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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Magical Shyla as a Big Sister

Not too long ago, this girl was our puppy. We've traveled a long way since then... but the love remains so very strong.

She's my partner in heading out into the winter cold at sunrise. I think that she loves it like I do, at least partly because it's our special thing that we do together.

I've seen a whole new side of Shyla since Hachi joined us. She really loves playing with him, and she has incredible patience with him.

I don't really know what he did to make his ear fly in the air in this one but Shyla was still being a kind older sister.

Seeing her be such a wonderful big sister has made me love her even more.
She is magical.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Floating in the Sky...

You may remember that we spent an extended time in the Utah Desert at the end of October and start of November. In light of our new puppy, it's been blowing my mind to know that he had been born at that time... but we didn't even know it. We had our fabulous Labraduo without having any idea that Hachi was headed our way!

His mom is mostly chocolate Lab, and she gave birth to Hachi and his siblings out on the streets somewhere in Texas. They were still homeless while we were soaking up the sun in Utah. Thank goodness for all of the generous people who saved his mom's life and the life of her puppies. Thanks to those people, our lives intersected with Hachi's weeks later.

In the middle of our trip, we spent time at the most remote place of this trip. We were camped in a broad valley surrounded by unusual geological structures.

These structures made a eye-catching views from our camp.

In the next photo, you can barely see our LabMobile. The shadows  cast by the stunning walls looked like fingers reaching toward the Labmobile. They had almost reached our camp at 3PM in the afternoon.

At night in the desert, I love to photograph the stars from the van, with the distinctive geology painting an incredible picture at the horizon. I made those photos into a time lapse video showing the movement of the starts in the sky.

Many thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the blog hop!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thankful Thursday - Our Puppy and Our Big Dogs!

Hachi is changing so fast that it makes my head spin. I thought that you might like to see a bit of him in action, both during training and play.

I made a video to share with you. In the first part of the video, I show you how Hachi used to "demand bark and growl" because he wanted to earn treats but he didn't know how. I think that all of his noise was simply frustration.

I decided to ignore all of his noises and to wait for him to make eye contact. I wanted him to start to learn to make eye contact when he wants something rather than doing all that other noisy stuff.

As you watch the first part of the video, imagine that the video camera is on the floor at Hachi's height, and I am standing behind it. Watch for him to flick his eyes upward - that is when he meets my eyes. I click and give him a treat every time he looks at my eyes. Then, I show you a few minutes later - look how fast he learned! And he's barely making any noise at all after he's figured out that he can get treats by making eye contact.

We are so grateful for almost everything about Hachi. Most of all today, we are thrilled to see R starting to really play with Hachi.

As I watched them starting to play for the first time, I realized that R cannot see Hachi very well. He'd open his jaws and bare his teeth but his aim wasn't very good for a play bite.

In response, Hachi laid down on his back, stayed still, and played from that position. I believe that our puppy was "self handicapping" like adult dogs usually do to help puppies not to be afraid of them. Somehow, Hachi knew that their roles needed to reverse for him to get the almost-blind R to play with him. It was wonderful to see.

It sometimes looked like R was blowing Hachi's ears back with his roars!

The two boys played and played. It was SO cool to see Hachi adapting to R's poor vision.
I think that our pack is very lucky to have such a special puppy join us!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Brothers at Play

R can look incredibly ferocious. Don't worry - he is the gentlest elder brother that you can imagine!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Last Two Bears of 2018

I am now sure that the bears who visited our home in late December of 2018 were the last ones of the year.

At a site that is almost impossible to get to at this time of year, two bears went past trail cams. Just like their order in visiting our land, the bear with no ear tags ("untagged") was in front, being followed 24 min later by the bear with white ear tags.
Since my last post about this bear pair, I've learned that white ear tags do not mean that a bear has a "strike" against him for misbehaving near humans. In this case, the bear with white ear tags was an orphaned cub. He was helped last winter by our wildlife officers, and they ear tagged him so that they could keep an eye on him in the aftermath.

"tagged" - tag inside left ear

I'm not sure how well he's doing. He doesn't look as fat as most bears before they go into dens for the winter but that could be because he's young. Also, he's been visiting homes. At our place, his behavior wasn't particularly bad, and he got nothing to eat. Still, he was near a house, which is dangerous for a bear.

My attitude is that it's up to us, the people living in bear territory, to make all forms of food unavailable to bears. We take the approach of making our home unattractive to bears to deter them from coming around. It's worked for us over the years. It seems as if local bears don't bother with searching for food near our home anymore.

I believe that the two who were here in December weren't long-term local bears. I'd never seen them before and they weren't hanging out in the usual places where bears like to go. That would explain why they were searching at homes where there's routinely no food available.

After seeing the two bears so close together at the last sighting, I found myself wondering if they were heading toward neighboring dens or (gasp) might even share a den. I've never read about adult male bears sharing a den so I doubt that's happening. However, I keep reading that social behavior among bears is far more common that we usually think (e.g., books by Benjamin Kilham). That's why I even mention that crazy idea.

Here's the video of the last two bears of 2018.

A Day in Pictures

As I eat my breakfast, Hachi either sits on my chair next to me or plays with his sister. This morning, his sister won the Hachi lottery!

Then, Shyla and I headed out for sunrise in a very snowy world. It was around 10°F.

It was an incredible morning of blue skies and powdery snow.

When we arrived home, both of Shyla's brothers were waiting to greet her.

Then, Hachi grabbed a toy to lure his sister into some more puppy play! She almost never says no these days.
Life is good.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Peaceful Puppy and Sunrise

While our puppy is still snoozing, the sun rises.

And sometimes it's a glorious sight.

On this particular day, the mountains were completely enshrouded in clouds, as you can see in the video.

I needed that peaceful sight. Life has been a bit too hectic for me recently. Given that I have chronic pain, it doesn't take much to make me exhausted. Sights like that sunrise do help me to recharge.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Adventures in Dog Training!

Since this little guy arrived, I've spent a lot of time teaching him new things.He's a curious puppy, and we're working hard to expose him to all sorts of things while his mind is most open to learning new stuff.

I have also continued to work with Shyla on our fun training projects. I don't plan to ever stop doing those with her because I feel that our work together has made a world of difference in her confidence.

Most recently, I've taken a course to teach her "modifier cues", which is words to direct her to distinguish between multiple objects. So far, I've taught her left, right, large, and small.

For left and right, we did myriad games to help her to generalize her left and right. I put two crates out, and I asked her to go into the left or the right one. I put two low tables out, and I asked her to jump onto the left or the right one. We did at least six other exercises to help her to learn left and right.

Next, I taught her to distinguish between large and small. I had a series of similar objects that I put out in front of her and asked her to touch either the largest one or the smallest one. I had a bunch of sets of similarly shaped but different sized objects so that she could generalize the concepts of large and small (e.g., boxes that ranged from tiny to huge).

During today's snow storm, I tried a new challenge. I put out two cones, one that was that was large and one that was small. They were next to each other so they were left and right relative to Shyla. Then, I asked her to touch the large one ("large touch"), the small one, the left one, and the right one. Obviously, if the cone on Shyla's right was the large cone, it would be the correct answer to either "right touch" or "large touch". (Left and Right are always referring to Shyla's point of view).

I was so proud of how well she did. Check out the short video if you have time.

I have so much fun doing this kind of training with my girl. Now that we have an untrained little puppy in our life, I realize how far Shyla has come that she can learn such high level things in a pretty short time. I love her and our training together!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Nature Friday

Our black dog had finally begun to get better by Thursday afternoon. Thanks for all of your good thoughts and kind comments. We are very hopeful that he will be all better very soon. His little brother has snuggled with him a lot today, which must be helping him heal.

While that was going on, a mountain lion was nearby. I'd become aware of him on 1/3/19 when he was stalking our elk herd and leaving tracks on our snowy trails. At that time, I didn't know if he'd been successful in finding his next meal.

Then, he appeared on my trail cams a few days later. He had a small cut on his nose, perhaps from his hunt.

In the video, you can see that his gut was bulging...

On the evening that the lion was captured in the video, I'd been out hiking with family who were visiting. I pointed toward where the cams were, and I said "It is surprising how often lions are up there in the evenings". In fact, there was a lion nearby at the time that I was saying that!

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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thankful Thursday - Bad News, Good News

I had a very different post planned for today but life got in the way.

I arrived home yesterday to find R in distress. He was barking in a very upset way, couldn't pee although he wanted to, and had blood in a place where there should never be any. I rushed him to an emergency vet, and the Runner met us there.

The vets think that he passed a kidney stone and has a UTI. They are slightly worried there's something worse underlying those problems but they didn't see any evidence of that in their many tests.
So, for today, I am thankful that R has something that he can recover from... and my fingers are crossed that the recovery is smooth.

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Pack Play!

We've been inviting lots of friends over to meet Hachi. He is in the midst of the most important "socialization period", and he is mildly suspicious of people who he doesn't know. So, he is meeting lots of nice people who come visit him.

One of those nice people brought him a gift - a squeaky walrus that is perfect for playing tug. That toy brought on some wonderful play among our trio of dogs. It started with Shyla and Hachi, who have recently started playing tug together a couple of times each day. Shyla has figured out that she needs to be gentle to keep Hachi playing with her.

Very soon thereafter, R joined in the game! I was SO happy to see that.

Both big dogs were tugging much more softly than they would have with just each other. Our wide-eyed puppy was so happy!

100 pounds of grown-up dog versus 13 pounds of puppy!

Even when Hachi let go of the toy, they didn't run away with it. They waited for him to grab it again so that the game could continue.

I think that we have the start of a wonderful pack relationship!!!

Many thanks to all of our friends who have been dropping by to help Hachi grow up into a friendly good citizen.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Incredibly Fun Training of Hachi

I thought that you might enjoy seeing another snippet of Hachi's training. I am working on sit and down with him, in a game that is sometimes called "puppy pushups".

Sit is very easy for Hachi. It's what he does naturally when he's waiting or is curious. Hachi almost never lies down while we interact with him. That makes it hard to teach him how to lie down when we say "down".

Trainers usually say to teach "down" by having your puppy sit and then slowly lowering a treat to the ground near their front paws. That did not work with Hachi despite trying many times. He'd just dance around trying to get to the treat and would never lie down.

Then, I was playing with him, and I slapped a toy onto the ground in front of him. He dove into a down to try to capture the toy. A light bulb went off in my head... it was a way to get him to lie down!
I repeated that move many times with a toy in my hand and then rewarding Hachi (click/treat) when he went into a down. Gradually, I was able to remove the toy from my hand so that slapping the ground with my hand was enough to get him to lie down.

That's where we are now. I say "down" and then I slap the ground in front of him to lure him into a down. I am gradually increasing the time between saying "down" and slapping the ground because I want him to eventually respond to the word rather than responding to me slapping the ground.

Please realize that there is nothing aggressive or intimidating about me slapping the ground. It's completely derived from play and he responds like he did when I had a toy in my hand.

I mix in lots of play with "training" - it's my hope that training will feel as fun as play to him.  You'll see a section in the video of me playing tug with him in the midst of training.

I hope that you enjoy the video of Hachi in action!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

I want to keep honoring our Black Dog even in the midst of puppy fever. A big part of why we chose to get a puppy now is that we wanted to do it while R could still see. We thought that it would be much more fun for R now rather than later.

We've succeeded on that count. R can still see passably well. He can run off-leash and see his little brother.

The Runner and R are loving running together, just as they have for the past decade. R's elbow is doing super well, rarely causing him pain. His vision in his remaining eye allows him to be off-leash during runs. The prognosis hasn't changed but we are relieved that his right eye is working well now.

He and his sister actually seem to like Hachi. They are such a good-hearted Labraduo that I'm not surprised. The part that does surprise me is that Shyla is usually more interested in playing with Hachi than R is. That may change though... R is enjoying Hachi more and more every day.

At age 11 years, I am astounded that R has finally learned the self control to do the "balance a treat on your nose" trick! He used to always flip the treat in the air as soon as I let go of it. In the past month, he's been balancing it until I cue him to flip it in the air.
I've had a few people ask me if R is okay, in light of the fact that we adopted Hachi. Just in case you are wondering that same thing, he is okay. In fact, he's more than okay - he's thriving! And, he's helping raise Hachi -  a gift for which we will be grateful forever. The link among our dog generations is strong.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!