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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mostly Black and White Sunday

I saw our a snowstorm arrive yesterday during our evening hike. When I left the house, the wind was howling and visibility was great for a long distance. While we were up on a high plateau, the west wind stopped - just stopped - all at once. After a day of wind, it suddenly seemed so quiet. Then, the clouds oozed into our neck of the woods from the east, quickly dropping visibility to almost zero.

This photo was from after the wind stopped and as the clouds started to arrive.

Overnight, those clouds gave us only about an inch of snow. The wind blew after the snow fell, making ripples in it that reminded me of ripples in water.

That scant inch of snow made a world of difference this morning. It gave us traction on the icy trails, and it made Shyla's play powdery and beautiful!
After a little bit of sunshine this morning, another storm oozed into the area. This one will stay here for days, leaving somewhere between 1 and 2 feet of snow.

We are hunkered down, with a fire burning, as it snows silently outside. I do love the absolute quiet of a snowstorm.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nature on a Winter Saturday

We're in another stormy period here. No snow yet but the forecasts are for a lot of snow over the coming days. I took this photo just before the storm system arrived.
Ahead of the snow, we have incredible wind. On my ride today, I literally coasted up a hill when a big wind gust was at my back. I thought I might become airborne based on the wind force hitting me in the back.

I wonder if the wind helped Shyla fly as she did a recall! Her leaps amaze me the most when they appear to be totally spontaneous. She's not leaping over anything - she's just leaping for the fun of it! And, the wind was at her back!

The birds seem to know when a storm is moving in. The activity in our clearing reaches a frenzied level as they take turns eating from the feeders. I loved seeing the dash of bright red on this male Downy Woodpecker today!
May the wind always be at your back on this Saturday!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pave Paradise?

First, I want to say thank you for all the supportive comments yesterday. With all the POTP coming his way, it seems like things will work out for R, one way or another! Thanks!

I've spent my time today writing a long letter opposing massive clear-cutting that the Forest Service wants to do in our area.

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the Forest Service insist that cutting down 50% of the trees in our surrounding area will make the ecosystem healthier.

They also insist that it will reduce the risk of large wildfires. Intensive analysis of nearby recent fires by experts shows that to be a dubious claim, at best. Moreover, paving the entire world would reduce wildfire risk... but we're not doing that!

Joni Mitchell's words sum it up well:
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot

These photos are of a White-breasted Nuthatch, who was having a small skirmish (or should I say "squirmish"?) with a squirrel. The squirrel was following the bird everywhere, and finally the bird started flapping his wings to scare away the squirrel.
White-breasted Nuthatches need pine trees to survive. So, I guess I was partly fighting for this feathered friend today.

Because I hate nothing more than dealing with bureaucracies and politics like I've done today, I think I deserve a treat, like Shyla caught this morning!
Nope, the photo is not distorted. She stretched herself out of proportion to snag the treat before it hit the ground. As I've said before, she makes me smile everyday!

Have a great weekend and enjoy your trees!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

R's Elbow - An Update

Several of you have asked what's going on with R's elbow surgery. Well, things are moving slowly, much to our chagrin.

The experts who have looked at his case think that he has no other option besides the very new CUE surgery. The problem is getting things organized to have a CUE expert do the surgery. As of right now, our awesome local surgeon wants to team up with the originator of the surgery to fix R's elbow by doing CUE. Unfortunately, the current plan has that surgery happening around April 1, which is a long time from now, in dog time.

Our orthopedic surgeon is exploring whether anyone else can fly here and do the surgery with him sooner than that. We don't know the answer yet.

I do feel very lucky that we're able to provide such amazing care for R at all. We have pet health insurance which will cover some of it, and we live in an area where people take pet health care very seriously. Consequently, we have world class vets helping us.

In the meantime, we're waiting. R limps every day, almost all the time, and he's at the maximum doses of pain medicines. We're still letting him get a "moderate" amount of exercise, with permission from our elbow expert.

It's still far less exercise than R usually gets. That's a big part of why I've been doing nosework training with both dogs. It gives R some "mental exercise" which will hopefully help keep him happier while he can't do as much running as he wants.
The intensity in his eyes when he runs tells the story of R's personality. He's driven (even if it's just in a recall race with his sister, who refuses to even challenge him), and he needs an outlet for that drive. We've satisfied his intense personality with exercise so far in his life. He and the Runner have built an unbreakable bond through all the trail miles they've logged together.

We are working as hard as we can to put the pieces in place so that R can have a successful CUE surgery. CUE surgery essentially inserts new weight-bearing surfaces into the elbow. If it's successful, R should be able to run almost pain-free after a long recovery.

We want him to eventually return to his first love - galloping through the forest with the Runner.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


My flying Shyla reminds me daily to smile and be thankful for all the good in our world.

I think Shyla knows that she's a lucky dog. She has an amazing big brother and gets to play in the mountains every day. And, she's become a real partner to me in the mountains, warning me of moose lurking nearby and happily posing for photos. She makes every day brighter for me.

This is a tough time of year for me to keep my chin up because spring still feels very far away, and the winter routine is starting to feel onerous. That makes it a good time of year for me to go back and mine my library of photos from the summer and fall.

This star photo was from our last camping trip in the high mountains before winter. My camera took photos for more than two hours to show the apparent rotation of the stars around the North Star. You can see a town below us but it was a small town. I was surprised by how many lights sparkled from it.
I hope that you are all finding things to smile about!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Confident Chocolate Lab

Shyla is still amazing me with her leaps forward in confidence and trust. For example, yesterday was warm so lots of people came out onto the trails, including the three other snow bikers who live near here. Shyla has never been willing to approach any of them.

So, visualize this! Shyla and I arrive on Hug Hill, and two people on fat bikes are hanging out there. Not only does Shyla want to meet them BUT she also jumped onto a boulder to get her face at their face level! The woman started petting Shyla who reciprocated with kisses. 

I almost fell off my bike in surprise. Shyla is the most courageous dog I know!

I don't have any photos of her interactions yesterday but I do have a photo of her zooming across Hug Hill after the other people departed. Her victory lap!

She still occasionally has melt-downs, and I've learned to take them in stride. At Christmas, a noisy family get-together sent Shyla into hiding in a corner under a desk. Everyone was concerned about her but I knew what was best from hard-earned experience. I told everyone, and especially the kids, that they were not allowed to approach her. She needed some quiet time, and she'd come out when she was ready.

Of course, I went and checked on her every 5 minutes or so but I didn't even ask her to come out. I just gave her some reassuring pats. Then, about 30 minutes later, Shyla emerged on her own and started approaching people for pats. Within 5 minutes of emerging, she was interacting in her normal loving way again.

That story sums up the biggest thing I've learned from Shyla. When it comes to being afraid, it's her choice about how she handles it. I never force her or even encourage her to "face" her fears. I just provide reassurance, and then I follow her lead.

She's amazing!
I'm so glad that Shyla came into my life. She's taught me so much about handling fear and under-confidence, not just in her but in myself too.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Beautiful Skies - Moon and Stars

Last evening, the moonrise almost coincided with sunset. The Runner, the Duo, and I all went to a high ridge to see the beautiful sights.

Well, as it has for the past 5 months, the weather didn't cooperate. A low lying bank of clouds sat on the eastern horizon. The moon didn't rise higher than the the cloud bank until about 20 minutes after the actual moonrise. But, it was still pretty.

First we saw the clouds turn pink in a small spot to the east. Then, the moon appeared like a mirage, lighting up the clouds around it.

It rose still higher, so we could see most of it.

And, finally, it cleared all the clouds. It then stayed out for hours, in the clear higher atmosphere.

I loved the halo of glowing clouds around it.

Although I was disappointed by the cloud bank, I still watched the moon rise with eyes as wide as Shyla's this morning. If you think her eyes were wide because there was a moose nearby, you're right. But, he went around us and never came close enough for me to worry.

I've been wanting to take some star photos near our house but I didn't last evening due to the full moon. Then, I realized that I had star photos that I hadn't yet shared from a full moon night high in the Rockies last summer.
I am looking forward to summer but I bet that those of you who just got that huge amount of snow feel that even more strongly than I do!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Springlike in Colorado

In contrast to our eastern neighbors, we are having a spring-like day today. Even the coyotes are out, squinting into the sun. This coyote is standing on the trail behind our house, obviously listening for us. My trail camera took the photo.

Even though it hasn't snowed substantially here in a while, most of the world is still snow covered. After the snow has endured weeks of sun and wind, it forms a pattern of contours, like mini-sand dunes, throughout it.

That snow makes for fun backlit photos, as Shyla kicks up snow crystals with every stride.

We are going to hit a high point for sunset and moonrise tonight. There hasn't been a clear full moonrise since last summer. I'm hoping it stays clear today! It was mostly clear last night. The Duo and I watched the moon during our evening hike. It was almost dark as we arrived home, and the moon was so pretty!
I hope that all of you on the east coast are snuggled in, enjoying a quiet weekend of snow. I hope that we get some soon! It's been too long since a big snow here.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Moose Trio Joins our Photoshoot

As we rolled out the door this morning, I reminded myself repeatedly to watch for moose because I'd somehow overlooked two moose yesterday, riding right past them. We rode up to the high area where we watch the sunrise, and there were no moose anywhere in sight!

So, I left my bike by the side of the trail, and we started our usual routine - a combination of playing, training, and photographs. The sunrise light was rich.

I played with the light some, facing to the east so that Shyla was like a golden ghost.

Then, when we were deep back in a pocket of the forest, Shyla's eyes got very wide, and she fixated on something behind me.

It's not easy for me to "look over my shoulder" due to my surgically fused spine. However, her wide eyes convinced me to turn my whole body around to see what was behind me. I expected to see a hiker or a runner but I saw no one.

So, I went back to training. I had Shyla in a "stay" (and note that she still didn't look at me but looked behind me).

And I called her to come to me.

She almost bowled me over, running straight into me with wide eyes.

That convinced me to look behind me again. And guess what I saw...

Not just one moose, but THREE. From left to right, it was "Lefty" (the yearling calf), this year's calf (the light colored one), and Mama Moose. They seemed utterly oblivious to us or else not interested in us. These photos were not taken with a long lens. The moose were very close to us.
What you can't see is that they were very close to my bike, which actually was a major consideration in this situation (yup, I'm completely crazy about my Meriwether).

I stopped taking photos, and I told Shyla to heel. We went to the south of the moose trio, behind a series of boulders, so that Shyla would be invisible and wouldn't anger Mama Moose. I kept talking in a conversational voice so that Mama Moose wouldn't think I was trying to ambush her calf.

We made it out to the trail and walked away from the moose trio. But my bike was still near them. I really didn't want it to be trampled. So, I had Shyla scale a tall boulder, and I had her do a "down-stay" on top of it. My logic was that she was safe from the moose up there, and I had tremendous faith that she wouldn't break a stay, especially not with moose around.

Then, I walked meekly back in the direction of the moose, trying to figure out what to do. I just stood still, pondering the problem of my bike being next to three moose. Well, my problem was solved for me.

Something spooked them. It wasn't me - because they paid no attention to me. They cantered, so powerful and huge, into the forest enclave where Shyla and I had been when we first saw them. I quickly walked over and took my bike. I rode to Shyla and released her from her "stay". Needless to say, we got the heck out of there.

Some of my friends have started calling me a "moose magnet". They might be right.
I thank my lucky stars that we got out of that sticky spot without even being charged. I have to wonder what made the moose come so close to us. When they arrived, I was talking loudly to Shyla, calling out cues like "SHYLA COME". I think the moose must have known that we were there, yet they chose to forage within 25 yards of us.

Let's hope next week involves no moose encounters! Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sunshine, moose, and mountain lions!

Sunshine, finally!

It makes everything look more beautiful.

Shyla and I enjoyed playing in the forest in the light of the rising sun.

On our way to see the sunrise this morning, we managed to ride right past at least two moose without me seeing them. The Runner wasn't far behind, and he spotted them. Shyla and I were lucky that they let us pass. I'm sure that Shyla was aware of them but she has proven that she is *never* going to chase a moose. She wants to stay as far away from them as she can after our scary experiences.

The Mama Moose, this year's calf, and last year's calf ("Lefty") have been living in a small radius around our house. I see the cavities in the snow where they sleep each night. Can you imagine being able to sleep in the snow in sub-freezing temperatures night after night? Amazing.

The sheer number of moose that I've seen so far this autumn and winter (at least different six individuals) close to our house is incredible. I find myself wondering if our state will end up regretting their decision to introduce moose here almost 40 years ago. The population has gone wild, primarily because they have no natural predators. A mountain lion can't take down a healthy adult moose.

A comparison of how small a mountain lion is compared to a moose explains why. Here's a photo of a mountain lion passing my trail camera.

Now, here's a moose passing the same camera, mounted in exactly the same place. The moose absolutely dwarfs the mountain lion. I cannot imagine a mountain lion killing a healthy moose.

Our wildlife authorities have repeatedly refused to help wolves establish themselves in our state. Wolves, working as a pack, do prey on moose. The moose population explosion in our neck of the woods has me pondering what will happen to our ecosystem in the future. Will the moose eat every last aspen and willow? I'm sure that there will be cries for more human hunting of moose but, personally, I'd prefer having wolves here.

Back to less serious stuff - Shyla and I truly enjoyed sunshine today - after a couple of gray days. It was super cold but the sun rays were warm. The moose didn't reappear so we had a very relaxed outing.

It was my favorite kind of winter day - below freezing, sunny, and a bluebird sky! The sun made the snow crystals glitter.
I hope that all the people in the path of the east coast snowstorm can find a moment to see the beauty in the snow and to enjoy the way that life slows down when Mother Nature takes over. It's a more regular occurrence here - one that we've learned to enjoy, tucked warmly next to our crackling fire.

Happy Thursday!