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Thursday, May 31, 2012

From the desert to the mountains

K has a swollen and sore leg today, together with some lung symptoms, which is part of what I saw coming on yesterday. She probably micro-fractured her leg in the spot where the bone tumor was. My understanding is that there's a chance that a micro-fracture will heal, and there's a chance that the lung symptoms are just a very early sign that will wane. In any case, we're managing her pain, and she seems pretty happy today - happier than yesterday.

I must admit that, in contrast to K, I'm sad today. I feel pretty sure that the days of romping are over. But, perhaps I'm wrong. K has surprised me with her incredible resilience in the past.

To escape my inner turmoil, I was just remembering where we were two weeks ago. We started out in the red rock desert near Moab. K glowed in the sunlight on our first evening there.
She gave me a funny look along with a play bow.
The next morning, I rode my bike up high to an incredible viewpoint that was several thousand feet above our campsite. It was nice and cool at this spot because of the high elevation. This is a spot that K used to visit with me on mountain bike rides but it was too far for her to run this time. I missed her company as I gazed over the valley.
And, I could see across the valley that the snowy mountains sat beckoning us.
As I descended to camp, I noticed cacti blooming.
They were gorgeous. But, the weather in camp was not wonderful. Our thermometer read 97 degrees! Usually, the desert is still relatively cool in May. Not this year.

So, we fled to the mountains that I'd seen on my ride. Soon, we were camped in the middle of a grove of towering aspen trees at about 9000' elevation. This was the view from the LabMobile.
K played in the midst of the grove, happy to be back in her element - the high mountains. Those are some huge aspen trees.
Her eyes glittered in the sunshine. Her eyes always melt me.
And, she found snow banks to play in. What a contrast from that morning when we'd endured 97 degrees on the desert floor!
We ended up staying in the La Sal mountains for a few days until a cold front came through Utah. Then, we returned to the desert. We repeated this switch, desert-mountain-desert, several times during the trip. The west is amazing with the range of deserts, prairies, and mountains all within short distances of each other. As a girl growing up in the eastern part of the US, I never dreamed that our country included such extremes and such vast wide open spaces.

Now, K and I are going for a short wander over to the meadow behind our house. I bet that she'll find a way to make me smile!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Glowing dogs and bear mating season

I'm not sure that our girl is feeling great today... but hopefully it's just a glitch and she'll rebound. To soothe my scared feelings, I looked at a few of the photos from our trip when she glowed with happiness. This photo shows K standing in a splash of sun filtering through the trees at sunset of one day that we spent in the Utah mountains.
A little later in the trip, we endured a sandstorm in the desert that lasted almost an entire day. The wind died down just at sunset, and I captured this photo of our Duo. You can even see the red sand that was embedded in R's fur from the sand storm, even though we spent most of the day holed up in our van. Whew - we were very happy when that desert storm ended.
I'll tell you more about the trip tomorrow. First, I want to catch you up on this exciting time of year in terms of wildlife activity.

While we were away, the bears were in a mating season frenzy here at home. I thought that I'd chronicle the daily life of one poor bear whammy tree that was repeatedly marked by bears. This behavior is a way of scent-marking and attracting mates. You'll see that the season hasn't ended. The last photo was from this morning. All the photos were taken by my trail camera, a motion activated camera posted in the woods. Check out if you don't know about these amazing cameras.

I realize that there are a lot of photos here but I thought that they just might make you smile.

I'll start with when the bear whammy tree was mauled at the end of April.
Then, a little bear, who I think is one of the cubs from last summer, attempted a tree marking. Like all the young bears who I've observed, this youngster hasn't yet figured out that she should rub her back on the tree...

More than a week later, a big brute visited the same tree. He sniffed it first.
Then, he rubbed his back on the tree while peeing at the same time. He's a multi-talented guy.
His marking went on and on. He tried a unique move, shimmying downward as he rubbed the trunk.

A few days later, a cinnamon-colored bear visited the same tree.
He sniffed first while sticking his rump toward the camera...
Then, he marked it...
 And marked it...
Then he launched into a unique dance move before departing...

I think that the next visitor was the same bear as on 5/17.
This marking session was shorter than the last one.
But, it was creative...
Finally, this morning, a brute marked the poor tree... Is it any wonder that the pine saplings that serve as bear whammy trees never grow very big?

Just one more funny bear note. The tree in the next photo is in a different part of the forest. The little bear, who I think is one of last year's cubs, tried to mark it. Look how she's standing on her tippy-toes. She hasn't learned to rub her back against the whammy trees yet.
For comparison, a huge male marked the tree a few days later. Based on my photos at this tree and at others, I have the impression that these two bears, the little cub and the big brute are following each other on their rounds of tree-marking, which suggests that they may pair up to make cubs sometime soon.
I adore watching bear behavior at this time of year. We got a unique view of it during our trip... but I'll save that story for another day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


On the first day of our trip, we drove only as far as the Colorado-Utah border, stopping to camp next to a dry creek bed near the Colorado River canyon. As we stepped out of the Labmobile into the inky darkness of night, we heard the sound of a bird singing his heart out. That bird continued to sing all night long. We think that he was a male Northern Mockingbird, a species known for night singing. It was a beautiful musical backdrop to our first night of camping.
I was glad to be in familiar terrain because I truly was nervous about K. We had a huge array of veterinary supplies with us and a list of every vet in the areas that we might visit. Yet, I felt queasy with worry, mainly because our vet had a kind talk with me about how the "end" occurs in osteosarcoma cases like K's. It can be quite sudden, requiring a rapid trip to the vet to avoid suffering. The visions of it scared me... especially away from home. However, K was so happy to be on vacation that her mood was contagious!

K and I took a short mountain bike ride together on our first morning of our trip. Lush green aligned the Colorado River.
Later, when I was mountain biking alone, I met the coolest dude. He preened for me.
This Collared Lizard seemed to want me to take his photo! He let me creep very close for a portrait.
Fortunately, over the course of our 2 weeks away from home, my queasy feeling of fear rapidly disappeared, and I started enjoying myself. K loves camping and we had a chance to take her once more. What a gift.

We watched each sunset together, and I admired K's gorgeous chocolate fur and her badge of courage - her gray-furred leg that had radiation 5 months ago.
Then, we sat in the cool night air as the stars appeared, one-by-one.
Sometimes it takes courage to truly live. I'm glad that we found ours so that we could spend these days having fun with K rather than worrying at home. I think that K is the best teacher of how to be courageous. I have come to believe that K knows that her days on Earth are dwindling, and she's teaching us how to live those days with grace and joy.

I hope that it's a lesson that I never forget.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Thanks to all of you who have been checking in with us. We're doing fine. And, our amazing K is still joyfully romping through life. In the photo below, she stood in a red rock desert at sunset about two weeks ago.
After much debate, we decided to take a trip during our blogging break. Honestly, I initially was terrified of taking a camping trip because of the possibility of something bad happening to K when we weren't near our trusted vets. Then, even our own vet said that she thought that now was the time to go do fun things so we did! She sent us with a van full of supplies for every conceivable complication. Happily, we didn't need any of the emergency veterinary supplies.

We headed west and south, visiting deserts and high mountains. I'll tell you more about it in the coming days but let me show you a highlight today. We made it to the zone of the country where the solar eclipse was "annular", meaning that the moon blocked all but a ring of the sun. We sat in the rocky desert watching this amazing phenomenon.

In the photo below, the bright ring is the sun and the black circle is the moon. Because the moon was very far from the Earth, it didn't totally block the sun.
As the sun fell lower in the sky, the moon glided across its surface, leaving a crescent of sun showing. Then, the sun crescent set behind a rocky desert hillside. The rocks appear as silhouettes on the bottom of the sun in the photo below (yes, the orange orb is the sun!). The special camera filter that I used to photograph the solar eclipse only allowed light as intense as the sun to go through it. The rest of the world was black as viewed through the filter.
I was so happy that we made the trip. The solar eclipse was amazing. But, the best part was spending happy time with our K having fun in the deserts and mountains of our area. She's still loving life and so are we.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Seizing the days

The bears seem to be starting mating season early. This is the most tree-marking activity that I've ever seen this early.
Unfortunately, this guy, who visited my cameras the other night, chose an incredibly foggy and stormy time of night to visit so I didn't get great photos. After he marked the tree in the photo above, he decided to take a look at the camera.
Then, he marked the tree two more times before moving onto the next bear-marking tree in the area. As far as I can tell, he visited every single bear marking tree that I know of in the vicinity of my home. That's classic mating season behavior!

On a different note, we've decided to take a break from blogging to seize the days that we have left with K. We realize that, barring a miracle effect by K's new medicines, our time together is short. We want to make the most of it.
She can still run and romp right now.
So, it seems like a time for us to enjoy our time together, having some adventures and and some quiet time together.
Please visualize us as happily playing in the outdoors together while we're gone. If things change with K, I promise to post an update. Otherwise, we'll see you back here soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May Snow

May snow. Always a surprise, even though it falls every year.
It pelted out of the air during our "sunset hike" yesterday.
Even the "summer" wildflowers that have blossomed early were cloaked in snow.
The snow stopped overnight. This morning, sunshine briefly poured in through our windows before the storm clouds returned. K curled up in a sun puddle, looking contented. She was snuggled in the wonderful bed that some of you gave us back when K was having her "rounds" of traditional chemotherapy. K loves her bed.
I'm glad that we had a great start to the day with both halves of the Duo going for a mountain bike ride with me because things got tougher later in the day.
But, for one shining hour, the three of us romped in the snowy forest and almost forgot about everything else.
And, the Duo raced each other in recalls.
Later in the day, K had a routine vet appointment to check for side effects of her anti-cancer drugs (everything looks good right now). The vet also initiated a very tough discussion of "how the end will occur". My stomach has been hurting ever since that discussion because I don't even want to visualize the scenarios. I need to go spend some time with my sweet girl to find my equilibrium again.
The emotional roller coaster ride continues. But, K is still here and happy so I'm planning to have some fun with her this afternoon. The forest is beckoning...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Each day counts

Imagine if K and I had given up on our outdoor adventures back when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on December 23. Think of all that we would have missed. We would have missed yesterday evening's gorgeous lighting on a meadow.
K wouldn't have danced in the grass with the sun setting behind her.
She wouldn't have run through the meadow full of happiness. Look at those clear and determined eyes! I'm so glad that I decided to ignore the vets' advice to keep her on a leash for the rest of her life!
And, she would have missed playing with her brother on every evening hike.
There's a lesson for me here, too. Every single day is one day in my limited and precious life, just like it's a day in K's all-too-short life. It's hard to realize that important fact until the end of life looms too close. If there's a gift from this terrible disease, it's that I've learned even more acutely how gloriously precious each day is.