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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quiet walk and dog toe nails

Rumor has it that a pack of wolves moved into Northern Colorado. After my heartbreaking experience seeing a slaughtered wild canine yesterday, I can't help but worry about a wolf pack's future. I hope that our great state can muster a reasonable spirit and find a path to re-establishing this beautiful species. We need our predators to have a balanced ecosystem, even if their presence causes humans fear. In the West, we've learned to live with mountain lions, and in fact, some people exult in their existence. I hope that the same spirit moves people to welcome wolves.

K and I headed out this morning with the goal of treading in new wild places where we'd never gone before. As we hurried along human-traveled trails, K exuded high energy.
While we hiked on trails, I practiced walking on slippery and uneven, but packed, trails without my neck brace. As I carried it with me, K decided to try it on. At first, she didn't seem to mind it.But then, her facial expression looked just like mine when I have to wear it - very uncomfortable. Don't worry, I took off right after this photo!
I walked a grand total of 1.5 miles this morning completely naked. Um, well, not completely naked, just without my neck brace. My routine is that I don't wear the brace when I'm on packed trails but then I tighten it down around my neck it when I head into uncharted territory where I can't see the rocks and downed trees below the snow. This routine will gradually lead to me never wearing the brace - but it will be a slow process.

As we fled the trails and plunged into the forest, I heard the yapping of our local dog pack and blindly hiked faster to disappear without a trace. To my surprise, I ended up on the same path as my kindred spirit followed a few years ago and marked with tiny flags to guide him on future adventures. I searched for the next flag, hoping to let him guide me through my hike, but many flags were submerged in snow. However, it seemed ironic that, out of the thousands of acres of wildlands surrounding our home, we each chose to walk the same path through the forest albeit separated by a few years.
As we followed our whims and K's nose, winding through the forest, the maze of animal trails amazed me yet again. The animals all use the same trails, packing them down, and making travel more efficient. We followed their paths for the same reason.
We found bobcat tracks crossing this path, and then bobcat fur stuck to the snow. I wonder if the bobcat wriggled on his back here? Or, if he simply lay down for a rest? I'll never know. In this old snow with a rough crust, tracking is difficult.
As we tromped through deep snow in an endless forest of pine trees, I caught a glimpse of our mountains. I love those peeks that seem to cast an alpine light on the deep dark recesses of the forest.
After an uneventful hike, I decided to head for the view point that K and I discovered the other day. We sat, side-by-side, on a boulder and gawked.
Then, in an upwelling wind carrying air from the canyon below us, K's body language told me that she'd caught the distant scent of the bear den. When she continually sniffed and stared in one direction, I asked my GPS to show me where the den was. Her nose aligned perfectly with the arrow on the GPS.
We're in a streak of warm weather, and I need a cold day to visit the den. I plan to replace the memory card and the batteries in the wildlife camera currently recording video by the den. And, I plan to add a second camera (also infrared) that will record still photos when the bears emerge from their cavern. I need a cold day for this den visit because my reading suggests that bears will be sleepier and less disturbed by my visit when it's wintery weather. It's rare for me to wish for cold weather at this time of year - but I'm wishing!

As a side note, R sustained a minor injury last weekend - a badly split toenail. Nail clipping is my specialty in our pack, and I'd slacked off since my surgery. So, his long nail split all the way up into the quick, and he cowered in pain. He ran on three legs, held up his sore paw when he sat, and acted miserable.

I'm including a video below because it's remarkable how much a simple training device called a MannersMinder has transformed nail-clipping sessions with R. This device releases treats either automatically at set intervals or when I hit a switch on a remote control. After I clipped his injured nail and the others, we put on boots to protect his split nail during a hike. I laughed and laughed at his crazy walking while he got used to the boots. I know... it's not nice to laugh but I can't help myself!


  1. We hope the wolves are given a fair chance -

    You are correct about the balance issue - too many lose sight of that -

    Loved the pics of K in your neck brace - the look on her face was precious!

    Poor R - and the magic treat dispenser was a good diversion!

  2. What a clever way to distract R from the nail clipping. Don't tell R, but we all laughed too:)

    Woos, Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara and Mom

  3. Ha ha ha ha ha! It was worth watching the whole video for his little goose step at the end! Poor R! What I want to know is where you got that amazing nail clipper. That thing looks serious. I have a feeling that part of our problem is that our nail clipper isn't strong and sharp enough. We do really feel for him, though! With Lilac's SLO, we go through a lot of broken nails and it's not fun!

    I hope the wolves do get a fair shake!

  4. Wow - wolves. I think they are such wonderful and misunderstood creatures. I hope they are able to live uninterrupted in your great state.

    I've been considering getting the Manners Minder for Marge for a while. I can think of several good uses for it. Was it expensive?

  5. Poor K's face with the brace on! As for K and the video, I learned at least two very useful things. Thank you for another wonderful post. And please wait for colder weather before visiting the den...

  6. Well done you - nail clipping is the one part of grooming I simply can't face.

  7. I will keep my paws crossed that the wolves are left alone to flourish and live their lives in peace!

    Not to laugh at your misery, R, but your walking in booties for the first time at the end of the video was hilarious! Sorry R, but you did look very funny! I am glad you got used to your booties, though, and could later join in the hike.

    K, love the second picture of you in your neck brace.


  8. the video is great! is that a light on the end of the clipper?! did you do this? you need to patent this! and i could also use a magnifier on the end too!! i laughed out loud when R was high steppin!

    do you think NE was shot in that spot? was there blood at the scene, or a trail leading to his final resting place? just curious....

    have a great weekend and so cool that you can walk a bit w/out your neck brace!!

  9. He loves his MM. Good work on the toenails. Ginko splits his pretty often, which is why I try to do his somewhat regularly. I did a better job teaching Lilly, so we take a tiny bit off each nail once a week ... I hope she'll never know that pain of a badly torn nail.

  10. Fingers crossed for the wolves. They're such majestic creatures. I got to see a video of a friend skiing with his two young daughters as a wolf pack ran by up slope from them. It was truly special.

    I like the thought of you and your kindred spirit following the same path years apart.

    Nail trimming... R did great with that MannersMinder. I wish I could come up with a distraction for Kona, but she honestly acts like I'm about to slice open her belly when the clippers come out.

    Oh R, that was some fancy boot-stepping!

  11. To all who are interested: When I bought the Mannersminder about 2 years ago, it was around $100.

    It doesn't work equally well for all dogs. K prefers being handed treats. So, for her nail clipping, we trade one treat for each nail clipped.

    For R, it works beautifully when people come to the door. I put it next to his bed, and as long as he stays on his bed, I keep pressing the remote control to give him treats. Interestingly, K ignores it and prefers to interact politely with the guests.

    So, I think that the bottom line is that some dogs love it and others aren't so excited about it. R is completely obsessed whenever it's in the room with him so it works beautifully for him.

  12. OH MY DAWG! MUST HAVE MANNERS MINDER! holy cow that thing is genius! thanks for posting this. i don't do loki's nails, the vet does for me, cuz he's nutty about his feet being touched. i know, i know, i should marker train it like i have about a million other of his whacked-out behaviors...but there are so many to do...and so little time. the vet works for me. i am going to try the dremel though and the manners minder. i'll have to find where to buy one now. must have it!

    hillarious R walking! too cute.

    and yes, hope the wolves have a chance. i mean, there are so many "dangerous to humans" creatures, that we don't go around killing. why should this be different? sigh.

  13. We do the treat for a nail clipped process and it seems to work well for us. I loved the stride in the boots. In WI we walked on suburban streets covered in ice and salt so boots were a necessity. The effect was always hilarious at the beginning of winter, but like R the girls quickly got used to it.

  14. WOW - that treat dispenser is indispensable! You could hire yourself out as a dog nail clipper, KB! My Golden had to wear boots all winter or she'd end up with sore paws when ice crystals lodged between her toes.


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