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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Swimming in High Mountaiin Lakes!

One of our favorite things about our time high in the mountains is being near lakes where the Labraduo can swim almost every day! They are happiest when swimming. All of our Labs except for one have adored swimming.

In the photo above, R knew that he was beaten by Shyla so he held back. Shyla took a flying leap.

I really love watching their graceful landings into the water. They each reach down with one paw, usually the left, to hit the water with it first, while their rumps stay high in the air. I wonder why this has been uniform among all our Labs? The similarity is surprising.

Then it was R's turn. He loves to take a very high trajectory as he leaps. Seeing him play like this makes us smile so widely, knowing how badly he was impaired by his elbow before his CUE surgery. Now, his elbow doesn't slow him down at all.

He truly flies.

And then he does the "classic" landing.
We have snow in our forecast for Sunday and Monday so we're going to try to get the pups out for a swim before the cold front hits. Then, we have a lot of chores to get our gardens ready for the first frost.

Our swimming outings are a favorite part of autumn for us. I'll be sad when the season is over. I am sure that this weekend's snow will melt, and we'll have more warm weather before the freeze truly sets in. We will enjoy it!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Autumn's Glory in the Rockies

Back to our world at home for today because I am overwhelmed with the beauty. This is our playground, turning into a kaleidoscope of autumn colors.

It is a glorious sight. I love being able to see that many aspens are still green so we still have lots of autumn ahead of us. I'm looking right past that snow in the forecast in the next few days!

Today was a day to be savored. It was warm enough for a sleeveless top and shorts. The sun felt soft but warm on my shoulders. Shyla was a joy to have along for part of my bike ride. She seemed as happy as I was, taking flying leaps whenever she could.

In a sense, those golden and reddish leaves are our flowers for this time of year. They make us smile and want this season to never end.

Shyla's smile summed it all up.
We will savor every last warm and sunny day that this season will give us.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Learning to teach sensitive Shyla

You might remember early in the summer when Shyla ran away to a carcass and ate so many bones that she landed in the hospital for a couple of days. I said that it was "my fault", and I really meant it.

We had a problem. I'd done everything to train Shyla to come when called and to stay close when we went for bike rides together that I'd done with my previous dogs. By Shyla's age, K had been a very reliable biking dog. I was getting aggravated with Shyla almost daily, feeling upset with her tendency to choose the temptations in the forest instead of coming to me.

The carcass run-away was a wake-up call for me. I knew that I needed to address the issue or else stop taking Shyla on bike rides with me. Not taking her on bike rides would have broken my heart. That left one option.

That very day, the Fenzi school opened up registration for a new round of classes, and one of them was "Recalls". I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I already knew how to teach a dog a recall. Then, it hit me. I didn't know how to teach *sensitive Shyla* a recall. My methods had worked for other dogs but not for her.

So, I signed up. The class is now over, although our hard work is not. We've come a MILLION miles since the class began. We started from ground zero with a new recall word, and we practiced a zillion "set-up" scenarios, teaching Shyla to choose to come to me instead of chewing on bones or eating bad stuff.

We practiced throughout our trip to Wyoming and the Colorado mountains. She wore a 20' long line for most of our practice so that she couldn't fail. The photos are from after she'd graduated from the long line when we were in the wildflowers of the Colorado mountains.

One of the biggest parts of retraining Shyla is retraining ME. I am an intense person. When I fail, I try harder and with greater ferocity. It turns out that my intensity scares Shyla and makes her much less likely to come to me or stay near me.

I've had to learn to stay lighthearted and happy with Shyla, no matter how worried I am about the situation that we find ourselves in. For example, if she finds a fresh animal body part from an animal killed by a mountain lion, I still call her in a sing-song way and play with her as if there's no danger nearby.  That part is very hard for me...

But, we've been very successful with our recalls since returning from our trip. After our bike rides, I'm happy and smiling rather than stressed and upset by Shyla's latest escapade. She's staying by my side while I ride, and she chooses me over the many temptations in the forest. I also set up temptations for her, like planting a bone in the middle of the trail, and then asking her to recall to me and away from the bone. I carry yummy treats, and she is now consistently choosing me.

I know that I have to keep practicing, especially so that my attitude remains light and happy. I can't let the "intense KB" make too many appearances or we'll be back where we started.

For now, I'm nothing but happy. I've learned how to train my sensitive Shyla much better, and that's worth its weight in gold.
Sometimes it's worth taking the blame upon yourself like I did when Shyla landed in the hospital, not so that you wallow in it, but so that you take positive action to change.

I'm so grateful that we've reached this point, where I'm starting to trust Shyla again in the forest. A million thanks to our teacher who helped us so much!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn in our World

View from Hug Hill as unsettled weather arrived

Running through a golden aspen grove

Playing games in the autumn splendor

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Summer Days High in the Mountains

During our August trip, we arrived back in Colorado after a long haul from Wyoming. We finally made it to one of our favorite campsites in the world. As we pulled in, a double rainbow emerged in the sky. Wow!

We awakened the next morning energized to enjoy the trails in this amazing place. The Runner took both pups for a run, and I took a long bike ride to a flowery trail. It was very late for wildflowers but some waited for me!

It's a flowy trail that can be ridden fast. However, I love the flower and mountain views so much that I tend to stop a lot to soak them up.

Even Blue Flax were still blooming next to the trail.
I love riding in that area but it's hard. Our campsite is tucked in a quiet spot at over 11,000', and it's by far the best one that we've found in the area. However, my favorite rides end with 3,000' of climbing to return to our campsite. I am ready to rest when I arrive back at camp.

But, our campsite is surrounded by lakes so the dogs must dive and swim! I didn't do enough resting because we played so much. I'm not complaining although I think that I'm paying the price now.

They would play in the water all day if we let them.

That first day in camp was capped off by another rainbow sunset.

And we had a clear view of the Milky Way over our LabMobile!
During those summer days high in the mountains, we fully realize how lucky we are to have found a life that suits us so perfectly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bear Cub Acrobatics!

The black bear sows and their cubs have stayed close to our area this late summer and fall. The mothers are marking trees a lot, and that lets us see that they are still lactating. That's part of why their cubs are so big!

This is our sow who has a single cub. We've followed this pair all spring and summer.

Then, as they moved on from that dancing tree, they found another one that had been marked. Mom checked it out.

Her cub sniffed the lower branches carefully.

And then she climbed it to smell the bears who had marked the top!

The big surprise came in late August. A brown mother bear arrived at a marking tree. You can't see it in the still photos (it's in the video) - but she had TWO cubs! It was her first appearance this year. Again, you can see that she was still lactating. (that counters the argument that it's fine to hunt bears at this time of year because the cubs don't need them anymore).

Then one of her cubs imitated her! It made me laugh.

The same sow visited the same tree within the past week, and she roughhoused with her cub!

Most of these photos are frames from the video that I am sharing below. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did! It's also on Youtube.

As you know, I love observing bears. I'm overjoyed that two sows have managed to bring their cubs this far. It isn't too long until they den for the winter.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunset Sunday

At one campsite perched on top of a cliff, we could see storms as they came at us. One was almost upon us at sunset, producing incredible light.

Shyla glowed...

And the sky over the mountains was a work of art.
I could see a curtain of rain moving toward us across the valley below our campsite. Just after sunset, torrents of rain fell upon us.

I love the raw fury of mother nature. Because its so exposed, I think that this campsite is my favorite!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Back to Colorado - Mountain Swimming for the Labraduo

After the eclipse was over, we decided to cruise back down to Colorado. We would have loved to explore Wyoming more but we heard that the Grand Teton area, which we were most curious to visit, was still crowded with eclipse viewers. We'll go there soon!

It took 2 days but we made it to one of our favorite campsites that sits at the base of a big mountain that still has patches of snow...

And has lakes all around it.
We had an idyllic time there. It was sunny and warm. The mountain biking and running trails were fabulous (more about that later). And the dogs could swim every single day!

I think that swimming is their favorite thing in the world to do! R gets big air whenever he can. No need to worry about his elbow because he lands in water.

And he has a distinctive landing style that he uses every time!

Shyla likes to leap flat like an arrow. It's fast!

I love seeing the Labraduo SO happy!
It is rapidly becoming autumn here so these photos are making me wistful for summertime!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Wildflowers after a Wildflire

On our journey to the eclipse zone in Wyoming, we visited an area that neither of us was familiar with. We drove down two lane rural highways with 65 mph speed limits, looking for tiny dirt roads leading into the National Forest. Our hope was that one of those roads would take us to a quiet place to watch the eclipse.

Somehow, we ended up doing some of this exploring in the dark. When we finally arrived in the zone where we planned to watch the eclipse, we turned onto a tiny forest road that our map indicated might lead someplace good. We knew that we were in the right place when the forest service sign had this funny picture on it!

We were bone tired that night, and we camped in the first clearing next to the road that we spotted. Imagine our surprise at finding a camping spot easily in an area where we'd read that the entire west might be flocking to in order to see the eclipse. We mumbled to each other that we might find out why the campsite was available when it was light outside. In other words, there might be something bad about it that we couldn't see.

We were right. We were smack in the middle of a charred forest that had burned up last summer.

It sure wasn't scenic but the Runner immediately noticed that vividly colored wildflowers were already blooming on the forest floor, just a year post-fire.

What an amazing hopeful sign in a forest that seemed almost devoid of life.

Large areas of the forest floor were bedecked in bright colors! I know that it will be a long time before the forest regrows but the flowers made us smile.

Needless to say, we moved on that morning to an unburned section of the forest. The locals were wonderfully kind and gave us great advice about places to camp. We found a place that was not burned, had nice views, and was quiet!

Shyla leaped over some Yarrow in glee!
It was an area with grizzly bears and wolves so we kept the dogs on leash except when we were doing training sessions with them.

Happy Flower Friday! Even burned forests have incredible wildflowers, much to my surprise!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Our Incredible World

When you spend a lot of time outdoors while camping, you get to see some of the most beautiful things in the world, simply because you are outside and aware.

I saw a shooting star over a mountain range. My camera shutter just happened to open at that instant.

We all got to see a double rainbow with pots of gold on nearby mountains. I still think of K, every time I see something mystical and beautiful like this rainbow.

And we got to see flying Labs!

Our Duo loves nothing more than leaping out over the water and belly flopping as they retrieve tennis balls.
I am grateful for their utter abandon and joy - for it reminds me of how lucky we are!