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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One good thing

The only advantage to the inexorable shift of sunset earlier into the day is that I see many more of them. Lately, R and I have been combining training and sunset viewing. The other evening, sunset viewing took over for a while.

Storms over the Continental Divide painted a tumultuous picture just after the sun dipped below the mountains.
R and I hung out at the sunset lookout point, doing training while we waited to see how the sky would morph next.
Surprise! It darkened!
We started hurrying toward home, realizing that it would be inky black by the time we meandered into our clearing. One last glance over my shoulder before dropping down into the meadow awed me.
This morning, K and I started our day with a short shuffle through an aspen grove. I caught her just as a sneeze possessed her.
Almost immediately, she recomposed herself into her normal dignified pose.
Then, I broke the news to her that we were turning back toward home. She stared searchingly into my eyes to see if she could change my mind. Those eyes...
Just before we arrived home, she tried again to convince me to stroll further. Sorry, girl. You can see in the photo that many of our aspen leaves have fluttered to the ground, creating a soft cushion of gold.
When I arrived home, I had the good fortune of R joining me for a very short mountain bike ride. He led the way into our golden forest.
We climbed up to Hug Hill and stopped for some games. I've been working intensively on "stays" with R because they teach him self control. I've discovered that his stays, whether standing or lying down, are much stronger if I have him target an object with his front paws. In this case, I had him target a stump and do a stand-stay while I set up the camera auto-timer. Then, I ran over, hoping to get him to give me eye contact. You can see that he did a perfect stay but the eye contact didn't happen in time for the camera shutter! You can also see that R's antics make me laugh time after time.
Next, I had him stand-stay with his paws on a rock. Any object will do in this game.
R recently had a setback in his obsessive-compulsive behavioral training. We had visitors at the house, including an intense Border Collie mix. Indeed, during some frantic play, the R and the visiting dog had a kerfuffle which we had to pull apart - so it was a stressful visit. I've always noticed that R drinks and drinks and drinks *while* dogs visit. However, I never before noticed that the drinking continues for days afterwards. My vet and others have asked me to watch for the "triggers" for R's water drinking binges. I think that I've found one.

I'm keeping up with our program of mentally stimulating R by doing lots of training - both basic obedience and games. Today, I had R do one more stay on Hug Hill before whooshing downhill, through crunchy aspen leaves that smelled like autumn.
A silver lining to all of the dog health travails we've had lately is that R and I have grown much closer. I think that I understand him better. Under all the frenetic energy lies a dog who desperately wants to please us. He's also incredibly smart - and perhaps more trainable than any dog who I've known before. He just needs guidance so he can channel his energy toward things that don't hurt him like drinking gallons of water can do.

Today, while I rode with R, I noticed that we were following the path that a bobcat had taken last night. Scrapes and scats marked the route about every quarter mile or so. I stopped to examine one and, suddenly, I thought that R had disappeared. I started to freak out, and then I realized that he'd assumed K's post, guarding my back. He was sitting directly behind me, surveying the half of the world that I couldn't see. His gesture, perhaps learned by watching K or perhaps an instinct, touched my heart. This boy and I have a long friendship ahead of us.

After noticing all of the bobcat scats, I feverishly hoped that the bobcat had posed for one of my trail cameras. Alas, he triggered my slowest camera (the first one I ever purchased before I'd discovered while scraping the dirt to mark his territory but darted out of the frame before the picture was taken. All that I had to show on my wildlife cameras was about eight does sprinting through a clearing (completely unrelated to the bobcat's patrol, I'm sure). Here's one doe partially hidden behind a tree taken by my very best camera that is so fast that it never misses a thing, not even a sprinting deer.
After my uplifting ride with R, I headed out for a long ride on my own. I felt happier than I have in at least a week.
We're in the midst of the longest Indian Summer that I've ever seen here. I had a hot and sunny ride. Despite the fire danger posed by the hot and dry weather, I reveled in the warmth, knowing that bone-chilling weather will be here soon. In fact, by this date last year, it had already snowed twice.

Amazingly, some new blossoms have just emerged in the few wet spots in the forest. These precious purple clovers seemed to leap out of the landscape today as I mountain biked through the forest- a small sign of new life in the midst of a forest that is going to sleep.
In every part of my life, contrasts keep striking me these days. Noticing a new blossom in the autumn forest. Desperately missing K on my bike rides but finding a new bond with R. Finding the one good thing out of each day can change my perspective dramatically.


  1. Finding good with the slightly less than good!

    Great pics!

    Sorry about R's set back but at least it is helping with figuring it out!

  2. I knew you and R would end up being closer friends during this trial! I had to laugh at R's antics, too.

    I thought of you earlier today. I don't know if you follow Life With Dogs, but today he did another series of beautiful pictures. One of them had two labs sitting on two tree stumps, and it really made me think of your K and R!

  3. How quickly the sun goes down this time of year. I hope you won't go back home in the dark again. Those lovely photographs aren't worth the risk!

    Glad R's training is going well despite the little setback. And I'm so glad you had such a good day.

  4. Sometimes I start to feel like a broken record here - beautiful photos, gorgeous pups, such thought-filled words - but I always go away feeling better:)

  5. I know its right for her, but I always feel sad for K when its time for her to go home and rest her foot. She wants to be with you! No, not R but her! I hope she heals fast and can get out with you and the bike soon. You could write a kid's book about this!

    I love purple clover!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  6. How I miss being able to see sunrises and sunsets! At least I get to see them in your gorgeous photos. I'm glad you're able to see the positive side of the not so positives. You help me to keep trying to do the same.

  7. Amazing how quickly the light changes after the autumn equinox. The gravitational pull of winter now has us in its spell. Before long the furnace will be switched on.

  8. Having six dogs, I find myself bonding stronger with some than others. It has been in the last year as some of the chaos has settled down that I've been taking more time with the other dogs and finding a unique bond with them that I didn't have the chance to find. It is truly amazing how when given they are given the chance to really show themselves and we get the chance to know them a little better.

  9. I'll have to tell Mom about the object stay trick. I can think of lots of things I could work with on that :) Thanks for the idea :)

    K does a fantastic sneeze face LOL

  10. R is such a joyful boy! I'm sure he loves spending time with you! lovely pictures! very interesting OCD he has...
    poor K...those pics just pull at my heartstrings...time will pass and soon she will get the cast off....
    you're such a good dog mom!

  11. K that looks like a mighty big Sneeze! Do you have allergies?

  12. I read a study at some point (unfortunately I can't find it right now) that showed that adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones in dogs remained elevated for quite a while after a stressful event, which I guess you are seeing with R. Anyway, that study really made me think about agility trials and possible health effects of trialing too much. That's when I made my rule about Mondays being a day of rest for the dogs, whether they want one or not!

  13. I agree that this is the longest Indian Summer I've ever experienced in Colorado, and it's delightful! I'm glad you're able to find reasons to smile during all you're having to wade through these days. The pictures, as always, are incredible! And it's fun watching you and R develop a strengthened bond!


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