Yesterday afternoon, I took the labraduo for a hike to let them stretch their legs before dark and to let me reach my rehabilitation walking quota for the day. We started with a practice recall for R but with a twist. Because K is still recovering from her gastrotomy, I don't want her to sprint at warp speed along side R. So, I kept K on leash with me, and we left R in a sit-stay. He didn't like the isolation AT ALL. After gently leading him back to his sit position a few times, he understood that the game was different from usual.
In the photo below, R sat all by his lonesome in the distance while K walked with me.
He did a terrific, high voltage, recall. And, as I bent down to greet him, K stuck her snout into my treat bag and chowed down. Everybody won!
We had a mellow hike, enjoying the quiet, aside from the whisper of the wind and the cawing of the ravens. It capped off a wonderful day where high energy and low pain made me a very happy patient.
When recovering from any major medical event, some days are up, like yesterday, and others are not, like today. The last thing my surgeon said before he discharged me from the hospital was to remember that healing is not like following an arrow from point A to point B but involves wild fluctuations. My favorite visualization is that recovering is like riding ocean waves, sometimes on the crest and sometimes being churned below the surf.
Today was somewhere in between those two extremes. I looked at my inspiring Kathleen Coy bobcat painting, and K and I headed out with a happy attitude for our morning walk. To all of you who conspired to surprise me with that painting, I'm not sure that you can imagine how much it has lifted my spirits.
K and I headed straight up a north-facing slope, through old crusty snow and dense lodgepole pine trees. We followed a path packed by hundreds of elk hooves. The herd passed within 20 yards of the lion's deer cache (the site where he killed the deer) from a few weeks ago. I guess that the elk aren't superstitious.
It was an easy climb, thanks to the work done by the single-file elk herd. Soon, we emerged into the dim sunlight on the top of the hill. We found an open area where the herd had bedded down, perhaps hiding during the daylight hours on a recent day.
The views from the spot were stupendous. I see why they chose it as their bedroom!
And, when I rotated my body a bit more (no neck twisting!), I saw another alpine view. These elk know where to bed down!
As soon as we hiked over the top of the ridge, the world changed. Golden grass and cacti covered the south facing slope. It's amazing how well K spots cacti and avoids them with ease.
I'm starting to allow K some short forays off leash, in open areas at times I think that she won't run too hard. She bucked like a filly when I released her and started exploring. We practiced a recall from nearby, and I broke into a happy giggle seeing her ears flop as she galloped toward me. My little girl is getting stronger, and I'm thrilled to see it!
From there, we climbed Hug Hill. No hike in that neck of the woods would be complete without a stop at our favorite spot. K led the way.
She stood regally on the tippy-top of the granite hill, right next to the limber pine that amazes me by thriving despite the gale winds that buffet it regularly in the winter.
Finally, because I couldn't resist her loving visage, I snapped one more photo of K. I used to think that K was the most photographed dog on the planet - that is, until I started reading other dog blogs!
We took an utterly novel route down from Hug Hill, and deep snow immediately mired us down. However, K seemed to know what I was looking for - some old lion tracks to follow. She found them.
We followed, tracking ourselves using a GPS so we can record our route on our topo maps. We didn't follow the tracks that we knew from yesterday went to the lion's second deer cache.
Instead, we followed the lion's sensible switch-backing route down a steep ravine. I was beginning to think that we shouldn't follow, even though the tracks were weeks old, because it looked like the lion was heading to new hunting grounds. Then, K became tense, muscles taut and nose in the air. Then, in a very rare occurrence in the forest, her body language morphed into a tentative and fearful pose.
I caught a shadow of her fear in the photo below but not every aspect. However, you can see that although she's staring down the slope, she's leaning backward, as if to say "Whoa, let's not go there".
I took her advice, backtracking and heading home. Sometimes dogs are much smarter than we are. At other times they're not, like the day that K gorged herself on the lion's freshly killed deer. But, for today, I decided to trust her judgment since something unknown had spooked her.
After our recent experiences. I'm more aware than ever that the spooky scent could have been from the fierce lion whose photos I've been working on daily to make into a documentary-type video. I've figured out based on his paw pad size that he is indeed a male. His largest paw pad measures about 2.5" across, which I've learned means that's he's one of the bigger males to be found in our forests. I thank him daily, as I edit his photos, for sparing K's life.