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Monday, December 11, 2017

A bull moose pair has a small fight

In last week's wildlife post, I showed you a pair of bull moose who visited a water/ice hole together.

My trail cameras have shown that they've been traveling together for about a month. At most cams, I get a simple video clip of the two walking single file past the cam.

One video clip was different. The larger bull moose appeared to be aggressive toward the smaller one - perhaps exerting his dominance in their relationship. Then, they were briefly apart, according my trail cams. However, just a short time later the pair was walking together again.

It's so interesting to get these glimpses into the lives of animals who we can't observe behaving normally in person. When people are around, the moose focus on the people so they don't behave "normally" at all. That's the beauty of trail cam footage!

The video is at youtube but you can watch it here if you prefer.

Happy Wildlife Monday!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Serene Almost Silent Sunday

In the rosy light of the rising sun...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Serene sunrise and then fear

The cracks in my outer shell of "toughness" started to reappear yesterday.

The day started off well, with an absolutely stunning sunrise. I was eating my oatmeal while reading the news when a glimmer of pink shined through our pine forest from the east.

I ran, and I do mean ran, to get my drone. I've become quite fast at getting it ready, doing my pre-flight checks, and getting it into the air before a dramatic sunrise fades.

The first photo was from fairly low but I love how the pond in the mid-left of the photo reflected the sky's color.

That first photo was just barely in time because the sun had peeked over the dip in the ridge to our east by the time I snapped the next photo.

As always, I had to get a view of our beloved snowy mountains, just barely visible on the horizon, bathed in pink alpenglow. I love how that pinkish hue even makes the pine forest glow.

As I said, that was the best part of the day. R seemed really "off" to me yesterday. He had a few accidents in the house, even when I was home so he could've asked to go out. I cleaned them up with the full knowledge that he wouldn't have had accidents if something weren't awry.

Then, he seemed very lethargic around mid-day. He was slow to come out for his lunchtime snack of a spoonful of yogurt, and he didn't even act happy when I asked if he wanted to go outside with me. His elbow was clearly hurting very badly. We have no idea what has caused it to flare for the first time in years. But I felt that there was something more than elbow pain hindering him.

I had a heavy heart all afternoon, fearing that I was seeing the start of a downward slide. But then, suddenly late in the afternoon, he was his usual goofy and energetic self. I am utterly confused but I'm glad that he recovered!

We go to the CSU clinic in a few days. I'm scared about it. I'm not ready for R to have cancer or to have a prognosis for his survival. I hope with all my heart that both masses in his abdomen are benign. Yes, I'm asking for a miracle.

In the meantime, I will remember the peace of this morning's sunrise. I made a video if you'd like to see the view floating above my house and rotating slowly. The world was magical. When I fly my drone, I feel as if I'm flying - and seeing the Earth from the view of a bird. It's amazing.


I hope that you have a wonderful Saturday.

Friday, December 8, 2017

So Grateful for the Morning Light

I fell into the dark abyss again (worried about R) but I can smile when I remember the gorgeous morning light that Shyla and I enjoyed at sunrise this morning.

It was 8°F when we headed out this morning. That is the coldest yet this year but the air was still. The lack of wind made it feel pretty warm. And, I enjoyed that no one else was out in the cold!

This light is what makes this time of year happier for me. It's actually a rough season for me, with lots of memories of bad things that have happened in the depth of winter plus the glaring loss of my ability to ski due to my spine. However, I have learned to revel in the low angle sunlight - it's a photographer's delight!
As a fun aside, sunset has already reached its earliest time for the winter (yes, that happens before the winter solstice). Sunset will now occur a few seconds later every day until the summer solstice! That's worth smiling about!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Shyla's Progress with her Fears

As I mention sometimes here, Shyla and I started nosework to help her learn to cope with her fears. At the beginning, we did every single search at home, an environment where she's usually confident. Nosework adds to that because Shyla is the leader during a search. I help a bit by guiding her but she's the only one who can find the source of a scent (I sure cannot!).

The idea was to help her build a very positive "conditioned emotional response" to nosework. That meant that she'd become conditioned to feel confident and happy when we did nosework. Then, when we took nosework on the road, the hope was that she'd feel equally confident and happy even in situations that used to scare her.
Shyla is usually very happy and confident near our house
We've taken baby steps toward this goal because one bad experience in a scary setting can erase the hundreds of good experiences with nosework at home.

Well, I really think that it's working. Yesterday, I took Shyla to a site where we did lots of counter-conditioning and socialization years ago to try to help her overcome her fears. There's a busy road next to the site, and she used to startle whenever a louder vehicle went by. There's a smaller road very close to the site, and the cars going slowly there used to scare her too.

Yesterday's search went better than I could have dreamed. I hid 4 scent sources, 3 on the picnic tables and 1 on the tree to the right of them. I made a short video of her search. You'll see only one fear-related glitch at 52 seconds or so in the video. She was heading for the scent on the tree when a car went by slowly on the smaller road. She stopped to stare at it, and she forgot about the scent on the tree. It took her another 45 seconds to come back to the tree and find the scent.

In the video, each time you hear me say "alert", Shyla has just done her typical "nose on the source" indication of the odor source. I go in and give her treats as close to the source as I can. Then, I ask her to "find another", which means to go find a new source (not the same one again).

Here's the video. I hope that you enjoy seeing the two of us having fun in town doing nosework. I actually never thought that Shyla would "have fun in town" but she did yesterday!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Winter Sunrises

Winter sunrises awe me. When clouds sit near the eastern horizon, the sky becomes a work of art.

When the eastern sky is clear, the low sun angle illuminates Shyla with a light that I love.
That means that almost every morning is gorgeous in the winter.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Magic of a Puppy

Tumultuous would be the best description of life in our pack these days. With worries about R and some other out of the ordinary things, I feel as if I am off-kilter.

But then some friends invited me to drop by and meet their puppy. She's still tiny - barely as big as a person's shoe. She's a yellow Lab within her first couple of months of life.

She has already learned that she loves chewing sticks. I wonder if she's been talking to R. He chews nothing besides sticks... so sticks must have cracked the two teeth that he had pulled last week.

All that chewing has not affected her puppy breath! I love puppy breath! It's like a magical elixir that cures all that ails you.

Every time I see a puppy like this one, I want to get one of our own. I've often thought that perhaps our next puppy will be a yellow Lab. This little yellow Lab even has cute eye lashes! She didn't help me to keep up my defenses about getting a puppy.

Alas, when I snap back to reality, we have many good reasons not to get a puppy right now. Two good reasons are R and Shyla, both of whom need our attention.

I was really floundering with regard to R when we were first hit with the unexpected news of his tumors. I found that adrenal gland tumors are rare so I couldn't find a lot of good information about them on the web. That didn't stop me from trying - and I went around and around googling different combinations of words - until my head was spinning hopelessly. I felt so lost and so sad.

Then, the next morning, I decided to play with R rather than google dog cancers. We did his crawling under a line of 10 chairs and then reverse crawling back to his original position. He LOVES that game, and barks with joy between repetitions. It's actually a rehab exercise but you'd never know it based on how ecstatic R is about doing it. I made a little video of him and me playing the other day.

He does it with as much excitement as when he leaps into a mountain lake!
The truth is that R simply loves life. As we played, I realized that he's okay right now. He appears perfectly healthy so I should enjoy these days with him, without letting clouds on the horizon darken my mood too much to have fun with him. This is a lesson that dogs teach us over and over and over again.

Angel K taught me that lesson, and I will try very hard not to forget it again.
Dogs see the brilliant rainbows and ignore the clouds. Aren't they amazing creatures?

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Bull Moose Pair and a Trail Camera

Late this summer, I discovered a water hole in a gully that almost always has some water in it. I also discovered that the bears and moose love it, even though it's a pretty small water hole. It seems that the days of bear baths are over for the year but the moose are still around.

It's hard to tell in this photo but the left moose is an older bull and the right one is a very young bull. They were breaking the ice with their hooves and drinking.

The older bull is one of the biggest that we've had in our neck of the woods. He's been hanging around for a while so perhaps he's here to stay.

He took an interest in my camera and in the tree holding it, giving a nice closeup of his antler with snow on it the next morning.

Fortunately, he didn't hurt my camera. When he was so close to it, his focus was stripping bark from the aspen tree. The stripped area below my camera is new from his recent work on the tree. I believe that moose actually eat the bark.

I made a video of the activities of the pair and the closeups of the big bull which you can watch here or at Youtube.
These two bulls are continuing to hang out together but a recent video from a trail cam suggests that the older one may be getting tired of the company of the younger one. More on that soon!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunset and Silhouettes on Sunday

We've had wind almost every day for the last month. I'm lucky because it doesn't drive me insane like it seems to do to some others.

The upside to it is the clouds. Wow!
As soon as I see a cloud like that one forming, I start to think about where there's a boulder to do some silhouette photos with the cloud as the background.

Shyla is my trusty model. She is great at climbing up on boulders and can be trusted not to leap down unexpectedly. She even strikes beautiful poses!

This was such a deep orange cloud!

The boulder that Shyla posed on was one that I call "Coyote Rock". One time, as we hiked up toward it, I spotted three coyotes standing on top of it surveying the meadow around them. It was an incredible site. It's fun seeing Shyla in the same spot.

There is a panoramic view from that spot, and Shyla swivels her head to take it all in.

Of course, she is a nosework dog, and her nose rules.

A hundred photos later, the sky started to fade toward dusk. Look at the gradation from blue, to purple, to orange behind Shyla.

It was time to start toward home so it wouldn't be too dark for our walk. The parting sight of the sky was awe-inspiring.
I'll take the wind with a smile if it brings sky views like this one!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Year in Photos and an Update

Today was an "R Day", filled with phone calls and vet scheduling. I'm exhausted so I thought that I'd share a few of my favorite photos of R from the first half of 2017. I'm working on my 2018 Calendar so I've been sifting through my photos from the past year, choosing the ones for the calendar.

I love this one. R was out with me for a snow bike ride at sunrise. His fur was so shiny, his eyes so brown, and his energy palpable. I think that this one will end up in my Labraduo Calendar.
It's so hard to believe that anything could have been going awry inside such a healthy looking dog!

This next one was during the phase when Shyla was not able to bike with me because she had just started taking phenobarbital for her epilepsy. The Runner kindly loaned me our black dog for some canine companionship some mornings during Shyla's rest phase. Those were fun outings for me and R.

When springtime finally rolled around, I took R out in the nearby vast fields of golden flowers to see him play in them. His style was full-speed-ahead, as usual!
Seeing these photos, it's incredibly hard to believe that I spent my day researching his possible cancers and scheduling appointments for him.

Today I learned more about the "odds" for his masses in his abdomen. The first big worry is one on his right adrenal gland. I used my hard-earned knowledge of the CSU system to get R an appointment for less than 2 weeks from now. Without my insider's knowledge of how their system works, we were going to have to wait until mid-January for an appointment. And, that was despite the fact that it's considered to be a very "time sensitive" cancer.

I'm told that the odds are about 33% that his adrenal gland mass is "no big deal", about 33% that it's a cancer that surgery can help, and about 33% that its a fast-moving inevitably fatal cancer.

We have decided to deal with the adrenal gland tumor first. If he is lucky enough that it's either "no big deal" or operable, then we'll deal with the mass on his spleen.

As you can probably tell, it's a complicated situation. Our family vet did an amazing job of talking me through all the possible paths and helping us to choose one. She's such a good vet - I feel so lucky that we've had her as our vet for almost two decades! I feel better this evening, despite the fear deep in my belly, that we at least have a plan.

Let's end with a funny photo that has reached Shyla's list of finalist photos for her calendar.
Even I had to giggle when I opened up that photo today. What expressive eyes Shyla has!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Contemplating Life and Choices

We've had a quiet day of recovery for R (from the teeth being extracted) and PT for my spine. R is very good at finding the softest and warmest place in the house when he wants to snooze.

As always, I try to do the things that make me happiest regardless of what's going on in the rest of life. Shyla and I were out at sunrise. I find myself wondering what she knows. I've read about how dogs know about disease progression far before we do because they can smell it.

She stood on one of my favorite sunrise perches where the warm sun glow hits her and the snowy mountains are on the horizon behind her.
Although I tried, I didn't find my usual joy in life today. As of Thursday evening, I am still waiting to hear from our vet to clarify the choices for addressing the two tumors in R's abdomen. I am reminding myself that they might be benign but, given the stakes, I'm not going to assume that. I hope that I hear back soon from our regular vet so that I can schedule appointments for R.

Never is the brevity of life clearer than when we know that our pets potentially have a disease that can be quickly fatal. It makes me want to find joy in each day but that is hard so early in the progression. It feels a bit like deja vu, because K was diagnosed with cancer around the same time of year.

Thank you all for your support. I promise to find my way to happy posts soon!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thankful Thursday - An Ode to our Black Dog

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the more senior member of our current Labraduo, R.

When I wrote this post, I wasn't ready to talk about his veterinary news, which might be bad and might turn out not to be as bad as we think. The easy part was that he had two cracked teeth extracted. He's in pain and is still a little drunk but that will pass. The hard part was that an abdominal ultrasound showed masses on an adrenal gland and one on his spleen. The spleen one is likely benign.

The bigger deal is the adrenal gland. The whole reason for the ultrasound was that he'd had bloodwork a couple of weeks ago that pointed toward possible adrenal gland cancer. Thus, finding a mass on his adrenal gland is a bigger deal than it would be otherwise. We found out about this last night. Today, I'll be consulting with vets and probably fighting to get him into the Colorado State University Oncology clinic sooner rather than later. I'm feeling a bit sad and worried but I'm going to try to enjoy every day with him while we go down this diagnostic road.

Enough of that - Here is the original post - an ode to R!

He might not know how much he has helped Shyla overcome many of her fears just by being her fun-loving big brother. In her early days with us, she'd follow his lead when he paid no attention to "scary" things and just had fun.


Sometimes he appears almost crazed but it's his pure joy in living every single moment to the fullest that is shining through.


Seriously, what else besides joy could motivate a dog to take a flying leap like this one for no particular reason?

Although there's nothing he loves more than running and jumping, he also enjoys snuggling in a sun puddle with his sister.
Thank you, R, for teaching all of us how to live more joyfully.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A sunrise worth waking up for!

We recently had another incredible, almost unbelievable, sunrise. I've never had a clear view of sunrises until I got my drone. Now, if I see a glow shining through the trees from the eastern horizon, I put my drone into the air to get a view of it.

Recently, the wind has lulled at sunrise only to erupt into wild gusts shortly thereafter. Consequently, the views are not from very high - the drone is just above the trees on our land. From that elevation, I can bring the drone down fast when the wind gets wild.

This view was almost directly east - which was not the most spectacular view on this morning - but it was still pretty nice!

To the west, we could see the Divide with snowy mountains and a magenta cloud above them. That cloud turned the snowy mountains purple too!

A bit further to the south was where the best part of the sunrise was. Whenever a cloud is shaped like this, I know that there are some strong winds aloft.

A tiny bit further to the south, I could see the base of the long thin cloud in the last photo plus some other gorgeous clouds.

Despite my fear of the wind suddenly blowing down at our trees' elevation, I did a 360° spin with the drone. I'm not sure why the colors are even more intense in video form. I need to figure that out! For now, I'm not complaining! I actually desaturated the colors a bit in this video.

You can watch the video here or at Youtube!
Thanks for watching!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Birthday Girl!

Yesterday, Shyla turned six years old! She and I celebrated in our favorite way with a sunrise mountain bike ride!

Here's our selfie in the light of the rising sun.

I loved seeing my girl glowing in the rising sun.

And I loved seeing her shadow chasing her!

Here she was at sunrise on her first birthday. We don't have any puppy photos of her because we didn't know her until she was 9 months old.
Shyla has taught me more than any other dog because she needs me more than any other dog we've had in our family to help her through the scary parts of life. I'm honored that she trusts me. And I'm overjoyed to have such a perfect trail companion and best friend.

She loves to sleep with her head on my shoulder. What a precious bond we have.