Autumn is glorious. We try to enjoy every instant of it.
Our Black Dog loved all the seasons.
Black Dog joy lives on.
Shyla has a new nickname: "The Chokecherry Queen". This week, both pups discovered that they like chokecherries. Hachi was the first to discover them, eating bunches at a time. Shyla observed him gobbling the cherries, and she tried them. Now, she's obsessed with them - to the point of preferring to gorge on chokecherries rather than going for a hike!
The one thing that she'll ignore the chokecherries for is to cover my back when I'm photographing tiny flowers and autumn leaves.
And she adores being my photography model.
She's my best friend. Happy Shyla Saturday.
Our evening walks have wowed us recently. The level of wildlife activity is amazing. Due to the wildlife, we always keep the dogs on leash around sunrise and sunset at this time of year. The bears are eating the many acres of chokecherries in Lab Valley, and they love to appear around sunset.
The other evening, we were walking down the valley when we saw two bears emerge from an aspen grove. They both stopped in their tracks to focus on our pack. Hachi immediately started to bark so the the Runner backed him away from the bears.
Shyla has tons of experience observing bears with me so she stayed silent. I asked her to do a "down stay" next to me, and I pulled out my camera. Here were the bears watching us.
As soon as the cub got there, she started climbing. At first, she climbed only a few feet off the ground and then she stopped seemingly waiting for her mom.
The cub climbed smoothly and rapidly high into the tree while mom sat at the base of the tree.
I think that I've seen this pair before, via a trail camera at a water hole and a couple of bear marking trees. Check out the video if you have time.
Life has been so hectic this fall that I feel deep gratitude for the quiet time we had high in the mountains in August. I mountain biked ribbon-like trails in the mountains each day.
Some days, storms appeared suddenly when I was far from camp. I'd pedal hard to try to beat them back to camp. Most days, I did.
Deep in a gulch, there's a trail used by bears. It has bear marking trees along its sides. But bears are not the only ones who use it. Indeed, after mating season, other species dominate it. This year, a mama moose and her calf used it regularly. A humongous bull elk also frequented it. A light-footed bobcat trotted past it. And you'll see the rest in the video.
When we arrived home from our trip, Hachi seemed to make a breakthrough almost right away. There was a new set of people working on the outside of our house. They were doing some demolition at the beginning.
It was loud, and we thought that the noise would stress out Hachi. Instead, he lay on a bed on the other side of the wall where they were working and fell sound asleep! The Runner and I wondered aloud if he'd had a secret lobotomy!
It has been the same ever since. As long as the workers are outside the house, Hachi can snooze right through their time here. It is so refreshing to see a breakthrough like this!
It's especially surprising because we think that trips are stressful for Hachi. You can see in the photo below that his mouth is closed and his face is tight. He ran around with exuberance in our campsite but his body language said that he was nervous.
Whenever I see Shyla play in the water, I am reminded of Black Dog Joy. Way back in 2012, Shyla joined our pack as the most fearful and timid nine month old dog I'd ever met. She was afraid of almost everything. But, her big brother started enveloping her in his crazy joyful attitude from the start. Within her first month with us, we went to a favorite place called "Dog Leap Lake".
As soon as we arrived, our Black Dog wanted to retrieve sticks from the water. At first, Shyla stood on the shore watching and then assisting with the final bit of the retrieve. Our Black Dog didn't mind her biting the stick at all. In fact, he turned it so that she could grab it more easily (photo from 2012).
During that very first day playing in water, Shyla got the courage to retrieve sticks on her own. No doubt, her big brother's joy helped her to be so brave.
Over the years, Shyla and our Black Dog played in many lakes together, one more than any other. It's an unnamed lake off the beaten path in the San Juan Mountains. When we visited it this year, we decided to name it Black Dog Lake.
Fast forward to this year, nine years later. This year, we all missed our Black Dog terribly. However, in his tradition, Shyla was ready to be joyful all on her own. We humans weren't sure that she'd be able to find this happiness without our Black Dog's excitement. But she was, and it filled our hearts with joy.
Happy Black Dog Sunday!
Whenever I take out my camera and ask Shyla to be my model, she is overjoyed! When we're camping, she eagerly anticipates our sunset playtime/photo shoot.
This scene was in our campsite while we were in southwest Colorado. I love the sight of the reddish mountains on the horizon. They complement Shyla's fur so well!
However, I cannot stay sad for long when I'm with Shyla. She is, quite simply, my best friend.
You probably remember that there's a bear cub in Tiny's territory who is most likely his son. This little guy has an unstoppable attitude for such a young cub. In mid-August, he and his mom repeatedly visited one of Tiny's favorite marking trees. Teeny Tiny marked it again and again. And, to really make me laugh, he marked it while sitting down on one occasion. Just like his father.
Check out the video to see this cute little cub in action!
I am thankful for the wildlife who we see from our deck. About three weeks ago, a bull moose sauntered by at breakfast time.
He ate some breakfast too! What a rack.
Then, a couple of evenings ago, a mama bear and her cub dropped by to eat chokecherries. This was during their departure, heading down to the creek. I think that I have "seen" these two on my trail cam at a nearby water hole. I'll share that soon!
The wildlife is one of my favorite things about Lab Valley!
A little while ago, I shared a video of Mohawk with her cub "Teeny Tiny". They were in a water hole, and Teeny Tiny wanted to play. Since he doesn't have siblings, he turned to his mom. She enthusiastically participated. It was heart-warming to see.
Close to Lab Valley, I found a water hole that bears love. A mother bear brought her two cubs to cool off. One appeared to try to get her mom to play. Please check out the video to see what happened. It was different from any mother-cub interaction that I've seen before.
It's been a long time since the last Hachi update. Since then, we took an almost 3 week trip in our LabMobile with him and Shyla.
We finally realized that Hachi has a history of become very stressed during our trips. It's been hard to see that pattern because the trips have fairly long breaks between them. This time, we were ready to carefully manage him to avoid having him take out his anxiety on Shyla. We did things like making sure that the dogs were far apart when a stressor happened like a bicycle going by our campsite. Another example was keeping Hachi well under control when Shyla was retrieving balls from a lake. Although Hachi doesn't want to dive into the water to get balls, he realizes that balls are valuable objects and he can snark (snarl/bark) at Shyla due to wanting to take the ball that she just retrieved.
These issues have become so much better during our normal life at home that it's rare that Hachi will react to them. However, when you add the stress of being away from home, he reverts to his old ways.
The great news was that our management worked. There were very few (and very minor) incidents. Hachi seemed to relax into the trip. By the last day, we were parked next to a forest road, and ATVs started going by. Hachi didn't react to them at all. That showed us how far he'd come due to our counterconditioning every time one went by throughout the trip.
Hachi had some fun too. The Runner and I played with him in our campsite around sunset some evenings. He loves to run - and does so with amazing intensity. We love that we know of campsites that are far enough off the beaten path that even Hachi can do some off-leash running!
We are lucky to have Hachi in our life. Sometimes he acts like a punk but he's *our* punk. We love him.