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Friday, October 18, 2019

Nature Friday - Mountain Wildflowers

As it is getting COLD here, I have more time to spend with my computer and the flower images that I took this summer.

It was a brilliant summer in terms of wildflowers in the Rockies. I have never seen them so vibrant before this year. We carved out some time to spend up in the mountains, and the flowers lining the trails reminded me of a Monet painting as I glided past them.

For me, the craggy mountains in the background make the flowers even more beautiful. The days that I spend among those flowers with my pack are the very best of the year. I know as they are happening, and I try to savor every instant.
In past summers, I've take a lot of "macro" style flower photos. This year, my aim was to take photos that didn't show just one flower but instead showed the flowers within their home environment. I still have a lot of room for improvement but it was a fun project!

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thankful Thursday - Setting Moon

On the day of a recent full moon, I got out of bed at O'DarkHundred to ride my mountain bike to a spot where I could see the moon set over the Continental Divide.

It was glorious to see.
The sky was purple-tinted due to a faraway volcano erupting and spewing particles into the air. Our skies have been purplish at dusk and dawn since August. It's amazing to see!

The moon wasn't positioned where I hoped, over our most dramatic peaks. I believe that it will set in the perfect spot in December.  It should be in the center of peaks behind Shyla in the next photo in December.
I have my fingers crossed for a clear dawn in December. I know that it will be cold!!!!

I am so thankful for all of the beauty around us. It keeps me going even during difficult times.

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Aspen Gold




Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A gorgeous mountain lion sniffs a scent post

A mountain lion visited an area where there is a long line of scrapes left by previous mountain lions. It's an astounding place, with about 20 yards of innumerable scrapes left by generations of lions.

It is not surprising that lions are obsessed with the scents in this area. In these photos, he was standing over old scrapes - but he was sniffing the air and a branch hanging down barely into the frame.

Then, he walked forward and left his own scrape just barely out of view of the camera. That's the problem with an area visited so often by lions - you can't be sure exactly where they will choose to scrape.

In any case, I was thrilled to get such a good look at this extremely muscular and healthy lion. I don't know if he's our new top tom cat (remember that our tom cat was killed by a home owner last winter)  - because it appears to me as if the lines between territories may be being re-written. This guy may be the new top cat for the part of the territory to our west, and the part to our east is still being squabbled over. Time will tell...

This video is quite short but let's you see what a beautiful specimen this cat is!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

I've been spending some time outdoors alone with Hachi, having realized that he's really nervous when the Duo isn't with him. I did do solo walks with him throughout his puppyhood but it seems that his fear of being the only canine has grown anyway.

On one of these outings, we found where the rising sun hits the drying grass on our land. Hachi is already amazingly well behaved when I want to take photos of him. He understands "stay" really well, and he swivels his head around as things (or smells) catch his attention. This head-swiveling is called "hypervigilance" by his behavioral vet - it's a symptom of his anxiety but it also makes for nice photos.

Then, a smell caught his attention. When we walked away from this spot, I saw 6 deer fleeing just upwind of this spot. Hachi was so good to stay!

This week, the vet increased one of Hachi's short-acting anti-anxiety meds. We humans think that Hachi generally seems calmer. However, I have seen more incidents than usual of Hachi acting aggressive toward R. Increased aggression is a side-effect of this med so we'll have to keep an eye on this tradeoff. It's interesting to realize that aggression is controlled chemically - it makes me less upset with Hachi himself when he's aggressive, and it makes me more hopeful that we can get his chemistry right someday.

I am feeling more patience about this process this week. We have the management side of the equation (i.e., keeping R safe) working well so it's okay if Hachi's behavior backslides a little as we try out new meds.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is into walking and running again. He took it easy for a few days while a med for pain kicked in. Then, he started wanting to run again.

We, and especially the Runner, are so happy about this change.

Our vet has known our goofball Black Dog since he was 8 weeks old. That meant that she could zero in on the aspects of him that seemed to have changed over time. We really believe in the value of having a good long-term vet. Our vet has been through so many ups and downs with us that she feels like a part of the family.
This crazy looking guy just keeps bouncing back, much to our delight.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Shyla Saturday

Shyla's incredible transformation over the time that we've known her (7 years) inspires me to believe that Hachi will eventually come as far as she has.

Here are a few examples. Shyla is my photographic subject almost every day. There's nothing that I love more than capturing a dog galloping powerfully.

She is usually so excited to play the "games" involved with my photography but sometimes she gets bored. Due to her much increased confidence, she now sometimes modifies the game herself to make it more fun. In this case, she got tired of doing recalls so she turned the game into fetch. Of course, I joined in - I love that she has the courage to take initiative!

I love simply letting her choose what she wants to do when I set up to take her photo. Early this summer, she started wanting to bark or howl for the camera. So, I went with it. It seems like letting her be the leader helps her feel so much more confident!
That was the sky before the storm front hit. It did snow, the wind did howl, and it was so cold that Raynaud's Syndrome made me cry in pain over my white and frozen fingers. But, my Shyla licked my face and helped me to get through the freeze (the first is always the hardest).

Shyla has become the best friend that I could ever ask for.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Feline Friday - The bobcat family encounters a moose

The bobcat family - mom, one big kitten, and one little kitten - arrived at a dried up water hole where we've seen them before.

Mom went directly to exactly the same patch of grass where she went last time. Last time, I thought (probably wrongly) that she was licking water from the grass. This time, it was clear that you all were right that she was eating the grass. It must be tasty!
Also, the general behavior of the two kittens is shown here. The big one is independent while the smaller one stays very close to mom.

Suddenly, mom was alert to something beyond our view. The bigger kitten seemed to have heard it earlier than she did, and he had sprinted away.

It turned out to be something MUCH bigger than them - a moose! The bobcats acted very scared and disappeared in a hurry.

Check out the video of the bobcat family if you have time!



Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thankful Thursday

Today was warm and sunny. I rode my bike in shorts, soaking up the warm sun on my skin. As I pedaled through meadows, grass hoppers popped out of the golden grass in front of me. It was a glorious fall day.

Now, the thermometer is plummeting. It will be frigid tomorrow, with a high temperature of 22°F and a low of 12°F. And, it's going to snow. Winter is arriving in a polar blast!

We spent the late afternoon preparing the garden for the arrival of winter - harvesting all of the remaining crops and draining hoses. My new greenhouse, which was ready for business around the third week in July, produced a surprising quantity of tomatoes given how short its season was. I am excited for a full season next year.

Today, I am grateful for the beautiful autumn that we've had.

Shyla and I had a zen-like autumn of morning mountain bike rides. She was full of zest, and she made me smile every day.

I am holding out a tiny bit of hope that some leaves will still be on the trees when this arctic blast is over but it's probably not realistic.

This path is leading to winter, although there surely will be more warm days coming our way before we reach a state of permanent freeze.
I am thankful for the beauty of the season that is passing and for all of the fun that I had with Shyla this fall.

And, thank you to Brian for hosting the blog hop.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Monday, October 7, 2019

A mountain lion on the tail of the bobcat family

You may remember the last vignette from the bobcat family's life. They visited a water hole.

And then the kittens examined a mountain lion scrape a short distance away while mom was on the lookout.

It turned out that a mountain lion was following close behind them. He arrived at the water hole about 45 minutes after them. He drank and drank... for about two minutes.

He is huge compared to the bobcats.

Then, he followed the same path as the bobcat family. Compare this photo to the one of the bobcats in the same place. The size difference is astounding.
As you'll see in the video, this lion probably took a cat nap for 5 hours or so, and then he emerged about a mile further along our local cat trail.

I have no reason to think that he ever caught up to the bobcats but I'll update you when my cams see them again!

Here's a short video of the bobcats and lion.



The Hachi Chronicle

Autumn is truly upon us, and we have only a little bit longer before our first real snow.

Autumn always brings a sense of urgency that we'd better seize its short days before winter takes over. For that reason, we've been getting out to enjoy it, and Hachi has been going places where there are other people on the trails. That's a novelty for him because our home trails are empty.

Over the course of each outing, he's gotten slightly less afraid of strangers with repetition but it's sad to see how scared he is. His head swivels from side to side hypervigilantly watching for incoming people. He might bark like a big tough dog when he sees a stranger but it's totally based in fear. If we move him far enough away from a stranger, he can calm down. We do our engage/disengage game, where he looks at the stranger (the "engage" part) and then at us ("disengage") for a treat. 

I am now completely convinced that his fear isn't being sufficiently treated by meds yet. The adjustments to his meds must happen so slowly that it's taking a long time to get where we need to be. I don't think that our behavior modification training will help much until he's less anxious.

The amazing thing is how fast he recovers from each episode of fear over seeing strangers. I took this photo of him shortly after two off-leash dogs had galloped straight up to us as Hachi and I wandered around well away from the trails (he was on-leash). It was undoubtedly scary for him but he calmed down pretty quickly.
I have moments of despair after a huge reaction to something unexpected like a stranger approaching. But, when I see his warm and affectionate heart shine through, I feel like there's real hope.

He and I have a tradition of a sweet morning greeting. Hachi is so excited to see me when he comes out of his crate, wiggling his whole body up against me asking for pats. If I stop patting, he leans into me and wiggles again. It's such an uplifting way to start my day. I love our little guy.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog has had a rough couple of weeks. He's been reluctant to go for runs, and sometimes even to go for a walk. He's been checked out by our vet who thinks that he's in physical pain - in his spine and bad elbow. We've started him on some medication that may help.

With that in mind, we weren't sure whether to do our traditional fall hike up to some lakes high in the mountains. It's not a very long hike but it involves a fair bit of hopping over obstacles and rocky ground.

We decided to try it. We thought that we'd let our Black Dog decide how far we went. After all, at just a couple of weeks shy of 12 years old, the odds were low that the hike would get easier for him in coming years.
The easy part was getting to the lake shown above. The harder part was an off-trail scramble to the lake that we've dubbed "Dog Leap Lake". R rose to the occasion. He never showed any lack of enthusiasm, and he seemed to easily make it to Dog Leap Lake, as he's done for every year of his life.

And, he was excited to play in the water once we got there.

He retrieved tennis balls, perhaps his favorite game on Earth.

And he kept going back for more!
We cut the retrieving game a bit short to make sure that R had the energy to get back to the trailhead. No problem - he did it without a problem.

He seemed to pay a price for the fun afternoon in the mountains, as he adamantly didn't want to exercise the next morning. That's okay. I paid a price too, in terms of spine pain, but it was worth it. I think that our Black Dog and I have a similar approach to life.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Shyla on Saturday

I spend so much wonderful outdoor time with Shyla every single day. It starts at sunrise when we go out to greet the light. I've been trying to figure out how to take decent photos with the sun behind my subject... and Shyla obliges my obsession with figuring it out.

Then, we go play in the aspens. Shyla seems to love being my subject as much as I love taking photos of her. 
Shyla and I had some rough times back when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer. I was stressed to the absolute max. Shyla could sense it, and stress scares her. So my stress caused her to keep her distance from me. Now, I am simply sad (but my stress level is low), and Shyla can handle that... so she is strives to make me smile as often as possible.

Then, we see the sun set together most evenings.
I cannot imagine life without Shyla.

And now it's time to go snuggle with her. My spine pain is horrendous tonight, and Shyla's sweet snuggles are the best pain killers.