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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Winter has a grip on us, and it's been a good week for our Black Dog to snuggle up indoors. Shyla loves cuddling close with him.

Because it's been so snowy and cold, I continued with nosework with R this week rather than taking extra excursions outdoors. We progressed to me hiding the "source" (a q-tip with birch oil in a small tin) anywhere in a room. I ask our Black Dog to "search" and he does. I don't hide it in tricky places yet... but I was amazed how he remembered this game so well from years ago.

One of my favorite parts is that he's so excited to get started searching that sometimes he forgets to actually start! That happened in the short clip that I'm sharing with you today. Enjoy our goofball's happiness. I hope that it makes you smile like it makes me smile.

PS Hachi is barking in the background. We had workers in the house doing drywall, and Hachi was really anxious about them. That's why he was barking. He's normally a reasonably quiet dog.

PPS I hope that you have a smiling Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Shyla Saturday

I love my early mornings with Shyla. No one else is stirring yet, except for the moose and the elk and bobcats and the lions and... Well, no other humans are stirring.

It's very cold at this time of year when the sun rises so late. But the light is otherworldly.

Shyla is always on the lookout for creatures sneaking up from behind me. One time, her only signal that four moose had appeared behind me was that her eyes opened very wide. That's not that unusual so I didn't bother to look behind me at first. When I finally looked, they were close! We beat a hasty retreat behind some boulders. I've learned to always check when Shyla's eyes are very wide!

The one time that Shyla seems to let down her guard is when she's running. Then, every fiber of her being is focused on sprinting through the snow. She accelerates so hard that snow flies behind her.

Due to Shyla's continued jumpiness, we've decided to have Shyla evaluated by our behavioral vet, just to see if there's something that might take that last bit of hyper-vigilance away.
We'll think hard about whether to try any meds for her because she is generally pretty happy these days. One motivation is that Shyla's tendency to startle easily around the house or in the LabMobile raises Hachi's anxiety a lot.

Shyla has come so far. I wonder if we can help her relax that last little bit. Time will tell.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Mother Mountain Lion and her Two Kittens

I will never get over my wonder that these huge cats live so nearby yet almost no one ever sees them.

Soon after our first big snow of the year, a mother led her two kittens past a scent post. They lingered in front of the camera but looked far more serious about life than before winter arrived.

Mom appeared first. She looks strong but not huge.

Close behind her, two kittens appeared. There was no frolicking or play - all three of them seemed serious.

As they passed my cam, the kittens paused.

The second one sniffed the air as he paused. Soon, he followed his family.
I believe that these are the same kittens who we saw at this same site almost exactly a month earlier.

I adore seeing our mountain lions! Check out the short video if you have time. Seeing daytime footage of our lions is always a treat.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful that Hachi has learned his recall so well. Last summer, we decided to make teaching Hachi a very strong recall top priority. We played all sorts of recall games with jackpots of cheese for each recall.

The Runner does recalls with Hachi during their daily runs. That keeps his recall strong and sharp.

Yesterday, Hachi did a Houdini act and slipped out of the car in town, not wearing a leash and near a busy road. The Runner called Hachi, and Hachi responded with an enthusiastic recall. He snapped on the leash - and Hachi was safe.
That was a moment that made all of the work worthwhile. Hachi's strong recall probably saved his life.

It also was a moment that made me take stock of how much I've come to love this dog. I'm so thankful that he's okay.

We are linking up with Brian's Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Beautiful Bear Bath

It is cold and very wintery here as I'm sure you could tell from the Hachi Chronicle yesterday. I really needed a warm reminder of summer. I was cleaning files off my hard drive when I came upon some summer footage that I'd never shared. Even better, it shows a bear in a water hole that dried up very soon after the bear took a bath.

The winter of 2016-17 was very very dry. And the summer followed suit. Many of the wildlife water holes dried up in the summer of 2017. And many of them have not filled with water again, even to this day. I am hoping that the snowy start to this winter means that more water will be available to our wildlife next summer.

This was the last bear to enjoy a bath in this particular water hole before it dried up. This bear, a female, had a dark brown head and a golden body. I often see that odd combination in bears who are switching between their winter and summer coats. That means that she probably doesn't look like this now, making her hard to identify.

As she bathed, she showed us her super long tongue.

And then a full yawn.

She lolled about, enjoying the cool water.

As some of you know, there's nothing that I enjoy more than watching a video of a bear taking a bath. I hope that you enjoy the footage of this bear. And if you need a reminder of wonderful lazy summer days, I hope that this helps. It sure helped me!


Monday, December 9, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

A good week! No bad outbursts, and Hachi even made it through a day of having a couple of workers in the house all day. He played nicely with Shyla every evening, and he had no outbursts at R.

Yes, a good week.

Perhaps we are getting our heads above water.

I've been working on counterconditioning with Hachi, primarily focusing on his fear of things touching his body. Back in October, I started introducing him to a winter coat by pairing the appearance of the coat with treats. I'd show him the coat, and I'd give him treats the entire time that it was within sight. I gradually lifted the coat higher, like I'd do if I were about to put it over his shoulders. Then, very very gradually, I let the coat touch him.  Eventually, I draped it over his torso. And now, 10 weeks later, I can put the coat on Hachi and close the velcro tabs that keep it on.  He does not look at all scared when I do it. You can judge in the video.

I made a video so that you can see the process. I led off with counterconditioning to a harness that he's afraid of - I started counterconditioning to that just 3 days ago. The process with the harness is exactly how I started working on the coat 10 weeks ago so it helps you see how far we've come with the coat. So that you can see where that simple work is going, I next show you our work today with the coat. That included him wearing it outdoors and playing with it on.

Now that someone taught me how to countercondition with emphasis on the details of the process - I see how well it works. It takes a lot of patience but it's worth it.



Sunday, December 8, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is happy these days. Since starting a new anti-inflammatory, he likes to do a short run every morning. Since our storm, he doesn't really like the footing on the trails so the Runner takes him for his morning jaunt on the roads.

In the evenings, we usually all do a short hike together. One day, it was just me and the Duo so I took a few photos of them in the falling snow. The bond between these two never ceases to amaze me. If I ask them both to lie down, they choose to be very close together.

R and I have continued to have a blast with nosework games. Although he learned nosework years ago, I'm slowly taking him through the easy stuff to help him remember the game and to build his confidence.

We've progressed to six containers. One of them contains a few q-tips with birch oil on them. R's job is to find that container. He tells me that he's found it by pressing his nose onto the top of it and holding it there. I say "alert", and then I give him a jackpot of treats delivered one-by-one to the top of the container.

I think that you'll be able to tell how much he loves this game from his happy body language and enthusiasm in the short video.


R's spirit is so upbeat and happy, even in the face of blindness and pain. He seems to forget all else when he has the chance to play a fun game, roll in the snow, or to share some snuggles with his sister or one of us. His spirit inspires me.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is my morning snow biking partner. Since that big snowstorm, we've just started being able to bike on the trails again. This morning,. Shyla wanted to shout out her happiness about resuming biking to the whole world. Did you hear her where you are? I had trouble getting her to stop barking and howling this morning because her happiness seemed to overwhelm her.

Part of why we get up so early at this time of year is that I love the early morning light in the winter. It's the only time of year when the sun rises where there isn't a high ridge so we can enjoy its rays just as it rises.

Shyla seems immune to the frigid temperatures early in the morning - and she can even dose off in the snow. This red light was almost exactly at sunrise - it even made the snow glow slightly red.

Shyla makes me so happy - she is, quite simply - my best friend. We are so well matched in most ways - and I love sharing my life, including the early winter mornings, with her. I'm not sure that anyone else would be willing to share the cold mornings with me!
Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Feline and Nature Friday - The Saga of a Bobcat Family

The bobcat family visited a favorite scent post all together on 9/27. The bigger kitten and mom played crazily. The Little Kitten seemed left out. In this photo, mom and the bigger kitten were playing in the foreground while the Little Kitten was under the downed tree on the left of the image.
They all departed together but my heart was preparing for what I thought was going to happen.

A couple of weeks later (10/9), one kitten was at the scent post alone for close to 6 minutes. It is very hard to tell if it's the Little Kitten but that was my guess. If you think otherwise after watching the video, please let me know!

The kitten rolled around for a while, and then he suddenly sat up. He remained in that position like a statue for about two whole minutes.
Then he departed.

I am sad to have to tell you that, on Oct 19, the bobcat family included only one kitten - the big kitten. My heart broke when I saw that the Little Kitten was gone, even though the writing was on the wall from Day One, when we saw that the Little Kitten had no eye shine in one eye. You see, a predator like a bobcat cannot catch prey without depth perception. I hoped for the best but it didn't happen.

RIP Little Kitten. I am glad that you got to live wild and free, if only for a short time.

The video includes footage only until 10/9 - when the lone kitten was at the scent post. I'll share the footage from the mom and the surviving kitten in another video.


I am linking to Feline Friday and Nature Friday.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For Beauty and Better Times

Our campsite at Shyla's Mesa has so many beautiful views.We saw the crescent moon setting behind beautiful rock spires.

And we saw the Milky Way above that same cliff.

Last, but certainly not least, we saw a canine howling on Shyla's Mesa. Perhaps she was howling at the moon and the stars.

I am so thankful for having wild places like this one to visit and to dream about. I am already looking forward to visiting there in the spring. When everyday life is causing me huge anxiety, I can forget about it when we are in awe-inspiring places.

2019 has not been an easy year but we are coming out of it stronger than we started it. We understand Hachi far better, and that has made life much less stressful and happier. And, my dad is doing better, perhaps primed for better times in 2020. I didn't dare hope for such a good end of the year for my dad during the dark times earlier this year. I am so thankful.

We are linking up with Brian's Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Wild Cats: Mountain Lions Courting - Part 2

Last week, I showed you footage of a pair mountain lions who were courting. At the time, I didn't know that they'd later passed a couple more of my cams.

The first one was on a north-facing slope where it was icy and snowy. In fact, ice was clinging to the front of my camera. But, you can see the pair walking almost side-by-side.

A few hours later, they were in a slightly less snowy spot where there was a "scrape" - a spot frequently marked by lions. They seemed to pose for a portrait. The female is on the left. The male, on the right, looks a bit grizzled, as if life hasn't been easy on him lately.

The next day, the pair passed the last cam that recorded them. First, the relatively thin and lithe female walked past.

The male paused near the cam. You can see that he has a big scratch on his neck.

And you can also see that he looks a bit beaten up from the front.
The territory near us has been up for grabs among male mountain lions over the past 10 months. I wonder if this guy had to survive a lot of battles to win it. I hope that the price hasn't been too high.

Later on the 13th, a single mountain lion who looked a lot like the female of this pair appeared by herself a few miles further along in the direction that they'd been traveling. I am betting that their time together was almost over when that daytime footage was recorded.

Please check out the video if you have time. Be sure to have your sound on - there's lots of talking between the pair.

I am linking up with:
Feline Friday 
Nature Friday

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had never seen so much snow from one storm before this one He wasn't so sure about frolicking in the unpacked snow at first. Look at those wide eyes.

Then, I subjected him to his sister to help him loosen up. She schooled him. She is not meek when playing.

The amazing part (to me) is that Hachi has never gotten upset about her crazy play.

After some chasing and wrestling with Shyla, Hachi started to loosen up and look happier about the snow.

He and Shyla stopped to observe something but I couldn't spot what it was.

Soon I spotted the giant.
That put an end to off-leash play but the pair was smiling with the fun that they'd just had.

Hachi had a really good week until the end of it. He was getting along beautifully with Shyla and never got upset with R. But then, he had a bad 24 hours (just like last week). He had an episode of resource guarding against R during which he launched himself at R during a snowshoe hike. No one was hurt. A couple of stressful things had happened earlier in the day (including 90 mph winds outside and people visiting the house) - and those stressors may have been part of set-up that led to the bad event.

Our counter-conditioning for wearing a coat and for handling his legs is going really well, and I'll share a video of it soon.

Thanks for reading!