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Monday, November 16, 2009

Welcome winter!

Today marked a transition, from a grudging acknowledgement that winter is almost here to a happy welcome for its stunning beauty. The thermometer read 5°F as the sun rose in a fire of red and gold, transforming snow-laden pine trees into fiery-topped candles.
The dogs and I plunged into the crystal clear and frozen world. The azure sky highlighted the green pine boughs weighted down with snow pillows. The world seemed frozen into a stunning landscape. The scene felt like it might shatter, into a million tiny fragments, if we moved too fast or made too much noise.
As I fiddled with my camera to take some photos of the mountains, the dogs spontaneously sat next to each other. You probably have no idea what a rare event it is for R to decide to sit still while in the forest!
Cuter still, they turned to each other, and R gave K a kiss!
For new readers, you might be surprised to notice the electronic collars on both dogs. I use those collars for one very scary situation - when our coyote pack starts luring my dogs into a chase. Other dogs in our neighborhood who have fallen for this coyote trap have been seriously injured or killed.

I've worked very hard, using positive techniques, at training the duo not to chase coyotes, and I think that I may have succeeded. However, a few years ago, K came within a whisker of serious injury or death after chasing a lone coyote into a forest and emerging from the trees with a pack of coyotes behind her. I wrote a post about my soul-searching as I contemplated using these collars. I decided to use them because I felt that my dogs' lives were in danger, and I'd used every possible positive technique to train them to come when called around coyotes. I see the collars as a life-insurance policy - to be used only if my dog ignores my cues and is about to get in life-threatening trouble.

Indeed, yesterday afternoon, the dogs spotted coyotes in the meadow, went onto high alert, but they didn't chase. Based on that event and several others like it, I think that our positive training is working. However, because dogs have minds of their own, I can't be certain that they'll never fall for the coyote luring game again so my dogs wear the collars.

After photographing the dogs, I finally captured the crystalline mountains with K gazing at them.
After I dropped off my dogs at home, I headed out for a ride on our snow-packed roads, relying on my studded snow tires for traction. I headed down a gulch toward a favorite elk haunt and saw about half of the herd. Usually, they ignore me as I snap photos from a distance. But this herd vibrated with nervous energy and immediately started to amble slowly down the gulch - away from me. I took a little video that shows how the heard moves in a line, sometimes several elk abreast, but it's obvious that some elk are leaders and others are followers. My books say that the elder females usually lead but, in this case, the antlered males piloted the herd.

This half-herd included almost ten hulking males, one of whom outweighed the rest monumentally. I smiled, realizing that my antics on Saturday might have saved his life. Most hunters go for the biggest antlered male in the herd.
By serendipity, I caught a photo as he jumped a barbed wire fence used to corral a lone miniature horse who appears to enjoy the company of the elk.
Then, I started video recording the herd as they leaped over the fence one-by-one. Sorry about the jiggly video - I was working in a hurry. Notice how the smaller elk, probably yearlings who are just learning about fences, sometimes paused before jumping, perhaps apprehensive about the height of the fence.

Aside from the elk, I saw lots of tracks mostly from deer and coyotes. Surprisingly, a coyote trotted down our driveway but our wildlife cameras indicate that he didn't visit the birdfeeders. I'm starting to wonder if a nocturnal rodent, coyote prey, hangs out under our feeders in the summer but then hibernates in the winter. I'm not sure which rodent that might be. However, there's no doubt that the coyotes congregate under our birdfeeders almost every night all spring, summer, and fall. But now, they've stopped. I wonder why.

As I rolled home, happy and tired, I caught two more views of the glittering mountains. One was through a pine forest.
The other view rooted me in one spot, gazing with amazement. I finally tore myself away and headed home. Welcome winter!


  1. Oh, dear. I had a good laugh over R kissing K. Thanks for that. You can just hear him thinking, "I ruv you."

    Your elk video is awesome. A neighbor alerted me on Facebook (rather than calling) that we had a HUGE buck in our pasture yesterday ... so we missed it.

  2. I am so happy that you take me along on these excursions. One of the best parts of my day!


    Jo (and Stella)

  3. That khyss picture is precious!

    Once again, always a very interesting and informative post!

    Khyra and Her Mom

  4. today's photos looked exceptionally blue. in the good sense of the word.

    it seems like your blues took a winter vacation today.

  5. That kiss pic needs to be framed - it is priceless. And oh what a marvelous journey we had with you today - just beautiful. Thanks for all of it.

    woos, the OP Pack

  6. Your posts are quickly becoming my favorites. The natural beauty you have at your disposal is remarkable.

    I will never judge you for using electronic collars. Ours has saved Sola on three occasions, and now when she wears it she will obey any command without any need to even turn it on.

  7. The video of those elk jumping the fence is amazing!

    You don't need to defend your use of the e-collars to anyone! You are obviously a very knowledgeable, responsible, and experienced dog owner, and it is also obvious that the use of the collar is for your dogs' safety, not some "easy way out" the way many less-informed people use them.

  8. Amazing photos and videos...
    You certainly live in a beautiful spot...
    Hugs to the puppers!

  9. Your world was glittering today, too - we had minus 4 this AM. The doggy kisses - very cute! What awesome video and pics of the elk herd! I was interested in what you had to say about "my" foxes - yes, they are much too "tame". I know someone in the neighborhood is feeding them - they actually come rather than spook when they see me - then, when they don't get a hand-out, they drift away.

    Have a great trip - are you taking your bikes? We're going to Salt Lake, Park City and then, hopefully to a Nat'l Park in S UT (if the weather holds). We're taking snowshoes and hikers. If you see 2 "elders' in a red van - it's us!

  10. Don't you love it when you manage to catch those doggie moments? I miss so many of them. I know quite a few hunters that would love to have run into that elk herd. I think some of the deer around here don't see our fence or don't make it over because they break the wires a lot.

    I always put the training collar on when we have to go out in the dark or if we'll be out for a prolonged time. If I can't see or hear Java, the beeper on the collar always brings her in. I don't think they are cruel if you use them correctly, which means you shouldn't have to actually shock them.


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