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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tiny the Black Bear - Marking and Mischief

There's so much going on at home that I'm going to step away from the desert trip for a moment to give you a bear update.

You may remember Tiny, the biggest male black bear I've ever seen, who rules our neck of the woods during mating season (usually around June). We caught our first glimpses of him on 5/25, when he trekked many miles marking every black bear "whammy" tree in the area. I have video cams at most of those trees so I got some fun footage plus some still photos.

He came back a few days later to discover that all his amorous messages had gone unanswered, except for a response from a bobcat who leaped onto a tree that Tiny had marked. Then, the bobcat rolled around at the foot of the tree, leaving his own scent mark.

It is fascinating to me that different species respond to each other's scent messages. I've learned from experience to go look when Shyla marks a certain spot. On more than one occasion, I've found that she had the audacity to pee over top of a mountain lion's scrape! I guess that it's good to listen to your dog if you want to know what's been happening in the forest around you.

When Tiny returned to the most important marking tree to discover that no sows had left replies and that a BOBCAT had answered his messages, he seemed to get mad. He attacked my camera, believe it or not! The camera endured the attack but Tiny left it pointed the wrong way after he finished sniffing and clawing it.

The compilation of these videos reinforces for me the fact that fascinating animal communication is happening in the forest around us, although we usually have no idea of what is being said. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

I still haven't captured any trail cam footage of the sow and cubs who were in "my" den this winter. Very soon, I will go peek to see if they are still near the den. If they're not, I will bring home all the footage of mom and tiny cubs from the winter and spring.

Have a Beary Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Desert Beauty

On this Memorial Day, I am sifting through our photos from the desert, feeling so thankful for those who fought to keep our country safe. Today's peace and beauty is thanks to them.

It sometimes seems simply unbelievable to me that we have such abundant public lands where we can camp, hike, and ride bikes in solitude. Most of all, we can enjoy the gorgeous world around us.

We didn't arrive at our first campsite for our desert trip until after midnight. The moon, at about half full, was just setting into some low clouds on the western horizon. Despite the late hour, I pulled out my camera to try to capture the beauty.

After the moonlight had totally disappeared, the Milky Way glowed. Here was one end of it.

And here was the other end of it. I need to get a super-duper wide angle lens (like 8mm) so that I can shoot wide panoramas that can show the whole Milky Way in one frame. I guess that I could also learn to stitch together multiple frames but I don't have much patience for futzing with photos on my computer.

Needless to say, I was already grinning when I finally climbed into bed, despite how tired we all were after the long drive. We slept in the next morning, loving that wonderful feeling of multiple weeks of vacation ahead of us. As soon as we went outside in the morning, we knew it was going to be a special visit. More desert flowers were blooming than any other time I can remember. Endless cacti sported brilliant flowers.
Many other flowers were blooming too but I'll save them for a future post.

The sun was shining but it wasn't hot. Shyla and I had a blast playing in the desert rocks.

And we all watched the sun set at the end of the day in almost the same spot as where the moon had set the previous night.
Mother Earth is more beautiful than I ever imagined when I was growing up in a more urban setting. I'm glad that we found our way westward, landing in such an incredible part of the country that suits us so perfectly.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Milton the Black Bear Returns for 2016!

While we relaxed in the desert, about 4 different black bears showed up on my trail cameras. Today, I want to share just the footage of "Milton", a long-lived and big male black bear who I've watched for years.

In the spring of 2013, he badly injured himself, and I feared that we'd never see him again. I was wrong. He disappeared for a while. He played very little role in the 2014 mating season - he didn't appear marking trees on Black Bear Trail. However, last year, he returned, looking stronger than ever!

The first glimpse of him this year was marking a tree on Black Bear Trail several miles from our house. He is a big and strong bear!

In the next couple of hours, he walked the miles to our house and showed up to work on how to pull down our bear-proof birdfeeders. I had a trail camera that shoots video pointed at the birdfeeding station that caught all his antics. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

He didn't gain anything from all that effort. In fact, there was no food hanging up high on the feeding station. However, he did leave the pole leaning rather obviously in one direction. I think that the bird feeding station's inventor, the Runner, won this round but I also think that Milton is getting closer to a solution! The battle goes on!

None of the bears photographed by my trail cams have been the sow and cubs from the den yet. To make absolutely sure that I don't upset that bear family, I'm waiting a little longer before I go get the memory cards from the cams at their den.

While Milton worked on our birdfeeding station, we were oblivious because we were in the desert. Normally, we would've been out chasing a bear away after the dogs started barking at him. Instead, we were enjoying this quiet faraway campsite...
There were no bears at this campsite although lizards skittered around all the rocks!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Black Dog's Recovery from CUE Surgery (Weeks 4-6)

Today's post will be devoted to an update on R's recovery from CUE surgery on April 15. I'll tell you about our desert trip in future posts.

To remind you, this surgery was to put artificial weight-bearing surfaces into R's elbow that has congenital dysplasia. R's recovery has not been a straight line from point A to point B. As you'll see in the video, he became quite reluctant to walk very much in Week 4. His gait was slow, and he didn't look happy. It was a hard phase for us because we were scared that something had gone wrong. We still insisted that he walk the 5X per day prescribed by our vet but we let him walk as slowly as he wanted to.

Thankfully, he started to bounce back around Week 5, with his gait looking smoother and perkier. By the time we arrived home from our trip at about the 6 week mark post-surgery, we discovered that he was naturally walking twice as fast as in Week 3. Walking the length of our driveway used to take 10 minutes and now it takes 5 minutes!

For rehab, R (and us) spent Weeks 3-5 taking 5 walks per day, each about 10 minutes in length. Now, he's allowed to do 4 leash walks of 15 minutes each on the fairly smooth trails near our house. Progress! And, he's thrilled to go on his walks. We have to hold him back so he doesn't break into a trot. That makes me smile!!!

Throughout our desert trip and now at home, rehab exercises are a big part of our day. He does 3-5 bouts per day of strengthening and range of motion exercises. His elbow range of motion has doubled since Week 3!

For both strengthening and range of motion, you'll see in the video that he does a lot of targeting of a pointer held higher than his shoulder with each paw. It's actually a harder exercise when he raises his normal leg (R) because his surgical elbow has to support his whole weight. We're working on it, as you'll see in the video.

He also does exercises on a squishy disk that forces the small muscles around his recovering elbow to stabilize it. Exercises on the disk are definitely his favorite ones even though they are difficult. Throughout every session, he continually puts his paws on the disk, asking if it's time for those exercises yet!

The vet says that his elbow is already less swollen than it was before surgery just due to the dysplasia. Things are looking good! You can watch our update video either here or at Youtube.

He has one more rehab "exercise". He needs to hold something with his front paws to aid in rebuilding the muscles around his left elbow. We're finding that he's reluctant to use his left paw in this way. He even refused to chew an antler! Finally, we found a bone that he's starting to hold a bit with his left paw. Aside from having to hold the bone, this is his favorite part of his rehab!

The acute recovery phase is now on the fast track, I think. I hope that he'll be out running in our mountains with Shyla before the end of the summer!
Happy Saturday to all of you!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sun and Lightning in the Desert

I'm still scrambling to get my videos and photos together from the trip so this will be a short Friday post!

For most of our time in the desert, the sun was so warm, and we worshiped it. Even with strong sunscreen, my pale skin from a long winter of no sun exposure turned brown. The sun delighted us most of the time but occasionally it got too hot. We'd hide in the shade among the boulders when the sun was shining at full intensity.

One day, as the four of us relaxed in the shade of boulders bigger than our LabMobile, I noticed that someone was spying on us. It was a small lizard basking atop one of our shade-giving boulders. I loved how he pretended that he wasn't really watching us!

That same sun made for incredible sunset light on some evenings. I love the rich red color of Shyla's fur at sunset. In this photo, she was perched atop the highest boulder nearby, looking very serious!

One evening when we were camped higher than the desert floor around us and could see the horizon far off in the distance, lightning lit up the clouds on the western horizon. I had no idea how to try to capture a lightning bolt with my camera. After pondering it for a bit, I set up my camera for 30 second exposures separated by 2 seconds to write the files to the memory card. That technique worked!

This is one of my favorite photos from that evening. You can see the western end of K's Rock on the right, some stars twinkling high in the sky, and the cloud-to-ground lightning in the distance. The storm was so far away that we couldn't even hear the thunder so we felt safe watching the lightning show.
Mother Nature makes the most amazing art, in my opinion!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Desert Escape

We snuck away for a couple of weeks in the warmth and sun of the desert.

Flowers were blooming and the sun was shining! It snowed at home so I was beyond thrilled to be in the desert. By May, I am done with winter.
While we camped, we spent lots of time every day working on R's rehab, and he's progressing beautifully. Even our vet (who we saw today) agrees. I'll post a more detailed update on him soon, including video of his much better looking gait. Just so I don't get your hopes up too much, he still limps but it's much better than the last video I showed you!!!

I am glad that I'll be settling back into a normal blogging routine after we get settled back in at home. Thanks for bearing with us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fun and Games

This game is one of the goofiest ones that I play with Shyla, probably because we both find it to be so much fun!

Balance many treats on her nose and forehead, and then release her to flip them in the air.

She never ceases to try to catch them - and then she gets to eat all the wayward ones off the ground. It's such a FUN game.
I hope that you've had some fun in your day. Do you have goofy and fun games that you play with your dog?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Black Dog Sunday

This recovery from surgery is Loooonnnggggg! We are looking forward to having R with us out on the trails again!

And even galloping like he did before surgery.
Time moves so slowly when one of our pups is not allowed to run around!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Silly Saturday

R has lots of friends helping him recuperate, in addition to his sister and us humans.
He's continuing to make progress, slowly but surely. We'll have a pupdate soon!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flower Friday

I'm sharing a few more flower photos here - of the brave flowers who break out blooming in this season when we can see snow one day and flowers the next.

Here was Shyla running across a big snow drift.

 It was a cold and damp day so the Pasqueflowers (wild crocuses) had closed their flowers tight.

I love how the little hairs on the Pasqueflowers hang onto the water droplets.

The Pasqueflowers even survive big snows. This one had bloomed just before we got a foot of snow. When the snow melted a few days later, here it was - waiting to open its flower again!

And this is what Pasqueflowers look like on a glorious spring day!

Shyla particularly loves seeing the Kinnickinnic flowers. They are tiny, less than a quarter inch across but they turn into berries when pollinated. The berries are often called "Bear Berries" because bears eat huge quantities of them in the late summer. Surprisingly, Shyla also LOVES to eat the berries. I've tasted them, and they're nothing special. But Shyla thinks so!

Springtime is so bright that Shyla has gotta wear shades!
Happy Springtime!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thowback Thursday

These were back in the days when R was a little brother. Here he is with his big sister, Angel K.

She raised him well, teaching him all sorts of things, both good and not-so-good!
I'm so glad that I went back through my library to find these gems from another era in our life!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Launching Treats

Zen Phase

Launch Phase

Catching (or not) Phase!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wonderful Elk Viewing Time!

With all the spring snow we got, the elk herd retreated to lower elevation. We didn't see them for a while. When the most recent big snow melted, the meadows started to turn green, and the elk returned!

It wasn't the whole huge herd from the early winter but a smaller group of maybe a hundred. They spread out over a huge area so I couldn't get them all in one frame.

I was struck by the fact that mother elk were still sticking close to their calves that were born almost a year ago.

The calves are born just after the elk migrate to the high mountains, probably in June. These almost-yearlings will probably go off on their own when the next calves are born soon.

I find myself wondering how the calves do who lose their mothers during hunting season in November. There must be some benefit to still staying with a calf's mother since they all do it.

I wonder if other cow elk watch over the "orphans". I also wonder if anyone has studied the survival of the orphaned calves.

The current "herd" is mostly cow elk. Many of them look quite skinny (see above photo) but that's at least partly due to the shedding of their winter coats. Most have lost their dark furred neckwarmers.

Some young bull elk do stay with the herd of cow elk but all the older ones with big antler racks are off by themselves.

It sure is fun to be able to watch these animals almost from our house!

I feel grateful that Shyla has learned not to chase elk. She might take a step or two toward them when we see them during a mountain bike ride but always returns right to my side without going more than a few yards toward them.
That's when I know that all the hard work at training has paid off!

Monday, May 16, 2016


For some reason, the combination of Shyla wearing Doggles and waving at the same time made me giggle!
I hope it brought a smile to your day!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunset Sunday

A recent colorful sunset that graced our mountains.
Our evening hikes have been less frequent because R can't go with us but Shyla and I enjoyed seeing this one, just the two of us!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Starry Saturday

During our last trip to K's Rock in Utah, I managed to get star photos before the full moon rose and then again after it was high in the sky. It's incredible how different they are.

With no moon, K's Rock was black, and zillions of stars were visible.

After the full moon was up, far fewer stars were visible but K's Rock glowed!
Happy Starry Saturday.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Flowery Friday

We don't have as many flowers as most of you yet but we have a few hardy ones that can handle occasional snow and freezing temperatures.

Believe it or not, one of our earliest bloomers is a cactus! It has gorgeous pink and yellow flowers. Usually, I find one cactus every here or there but a friend showed me a veritable cactus garden on a hillside!

On a sunny and warm day, all the flowers were wide open.

One common characteristic of all our early flowers is that they can close their flowers up tight when it gets too cold. I took this photo last week, and I haven't seen the flowers open in the morning again since then.

These are such showy flowers. Wow!

Believe it or not, these cacti are on the hillside where Shyla is running in this photo.
We both have avoided stepping on or riding over any cacti for many years, thank goodness. When the cacti aren't blooming, they aren't easy to see!

Happy Flower Friday!