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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Wild Visit by a Puppy

A certain little puppy named Sadie came to visit again. Her ears are a comical work in progress!

Almost immediately, pandemonium broke out in our house - the good and funny kind of pandemonium!

R and Sadie picked up exactly where they left off last time with lots of teeth baring! If you didn't know that dogs play this way, you'd be scared.

One minute, they'd be lying together like best friends...

And the next minute, teeth were bared again!

R seemed to know that he needed to keep Sadie feeling like she was "winning" their wrestling matches so he'd "self-handicap" by lying on his back and letter her attack him.

Shyla was more comfortable and tried to get Sadie to play a few times.

That ring toy has been Shyla's favorite since she was a pup. She let Sadie have it at one point.
Their play was brief but I bet that Shyla will eventually understand puppy behavior well enough to really play with Sadie. She made a good start the other day.

However, soon, Sadie was back with her best buddy, R. If you saw teeth like R's in this photo, would you stick your head closer to them?

That's what Sadie did.
After all the play, Sadie decided to fall asleep in my lap. Ah, I love puppies!

Sadie lives very close to us so I'm hoping that she and R can be friends for a long time. In the meantime, I hope that Sadie can come back to visit again sometime soon.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Alien Red Rock World

Out in the red rock desert of Utah, the land is so different from home that it feels like we're on a different planet.

Our first campsite was below a vast slickrock plateau that led downhill to several canyons. I took this photo when Shyla and I were at our furthest point from camp during a ride that wove in and out of canyons and then across this field of rock. Our camp was to the right of the furthest right rock formation in the photo. It was about a 10 minute downhill ride from there.
The two "pot holes" to Shyla's right were about to be filled by an afternoon rain storm. Those potholes are filled with life, just waiting for water to blossom. We got to see an example of that when we ran across a red spotted toad on the rocks near our camp. Shyla accidentally dislodged him with her paw, and he landed, unharmed, in a bed of cottonwood leaves. It was nighttime so I illuminated him with my head lamp to get a photo.
I've read that the tadpoles that morph into these toads have a tremendous race against time. Desert potholes stay filled with water for only a short time after rain due to rapid evaporation. The tadpoles need to become toads before their temporary homes go dry.

The view from our campsite is another example of how alien the red rock world looks compared to our mountain home. This photo was shortly after the sun rose behind my camera. You can see the shadow of the mesa to our left on the rock formation on the other side of the canyon.

Like clockwork, at noon every day, our campsite would be shaded as the sun went behind the corner of rock to the left in the photo. After that brief shady period, our campsite had about another 3 hours of sun before it fell into shade for the night.

At night, these landforms looked almost spooky. I loved watching the stars over them. A minor meteor shower (Leonid) was sending shooting stars through our atmosphere, and I was lucky enough to capture one during a 14 minute time lapse series of photos of the stars.
I always feel like it's my lucky night when my camera shutter happens to be open when a shooting star flies overhead!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Labraduo in the Snow on Sunday

I'm taking a break from desert stories to share a fun snowy day that I had with the Labraduo recently. I'm sure that you're getting tired of hearing it - but I rejoice every time I see R gallop, especially next to his sister!

 They were running so hard that they kicked snow up behind them.

I was snowbiking with them but we took so many play breaks that I barely pedaled at all! We stopped in a meadow just before we made it up to Hug Hill. I love the backdrop of snowy mountains from that meadow.

Then, we stopped at Hug Hill for a little more playing. This was the first day since years ago that R wanted to gallop on the rocky peak. It's very rough footing, with lots of rocks, and he'd moved very cautiously on that peak for the past few years. This day, his elbow must have felt great!

I am continuing his very advanced exercises to help keep his body strong enough to protect his bionic elbow. I can't wait to show you his circus dog exercise routine in a video that I'm in the midst of making. I love doing his exercises with him - it is FUN!
Lots of people ask if he's a puppy when they meet him. Their jaws drop when we say that he's 9 years old! I love seeing how strong and active he still is. We hope that he has a few more years of running ahead of him.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mountain Lions on the Prowl Again

Cougars have been moving silently through our forests over the past few weeks. It's interesting timing because I'm finding myself out in the forest in the dark more often than ever. I wear a headlamp and scan for glowing eyes all the time. Yet, I'm not really scared - I'm just taking ordinary precautions. I'm glad that something bigger and fiercer than me is out in the forest. It changes the prevalent feeling that humans rule the world because I certainly don't even rule the forest around my house. And, I like it that way.

I am not certain if our feline activity is from one or two mountain lions. At least one of them looks young to me. He still has faint bars on the inside of his front legs, suggesting that he's a young adult. I'm not certain if he's still loosely traveling with his mother or not.

In the video below, you'll see a transition in scene about 38 seconds into the video. There was a mountain lion captured by one camera at 4:51 PM, and then another lion captured by a cam at least a half mile away 5 minutes later. That was a very fast walk for a mountain lion. They usually saunter along, at a fairly slow pace (2 mph or so), as you can see from watching them walk. That timing was what made me feel more strongly that it might be two mountain lions rather than one.

In any case, it is very exciting to have mountain lions so active in our neck of the woods again. After almost a year's hiatus, the forests are alive with our biggest predator once again!


The video is very short (a minute or so) but it lets us see an unprecedented (for me) amount of video of these animals moving naturally around their territory.


I am wondering if the mountain lion(s) in the video might be this mother lion with her kitten. Last winter, almost all the lions in our area had their GPS collars removed, which would explain why she had a collar last summer but not now. I know from the GPS study that this female tended to make big moves from one side of a canyon to another once or twice per year, living on one side of the canyon without crossing it for up to a year. If one of her kittens is still with her after spending a year on the other side of the canyon, he'd be almost a full adult, which would fit with what we're seeing in the video.
I know it may be a pipedream but I am hoping that this mother mountain lion has returned to our neck of the woods to finish raising her kitten and perhaps to give birth to a new litter! Do you see the spotted kitten just in front of her?

As I said in a recent post, our country is unique in the vast open spaces that we've preserved and in our acceptance of some predators living among us. Now, it's time for those of us who value the wildness of our amazing country to step up and help preserve our environment. Let's keep some of our country open and wild so that large predators can continue to flourish.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Desert Stars!

One of the hardest parts of "winter" camping in the desert is the short daylight time. Sometimes, I feel as if life is rushing by as we try to squeeze as much as we can into the daylight hours.
Looking down a canyon as I whooshed along on my bike

We run as fast as we can but it doesn't slow down the Earth's rotation!

As you can see from my photos, at least some clouds hung in the sky most days.
I love the juxtaposition of the desert rocks and the snowy mountains
But, finally, my luck for star gazing changed! I had no luck all summer long, with either a full moon or storms limiting star visibility.

On this trip, the clouds cleared out, and I had several nights in a row to gaze at the stars and take their photos. The moon was almost invisible so we could see the Milky Way!
I feel so lucky that we can visit places dark enough to let the Milky Way shine through. The nearest town was off in the distance on the right of the horizon, and it obviously didn't cause too much light pollution.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

From snow to slickrock!

One of the reasons why I love going to the desert in November is that we can escape what is usually the first snow of the year. That is usually a slushy and not-so-fun snow. In fact, it snowed the day before we departed this year!

So, after driving west for hours, we traded the snow for Utah's slickrock, which meant that the much-hated dog boots had to come out. Actually, R doesn't mind his boots. Shyla is the one who is scared of them. However, they are necessary - slickrock tears apart a dog's paw pads if they're not used to it.

Shyla literally shakes in her boots as I put them on her. Thankfully, she usually perks up after we start moving.

We've experimented with lots of kinds of boots. Most recently, Shyla tried UltraPaws boots which our friends Lily and Edward gave to us. Shyla liked them much more than other boots but the soles wore out very quickly on slick rock. I'm going to see if UltraPaws makes a tougher version that will endure our mountain bike rides in the Utah desert.

I always savor each day of riding in the desert, knowing that snow usually awaits us when we return home. That's my new bike in the photo - it was fabulous in the desert!

Here's to frolicking in the desert. I love it! Kick up your heels, Shyla!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: A Desert Sunset

We hiked up to a high point for sunset one evening last week. Both dogs bowed down before the grandeur, and then Mother Nature put on her show.


Our country is beautiful. I want to help keep it that way by preserving our undeveloped spaces like this one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Desert Sojourn

We took a desert sojourn last week, enjoying the warmth and the carefree feeling of being all alone in the desert. It was a fabulous week, all except for one seizure for Shyla and one migraine for me. Ah well, I guess that we can't expect smooth sailing all the time.

I love exploring by mountain bike better than anything. I took long rides exploring canyons and buttes.

And, we enjoyed some sunsets over towering red rock walls.
A bit of me is a "desert rat" although the mountains will always be home. I'll tell you more about our trip in the coming days!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Mischief

Even at nine years old, R still does completely unexpected things during training - so unexpected that all that I can do is laugh. He has a mind of his own, and I like that about him.

Last week, I was practicing recalls with the Duo. When I called for them to come, Shyla bolted toward me, like usual. In contrast, R hesitated and then bolted behind Shyla at a right angle to the line toward me.

You can see Shyla's incredulous reaction. Since we don't use punishment in our training (aside from withholding the reward), she didn't have any experience to cause her to have that worried look on her face.
R quickly changed his mind and charged over to me. I wish I'd captured the looks on both of their faces. Most of all, Shyla looked so relieved that R had finally done the right thing!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black Dog Sunday

Can you believe it? This photo was from the day before the snow when our world was enveloped in clouds. The part that I am elated about is that our R is back! He can run with such intensity again.
It was at this time last year that I started trying to schedule R's elbow surgery. I had no idea what a long journey we were embarking on. It took until April to find a surgeon willing to travel to us for the procedure. And, we're still doing rehab now, a year after I started working on the logistics of the surgery.

But here is evidence of how well R is doing. He beat Shyla in a recall race!

To be honest, I think that I'll keep doing rehab with R for a long time. At this point, his exercises are for general strength and stability, which is good for any dog as they get older. I'm now doing some of the exercises with Shyla, to help keep her core strong and hopefully avoid injuries in the future. I find it to be tons of fun to teach the dogs the exercises so it's a win-win habit!

I'll do an update video of the battery of exercises sometime soon. We go see our vet in a couple of weeks - she'll evaluate R's elbow condition and tweak the exercises for us. So, I need to show you the latest set before they change!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Star Gazing

I've been dreaming of taking some star photos in a dramatic setting. On every one of our summer trips, the nights were interrupted by clouds streaming across the sky and obscuring the stars.

One day last November, I had a perfect night in the desert. There was no moon, and it was perfectly clear. I managed to take time lapse photos of the stars for many hours. Look how many stars there were and what long trails they made over the course of the night.
I can't wait to get out to the desert again. It is a perfect very dark place for star gazing!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Foxes on Friday

For all the years that I've had trail cameras, I've never captured photos of many foxes (of any kind) in our forest. Then, something changed this past summer. We seem to have both red and gray foxes here to stay!

The best part is how mischievous they are. They mark their territories frequently and vociferously. This series made me laugh.

A red fox arrived in front of one camera.

He sniffed a rock and the surrounding ground that is a carnivore scent marking spot.

Then, he climbed up on the rock, stared straight at the camera, and left his own mark. It felt as if he was sending me a message to quit spying on him!

A week later, a pair of gray foxes arrived at the same spot. First, one sniffed the spot.

Then, the first one marked the spot, over top of the marking left by the red fox.

That night, the red fox was back again, sniffing the pee-mail left by the gray fox.

He climbed up on the rock and left another "comment" for the gray foxes.
This "back and forth" is still going on. I imagine that there's a lot of territorial posturing going on because none of these foxes were in this area a year ago. They are all new and trying to make their marks.

I hope that the back-and-forth continues through the winter! Traditionally, winter is a slow time of year for my trail cams so I'd love it if the foxes keep up their activities!