pointed at a pond where I tend to get footage of elk and moose.

Much to my surprise, Tiny was there in early May. He took a bath, probably his first one since before he went into his den late last summer.

He seemed very relaxed as he floated in the pond. Then, he picked up a stick from in the pond, and he used it to scratch his head. As far as I know, it's a very rare observation of a black bear using a tool.

Enjoy the video!

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle - A Big Step Backwards

This week with Hachi was challenging, to put it mildly. A week ago, his "attacks" on R became more frequent. Hallways or any spot mildly confining seemed to trigger them. Thoughts of food also triggered them. Or, any outside stress like recent training seemed to trigger them.

I became increasingly worried that his non-injuring "attacks" were escalating and might end up badly injuring R. I got extremely upset, even coming down with a migraine due to my stress as I realized what we were facing. We finally decided that we needed to separate the Duo from Hachi, effectively splitting our pack within one house.

This is not an easy thing to do, either logistically or emotionally. Logistically, we have an open floor plan with a few rooms with closing doors off a big multi-functional room. Since we don't (yet) own gates or ex pens, it has meant that one half of the pack is behind a closed door or in crate(s) while the other half is out. We hate that. And, Shyla gets very upset, barking non-stop, when she can't be with us, creating yet another stress source.

Emotionally, it stinks not to be able to be with all of our dogs at once. It feels as if we are constantly letting someone down - whoever is closed up away from us.

Fortuitously, months ago, I'd made an appointment for Hachi with a very booked up Behavioral Vet, and it fell last Thursday. We drove a very long way to have him evaluated. Suffice to say that the outlook was not cheery. His aggression started quite young, and he is classified as "very reactive" toward strangers. The vet started him on Prozac. Then, this week, we add in another anti-anxiety drug. The hope is that we can calm his fears using pharmaceuticals to bring his reactivity and aggression under control. That will help him to be more receptive to training.

The conversation with that vet was sobering and heart-breaking. The vet absolutely feels that Hachi should be kept separate from the Labraduo, at least for now, until if/when the drugs start working. Her prognosis is not great but we will do all that we can to help him. There are only so many hours in a day but we are doing everything in our power to retrain his brain to see the world as less scary.

The vet rightfully pointed out that none of this is good for our exceptionally fearful Shyla. We are seeing that very clearly as her anxiety is escalating because she wants the reassurance of being close to us all the time. We need to get her evaluated too so that she doesn't end up regressing into the non-functional state that she was in when we first met her.

I am still feeling incredibly sad and afraid. Leaving the behavioral vet, it felt like we'd gotten a diagnosis of similar severity as cancer - because she was so strong in her words about Hachi. I am guessing that I'll feel less sad as we get used to our new normal of having a split pack. And, I'll really feel better if the drugs seem to help. The Prozac takes a long time to become therapeutic so we won't know about that for a while.
No matter what, Hachi has always been incredibly sweet and loving with us humans. He melts our hearts every day. We love him like crazy so we want to make this work. I hope that someday, this update will all be a faded memory when Hachi is a well-adjusted dog in our pack.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

It's been one of the ruffest weeks that I can remember in a long time (more about that tomorrow). Our schedule and daily routines were disrupted but one great side effect was that I had some time on the trails with both halves of the Labraduo.

We made a beeline for my favorite place, where the Duo hid behind a rock with the towering Continental Divide behind them.
Shyla loves to play hide and seek games, and she taught this one to her brother. They made me smile!

Later, after the mountains were back in the sunlight, I had the two of them stand atop the hill together.

I feel so lucky that R can, at the drop of a hat, head out for a mountain bike ride with me and Shyla. I don't take him as far as I did when he was a young pup but he is so enthusiastic about a short ride!
We've had lots of pairs of Labs over the years. Each pair had their special attributes. This pair is distinctive for their bond. They love each other, and they are so relaxed when together. I feel lucky for every single day that we have with them.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Sunset Saturday

It's feeling like summertime, finally. The sunset lights up at around 8:30PM. And it is often gorgeous. In this one, I loved the sky reflections in the snow.

And a sunset silhouette.
I remember when the idea for photographing silhouettes hit me. The Duo and I were out for an evening hike, and I spotted a few coyotes atop a huge boulder. They were silhouetted against the sky. I didn't get my camera ready before they fled. But then I realized that a dog silhouette looks a lot like a coyote silhouette. An idea was born.

Happy Saturday. I hope that all of you from the Northern hemisphere are enjoying the long days and warm sunshine!

Nature Friday - Baby Animals in our Forest

'Tis the season for baby animals. Our elk herd winters here and then goes up very high in the mountains for the summer. That's where they usually give birth to their calves.

The herd broke into smaller groups and began departing toward the west a couple of weeks ago. So, I was surprised when I repeatedly saw a cow elk lurking in the trees on a trail near our house. It seemed so odd that she didn't go with the herd.

My trail cam told me why... She must have given birth unexpectedly early. Look at the long legs on that calf!

 A few miles away, this photo popped up on a trail cam.

Soon, their mom appeared behind them. She is a fat and healthy sow! I'm not sure which sow she is - but I will work on figuring it out. I am absolutely thrilled to see her and her cubs.

The cubs were sniffing the pine needles in front of the cam. I must admit that I know why. This is where mountain lions mark regularly. One marked there pretty recently.
So, as bucolic as summertime feels, it is a scary world out there for those moms trying to shepherd their young to adulthood. I know that I'll be cheering them on.

I have a video for you if you like seeing baby animals in action.

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Thankful Thursday - Desert Scenes

On this Thursday, I am thankful for my Shyla and for the wonderful time we had out in nature while we were in Utah. Life has been difficult since getting home. I have tried to cast my mind back to the desert when I need a zen moment. I still have photos from that trip to share!

The desert makes my inner photographer so happy. I love the light at sunset.

And I love this girl.

On one of our last evenings there, a double rainbow broke out by K's Rock during our sunset photo session. You can see the shadows of me and my girl watching it. The pot of gold looks so nearby!

Ah, it was wonderful!

After the rainbows were over and the sun had set, the glorious desert stars would twinkle. April and May are the most interesting Milky Way months in my opinion. The Milky Way rises in the east shortly before dawn. Its stars begin parallel to the eastern horizon and slowly rise above it. This photo was a few hours after it had risen because we didn't have a view of the eastern horizon from K's Rock.
After reading about how the Milky Way rises in springtime, I was so determined to make some time lapse videos of the Milky Way rising after we arrived home. The forecast was good enough that I tried for the first two nights but it clouded up both nights. Since then, there has not been a single night with a good window of clear sky for star photography. It has been so rainy and stormy. Maybe next year...

But I am thankful for our serene time in the desert this spring and the view that we did get of the Milky Way.

And, I thank Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop!