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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bobcat spirit and 'mountain-crazy'

After spending my hike yesterday searching for signs of a bobcat, a handsome feline dropped by our territory yesterday evening. He or she must have known that I needed an infusion of the bobcat spirit.
Just before the bobcat's visit, we saw our local dog seven-pack and their human while we hiked our trails around sunset. A storm sat on the western horizon, painting the sunset a dusky blue.
The local dog pack has a new leader, a young GSD, who likes our dogs much more than the rest of the pack. The GSD ran ahead and met us, all wiggles and happiness. He immediately sensed R's playful soul and tried to entice him to play. The pack, as a whole, scares R. Consequently, he looked afraid of the GSD who was doing frenzied play bows.
Their pack is always spread out over a large area so I never capture full feeling of insane pandemonium in a single photo. But, they are seven crazy dogs, and all the dogs in the neighborhood have a healthy fear of them.

Yesterday, as we chatted with our neighbor, the other dogs wandered away, and R began to look interested in playing with the GSD.
Soon, R and the GSD started running around, and I thought that a full-fledged play session was about to erupt. Just as they started to play, the other dogs noticed and burst into frantic high-pitched alarm barking. In response to his barking pack, the GSD's body language became assertive while R began to shrink. Notice how the GSD was leaning forward and looming over R. K became worried about her little brother at that instant and started sneaking toward them.
As the cacauphony of barking escalated, R planted himself under his favorite human's legs, and K protectively stood over him. The GSD started licking K's chin in what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture.
Then, the GSD backed off, and the rest of our chat was uneventful in terms of dog behavior.

That story reminds me of a zany interaction that I had with this group soon after my neck surgery. About two weeks post-surgery, I was out for my daily walk but I wanted to avoid the pack. I was afraid that a dog might knock me over or that a fight might erupt, and I'd be unable to even try to help K. I heard the pack coming from a distance but I had just turned onto a side trail that they never use. So, I thought that K and I had veered off their radar.

I was wrong. The dogs chased us down, encircling me and a cowering K as they barked like crazy. These dogs have never physically hurt my dogs but they are scary en masse. Then, to my surprise, the human turned onto the side trail following her dogs to me. She ran hard, shouting between loud breaths that she was SO glad to see me.

Once she arrived, she said that she'd been carrying tiny scissors in her pocket for days, hoping to see me on the trails. I was mystified. Tiny scissors - were they a gift? Or, something to help with my neck? But, as I tried to figure out the mystery, I also tried to monitor the dog pack and K - which takes about 99% of my concentration. I always fear that K will somehow provoke an attack and the whole pack will pile on. It's never happened but it always feels like it might happen.

Then, my friendly neighbor explained herself. She had stitches in her back and didn't want to drive to town to get them removed. She thought that I'd be the perfect person to remove them. I was the 'chosen' one because I don't get squeamish about things like stitches.

So, she wanted me to take out her stitches at that instant, in the middle of the trail, with eight dogs having tense interactions all around us. And, to top it off, she wanted me to try to do it while wearing my rigid neck brace that made it impossible for me to bend and look at her back. Oh, and I forgot, it was 15°F - and she planned to expose her back for long enough for me to take out her stitches. I was flummoxed - really and truly floored by this unprecedented request.

Now, this story might help you to understand why I refer to us mountain residents as "crazy". I think that we all become zanier with each passing year spent living in the midst of the forest. I didn't remove her stitches that day... to my mind, it was simply impossible under the circumstances. But, since my neighbor thought that it was a perfectly normal request, I keep wondering how crazy *I* have become over the past decade!

Hmm, as I think about it, stumbling upon hibernating bears and then voluntarily returning to the den while wearing a rigid plastic neck collar soon after major surgery qualifies me as mountain-crazy! And, setting up a wildlife camera next to a deer that was just killed by a mountain lion definitely puts me in the mountain-crazy category.

To try to stave off the mountain-craziness, K and I started today with what I hoped would be a short sunrise hike but I could barely see the sun through storm clouds enveloping our world.
The skies did turn light gray, and K loved frolicking in the snow.
But, by afternoon, blizzard-like weather hit us like a sledge-hammer. Believe it or not, that's K in the middle of the photo - although she looks more like a black bear than like a chocolate labrador!
With it snowing like crazy on top of the fresh 10" of powder that we already have, we may be tromping the forest on snow shoes tomorrow. Now, that's mountain-crazy - a woman in a rigid plastic neck brace snowshoeing through a foot of snow! But, no one will even blink an eye - it's normal behavior for a crazy mountain person!


  1. Sounds like quite the normal place to hang out!

    I love the GSD's playbow! I'm even ready to play!

    Of course, Khyra was happy to see to Bob/Bobbie!

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your'craziness' with us!

  2. I give you credit! I would be absolutely livid if a large pack of dogs came up to me like that uninvited. Are there laws in your area about that kind of thing? I know that in NYC, even in places where off-leash is allowed, dogs are technically not supposed to run up to anyone else.

    I'm the total opposite when it comes to you and stitches - I get SO squeamish and even sometimes feel faint when I see that kind of stuff. It's one of my main reasons for not pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

  3. Hee hee! Having visited Colorado a couple of times, I have a pretty good idea about what "mountain crazy" means!

    It sounds to me like the woman who claims the crazy pack is the same sort of oblivious dog owner or parent that we all hate running into. It wouldn't matter how many dogs she had, they'd probably still be bat crazy! Her kids are probably the ones dismantling the restaurant while she chats on with someone, completely unaware that her little darlings are burning down the place. I'd have been tempted to do a few things with those scissors that I probably shouldn't type here!

    For what it's worth, we enjoy your brand of "mountain crazy" a great deal! As long as you don't get hurt, we're all about learning about the forest through you!

  4. Oh, she is seriously crazy, every body knows you need tweezers AND scissors to remove stitches! lol!

    A pack of seven loose dogs would terrify me. What nerve to allow them to run!

    Do you go to the Docs tomorrow? I am wishing you the very best if that might be so.


    Jo and Stella

  5. ha! my vote: crazy! but what a wonderful crazy to be!!! we are all crazy in our own right!
    so did you ever remove her sutures?
    i know what you mean about large packs of little look can set off a fight...and it is frightening esp. if you are incapacitated....
    wow, you are getting dumped on!!!
    love the cat!
    hope your weekend is filled with craziness!!!

  6. Ha ha - that story is hilarious. I laughed out loud! You must have been simultaneously bewildered and a little flattered to be the designated un-stitcher. I guess I can see it... if I had stitches and tiny little scissors, I might let you take them out. But not until it gets above 40F out - I may be crazy, but I'm apparently not mountain crazy!

  7. So, did I miss something? What happened to the stitches. Did she take them off with her teeth next? Great way of breaking down the encounter. I felt for poor R. It looks though that in a short time period they may become real furiends with GSD.

  8. KB, Every time I visit your blog you make me smile, laugh and just enjoy your area. Thank you so much for this. I love hearing what you and your babies are up to. Today we went up to Estes and it was glorious-so warm but not much wildlife in the park. Give your pups a big hug from me and Reggie. Have a wonderful weekend.

  9. That story is a hoot, but I can totally see it happening around here too.

    And, Sam is right. You handle running in that pack and its effects on R and K MUCH better than I ever would.

  10. KB, love love the crazy stitches story! Though far from "mountain crazy" here in the lowlands, I know a fair share of your kind=) They happen to be some of my favorite people, who I share the fondest/funniest memories with.

    Your pack does sound intimidating. Kona and I ran into our pack of 6 today (with three humans) and they are all model canines. We're truly lucky there! Today, their owners saw us coming, called their dogs and asked them all for a sit/down stay. They all complied and we walked by without a problem! I wish all handlers were like this trio!

    Fun to see the bobcat again!

  11. Sam and others: One thing that might be hard to visualize about our area is the huge and unvisited tracts of open space. The land surrounding us is National Forest, and I've never seen a ranger there in a decade. In fact, they'd have to drive to a trailhead that's 4 miles up the road, and then hike a windy 5-6 miles to gain access to our trails. The reason is that all the land along the road is private, and the forest sits behind it.

    The bottom line is that there are almost no enforceable rules. The people who live in an area make the de facto rules - and this woman has not listened to any of the many people who have expressed concern about her dog pack. Fortunately, my dogs are good at defusing aggression from others so we've had no violent encounters. And, the woman is actually very nice and a good neighbor. So, it's a bizarre mixture of neighbor relations and dog behavior...

  12. I forgot to answer one question - I never did take out her stitches. She said that she was going to compete in a horse show later that day and she was "sure" that one of the other riders would remove them for her :)

  13. Chuckling - mountain crazy is a great description of it. A gentleman died here recently who I had never heard of, but he made himself at home near "Cataloochee", the "abandoned" town in the Great Smoky Mountain Park where the Elk live (abandoned is actually forced removal by the NPS when the park was created). He had a house outside of the park that had no electricity or water. Friends tried to give him firewood (he did not like fires) and insulated his bedroom (he never slept in it because he missed the air). And he lived this way for decades. I live beside Cataloochee Ranch, so you can see how close I live, yet never heard of him.

  14. Mountain crazy or not - we love following your adventures. But Mom says there is no way she wants to come upon a pack of seven while out on a walk anywhere:)

    Woos, Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  15. Some of us ARE a little CRAZY - I like it like that!

  16. Crazy... unique... eccentric... it's all good. Makes life so much more interesting. Who wants to be "normal"?


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