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Friday, October 2, 2009

Canines at home and in the wild

Our two dogs have renewed their playful relationship over the past few days in sync with K's burgeoning good health.In the month prior to K's acute pancreatitis, she'd growl softly at R when he solicited play. Now, she's an enthusiastic frolicker, rarely turning down a play invitation. In the photo below taken yesterday, her shaved abdomen is obvious - it was shaved for the ultrasound that showed pancreatitis.In a post during the month before K became obviously ill, I mentioned that she'd "grabbed" my hand with her mouth when I firmly held her by her waist. I was shocked by the feeling of her teeth on my hand. But, as I thought about it at the time, I started wondering if she'd blindly reacted to pain caused by me grasping her abdomen.

To search for sore spots, I palpated her hind legs, spine, and finally her abdomen. Every time I pressed softly on her abdomen, she'd tense every muscle in the region, preventing me from feeling anything but strong muscles. I thought about calling the vet because this 'splinting' behavior usually signals pain. However, I decided against it because I thought that I was being paranoid. Now, my observation tells me and the vet that K had a 'smoldering' case of pancreatitis for at least a month before she became acutely ill. That explains why she didn't want to roughhouse with her brother, R. The good news is that her current enthusiasm for wrestling probably means that she is feeling good!

Today, I had clearance from my dentist to go for an 'easy' ride in the morning despite the ache and swollen face that he'd left behind when he wrestled my wisdom teeth out of my mouth yesterday. Two furry companions sprinted around me at warp speed. I was the only one 'taking it easy'.
We ascended, with me spinning my pedals easily, up to Hug Hill. After yesterday's tumultuous weather that completely veiled the Divide in clouds, I wondered what we'd see. We saw mountains resplendent in a dusting of snow. The mountains always feel so huge and immutable, reassuringly standing to our west every single day. Yet, they change, sometimes dramatically, from one day to the next. Today, they'd donned their sparkling snowy cloaks.
While I lingered on our hill, the dogs wandered off the peak to the west. I called them and both quadrupeds galloped in a blur up to me. K is peeking between R's front legs in the photo.
R, always the prankster, decided not to stop and poked his nose into the camera, nearly bowling me over. The picture below is the penultimate photo, just before the entire screen went black with his fur pressed against lens. I was glad he didn't accidentally ram into my jaw or I might've screamed.After enjoying the view, we rolled down the granite path and wended along a slope to my favorite aspen groves. Yesterday's winds had ripped many leaves off the branches. Yesterday, I referred to them as 'Chinook' winds. Abbey asked what that term means. I'd always heard 'chinook' in reference to winds that swept down from the lofty heights of the Divide, pummeling the foothills and plains with high speed gusts. However, I just learned that, to be a chinook wind, it must be a downslope wind that warms the air in foothills and plains. Another term, 'Bora' wind refers to a downslope wind that cools the foothills and plains. Based on the sudden frigid air yesterday, I'm guessing that we actually experienced Bora winds.

Whichever type it was, the wind thinned the yellow plumage of the trees!
Here's K running ahead of me in the same grove two days ago.
Today, the leaves on the ground created a yellow glow that seemed to emanate upward, enveloping all of us in its surreal glow.
We headed home soon so I could drink more smoothies and let my mouth heal. When I arrived home, I checked our wildlife camera, and I saw that a coyote (or perhaps two) have visited the area under our bearproof birdfeeding station recently.
This coyote's fur has thickened, looking plush in readiness for winter's frigid weather. The black spot on the tip of his tail adds a handsome flourish to his coat. We suspect that the coyotes hunt for mice under our birdfeeders but that they also eat the meager birdseed scattered on the ground. Coyotes regularly eat non-meat foods like berries, mushrooms, and seeds. In contrast, felines never eat anything but meat. The scat of bobcats and mountain lions contains nothing but fur and bones.
Our coyotes are western coyotes, and have lived here, adapting to the influx of humans, for millenia. In contrast, eastern coyotes have migrated from the Great Plains to the eastern seaboard of the U.S. over the past 90 years. Astonishingly, Eastern Coyotes are bigger, behave differently, and hunt larger prey than western coyotes, suggesting that something happened to change them during their eastward migration.

A recent study found that eastern coyotes arose from a hybridization between western coyotes and wolves. Some eastern coyotes migrated eastward via a northern route that meandered through the Great Lakes region. These coyotes mated with the wolves who they encountered along the way, producing a vigorous hybrid with an amalgam of coyote and wolf traits. This hybrid has now found a foothold in the eastern U.S.

Nature's ingenuity and flexibility astounds me. The notion that, in the blink of an eye in terms of evolutionary time, a species like a coyote can undergo such a metamorphosis and then flourish in a new environment is truly amazing.

Nature tries to teach me lessons every day about flexibility and adaptation. I'm listening and perhaps learning.


  1. Another great day!

    What great news to read about K too!

    The pikhs are all pawesome but of khourse the blakhk fur face is one of the best!

    Tank woo fur sharing the khoyote pikhs AND info!

    PeeEssWoo: I got to go to the dog park today so I got to run off my leash and had SOOOO much fun!

  2. That picture of her peeking through R's legs is classic. The big goofy black face close-up is a hoot too. I'm glad K feels like playing again, and I'm sure you are correct about that instance earlier.

    I cannot believe you rode today. As I recall, I spent days curled up after my wisdom teeth. Ouch!

  3. Glad woman and dog are both feeling better.

    I remember learning about Chinook winds when I was a little girl and read about them in one of the "Little House" books. I loved the sound of the word and was fascinated by the concept.

    Great photographs of the dogs and the mountains.

  4. They look great! K is looking so happy and full of life. And, these pictures really capture R's goofy personality.

  5. The photo of R against the backdrop of the mountains is phenomenal. Glad that the pancreatitis is under control.

  6. Your photos are always to breathtaking. Oh, my - pancreatitis. An idea of the devil, if you ask me. I lost my Starr to acute pancreatitis in less than 18 hours at the tender age of three. That was give years ago and I can still hear my guttural moaning when I found out she had died.

  7. So much fun watching K strengthen and play. And R, well what can you say. We love a prankster!

  8. Can empathize with the wisdom teeth thing. I had 3 removed and looked like I'd been in a boxing match. It was kind of embarrassing. Enjoyed the photos of the dogs running and running and romping outdoors.

  9. Yes, the low temperatures and the wind have changed the aspens quickly in Breckenridge, too. We're in Denver now and here the trees are still in fall colors. The dogs look happy and health - hope you're feeling well.


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