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Monday, September 17, 2012

Autumn: dog stories and wildlife photos

The days are getting shorter and colder. The snow is flying up high. The towering peak on our horizon is now a glimmering white ghost. I always get a little sad at this time of year. The melancholy is more intense this year because our summer was dominated by the loss of K.

The biggest advantage to the changing seasons is that I get to see my pups in the sunrise light more often. I have to admit that, in any light, photographing a chocolate lab is easier than a black lab. Thus, Shyla is rapidly learning to be my cover girl!
I am finding that one of the hardest things about socializing Shyla is directing other people's behavior toward her. Some people just will NOT be deterred from meeting her but I have to stand strong so that fear of new people doesn't become an ingrained habit. Right now, I let Shyla meet adults who have dogs with them. That usually goes very well, with few fear signs from Shyla. She needs to have lots of those good experiences before we move onto other kinds of people.

I've learned to say "no" to most other people who want to pet her in public. In cases where people simply won't listen to me, my trainer has taught me some strategies. I've trained Shyla to know a "find it!" cue, which means that I am dropping treats on the ground, and she should look for them. This activity can distract her while I try to convince the person that Shyla isn't ready for head-on meetings yet. Later, when Shyla is more comfortable with people, we'll use a "target" cue, where I'll ask the person to put out their hand, and Shyla will poke it with her nose. I'll give her a reward, and then I'll ask her to do it again. It's another way of distracting Shyla from the probing eyes of new people. It's the eyes on her that seem to scare Shyla, which makes sense since direct eye contact is very impolite among dogs.

With the changing of the seasons, my trail cameras are seeing some traffic. Bears are known to go through a phase of vigorous tree marking before they go to their dens. It's likely that pregnant sows are choosing dens now and marking trees as they survey the real estate. I captured this very healthy looking bear marking a tree one evening.
Almost a day later, another bear sniffed the same tree... probably sampling the scent from the recent tree-marking.
Then, the bear turned around and gave the tree a thorough marking.
I am hoping so fervently that one of these bears chooses the den where I have a trail camera installed, pointed at the entrance. I check it very rarely, and I absolutely never go near it at this time of year. So, we'll have to wait until January to find out if any of these bears chose it! Each year, 7-8 bears check out the den. They go in it and are invisible inside the den for a few minutes. For the past two falls, none of them have chosen it but a family with 2 yearling cubs used it before that.

I've also continued to follow what I believe to be a female bobcat who has a kitten in the area. I have surmised that she has a kitten hidden based on the fact that she has been carrying her prey a long way after she kills it. I think that she's taking it to the kitten but I haven't seen the kitten yet. She also keeps marking the base of bear trees. I've seen some of this behavior from bobcats each year but never as frequently as this year.
Last, but not least, hunting season is getting underway. It's only archery season now so the dogs and I are not bedecked in hunter orange yet. Fortunately, the one neighbor who used to allow hunters access to our trail network sold his land, and the new owners are controlling access carefully. All of us regular users of the trails are hoping that this means that we have a less stressful autumn. There's something about coming across a person with a bow or a rifle while you're walking your dog within a short distance of your house that can freak you out! I once found a hunter within 100 yards of our house, hiding behind a bush. He said that he didn't know that our house was nearby. Most hunters are far more responsible than that one, erring on the side of the safety of trail users... but I am still wary, being careful to keep all of us safe, during hunting season.

There are deer around, and they've lost the velvet from their antlers.
And there are elk around. Moreover, if a deer or elk hunter happens across a bear, he or she can kill the bear. So, I keep a vow of silence about where these animals are! A good hunter can probably figure it out.
It's also elk rutting season so I'm hoping that we hear a bugle or two floating through our forest. That is the quintessential autumn sound in the Rockies.


  1. Thanks for the update on Shyla and her training. I love that you are playing "find it" with her when someone approaches. She is such a quick learner.

    Loved seeing the trail camera pic's today. Totally amazing. Did you get your new one up yet?

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  2. Love your new model!! Those trail cam take some amazing footage--so jealous!! I was reading another blog last week and the gal was having the same kind of issues with people approaching her dog and the dog being uncomfortable. She now has a vest that the dog wears and the vest says--Dog in training, do not approach. Maybe something like that would be of benefit?? Have a great week.

  3. I love seeing Shyla come along in her training. Nola, too, is wary of new people and it's next to impossible to get people to listen when I say not to touch her at first.
    Nola's Mom

  4. People who do not have a dog are sometimes just too keen to want to pat, talk to and look at another's dog,maybe some strategy like " SHE BITES' would send them the other way.I like Val's idea so much better.Yes, I am seeing signs of autumn and snow on so many of the blogs I visit.As this is the first year I have had a real blog list, it is so interesting to see what your weather is, look at the beautiful fall colours, and yes, see some snow. Shyla is shining in every photo. Greetings from Jean.

  5. If I were fortunate enough to meet you and Shyla I promise I would not force anything at her; I would not look straight at her and would let her approach me if she felt like it. (I would of course hope she would, as she is a lovely girl and I would love to make friends!) I do that with all dogs unless they come bouncing up to me saying "HI! YOU'RE MY NEW BEST FRIEND!" the way I suspect R would. And I'd ask your permission before I petted her. A lot of people need to learn better dog etiquette, especially as some dogs are very sensitive like your new girl.

    I am looking forward to hearing how she does in the snow this winter! Most labs I know adore it. :)

  6. What gives me the willies when I am out with Stella, are toddlers who will run right up to her and touch her face. Stella is good, she won't hurt them, but I never miss a chance for a lesson with parents and little kid. They were lucky this time but what will next time be.

    Yay for Shyla and where is R.Demento? I love a daily picture of that boy.

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  7. the wildlife pictures are really fascinating. Can't imagine seeing that daily. Love the way you teach the baby. Smart pup
    Benny & Lily

  8. I saw the first signs of true fall color here today. I admit, I thought the leaves would all turn brown and be done with it, but it seems we might get a little color after all. I guess that means the rut can't be far behind here.

    I think your strategies for Shyla sound great! I have NO idea what you mean about brown dogs being easier to photograph than black ones! lol

  9. I don't understand why when you say "No" that people keep persisting. I know she is irresistible but....
    I love that first deer photo. Very cool with the two deer. Be safe.

  10. I don't understand why when you say "No" that people keep persisting. I know she is irresistible but....
    I love that first deer photo. Very cool with the two deer. Be safe.

  11. My Shiba is a shy dog. He recently got the CGC so that's a huge step for him, but he's still afraid of most people. I had to learn to suck it up and just tell people flat-out "NO! you CANNOT pet my dog!" Then remove my dog and myself from the situation. I'm not afraid to get nasty with people (Mama Bear Mode), I'd just rather not, and usually me ditching them gets the message across.

    I've had several hunters while out on hiking trails just pop out of the brush and tell me they thought my dog was a fox... I don't want a man with a gun telling me that, so he is almost always decked out in bright orange and wears a bell.
    Irresponsible hunters really irk me. Gives the rest of us a bad reputation.

  12. IS there an open season on Bear there? Don't you have to have a permit to shoot a bear. No wonder you get stressed about this time. We were on a search one time and a hunter shot at us, it was an accident,but the bullet buzzed right by me. They were acutally shooting at my dog. Thought it was a dear. Yeah, sure.
    Be careful my friend. Some of them are just plain wanting to shoot something.
    But then you already know that.
    Be Safe
    Berts my Vickie

  13. Ann ..from...Outer Banks of NC..said ....Autumn is so spontaneous..with everything changing....we can see and feel it here too...I was always taught -you never approach a dog (or any pet) unless the owner says okay-but we are all guilty of being so anxious... with loving and smooching on those cute faces...hope all goes well....looks like right much action going on at trail cam...but remember... safety comes first....I love the wildlife pictures..such beautiful creatures.....Keep smiling-because life is a beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about....HUGS

  14. Your persistant training will help Shyla so much!
    The little things you do to get her attention are excellent ideas.
    The world can be so big and scary for us furrys- it is for me too.
    Its bow and arrow season here too. We hate it. It seems it brings out so many angry people- who think the rules were not ment for them.
    Be safe- and we will too

  15. "Find it!" is one of Elka's favorite games. It's a great idea to use it while you hold people off and get them to understand what Shyla's needs are.

    I love your trail cameras. I do hope that this year's batch of hunters are conscientious and responsible.

  16. Shyla in the sunlight is so beautiful, the colors are amazing. The hunting would really scare me, I hope you have no worries this year. You are so patients with Shyla and I bet that will really pay off. She is such a beauty.

    Anne and Sasha

  17. It is a shame that dealing with people can be so much of a challenge!

  18. Oh we do love your wild critters. We have our own version tomorrow with a link back to you, it is tongue in cheek so we hope you will find it funny. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  19. You are so beautiful, Shyla. We love your sunrise photo!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  20. OMD - I think the animals were showing off for your camera!


  21. Fantastic photos. I can surely understand why hunting season would worry you. Too many shoot before they see what they're shooting at. If it moves....shoot it. Idiots!

  22. When Merlin was at his worst (after being attacked by a rottie and GSD working in tandem) I had a t-shirt that read, "Dog in Training. Please do not approach" It helped a lot although I would have made the second line "Ask trainer before interacting with dog" if I'd designed it. You could easily make one for yourself on something like CafePress.

    Also, there is a new campaign trying to get known world wide where you tie a yellow ribbon to your dog's leash or put a yellow bandana or vest on the dog to indicate that it has issues and needs more space.

  23. I think its difficult to get good pictures of my dogs because they are so black. Love your pictures...the trial camera ones are exciting to see. Impressive antlers the elk has...
    We have all strictly laws with hunting. Its forbidden for example to hunt with a bow. I think its not good because its often leads to injuires and not immediate kill.
    My bloggfriends born-to-track in Berne NY breeds tracking dachshunds and blogs often stories about bow hunted tracking their pups did...
    Shows how bad bowhunt is, I think

  24. Shyla is an excellent model!

    I know I had to be pretty firm with people when I first adopted Blueberry. She's so spotty and cute they all just assumed it was ok to come at her. While she was never seriously skittish - her body language did indicate that she was not comfortable. I would sometimes actually have to place myself between her and the people and tell them firmly - NO. I even had to do that with a couple of kids that were running up to her. Just keep Shyla feeling safe. If people don't understand - that's their problem, not yours.

    Love the pics - Shyla looks gorgeous in that light!

  25. She is such a beauty! "Find it" is a great game; we use it with our Rex who is leash-reactive with other dogs. Often in public he also wears a little vest that says "in training" and "please ask before approaching me". It seems to halt people in their tracks who otherwise would pay little attention to my pleas to keep their distance. I ordered it online; there are several good sources. You can have the message of your choice embroidered; I tried to chose something that wasn't misleading or infer that he is a service dog, etc.

    Love to read your updates, and we're keeping paws crossed for R.

  26. Hi KB, Good luck with Shyla's continued training. We just know she will be fine with the love and support you are giving her. Love your photos as always but the talk of the hunters around your area is pretty scary. Take care all. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

  27. Our son's family in Evergreen are hearing the elk bugle sometimes from their yard! It snowed yesterday in Breckenridge but melted in our yard by afternoon. However this AM, the high peaks were white. Great trail pics.

  28. What a beautiful post about what was so tragic and difficult. I think you just put many of my feelings about the loss of my youngest sister so many years ago into perfect words. Some wounds, I think, never really heal; we just grow accustomed to that vacant space in our hearts. No one can fill my sister's spot in my heart, and I suspect no one (or no pet) will ever fill K's spot in yours. And that's what makes them and the memories of them so special. They truly were one of a kind.


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