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Monday, April 6, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

"Happy Hachi" is his nickname when he has that joyful spring in his step. He almost always has it during our evening hikes. He's at that age when he spontaneously leaps just for the fun of it.

I think that Shyla loves their afternoon romp as much as Hachi does. She gets amped up as we walk toward our favorite meadow.

They trade off who initiates each round of chase or wrestling. However, Shyla still appears to be the leader during play. I think that she's teaching Hachi important lessons with her playful and never aggressive demeanor.

Hachi is doing fantastically with his counterconditioning for nail clipping and general handling. We do it when we return from our evening hike, and Hachi voluntarily goes to the spot, lying there waiting for the session to start. That's such a good sign that he is not at all stressed out by our sessions.

He now gets happy when he sees almost everyone on our forest trails. He's ready to be friends with anyone who appears to behave normally. We have observed, however, that he can pick up on unfriendliness from a long distance.

We will be continuing the very slow ramp up in his Paxil. So far, it seems like a breath of fresh air in our lives. I think that it's made him able to learn that many things that used to scare him are okay or even fun.
Hachi doesn't mind the "stay at home" and "social distancing" rules. Aside from the excess energy that he has due to being a young dog who'd like to run all day long, he seems happy.

Happy Hachi!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog has no idea that anything is different with the outside world. He is getting stronger, day by day since his surgery. I must admit that I keep thinking that he's gotten as strong as he's going to get but then he surprises me.
He's also getting much better at navigating our house because he is boldly trying to move from one place to another by himself. One of his new favorite places is on a bed that we recently placed next to my computer. That melts my heart.

When I take our Black Dog out for photos on his own, he gets so waggy and wiggly. He knows that it's his special time as the center of attention. I love making him so happy.
Since going completely blind, he seems to think that I'm about 6' tall (almost a foot taller than I am). I talk to him all the time to let him know where I am. However, most of the time, his eye is pointed way over my head. He thinks that I am larger than life!

Each week for Black Dog Sunday, I search through my photos of him to find ones where he's not gazing way over my head. It's a small percentage but there are a few. I love this one because he looks like a classic Black Lab.
Getting him to gain weight has been a continued struggle but he's still a bit over 50 pounds (we are aiming for 54 lbs). The vet suggested another 25% increase in his food so he's now getting FIVE meals per day. He's laughing because now he's eating twice as much as before his splenic tumor was found. For a Lab who loves to eat, this regimen is heaven on earth.

Let's all channel our inner Black Dog this week. His hallmarks are pure joy over the smallest of things, optimism even as his own world has gone dark, and an urge to seize each day no matter what physical hardships he's facing. That's our Black Dog!

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shyla Saturday in a Winter Wonderland

Shyla and I had the gift of another absolutely glorious bluebird day together this week.

Shyla was as happy as a puppy! The temperature was in the teens and new snow was on the ground. Those are her favorite conditions.

The day started out as clear as a bell which highlighted the crystalline pine needles and aspen branches.

As our ride went on, some clouds moved in which made the sky even prettier. We were having such a relaxed time together. Shyla and I stopped to gaze at the peacefully quiet world a few times.

After we climbed up higher, Shyla was still happily prancing through the frost and snow covered meadows. Her easy gallop makes me smile.

By the end of our ride, heavy clouds had descended over the Continental Divide but it was still sunny over our meadows. It was time to head home, relaxed and tired.
Shyla was the best partner for exploring this beautiful world that I could imagine.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - Big Cat and Little Cat

Thick fog rolled in again the other day, making me wonder what was lurking out behind the curtains.
I love that we have predators who live in our area and who might be out behind the thick fog. I smile every time I see evidence that they are flourishing despite the ever bigger sprawl of humans. More and more land has new homes on it - and usually it's not just a house but also multiple other buildings. Our shy predators won't go near the "compounds" even if the land used to be on their usual travel routes.

Yet, so far, they've adapted, and they still manage to live and hunt outside of human view. If growth keeps going, there will be a tipping point but we haven't reached it yet.

This male mountain lion came through our neck of the woods recently. He stayed just on the edge of civilization, in a thin slice of wild land. He left a scrape under a pine tree.

Soon thereafter, a bobcat came through the same marking area. Like I've seen in the past, this bobcat crept along with his belly low to the ground, sniffing the scent left by the bigger cat.

After he sniffed one scrape, he moved onto the bigger one. If you look at the photo above, you can see a mound of pine needles ahead of the bobcat. Those pine needles were kicked into a pile by multiple lions who marked this spot. The bobcat then went onto sniff the bigger scrape.

After sniffing, he hurried away, still using a crouched and low posture.
I love bobcats - they're so bold and feisty. It was such a treat to get video of this one.

I have a short video of the mountain lion and then the bobcat. Please check it out if you have time.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thankful Thursday

My time outdoors is keeping me sane, as I can watch for teeny signs of spring each day. The mountains still look wintry!

However, our birds are acting like it's spring! Big flocks of Crossbills have been foraging in our neck of the woods. This is a male, and he's so colorful! Look closely at his beak to understand the origin of his name.

The mountain bluebirds are making me smile every single day! I love taking photos of them.

After each spring snow storm, the snow melts from the pine trees near us while the mountains remain snowy. This view is one of my favorites in the world.

Of course, I am also thankful for our pups. Their antics keep me smiling especially when it's pelting down spring snow! They love it.
Now is the time to focus on what can make us smile. Smiles and gratitude will help us get through this crisis with our good attitudes intact.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Signs of Spring, including a Bear Den Video

As human society is grinding to a halt, springtime is unfolding right on schedule. It is comforting to see that our wildlife behaving like they do every spring.

Mountain bluebirds are making forays up to our mountain zone. They are occupying the areas where they will eventually nest. Their nesting meadows still have a deep covering of snow so the bluebirds come and go. We see them up here on warmer days but they retreat to lower elevation on colder days.

Some bears are waking up. These bear tracks that were a couple of days old by the time I saw them. I am hearing that a bear has begun raiding birdfeeders so it's time to bring them in or bear-proof them.

And, based on past years, we know that the bear cubs born this winter inside dens are beginning to explore the world just outside their den entrances. At the den that I monitored in 2016, April 10 was the day that the cubs escaped their mom's grasp and began exploring.

I think that the videos from that year will help us all to keep smiling. It is incredible to me to see the miracle of these cubs in the deep forest where there is so much snow. I'm going to share the videos sequentially this spring. Today's video is from the very beginning of the cubs' explorations outside the den.






Monday, March 30, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Another good week for Hachi! That is pretty stunning because Hachi thrives on schedules and having life be predictable. As everyone on Earth knows, all schedules have been obliterated in the past weeks.

One thing that we know is critical for Hachi's happiness is our evening hike. We rarely miss it.

His play with Shyla seems to lighten his spirits and make him ready to snooze for the evening.


They bound through very deep cement-like spring snow. It slows all of us down but Hachi and Shyla are still speedsters.

That snow will fuel meadow wildflowers in the spring. Imagine a carpet of golden flowers below Hachi in this photo. That vision keeps me hopeful at this time of year.

We continued counterconditioning with Hachi this week. He is now so chill about having his nails clipped that it's hard to imagine that we had to muzzle him for it a few short weeks ago. It is SO rewarding to see progress like this.

We are now devoting more time to using counterconditioning to help him with other kinds of handling. For now, our focus is manipulating his hind end, doing things like pushing to get him to roll his hips to the other side. He's improving already. The goal is that he's eventually okay with us moving him around as we need to for grooming/veterinary stuff.
In other news, Hachi is making more dog and human friends on our trails. He is beginning to make the attitude switch where he thinks that new people and their dogs may be fun rather than automatically assuming that he should be worried about them. It is wonderful that he has new dog friends to play with.

These days, I occasionally allow myself to daydream that there will be a day when the early days with Hachi will be a hazy memory because he'll be almost normal. The fact that these little visions cross my mind shows my optimism.

A good week with Hachi makes us smile.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

As our Black Dog has recovered from surgery, he's regained his enthusiasm for hiking with the pack. It's been quite a few months since he's had the spark to want to hike so we are happy.

We did a pack hike as a snow storm moved into the area.

His siblings were running around like lunatics. I am so happy that we live in a safe place for them to run.

Now that R is completely blind, we almost always keep him on leash. He and I lagged behind for a few photos. I love the alertness and energy in his demeanor. It was missing for quite a while.

This week, I also finally got around to trying out his "halo" for blind dogs. We bought this just before his diagnosis so it was sitting idle for quite a while.

The idea is that the plastic "halo" bumps into things before R's face or head hit them. He is standing next to some cabinets that he frequently bangs into. The halo did its job, and R didn't mind wearing it. It's a good idea!
R gained 1.5 lbs this week, just today!!!! We hope that the weight sticks around. His rations have been steadily increasing which he loves! We'd like to see another 2-3 lbs on his frame.

Every day with our Black Dog is a gift. Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Shyla Saturday

The desert is a happy place for me and Shyla. Shyla regularly howls with joy when we are there.

We may not get to the warm and sunny desert anytime soon due to the pandemic but we're doing our best to appreciate what we do have.
We are so thankful to live someplace where we can have fun and soak up nature despite the pandemic. I know how lucky we are.

Dogs excel at appreciating whatever life offers them. Shyla is no exception. No matter what, she is joyful about heading out for a romp in the forest. She bounds through the snow and smiles the whole way.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday: Male lion on the track of our caterwauling female

I've shared a couple of loud videos (here and here) of a female mountain lion who caterwauled her way around our forest in February. Usually, that means that she is in estrus and trying to call in potential mates.

 I did pick up footage of a male mountain lion who went around to most of the same spots where she'd been. He was clearly a male because he was leaving "scrapes" made by his huge hind paws and he had what one of my friends calls "the fuzzy dice" under his tail. When you get a peek under the tail of a female, you see nothing but the anus. A male has a clear dark pair of enlarged spots. I don't have a photo of that but watch for those peeks in the video.

Here he is marking, kicking back pine needles with his hind paws.

He departed after marking. I tried to track him to see where he went from here but he balanced on a knife's edge of a rocky ridge with no snow. As far as I could tell, he was leaping from one melted boulder to another on an extremely steep slope - so I couldn't track him

A couple of things amaze me about the travels of both lions. They are never far from civilization. You might think that these spots are far away from humans - but they are on the edges of where people live and hike. Second, I am amazed by how well they can smell signs of each other. This male was following the female a couple of weeks later. She was doubtless out of estrus by the time that he was there but he was still on her route.

In the video, you'll see that the lion lies down on the ground and then starts to eat something at about the 1:16 mark. He is eating from where an older scrape is. The surface is pine needles that is doubtless permeated with the scent of multiple lions. Do you have any idea what he might be eating? I am asking because you all taught me that cats, including bobcats, like to eat grass. I'm hoping that you might have ideas about this!

Check out the video if you have time!


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Starting about a year ago, I decided to try to photograph the full moon as it set over our mountains every month. To do this, I have to ride my fat bike over the snow in the dark to a point where I have an unobstructed view of the mountains to our west.

That task sounds so easy when I type it but it isn't. I have floundered in deep snow some months, just barely making it up to the lookout point in time. One month, I was too late. Then, sometimes, it was absolutely freezing cold, and my Raynaud's syndrome caused my fingers to go completely numb. That meant that I couldn't control my camera very well, and the photographs suffered.

On bad mornings, the Divide was completely obscured by clouds, making my early rise and dark ride useless.

The absolute worst mornings were the ones when the moon was visible but my camera skills were not up to the task so I came away with no decent images. I was so disappointed on those mornings.

So, all of that means that I am absolutely filled with gratitude for each full moon setting photograph that turned out well. This is one of those.
On this Thankful Thursday, I am filled with gratitude for the beauty of the full moon and our mountains, and that this image turned out well!

I hope that all of you are healthy and finding reasons to smile even in the midst of this global disaster. Both our state and our county have ordered us to stay home. We are fortunate that our house is surrounded by forest and empty space so we can venture outdoors.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Magical Clearing in the Forest

Small clearings in the forest can be magnets for wildlife. I found one that attracted a huge variety of wildlife.

Our winter elk herd passed through it regularly. This was in May, at the end of a long and difficult winter. They seemed thin and tired. But, don't worry - the grass was about to green up, and they'd get happier very fast!

Where there are elk, there are those who stalk the elk. This guy gave my cam a close up examination.

Sadly, a person demolished the cam, and I haven't put another one there since that happened. But, in the meantime, I wanted to share the magic of the clearing with you in video form.