I am overwhelmed by the quantity of very sad news about our Blogville friends. It seems as if cancer is on a binge. It hurts my heart deeply to read about people's sadness and the illnesses or deaths of their dogs.
I understand, having gone through it so recently. I remember the time of K's cancer diagnosis, and the feeling that nothing would ever be right with the world again. Then, I remember how K showed me how to live those last months, seizing every moment that we had left.
Now, I look back on the time that we had between her diagnosis and passing as one of the most precious times of my life. I learned incredibly important life lessons from K, and I was focused on only one thing - pouring my love into K.
When K passed, R lost his big sister - the first big loss in his life. Like me, R seems to have changed forever. He has an introspective side that he never had before saying goodbye to his sister.
Also, like me, R has found a new source of happiness. Shyla (or "ShyBear", as I like to call her) makes R younger. They play every day and adore each other.
I remember many of you trying to tell me that I would love and laugh again after K died. Some of you even suggested that I might meet another heart dog someday. Although I couldn't fathom that I'd even smile again at that time, you were right. Even though every dog is different, I have found a new furbuddy to share my adventures with, and I love her with all my heart.
I'm sure that those of you who are facing the awful C or have just had a terrible loss cannot see beyond it (just like I couldn't, one year ago). For those of you who are lucky enough to have the gift of time with your beloved dog, I'd like to share the notion that the time that you have after the diagnosis is a gift - and I hope that you can find ways to make it as precious as it was for me and K.
I feel that I understand more about the fleeting wonder of life and love than I did before traveling the final journey with K.
This rose is for all of you who are facing tough times now. My heart is aching along with yours.
One of K's Columbines just bloomed - a poignant reminder of all that has happened in the past year. I'll love her forever. As I gazed at it, I remembered how she and I sat next to Columbines last summer, taking life slowly and soaking up the beauty.
There's a new girl, sweet Shyla, who is learning all about the bounties of summertime in the mountains. We mountain biked on Paradise Trail this morning.
I'm so happy to have her to share this beauty with. She's so sweet and so sensitive. I love seeing her with a happy sparkle in her eyes.
And she makes her own rainbows all the time!
Her ears are flapping in the wind in the photo above. We have a hot wind gusting out of the west today. It reminds me of the day when a huge wildfire started near us a few years ago. Today, I took Shyla to town for training but only stayed for a short time because I was scared about R being home alone and a fire breaking out. I hope that sweet Shyla never has to learn about fire.
We've almost come full circle. It's been nearly a year since K died, and now Shyla and I are soaking up similar summer beauty as K did in those last weeks. It's bittersweet but I'm so grateful that I have my Shyla next to me.
I want to share some bear footage with you. But first, it seems that the bears love to be out around sunset, and so do we! Whenever Shyla is panting and picks up an interesting scent (maybe a bear?), she sticks her tongue out while she sniffs. It's cute, don't you think?
In the bear video, we have a very rambunctious male bear. He visited a tree on multiple occasions, and each time, he marked it at least 4 times. On one occasion, I believe that he had a mate with him, because a large animal blocked the camera for an instant just after the male had walked away.
Be sure to watch to the end. The mother, Mabel, and her single cub visited the same tree after the big male. The fact that the mother was on the mating trail concerns me slightly. It's possible that the hormonal effect of nursing by one cub has not been enough to make her unavailable for mating this year. If she meets a male bear and they mate, the consequences for the tiny cub could be very rough. Mabel could lose track of the cub since the male won't let the cub hang around...
But, for the moment, they're together! As you'll see, this tiny cub has huge aspirations! I've never seen this from a cub before.
You can watch the video here or at Youtube.
Shyla and I are reveling in our morning rides. It's cool, and we're having a blast. She's getting good at "heeling" next to my bike, so I can take her more places than I used to be able to take her. It truly feels as if every flower in our neck of the woods is blooming right now. The wild roses are going... wild!
Shyla and I are continuing to work on her agility, and she is doing so fabulously. I still need to be right next to her as she negotiates most obstacles, like the teeter-totter and the weave so I can't get photos yet.
Last evening, we saw the "super moon" which is closest to the Earth that it will be all year. The super moon was unfortunately obscured by clouds until well after it rose last evening. However, it was gorgeous as it emerged from the orange clouds
In honor of Black and White Sunday, I am sharing one more attempt at star trails. These trails are from one night on our desert camping trip in May. It's cool how placing the North Star off-center in the photo makes the "circles" look almost eliptical. The part of my star trails that I'm not satisfied with is the obvious gaps within the trails. I plan to try some more soon, with shorter gaps between exposures. However, I still like this one from one of our favorite campsites in Utah.
I captured more very fun bear action the other day - this time involving a cub with big aspirations... I'll share it soon. Happy Sunday!
While Shyla and I are out romping on the trails, it is so much fun knowing that there's a whole world of wildlife activity underway around us that we don't see. This morning, I was gazing at the woods a lot, wondering what all those animals are up to.
Part of the reason for my wondering was that, yesterday, I showed you photos of a mother bear and her two cubs. The sow was in our neck of the woods during mating season last year, trolling the bear marking trees to find mates. Based on the different appearances of her two cubs, I'm guessing that she did find multiple mates, and that each cub has a different father. Of course, it is conceivable that different colored cubs could be from the same father...
In the video below, you'll see that the mother bear has ear tags. That means that she got into trouble at some time, was trapped and marked, and then probably released a long distance from where she was trapped. However, my reading says that bears usually find their way back to their "home" area even when they are moved a long way. I'm curious about how she got into trouble because she's been in our neck of the woods, with her ear tags, for at least a couple of years. The fact that she's still alive tells me that she has stayed out of trouble since then. Bears get euthanized if they repeat their mistake even once.
You can watch the video of the sow and her cubs playing and wallowing in a spring here or at Youtube.
It was interesting that the cubs were so obsessed with the bear tree that they didn't play in the water with their mother.
I have more bear news, but I'll save most of the photos and videos for later. Our new male bear found a mate, and they traveled a long distance together, passing many bear trees (and my cameras) along the way. I'm happy to finally see an available sow or two in our neck of the woods. A breeding pair spends multiple days together, before separating to try to find more mates before the end of breeding season.
In the photo below, the male in the pair marked a tree. In fact, his tree marking seemed even more frantic than usual even though he had a mate in tow. That surprised me. I'll have a video of the pair traveling together soon.
It's summertime, and the world is filled with beauty, including incredible bears and delicate flowers.
Happy Solstice to everyone. This photo is from sunset last night, which was so very late!
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it means that daylight lasts longer today than any other day of the year. For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, the tide is turning - your days will now get longer! So, I think it's a good day for all of us.
It's a good day for Shyla, who is feeling better, after her diarrhea stress-reaction to a visit to town earlier this week. She went to my PT clinic with me yesterday, and even though that involved going into town, her tummy is better. Moreover, she seemed very happy at the clinic.
Today, I checked some trail cameras, and I bring good tidings. We have another mother bear in the forest, and this one has two rambunctious cubs.The two cubs were very curious about a bear marking tree that huge males, at least twice as tall as the standing cubs, have marked several times this summer. You can see that the top of the pine sapling is broken off. The adult male bears who mark this tree are taller than the sapling!
The family spent a long time in front of this cam and the one that is pointed at a water hole. I'll have a video of the cuteness soon!
Several of you have asked if I worry about the dogs chasing bears. You might notice in photos that both dogs wear bells. Since we started that tradition almost a decade ago, we've had no close calls with dogs and bears. Even though I am fairly confident that I could call the dogs away from a bear, I'd prefer not to put the bears (and me) through that stress or have the dogs lead a chasing bear back to me. To avoid dog-bear encounters, I also choose the places where I take the dogs very carefully. I've never taken a dog to the place shown in the photos above - I view it as a pristine place for the wildlife.
As I've mentioned in the past, I'm always trying to balance letting my dogs be able to romp with the needs of the wildlife.
P.S. I just learned that today was "Fight like a Frenchie" day for our pal, Benny, a French Bulldog who was just diagnosed with cancer in his liver. We send him and his family the Power of the Paw. To Benny and his family - cherish every day and live it to the fullest - take your inspiration from K, like I did. We're thinking of you.
Yesterday morning, we were on the trails just after sunrise, catching some of the gorgeous light of the dawn of a new day.
We lingered in the area where the sunrise views are the best. It's rare for us to be out that early - so summertime sunrises are something to be treasured.
After sunrise, because I was going to take Shyla into town for a training class, we biked/ran extra far, with the hope that it would "take the edge off" Shyla's tensions in town through exercise. During our ride, Shyla found some wet areas to cool off, as you can see!
Then, we headed home, to get ready for training class. Here was Shyla's thought on the trip to town.
During class, Shyla seemed much better than she's been over the past couple of weeks. Our class consisted of walking politely around shopping areas in town and even going into some shops.
We did specific skill training in the midst of it all (e.g., heel, wait, sit-stay). The other people and dogs in the class were SO nice to Shyla that it made her very comfortable with the potentially scary situations.
After class, I needed to do a couple of errands at dog-friendly places. I tried to make them as fast as possible, to keep the stress down for Shyla. Shyla went into the stores with me because it's too hot to leave her in the car in the summer. By the end of it all, Shyla was definitely tired but she was still acting reasonably confident.
Then, when we arrived home, Shyla started having diarrhea. And, it has continued. Poor girl - she must have been stressed out on the inside even though she seemed pretty good on the outside when we were in town.
Despite that, I still put yesterday's class in the success column. She wasn't skittish for most of the time, and she wanted to meet new people. Both of those are good things.
I have a hypothesis that the sudden onset of heat in town (3000' lower in elevation than our home) was the factor that made town much scarier for Shyla. I think that Shyla was barely staying below her stress threshold in town when the weather was nice and cool. Then, one more stressor, the shocking heat hit (it really is shocking, like a furnace blast, when you come down from the mountains into town). I think that the heat is why Shyla now cannot handle bustle of town as well.
In the training world, this is referred to as "stacking stressors". For example, when in the safety of our home, Shyla can now meet almost anyone with little fear. However, when she has the stress of being in town, she hesitates to meet some people out of fear. Thus, "stacking" the stress of town and the stress of meeting a stranger together can be too much for her while either one alone would be okay. Another example is that, if there's loud construction noise nearby when we're in town, Shyla suddenly becomes afraid of certain objects that look odd to her, like statues, due to "stacking" scary noise and unusual objects.
I'm learning so much from Shyla, and I'll keep letting her (and my trainer) be my teachers. For a while, I'll try to make her town visits be on cooler days or to spots where she can swim, hoping to bring back all of that hard-won confidence that she had before summer hit so hard.
Up here in the mountains, summer isn't hot, and the flowers are absolutely glorious. Maybe Shyla is onto something - we should be hermits who never leave our slice of mountain paradise!
Just about a year ago, K was becoming much more sedentary as the end neared. She and I would take short walks in the morning, and then she'd watch my back while I worked on the garden. I was nurturing Columbine seedlings that had just sprouted. One of those Columbines is about to bloom.
As I watch it becoming a delicate flower, it reminds me of the renewal of life, even after a heart-breaking loss. I utter the words "I miss K" almost every day but I am finding happiness again. This girl is certainly helping.
It's only because I am finally emerging from the fog that I realize what a trance I fell into after K's death. Over the past 11 months, I put one foot in front of the other and marched through life but I didn't truly see the beauty or feel the joy that life has to offer.
I'm starting to come back to life, just like that Columbine that K helped me nurture. Although K's Columbines aren't open yet, Columbines are opening on the floors of aspen groves throughout our forest. Ah, the beauty...
We hung out at our sunset lookout point yesterday, with Shyla looking mellow.
Then, she caught a scent. First, her mouth closed and her eyes squinted.
Next, her nose went straight into the air, fully committed to sniffing.
We were on a plateau where she could have been smelling all sorts of wildlife. She sure loved it!
Bear mating season is underway so Shyla certainly could've smelled a bear. This year's bear mating season is unusual in our neck of the woods, with two strong and assertive male bears patrolling the area but very few eligible females around.
The two males are Milton, the long-term top bear in the area who has a serious limp, and another new male bear. They both look about the same size but the new bear isn't hampered by a limp.
I caught video of them each visiting a bear marking tree within five minutes of each other. When I saw the video, I became concerned that they might have confronted each other and fought. I was able to get a glimpse of what happened thereafter from my other trail cameras.
I thought that it was interesting that Milton followed the new bear despite his obvious limp and pain. Yet, based on my trail cameras posted in the direction that they traveled, the new bear left the established bear route (perhaps to avoid Milton) while Milton continued to patrol what has been "his" territory for years. I sure hope that Milton recovers - I still think that his limp looks bad.
Some of you asked about the territory sizes of bears, given how far apart I've observed the same male bear within a day. Apparently, male black bears will "patrol" a mating territory of up to 10-15 miles in diameter. Thus, the fact that I sometimes get photos of the same male bear at sites 6-7 miles apart within a day is not too surprising.
Within one male bear's mating territory, usually there are numerous female bears, like we saw in my area last year. This year seems to be different - either due to mortality of the females or because they have young cubs and aren't breeding this year. I'm very curious to see how this bear season evolves.
Ah, how I love summertime, and bears are one of my favorite parts. Of course, I love the beauty as well... The Pin Cherries are in blossom and will later be a good bear food!
Our world is so colorful right now, for a brief period of glory, that I cannot bear to make most of my photos black and white.
It's a special time of year, and Shyla is seeing and smelling it for the first time!
The Columbines are opening, reaching for the sky. This was taken with my point-and-shoot, but I'll have a macro lens soon for my favorite camera. I am excited take photos of the incredible Columbines with it!
And, the stars are still spinning around Polaris, oblivious to the small Earth below them. This photo could be black and white to fit "Black and White Sunday"!
I'm still working on the best technique for these star photos... so you'll be seeing these photos evolve over time! A friend has loaned me a very wide angle lens that is perfect for these photos. I am determined to figure out how make beautiful star trail photos!