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Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

I'm pretty sure that Shyla saw a ghost this morning.

And R was dressed in his Halloween orange!

Actually, the last time I saw a look like this on Shyla's face, I turned around to see three moose behind me. I looked behind me today - and there were no moose so I'm guessing it really was a ghost!
Happy Spooky Halloween to you!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mother moose and her calves

Yesterday was an exciting day of mountain biking. First, we saw the rainbow that I featured yesterday. Then, I dropped Shyla off at home and headed out to ride a little more. At the very start of that ride, I stopped to admire the deep blue sky over the snowy mountains.

Then, I did a fast descent. I was in the zone, totally focused on my riding, when I heard the sound of thundering hooves. I looked up - and this was what I saw!

It was a mother moose and two calves! My heart skipped a beat when the cow moose looked straight at me. She was uphill of me so I would've been in big trouble if she'd charged like other mother moose have done in the past.

But then she turned her head away from me so I knew that I had a moment or two of safety.

I rode up the trail, fully planning to leave. And then I realized that my friend Vickie would never forgive me if I just left without getting at least one photo with my real camera. I got the camera complete set up, slung it around my neck, and tentatively pedaled slowly back toward the trio.

While I'd been up the trail debating whether to sneak another peak at them, the mother moose had moved off behind her calves. I loved seeing the two youngsters watching me carefully. Meanwhile, mom was busy eating an aspen sapling.
If you look really closely, you can see that the right calf has antler buds so he's a boy. The left calf doesn't have buds so she's a girl. These two were probably born in May or June. They'll stay with their mother until next May or June when she gives birth again. My reading tells me that it can be extremely tough for a mother to find enough food for two calves over the winter so it's possible that only one of these will survive. I hope that my cams can catch enough photos of them for us to know how they're doing!

Taking that photo took about 10 seconds, and then I departed. I've learned the hard way that a mother moose can appear to be unconcerned one second and then turn into raging maniac the next second.

I was really glad that I'd had my fun with the dogs earlier, in an area where there weren't moose in our path!
Alas, it is hunting season so we did have to stay out of the way of rifles. The Duo was sporting their orange and I was wearing mine. We are a blinding group during hunting season.

Living in the midst of such amazing wildlife is wonderful. It can be scary at times but I accept that as the price for living in a wonderful place. It also is really sad to me when I hear the boom of a rifle during hunting season. I'm sitting on the deck right now, and we heard a boom close enough that both dogs started barking. My heart sank, knowing what had just happened.

Here's to our wildlife. What a hard life they live.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Rainbow Saturday

As I pedaled up to Hug Hill with Shyla this morning, the sky looked dark but there were shafts of sunlight filtering through. Then, it started sprinkling a light rain. When we crested the ridge before Hug Hill, this was the sight that met us. It was one of the most intense rainbows I've ever seen.

I dropped my bike and tried to get photos. I wanted to get one with Shyla running under it but the rainbow began to fade before we were ready. You can still see it faintly behind her.

We resumed our upward path, watching the rainbow wax and wane with the sunlight and rain. Finally, it lit up again leading straight down into the forest behind Shyla.

This one is my favorite. I would entitle it "Shyla is the pot of gold". She sure is my pot of gold!
We spent a long time out on the ridges, watching the rainbow with me getting progressively colder in a light rain and a wind that had a hint of winter.

It started looking very ominous out toward the Divide.
In that one photo, you can see the brilliant rainbow, the mountains enshrouded in clouds, and the burn scar from that raging wildfire in July (lower middle of the photo).

At that point, I was truly shivering so we headed off for the forest where the wind would bite less hard. Believe it or not, I had another amazing sighting later in the ride but I'll save that for another day.

Happy Rainbow Saturday!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Friday

Happy Friday from the Labraduo!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Our Black Dog's Rehab from CUE Surgery - Month 6

When we decided to have R get CUE surgery for his congenital elbow dysplasia, I never visualized the amount of time we'd spend rehabbing him afterwards. We are now 6 months post-surgery. He walks with no visible limp. When he's not tired, he trots and gallops better than for the two years before the surgery. The journal articles about this surgery say that he won't reach 100% until a full year post-surgery.

This improvement is because the surgeon put new weight-bearing surfaces inside his elbow. It's also because we've worked so incredibly hard with him on strengthening his body. We also keep him very light to reduce the stress on his joints, as you can see in the photo of him galloping across Hug Hill.

While we did his exercises today, I videoed almost everything. I thought that you might enjoy seeing the range of exercises that he does - and also how much training I've had to do to teach him how to execute the exercises.

As you'll see, some exercises target his left front limb, the one that had surgery. You'll see me holding up his right front limb at times to force him to bear a lot of weight with his left front. You'll also see that some of his exercises are now pointed at strengthening his core and teaching him better coordination of his hind end. The reason is that a stronger core and a stronger hind end will help him to move in a balanced way that protects his surgical limb.

As you'll see in the video, R and I have tons of fun doing his exercises. He "complains", sometimes loudly, about the hard ones. I can verbally encourage him to keep working when he's very tired. He and I have formed quite a bond through doing his daily exercises together.

We've purchased all of his rehab equipment from a company called "FitPaws". Just this week, his stability disc sprung a leak - not surprising after all we've put it through. I contacted the company to ask how to patch it. Instead, they sent me a free replacement disc that arrived within 18 hours! Now that's amazing customer service!

Here's our video. I hope that you enjoy seeing R in action!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - The Labraduo

These two make my life richer every single day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Labraduo Romps!

I took this photo last winter before R had his elbow surgery. You can actually see how wide his left elbow was compared to a normal elbow. Now, post-surgery, it looks almost normal.
As I've mentioned in the past, it's been a long journey back from R's CUE surgery. I'll soon have another video of his exercises - we're now on a schedule where we do the same exercises for about 2 months before the vet ramps them up again. We still spend about 30 minutes each day doing strengthening exercises for his left forelimb.

After his surgery, there was a time period when, although we didn't say it out loud to each other, both the Runner and I feared that R wouldn't ever run at full speed again. He seemed so weak that we couldn't imagine how he'd get back to his normal rambunctious lifestyle.

Alas, we were wrong. Today, I had the honor of taking a mountain bike ride with both halves of the Labraduo. We headed up to Hug Hill first, where the dogs posed on their favorite rock.
I see that colorful "I have epilepsy" tag on Shyla in the above photo, and I realize that both of these dogs have been through tough times this past year.

Despite all they've coped with, they can romp with as much, if not more, abandon than last year. Shyla has gained a lot of gray fur but she's actually challenging R for "top dog" honors when they're racing around outdoors.
The Duo is a handful when I bike with them both. I have to make frequent stops to remind them of the rules by practicing recalls and impulse control exercises. But, my little obedience routine works - and that makes me smile because it means that I can safely ride with both of them.

During one of those breaks, they propped their front paws on Angel K's favorite stump. Some of you might remember the story from that stump. When K's health was fading due to bone cancer, our big goal was to hike to the stump each day. It became a celebration of each precious day that we had together. I'd put a small rock in the crevices on top of the stump each time we made there after the vets told us that time was short. You can see the crevices below Shyla's paws in the photo - that's where the little rocks were.
After K died, I went and collected all the little rocks - and they sit in a jar on my dresser as a reminder that every single day is precious.

That is true with this Duo too. I am so happy that I had this day on the trails with them!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The happy and the sad

We love where we live. The vista behind Shyla is only a 12 minute bike ride from our house.

Along the way, we come close to this spot, a place where a variety of carnivores leave their marks.

This bobcat left his mark by rubbing his body all over the ground.

A coyote left his mark in a completely different way. Let the record show that the coyote left his mark before the bobcat (dates are in upper left of the photos).... so you know what the bobcat was rolling in!

The point is that I love almost everything about where we live, including the plentiful carnivores and the mountain vistas.

Yet, a destructive group of people are taking over sections of our forest. I went by one spot today. The people who have been squatting there for at least three weeks weren't present. I'm told by friends that a visit by a deputy for an illegal campfire caused this group to substantially clean up some of the smaller trash at the three campsites that they're using.

Here was one view. You can see a big pile of assorted junk to the left. To the right of it, you can see an upholstered chair, a table full of food, two office chairs, a hammock, and a crossbar above the kitchen area to hang up any game that they might kill.

Nearby, they had a full size refrigerator on wheels plus another piece of furniture. Why would anyone bring a refrigerator into the forest?

What a great bear-proof setup for their food... (I'm kidding).

I wonder what plans they have for how to get all this stuff out of the forest. Probably none. We've been finding that groups like this just evacuate, leaving all their stuff for someone else to clean up.
I still love where I live but I will not stop fighting this "trashing of our forests". It's depressing to view it and to think about it but we must. It's happening all over the west, and it's simply unacceptable. I've come to believe that we must ban all camping except in supervised campsites within some reasonable radius of towns. That extreme measure may be the only way to stop this awful behavior.

I'll end with another beautiful sight from our area. We took a peaceful evening hike recently, and we saw a pretty sky over our unfathomably gorgeous mountains.
This is why I want to stop the destruction of our natural areas. I want to be able to take serene and stunning hikes here for a long time.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Serene Sunday

Moose are a new addition to our lives. A few weeks ago, we were heading out to watch the elk rut, and we were distracted from our quest by a wonderful sight. A mother moose was feeding in a pond. She'd put her snout under the water, holding her breath for a really long time.

And then she'd come up with water draining out of her mouth.

While she fed in the pond, her calf fed in the grass, keeping his rump toward us.
This was an occasion when I was almost relaxed as I photographed moose. I had a long lens, and I was up a steep embankment from them.

Back in our neck of the woods, I've known that we have a big bull moose in the area because my trail camera had captured his image as he walked toward our little slice of the world. Our moose population is pretty young, and this was one of the bigger bulls I'd seen near our home.

My neighbor called just before we headed out on a recent evening hike to say that a big bull moose was headed our way. I went out first, without the Labraduo, to see if I could spot him. I did spot him but he was deep in some willows and there wasn't much light. Do you see him in this photo? I think it's sort of like a Rorschach test. What does your mind make out of that messy image?

After I spotted the moose, we took the Labraduo for a hike away from where the moose was. We kept our eyes peeled for moose but we didn't see him in the forest. It was a normal peaceful walk.
I love the quiet of our little world and the wildlife that shares it with us. 

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful Sunday.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Happy Summery Saturday

I am writing this from the warmth of our deck - a very unusual state of affairs in late October.

Both Shyla and I felt happy and goofy this morning. I loved her expression during this recall.
Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 21, 2016


I was having a great day. I enjoyed a ride with Shyla, and then I went on a longish ride that I haven't done in about a year. It's a fairly remote ride and I saw no one else the whole time. It was a good day in paradise.

As I was getting close to home, I contemplated the four different routes I could take, ultimately deciding that I was tired and I should go home as directly as possible on trails. Then, I smelled smoke.

I was about 400' lower on a steep slope than an area where people like to camp. Climbing that slope on my bike was not something that my tired body wanted to do. I started to convince myself that smoke always rises - so there was no way that the smoke was coming from up near the campsites.

Then, I stopped. I thought to myself that, if a wildfire started up there today, I would never forgive myself. I turned around and started the slog up one of the steepest slopes that I can ride on a mountain bike.

As I rode, the smell of smoke got stronger. My legs churned faster because it seemed like too much smoke to be just a campfire. And, who the heck has a campfire midday when it's sunny and warm?

Alas, I was shocked to find a burning campfire in a campsite occupied with a camping trailer and tons of other junk like a mattress on the ground, dirty pans on the ground, and food completely out in the open for bears to get into. At first, I was scared that someone was inside the trailer, and facing these kind of vagrants in person is not something that I like to do.

Here's what the scene looked like. The trailer is just to the left of the photo. It looks as if they are moving in for the long term.

And here was the fire with glowing embers and smoke going up from it. It wasn't huge but the wind was howling.

This very short video will give you a feel for the way the wind was fanning the flames and sending hot ash flying.

I rode away and contemplated the situation. I felt that I couldn't call the authorities without knowing whether the campfire was truly unattended, and I couldn't leave unless I knew that someone was containing the fire.

That line of reasoning sent me riding back down the road toward the campsite. As I approached the campsite, I called out like a friendly visiting neighbor "Hello! Is anyone home?". No reply. I called two more times, and no one stirred. So, I called the authorities. And then I got to work making a trail of orange surveyor's tape from the main road to the campsite.

I am frustrated. It seems that we are attracting campers of the worst kind. They don't care about the forest or the animals or the neighborhood that they are camped in. They are slobs and downright dangerous. I am not the only one who has "had it" with this situation. Yet, the Forest Service acts as if they are as helpless as the rest of us. Change the rules! It's that simple. Ban dispersed camping in our area. That will solve it. And we will all be much safer.

Remember July 11, 2016, when our entire area was evacuated due to a raging wildfire started by the smoldering ashes of a campfire that had not been adequately doused a couple of days earlier. Several people lost their homes, and one couple, both of whom were firefighters lost their home, with their dogs in it. They were out fighting this monstrous blaze when it took their home and furry family.
If you care even the slightest bit about the forest, animals and people of the area, you would never drive away leaving your campfire burning. I'm sure that no one who is reading this post needs to hear this message but I need to vent!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trying to find joy in each day

Late autumn is traditionally a time when I want to grab time and slow it down. It feels as if the start of springtime was just yesterday. We had quite a spring-summer-fall season, enjoying the desert and high mountains as much as we could. We had a flurry of autumn outings to hike up in the alpine zone or go see the elk rut. Through everything, we were in awe of the golden leaves!
We were lucky because life was smooth sailing through the summer. Although R required extensive time each day to rehab his elbow (and still does), we were free to do as we wished.

Now, it feels like that season has skidded to a stop. And, along with it, a few things have gone wrong. Shyla's epilepsy is the biggest one, and my fractured rib is a smaller one. Epilepsy is likely to be with Shyla for her lifetime while my rib will eventually heal. As long as we can keep Shyla's seizures away and keep her quality of life good, epilepsy is just a side-issue.

We upped her meds about a week ago, and she has returned almost to normal aside from being a little more hyper in the mornings than she used to be. Before her seizures, she used to stay in bed through my breakfast and literally remain ensconced in her warm spot until I called her to go for a bike ride. Now, she's ready to go before the alarm clock goes off at 6 AM!
The Divide looks wintry!
Shyla's eagerness to get going in the morning has helped with our transition to a winter schedule. Every winter, I strive to be out for sunrise because I love seeing the sun peek over the eastern horizon. That's harder these days because my fractured rib hurts a lot in the morning so I make excuses not to get moving. However, I'm trying to plow right through it without missing out on the things that I love.

We almost saw the sunrise this morning. I saw Shyla glow in a shaft of sunlight a few minutes after sunrise. My long time friends know how much I love the winter's morning light.

The winter morning light almost makes up for the loss of the golden leaves and green grass. I do miss them!

Overall, I'd say that I'm struggling a little to get through this transition, partly because of what's happened to Shyla (epilepsy) and to me (fractured rib), and partly because I struggle with it every year. Perhaps the shorter days affect my mood too much.

So, we'll keep trucking along, trying to do the things that bring us joy. Each day is precious, and I truly know it.
I've now lived many more days than my mother was given on this Earth so each day is borrowed time in my mind. I never visualized that I'd outlive her, yet here I am! I'm making the most of it although I still miss her every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

Born to Run

Old Man Winter Arrived Again this Morning

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dancing Bears in Autumn

I know that winter is almost here when I start finding Shyla soaking up the warmth of sun puddles.

This is the time when the vegetation around us turns brown, readying itself for freezing air and snow.

It's also the time of year when bears have one last flurry of activity. On 10/2, a bear approached a sad bear-marking tree. It's "sad" because mountain bikers decided to widen a trail, and they cut off all its branches. It's just ahead of the bear in this photo.

These marking trees are so important to bears that they keep marking them, even after humans have denuded them.

This is a beautiful sow!

A few miles away, trail cams captured other bears marking trees like crazy. A small sow first marked a tree. Then, Milton Sr. did his own dance. Milton Sr. is the long-term big male of our area. He was badly injured a few years ago, and another big male ("Tiny") tried to take over the territory. Since then, they've both patrolled the area, often getting into "marking wars" where one marks over the other one's scent as often as they can. That happened in this video.

If you need a good laugh at the bear antics or just want to see some wild bears in action, enjoy the video!
Happy very late autumn from the Rockies!