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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Milton the Black Bear

Trail camera photos of bears make my heart sing. Shortly after one of our big April storms, a bear walked in the woods. Look at the size of his hind paw covered in sticky snow.
This bear is not "Tiny". Unlike Tiny, this bear has a white blaze on his chest. However, he's as big as Tiny, which tells me that he's "Milton", usually the most prominent male bear in our area during mating season.
He is passing a bear tree in these photos but did not mark it. Indeed, both he and Tiny have passed this tree several times in the past month but neither has marked it yet.
He gazed into the distance before moving along.

Compared to those snowy days when Milton was traipsing around the forest, we've had gorgeous weather recently. Shyla and I have adored our sunny and warm bike rides.
Alas, another storm is starting right now. No one seems to know how much snow it will bring - but it could be a big storm. I feel like covering my eyes just like Shyla!
I'll try to visualize Columbines falling from the sky as it snows, because of course, the gorgeous wildflowers cannot grow without the spring snows!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Life Worth Living

There was a time when I lived in the city. Now, I cannot imagine how I survived. My time in nature nurtures me. I know how lucky I am to have undeveloped forests and meadows all around me. That's part of why I embrace every day by going out onto the trails and living life to the fullest with my dogs.

Fortunately, my dogs like this style of living.
I've developed a funny habit. I like to look back at the same date over the years that I've been writing this blog to see what happened in previous years. I've found that there's a theme that recurs throughout this blog - seize the day. That's no surprise to long-time readers, I'm sure.

I try not to dwell on it but I live with chronic pain. People like my physical therapist and others ask me what I'd tell others about how to live with pain and still be happy. My reply always is to live today like it's your last one. Enjoy the good parts and fully feel the bad parts. Don't let the pain own you.
I first realized how important it was to live every single day as fully as I could when I watched my mother die of breast cancer when I was still young. Given the hereditary nature of breast cancer, I always felt that I wouldn't live a long time. Indeed, I never visualized living longer than my mother did. With that in mind, I have now hit the age that my mother was when her cancer was discovered. I feel less fatalistic about my future now than I did when I was younger - but I do fully realize that every day is a gift.

My attitude evolved most rapidly when chronic pain became my companion when I was in my twenties. I had endometriosis, requiring seven surgeries to finally quell the intractable pain. At the same time, I was experiencing the beginnings of the degeneration of my spine and associated pain. I won't lie - I gave up emotionally for a while - because life seemed too hard.

Somewhere along the path of life, I realized that I get only one shot at living... so immersing myself in misery is a bad idea. Gradually, my attitude became "seize the day" - make it a day that was worth living.

My dogs have helped me immensely in keeping that attitude. In an odd way, even K's cancer kept me fully alive - because I didn't want to miss an instant with her.

Now it's Shyla and R. Shyla knows that her life is a gift (and I know that she is a gift to me).
And so does R.
So, we all love our mountains every single day.
And fall asleep instantly when we lie still because we've spent every last iota of energy!
Life is good.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring is only here briefly...

We are having a few days of spring before the next snowstorm which is supposed to arrive mid-week. I'm not thinking about snow right now. I love the sun and warmth.

I watch the main wildflowers in our world closely. These wild crocuses ("Pasqueflowers") close their petals tightly whenever the air is cool. I'm guessing that their ability to rapidly pinch their petals closed is part of why they can survive the sub-freezing temperatures and snowstorms that are inevitable during our spring.
Then, like me, the Pasqueflowers relax and soak it up when the sun hits their skin.
This morning, Shyla and I celebrated the sunshine and warmth by visiting Hug Hill, where she ran around happily. It's fun have having a young and exuberant dog by my side. I'm reaching a point where I can simply revel in her youth, speed, and good health rather than thinking about the past. Shyla is at her peak, and we're both enjoying it.
Although King R didn't join Shyla and me this morning because he's still on restricted activity, I thought that his fans might enjoy seeing this cute photo of him. The dusky sky is reflected in his eyes.
It's hard to believe that he rules the pack with an iron paw after seeing that heart-melting photo!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Spring Saturday!

I hope that you all are having a glorious day. It truly feels like spring here. Indeed, I am writing this from my deck. Flowers are sprouting from under the melting snow.

Spring Beauties were the new one for today. They are tiny (1 cm across) so most people don't notice them. When you look closely, it is hard to believe that this delicate and intricate flower is one of the hardy species that can survive spring snowfalls.
This morning, Shyla and I had a romping good snow bike ride before it got so warm that the snow was sloppy. We stopped for a game of fetch. She is so intense about retrieving now. In the next photo, she is about to pounce on the toy that I've thrown. Look at how she spread out her toes to prevent her paws from sinking too deeply into the snow.
She galloped back to me carrying the toy. I find it hard to believe that she was not happy to retrieve things when I first met her. But, it's true - she didn't like retrieving then.
Here's another round of fetch in the dappled light of a pine forest.
Full speed ahead!
I hope that, where ever you are, you are enjoying your weekend like we are.

For the record, today is the first spring day that we've thrown open the windows, and I am sitting on the deck!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Springtime and R's training

For now, it is springtime. Bears are roaming our forests, hummingbirds are buzzing high overhead, and the Pasqueflowers are opening up to the sunshine.
Shyla and I were out early, with me riding atop the crust of the snow in the sub-freezing temperatures of the very early morning. Amazingly, in sunny spots, the snow has already completely melted down to dirt. In the forest, however, there is still deep snow.

We saw the sun rise, and it cast a reddish light on Shyla.
And, we loved each other's company.
After our ride, I spent some time training the black cracker dog. This photo shows R's serene side.
The serenity flees when we start our training. R absolutely adores our training time. That's what positive training does - it creates dogs who view training time as one of the best times of the day.
We are working on a wave, with R's left paw. He had elbow dysplasia surgery as a puppy, and this movement is great for maintaining his range of motion and muscle strength around the weakened elbow. He has definitely learned this trick! However, it's tough to photograph it well because he always twists slightly away from me as he waves.
You'll notice that R's mouth is open in the photo above. The reason is that, in typical R cracker dog style, he's modified the trick to suit him. Presently, he barks every time he waves.

And sometimes he barks when he's not waving out of pure joy for life!
Barking in sync with waving should be an easy habit to break (it just started today). Tomorrow, I'll reward only the waves when he doesn't bark. For today, I just laughed along with him every time he barked. I love his enthusiasm!

I think that R will be back to running and romping pretty soon. I've been stretching his elbow through its range of motion a couple of times every day, and we're giving him regular glucosamine injections. We haven't seen him limp in a whole week. Good news!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tiny the Bear Visit

Yesterday evening, I hiked with the Duo at sunset and captured a couple of photos in the magical light. This photo is unique, with R focused on me and Shyla focused on a scent. Usually, it's the other way around.
One of you said that R looked too serious and almost stern in a recent photo. This one shows his pure and lovely eyes - there's nothing stern about them!

This is the usual state of affairs, with Shyla's eyes glued unerringly on me.

I'm sure that both of them are keenly aware that Tiny the Black Bear has been tromping all over our forest. I found his huge tracks the other day, and then, later in the day, I hiked with the Duo. R wanted to roll on every one of Tiny's paw prints. I was amazed by how driven he was to roll in as much bear scent as possible.

One of the places that Tiny visited was our clearing. With our late and intense snowfall, it appears that the things bears often eat at this time of year are not available. Usually, our first bear visit to our clearing is in June. An April visit is unprecedented.

Alas, I didn't have my trail cameras aligned correctly for a bear standing up and trying to tear down the bird feeders. But, I still think that the photos and video are interesting. I posted a video at Youtube, and you can also watch it here.

I am concerned about Tiny's limp. When I first saw his tracks in early April, he was bounding through deep snow drifts, suggesting that he was feeling fine. In the video, he clearly favors his right front paw. I hope that he gets better soon. He's an institution around here in the spring and fall.

Many thanks to Trailcampro.com who are the reason that I have a video trail camera in our clearing!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Wildlife and Sunshine!

Interesting traffic past our house...


And some sunshine, finally...



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nailed...

We've sure received our fair share of moisture during the month of April. It was a very snowy hike last night.
We awakened to yet another foot of snow.
It was very hard snowbiking this morning. Even Shyla looked a little unhappy with the state of affairs. The snow kept sticking to her eye lashes, which looked very uncomfortable.
I was also dragging because I was bitten by a dog yesterday. Yesterday, we met a group of dogs who we know (with their human). Understandably, since their pack is 8-strong, Shyla is somewhat afraid of them. To help Shyla, I was trying to get the eight dogs to pay attention to me instead of to her. As I trotted away from Shyla hoping to attract the dogs to follow me (and leave Shyla alone), one of them nailed my calf with his teeth.

It was a pretty deep puncture so I had to get antibiotics and a tetanus shot. The worst part is that strong antibiotics make me feel so very tired... which is part of why I was dragging this morning as I tried to pedal through the fresh snow.

It seems ironic that I, who love dogs so very much, was bitten by one. I guess that they can't tell friend from foe.

I was very careful not to freak out when the bite occurred so that Shyla wouldn't be scared by the whole incident. Shyla didn't seem afraid on the trails today so I think that I succeeded.
I am looking forward to the spring thaw because, after the snow melts, Shyla and I can stick to the seldom-traveled trails where we never see anyone else. Then, worries about other dogs can fall by the wayside.
Please, it's time for spring! Poor Shyla doesn't want snow on her eyelashes anymore (look closely at the photo above).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Snow and Monday Mischief

Here we go again. Yup, this is what greeted us this morning.
It continued throughout our snowbike ride. It makes for pretty pictures and nice wildflowers but I'm getting a little tired of it.
Shyla's not getting tired of anything. This girl's love of our mountain trails is endless.
Because it's Monday, I thought that I'd share a Monday Mischief story with you. I've mentioned that I take Shyla with me to my Physical Therapy appointments. Sometimes, I visit the rest room while we're there. On the first occasion, I took Shyla into a stall with me and had her do a sit-stay. I was extremely diligent to make sure that she didn't peek under the stall dividers at anyone else.

When I headed to the sinks to wash my hands, a person entered the rest room and then went into the stall next to the sinks. I'd let down my guard and wasn't supervising Shyla quite as closely. As I scrubbed my hands, I heard a wild laugh come from the stall next to the sinks. I looked down, and Shyla was lying down with her head under the stall wall, presumably looking up at the woman. I started apologizing profusely but, fortunately, the woman thought it was incredibly funny. No harm done! Now I supervise Shyla closely the entire time that we are in the rest room.

I'm learning that a person needs to pay attention to lots of details when they have a dog who goes into public buildings. I wonder how service dogs are trained in the etiquette of rest rooms. I'd be interested to know about that if any of you are familiar with service dog training.

Back to the present, given the aerial bombardment by snow all day today, it's amazing that I took this photo just yesterday in beautiful sunlight.
Apparently, we are getting close to a record for snowfall in April. My preference would be not to break the record and have this be the last April storm. It's time for some warm and sunny springtime weather!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Black Lab and Black & White Sunday

R's shiny coat glowed in the sun today. He's been on a home-cooked diet, designed by a vet who is a nutritionist since he was sick last fall, and his coat has become truly luxurious.

Shyla's paws easily stood atop the crust on a couple of feet of snow early this morning, shown in black and white to make the texture of the snow crust more obvious.
The crust on the snow made for incredible snowbiking early this morning. I floated on the crust, flying along at speeds that are impossible in soft snow. I keep reading complaints from new snowbikers about the "impossible" conditions (snow biking suddenly became popular this year so there are a lot of newbies on the trails), and I wonder if they're optimizing when and where they ride. When you get the timing and location dialed in, snowbiking is incredible!

There are many plants below all of our snow who have gone into brief hibernation. I can't wait to see them again. However, we have another snow storm headed our way tomorrow so I don't know when that day will come. Although I am jealous of all of you who have pleasantly warm weather, I am so grateful for the moisture to nourish our world.
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bobcats and springtime

Bobcats continue to amuse me all winter long, while I wait for my favorite animals, bears, to wake up. They are amazingly strong, patrolling snowing slopes in search of food.

After a big snowstorm... Check out that fur coat!
Then, again, early in the morning, after some snow melt... Look at how he spread out the pressure under his left front paw to avoid breaking through the snow crust.


He returned again later in the same day. By noon, walking on the snow crust was impossible!

This time, he lingered in front of the camera. I know that rabbits frequent this site so he might have been zeroing in on one of them.
It's getting toward bobcat breeding season. I suspect that the mother bobcat who we've followed since last summer has sent her kitten to find his own territory so that she can find a mate. The kitten is in the most dangerous phase of his life - I hope that he makes it.

I love this time of year, looking forward eagerly to flowers, bear cubs, and new bobcat kittens! As a sign that spring may be approaching, the icicles are melting.
Winter storms are still on the horizon but they make beautiful backdrops for photos, and they'll pass soon.
Our snow will melt before too long, showing us the treasures that lie below it. Shyla will see her first spring here in Colorado! She can sniff it in the air.
Happy Saturday to all of you - enjoy your spring weather if it's already arrived!