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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Le Tour de Cats

Since her surgeries, K hasn't been able to mountain bike with me so our entire routine has changed. I now start each day by hiking with K, gradually going further as she gets stronger.
I find it very hard to gauge how fast to increase her activity because she can't tell me how she feels. As a hard-headed Labrador, she doesn't limp or show pain unless it reaches the pain level of a fractured bone.
So, we plateaued our hiking over this past week, trying to be conservative even though that's not my style. When I'm the recovering patient, I break every rule that the doctors give me! I'm trying not to be so impetuous with K.

You can even still see K's IV fur patch on her right forelimb, a reminder that my girl is still healing.
K seems to be telling me that she's ready to go further. We'll try extending her walking a little tomorrow.
The most obvious issue that she's still struggling with is tender paw pads, caused by 10 weeks in casts and bandages, that respond to barefoot walking by crazily overproducing spots of thick leather on her paw pads. It's called hyperkeratosis. We're treating it by soaking her paw pads in black tea twice a day - the tannins in the tea help toughen the pads. We also keep her paw booted during most of our hikes. Every day, I take her boot off for a brief period at the end of each hike. We've reached about 3 minutes of barefoot walking twice a day after a week of puppy steps forward.
Today, after I hiked with K, I headed out on what I must call "Le Tour de Cats" in retrospect. I spent the first part of my mountain bike ride on snow covered trails following in the tracks of multiple bobcats. I'd ride along next to one set of tracks for 5-10 minutes, enjoying observing the cat's behavior as he investigated boulders and bushes next to the path. Then, I'd roll over a section of unbroken snow for 5-10 minutes before I picked up the next series of bobcat tracks.

When we have fresh snow, I realize that our forest teems with bobcats! Below, a bobcat walked up a trail and paused, leaning back onto his hocks briefly, even leaving a tail mark in the snow. He probably smelled, heard, or saw something that caught his attention. Then, he continued his dainty walk onward and upward.
A little later, I started heading east, in the direction of less snow. I used a connector trail that I rode yesterday. Below, you can see my tire tracks from yesterday, and next to them, mountain lion tracks! The mountain lion followed my tracks for almost a mile. He never stepped right in the tire tracks but wove across them from one side to the other, acting as if stepping on the tracks was foreboden.
These were definitely mountain lion tracks rather than bobcat tracks because they measured about 3" long and wide. They were at least twice the size of the dainty bobcat tracks that I'd been following earlier. The step length from one lion track to the next was about 20" - a bobcat would have taken about twice as many short steps to cover the same distance. However, these tracks weren't from a huge mountain lion - it was either a female or a young male.

This mountain lion was heading in the direction of the forest behind my house either last night or early this morning. I hope that s/he passes one of my wildlife cameras!

I also realized that the lion tracks originated in a gully where I'd heard magpies and ravens calling raucously almost daily over the past week. I bet that the remnants of a carcass lie in that gully... but I chose not to investigate today. See, contrary to what you might think, I have some common sense.

The rest of my ride was peaceful and relaxing under blue skies with cloud formations whooshing past me in our never-ending winter winds. Although I know that we *need* real winter weather sometime soon to nourish the natural world, I'm reveling in riding "summertime only" trails despite the approaching winter solstice!


  1. It is to laugh:

    See, contrary to what you might think, I have some common sense.

    Thanks for the grin - and Khyra says thanks for Le Tour De Khats!

  2. We've got your winter weather right here! It's been snowing since before sunrise, and doesn't seem inclined to stop anytime soon. If you show up with a shovel, you can have as much as you'd like!

    K looks like she's more than happy to be extending the walks! I'm glad that things have been mild enough there for you that she can get out gradually to improve her stamina.

    Those cats sure seem to be fearless! I'm glad you do have some common sense! lol

  3. Say hi to the cats for us. Just don't say hi in person, do it from a distance please.

    Mogley G. Retriever

  4. Like Houndstooth - we have your winter weather. And we love K's reverse poodle haircut!

  5. Beautiful pictures! I still find it amazing that you are surrounded by mountain lions, bobcats, and bears. WOW!

    Your pal, Pip

  6. K's paws will come with your tender care. Patience is definitely a virtue and it's showing. Tks for the 'tea' never know when it'll have to be used. The bobcat tracks are really telling a story...amazing!

  7. K
    You make the most excellent raspberries. Hmmm... following bears into their dens, mountain lion tracks, and riding the harsh winters... everyone does that! Pawsonally I've learned much more about nature reading your blog than anywhere else.


    PS- do u follow Lily the bear. They were able to set up a den cam this year

  8. I too have a hard time not breaking the rules and six hard headed dogs who think the same thing. lol They are always ready to go further than they should. I try my best to keep them contained when they are hurt. I can imagine how tough it is, because it drives me up the wall, not having things back to normal. You've both been through a hell of a battle. Let's hope a little breaking of rules will pay off.

  9. K makes my heart skip beats as she stands on those balanced rocks..
    How beautiful she is.
    The tracks draw me,,, I know I would be following them too.. until at least I get into trouble.
    The adrenalin rush must be hard to contain.
    Each new day, is another day towards healing,,, inner healing,,, for peace,, and for endurance,,
    next time you go,, take us with you,,,,, in thought at least.
    See the blue sky for us,,,
    Breathe the crisp air,,,,
    we offer thanks

  10. Sometimes I wish our dogs weren't so stoic. It does make it difficult to know what is going on with them. Dexter's breeder warned us specifically about how labs will not let pain deter them from their favorite activities.

    Mango Momma

  11. I is a doxie but we has a tendency to be a little stubborn when it comes to pain too...when Albert ruptured his disc, mum didn't realize it until he was paralyzed da next day. He never showed signs of pain.
    K looks so happy and confident in her element. She is just incredibly beautifuls!


  12. i love...contrary to what you might think, i do have some common sense! love the tracks in the snow!
    K is looking really good and soon will be back to her old self and able to romp and run with vigor along side you.

  13. Hi Y'all!

    Wow! What beautiful shots of K! I'd love to stand beside her and join her as she surveys her domain.

    We're in the "higher elevations" of the Eastern US mountains and enduring blizzard conditions right now. You can't even see where Momma and I were out before daylight.

    Y'all take care now,

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  14. I also struggle with finading the balance on how far to push Haylie when she wants to go further with her hip displasia. Haylie is stubborn and bull headed when it comes to pain like K.

    Beautiful weather... we were in shorts and flip flops this past weekend in Texas!

  15. Love those shots of K - everywhere; boulders etc. - she looks blissful! I never heard of toughening pads with tea - we'll try that, for S and A are going to be... in the snow in a couple of weeks! So glad of your decision not to investigate a possible carcass hee hee!
    Sammie and Avalon

  16. One of the most difficult traits the sibes have - very stoic, very hard to detect pain. But somehow they do manage to let us know when enough is enough.

    We have the cold here for sure, a teensy weensy bit of snow, and some fairly happy pups.

    Wonder how long it will be before you do take a peek in that gully:)

  17. I'm that K is working her way slowly to what she used to be able to do, she seems to be a patient girl. I love seeing all your cat picutres, hopefully your camera show some good mountain lion shots.

  18. I'm glad to hear that K's progressing, but it is frustrating to not know how far how much to push on. The slower the better, I suppose - safest bet.
    I laughed out loud at your common sense comment about the carcass! There are times I wonder if I'd be as brave as you with bears and mountain lions running about. I think you have a good understanding and the knowledge of what it takes to live alongside these amazing creatures and keep safe!

  19. I love the photo of K where you show the height of the boulder. Beautiful!


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