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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wordless Wednesday

Just a few words today....

This image was from near the start of a long point-to-point ride at about 11,000' in the Colorado mountains. The trail disappeared into the distance beckoning me to hurry forward but I couldn't prevent myself from stopping to enjoy the view.

After pedaling for a couple of hours, I came out above treeline - my favorite place in the world.
Trails like this one mimic the wild and unpredictable journey of life. No one knows what is lurking around the next curve in the trail.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Relaxed August Day for the Bear Family

One day in August, our bear family had a relaxed walk through the forest and then a swim. As they walked, Brownie climbed a tree. It was the same tree that Brownie earlier used as an ambush site to launch and landed on Blackie as he walked below it. It seems that Blackie learned from that ambush and did not walk below Brownie this time.

That evening, the family hit a local pond for a very mellow swim. Mom went in the water first.

Her peaceful swimming reminded me of a human taking a restorative swim at the end of a hot summer day.

As she exited the pond, you can see that Blackie had gone into the water with her. He was following at a big distance.

Here is Blackie just before he came out of the water.
It turned out that, around the second week of August, the family disappeared. (I still have lots of footage to share from before they departed). I believe that they headed to a different elevation on our mountain where they could find food. It's been a horrendous bear food year here - so many different forms of nutrition failed. Even the ants failed to produce enough larvae for the bears to even try to dig up ant hills.

I always feel a sense of disquiet when local bears decide to travel. There are roads and cars. There are homeowners who don't tolerate bears. There are so many risks that I can't list them all. I hope that we see this family again before they go into a den so that we can know that they are okay.

I compiled these clips into a short video. Enjoy!


Monday, September 16, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

This week was so much better for Hachi. We've returned to a routine that he knows and is comfortable with. We met with his behavioral vet. Over the next few weeks, we'll slowly adjust his meds - adding another short acting anti-anxiety drug and increasing his Prozac.

To be perfectly honest, I am getting a little tired of the "slow and gradual" approach but I understand why we must do it. Any drug that affects his brain can have paradoxical effects that are the opposite of what we are aiming for. So, slow and steady is the safest approach. I am trying to remain patient.

From when we first met Hachi, he's been leery of water. That's the complete opposite of our Labs who adore swimming like nothing else. During the first swimming outing that Hachi participated in, he got very carried away with the Labraduo's enthusiasm for leaping into the water. As Shyla took a leap, Hachi momentarily lost his mind and followed her.

He did an amazingly high leap.

He landed in the water, and he swam back to shore with Shyla watching over him. He swam more smoothly than any of our previous puppies on their first swims.
The problem was that he scared himself badly. The water must have totally shocked him. After that, he was terrified of the water. He never jumped into the water, swam, or even waded again all summer long! I feel badly for the little guy - he is so prone to fear that he can cannot enjoy a cool swim.

I've become completely convinced that 99% of his issues are caused by fear. He is afraid of so many things - and he often deals with his fear by behaving aggressively toward the Duo. We saw many examples of that while we were in the high mountains. If, for example, a stranger went by us who behaved in a way that scared Hachi, he responded with a cheap snarl at one of the other dogs. Seeing that time and time again told me that addressing his fears may solve his other issues.

I really hope that we can help him with his fear.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

I love my solo time with our Black Dog. This summer, I've tended to take him to the wildflowers to enjoy the summer glory with him.

Even at his age, he's a quirky high energy dog most of the time. During our time alone quietly in the flowers, something calms in him - his quirky habits stop and he is peaceful. He looks at me with a steadfast gaze, and I smile.
Those are the moments that I live for with each of our dogs - but it was our Black Dog who taught me about the preciousness of time with him alone.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shyla Saturday - She Struts her Talent

Shyla has been my shining beacon this summer. She has come so very far, and it makes me smile to see her be confident. She can make me smile when almost nothing else can.

She is the undisputed pack leader when it comes to all things athletic. She is absolutely crazy about swimming and retrieving from water. She knows that she's the best at it, and she struts her talent.
When I first met her, I could not imagine Shyla ever being confident about anything. That's why it's so gratifying and astonishing to watch her retrieving from water. Her first owner thought that Shyla was "useless" when it came to retrieving, which is part of why Shyla was the forgotten puppy who languished, not even learning to be house trained by the time she was 9 months old.

It's hard to believe that this is the same dog. Just look at her fly through the air with full focus on the ball that she's retrieving.

I love our Shyla more than words can express. Thanks for the smiles when I need them most, Shyla.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tiny the Black Bear is Back

You may remember that Tiny the Biggest Black Bear was ailing last spring. He hurt his right hind leg in the summer of 2018, and then he re-injured it soon after coming out of his den in 2019. He quit mating season early and headed someplace else to fatten up. Here was the last sighting of him in early summer.

I get emotionally attached to animals like him who I've followed for so many years. I didn't say it here but I feared that we'd never see him again. I was wrong. He showed up back in his stomping grounds about a month ago.

He marked a tree while sitting down, just like he was doing back in the spring. He's as tall as "normal" bears even when sitting on his rump. By sitting, he doesn't have to weight his bad limb as he marks a tree. I love his tree-marking dance moves, even when he's sitting.
Back in June I felt that he'd have a decent chance of recovering over this coming winter if he survived the summer and fall. The greatest danger to him now is going close to human houses to get "easy" food since he probably doesn't want to walk too far.

Let's all hope that he makes it into a den safely. Then, we may see a healed Tiny next spring. I will be thinking of him... and hoping that maybe we'll see him once more before he goes into a den. However, over the years, he's tended to disappear for the winter in August so we may not see him again this year.

Check out the short video of him.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For the beauty along the path of life

I love mountain trails. I love pedaling my mountain bike along them and soaking up the beauty along them.

I tend to think of those trails as a metaphor for every single person's life. We know where our life path will end - because it ends the same for everyone. But, there's stunning beauty along the way, and, to be happy, I need to take the time to revel in that beauty.

In this photo, a huge storm was sitting on the horizon, complete with dark clouds, rumbles of thunder, and hail (which pummeled me later). However, I still noticed the brilliant yellow flowers lining the trail. I knew that I'd face the storm ahead sooner or later but I stopped to enjoy the flowers along the way.
I think that reveling in the flowers despite the looming storm is a metaphor for my life that will guide me for a long time.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the beauty of life.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Our Bobcat Family

You might remember the bobcat family who we glimpsed earlier this summer as the mother moved the kittens from one den to another. Now, the kittens are out and about with mom all the time.

The family visited a dried up water hole. Although we got tons of moisture in the winter and early in the summer, it still dried up very early, probably because it will take more than one year to recover from our drought.

Mom did something that confused me at first. It looked like she was eating grass but, as far as I know, cats don't do that. Then, I realized that she might be licking water droplets from the tall grass. That makes sense, especially if she came to this water hole hoping for a drink.

The kittens seemed curious about what she was doing and crowded next to her.

I put the trail camera clips together into a short video. I hope that you enjoy it!

The Hachi Chronicle

It hasn't been smooth sailing with Hachi recently. He seems to be becoming more fearful, which leads him to behave badly. We've heard snarls and growls from him, directed toward the Labraduo. It's been an unsettled phase in terms of our pack, including lots of time in the LabMobile in the high mountains (more about our management strategies for that in a future post) and my dad's cancer. I have no doubt that our worries about my dad affect Hachi so I'm trying not to focus too much on the setbacks.

In contrast to his behavior toward the Labraduo, Hachi seems even warmer and more affectionate with us humans. He wags his whole body when one of us returns home. And (drum roll, please), he finally lets us put a harness on him without acting terrified. We've been using counterconditioning to teach him not to be afraid of his harness. Hachi is finally over that fear.
The yellow flowers were blooming wildly on mountainsides in the high mountains. Believe it or not, snowfields were still melting there, and spring flowers sprouted in their wake, even though it was August. What a display!

You can see the sweetness in his eyes. That shows me that we have lots of reasons to hope for more progress. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

I haven't mentioned here that our Black Dog has a condition called laryngeal paralysis - a very common disorder in older Labs. It's been slowly developing for years, and it's reached the point that he's prone to inhaling liquid and could lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Due to the risk of aspiration pneumonia, our vet gently suggested that either R needed to stop swimming or perhaps he could wear a flotation device to help him keep his snout up out of the water ( Of course, we chose the latter. R loves swimming too much to stop doing it.

His "lifesaver" hasn't diminished his love of diving and swimming. I was astounded when he took a flying leap into the water just after putting on his lifesaver for the first time.

 His joy was palpable.

Our next worry was whether he'd be able to find the tennis ball when in the water since he is now almost completely blind. As long as we didn't throw it too far, he seemed to follow the sound of the ball landing on the water and could usually retrieve it without a hitch. Occasionally, he couldn't find the ball but that didn't dampen his spirits. Here he was bringing the ball to shore.
He is the best role model for rising above physical hurdles to keep doing what he loves. His laryngeal paralysis and blindness could easily making retrieving and swimming seem too hard to him. But that's not who our Black Dog is. He loves life, and he'll keep playing like a puppy for as long as he possibly can.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Shyla Saturday

Shyla's heart soars when she sees water. All remnants of the shy and retiring dog who we first met disappear. She wants to fly through the air, land in the water, and swim!

Nothing makes me smile like seeing Shyla burst out of her shell in a haze of joy. She is so happy when she's swimming and retrieving. Look at her eyes!
This girl has taught me more about courage than any dog.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Moose mom and calf in a thunderstorm

What do a moose mom and her calf do when it pours rain and even thunders?

Well, they are moose - so they hang out in the water!
Funny, the lifeguards wouldn't let us do this back when I was a child. Standing in a pond during a lightning storm seems crazy!

Then, the calf gave us a nice selfie, taken with my trail cam.

Check out the short video.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For the Stars Above

Events this summer have made me slow down and feel gratitude for the simple things - like the fact that places dark enough to see the Milky Way still exist.
I took this image in a clearing within a towering pine forest high in the Rocky Mountains.

Thank you, Milky Way, for being so glorious.