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Monday, November 30, 2015

A Shocking Transition

We took a quick getaway last week to an alien environment - the red rock desert. For most of our time in the desert, it was sunny and warm during the days. We enjoyed the warmth immensely.

This is an extremely wide-angle view of the canyon area where we camped for a few days, with a desert "pot hole" in the foreground. It shows how different the desert world is from our home.
I'll be writing more about our trip soon but I need to look through the photos first!

This morning was shocking as we faced full-on winter after a week in the desert. It was about 10°F with a fresh layer of snow covering our world.

Partway through Shyla's and my morning outing, a wind suddenly started blowing off the mountains to our west, as you can tell from the snow crystals clinging to Shyla's fur.

Although my body had a tough time dealing with the cold today, it was nice to be back in our home environment.

Even Shyla seemed cold at times, lifting a paw off the snow to try to warm it every now and then. But high speed leaping warmed her up!

Now it's back to normal life. Sadly, the desert did not heal my spine or make my pain vanish so I have an important test tomorrow and then some decisions to face. In between those things, I'll be looking through the photos from our fun getaway and enjoying the true mountain winter that is going on right now!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black Dog Singing Sunday

Our black dog, R, loves to sing. One of his favorite singing sites is the top of a mountain near Leadville, Colorado.

But he's not too picky about where he sings. He sang close to home this fall.

And he sang at dusk one evening late this fall.

But, as you know, he can can be a serious black dog too.
I love when he lets us see his brown eyes!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Life is good

Who me? I'm not spoiled.

But after playing with all those toys, a girl gets sleepy. Time to snooze in a convenient sun puddle.
Life is good!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Friday

On Black Friday, our goal is not to shop but to enjoy the great outdoors instead.

Our wise dogs have taught us that life is not all about the stuff we buy.
And, to be perfectly honest, we humans *hate* shopping so it's not hard to stay out of the stores on any day!

After enjoying the outdoors on Black Friday, we warm up in sun puddles.
Ah, it's a good life!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Bearly Thanksgiving

This was one of the last photos I captured of a bear this fall. She is so fat that she looks pregnant! Bears don't actually become pregnant before they're in their dens so her big belly is fat. The fertilized eggs from mating season back in May and June remain in suspended animation throughout the summer. They implant in the uterus early in hibernation only if the sow is fat and healthy enough to support cubs.
This looks like a young sow based on her height but she looks fat enough to have cubs this winter! In this photo, she's carefully sniffing a bear marking tree.
She didn't mark the tree and moved along heading generally west.

Two days later, a similarly short sow marked a tree a few miles to the east of the one shown in the first photo. I know that this second series of photos is of "Dot", a young sow who seems to be taking over the territory of our matriarch bear who disappeared over last winter. In all likelihood, Dot is a daughter of that sow.

She was very intent on marking the tree thoroughly.

After marking it, she turned around and sniffed it. She sure has a healthy shape for a bear about to hibernate!
And that was the last bear sighting so far this fall/winter. Usually, females go to dens first. I suspect that Dot went into a den soon after her tree marking on 10/29. However, male bears usually stay out for at least another month after the females. Consequently, I am still hoping to capture photos of Tiny or other males as they head to dens.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for our bears. They fascinate and amuse me all summer long. I hope that "our" local bears have a safe winter, and that we see them again in the spring. And I'd be super thankful if they had cubs with them when we see them again!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

You would never guess that Shyla is sweet all the way to her core based on this photo!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Training Tuesday

I've been playing a new training game with Shyla. I place treats right in front of her, and I put her in a "stay" behind them. I hoped to get a photo of her staring at them. However, she has developed the strategy of not looking at the treats so she's not tempted to snarf them!

Indeed, she sometimes even closes her eyes to make this challenge easier.

Then, I call her to me, which requires her to hop over or run around the treats. You can see her side-stepping them in the next photo as she started to run to me.
When Shyla arrived at my feet, I gave her a jackpot of higher value treats than the ones she was resisting when she was in a "stay". Then, I ask her to heel over to the pile of treats she previously resisted. When I released her from the heel, she was free to eat them all!

It's a great game for teaching Shyla that she'll get the most "good stuff" if she resists temptations and recalls directly to me. It also teaches her that she might get whatever tempted her if she first does what I ask. That's a concept that I hope to generalize to the rest of her life.

In case you want to try this, you start with the "temptation" far away from your dog and in a place where you can stop your dog if she decides to snarf the temptation. It takes a long time to reach the point that the temptation is directly in front of the dog's nose.

As we've worked through our new training program, our bond has grown ever stronger. For photos, I sometimes like it when Shyla doesn't look at me. However, in the past months, she seems to want to make eye contact with me all the time.
I think that her wish for eye contact is a wonderful thing, and I certainly won't discourage it!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Truly Winter

When the snow in the forest does nothing but get deeper, you know it's truly winter. This photo was taken in a sun puddle on the forest floor. It's a spot that only sees the sun for a few minutes each day. It is truly winter...

When Shyla waves and there's snow stuck to the bottom of her paw, it's truly winter. She would like you to notice that she's waving with her left paw. She now knows cues for waving with either her left or her right paws!

When the sun shines with a deep reddish glow at sunrise, it is truly winter.
The low angle sun and the soft sunlight are my favorite parts of winter!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Black Dog Sunday

I love when I can capture R's beautiful eyes in a photo. This was just as the sun went down. The light was soft enough for his eyes to shine true and brown.
Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snow, snow, snow

One morning last week, we awakened to a decent overnight snowfall. The stillness of our clearing on a frozen morning with fresh snow is profound. To my surprise, my trail camera captured a photo that morning that tells the story. It's a photo of our clearing, and my snow bike with a snow-encrusted wheel is visible in the far left.
This was the week when autumn became a distant memory and winter took a strong hold on our area. Just before the snowfall in the photo above, I planted Columbine seeds in an aspen grove that is just outside the view of the trail camera. I love that gesture of hope for springtime.

That was not the only snowy day.

Shyla truly loves the snow. She even loves licking the snowflakes off her own nose!

It makes her dance with happiness.
And her happiness is infectious. So, let it snow!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Funny

A Friday funny...

Just to see what she'd do, I balanced a toy on Shyla's nose, just like I balance treats on her nose for her to flip into the air and catch.
Shyla didn't seem surprised by my odd behavior at all. She sat very still balancing it.

Then, when I released her, she flipped the toy so that she could grab it.

She wrangled it into her mouth using her jaws as snow crystals showered down on her.

And then looked at me wide eyed as I cheered her exceptional adaptation of a trick that usually involves a treat.
It's amazing how smart our dogs are!!!
Thanks for all the good wishes for my neurosurgeon appointment. Not surprisingly, the surgeon wants more information before making a concrete recommendation. So, I'll be having more tests and then talking with him again. I wish that the process of making this pain go away would be faster! Of course, with all the delays, there is a chance that my body will heal itself while we wait. However, there's also a chance that I'll lose my mind due to the pain! Quite a trade-off!

I'm going to mostly stay away from my computer for a little while. I'll have some short posts in the near future but not as many as usual. Thanks for your understanding!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Life changes yet stays the same

Just a very short post today as we have to travel to a faraway neurosurgeon. He's been my surgeon for a long time now, and it's interesting to think of how much my life has changed over the long time since he first operated on my spine.

Like this girl joining our family...

... and my new-found love of tracking our wildlife using trail cameras. The next photo is special. In the years I've had trail cameras, this is the very first photo of a Gray Fox. It is a "species of concern" in our area, and I'm thrilled to see one in our neck of the woods.

Believe it or not, gray foxes can climb trees due to their unique forelimbs. That cool fact had me wondering if I could entice him to climb a tree in front of a camera. Hmm.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Windy Wordless Wednesday

Stillness at Sunrise

Then the wild wind hit us

The wind sent Shyla's ears a'flapping

If I wish really hard, can I stop the wind?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Moose and Shyla's Spirit

The much-heralded snow storm fizzled into a small storm that gave us only about 4" of fresh snow. When Shyla and I headed out into the forest this morning, we were met by a familiar trio of moose. They include the mother moose who charged me last week, this year's calf, and last year's calf. Last year's calf is distinctive - he's a male but only his left antler developed correctly so he's easily recognizable.

This morning, I saw the moose early so I got Shyla and me well away from them and took a few photos as they made a semi-circle around us. This is mom - the moose who tried to kill me last week. Actually, it only felt that way - if she'd truly wanted to kill me, I'd be dead.
This is her yearling calf with one prominent antler.  I don't know how common it is for a yearling calf to be hanging out with his mom and her new calf. I know from my trail cameras that he spent the summer on his own. He explored in several directions from our neck of the woods but always returned. He seems to be helping protect the calf. Every time I see the trio, mom is in front of the calf and big brother is behind the calf. It seems like great added protection for the youngest family member.

I couldn't upload my photo of this year's calf because my internet is barely working. However, it's a male who is about 2/3 of the size of his mom and older brother. He and his older brother appeared to be playing together, head butting each other gently and then the calf galloping like a happy puppy.

I actually wish that this trio would move along. They scare me because the mother is so unpredictably aggressive. I am constantly scanning the forest for moose, and I've been requiring Shyla to stay next to me - no exploring off to the sides of the trails - until I figure out where the moose are each day.

Today, after we saw the moose trio and moved far away from them, Shyla could play in the fresh snow.
I thank my lucky stars for Shyla's amazing spirit these days. I've been in so much pain that having her make me smile every day is a gift.
I love her more than I ever dreamed I would which is sweet solace for my spirit.

I am still working on how to reduce my pain (no oral medicine or PT has helped). I'm setting up spinal steroid injections, and I'm meeting with my surgeon. The wheels of the medical machine turn slowly. Meanwhile, I am gradually being beaten down by the seven weeks of intense pain I've experienced.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Incoming Storm

Today was a gray and cold day, as a big snow storm moved into the area. I spent the day preparing for "the final snow" - the one that will stick around until spring. I think this is it. I froze my fingers as I planted my columbine seeds for the year. They will slumber under the snow until spring's sunshine stirs them. Planting them as "the final snow" starts to fall is an act of hope and optimism that I learned from my friend Barb at Live and Learn.

I also moved faraway trail cameras to more accessible places. Most are not yet in their final winter sites yet but they are where I can access them even if we get another foot of snow on top of the 8" that already sits on trails deep in the forest. One trail camera that I trudged to had taken a cool photo of a mule deer buck. This is the biggest antler rack that I've ever seen on a deer around here. I count 6 points on his left antler!
Public land hunting season ended yesterday evening but private property hunting continues through the end of January. It's not easy being a deer or elk around here.

Before the storm arrived, the weekend was gloriously sunny and warm. Shyla and I saw sunrise on both days. Incredible!

Shyla bowed down in thanks for the amazing weather - the calm and warmth before the storm.
After playing out in the open as the sun rose, we moved into the forest to enjoy the contrasts between the sun and the shadows. By the day, I can see the angle of the sun changing so that the bright shafts of sunrise light are in slightly different places. Before we know it, winter solstice will be here.

Shyla put on an incredible display of her athletic prowess. She didn't need to leap, but she did anyway!

We ended with a classic "third grade school photo". Shyla looks so serious that I burst out laughing.
Tomorrow will be interesting. I've seen predictions ranging from 6" to 16" of snow for us. No matter what, this truly feels like the start of winter. I am thankful for our warm home and the huge pile of firewood that will help warm us until springtime.