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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A change in plans...

I really wanted to write the story of my long point-to-point adventure mountain bike ride in late August for today's post. It was SO beautiful, and I surprised myself with my endurance. I trained carefully for it, and my training worked.

This was a view as I approached the high point of the ride, above 12,000' on a windy mountain pass. I plan to tell the more detailed story of the ride soon.

As I prepared to write the post, I got badly sidetracked as I was getting the photos ready. In that process, I ran into this photo that I took of R just after I finished the ride and met the rest of the pack at our campsite. This photo stopped me in my tracks. R's eyes looked almost perfect then - and it was less than a month ago!
I haven't shared any of the photos where his blindness is most obvious to me... but let me assure you that his eyes don't look so healthy now.

Photographic evidence of how fast it happened led me to forgive myself.  I have continually wondered if I could have saved R's eyesight if I'd taken him to a ophthalmologist sooner. Now I know that I really couldn't have noticed it much sooner. It occurred too fast.

I feel sure that we will all reach peace with our new circumstances - but my heart is still stuck on coping with the loss and the progression to total blindness that is still ahead of us.

I have spent the past few days getting advice from owners of blind dogs. For example, I am thinking about what verbal cues to teach R that will help him with navigating the world when he is blind. I think that they will be easier to teach now while he still has some sight.

He's an amazing dog, and I know that he'll keep loving life even when his sight is gone. We will help him as much as we possibly can.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Moose During Mating Season

It is incredible how our moose population has exploded. Prior to 2010, I'd never captured a trail cam photo of a moose. Now, they are the most numerous species that my cams record. Here is a big bull moose in the midst of losing his antler velvet.

In early September, I was heading for a trail camera that I have set up to capture video of bears digging up an ant hill. As I walked toward the cam, a bull moose trotted away from the cam. He stopped a short distance away to watch me. His antlers were losing their velvet... and he looked huge.
When I checked the cam, I discovered that the bull moose had been lying on the ant hill for several days in a row. That truly puzzled me because I go crazy with ants crawling up my legs when I check that cam. The cam is about 15' from the ant hill. Why, oh why would a moose want to lie on the ant hill? My best guess is that the sand is cool, and his fur is thick so the ants don't bother him.

The first clip in today's video is of the bull moose on the ant hill. Here is an instant in mid-yawn.
The rest of the video is showing interesting snippets of behavior of moose during mating season. It has rained only once this month, and it was a humdinger of a thunderstorm. A bull moose chose to chase a cow moose through the forest during that scary storm - and they both seemed oblivious to the flashes and booms. That is the second clip in the video.

During mating season, the moose seem to love a pond on my friends' land. One bull hung around there by himself one day and evening. He decided to attack a tree right next to my camera. It rattled the camera in a huge way but, thankfully, didn't damage it. It was amazing to "feel" the force of the moose's antlers via the camera recording.

At that same pond, moose couples showed up a number of times. I found it so intriguing to listen to them vocalize as they foraged by the pond together. They sound almost eerie as they "converse".

I hope that you enjoy the short video.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

It was a gorgeous autumn day here so it was time to go out and play with R!
No doubt - now that I know that he's almost blind, I'm seeing his behavior in a new light. Just like last time I took him for a short bike ride, he leaned into my leg for a lot of the ride. I think that he was using touch to help him follow along.

He wants you all to know how much he appreciates your support. He has one question for you - does anyone know of a waterproof beeping ball that he could retrieve from water (another kind of sound would work too). This human has googled like crazy but hasn't found one yet.

Aside from that one small need, he's a super happy dog!
Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Wonder of Watching Bears Swim!

It has been a rough week of four migraines and unwelcome news. So, I was absolutely thrilled to find my favorite kind of wildlife video on my memory cards - bear swimming. Something about a bear swimming makes me grin from ear to ear. They seem so relaxed and happy in the water that all my tension fades away.

This was the first site of a bear swimming. I believe that this is Mohawk, the youngish sow who was a star of the mating season. It's actually quite hard to identify a bear after she's been eating for 20 hours a day for the past couple of months. My ID of "Mohawk" is that she's the right general size, the right color, and she keeps rubbing her left ear. She did that repeatedly during baths back in June.
She swam around, snorting and stopping to groom, for about 2 minutes! It was early evening in a pond on my friends' land. It looks so peaceful and refreshing.

I could not identify the next bear to swim in a different pond that is not far away. I have two cams on that pond, and the first cam captured a photo as the bear entered the water. She looks fat and beautiful. That's how bears should look at this time of year!

She swam straight across the pond, and seemed to be showing off for my other cam. She looked gorgeous as she swam toward that cam for the first time.

Then, she stopped and her head bobbed straight upward in front of my cam. Doesn't she look cute?

And this photo was just before she exited the pond right in front of my cam. One way to know that she's not as big as a full grown male is that her ears look big relative to her head. That's always my first clue about whether a bear is an adult female or male.

Our weather turned much cooler over the past two days so the bears may be wrapping up their swimming season. It was 37°F this morning. Brrrr.

Of course, I want to share the video of these bears' swims. I hope that your stress melts away like mine did when I watched these bears enjoying the water.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Autumn's Glorious Colors

It is really autumn... a season that I love and dread at the same time. One thing is for sure - the arrival of golden leaves and cooler air fills me with urgency to get out and enjoy the warmth before winter arrives.
We have been doing our favorite autumn activities. Most of it involves being out in the sunshine, enjoying the leaves and wildlife, and feasting our eyes on nature's incredible show of beauty that defines autumn around here.

I adore the autumn colors of a huge aspen grove that I see almost daily. It is currently changing colors, although not all at once. Some leaves are golden, some are reddish, and some are still green. I took a video from above that grove the other day. It's a short video, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Most of all, thanks for the kind words of encouragement about R yesterday. We are already starting to to get used to the idea of R losing his sight (although we are determined to postpone the day of full blindness as long as we can)... and I'm pretty sure that R has been adapting to losing his sight for quite a while. You are right that dogs are incredibly smart and able to cope with big changes!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Our Amazing Black Dog - Nothing Slows Him Down

Recently, I noticed that when I photographed R in the sunlight, his eyes glowed green, as if I'd used a flash. But I hadn't. That was my first clue that something was not normal with his eyes.
Then, a few days ago, I was doing his PT exercises with him in dim light. I noticed that he repeatedly missed my hand as he reached for treats that I was giving him.

That caused me to panic about his eyesight. Our regular vet saw him on Monday, and she started him on meds to take down the inflammation and the pressure inside his eyes. She prepared us for bad news - saying that she suspected that he had glaucoma.

Fast forward to yesterday - we got an emergency appointment with a veterinary ophthalmologist. He confirmed what our vet had suspected. His tests showed R to already be mostly blind in his left eye. Perhaps you can see in the photo above that his left eye looked worst.

Moreover, the tests showed that he has glaucoma in his right eye but it hasn't progressed so far yet. Thankfully, R can still see with his right eye.

His glaucoma is due to a genetic defect in the system for draining fluid from inside his eyes. This progression toward blindness was inevitable, set into motion on the very day that R was born. Sadly, this disease can't be seen until it has become very bad.

We have quite a journey ahead of us. R will join Shyla in needing multiple meds throughout every single day. We don't mind at all because these meds might help him a lot. The hopes are: 1) that we can slow the progression of the glaucoma in his right ("good") eye, thereby delaying the onset of total blindness, and 2) that we can keep the intraocular pressure from getting so high in either eye that he needs his eye(s) removed. The left eye's vision cannot be saved - it will remain blind - but he might keep the eye if we can control that pressure.

R does not seem to be in pain. Controlling the pressure inside his eyes is the key to preventing pain.

I have sat here staring at my computer screen for a long time, trying to figure out how to articulate how we feel. I always go through phases in coping with this type of news but I already know what our life will look like as we move forward.

We will follow R's lead. He isn't upset, depressed, or angry. He's still the happy-go-lucky dog who we've always loved. The vet put no constraints on what he's allowed to do. The vet's only caution was about dealing with dark areas where lack of visual depth of field might make R stumble and get hurt.

So, we'll keep on doing the stuff that he loves. In fact, just last week, we visited one of our dogs' favorite lakes. R took flying leaps into the water like SuperDog!

And he fetched tennis balls from the water.

He sprinted through the water, splashing around like the puppy that he is, at heart.

We all had a wonderful time, including his sister.
We plan to back there soon again, maybe even tomorrow. There's no point in wasting these good days with our amazing Labraduo. So, we feel sadness about what R will face but we will live each day as joyfully as we can. He's a happy dog who wants nothing more than to have lots of fun. And so he will.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wordless Wednesday with the Flying Black Dog

PS Thank you for all the support about R's vision. He sees an ophthalmologist today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Black Dog Tuesday

We are worried about our Black Dog. We've noticed that his vision has suddenly become worse - substantially worse. In addition, his eyes don't look normal. Our regular vet checked out his eyes yesterday and was very concerned about the possibility of glaucoma. He immediately started meds to take down the swelling in his eyes. We should learn more at an ophthalmologist appointment on Wednesday... In the meantime, I'll probably not be able to stop worrying.

A photo taken a few days ago...
All of my worry caused a migraine so I'll stop there.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Adventures of a Yearling Bear Cub (Part 2)

Our multi-colored yearling bear cub is still incredibly entertaining. When I checked a far off cam, I discovered that this cub had marked a tree back in August. When he was up on his hind legs dancing, I could see that he is a male. Here he was approaching the marking tree which is the thin trunk on his right.

It has continued to be hot and dry here so this little guy was seeking water to cool off and clean up. His first stop was an incredibly clean water source. However, he became transfixed by something before he had bathed. When he sat to look toward it, he gave us a great view of his current fur coat. The blond fur was the color of his entire coat at the start of this summer. Since then, he's started to get his winter coat... which is much darker. I hope that he keeps some of that beautiful blond fur!

At this first pool, he didn't stay for long. Whatever had his attention caused him to stand up on his hind legs to try to see it better. Soon, he decided that it was time to leave. As he departed, he gave my cam a serious investigation, and I felt lucky that it was in a bear-proof box. That cam is the one that "Bandit" mauled last year and the company fixed for me.

Within a couple of hours, he was at another water pool. This one has very stinky water but it's the favorite bathing place for bears.
He took a thorough bath and then became alarmed about something. He sprinted away from the pool and disappeared into the forest.

Enjoy the video!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Autumn has snuck up on us!

While I've been writing about our time in the alpine world, our world at home has slipped into autumn very quickly. I feel as surprised as Shyla looks in this photo taken today.

I believe that the aspen leaves have turned gold early due to this year's drought. This is a view that can be seen from near where Shyla and I mountain bike.
Some aspens are still green but most are turning.

The same is true of the view toward the mountains.  I love these colors... but it feels too early for them!

Looking down on an aspen grove, you can see some of the glorious reddish leaves that I love so much. You can also see that more trees still will be turning golden in the coming days and weeks.

So, I guess that it's time to welcome autumn at our elevation as well as up in the thin air above 10,000'.
Happy Autumn from our neck of the woods to yours!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bear Buddies Playing!

Today I have a surprising and fun bear story.

Before I knew the story, I saw this photo on the tiny LCD screen of my trail camera. My mind said "Isn't that odd? Mating season should be over but a pair of bears were together recently."

Then, the video showed some posturing as the smaller bear appeared to be trying to block the bigger bear's way as he walked onward. The bigger bear rotated his head away from the smaller one in a way that reminded me of our dogs when they are about to play.
Then, the pair walked out of view of this camera.

Fortunately, they stayed on the normal bear route and another trail camera picked them up further down the trail. The smaller bear arrived first.

Then, when the bigger bear arrived, the two stood on their hind paws and were clearly playing. Moreover, I was able to see on the video that they both were male bears!

They seemed to play like a pair of buddies. The bigger bear rapidly took control and wrestled the smaller bear to the ground.

This was a case of my first impression being completely wrong. Bear researchers have occasionally observed groups 2 or even 3 male bears hanging out together during the summer, after mating season has ended. However, I'd never seen it until now.

I feel very lucky to have captured this footage of bears being social and playful!

Enjoy the video!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Autumn and flowers in the high Rocky Mountains

Our time in the alpine world became more fall-like as our trip went on. The meadows glowed with golden grass. And sometimes jagged silhouettes of mountains loomed over those meadows.
I took the photo above at the start of a mountain bike ride fairly early in our trip. Unfortunately, I messed up a downhill section of that ride and had a fairly bad crash. I fractured a rib, hurt a shoulder, tweaked my surgically fused neck, and sustained a bunch of abrasions. I managed to keep moving for the rest of the trip... but I had no pain-free days after that crash. I'm still struggling now to recover.

I love our summer trips so I tried not to let my injuries prevent me from enjoying the incredible beauty. This was another autumn scene from a bike ride. I was at about 11,000' and those mountains on the horizon were even higher than that!

The flowers were finished blooming up so high but the leaves left behind were colorful!

I love routes that spend time out in the open of the alpine (do you see my trail in the distance?)...

... but also dive into the forest at lower elevations. A few forest flowers were still blooming, much to my delight!
And lovely purple flowers that even attracted a pollinator.
The mountains are so gorgeous despite the dearth of flowers. I did love the forest flowers that I saw down lower in the trees.

Thanks to our friend Rosy for hosting the Flower Friday blog hop!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thankful Thursday - Summers Wonders

Summertime brings so many things that I love. As summer is waning, it is a good time to join our friend Brian giving thanks for what I love about summer.

I love playing with our dogs in high mountain lakes. As I watch R frolic like a puppy, I feel so thankful that we were able to get him CUE surgery for his elbow dysplasia a couple of years ago. He's doing so well that he can even run on top of the water!

I also love watching the stars in the sky from a campsite in the high and dark Rocky Mountains. We can see the Milky Way!

I made a time lapse video of the Milky Way moving from east to west across the sky between midnight and 4:30 AM. Then, clouds whooshed in and covered up all the stars. I didn't have to stay awake to take the photos for this video - instead, I used an "intervalometer" to control my camera. After I arrived home, I made a time lapse video from the photos which compressed the action down to about 40 seconds! It's so fun for me to see the movement of the Milky Way in time lapse. I hope that you enjoy it too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018