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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Unsettled and sad forest ride

K and I rolled out the door early, to find an unsettled world, with weather and odd forest findings whirling around us. We climbed into a gale force headwind to our favorite lookout, to find a cloudy and windy world with spates of rain showers flying through our area. Although most mountains had vanished behind the clouds, a rainbow arced in their place.
When I looked to the south, I gazed at towering and massive faraway peak, covered in snow.
K and I didn't linger for long in the cold wind. We headed down into the forest for some fun. Almost right away, after I dropped off a boulder awkwardly banging my back wheel on the ground, I realized that I had a flat tire. I was so glad that K guarded me while I changed it. I always feel very vulnerable to predators while I hunch over my bike, totally focused on fixing it.
After that tire change, we rolled to another viewpoint, and the rainbow dominated the sky. Both ends illuminated the forests that they penetrated but the top of the arc was missing.
As we rolled further, I was surprised to see the two meanest dogs in the area, off-leash and hiking toward us. Fortunately, K knows to avoid these dogs, and we turned abruptly to take a different route. I don't know what caused it but these two Border Collies simply attack other dogs, unprovoked, when they meet them on the trails. K has been attacked more than once and is happy to flee when she spots them.

We whooshed through bare aspen groves that bear no semblance to the fiery orange worlds that they were two weeks ago.Suddenly, K's nose hit the ground, and she zeroed in on a leg skeleton. In the photo below, I'd just told her to 'leave it', and she complied beautifully.
I started taking photos, operating on the assumption that it was a deer or elk hind limb.
I must have been 90% asleep at this point because it is beyond obvious that it's NOT from a deer but rather from a very small, perhaps miniature, horse. The hoof tipped off this sleepy rider. The bottom of the hoof is shown in the photo below. For a side view, click on the photo above and zoom in on the hoof.
The tip-off is that a horse hoof is all one big structure. In fact, through evolution, horses and other equines have retained only the third digit in the front and rear feet - that corresponds to our middle finger. The hoof is equivalent to our fingernail but it's dramatically expanded so that horses can walk on the tip of their one remaining toe.

Contrast the horse hoof to the elk hoof below. The elk hoof has two toes. Through evolution, all artiodactyls, including deer and elk, have retained the third and fourth digits (our middle and ring fingers). They walk on the tips of those toes.
The horse hoof was only about 1.5" long from the back to front - an extremely small horse hoof. The femur, or thigh bone, measured less than a foot long. Those measurements told me that this leg came from a very small horse, perhaps a miniature horse. I suppose it could've been a young horse but the robustness of the bones made me think that the horse was mature.

I ended up feeling sad, realizing that I'd probably just found the leg of someone's pet horse. A couple of years ago, a mountain lion killed a miniature horse nearby. The lion moved onto local dogs and, a stupid dog owner shot the lion when he attacked a puppy left out overnight on a chain. Leaving the dog out on a chain in the heart of mountain lion territory was a sin that exceeds my imagination.

Based on my find today, I wonder if another miniature horse went missing sometime in the past couple of months. This leg was fresh and stinky so I don't think that it was very old.

With a heavy heart, K and I rolled toward home, finding along the way that a tree had fallen on our path since we passed under it about 30 minutes earlier. Whew, a close call...

After I dropped K at home, I went exploring, working to connect two trails that I like. This time, for a rare surprise, I was successful! It was fun following my instincts and seeing that someone else had built a trail where I thought that one should exist. It was sweet and tacky singletrack that cut off a couple of miles of dirt road riding.
To answer a few questions from the comments yesterday, my jaw still hurts but it's getting better, albeit very very slowly. If you ever have a tooth extracted, do everything in your power to avoid dry socket! Not only does it hurt but you have to visit the dentist every 24-48 hours until it gets better.

Also, K's health tests didn't come back clean - she still has casts in her urine, at the same low concentration as last week. The composition of the casts suggests that she has minor kidney damage, probably from a disease process. I was so disappointed to hear that news. In any case, I'm feeling a bit worried about her, as you can all imagine. K is only 6 years old - her health shouldn't be failing already.

For the moment, we'll continue to seize the day, enjoying each chance to play together. K is what I call a 'soul dog' for me - she's touched the core of my soul and brought me incredible happiness. What a dog!


  1. Mother Nature can certainly be harsh, but when she intersects with man, the results can be particularly tough.

    Sorry to hear about K's test results, but hopefully time will improve.

  2. Well, when I opened your post, I thought you had returned to the scene of yesterday's lion sighting. Glad you're still giving it some distance, especially if there was a kill. The rainbow is awesome - especially since I've had rain/sleet/snow and gray skies in my mountains all day! Glad your tooth is healing. Sorry to hear about K's complications.

  3. Poor horse. That's definitely a horse hoof.. I've seen my fair share of them.

    Fingers crossed for K. What stinky news about the casts in her urine. At least, if there is any damage, it is minor, so you caught it early and can continue to monitor it. K must be a saint to put up with all of these tests. What a good girl.

  4. The Herd pawed it well!

    We'll repeat their sentiments!


  5. Greetings again from Alaska. Sad post. Poor little horse. Sorry about K. I hope she can bounce back! I have nothing good to say for a pet "owner" to leave an animal outside tethered to a chain thus leading to the unfortunate demise of another gorgeous creature. Shameful. Finally, I almost never walk with my pack without a cane to use on unleashed dogs who wish to attack. Some pet owners are so clueless.

  6. Finding things like that sends my mind reeling with thoughts about the animal and it's owners. Too emotional about those things. Today I found a finch standing next to it's dead mate that had just been hit by a car. The poor thing looked so confused. I encouraged the living bird to fly before it got hit too. Haunted my thoughts afterwards.

  7. You live in heaven. As a mountain biker and a dog lover I drool with jealousy every time I visit.

  8. the leg does look like a fresh will be interesting if you hear of a missing the lesson on the different hoove types on the ungulates...
    seize the day! i love the advice...
    so sorry about your jaw...i don't even like getting my teeth cleaned! yikes! "dry socket"...

  9. KB, It's hard for me to say for sure what it is about the summer that freaks Marge out. She's been here since June 2008, so we've gone through two summers together.

    I know that this summer, the main problem she was facing was the ridiculous amount of fireworks in my area. She heard them on walks, in the yard, in the house, even at places when we were not home. Unfortunately, the phobia began to generalize a bit to some degree. That, coupled with me sadness/frustration that every walk we took became a nightmarish experience for her, wasn't too good for her psyche.

    The fact that more people are out and that the temperature is warmer (she doesn't like to go out as much when it's hot) does play a role, too.

  10. That is so sad about the mini-horse. I spent the better part of a day earlier this week sobbing about a wildlife thing around here, so I completely understand.

    I'm so sorry to hear about K's kidney tests. I believe the research shows that a proper died gives dogs 3 more years (on average). And, as I recall from Penelope's kidney disease, dogs can go relatively well on as little as 25% kidney function.

    I'll hope, along with others, that this is just a temporary kidney blip.

    Big hugs!


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