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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer explodes and dog behavior

We've returned to the familiar forests and mountains surrounding our home, enjoying observing the animals and plants that I know so well. Astonishment accompanied me as I scanned the area just after arriving home. I've never seen such an explosion of plant life. While the grass and plants sparsely littered the ground before we left, some grass now towers to my shoulders and a full mosaic of flowers colors the world. The wild roses have more blossoms than ever before.In our meadow, I can't see the dogs porpoising through the green sea until they're almost bowling me over at the end of a recall.
A plethora of flowers are in full song.While we were away, I expected that more wild animals than usual might have visited our territory but I was wrong. A brown-colored black bear sniffed under our bear-proof bird feeders one night and was photographed by our wildlife camera.A coyote visited a couple of times, likely hunting mice under the bird feeders. This fellow isn't our regular coyote visitor. He's mighty handsome!Since arriving home, K and I have explored the forests and meadows on our daily rides. Yesterday, we plunged into the forest shortly after sunrise. We climbed above the trees to Hug Hill to see the peaks still bathed in sunrise lavender. Lots of snow melted while we were away!Today, R joined us on our bike ride, spicing up our routine with his high voltage energy. That boy amazes me - his energy could power the entire state of Colorado! Here, he licks his chops while galloping at full fury on a recall.
I think that K enjoys having her insane little brother with us. His spirit helps her to break out of her ultra-responsible mode and act like a playful puppy. They chase each other through the pine trees and meadows, sometimes being more mischievous than I'd prefer. But, K normally worries too much so I think that R is good for her. This morning, he and K held an impromptu pose atop Hug Hill.
I observed interesting interactions between K and R during our vacation that strongly reinforced my conclusion that K has remained the head of the pack despite the upheaval caused by S's death. On one occasion, R curled up in the softest spot among the sleeping bags. K eyed him sternly without making a sound or even looking menacing. He promptly moved aside to let her lie in the lap of luxury.

While on vacation, I read the first half of Patricia McConnell's 'Tales of two species'. She points out that, in dog-dog interactions, the dog who remains still and stern receives the most respect. The frenzied dog who barks wildly, often with a high pitch, while nervously fidgeting or wriggling receives little respect. I realized that, in the past, when R has frazzled me with his crazy high energy behavior on our bike rides, I acted like an underconfident dog barking wildly at him as I repeatedly called him back to my side. So, today, I tried to act like a confident but almost silent leader. This approach made both me and R feel calmer, and the bike ride felt almost serene compared to some of our previous ones when R joined us.

Today, we wove our way through aspen groves with riots of flowering Columbines and Ninebark shrubs. K closed her eyes and looked like she reveled in the scent of Columbine. Columbines and Ninebark seem to like living side-by-side. I'm not certain what kind of Ninebark this is but my best guess is Rocky Mountain Ninebark (Physocarpus monogynus).
One cluster of Ninebark flowers had a jewel nectaring on it, a ladybug. Ladybugs have inundated our meadows and forests, bedecking almost every plant with their bright red spotted bodies. My guess is that our pluvial weather has allowed them to flourish.
I feel lucky to return home to a beautiful area that I love so much. Summer is in full cry here and I'm savoring every moment. At our high elevation, summer bursts to life and proceeds at a furious pace before cool weather resumes so be sure to get out and enjoy it!


  1. interesting observation regarding K & S, so best friend Lou (Lynda) has a wonderful way with dogs, mostly just body language, no voice....she always reminds me that i talk to my dogs too much!...and they get is so true...
    i took care of Trish McConnels Great Pyr. Tulip in critical care a couple yrs ago, Tulip has since passed, but Trish is a wonderful person....i love her style of animal behavior..
    once again your pictures and words are truly soothing and really should write....or do you? :)

  2. KB - I'm taking your advise! I rode 40 miles today on the bike in the wind - tired and happy tonight. Yesterday, a long hike. Tomorrow, I must spend some time inside getting ready for a weekend of Grandchildren. Can't believe it's mid-July already. Soon enough we'll have a frost...

  3. Heh - re: K taking the best resting spot, my S dog used to do that all the time. We called it "vulturing". He would just stand there, calmly, and the dog that was on his bed would start looking around sheepishly and then get up and leave.

  4. Patricia McConnell has helped me learn so much about how to interact with The Herd.

  5. I've been reading "For the Love of a Dog". Her observations and explanations are so interesting to read.

    What you said made me thing about all the yelling I do with Java because she just ignores me. Maybe I'll try a new tactic.

    She ended up being stung in the nose by a swarm of bees today that she dug up. Poor girl.


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