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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A bear adventure

Thanks to every one of you who sent me supportive comments yesterday. It means so much to me as we muddle our way through this very tough time.

There was good news this morning. K's limp is less pronounced today. I think that her new pain meds are starting to work. She was thrilled to go for our hike this morning. "Hike" is probably an overstatement. We wandered around the meadows and forest, stopping frequently for photos and hugs. It's a far cry from our former morning mountain biking routine but I'm very happy just to be with K.
Every single day counts. That's true for all of us but seeing the end of K's life hurtling toward us at warp speed makes that message very clear. Her lung "mets" are reaching a size and number that will make exercise hard in the near future. So, no matter what, she and I will enjoy our hikes for every day that it's possible.
And, in the evenings, we'll enjoying hanging out with the R's in our pack as well!
Today, I feel like I am accepting where this is going. But I find myself wishing with all my heart that we could stay in this stage for a long time.

Before everything went crazy in recent days, I promised to tell you about an exciting day of our trip. We were in the Abajo Mountains in Utah between 8-9,000' elevation. We arrived after dark on a Saturday night, and we just pulled off a forest road into a clearing to sleep with little notion of what was around us. The next day included three extraordinary events. I only have space in this post to tell you about the first one.

The next morning very early, the Runner was just outside the Labmobile, and I was still asleep inside. I jolted awake as the Runner threw open the door and dove in, slamming it behind him. He said "It's a bear, it's a bear, it's a bear, and he's being chased by a pack of dogs"! I sat bolt upright and stared out the window to see a sight that was very sad to me. A trained pack of 6-10 bear-hunting dogs were on the heels of a cinnamon colored big bear within about 30 yards of our van. The bear occasionally stopped and turned to face his pursuers, taking swipes at them with his huge paws. The dogs would back off to avoid being smacked and scratched by the bear. Then, the bear would start running again with the dogs on his heels. The cycle kept repeating.

Our dogs, K and R, heard the baying of the bear-hunting hounds and started barking like crazed canines. Their barking distracted the bear-hunting hounds, and the bear-hunting hounds surrounded our van, baying at us. But, one hound stayed on the bear's heels, and his baying soon called the wayward hounds back to the chase.

Since the hounds so clearly had this bear on the run, I figured that they'd tree him soon, and we'd hear  the fateful gunshot when the hunter shot him out of the tree. I was fairly certain that I'd cry when I heard it. But, as the morning went on, no shot rang out, and we got started on our day, still wondering what had happened with the bear. I have no photos of the bear chase - it happened too fast. I do have a photo of a bear footprint from near our camp. No doubt, this was great bear habitat.
This was a big paw print from a big bear.

After the excitement ended, the Runner and R went for a run down a canyon filled with aspen trees while K and I went for a short mountain bike ride in similar terrain. It was gorgeous. Look how small K appears among the aspen trees.
When we all met back at camp, the Runner had one of the bear-hunting hounds with him. Apparently, the Runner had found the hound down in the canyon, and the hound, who we called "Huckleberry", followed the Runner back to camp.
As you can see from the photo, Huckleberry had all sorts of locator collars on, including a GPS collar and a radio collar. He was a friendly dog so the Runner leashed him and waited for the owner to show up (we had no cell reception so we couldn't call the owner). I took off on my solo bike ride. While I was gone, the owner tracked down Huckleberry using the GPS collar. He picked up the sweet hound, loading him into one of two truckloads of bear-hunting hounds. He told the Runner that he didn't have bear tag this season so the hounds had been doing a practice run that morning. That's why we didn't hear a shot.

I have to say that, after seeing the bear being chased by the hounds, I am very glad that Colorado outlawed the use of dogs in bear hunting and eliminated the spring bear hunt due to the cruelness of orphaning young bear cubs if their mother was killed. On that morning, I kept wondering if the bear we'd seen being chased was a sow with cubs, and, if so, what happened to those cubs.

As many of you know, I love bears so I am biased in their favor. I set up my trail cameras to to emphasize bear photos. I am gleeful every time I find bear photos on my cameras.

Many of you have asked if I am scared of running into bears when I'm in their territory (which actually includes our land)... and I can honestly say that I am more afraid of mice in my house than I am afraid of bears in the forest. Bears want to avoid running into people, and they probably furtively watch me pass by on many occasions. Moreover, mothers with cubs are very predictable. If you move away from their cubs, they won't hurt you. They might vocalize, air snap with their jaws, slap the ground with their paws, and bluff charge but they are very unlikely to do more than that.

Some of you might remember that I encountered a sow protecting her cubs last summer. She appeared ferocious but didn't even come close to me as she postured to send me away.

I do always carry a large can of pepper spray, which I could use if any animal was truly threatening to me. I've carried it for a decade. The only being who I've sprayed is myself in my face! It wasn't fun (it was an accident). You can barely see the red on the pepper spray can that's hooked to my left hip in the photo below.
So, that was the first chapter of a very eventful day during our vacation!

I must say that I am grateful beyond words that we took our vacation as a family, especially knowing now that K's cancer was still moving so aggressively. It might have been K's last trip with us, and we savored every day.


  1. Oh man! I am glad that the dogs were "only" practicing, but it still seems like a bad way to have fun.

    It seems like every time I read your blog I see some new and glorious countryside. Those trees! Wowsa!

    Nice to see R hanging with K and of course K enjoying her strolls.

    Mango Momma

  2. It is so not the length of the hike

    It is the moments and memories

    Thanks for sharing that incredible paw!

  3. As always, your photos are stunning, your words make me feel as though I am there with you.Huckleberry, what a lucky dog to have a GPS, pity they are hunting bears , with so many dogs in a pack. K looks so cheesy with a hat. .Cheers from Jean.

  4. I'm glad the bear wasn't killed! I'm so happy your family took this trip

  5. I love the second picture of K (the upclose pic). She looks so much better than she has,maybe because the new pain pill is helping her.

    I don't like to see hunters of anything, which means I would live in a world overrun with everything.
    The hound with the loaded down neck bothers me too, that has to be uncomfortable. Where were you that hunting was OK?

    Cheers and hugs,
    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  6. And so, you continue to build those wonderful memories that will be with you forever:)

  7. Pain med's or Prayers ~ What ever the reason (or maybe both) we're so happy to hear that K was feeling better today!!!

    Your pictures are always incredible and your stories marvelous. We love the picture of K in the forest of tall trees. So beautiful a memory. K & R together with their hat's is priceless.

    Still praying for more happy days ahead for you all.

    Lily Belle

  8. I loved reading your words about you and K waundering in the forests and meadows- Soaking in all the beauty that nature gives us as gifts.
    I am also glad the pain meds are helping with K's pain. She looks so beautiful!
    The bear story was amazing, but we feel like you do - about the bears. We wish it was outlawed for anyone - human or dog to hunt them.
    We wish we could stop time right now- and give it to you as a gift.

  9. One special day at a time with K. We agree with you regarding the bear hunting. We did not even know it was legal
    Benny & Lily

  10. Ditto, Benny & Lily.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with K. It's been an honor to follow her ups and downs. Please, please, don't forget that you are not alone.


  11. Been busy at work so unable to post the past few days, but that doesn't mean you and K haven't been on my mind. In fact I found myself in tears on saturday after my encounter with the woman that left her dog in a hot car for over an hour. Thinking of how much you love K and have done so much for her and that crazy woman locked her "beloved" pet in a kennel in a hot car and thought is was okay :( Sometimes life just stinks.
    I loved the bear story--such excitement, but like many others and you I am relieved that there was no shot...
    K and R are so sporty in their hats.:)

  12. That must have been one rude awakening! Wow! I'm glad everything turned out to be okay. I'm also glad that your trip with K was so memorable and that she enjoyed it so much!

    I think right now, she's probably just happy to be with you, too!

  13. That bear looks great, Did you try to play with him, I'n glad that you have a great bear adventure K!

    Dog Shock Collar | Puppy & Human Bond

  14. Wow, what excitement!

    And dogs wearing caps? Awesome.

  15. Ann.. from...THE OUTER BANKS OF NC said.....I'm glad K is feeling better today..though some of us are far away love does circulates in a way that you can actually feel it The hat picture of K and R is a keeper it grabbed my attention (I love it) I am so proud of them...they are such a perfect pair.. When they are together..I see gentleness in their eyes.. I have to agree I don't like hunting of anything either I do think the bear is a beautiful animal (at a distance)..Any way..I hope tomorrow will bring much happiness and joy to all of you...I'll say a special prayer for K

  16. Thanks for sharing your exciting adventure. I can't wait to hear what the other two stories are about. So glad K is less painful. I love that last picture of the two with the hats on.


  17. Your bear pictures are fabulous! He (she?) looks like (s)he's smiling in that first one!

    It never occurred to me that people would use a pack of dogs to hunt bear. Learn something new every day.

  18. Like it's not bad enough that hunters have high-powered rifles with which to kill the bears ~ some use a pack of dogs to tree the poor creatures so that the hunter has a sitting target! This is called "sport"? Doesn't seem to take a lot of courage or skill if you ask me...

    So happy to hear that K was feeling less pain today. Mom and I have gotten very attached to her (and you!) and we treasure every day that you get to spend together. K's sure lucky to have a human that loves her so much! My Mom operates a canine rescue ~ that's how I came to live with her ~ and we see a lot of dogs that have never known the love, or even the kindness, of a human...

    We'll keep you both in our prayers!



  19. I didn't honestly know that bears could be hunted in this way, it seems cruel on all sides. The dogs could get hurt as well. What beautiful pictures and another wonderful day with your precious pals.

    Anne and Sasha

  20. Your story of the bear being hunted by dogs makes me so sad for the bear and the dogs, so cruel. Your photo of the size of the bears paw print makes your story even more graphic. I never knew this happened, I think I live a very sheltered life!

    So glad that K is being helped with her new meds and enjoying her strolls with you.

    Take care xx

  21. Why do humans have to hunt and kill everything? GGGrrrr we are so pleased the bear was safe that day!

    So glad you all had a good trip.Such precious times with K.

    Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx

  22. Beautiful pictures of you all. The aspen trees are great.
    I am a hunter but I don´t like training out of hunting season. It´s not allowed here in Sweden. We are not allowed to have our dogs loose from 1st March to 23rd Aug. Because of all new borns in the forrest.
    Some hunting maybe you must do on your bears. They dont have natural enemies I think.
    I think K looks great and happy. As long she wants to go then go.
    Hugs from us with love to you all!

  23. What a great memory that will last a lifetime! We love the picture of you and R in your caps, K!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  24. We just feel that hunting in any form is cruel. After all, the bears are in THEIR home minding their own business. What right do humans have to snuff them out?

    We're sending lots of love to you and K.

  25. What an amazing adventure! I must say I feel sorry for the bear, even though it was not shot. Loved the last photo of the duo, it made my MOM chuckle.

  26. KB - many thanks for this heart pounding story - I kept waiting for your next words and could picture that bear running with the dogs trailing close behind. I'm sorry I forgot to comment on yesterday's post - well, as I'm sure it was said many times, we all love K, and wish her only the sweetest of days filled with walks, naps, suggles, kisses, treats, and love. I pray that is what God will deliver to you. I am also thinking about the runner and R - sweet R knows that something is wrong. How do dogs know this? Indy used to sleep on our bed during the daytime hours when both my husband and I are at work. Ever since March 1st, the most terrible of days, he spends his daytime hours in my son's room, on his bed. Like he is waiting for him. I saw a comic yesterday that I printed out and put on my wall. It shows God looking down at our planet Earth saying "Truth be told, if it wasn't for dogs, I would have blown it up years ago....".

    Wishing you peace, my friend.


  27. Well that was suspenseful! I felt like I was in a movie! that must have been quite a day if that was just the first event. I'm so glad you had a great family vacation with K. :)

  28. We hate to see that many collars on the woofies neck and we hate that they are chasing a bear, whether it is to kill it or not. We also hate that they are both in danger. Don't we have enough other food options that we don't need to kill bear or deer?

    Anyway, we are glad you all had such a great time!

  29. Mama has been 'tied up' and then away due to a family wedding [although we saw no signs of rope burns or anything], so we're just catching up on things. As always, we're keeping our paws crossed and prayers said for sweet K and the whole family. We hope every day she has left is a golden one for all of you.

    Hope that poor bear packs up and moves to Colorado. There is no 'sport' in causing pain, fear, suffering and death to another creature.

    Jed & Abby

  30. Just checking in to see your beautiful photos always...your shots and stories bring us so much emotion. Thank you for sharing so many of these special moments with all of us. Sending you and your K our warmest thoughts and strength.

  31. I would have sided with the bear, too. So glad you had the time away, K B. the scenery looks awesome.

  32. Bear hunting with dogs is awful and wrong. It's allowed here in NC and what really irks me is that hunters can take a bear over 50 pounds. We both know that a 55 pound bear likely still stays with its mother, learning the ways of bears.

    Love the labs with caps.

  33. Bear hunting REALLY...that's just crazy and I LOVE Utah...Can't get a drink there unless I'm 'sponsored' but I can hunt bear. CRAZY.

    I'm glad you post your 'non experience' with bears. I'm going to Banff CA next year and am petrified to run into bear because my husband ( who I adore) would get lost getting help if needed - LOL. I'd die of starvation if a bear attacked and I was hurt and he had to get help- LOL!

    Again thanks for the awesome photos and your raw emotions. You are so brave.

  34. What an adventure you had on your first day! Wow!
    I am glad it all turned out so well.

    Thanks for explaining more about bears and their actions, I find this all very interesting!

    Love the last pic of K and R!

  35. I' m glad there was no shot. I think when you are in the state of protecting a life so feircely, such waste hits hard. I am reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh on the importance of living in the moment and it makes me think of you and K.

  36. I can't imagine hunting something as wonderful as a bear. Of course I'll never understand "sport" hunting.

    The two in the hats is priceless BTW!


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