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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The state of affairs

I'm going to take a break from even trying to use the internet until we get a new system. Our current one is completely unworkable (I haven't been able to upload a post in a couple of weeks), and I end up frustrated beyond words when I try to use it. Well, maybe I use a few unpublishable words!

K is still dealing with her kidney infection with little bumps and bends in the road.
I feel fairly confident that she's going to be okay in the long run but it's probably a long road ahead of us to cure her kidneys of infection. She'll be on antibiotics for at least 8 weeks. I don't really have a good picture of how long it will be until she feels like herself again.
She and I will keep taking our little tiny jaunts together, wandering in the woods.
And, I'll have the chance to spend some time with R, even as a mountain biking buddy every now and then (when his busy schedule permits it).
He's a smiling barrel of energy!

There's been a drama underway observed by my wildlife cameras. The doe and her two fawns seem to be alive and well. However, a mountain lion has passed one of my cameras (near the doe and fawns) four times in the past two days (I can't upload any of the great footage due to my flaky connection) so I know that he has cached a carcass somewhere closeby. Seeing him making regular forays past my camera with hours of my visits has set my hair on end when I've checked it in an obscure gulch overgrown with the green bounty of summer.

The last time that I had a good internet connection (last week in the city), I uploaded a cute video of the doe and her fawns. You can watch it here or at Youtube.
Do not worry about us if this blog is quiet for an extended period. I hope that, when I return, I'll have a good and consistent internet connection that lets me post regularly and visit your blogs!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My internet has not worked all day but I seem to have a brief window right now when I have a connection. First of all, thank you so much for all of your good wishes. We can feel your positive thoughts all the way here in Colorado!

K seems about the same as yesterday, which I'd say is good news. She's certainly no worse and is tolerating our poking her with needles to hydrate her beautifully. After we give her fluids, she looks like a linebacker with shoulder pads because her "camelbak" of fluids sits under her skin across her shoulders while her body absorbs it. You can't see it in the photo below.
I miss having K by my side exploring the forest and meadows near us but I'm hoping that she'll be back soon to enjoy the summer beauty with me!
Here is K's Columbine for today. I've decided that these delicate but tough beauties having healing powers!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This one is for K

Last week, K seemed like she was finally bouncing back from the series of UTIs that have hounded her since April. She ran ahead of us, frolicking, on our rides and hikes.
She never seemed to slow down.
Until yesterday when things went south pretty fast. First, her fears escalated. Then, R started sniffing around her hind end a lot. It's indelicate to say so but R is always the first to diagnose a problem with K's urinary tract. If he starts sniffing, we know that K needs to go to the vet.

Unfortunately, yesterday's tests showed that K doesn't have a simple UTI. Rather, she has a kidney infection, with an inflamed and impaired kidney making her feel awful. She was so dehydrated that she landed in the Vet ER last night after I noticed her lethargy, tacky gums, and very slow capillary refill time. She's home now but only with fierce warnings from our vet to watch her very closely. Usually, vets automatically hospitalize dogs with kidney infections.

We have to give her subcutaneous fluids twice a day, give her antibiotics, and let her rest. We're hoping that this works and that we don't have to hospitalize her because she can be such a fearful dog. We're awaiting the results of a urine culture so that we can find the best antibiotic to kill the nasty bacteria.

She came home from the hospital wearing their trademark purple bandana.
And, when I looked in her eyes, I saw the fight in her heart. She's going to be OK, I think.
For each of my dogs over the years, I've come to associate one wildflower with them. For K, that flower is the Columbine because we so often center our summer mountain bike rides around seeing as many of these delicate gems as possible. I love the sight of K loping through an aspen grove with a floor of Columbines.

This one is for K.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Leaping Bobcat

I've been spoiled over the past weeks of endless sunshine and comfortably warm air. I've rolled out on my mountain bike each morning in shorts and a jersey without a worry about the weather turning nasty.

Yesterday, it was obvious that change was on the way starting with the ominous clouds billowing around the lofty peaks behind K in this photo.
Last night, torrential rains started, pounding on our metal roof like a million woodpeckers announcing their territory. The sound continued through the night. When I woke up, it was 36°F and raining - perfect hypothermia weather.

I found many ways to procrastinate about starting my mountain bike ride - switching petals between bikes, installing new cleats on my gore-tex riding shoes - my creativity knew no bounds. It was a very rare occasion when procrastination actually helped. The temperature had broken 40°F and the rain had dwindled to a smattering of drops by the time that K and I rolled out the door. She and I did a short ride together before I headed out on my own.

During my solo ride, I saw sun, clouds, torrential rain, and finally sun again. I had forgotten how difficult it is to slog through gloppy mud. My ride took approximately an hour longer than usual for the route, and I was knackered at the end. However, I have to admit that I had a blast. I love seeing the forests and meadows under all sorts of conditions - including overcast skies with rain. And, the wildflowers.... they're stunning with water droplets hanging from them. I hope to share a few photos soon.

I checked some wildlife cameras while I was on my ride, and I captured heart-melting cute video of the doe and her *two* fawns yesterday. I can't upload it due to my terrible internet connection but I hope to soon!

On the wildlife front, this weekend, we witnessed an amazing feat by a bobcat just outside our windows. Below, you can see a photo of a bird house that the squirrels have commandeered. We've decided to let them have it because none of our efforts to deter them have worked - so it's now a very active squirrel house with the rodents coming and going in a bustle. The squirrel house is about 20' off the ground.
As I was pecking away at my keyboard, I heard the Runner call, "Come quick. There's a bobcat walking down the driveway!". I sprinted, grabbing my camera on the way. By the time I arrived at the window with a view, the bobcat was up in the tree, hanging from the squirrel house. The Runner says that the bobcat leaped vertically about 2/3 of the way up to the squirrel house and then clung to the tree before climbing the last few feet. Sadly, I didn't get a photo of the bobcat in the tree.

Then, the bobcat either accidentally or purposefully, let go of the squirrel house and fell to the ground. Like the cat that he is, he landed on his feet. He stood still for a long moment after landing with his bobbed tail twitching back and forth. Then, the bobcat seemed to zero in on me and Runner standing inside the house watching him. We received a long probing gaze.
With that, the bobcat moved down our driveway and into the cover of forest. He walked briskly and with purpose but never broke out of a walk.
Sometimes I find it amusing that I put wildlife cameras out in the forest to capture interesting behavior by our wild animals yet some of the most fascinating events happen right outside my house. I've never seen a bobcat in a tree before. I'd always wondered how they descend from trees - headfirst or tail-first? I'm still not sure that I know the answer to that last question because the bobcat's sudden descent might have been accidental.

But, one thing that I do know is that cats can jump/fall safely from very high in trees. If I'm ever faced with a mountain lion in a tree again, I'll follow my instincts and hightail it away from the area. Years ago, during a mountain bike ride, K and I were descending from Hug Hill when we came around a curve to find a mountain lion in front of us. Before I could react, K sprinted straight at him, barking ferociously. Because K is still alive, you know that her strategy worked. In fact, the lion went straight up a Lodgepole Pine tree. When I told the story to a mountain lion expert, he said that I would have been safe to peruse the lion after he was treed. After watching the bobcat leap/fall to the ground this weekend, I'm not so sure that it would be safe. I'm glad that K and I fled from the mountain lion in the tree.

That expert also asked if K was available for training as a "lion dog" (K was the perfect age - about 1 year old - for starting training). Apparently, few dogs naturally have the reaction to seeing a lion that K did - and the ones that do turn out to be awesome at treeing mountain lions. Scientists use these dogs so that they can dart a treed lion with a tranquilizer and put a GPS collar on it. I politely told him that K wasn't available for that kind of work. I think that you all know the reasons.

A big reason was that life is already too short - especially a dog's life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The lushness of summer

I've been having breakfast with the Flycatcher couple every morning recently. They've just started incubating eggs on a nest tray under our deck, and the male keeps a close eye on me when I'm on the deck.
After breakfast, K and I headed out for a mountain bike ride. I was overjoyed to see a Columbine blooming in an aspen grove. I honestly didn't know if we'd visit this oasis in the aspen grove together again when she had the bone infection in her paw. We made it!
A little later, she stood triumphant among wildflowers on a lookout point.
You can see the clouds building behind K. They grew during my solo ride, and the wind shifted uneasily around me, bringing cooler air from the Divide toward me. It felt like big storms were homing in on us.
The storms grew quickly, and you can see the looming clouds behind the gorgeous flower ("Bistort", Bistorta bistortoides) that I saw near the end of my ride.
When I arrived home, I checked a memory card that I'd picked up from a wildlife camera. It showed that, on the last day that I checked the camera, a bear sauntered past it just 10 minutes after I departed! I wonder if he watched me while I fiddled with the camera!

I don't recognize this bear but I wished that he'd shown his chest so that I could check for a white blaze. The young bears who were in the den that I monitored two winters ago had white blazes on their chests. This bear looks small and young to me.
We finished our day with a hike through the meadow with stunning blue skies over the wildflower-studded meadow.
For those who are curious, the above photo is the real deal. I didn't fiddle with the blue sky in Photoshop. By using a "neutral density graduated filter" that has a dark half and clear half that I just purchased, I've finally been able to capture landscape photos that are exposed correctly for both the bright sky and the world below it. I wish that I'd learned about this filter a long time ago. It lets me show the lushness of summer with the endless sky above it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweet summertime

You may remember that R badly tore a toenail - so badly that the vet surgically removed the nail, leaving a bare nailbed. Soon thereafter, a nasty infection took hold, despite the fact that he was taking antibiotics. We switched antibiotics, and R's toenail is looking much better. He wears a boot when he runs outside to protect his exposed nailbed but is back to his romping ways!
The caveat to the good news has been that his face has suddenly become salt and pepper. White hairs are forming a mask around his eyes. Even his eyelashes are turning white! This transformation started suddenly within a day of him beginning one of the antibiotics. The strong antibiotics might have caused the new fur that's currently filling in his summer coat to be white. The photo below was taken just as the process was starting (I don't have a more recent one uploaded yet).

If you look closely, you might be able to see that his formerly totally jet black face is sprinkled with white fur, especially below his eyes. We elected to continue the antibiotics despite the fact that they might have been the culprit. Preventing another toe amputation in our pack is much more important than retaining black fur! There's a remote chance that the fur will fill in black again after his next shed in the fall because R is only 3 years old.

K and I been having a glorious time mountain biking on the trails.
She is full of happiness and enthusiasm. We're a lucky pair that we both love our forest so much!
K is happy when we're rolling along non-stop but she's also happy to "cover my back" while I take photos of wildflowers.
While we searched for Fairy Slippers to sample their sweet scent as suggested by Barb, we found a violet, a rarity around here.
I've written recently about K's fears, which seem a bit better over the past two days. However, I started thinking about my irrational fears. I have a couple of "tough" spots on the trails that I'm scared to try to ride because I've crashed at each of them previously. I know that I'm capable of clearing them but, until last week, I always chickened out as I approached them. As mountain bikers go, I'm particularly afraid of crashing due to my spinal fusions and the continuing deterioration of my discs.

After writing about K's fears, I decided that I needed to tackle my own fears. For the past week, I've cleaned those sections of trail like they were never scary obstacles for me! I figured that, if I was going to ask K to tackle her fears, I'd better tackle my purely irrational fears.

We also love our sunset hikes... with no scary obstacles to try to clear on a bike!
It's an amazing world, especially in the sweet summertime.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beautiful yet finite

I pedaled out into chilly air to start my mountain bike ride with K by my side. We silently glided through a shady pine forest and emerged into an endless verdant green aspen grove. Soon, the floor of this grove will be covered in Columbines. I stopped to search for a bloom but found only buds that were ready to burst.
After winding through the aspens, we ended our ride by visiting my favorite spot with a view of the craggy and snowy high mountains. Today, those mountains looked angry with clouds hugging their contours. Above them, the sky beamed blue down on sweet K.
Later, after I'd left K at home, I pedaled to a secret spot where the first Columbine blooms every year. It's in the middle of an aspen grove next to the almost unrecognizable crumbled foundation of an old mining cabin. There was my jewel, a fully open Columbine.
As I smelled it and reveled in its beauty, a flicker couple chirped back and forth. They have a nest hole in this aspen grove, and they're in the midst of incubating their eggs. As I soaked up this bucolic scene, I thought of our friend Hamlet, who crossed the Bridge today, after bringing his family so much love and happiness during his time on Earth. Life is so beautiful yet so finite.

Later in my ride, I checked a wildlife camera. The bear family had visited - yet another glimpse of the beauty and wonder of this finite life.

First, mama bear (a.k.a. "Mabel" in our family) and her obedient cub walked side-by-side past the camera. The independent cub lagged behind.
It turns out that the independent cub is also inquisitive. He noticed my camera and posed for it while he looked it over.
I'm sure that Mabel noticed my camera but my cameras have literally taken thousands of pictures of her (most of them were outside her den in early 2010). She must believe that cameras on trees with KB scent around them are normal!

I'm trying to come up with names for these cubs... It seems like their strikingly different personalities should be inspiration but I'm having trouble. Any ideas?

I've been surprised not to have captured any photos of this sow's last pair of cubs since their family breakup last spring. Perhaps both of those cubs were males and have left the area to find their own territories. They both had distinctive white patches on their chests (rare around here) so I think that I'd recognize them if I saw them.

The world goes round and round, and we are but specks in the larger universe. But, that universe is miraculous and beautiful. I think that it's worth soaking up every tiny bit of its beauty.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

After sunset and moonrise - wildlife drama in the darkness

Yesterday evening, the Duo and I were on the trails hiking.
The world was serene.
The sun began to sink to the horizon, and K glowed in its rays.
A cloud bank advancing over our world turned deep orange.
It transformed the meadow's colors.
Then, we spotted the moon rising, on the other side of the sky from the cloud bank.
Later that night, a wildlife camera captured video of a doe and the first fawns of the season. The video is at the bottom of the post, and it shows the tiny and delicate fawns beautifully.

About two hours after the fawns passed that camera, a mountain lion started advancing toward their locale. My camera captured him heading that way.
Then, it captured him again still homing in on their position.
I don't know the outcome. I do know that I saw a doe and one fawn this morning in the same locale as the camera during my mountain bike ride. I could have easily missed seeing a second fawn - so I don't place much weight on the fact that I saw only one fawn.

I also saw a black bear, a young and small one, nearby. That bear fled from me so fast that all that I saw was the soles of his hind paws and his glossy black fur. I thought that he might start somersaulting through the green grass as he rumbled and tumbled away from me. I do know that black bears prey on fawns. That mother deer and her offspring have dangerous times ahead of them.

You can watch the video at Youtube or here.

I am still visiting my friend's house for internet access so I apologize that I haven't been visiting or commenting on your blogs. I hope that we can solve our internet problems soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011