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Friday, November 6, 2009

Warmth reigns and dog bonds

Our world, on the Front Range of Colorado, is in the midst of a record-setting warm phase. For us at higher elevations, that means that much of our tremendous snowfall has melted. This morning at sunrise, it was 45F and the snow had vanished from around my elk skull. Compare it to yesterday's first photo where snow still engulfed the skull.
When we emerged from our house for a trail ride, the moon watched over us, glowing warmly in the dark blue and crystal clear sky.
The dwindling snowpack has a strong crust if I try to ride my Fatback over it early. My Fatback is ideal for deep snow with a crust or packed snow. It's not as great for ice or slush. For some reason that I can't fathom, studded tires don't exist for snow bikes.

This morning, I worked on a down-stay with the two pups next to my Fatback. As one friend said to me, the size of that rear tire makes the rider's rear end look tiny! So, I guess that the Fatback can be seen as a fashion accessory!Stays are the hardest training exercise for R, and he did well today. I managed to get a nice photo of him and his sister.
The dogs have obsessed over something up an aspen-choked slope from one of my favorite trails. Whenever we go near that spot, I do a series of recalls, continually pulling them out of the magnetic field that draws them up the hill. I wonder if a carcass lies up there but I don't plan to go find out. My friends keep saying that my curiosity is going to be the end of me someday! So, I've been fighting the strong urge to find out if a lion kill is cached up there.
Because the pups have been so rambunctious in the forest recently, I've worked even harder on recalls, practicing them daily. Today, I did one where I hid, and, because I was downwind of the trail, I confused the dogs. In the middle of the recall, the dogs veered in entirely the wrong direction, and you'll hear me do a few 'whoops' to help the dogs find me. I was starting to worry that they might find a bad distraction before finding me. When you can't see the dogs, you can follow their progress from the sounds of their collar bells. I'm lucky to live in a place where the forest is deserted enough that I can play this game.

Then, K looked plaintively into my eyes. A little while ago, I pointed out a post on another blog about people's hormonal responses to eye contact with their dogs. Both men's and women's oxytocin levels (a bonding hormone) increase after eye contact with their dogs. To my surprise, I just found another study (Miller, SC et al. Anthrozoos 22, 31-42) suggesting that, while women have strong surges in oxytocin after interacting with their dogs, men don't. Interestingly, neither study mentions the other one so no explanations for the discrepancy are offered.
After dropping off the dogs at home, I did a mostly trail ride, for the first time since our big storm. Parts of the trail were stupendous, melted down to dry dirt with mountain views. The ski area runs looked snowy!
Due to the warmth, some Ladybugs emerged, perhaps briefly, from hibernation. They crawled on a lichen-covered rock perched on a ridge. As I watched them, I realized that the lichens constitute major obstacles for them. The ladybugs often crawled around the lichens rather than clambering over the bumpier ones. The warmth must have heated up the ladybug muscles because they crawled at a fast pace!
I enjoyed the ridge, skirting a few bottomless snowdrifts but mostly riding a dry trail surrounded by brown dessicated grass and wildflowers.
A trio of deer watched me pass, and didn't flee, much to my surprise. Today is the last day of our third rifle season with one more season remaining. I'd think that these deer would be more skittish around orange-clad humans by now.
I loved my time with the pups and bathed in the beautiful warm air. I rode in short sleeves and, even then, felt a bit overheated. I bet that I won't feel that again for months! However, I still felt exhausted so I took it easy, stopping often to listen to the Chinook winds pummelling the Front Range and raising our temperatures to record levels. I love standing motionless in the forest while the sound of the wind and the caws of gray jays swirl around me.


  1. Once again, the first picture is just PAWESOME!

    The colours are incredible!

    As for the game of Dogs Come, well, Khyra would be in Utah by now!

    Thanks again for sharing your world!

  2. The change is truly amazing! I loved seeing the dogs trying to find you.

  3. Great pictures. I won't even try to pick a favorite!

    It really is a testament to your training the way the dogs scramble to get to you. They're so reliable!

  4. I'm going to have to try the hide and find exercise with Java around the house sometime. Might help build up some trust as I worry a lot when she's out of sight, even thought she's coming pretty well now.

  5. My thought while reading this was:

    What a perfect life for a pair of dogs!

    They are having so much doggy fun with you!


  6. Hi KB, Well - if fat tires make butts look smaller - I'm getting truck tires for my road bike! A Lady Bug - after all that snow? I am leaving Denver for Breck tomorrow, wondering if I'll find any snow still in my yard. I hope the Mt didn't lose all its snow. My Grand Daughter said that a lion was spotted yesterday at Bergen Elem. in Evergreen - they had to stay inside for afternoon recess.
    We biked through Red Rocks yesterday - mid70's and beautiful!

  7. Still can't get over those Fatbaks!!! 4in wide or so?
    The pups are beautiful and so lovely together!!
    Wondeful mountains...looks like some ski runs in the background....

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose and mom


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