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Monday, December 31, 2012

Thankful beyond words

It has been a year of change for our family, and not all of it has been easy. The composite photo below, made by my friend at Dream Valley Ranch, sums up the biggest event. Angel K is watching over young Shyla.
Despite the passing of K, there were a silver linings to 2012. Of course, one of them was meeting Shyla. She has helped heal my heart.

A second, huge, silver lining was the outpouring of love and support from all of you throughout K's journey. You may not realize what a monumental difference it has made to me. The wonderful bed that you sent to K for resting after her chemo treatments was her favorite place to curl up for the remaining months of her life. And, the absolutely incredible painting of K that you commissioned hangs above that bed today. I gaze at it every day and smile at K's beautiful face.

There's another gift that many of you don't know about. My two pups want me to tell you about it. Since one of its creators (Jo) has made me aware that she and Stella adore photos of R, here he is shouting about the gift from the mountaintops!
When K was nearing the end of her life, Jo and her friend Mary had the most incredibly generous idea. They wanted to make a quilt (snuggler) to commemorate K. And, they did it! It is absolutely gorgeous and suits our house and us perfectly.
Almost every square of the quilt is different, except that each square has a blue patch of starry sky at its center. The lining along the edge of the quilt is a brown dappled fleece, and the back of the quilt is a soft and gorgeous chocolate fleece (just like K's chocolate fur). We don't normally let the dogs have access to the quilt - it's too precious - but I posed them with it for these photos.

The "K Quilt" now occupies a place of honor, on our sofa by the fireplace. One day recently, I arrived home to find that R had sneaked up onto the sofa (not allowed in our house) to lie in a sun puddle next to the quilt. I snapped his photo before I reminded him of the rules.
I am so honored and touched by the kindness of Jo and Mary. I see how their talents and unbelievably hard work formed each square inch of this quilt - and I feel humbled by their generous spirits. I love snuggling under the quilt as much as I love gazing at it. But, most of all, I love that Jo and Mary made it in memory of K.

It has been a year of amazing generosity, and I am grateful to all of you for your support and love. When I started this blog, almost 4 years and 1206 posts ago, I never dreamed that I was joining such a supportive and tight-knit community. I am so very grateful that I did.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A big hiking day

Yesterday was a long but fun day. It started at sunrise with my Shyla. I'll never stop loving the sunrise light, and this is the time of year when it glows so very red.
We played in the snow. I asked Shyla to stand on a boulder, and then I released her. She's a high-voltage amazing athlete at her core. I didn't expect her to do this!
Fortunately, her fractured leg is getting stronger and stronger. She was absolutely fine after her leap but I'm sure that the vet would chastise me. From now on, I'll show her how I want her to leave the boulder (the easy way!).

I've been giving Shyla steadily increasing periods of running during our outings. Before too long, I'll be able to snowbike with her. That will be a day for celebration!
Later in the day yesterday, after Shyla's and my early outing, we hiked up high on snowshoes with our friends, up to where the air is thin and cold.
The air was so still - almost a miracle in our neck of the woods at this time of year. However, previous winds had blown almost all the snow off of the plateau where we were standing.
The views always awe me from these vistas. I want to go back again when I'm feeling better.
Unfortunately, the hike was more than I should have done, and I suffered a setback in my recovery from pneumonia. This has been one of the longest respiratory illnesses that I've ever had.

So, today was a mellower day, trying to get back to where I was before in terms of recovery. On "mellower" days, I take more indoor photos than usual... Look at those teeth!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sunrise and Heaven

We saw a peaceful sunrise this morning. I love the brief time of quiet so early in the morning - it's like heaven on Earth.
Shyla and I wandered the hillsides. Deer had pocked the snow with their hoof tracks overnight, and Shyla was intent on their scent.
But, she's so trainable that I can draw her attention away from the forests where the deer reside during the day. I had just told her to "leave it" in the photo below, and she was determined to keep her nose and her eyes away from the direction of the deer!
Shyla's intense look was quite a contrast to R's laid back look.
I finally completed my Chocolate Labrador calendar today using K photos for the first half of the year and Shyla photos for the second half. While I was making it, I ran across this sweet photo from one of the Duo's last trips to Hug Hill together. It melted my heart.
They were gazing at heaven together.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Paw Power

I've been putting "Humpty Dumpty back together again" today. My photo library melted down this fall, and I spent a long time today reinstating the photos that were lost so that I can make my chocolate lab calendar. Thank goodness for back-ups.

I ran across this one of Shyla's graceful legs and paws. When I saw it, I thought of our friend Pip. This photo is for him - to send him the power of the paw.
This was the next photo in the series as I called Shyla to me from her perch on the rock. This photo was taken at about the time when I began to see a real fire in Shyla's eyes - a confidence that I hadn't seen before.
I always enjoy going back through my photos near the end of the year. Of course, this year was bittersweet, as I relived the loss of K through my camera lens. However, reviewing my photos has also shown me how much Shyla has gained confidence- and that wonderful vision has taken some of the ache out of reviewing the year. She has a heart of gold.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Photo Wednesday

I am a relative novice at photography. One thing that I've learned, however, is to keep trying new kinds of photos. If I point my camera at something new, I never know what kind of beauty I might capture by accident.

This photo was about an hour after sunrise on a cloudy morning. The sun barely shined through the layer of clouds and was directly being Shyla's neck. To my naked eye, the sky looked drab. I didn't expect to get such a vibrant photo but voila!
The next photo was another experiment with shooting straight into the sun because I thought that there was a chance that the sun would highlight the spray of snow that Shyla was kicking up with each stride. I think a photo like this might turn out better with the sun lower in the sky but I still thought that the experiment was a success.
There's a lesson in my photographic experiments for the rest of life, I think. Keep trying new things, for you never know what you might discover.

Finally, I must apologize for my lack of visiting blogs. Between pneumonia and keeping up with regular life, I've been falling sound asleep as soon as I publish my blog post. Although my cough is not bad anymore, the fatigue from this illness is still dragging me down.

I hope that you all had wonderful holidays.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas scenes

K, 2011

K and R, 2011

Shyla, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

'Tis the season, and it's snowing.
 Older brother R wishes you a Merry Christmas Eve.
Both pups and I hope that you get to romp and celebrate with happy hearts.
Shyla, who is becoming more beautiful by the day, sends you glowing holiday wishes.
She hopes that you all find the joy and happiness that she's found in her life in our mountains.
Have a happy day tomorrow!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Black Lab on Sunday

I just completed our Black Lab Calendar for 2013. Here are two of my favorite photos of R from the past year.

The calm and serious look...
The Cracker Dog look...
Each year, I make calendars from photos of "both" dogs. Now, I have to tackle the tougher one, the Chocolate Lab Calendar. I am still not sure how I'll do it, since I have photos of two chocolate labs who were in our life this year. I'm working on it...
K and R cavorting together

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Surprised by Life

Shyla appears as if she's constantly surprised, in a happy way, by our life.
Eyes wide, she scans and takes in every nuance of the world. It's still a new world to her. It's so fun to see her amazement.
She loves the snow and seems to walk and run with her nose down below the snow so she always has snow on her face!
Shyla is still recovering from that ulna fracture. Our routine is that she still spends the majority of the time on leash and gets ever-increasing periods of freedom to run fast. The freedom is increasing slowly - I learned about the importance of a *gradual* increase when I let her run for too long one day last week and she limped briefly. Thank goodness it passed very quickly. Lesson learned.
Since Shyla's arrival, it's been odd to see the switch in R's role from the crazy little brother to the experienced and steady older brother. In contrast, when K was alive, R was the goofy and over-the-top youngster - K seemed to roll her eyes at his antics sometimes. He also was not the top dog when K was alive, but he's assumed that role with ease since Shyla's arrival.
Thanks for all the well-wishes about my health. Today is the first day that I am feeling a definite improvement, and it is nice! I felt almost peppy during our short evening hike today.
Have a peaceful and healthy weekend.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Celebration

I love Winter Solstice. I adore the winter light and how it makes the world glow. But I also love knowing that, for the next six months, the days will grow longer.

In celebration, I've made a tradition of seeing sunrise on Winter Solstice. This year, it was with sweet Shyla. As the sun peeked over the eastern hills, it kissed her face.
Then, she climbed onto a small boulder and relaxed. I'm so grateful to have Shyla in my life. She loves our mountains like I do, and our bond is growing stronger every single day.
For years, it's been my tradition to be out for sunrise on this date. Last year, I was with K, and we were still naive.
And, on that morning, I took a photo that has become one of my favorites. These are K's paws, illuminated by the rising sun. I think of it as the "Pillars of Strength" photo. These pillars of strength helped K and me through the coming months.
This morning, I felt an odd mixture of grief for K and absolute gratefulness for the young Lab who was by my side - this odd mixture has become familiar over the past months. Shyla has a heart of gold, just like her eyes.
Yesterday, the Runner and I agreed, whole-heartedly, that the arrival of Shyla in our lives was the best thing that happened in 2012.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A winter day in the Rockies

I am not good at resting. I am a Border Collie personality. So, of course, I was outside with my pups today, albeit more sedately than usual.
It is fair to say that relative to my regular life, I rested today - but I don't feel any better yet. It seems as if our illnesses may make all our Christmas plans fall apart due to serious concerns about how contagious we are. I definitely don't want to make anyone else sick, especially not any older relatives, so we'll do whatever the health care professionals say that we should. I suspect that may be a quarantine.

On a different topic, we had a big snowfall yesterday, and then the usual winds hit today. Amazingly, Shyla is not afraid of the intense winter winds that routinely blow at 30 to 70 mph around here. K always was skittish about the wind... so I expected that Shyla would be too. I need to remember, in all facets of life, that they are very different dogs. They may be the same breed and they may both have incredibly sweet and sensitive spirits - but, in many important ways, Shyla is unique and wonderful in her own way.

In these first three photos, you can see the snow flying through the air in the wind around Shyla. I never took photos like this of K because of her fear of the wind. Shyla actually seemed to enjoy the wind, as unbelievable as that might sound.
Shyla made a game of wind today. It would pick up the snowflakes all around us and whirl them past us. Shyla would chase them, biting at the snowflakes in the air just in front of her snout. Because she's a genius dog (in my unbiased opinion), she figured out very rapidly that she couldn't catch the jet-speed snowflakes and stopped the game. It was fun to see her puppy spirit during the brief game!

In other pup news, we have good signs about R's health. We haven't had new blood tests yet. However, the Runner has been cooking a special diet for R over the past month. R has gained 6 pounds in that time, returning him to his normal weight for the first time since August. He'd wasted away while he was sick so I think that the weight gain is a huge victory! It also points to commercial kibble as being a big part of the problem.

I also see a luster to his fur and an intensity in his eyes that I haven't seen in a long time.
And, most importantly, he's acting like R, a recognized nutcase in the Mango Minster Cracker Dog category last year!
As soon as I recover, I'll take him to the vet for his blood test which is due now. I suspect that it will confirm what I feel - that our boy is BACK!