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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sky Day - Clouds and a Silhouette

In the late afternoon one Sunday, the view to the east showed storms hovering nearby above a verdant meadow.

It was no surprise when those eastern skies lit up gloriously around sunset. They were beautiful with a dog silhouette.

And they were beautiful all by themselves.

I love clouds and how they light up around sunrise and sunset!
Happy Sky Day to all of you!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Eyes Have It

One of Shyla's new favorite games is to go behind me and then peek at me from under my legs. I love getting my camera ready for her wide-eyed look.

The gray highlights in her brows are growing on me. I think they're beautiful.
What a sweet girl Shyla is!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Flower Friday

Even Shyla stops to soak up the scent of the flowers. Those are our snowy mountains on the horizon behind her.

We have been incredibly fortunate to have an aspen grove where a very rare "Wood Lily" has been blooming for a week or so. Our local botanist has seen this flower only twice in her life. I've found six separate blooms in the past week. Wow, I feel lucky. It's a gorgeous flower that leaps out at me from the vegetation on the floor of an aspen grove.

I've also seen lots of these moths, called the Gaillardia Flower Moth, resting on the very common "Blanket Flower". The moth is colored so that it is perfectly camouflaged by the flower when it rests during the day. It positions itself so that the line between its yellow head and red body is at the same line on the flower.

Here's another angle. I've become so attuned to these moths that I notice them when riding past a flower on my bike.

Another favorite flower of mine is the Shooting Star, a flower that flourishes in wet meadow areas. It bloomed much earlier this season but I didn't get to feature it. I love the color and the unique shape of this flower. I don't love how I have to lie in the mud to get photos of it :)

A flower that is often overlooked here because it blooms at the same time as some other flashier flowers is our wild rose. It seems to blanket the forest in late June and early July. Its scent is so sweet!

Shyla notices the scents of flowers - and, if I have my camera ready, it's fun to capture her look as she sniffs the air near them. Those are Columbines that she was focused on.
Happy Flower Friday!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thankful Thursday - Our Black Dog

We are thankful to see our crazy black dog finding his spirit again.

His recovery is still going as expected, very up and down, but generally in the right direction. He's running daily in addition to his rehab exercises, which are becoming more and more intense.
We are very hopeful that he'll be frolicking with his sister in mountain lakes before the summer ends!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

This lighting is my favorite but is much more common in autumn than summer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Playing in the flowers

It's been an amazing year for wildflowers. I can't get enough of them.

With the flowers, the bees have been abundant. Somehow, I've managed to get stung by bees four times so far this summer. In one case, a bee landed on my lip as I rode my bike and stung me before I I could brush him off. Fortunately, I'm not allergic to bee stings but they do hurt.

I'm glad that the flowers and the bees are doing so well. Sometimes, it feels as if Shyla and I are navigating a jungle of flowers.
I love it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sun Puddles in July

I know it's only July but I am already seeing little signs of the changing of the season. Early the other morning. Shyla was lying in a sun puddle when I awakened, with her golden eyes glowing in the low angle sun. Sun puddles are a winter-time occurrence around here. What's up with that?
I'm not going to show you the other signs I've seen - the occasional yellow leaf and the late summer flowers that are already blooming due to our drought. I'll save those for later in the summer, when those thing should be appearing.

Shyla wishes you a Happy Summer Monday.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Silhouette Sunday

I love when the eastern sky lights up at sunset so I can photograph a silhouette of my graceful Shyla.
Happy Sunday.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More Fire Thoughts and Photos

It's taken me some time to digest the wildfire that we experienced recently and to go through the photos from my cameras.

One of the most impressive parts was the aerial assault on the fire. I captured a few photos of that assault. The planes that dropped fire retardant ("slurry") were big jets. They often circled the fire many times before their altitude fell far enough for them to skim above the trees to drop their slurry.

Having jet planes flying lower than the high peaks near us is a very odd sight. The biggest bomber was a 747, and it circled countless times before it dropped the red slurry. This one is a smaller one.

You can see in the next photo that this jet was making a line in the forest between the fire and a house. He also was blocking a path of the fire toward us. The pilots must be extraordinarily skilled to be able to do this!

Thank goodness for those slurry bombers - we still have our beautiful neck of the woods unburned!

Shyla and I are appreciating our beautiful world every single day.
Thank you to every firefighter who helped protect our world.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Flower Friday

The wildflower season has been fabulous this year. You can see the beautiful meadow full of yellow flowers and irises that Shyla ran through earlier this summer.

The Blue Flag Irises bloom for a very short time every year, and the insects love them!

Look at the pollen covering the ladybug!

I feel lucky that Shyla and I have places where we can frolic among the Irises every year!
Happy Flower Friday!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Farewell Flycatchers

It all started when the Flycatchers arrived near our house around the end of May. My breakfasts on the deck included Shyla at my feet and the flycatcher couple calling back and forth to each other.
They rapidly decided to make their nest in a tray that we have built for the flycatchers who raise their families under our deck every summer. They built the nest in days after making their decision. Then, eggs started to appear, one per day, for four days in a row. This was on Day 2 of egg-laying with my limited view peeking between the cracks of the deck at the nest below the deck.
The female didn't start incubating the eggs until all four were laid. After that, she was incredibly dedicated to sitting on the nest. And, I was dedicated to chasing away all predators! I get very protective of them every year.

Exactly two weeks after the female started incubating the eggs, they hatched! The naked little nestlings barely looked like birds. I didn't get any photos of them but I did get many photos of the flycatchers tending to them. They liked to land on a particular branch by the deck before going under the deck.

They worked as a team, constantly calling back and forth as they both hunted flies and then delivered the flies to their young ones.

I adored watching them every morning.
I was very worried for them when we evacuated, scared that they'd get burned up in the fire. Thank goodness that they didn't!

Just before the nestlings finally left the nest, one of the parents did something I've never seen before. He caught a butterfly and brought it to the nestlings. Sadly, it appeared that the babies rejected it because I found it fluttering on the ground below the nest later in the day.

Finally, a few days ago, the babies took their first flights. The family is still in the area around our house, and I can hear the parents calling to each other. I know, however, that they will start moving further away soon. I miss them after they're gone every single year.

This morning, one of the parents perched where he usually did when tending the nest. He looked straight at me, gave a chirp, and flew off. I believe that was his farewell.
I hope that they have a safe migration and come back next year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - An Acrobatic Recall

A quick note - Blogger messed up the time on my post yesterday that was a video of the mother bear and cubs at the den this spring. If you missed it due to Blogger's "issues", please check it out!

Would you ever choose that route to if someone called you? Not me!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Bear Den Fun and Games

Today, I am sharing another installment of the bear family at their den in late April. That was the time frame when the cubs became mobile. They weren't climbing big trees yet but they seemed to love playing with each other and "bouldering" on the small rocks and fallen trees near the den entrance.

The cubs have absolutely incredible energy levels!

I can see what a big difference it makes to have a sibling. Several sows in our neck of the woods have only one cub this year. I bet that being a bear mom is a lot harder with a solo cub!

The cubs did not only play during the day. They played all night too! They'd take short naps when my cams would pick up no activity but then start again within an hour or so. Here they were at 11:30 at night!

The chocolate male cub was working on pulling himself up onto a branch while his sister watched.

Poor mom got no sleep. She stayed in the den with her eyes open all the time that the cubs played at night.

I am including a video to show the cubs playing. It also shows mom taking a walk and coming back with a single pine branch. It seemed bizarre to see her carefully pull the branch into the den with her. I've always thought that the floor of the den looks like a very hard surface to spend an entire winter lying on. There's not much forest duff to drag into the den to make a soft bed. But I hardly think that one pine branch would help much!

You can watch the video here or at Youtube. Enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Canine Love After the Loss of an Amazing Dog

It's been a little more than four years since Angel K left this world. Her loss was devastating on many levels. She was my heart, soul, and muse - and she was young. I was heartbroken by the thought that I'd never love another dog like I loved her. Indeed, that much was certainly true. We had a bond that was unique to the two of us - never to be replicated. I still miss everything about her and pine for her to be with me. She'd only be 12 years old now.

But, much to my surprise, my bond with Shyla has grown to a depth that I didn't think that I'd experience ever again. Shyla is a completely different dog from Angel K. Due to her fears, Shyla needs me much more than K ever did, and one of my biggest goals with her has been to help her learn to navigate the world without leaning on me so much.

After I spent my first year with Shyla simply learning how to help her cope with her fears, I felt like our bond stagnated. I had trouble figuring out how to go to the next level with her - that level where I felt like we were a team, navigating the world as a team. I tried a number of different approaches to training her, none of which truly worked in boosting our mutual trust.

Most recently, I've taken a few Fenzi courses. They've been courses on how to modify your training for the personality of your dog, how to teach your dog nosework, and how to teach your dog both enthusiasm and precision in some common exercises like heeling.
Shyla has learned to love tugging through our courses - Yipee!
None of the courses were specifically pointed at the issues that I felt plagued my relationship with Shyla - things like how she'd run off and gnaw on an elk bone during a bike ride, ignoring my calls, and making me feel like our bond was not strong enough. Yet, much to my utter surprise, those issues have gone away, disappeared, evaporated - since we took a few Fenzi courses!!!

I think that the reason is that the courses have encouraged me to spend substantial time training Shyla to do highly complex things using purely positive training methods. As I mull it over, I realize that the courses were teaching me how to communicate with Shyla more clearly in all parts of our life. And, with clearer communication, our mutual trust grew.

It's made a world of difference. We have almost no "bad moments" during our morning bike rides when I become frustrated because Shyla is lying in the woods chewing a bone, deaf to me calling her. The bones are still strewn on the forest floor but Shyla is choosing to be with me rather than go chew them.
As we rode peacefully through the forest together this morning, I suddenly realized that we'd reached that level of two-way trust that I'd wanted for so long. I also realized that it made me love Shyla even more!

To sum it up, I'll never have the same relationship with any dog as I had with K - it was wonderfully unique to the two of us. But, by pouring my heart and soul into it, I've built an amazing bond with Shyla that makes me incredibly happy. It's worth the work, and it's worth risking my heart again.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Normal life and a very distressed bear cub

We are getting back to the swing of normal life, albeit with an extra dose of vigilance about fires. Shyla has returned to normal after her seizure-like event the other night. 

We've been enjoying our morning outings with the lots of yellow flowers to make us smile.
We've taken a little break from the intensive nosework and general training I'd been doing with Shyla, just to let her chill out. I hope to get back to it soon.

For me, part of normal life is getting back to following our wildlife. Given the heat and lack of rain, it's not surprising that the water holes are the most active bear areas right now.

Yesterday, when I checked one cam, I replayed the videos it had recorded as I stood next to the water hole, and I heard the most extraordinary noise - it sounded like a very distressed bear. I saw enough footage to know that it was the sow ("Mabel") and her cubs from the den last winter.

At first, I assumed that the noises were the mother bear fighting with another sow who has been encroaching on her territory, "Dot". I know that Dot has one cub, based on past footage, and I also know that Dot has been marking trees like crazy within Mabel's territory. Mabel is older and bigger, and she could kick Dot out of the territory if she wanted to do so. That would not be abnormal behavior.

It turned out that I was wrong with my initial assessment from a tiny LCD screen on the back of the trail cam. In fact, it was a cub making that extraordinary noise - it appeared that he had lost track of his family. Here is the video which you can watch here or at Youtube.

As often is the case, I don't know yet how this situation turned out. I hope that the chocolate cub found his mom. I'll let you know if I see the family together on any of my trail cameras.