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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Listen to your dog

Yesterday's bobcat video included a brief section when the bobcat rubbed his/her face on the scent post boulder (at about the 37 second point in the video). I'd never seen a bobcat do this before, and I have a number of photos of cats at this scent post. Well, guess what!!!! I learned today that female bobcats do exactly this behavior when they are on the verge of estrus or are actually in estrus. By rubbing their faces on scent post rocks, they advertise their status to males. So, my video captured a mating ritual in a totally natural environment. I hope to be able to document more of it, as other bobcats check her scent in the coming weeks. Moreover, maybe, just maybe, she'll bring kittens to the scent post later. But, that momentous occasion is months away. Gestation averages 63 days (identical to dogs and coyotes, to my surprise), and then the kittens usually don't start following mom on her daily jaunts for 2-3 months. So, the soonest that we could see kittens there is summer.

Here's one of my favorite photos ever taken at this scent post.
This morning, K and I started our daily hike through a dark forest with snow fluttering down onto us. I started with a thud to my step, feeling like the snow was crazy glue slowing me down. I was feeling a little sad and empty. These surgery recoveries are so hard that it's impossible not to have blue days. K had a spring in her step that made me smile despite my underlying mood.
We headed straight up to Hug Hill, and K beat me to the summit. Can you pick her out as she watched my plodding progress?
We looked around a little but the clouds curtained the mountains so a slate gray sky and some frost covered pine trees was the backdrop for a photo of K.
Then, I hiked down the west side of the hill and suddenly realized that the jingle of K's bell wasn't behind me. I looked back up, and she sat resolutely at the top.
In my memory, she's only ever done this once before, on a dark day soon after S died. On that day, she sat until I returned for a hug. On that day back in early summer, I listened to her. She knew what I needed better than I did.

Today, I hiked back up the hill to her. We sat together, hugged, giggled, and enjoyed the moment. Then, I set the self-timer on the camera and took some photos. They're all very silly but this one is my favorite.
Back when I had lumbar fusion surgery, I taught K the trick of gently 'climbing' up the front of my body, using my knees, jacket, and finally shoulders as her paw holds. Today, to protect my neck, her final paw holds were my hands held by my shoulders (and I had my neck brace on to protect me). Once she'd climbed up, she showered me in kisses. I almost collapsed in giggles. My girl knows how to make me laugh!

You can also see the 'grizzly bear' can of pepper spray that I always carry on my hip in the photo. Many commentors ask if I'm afraid of the animals in our forest. I have a healthy respect for them, and the can of pepper spray plus K are my defenses.

After our silly interlude on Hug Hill, my mood had lifted. This time, K followed when I descended the west side of the hill. I'd promised myself that I'd follow 'real' trails today but an unexplored animal trail caught my curiosity. It was wide and trampled. Obviously, many large paws or hooves had created it - but last night's snow covered all details. We reached a narrow opening that the animals had slipped through. Sure enough, they'd left fur samples on the trees lining the trail. I'm guessing that it was the long black neck fur of elk but I couldn't be sure.
Then, as K explored slightly ahead of me, I noticed a bare patch on a dead pine tree.
The patch had a pattern of furrows that looked like abstract art.
I've read that invading beetles leave these furrows as they bore their way through the cambium when the tree is still alive and has bark guarding its inner nutrients. Although it's sad that the beetles killed the tree, the labyrinth of furrows was as beautiful as human-created art.
Next, our animal trail took us up to a ridge that we visited the other day. A sprawling and isolated meadow spread out below us. K stared fixedly down into the meadow.
Can you see the reflection of the scene in her eye? Click on the photo to see a close-up of the mirrored meadow on the sheen of her eye.
K's keen but silent interest focused on the elk who grazed below us. They've been eating, sleeping, and relaxing in this meadow for close to a week.
We stood among massive boulders, almost invisible to them and downwind of them. I had the impression that the elk didn't notice us. Most lay still, resting in the daytime warmth.
But then, the peaceful scene was transformed. A dog, who lives in a house a fair distance away, began barking furiously. First, one elk lifted his front end and then heaved his weight fully onto all four hooves. Using this laborious-looking motion, the elk stood one-by-one, until nearly the entire herd was on its feet. They stared intensely toward the barking dog.
I decided that K and I should 'disappear' behind the wall of boulders between us and the elk just in case we were less invisible than I thought. Using jumble of huge boulders to create a secret passage out of sight of the cloven-hoofed herd, we sneaked away to avoid adding one more stress for the elk.

We headed home via trails but K had worked her magic on my spirit. After I listened to her, stopping to play on Hug Hill, my mood brightened and I enjoyed wandering in the woods, learning more every day about the workings of nature. In the photo below, K is reminding me not to take life too seriously - have fun instead!
K encouraged me to wriggle on my back in the snow but I decided that my spine wasn't ready for that activity! However, the good news is that my leg pain is decreasing daily with no driving or other new low back stresses. I'm accepting that I need to minimize my time behind the wheel for now. That's disappointing but I can be happy even if my world is usually limited to walking distance around my house. After all, I have an intriguing and amazing natural world buzzing all around me - and I get the honor of exploring it!

Just as an aside, it's taking longer than expected to weave together my training videos so they'll be coming in the next few days.


  1. How cool!

    We might get to see some 'khytties' as Khyra would say!

    What great shots of K!

    The tree trunk 'art' was incredible too!

    Thanks again for the continuing lesson about Nature!

  2. We so love that K was able to brighten your day - that is just wonderful. We have missed so many of your beautiful posts - life is very hectic here with the addition of little Ciara. But we promise we will catch up on our reading even if we don't always comment. Thanks for your comments about Ciara - you are so encouraging.

    Have a great weekend.

    Woos, Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  3. K seems like an old soul to me. She definitely seems very in tune to your moods! I always like pictures of her, but that one of her eye is super cool! I've tried to take one like that with no luck so far. I'm glad she was able to cheer you up!

    I know that limiting yourself on the driving has to be pretty tough. I'm betting it helps your overall recovery to be faster, though! Maybe you need a Lexus with those fancy, heated bucket-style seats.

  4. You and K have certainly lifted my spirits tonight! First the pic of K in the snow filled evergreen was wonderful. Then the eye picture of K was just great. The one of the two of you cuddling and having a few laughs together. All good news stuff. . .

    Cheers and hugs,
    Jo and Stella

  5. Great post! Dogs are so intuned to our moods and feelings. It's wonderful that K stopped to cheer you up. That picture of K's eye with the reflection in it is AMAZING! I just had to keep going back to it and click on it. WOW.
    And the Bobcat is gorgeous.

    Thanks for the wonderful visit to the mountains!

  6. When I saw the title, I thought something bad had happened while you were out. I'm relieved to find that that wasn't the case! It seems you had another magical day in the forest. I especially love that new bobcat picture, and will hope to see bobcat kittens come the springtime captured on one of your cams!

  7. Hey there KB

    That "Eye" photo is simply awesome...probably one of your best photos ever! I just LOVE it! I also (as always) love the photos with you and your doggies.

    We'll hold thumbs for the prospect of kittens too.

    Its good to see you looking so well. Do look after yourself and be patient with your recovery. Keep the chin up and the spirits high...we love you!


  8. Great photos. An elk herd. How amazing.

  9. wow, wonderful photos and seeing you and K together made me smile!! she is so in tune to you and you to really is a beautiful thing!
    look forward to the training videos...:)

  10. Like I've said - paradise!

    Those beetles that you are talking about are so horrendous that once they enter a forest they can kill every ash tree - all of them. They are the Emerald Ash Borer. I quote:

    A new threat to Michigan’s native flora has arrived. In summer 2002, the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) was discovered in southeast Michigan. Native to Asia, this species is responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties.

    The threat to Michigan's Ash trees is so severe that you can receive a $1000.00 fine if you are caught bringing in ANY wood from lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula where we live.

    Now, back to our comments☺ I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be able to trek through the snow and see what you see. Yes, we have snow and yes, I live in the UP of Michigan, but the terrain is fairly flat and I would have to drive miles and miles to get to woodlands where it felt as remote as what you share with us.

    Again, I come to your blog for my daily dash of serenity. Thank you so much. And, happy to see that you are healing.

  11. I love the photo of you and K! I was feeling a bit down today and forced myself to go skiing with Java. We pulled off to the side and into the deep snow to allow some distance between us and a woman pushing one of those jogging strollers down a hill with 2 toddlers in it. The things you run into on a multi-use trail! Java took the opportunity to roll in the snow. It was hilarious some of the moves she made! I'm so glad I went out with her. It made me feel so much better. I'm glad you are feeling some relief from the leg pain.

  12. Wait a minute! Didn't you say "Always listen to your dog"? Well, I suggest you try to do what K asked you to. Worst case scenario the ice will not only take down the inflammation but it will also make you so numb you won't feel the pain for a bit.

  13. Fabulous photos here, KB - I love the eye shot, but the Bobcat and the elk are awesome, too!

  14. Oh my god, that bobcat is gorgeous! we had some before we got our dogs and fenced off acreage around the house. they'd stare at me from the pasture into the house. wild.

    sigh. that K is a keeper! is k for keeper? LOL


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