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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Contrasts

Winter is back at our home in the Rockies.

Based on history, this really should be the last winter storm. But it's going on for days and days and days. I'm glad that the dogs love it!

So I will dream of the warm places where we hung out last month.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Conversations Among Lions, Coyotes, and even a Moose

I love seeing the wildlife in our area via the lenses of trail cameras. The main reason is not just to get pretty pictures of them. Rather, I love seeing how all the myriad species interact.

The carnivores like to mark in the same places. I'm not sure how a spot gets established. Perhaps the king of the forest starts it with a mighty scrape of the pine needles and then a touch of pee. I recently showed you a mountain lion marking the spot shown below.

On a recent rainy and then snowy day, a mountain lion visited the scrape left by that previous lion. This one did not act like a dominant resident lion. This one seemed skittish. Perhaps that was because it was mid-morning, a time when people tend to be out and about. This spot is close to a hiking trail.
I've never seen a mountain lion looking as wet as that one. On that morning, I froze when I was caught out in the rain on my bike.

Then, a group of coyotes arrived at the same spot about 10 days later. Each of them peed over the mountain lions scent. It was so much fun to see them come through this spot as a group.

A similar thing happened at another scent post. First, the mountain lion walked past my trail cam into the spotlight. He scraped and left a scent mark.

Days later, a coyote visited. He made it clear what he thought about the mountain lion scent!

Then, a week later, a moose appeared. She is so big compared to the lion and coyote!

I have a video showing the behavior of each of these animals as they sniff the lions' scents.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Puppy Hachi seems to have felt a bit stressed out this week. Compared to our time in the desert, he's had a ton of everyday "stranger exposure" which may be a reason for it.
Among other things, Hachi started an advanced training class this week. That involves group classes at city parks. His stress seemed to start on the first day of school although he did pretty well at class.

He also went to town multiple times this week, and the Runner did a fair bit of counter-conditioning while watching strangers and other scary things. That involves feeding Hachi treats when the scary things are in view. The counter-conditioning went super well, with Hachi gradually relaxing during the course of each session.

He came home from town wired each day. Some of it was pure teenage rambunctiousness and some was stress. Thankfully, R wanted to play with him most days which relaxed Hachi a lot.

Hachi looked at his brother with wide eyes while they played. What incredible faces they both make.

I could watch them play all day!

Hachi's general stress level led a few resource guarding episodes. Immediately after a service person was here to try to fix the internet, Hachi guarded unopened bags of food that Chewy had just delivered. Then, in a similar scenario, he'd just finished some slightly stressful training, and he "guarded" a treat in my hand from R. In both of these situations, the astounding thing is how little it takes to stress Hachi enough for him to resource guard.

I find it difficult to constantly be on our toes to avoid potential food guarding but it's what we need to do. In particular, we need to be especially vigilant if anything remotely stressful has happened to Hachi recently. I am going to redouble my efforts. I was a little too chill about it this week.
I am writing this so honestly because I want to be able to remember the ups and downs of rehabbing Hachi. I think that this view might help others as they rehab their fearful dogs. It also will be interesting for me to go back and read it later, when Hachi is a well-adjusted dog. (Do you like my optimism about the ultimate outcome here?).

As I know from my experiences with Shyla, rehabbing a fearful dog is not a smooth ride from point A to point B. Rather, it involves lots of ups and downs. The progress sometimes seems negligible but, then, the dog will suddenly make a big leap forward almost unexpectedly.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

We are probably getting some snow in the next few days so I'm looking back to last week's snow storm. The fun never ends here in the Rockies!

From my point of view, the only good thing about snow at this time of year is the moisture that it gives our forest. I know first hand that most of our secluded water holes used by our wildlife for drinking and bathing do not have water in them yet. So perhaps this storm will bring the water level up high enough to fill them.

Even though May snow is yucky, wet, and heavy, I still love getting the pups out to play in it.

And, R loves sprinting through snow like a pup. His sister is in the background, trying to catch up!

A May snowstorm is a good excuse for some snuggling, and our Black Dog is everyone's favorite snuggle bunny.

Even Hachi can snooze (briefly) when next to him.

I'm afraid that I ruined their snoozing bliss with the sound of my camera. The puppy eyes opened...

... and soon Hachi wanted to play. R is the most patient big brother that I can imagine.
R is a very happy dog. I think that the only bummer is his vanishing eyesight. I realized this week that the probable reason why every one of Hachi's angry outbursts has been directed toward R is that R cannot see Hachi's body language. If he could see it, I have little doubt that he'd respond appropriately to prevent an outburst. That makes me sad but it makes me realize that us humans can help by intervening when we see the stress signs in Hachi.

In general, we have a very happy Black Dog on our hands!

Silly Puppy Saturday

In the desert, I had such fun playing with with Hachi. There was no one around, and he could truly relax and be a clown.

Somehow the big blue sky made Hachi seem even cuter to me.

There's a shadow racing you, Hachi!
Happy Silly Puppy Saturday!!! At least it's not a snowy Saturday. That's holding off until Tuesday (I'm not joking!).

Friday, May 17, 2019

Feline and Nature Friday - The Forest is Thick with Mountain Lions

I trekked in complete solitude to check trail cams. Every camera I checked had mountain lion footage on it. Yes, *every cam* had lion activity. I am not usually a nervous person but I started looking over my shoulder frequently.

This post would be too long if I tried to include all of the lion footage so this post will include the highlights from one part of the forest.

This guy was out in the middle of the day, not too far from homes. I love the idea that animals this large are wandering peacefully among us in daylight with no one noticing.

Just like I was, he was looking over his shoulder! He was probably worried about humans seeing him.

Then, he showed up at a nearby site, stopping to evaluate the scene before stepping fully into the view of the camera. Look at the ragged upper edge of his left ear. I wonder what happened to it. Frostbite? An injury from another animal?

When he stepped into view he sniffed a branch in a handsome pose.
These photos are from a small area. Usually, a lion will stay in a small area only to stay with a carcass. However, Shyla did not alert me that there was a carcass nearby. I still feel sure that the lion had a kill stashed there. He triggered one camera 10 times in a couple of days, making me think that the cam was very near the carcass.

Meanwhile, very nearby, a bold bobcat left his mark by marking within a mountain lion scent mark.
In the opposite direction from home, another mountain lion was extraordinarily active and visible... but I will save that for another day.

You can watch my video of these ghost felines who pad through the forest silently and secretly.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thankful Thursday -- For our Mountain World

I am thankful that I live in a place with such a glorious playground outside my door. Coming home from a place as beautiful as the Utah desert would be very hard if I didn't love it here so much. I still have more Utah fun to share but I wanted to celebrate our mountain world today.

Shyla loves to hide on Hug Hill and then leap up to run to me. It makes me laugh! She does it near the start of almost every bike ride.
After we play on Hug Hill, we head for a big aspen grove where the bird watching fascinates me at this time of year. Many birds of many species are vying for nesting holes inside our groves of big old aspen trees.

Tree swallows dominate the aspen groves. They've paired up. The same pairs sit on the same perches day after day when they're not building nests inside nest holes.

The pairs are fighting for the prime nesting holes, doing incredible acrobatics in the air. This confrontation was between one of the birds in the photo above and an invader.
I will be telling more stories from these aspen groves because I've seen so much beauty as I've gazed at the birds above me.

I am so thankful that I live in a place that makes me smile so much. I love it most of all in the spring!!!

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - All Lines Lead to Shyla

The lines in the slick rock all seem to lead to Shyla!

PS Our internet is stumbling along, seemingly barely working. If I disappear for a day or two, you'll know why.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Early-Bird Bears of 2019

The first bear of 2019 appeared on a heavily shaded and snowy slope on the fourth of April. My "bear cams" tend to be in very secluded spots that do not melt out early. For that reason, the bears don't go to these spots first after they wake up.

It makes me so happy to have the forest be rustling with bear activity again. They are the most fascinating wildlife species to me because they form social relationships with other bears and display such a range of behaviors over the course of a spring to fall season. They even play, which completely cracks me up! I hope that we get to see them in their finest form this season.

The first bear was very thirsty. He took a long drink from a snow-fed pool.

He showed off his funky fur coat coat for the camera. I think that his spring/summer coat is just coming in which is why he's a Black and Tan.

After drinking, he headed to the other side of the pool to mark a tree and dig up something to eat. I'm not sure what was growing beneath the snow but Black and Tan didn't look like he found it to be delicious.
You can see that he has ear tags. I suspect that he got into trouble last fall, probably in a lower elevation town. He probably was trapped, transported to our rural area, and released. He exited the cam's view going in the opposite direction of most bears at this time of year. I suspect that he's in a mission to figure out how to get home and that we won't see him again.

Stay safe, Black and Tan. Don't mess with humans or their world because you are not permitted anymore mistakes. We'd love to have you stay in our neck of the woods, learning what it's like to live well outside a town.

You can probably tell that seeing ear tags always makes me somber. I don't think of them as a bear failing. Rather, they reflect human failing. Someone, actually probably more than one person, didn't keep food and garbage locked down. This poor bear got tempted by it, and he got reported.

Here's a video of his escapades after coming out of his den.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi turned 6 months old while we were in the desert. To celebrate, we bought him a vanilla milkshake on a resupply day in a town. He thought that it was pretty amazing!
He seems to grow from one minute to the next these days. He's up to 38.5 lbs. When we first got him, he was so underweight that the puppy growth charts predicted that he'd reach only 28 lbs as his adult weight.

That gives you an idea of what a rough start he had. Living on the streets must have been incredibly stressful for his mom and her puppies. His mom probably had a lot of trouble getting enough food, and thus the puppies probably had to fight among themselves to get enough nutrition to survive. No wonder he values food and will guard it more than any other dog we've had in our family.

I'm so glad that Hachi can be silly now! No worries for him now.

In the desert, we camped in quiet places. At one site, we rarely even caught sight of another person. So, Hachi was in heaven, perhaps the most relaxed that I've ever seen him. But, very small things would upset him greatly. For example, at night, we could sometimes see headlights in the distance. That made him incredibly worried, which he expressed by barking insanely at the lights.

At another campsite, cars or bikes would occasionally appear on the horizon a half mile away, be visible for about 30 seconds, then drop out of sight for a minute, and then reappear fairly close to the LabMobile. On the first day that we were there, we considered moving because Hachi became completely irrationally upset by the cars/bikes.

Here is a photo from near that campsite. I was playing with Hachi on a mesa, and he spotted a car. You can see by his facial expression that he was upset. After I snapped this photo, I went over and gave him treats for as long as he could see the car. That's called "classical conditioning" where we try to change his emotions about seeing a car by pairing it with something that he loves (treats).

In these situations, he relaxed incredibly fast after the car was gone. He'd go back to being a goofball within seconds. That's a great trait! Here, he tried to shake while galloping!

To our utter surprise, Hachi was ignoring cars/bikes by the third day in that campsite. If he was relaxing in the sun, he didn't move when a car went by. If he was playing, he kept on playing. It was almost unbelievable to us how much classical conditioning had helped him (and how fast it helped him in those specific situations).

During our time in the desert, I really began to believe that we'd be able to rehabilitate Hachi. He may never be the most laid back dog on the planet but I think that he'll be able to function happily in our world with little fear of people someday. There's a lot of work for us between now and then but the Runner and I feel completely committed to doing it.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is continuing to seem perfectly healthy and enthusiastic about life since arriving at home. He had fun in the desert but worried us a lot because he was hesitant to walk or run on unknown terrain.

He went to see his ophthalmologist this week. The reason why his vision is waning so fast is that his glaucoma is causing a very big cataract. You can see it in this photo. I did not use a flash. Rather, the cataract glows green even in ambient room light. Due to his glaucoma, he'd probably completely lose his vision if he had surgery to remove the cataract so there is no way to prevent his vision sliding downhill.

The good news is that the pressure within the eye is being completely controlled by the three kinds of eye drops that he gets twice per day. That means that the eye probably doesn't ache. However, I have been surprised to learn that dogs with glaucoma often go blind even when the eye pressure is well controlled by meds.

The amazing thing is how very happy he is. When he knows what lies ahead in terms of terrain, he runs like the wind. In this case, I think that he was following Shyla's tail! It made me smile!

Thanks to all of you who have written to me about how well your blind dogs have done in their home environments - almost making it hard to tell that they are blind. R seems to be similar - the only time that his visual impairment is obvious at home is when I try to hand him a treat. I do have to admit, however, that our LabMobile trips are important to us. We are going to do more research about how we might help our Black Dog to feel more comfortable when we're camping. Just so you know, photo shoots aside, we kept him on leash for most of our desert trip so that we could guide him. It wasn't enough.

To focus on the good, R isn't in pain, and he is living life to the fullest here at home. He still has a bit of vision, and he is using it well. Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Puppy Hachi's Love of Life

Playing with Hachi was such a blast in the desert. He ran as fast as he could, and he leaped high into the air whenever he could.
What I loved most of all was that he took flying leaps almost whenever he ran to me. He didn't have any particular reason to jump but he has the irrepressible and exuberant spirit of a puppy who takes flying leaps just because it is fun.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Mountain Lion Speaks and Other Predators Answer

A brawny mountain lion came through our neck of the woods in daylight. He looks so strong and beautiful in this photo.

He sniffed where lions have marked for years. The pile of pine needles is from lions kicking them backward as they mark. Then, he marked over the same spot before departing.

The lion who was our Tom Cat was much squatter and burlier. The last time that we saw him was in November.
In the time since then, a local shot and killed a mountain lion. I am becoming convinced that it was this one, whose every path I'd figured out over the years. I will keep watching for him but I am no longer optimistic, especially if another big male cat has started traveling in his territory. I am sad to think of this majestic creature dead.

After the visit by the mountain lion in late April, a couple of other predators came through, sniffed his scent mark, and then left their own two cents. First, a coyote...

And then the courageous bobcat.

I have a one minute video of these three visitors if you care to see them in action.

Our world looks completely different as of today with a foot of fresh snow on the ground.

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop!