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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Crazy Ears in the Mountains

Rejoicing because he can RUN

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

News, a Gotcha Day, and the Start of our Mountain Trip

We've had a lot going on around here, between travel, R's health, and normal everyday stuff. I didn't want to worry anyone but we found a lump on R's good forelimb that had us worried. We found it while we were far away from home camping in the mountains. We had it checked by our vet yesterday, and it's benign! Phew.  After all he's been through, we didn't want another thing to slow him down.

As for R's rehab, our vet is thrilled with his progress. He's doing better than any other CUE patient that she's rehabbed in the past. We still are working hard with him - the great progress is a huge motivator to keep working.

As for that camping trip, we loaded up the LabMobile and wandered the Colorado mountains for a couple of weeks. This photo was from our first campsite, well above 11,000', where we luxuriously spent our first night eating gourmet pizza and snuggling in sleeping bags. There's nothing like knowing that we had weeks of alpine adventures ahead of us.

It's an area that I love because it's usually devoid of many other people so Shyla can run with me while I mountain bike. Aside from a few rare exceptions, Shyla has become a super reliable and fun mountain biking partner. It's much more fun to ride with her than by myself!

I feel lucky that we live at high elevation so it didn't bother either of us to ride up to the highest points in that area - well over 12,000'. I love the stark beauty of the world above treeline. Shyla does too - and she loves watching the marmots scampering around, like she's doing in this photo.

We climbed and climbed until we reached the end of the trail. I gazed at the mountains in the distance and wanted to explore them all! You can see the remains of an old mining cabin in the foreground. Can you imagine living there?

Here was the view through one of the doorways that was still standing. Pretty nice, I think!

After we checked out the cabin, we kept rolling. The land is so open above treeline that Shyla could run in the tundra parallel to me, leaping into small tarns and through boulder fields. I love watching her run - so graceful and powerful!

And the mountains are the perfect backdrop for Shyla whose name means "daughter of the mountains". We just had her 4th Gotcha Day. I cannot believe that she's been in our family for that long. We cannot imagine life without her showering us in kisses every day!
Thanks, Shyla, for all the love that you've given us!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shyla's Incredible Nose

Shyla and I have continued our "nosework education" by taking another Fenzi course. I am absolutely amazed by Shyla's amazing drive to find the target scents.

I've also noticed that Shyla becomes more confident when she is doing nosework. Kids screaming nearby or things unexpectedly falling still scare her but her love of finding the hidden scent overrides her fear. She simply loves using her nose to search!

To give you an idea of how far she's come, I'm including a fun search that we did on a recent camping trip. I hid six scent sources (q-tips soaked in the scent and placed in a tube or a tin). They were all on one side of our LabMobile but not necessarily on the structure of the LabMobile itself.

In the short video, if you hear me say "alert", it means that Shyla has indicated that she found a scent source. I then give her a series of treats before saying "find another". When I say that, it means that she needs to find a *different* source of scent than the ones she already found. I am utterly amazed by how good she's become at remembering which sources she's already found, passing over them, and looking for new ones.

As you'll see in the video, Shyla found all six in under three minutes, and that includes the time that I was rewarding her for each found scent source. The barking is our crazy R. Ever since he restarted some nosework post-surgery, he wants to be involved in every search!

I hope that you enjoy the video either here or at Youtube!

It's fun to realize that Shyla learned to do this completely using positive training - being rewarded for finding the scent. I love training when it's positive!

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunset Sunday

We recently had a unique and beautiful sunset. To the east, we had a half moon with dappled clouds covering the sky. When I saw this, I knew that we had to hustle up higher to see what was going on to the west!

The clouds over the Divide had a pattern that I've never seen before. It was beautiful and unique.

The pups patiently waited for me while the sunset faded, ending with a still-unique pattern.
I am so happy that R can trot up high with us to watch the sunset. It makes it even sweeter!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Flower Friday

I adore high altitude Lupines, like we can find in Western Colorado. You can see them behind Shyla in this photo. I love their vibrant purple.

They go together beautifully with high altitude crimson Indian Paintbrush. Ah, what a sight!

At lower elevations like ours (8200'), the wildflowers have been hit hard by the drought. Only a few remain. Here are Fairy Trumpets - a flower that I love despite its tiny size. I always associate it with two angels in our family, Acadia and K, both of whom died on the same day... and it was in the midst of the time when this flower reaches its peak.

The other flowers near home that are making a valiant attempt to overcome the drought are Coneflowers. They bloom and almost instantly wilt. However, the butterflies still adore them!
I am trying to soak up the last days of wildflower season. It's so fleeting up here, and I love it so much.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Sunset Light and Wildflowers

Can you tell how much I love this girl?

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Moose are among us

Although we rarely see them in person, moose are still wandering our forest near our house. My trail cams see them but I do not. To be honest, I'm happy with it being that way!

This is a young female who has been walking far and wide in our area this summer. I bet it's hard to find good moose food in a drought year! I loved how she posed for a photo in this one. Since it was the 4th of July, I also found myself wondering what she thought of the town's kabooms later in the evening. I hope that the fireworks didn't scare her.

Several different males are also nearby. Most are very young with small nubs of antlers. A new one who is older and has bigger antlers has arrived this summer. He's been hitting all the watering holes. I have a short video of him in a couple of places in our forest. His dewlap is SO long, almost like a fashion statement!

Enjoy the video either here or at Youtube.

I am hopeful that our moose are learning the ways of humans and learning how to avoid having our paths cross. I want them to flourish but without too much risk to us. It seems like things are heading in that direction.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunset Sunday

High in the mountains, we found a campsite where we had amazing sunset light and wonderful wildflowers.

Shyla and I would play in the flowers at sunset, with her attention sometimes wandering to the deer who were in the forest right by our campsite in the evening. Here was a beautiful buck with the sunset light behind his velvet antlers.

After the sun's descent toward the horizon, it would set exactly at the bottom of a "V" in the mountains.

It would sometimes give a beautiful display of color when the clouds were aligned just right.
I have two criteria for an awesome campsite - morning sun so that it warms up quickly and sunset light for photography. This campsite had both!!!! It's a winner so we'll be back there again for sure!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wildflower Friday!

For Flower Friday, Shyla will show you a few of the flowers that we saw in Crested Butte! Here, Shyla is standing among crimson Indian Paintbrush. I love their bright color.

While we were there, the wild Columbines were blossoming on scree slopes high in the mountains.

I've never seen so many all together.

Look at the endless beautiful wildflowers!

These were along a trail that went out of our campsite. We walked it every day!
I hope that you all still have flowers (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere). We're trying to get out to see the ones still blooming up high!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Shyla in the Flowers

Flowers in Crested Butte

Flowers at Home

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Black Dog Sunday

I am going to be going light on internet time in the upcoming period. Don't worry if there's some quiet time on this blog! It'll be back!

For black dog Sunday, the leap...

The flight....

The landing...

And the two-ball retrieve, done with extra Lab flair. Labs don't settle for having the two balls side by side like those silly Goldens!
Happy Black Lab Sunday!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Black Dog's Rehab from CUE surgery - Week 16 Update

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments about yesterday's unfortunate incident. It appears that the sheriff's department isn't planning to follow up on it, and now the evidence is gone. So, we have to tackle the larger problem - the destructive vagrants who are inhabiting our forests. I'm okay - although I've been in a terrible mood ever since it happened.

For today, I want to show you a video of R's rehabilitation from his CUE surgery 16 weeks ago. I don't show his gait in the video because it is so variable. It can look perfect, and it can look like he has a huge limp. Usually, he looks really good in the morning, and his limp gets worse as the day goes on. Our vet says that pattern suggests that muscle fatigue is one reason for the limp.

I still work with him for a long time every day on a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles in his left forelimb (the limb that had surgery). The exercises are getting pretty advanced so I am thankful that I've learned how to clicker train a dog. It's made these exercises possible!!!

My favorite exercise is the first one on the video. He crawls under a long train of chairs to get to a handful of kibble that I placed under the last chair. Then he crawls backward to the start of the train, and he gets a jackpot of treats from me there. We started this exercise with just one chair, and I've added about a chair per week! The hardest part is the "reverse crawling" because he's tempted to bail out from the side of the chairs.

You'll notice in the video that he vocalizes in way that sounds like a growl at times. He makes that noise when an exercise is either physically or mentally hard for him. It's not a growl at me!!!

Enjoy the video, either here or at Youtube.

Although the amount of time I spend rehabbing him sometimes weighs on me, I have truly loved teaching him how to do all these exercises. He and I have become closer through this training process because we both enjoy it. I also love seeing the fruits of our labor when he can run beautifully like in this photo from a couple of weeks ago.

The exercises in the video were for weeks 12-16. Now we are starting new ones, mainly focusing on side-to-side strength and dexterity. He now has a wobble board. I'm training him to balance it by clicking and treating whenever he happens to get it balanced. He's already getting the idea, just three days into our training. The next video should be fun!

If anyone ever reads this because you are considering CUE surgery for your dog - realize that you will have to work hard with your dog to help make the surgery a success. R is already much better than before the surgery but he's not 100% yet. The research says he'll reach 100% around a year after the surgery.

The exercises are tiring - this was the look that he gave me when I woke him up from his post-exercise nap. What a soft-eyed and sleepy boy!
Thanks for watching and reading!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Decked by a Booby Trap

The day started off wonderfully with breakfast on the deck with my Shyla. She seems to feel some responsibility to watch me but she dozes off with her head up when she's soaking up the rays at breakfast.

Then her head starts to nod. She fights it though, admirably!
I remember when Shyla first arrived and my disappointment that she didn't seem to love summer breakfasts on the deck. That has changed!

She was wide awake soon thereafter, romping through the fields that have only a few flowers left. Behind her, you can see the outline of the Continental Divide, where snow field still abound. I hope to be up that high very soon!

After my time with Shyla, my day went south, precipitously. The most notable part was that I was being a good citizen when I got decked by a booby trap in the camping area where the vagrants were until recently. I was riding that forest road, checking the fire rings in the vacant campsites, to make sure that there wasn't anything smoldering (there's a fire ban in place).

At one campsite, I glided toward the fire ring, and I was abruptly knocked to the ground. My elbow hit the ground hard and started bleeding again (the same elbow as I hurt in CB - and now I know that I have a bone chip from that fall so it hurts).

I had no idea what had happened. I stood up, totally dazed perhaps partly because I hit my head too when I fell. I couldn't see any reason for my fall. After my head cleared, I saw it. Fishing line was hung across the entrance to the campsite at neck level. Fortunately, I am short, and I was leaning downward so it hit me in the helmet. It could have been far worse.

I hung stuff from the vagrants' garbage pile on the fishing line to make it visible to the next person.

And then I went to call the cops. I left a note on a piece of paper found in the vagrants' garbage saying that I (the "reporting party or RP") had put the garbage on the line to make it visible.
To my utter dismay, the deputy concluded that a camper had made a line for hanging garbage, and it was not a booby trap. I think his conclusion was totally due to me hanging things on the line to make it visible.

In my opinion, things have gone waaaaay too far around here. I'm at the end of my patience for the police who seem to always give the benefit of the doubt to the "visitors" rather than to the locals who face great risks from the careless and even evil behavior of the "visitors".

There seems to be a growing population of transients who choose not to have homes. They are in their 20's and wander the country. They live in the forest, leaving almost daily to panhandle and trick people into giving them money. They trash their forest "home", and then move on. I am aghast at how many piles of human feces and toilet paper are near those vagrants' former encampment. I actually started to count yesterday, and I stopped at one hundred piles that I could see from the forest road.

It's a problem plaguing much of the west, with forests being trashed and being "taken over" by these transients who harass anyone who wants go through their encampments on legitimate trails. I'm done with being patient. Things need to change now.

Sorry for the rant but I am very upset. My whole body hurts after being decked by a booby trap in the very place I love the most - our forest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Thankful Thursday

Not everyone loves the same things but, for me, having a home and family in the Colorado mountains is something that I celebrate almost daily.

We've lived here long enough that we have substantial history wrapped up in these mountains. Each trail that I ride in the morning holds memories of the two generations of dogs before Shyla who rode those trails with me. Angel K rode this trail with me in Crested Butte many times, back before CB became so popular with bikers that I decided that it wasn't safe for a dog on the trails.

Each campsite that we visit in the mountains holds memories of idyllic summer days wiled away lying in the sun and watching the clouds. And, each site also holds memories of the worst storms we weathered in those high altitude and exposed sites!

Part of why we call our camping van the "LabMobile" is that our yellow Lab, S, used to complain with sighs and eye rolls about the cold when we camped high in the mountains. We always joked that we were buying the LabMobile for him so that he could have a warm den for camping. Indeed, he got to take a couple of his last mountain trips in the warm luxury of the LabMobile. He's in the sidebar - he's the only yellow Lab we've had in our family yet. What a lovable soul he was.

I love the LabMobile. At one campsite in Crested Butte, I'd ride my heart out, with a 3,000' climb at the end of most rides due to our very high campsite. Then I'd smile when I saw this sight. Home, sweet home.

Perhaps most of all, I remember the campsites that we went to in K's last months. As she was succumbing to bone cancer, we took her on one last trip to the mountains. Her energy and enthusiasm skyrocketed as soon as we arrived there. She literally dragged me up a scree slope on a mountainside. Alas, it must have been pure joy and a sweet farewell because she didn't live long after that trip. I'm so glad that we took the time to visit the mountains with her one last time.

I'll always associate the campsite of K's last trip with her. We visited it for two nights at the end of our last trip. Here is Shyla standing on a boulder that I feel sure that K stood on for photos years ago.

It's just amazing to me how dogs teach us to seize each day. Their joy for life is infectious and their short lives teach us that we never know how many tomorrows we have. That knowledge has buoyed me out of many funks in my lifetime.

For Thankful Thursday, I thank all our generations of dogs for their love and their teachings. I see them in the wonder of the stars every time I gaze at the night sky.
I am so thankful for this life that I have the privilege of living with my family - the Runner and our Labraduo.

Wordless Wednesday - Glimpses of our time in Crested Butte

A few more photos from Crested Butte...
R mastered the art of carrying two balls - although it's a unique style

A beauty among the CB wildflowers

Whoever was shooting up that spotlight was too blind to see the Milky Way!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Our Bear Cubs are Huge!

I promised yesterday that I'd show you video of how big the cubs from the den have become all of a sudden!

I think that their growth spurt is due to the incredible bounty of bear food that we have this year. The berry crop is overwhelming. Bear scat on the trails is bright red from the berries. The bears must be super happy.

It has been hot recently so the bears have gravitated to water holes, where they often like to soak and cool off. I captured footage of our den family at a watering hole on 8/3. As I watched the video for the first time, I thought that I was seeing yearling cubs because the youngsters have become so big very quickly.

I compiled all the bear visits to that watering hole over the past few weeks into a video. If you're just interested in the den family, then watch the opening clip because that's where the family is.

I didn't include the myriad other animals who have drunk from that watering hole, including multiple moose, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions. It's a popular place when the weather is hot and dry like it's been recently.

You can watch the video either here or at Youtube.
I promise to get back to other subjects besides bears, starting tomorrow!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Our Bear Family - A cub rescue by Mom

I captured video the other day showing just how well our bear cub family is doing now. Mom looks fat and healthy, and the cubs are huge! It's so much fun to have followed them from the day of their birth until now.

Today, I'm sharing a bit more of the footage from the den. This footage was from 4/25/16. The cubs had stayed up the entire previous night playing in the den. By 5AM, they were outside the den again, playing and exploring. Just in case I have any sticklers for detail reading this, please note that all times are Standard Time because I couldn't go to the cams to change the time when we switched to DST. That's why it was light at 5 AM (MST).

The cubs were trying to expand their world, venturing further from the den entrance by climbing on the piles of fallen trees all around their den. When my friend and I visited to the den for the last time in March, we guessed that the cubs would start going above the den so we placed a trail cam there. It captured the panic of the little black female cub when she wasn't sure how to get down to the den entrance.

During this mini-crisis, you'll be able to hear both cubs screaming (the chocolate one was hanging onto his mom's leg during the rescue) and you'll be able to hear the soft grunts of their mom, trying to verbally calm them.

Getting a glimpse into such intimate bear family life is a gift. After you see how mom nurtured and protected her cubs from the beginning, you can understand why she stands her ground against all threats to her cubs later in the summer. One summer, this same sow ("Mabel") bluff charged me numerous times when I accidentally rode into the middle of the family. She escorted me away from the tree where the cubs were stashed, while bluff charging me at least 10 times, slapping her front paws on the ground, and snorting. I knew that I'd be fine as long as I walked calmly away from the cubs - which I did!

Here's the video of the cub rescue way back on 4/25/16, when the family was still living in and around the den. You can watch it here or at Youtube.
Tomorrow, I hope to show you footage of the family from a few days ago. At first, I thought that the cubs were yearlings because they have suddenly grown so fast! It makes me smile!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Happy Black Dog Sunday

I've had some time with the Labraduo together this week, and it's been fun. They are such good friends. R is at the point where he can't do damage to the hardware inside his surgical elbow so I can let him play with his sister. We still have to be a bit careful because his surgical limb is still weaker than his other limbs.

The only downer was that R's limp returned almost immediately when we arrived home from our trip to Crested Butte. Our vet says that he was likely hiding his limp in CB because he was so excited by all the fun that we were having. She says (and we knew this prior to the surgery) that dogs who have had CUE surgery often continue to limp for months and months after the surgery. The one year mark is when the limp is almost always gone. That extremely long recovery time is why they scanned R's entire body for signs of cancer before we embarked on this journey.
As an aside - do you see the burned forest in the left side of the background?

We went to the vet for a rehab session on Friday, and she's so impressed with how much more muscle R has developed in his left front (surgical) limb in the past month or so. I am in the midst of making a video of his exercises from the past 3 weeks before we start our new regimen on Monday. The rehab exercises may never end :)
Actually, although I do complain sometimes about how long the exercises take, I truly enjoy training R to do them. He's a fast learner although his boredom and frustration threshold is very low. That means that I need to keep him entertained by constantly changing up the routine! It's fun for both of us.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!