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Friday, August 31, 2012

Good news!

Good news! R has no tumors in his abdomen. I am very relieved. Now, he'll have blood tests weekly, watching to see if his blood cells start to return to normal. If they do, we're out of the woods. If they don't, we'll test for leukemia and other cancers. But, for now, we're just enjoying the good news! I hope that he'll feel like romping again soon. This photo is from before his new sister arrived. I want them to be able to play together!
Shyla sat with me for hours in the waiting room today. She's an amazing soul - so calm and loving.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Post not as expected - R is sick

I wanted to write a post about all the fun that I had with my wonderful and sweet puppy today. But, it wasn't to be. She is still wonderful and sweet, and I captured some gorgeous photos of her during a very fun morning hike. Then, my day went crazy, and I didn't even have time to upload them.

R is sick.

It started with lack of appetite. Then, bloodwork started showing oddities. Then a board-certified pathologist looked at the bloodwork and said that R should see an oncologist (leukemia, lymphoma, and hemangiosarcoma were all mentioned - but it was also mentioned that he could have an odd infection that's throwing off his whole body). Unfortunately, tomorrow is the Friday before a holiday weekend so there are no oncology appointments available (deja vu). So, R will have an ultrasound tomorrow and our vets will interpret it as best they can without the input of an oncologist.

Our vet kept saying that there was a decent chance that it's not cancer (after all, he's only 4 years old) - but we need to find out. It could an unusual infection or something that we'll never figure out. We are keeping up our hopes up.

Please keep our boy in your thoughts. He has a heart of gold.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daughter of the Mountains

I have someone to introduce to you. Her name is Shyla, "daughter of the mountains".
She is super affectionate toward people. I feel like she's already bonded strongly to me and the Runner within the past 24 hours.
She's 9 months old and only 41 lbs (very small for a Lab). She is still truly a puppy at heart. She ran laps in our living room today while tucking her butt and sliding around the corners on the hardwood floor. She was bursting with puppy happiness.

She's built to run, with a light frame and long legs. And, she's so smart that I've already taught her new behaviors today, like making eye contact on cue and poking my hand with her nose on cue. I have so many things to teach her. I can't wait!

So, here's our new girl, Shyla. We'll all be getting to know her together.
I feel grateful to have such an amazing girl to nurture and love.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big Day

I had a dream that meant the world to me.

In my dream, there were two chocolate Labs in our meadow. One was my K. The other was my new pup. In the dream, my first reaction to seeing the two together was "Oh my goodness, I messed up. I didn't plan to get a puppy until K was gone." (We knew that K wouldn't want to deal with puppy antics in the waning days of her life). But then, in the dream, I concluded that K wasn't really "gone". Moreover, K seemed very happy about the pup and liked the pup immensely. The two of them romped and played.
I think that there were many messages in that dream. K isn't really gone and never will be. K is happy that I am going to have a new dog friend in my life. And, K is watching over me.
Today is the big day. I meet the pup in the evening so I doubt that I'll post anything about her today. But, tomorrow, I'll introduce her to you.

The "roil of emotions" that I felt a couple of weeks ago are gone. I feel nothing but peace and happiness about our new pup. I'll tell you about how she came to us in the coming days. The miraculous process tells me that she was meant to be with us. And K agrees.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Count Down!

We're back and counting down until our pup's arrival on Tuesday evening. The flowers have bloomed very late here due to the delayed moisture this summer so our pup will see the meadow in bloom!
R insists that he's mature enough to be the big brother in the family now. He looks sincere, doesn't he?
Full speed ahead, he says!
I think he's going to love having a sister to play with him. They can race for sticks in the water, chase each other, and do all sorts of fun stuff! (The next photo is our "Black and White Sunday" photo).
The excitement is building here in the mountains!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordful Wednesday

Thank you so much for your wonderful and warm comments. We are very excited about our pup! We don't have a name for her yet so that's why she's "the pup" right now!

We need to take a short blogging break. In the meantime, here are a few photos from our recent camping trip that I hadn't shared with you. This is from a campsite near Crested Butte, Colorado.
Frolicking! We're glad that R will have a sister to play with soon!

Exploring the trails on my mountain bike.

Sunset view from the campsite.
Wishing upon the stars...
We'll see you back here very soon!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A New Soul

Happy news. Our new family member will be a 9-month-old chocolate lab who is sweet, very sensitive, and people-oriented. She'll be arriving next week. The Runner commented that my face broke into its first genuine smile since K's death when we made this decision.

I believe that she is the kind of soul who I'll be able to form a deep bond with, the kind that K taught me all about. A few sentences written by the owner of our new pup's sister ("Rush") made the decision. Our pup is much like Rush in terms of personality. So, when I read the owner's words, K's spirit told me - this is the "one".

Rush's owner wrote (FYI, "Lottie and Rip" are our pup's parents too):
"Rush (my girl) is my life, I love her more than words can express. When she looks at me I can't imagine how I could love anything more than I do her, when she moves, I move. I have never had a bond with a dog the way I am with her, she sees nothing else. Lottie and Rip pups do that, they make you feel like you are their entire world and that nothing else matters to them but you.

I know that the thought of missing out on the cute stage in life is scary, but I can tell you that one glance from Rush warms my heart enough for an entire lifetime.

That last phrase about "one glance" is something that I could have written about K. The instant that I read it, I knew. This pup is right for me.
This decision has come with a roil of emotions. I am happy to have such a sweet spirit to look forward to nurturing and loving. At the same time, it makes K's loss even more real. I never, in a million years, would have imagined that K would be gone before she turned 9 years old. I never would have imagined that last year's birthday celebration would be K's last. So, I am riding waves of emotions - a wild mix of hopefulness about our new pup and grief about K. Regardless, I know that this pup will help me heal, and I feel certain that K approves of anything that will help me be happy. After all, K loved nothing more than to make me smile and laugh.

Almost a year ago, on her birthday, K and I climbed a mountain in celebration. She beamed at me, giving me one of those glances that "warmed my heart enough for an entire lifetime".
Thank you, K, for teaching me so much about love. Our new pup will thank you a million times over for all that you taught me. Please keep watching over us.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Black and White Sunday

Thank you for the outpouring of thoughts about the decision facing me. I spent the day with my stomach literally in knots, and then the decision rained down on me from above. Indeed, as many of you suggested, K's spirit played a big role in the decision. I have contacted the "other parties" in the decision, and I am waiting to hear back before I tell you about our next family member! I don't want to have to retract my post tomorrow if the whole wonderful thing falls through...

Black and white Sunday... A great idea. Somehow, however, I suspect that creators of this tradition didn't expect photos like these ones!

A mountain lion entered a clearing where I have a trail camera and immediately focused on it. It emits a barely visible red glow at night. I'm not sure if it's the infrared glow or a faint smell from the camera that attracts animals to check it out.
 He approached with curiosity.
And, then he almost touched the camera with his nose. Can you count his whiskers in the photo below?
His eyes are huge, like saucers, as is the case in most nocturnal animals. This may be my favorite mountain lion photo that I've captured ever!

Now, I'm guessing that this is type of photo that was actually expected for Black and White Sunday!
R is a handsome dude, in my humble opinion!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Choices, choices, choices

Choices, choices, choices.

We think that we are ready to have a new canine soul join our family. We are still grieving our loss of K but we think that a new spirit in our family will help us move forward. Today, our canine plans took a 90 degree turn, as a Lab pup who we were waiting for became unavailable, for reasons beyond anybody's control.

Now, we are trying to decide between a 9-month-old wonderful chocolate lab or a tiny puppy. The older pup is the offspring of two truly amazing parents, both of whom have passed their service dog tests as well as winning other awards. The pup is affectionate, healthy, calm, smart, and beautiful. Her owner thinks that this pup and I are a match made in heaven and offered her to me for that reason alone. Before the owner learned of K's death, she had planned to keep this pup to be trained as a service dog. Her decision to offer this pup to me speaks volumes about the potential for an amazing relationship between this pup and me.
My only hesitation about bringing that wonderful 9-month-old pup into our family is whether I'm willing to give up a chance to have a tiny puppy grow up with us. I adore puppies... I absolutely love them. However, I also remember how much work they are and the fact that their final temperament cannot be known when they're tiny puppies.
So, I ponder... The known wonderful 9 month old puppy or the unknown tiny puppy. Either one could join us within the next couple of weeks.

I am flummoxed by this decision. But, in re-reading the words that I wrote above, I think that maybe my heart has decided. What do you think?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bobcat and bear cub stories

I owe you all a huge thank you! I won the trail camera contest sponsored by, thanks to your votes!!!! It was announced on their blog. Thank you SO much for voting! has supported my trail camera efforts for years as a sponsor. I asked them to sponsor me because I believe that they are one of the very best companies that I've ever encountered. Their customer service is amazing. Their return policy is unrivaled. And, their extensive testing of each camera model gives invaluable information to help a customer choose the best camera for them. I hope that, if any of you is interested in a trail camera, you'll check out my favorite company.

I've had a lot of animals visiting my trail cameras lately. In particular, at least one bobcat has been extremely active on an animal path cut into a steep hillside. I believe that "she" has kittens in the area, based on how she's stayed in the same area for at least a month. When she catches prey, she carries it long distances, probably taking it to her kitten(s) in a den. We saw the same pattern with a bobcat last summer, and then we glimpsed the kitten for the first time at about this time of year. My eyes are peeled for cute kittens!

This bobcat has suddenly become very curious about the scents around bear marking trees. The bear tree is just behind the bobcat's shoulders. She is sniffing the area where the bears doubtless urinate as they mark their territory.
This is the part of her behavior that I've seen only once before. She appeared to rub her neck and face on the rock at the base of the tree.
A bull elk had been in the same spot a day earlier... perhaps his scent caught the bobcat's attention.
I took the bobcat behavior as one odd incident until it happened again about a mile away. Perhaps this bobcat is vigilantly marking her territory to keep other bobcats away while she raises her kitten(s).
Or, perhaps she is responding to the scents of other animals. The same spot has seen lots of bear visitors. Here are just two examples. This first bear ended his visit by sticking his face right in the camera (I showed you that photo a while ago).
This dark colored bear, one of the fatter ones in this drought year, seemed to be interested in the rose hips and other berries close to the ground in front of the camera.
The same spot has seen two mountain lions visit recently (now that I'm compiling the photos, I see what a great spot this has been for a trail camera).

Based on how many animals have hung out in front of this trail camera, I am wondering if the bobcat is reacting to their scents. I'll probably never know the answer but it's fun to speculate.

Here's the last wildlife story for today. There's been a very small and thin yearling bear cub in the area all summer. When I first spotted this yearling, I didn't want to show you photos because she was so thin that I feared that she wouldn't last long. She didn't look much bigger than a small Labrador.
To my delight and surprise, she is still around, and she looks a little better despite the fact that she's shedding her fur, probably in preparation for a winter coat. Our first frost is probably less than a month away so it's time for the animals to prepare for it. Here she is in late July.
And, again, very recently. She was feeling feisty during this visit, and gave my camera a thorough examination. She left a large scat, full of chokecherry pits, so she's finding food. Yay!
Well, this feisty little bear marched toward the next bear tree in the area, and she marked it!!!! I'll take that as a sign that she has energy to spare. Back during breeding season in June, she sniffed bear trees but didn't mark them.

I've compiled her visits to two cameras into a video. Her happy tree marking is in true video format near the end of the clip. If it doesn't run here, you can watch it at Youtube.

I'll get back to telling you our trip tomorrow, as we visited another very scenic place before we headed for home and I'd like to show you a few photos of it.

R says that any post must contain at least one photo of him. Here he is during our camping trip in the light of the setting sun.
Again, thank you so much for winning the contest for me with your votes!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: San Juan Mountains

After the rain

Sun dried

Forester Moths on a Cone Flower

Dusk at a lake

Sunset over the Lizard Head

This year - our R alone

Last year - the Duo

Life is like a winding trail, with unexpected twists and turns, but beauty all around us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Camp life and dog training

Almost every morning in our campsite, a group of three Gray Jays would visit. They are such gregarious birds who whoop and try to make friends with everyone. I love Gray Jays.
Around our campsite, mushrooms were popping up everywhere, including these very poisonous Amanatis mushrooms. I noticed the Gray Jays pecking at the mushrooms, and thought sadly that I was seeing them eat their last meal. Since coming home, I've learned that Gray Jays can eat these mushrooms with no ill effects. Indeed, the Jays might have been visiting our campsite specifically for the purpose of eating the 'shrooms.
Some of you might remember that our dogs have gotten into trouble by eating mushrooms in the past. Since this species is the most poisonous in our area, I feel lucky that R has absolutely no interest in these bright mushrooms. That was a big relief since R was close to them all the time in our campsite.

R and I continued our training games at our campsite. I am teaching him tricks like "take a bow", retrieving all sorts of objects to my hand, and targeting spots with his paws. That last one, targeting with his front paws, is very helpful with photographing him. I took both of the next two photos at sunset with R's paws targeted on a specific spot.
 Even when he scented something, he kept his paws in place and just lifted his nose.
It's been fun teaching R all sorts of tricks. I never spent a lot of time training him in the past because K would mope jealously. I've found that he's very smart... but, at times, it's almost like trying to train a hyperactive flea. He is so responsive that he hops or jumps or sprints at the slightest change in my body language. It's made me very conscious of what my gestures are *really* telling R.

R also gets frustrated sometimes when he has had enough of thinking hard. I am teaching R some tricks by shaping his motions using a clicker. I love using this training method but a dog has to truly engage his brain to figure out what the trainer is looking for. I need to learn to stop our sessions before sweet R starts barking in frustration!
Ah, what fun we had in that campsite! I love having views like this on the horizon.