Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Down Labrador Valley from our house, a second valley joins in from the north. For wildlife, the meeting of two valleys is a bit like a major traffic intersection for us humans. They love to travel along valley floors because travel is easier than in rough terrain.
One species that is there frequently is moose. We have a mother and yearling calf pair who have been around all winter, and they pass through that intersection regularly. The other morning, they joined us for breakfast. Indeed, they were so close to our deck that I didn't need a zoom lens to take a photo of them!
And here was mom's glamour shot! She's a beauty.
This pair, and other moose, frequently go through the valley intersection where I have a cam. I first placed a cam at that intersection because bears passed through there a lot in the fall. However, bears sleep all winter long so other species dominate for the winter.
Check out the video of the animals who traveled past the cam. It included both herbivores and carnivores. The carnivores seemed obsessed with reading the messages from others as well as leaving their own!
Monday, May 3, 2021
After feeling like Hachi's progress was stuck for weeks, he now seems much more relaxed. It may be that we humans have been maxed out recently, moving back and forth multiple times per week and feeling completely exhausted.
As soon as we got to Lab Valley, we humans relaxed and so did Hachi. I'm sure that our mood affects him but I also think that the opportunity to be off-leash (while supervised) multiple times per day makes a huge difference to him.
On Sunday afternoon before another snow storm moved in, we had a mellow walk and then simply hung out in the meadow by the house. The two pups quietly explored the newly uncovered grass 45 minutes or so. There was no raucous playing while they both seemed to decompress from the recent stress.
Then, Hachi wanted to play but Shyla was reticent. So, Hachi did something that is pretty new to him. He lay down on his back to invite Shyla to play. If you think about it, it takes a lot of trust and confidence to assume such a helpless position. It worked.
Soon, they were really playing, with some chase and some wrestling.
They danced a bit too!
We are so hopeful that, during this break in frenetic activity, Hachi will zoom forward in terms of his behavior. When he is able to relax, he's a different dog.
It's been very interesting listening to a Podcast called Cog-Dog Radio by Sarah Stremming. She is a trainer who handles very tough cases. One of her first recommendations for dogs like Hachi is to find someplace where it's safe for them to have off-leash time at least a couple of times per week. She says that many behavior issues are solved by this simple step. The hard part is finding such a place especially when your dog is reactive.
Even before I'd found her podcast, we'd come to realize that off-leash time made a huge different to Hachi. Due to an influx of people at our old place, that had become impossible. I'm so glad that we have a new place where it is absolutely fine!
Sunday, May 2, 2021
Yesterday, we got word that the bulk of the work for this phase of construction was finished on our new place. There are still some things to do to totally finish it but none of them should be very noisy or disruptive. Through the process, we learned that there are some seemingly silly shortages due to the pandemic - interior doors, exterior doors, sconces, and appliances. So, those things will be dealt with by carpenters and electricians as they arrive.
In light of that news, we packed up a lot of stuff yesterday and moved to Lab Valley, hopefully for the long term (or until we need a break from the next phase of remodeling). In doing so, I found myself having huge pangs about our Black Dog. He lived and died at our old place, and that makes it harder to leave.
As I was packing, I ran across a white board that we used to keep track of his exercises in the months and years after his elbow replacement in 2016. To me, it showed the labor of love that keeping him moving was for us. We used it right up to the day that he died, and the day markers (e.g., "T" was Tuesday) just stopped.
In case you want to understand this crazy chart, one thing to know is that we named all of his exercise equipment. For example, "Penelope" was his inflatable peanut, "Wally" was his wobble board, and "Dunkin" was his inflatable very tippy donut. We did each exercise about every other day. In the months before his death, we reduced what we did each day because we could tell that exercise was getting harder.
You might enjoy watching a video of his routine. When I watched it, tears sprang to my eyes. I loved doing this stuff with him. He was so eager and happy even though some of it probably hurt his reconstructed left elbow.
I took this photo of our Black Dog on the day that I made the video of him doing his exercises. What a handsome and happy dog! We were so lucky to have him in our lives.
Happy Black Dog Sunday!
Saturday, May 1, 2021
The snowy weather, interspersed with sunny and warm days, continues. Shyla's joy in the snow has helped me to enjoy even late April snowy days.
Even on the gray days, Shyla happily forges ahead of me. The snow makes her so energetic.
At this time of year, the snow never lasts long. It rapidly melts in the warm sun. In Shyla's view, that means that we need play as much as we can before it melts. I also like to take photos of its beauty before it melts.
As I watch Shyla meet people on the trails, I am still filled with gratitude that she's become so outgoing. It is hard for me to remember how afraid she was as a young dog - because she is so utterly transformed now.
As the transformation was happening over years and years, I didn't always recognize each little step toward her being a more normal dog. Now that most people would say that she's very social and outgoing, I see the huge changes that happened so gradually. It makes me smile.
Happy Shyla Saturday. There's another foot of snow in the forecast so the snow photos are not ending yet. That makes Shyla so happy!
Friday, April 30, 2021
Close to human trails, there is a line of mountain lion scrapes that host myriad animals all year around. The scrapes are just barely hidden from view, and lots of animals, including cats, venture there even during the day.
This video covers the very snowy last two months. I'm sure that the deep snow is a lot of trouble for travel by wildlife but we will all benefit from it in the long run. You'll see the vast changes in snowpack throughout the two months. We've had lots of days like this one.
We have a pair of adult mountain lions together. If the successfully mated, the female will have kittens in May, which seems like a wonderful time of year to raise them. Mountain lions can have kittens at any time of year but there is a pulse of kittens born in springtime.
Later in April, a female lion visits a scrape and caterwauls, which means that she is looking for a mate. Love is in the air!
Check out the short video!
Thursday, April 29, 2021
I am also thankful for the online photography courses that I've been able to take during the pandemic. My full moon photo session did not work out this month. So, I pulled out a set of photos from an April full moon photo shoot a couple of years ago. At that time, I considered it to be a failure.
But, now, thanks to my courses, I knew how to resuscitate the images. I had to combine two images to make this one. And THAT is something that I did not know how to do back then. I love learning new things!
There is so much to be thankful for!
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
A little while ago, my trail cam began picking up new-to-me mammals moving along the mostly frozen creek in Labrador Valley. It took me a little while to realize that the first videos were of a mink. Mink are considered to be semi-aquatic, and they love to eat fish. The mink in our creek was diving below the ice, presumably fishing.
I really wanted to discover that river otters were in our creek. They were considered to be gone from Colorado. Then, the state reintroduced them in 1976, and they've been expanding their range ever since then.
So, you can imagine my glee when my trail camera picked up a large mammal on the ice atop the creek. River otters weigh 10-30 lbs which is about ten times the weight of a mink. I checked with some experts, and sure enough, it was a river otter!
It's a very short video because the otter turned around just after the camera spotted him. Check it out!
Monday, April 26, 2021
It's been another back-and-forth week. I sometimes think that this constant change is slowing Hachi's progress too much. I've been reading about dogs with his genetic make-up, and behaviorists tend to say that reactive dogs like Hachi want a set schedule in their lives. They want to be able to predict what will happen next and when it will happen. Hachi doesn't have that right now.
Then, when I see him at Lab Valley, I know that this phase is totally worth it. He is a different dog at Lab Valley - far more care-free than ever before. Also, getting lots of off-leash exercise helps him immensely.
This week, we felt that his response to strangers was more muted than in the past. He still reacts - but his barking seems less intense - and he recovers quickly. The thing that seems to throw him into the most reactive mode is when people appear at times and places where he doesn't expect it. It's called "sudden environmental contrast" by behaviorists - and Hachi really does not like being surprised.
Shyla continues to be the best part of Hachi's life. She never gets upset with him, even when he badgers her relentlessly to play when she doesn't want to. In the next photo, she was as engrossed in playing as Hachi was. I love when I can capture a moment of eye contact during play.
I've been frequently noticing the funny play faces that they make. Hachi didn't used to make faces like this but I think that he's learned from his sister.
Sunday, April 25, 2021
This week, we played in the spot where I took lots of snow photos of Shyla and R over the years. His strong and joyful spirit was never far away as Shyla and I played. We smiled at the memories.
We're so glad that our Black Dog had so many happy days in the snow over a lifetime of living in the Rockies.
Happy Black Dog Sunday.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
Shyla and I have had such fun together this week out in fresh snow. It is too much snow for snowbiking so we've been snowshoe hiking together. It is rare that Shyla isn't in motion but I caught her sitting still at one instant during a hike.
More often than not, she is galloping through the snow looking ecstatic.
Seeing her joy makes me smile. I love our one-on-one time in the mornings. It starts off my day on a wonderful note!
Even though it's late April, Shyla is hoping for more snow. I wouldn't object because it's so much fun playing in snow with her.
Happy Shyla Saturday!
Friday, April 23, 2021
In my previous video installment, I shared footage of a mountain lion who had cached an elk carcass very nearby to a forest clearing. In fact, I found the forest clearing by following the lion tracks from the carcass to it. It turned out to be a great wildlife spot for years and years.
For the 10 months following the lion's frequent visits, many animals came through the clearing including lions, bobcats, moose, and a coyote. My favorite part is how the smaller carnivores like bobcats have the courage to mark over the scent of the lions. They are amazing creatures!
Check out the video if you have time. And, Happy Earth Day, a day late! Let's protect the parts of the Earth that we can by giving wildlife and their special spots space to be truly wild.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
I think that it was my favorite snowy day yet this winter. Shyla and I had a glorious snowshoe hike.
Shyla happily galloped through the deep snow, loving every minute of the bluebird day.
I even enjoyed a little bike ride on the local roads. The crystalline beauty of the white snow and frost against the blue sky was incredible.
While I was riding, I had to stop to take off my boot and try to remove whatever felt like it was cutting the sole of my foot. As I stood on one foot with my boot off, a moose sauntered by and then stood in some aspens nearby. She looked like a yearling to me. Fortunately, she was completely unconcerned with me.
There is so much beauty to be thankful for.