Scenes from the day of a long bike ride in the San Juan Mountains.
|Peanut Gallery watching me!|
Deep in a gulch, there's a trail used by bears. It has bear marking trees along its sides. But bears are not the only ones who use it. Indeed, after mating season, other species dominate it. This year, a mama moose and her calf used it regularly. A humongous bull elk also frequented it. A light-footed bobcat trotted past it. And you'll see the rest in the video.
When we arrived home from our trip, Hachi seemed to make a breakthrough almost right away. There was a new set of people working on the outside of our house. They were doing some demolition at the beginning.
It was loud, and we thought that the noise would stress out Hachi. Instead, he lay on a bed on the other side of the wall where they were working and fell sound asleep! The Runner and I wondered aloud if he'd had a secret lobotomy!
It has been the same ever since. As long as the workers are outside the house, Hachi can snooze right through their time here. It is so refreshing to see a breakthrough like this!
It's especially surprising because we think that trips are stressful for Hachi. You can see in the photo below that his mouth is closed and his face is tight. He ran around with exuberance in our campsite but his body language said that he was nervous.
Whenever I see Shyla play in the water, I am reminded of Black Dog Joy. Way back in 2012, Shyla joined our pack as the most fearful and timid nine month old dog I'd ever met. She was afraid of almost everything. But, her big brother started enveloping her in his crazy joyful attitude from the start. Within her first month with us, we went to a favorite place called "Dog Leap Lake".
As soon as we arrived, our Black Dog wanted to retrieve sticks from the water. At first, Shyla stood on the shore watching and then assisting with the final bit of the retrieve. Our Black Dog didn't mind her biting the stick at all. In fact, he turned it so that she could grab it more easily (photo from 2012).
During that very first day playing in water, Shyla got the courage to retrieve sticks on her own. No doubt, her big brother's joy helped her to be so brave.
Over the years, Shyla and our Black Dog played in many lakes together, one more than any other. It's an unnamed lake off the beaten path in the San Juan Mountains. When we visited it this year, we decided to name it Black Dog Lake.
Fast forward to this year, nine years later. This year, we all missed our Black Dog terribly. However, in his tradition, Shyla was ready to be joyful all on her own. We humans weren't sure that she'd be able to find this happiness without our Black Dog's excitement. But she was, and it filled our hearts with joy.
Happy Black Dog Sunday!
Whenever I take out my camera and ask Shyla to be my model, she is overjoyed! When we're camping, she eagerly anticipates our sunset playtime/photo shoot.
This scene was in our campsite while we were in southwest Colorado. I love the sight of the reddish mountains on the horizon. They complement Shyla's fur so well!
However, I cannot stay sad for long when I'm with Shyla. She is, quite simply, my best friend.
You probably remember that there's a bear cub in Tiny's territory who is most likely his son. This little guy has an unstoppable attitude for such a young cub. In mid-August, he and his mom repeatedly visited one of Tiny's favorite marking trees. Teeny Tiny marked it again and again. And, to really make me laugh, he marked it while sitting down on one occasion. Just like his father.
Check out the video to see this cute little cub in action!
I am thankful for the wildlife who we see from our deck. About three weeks ago, a bull moose sauntered by at breakfast time.
He ate some breakfast too! What a rack.
Then, a couple of evenings ago, a mama bear and her cub dropped by to eat chokecherries. This was during their departure, heading down to the creek. I think that I have "seen" these two on my trail cam at a nearby water hole. I'll share that soon!
The wildlife is one of my favorite things about Lab Valley!
A little while ago, I shared a video of Mohawk with her cub "Teeny Tiny". They were in a water hole, and Teeny Tiny wanted to play. Since he doesn't have siblings, he turned to his mom. She enthusiastically participated. It was heart-warming to see.
Close to Lab Valley, I found a water hole that bears love. A mother bear brought her two cubs to cool off. One appeared to try to get her mom to play. Please check out the video to see what happened. It was different from any mother-cub interaction that I've seen before.
It's been a long time since the last Hachi update. Since then, we took an almost 3 week trip in our LabMobile with him and Shyla.
We finally realized that Hachi has a history of become very stressed during our trips. It's been hard to see that pattern because the trips have fairly long breaks between them. This time, we were ready to carefully manage him to avoid having him take out his anxiety on Shyla. We did things like making sure that the dogs were far apart when a stressor happened like a bicycle going by our campsite. Another example was keeping Hachi well under control when Shyla was retrieving balls from a lake. Although Hachi doesn't want to dive into the water to get balls, he realizes that balls are valuable objects and he can snark (snarl/bark) at Shyla due to wanting to take the ball that she just retrieved.
These issues have become so much better during our normal life at home that it's rare that Hachi will react to them. However, when you add the stress of being away from home, he reverts to his old ways.
The great news was that our management worked. There were very few (and very minor) incidents. Hachi seemed to relax into the trip. By the last day, we were parked next to a forest road, and ATVs started going by. Hachi didn't react to them at all. That showed us how far he'd come due to our counterconditioning every time one went by throughout the trip.
Hachi had some fun too. The Runner and I played with him in our campsite around sunset some evenings. He loves to run - and does so with amazing intensity. We love that we know of campsites that are far enough off the beaten path that even Hachi can do some off-leash running!
We are lucky to have Hachi in our life. Sometimes he acts like a punk but he's *our* punk. We love him.
Our Black Dog was with us in spirit on our summer trip as we visited places that he'd loved. Because he was on my mind so much, I made a collage of some of my favorite photos of him. The one on the left was from the lake where Shyla joyfully swam this summer. She learned how to seize every single day from her sweet brother.
While we were away, we passed the one year anniversary of our Black Dog's death. Very soon, I'm going to change the format of Black Dog Sunday posts - so that it's less about specific memories of our Black Dog and more about the joy for life that he had. I'll write about sights or events from the previous week that reminded me of his amazing spirit. Believe me, I am reminded of his spirit every single day when I see beauty or happiness.
I haven't figured out what to call the posts yet - perhaps something like "Black Dog Joy on Sunday". Do you have suggestions?
Happy Black Dog Sunday!
Around mid-July, I headed out on my bike in search of a new-to-me trail that I'd seen on maps. I knew roughly where to find it. As I got close to it, I noticed a well-worn path heading in the right direction. I blindly turned onto it. It was not the correct turn but it was a LUCKY mistake. I found myself in a sweet oasis in the midst of a pine forest.
I immediately noticed the "stomp" indents in the dirt made by bears who were scent marking. That sight stopped me in my tracks. I dropped my bike in excitement and started exploring.
I noticed that a spring comes up from the ground there, creating a small pool of water in the midst of the dry forest. As I explored, I also found several bear marking trees. I knew that I'd hit the jackpot. If I'd had time, I would've put trail cams up on that very day. Alas, I didn't have time so I did it the next day.
Within the first week of putting up the cams, four bears visited the area. That was at the tail-end of mating season so I was thrilled to see them. After that, the bears didn't visit as often because they'd headed down in elevation to find food for their late summer fattening phase. However, lots of other animals did visit.
As you watch, imagine this spot as cool in the midst of a dry and hot forest. Imagine the nearby pine needles crackling under your feet as you approach because they are bone dry. Then, you come upon a pool surrounded with green grass! It's an amazing spot. Enjoy the video!
Occasionally, the smoke lifted to let bright colors shine through.
I am going to be trying to take it easier on myself in the coming months. We still have a lot of construction going on. Today, it was a "three ring circus" with three different contractors working on our new place. I know how fortunate we are to be able to have this work done but it's still stressful - very stressful! Moreover, my Dad's cancer is back, and the doctors say that there's nothing more that can be done for it. I know that journey is only going to get harder.
But, through it all, I am so thankful that we have a pack that makes me so happy. And we have the amazing mountains that never cease to astound me with their beauty.