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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: A Desert Sunset

We hiked up to a high point for sunset one evening last week. Both dogs bowed down before the grandeur, and then Mother Nature put on her show.

Our country is beautiful. I want to help keep it that way by preserving our undeveloped spaces like this one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Desert Sojourn

We took a desert sojourn last week, enjoying the warmth and the carefree feeling of being all alone in the desert. It was a fabulous week, all except for one seizure for Shyla and one migraine for me. Ah well, I guess that we can't expect smooth sailing all the time.

I love exploring by mountain bike better than anything. I took long rides exploring canyons and buttes.

And, we enjoyed some sunsets over towering red rock walls.
A bit of me is a "desert rat" although the mountains will always be home. I'll tell you more about our trip in the coming days!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Mischief

Even at nine years old, R still does completely unexpected things during training - so unexpected that all that I can do is laugh. He has a mind of his own, and I like that about him.

Last week, I was practicing recalls with the Duo. When I called for them to come, Shyla bolted toward me, like usual. In contrast, R hesitated and then bolted behind Shyla at a right angle to the line toward me.

You can see Shyla's incredulous reaction. Since we don't use punishment in our training (aside from withholding the reward), she didn't have any experience to cause her to have that worried look on her face.
R quickly changed his mind and charged over to me. I wish I'd captured the looks on both of their faces. Most of all, Shyla looked so relieved that R had finally done the right thing!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Black Dog Sunday

Can you believe it? This photo was from the day before the snow when our world was enveloped in clouds. The part that I am elated about is that our R is back! He can run with such intensity again.
It was at this time last year that I started trying to schedule R's elbow surgery. I had no idea what a long journey we were embarking on. It took until April to find a surgeon willing to travel to us for the procedure. And, we're still doing rehab now, a year after I started working on the logistics of the surgery.

But here is evidence of how well R is doing. He beat Shyla in a recall race!

To be honest, I think that I'll keep doing rehab with R for a long time. At this point, his exercises are for general strength and stability, which is good for any dog as they get older. I'm now doing some of the exercises with Shyla, to help keep her core strong and hopefully avoid injuries in the future. I find it to be tons of fun to teach the dogs the exercises so it's a win-win habit!

I'll do an update video of the battery of exercises sometime soon. We go see our vet in a couple of weeks - she'll evaluate R's elbow condition and tweak the exercises for us. So, I need to show you the latest set before they change!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Star Gazing

I've been dreaming of taking some star photos in a dramatic setting. On every one of our summer trips, the nights were interrupted by clouds streaming across the sky and obscuring the stars.

One day last November, I had a perfect night in the desert. There was no moon, and it was perfectly clear. I managed to take time lapse photos of the stars for many hours. Look how many stars there were and what long trails they made over the course of the night.
I can't wait to get out to the desert again. It is a perfect very dark place for star gazing!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Foxes on Friday

For all the years that I've had trail cameras, I've never captured photos of many foxes (of any kind) in our forest. Then, something changed this past summer. We seem to have both red and gray foxes here to stay!

The best part is how mischievous they are. They mark their territories frequently and vociferously. This series made me laugh.

A red fox arrived in front of one camera.

He sniffed a rock and the surrounding ground that is a carnivore scent marking spot.

Then, he climbed up on the rock, stared straight at the camera, and left his own mark. It felt as if he was sending me a message to quit spying on him!

A week later, a pair of gray foxes arrived at the same spot. First, one sniffed the spot.

Then, the first one marked the spot, over top of the marking left by the red fox.

That night, the red fox was back again, sniffing the pee-mail left by the gray fox.

He climbed up on the rock and left another "comment" for the gray foxes.
This "back and forth" is still going on. I imagine that there's a lot of territorial posturing going on because none of these foxes were in this area a year ago. They are all new and trying to make their marks.

I hope that the back-and-forth continues through the winter! Traditionally, winter is a slow time of year for my trail cams so I'd love it if the foxes keep up their activities!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday

I decided to look through my archives for some key points in our lives for a Throwback Thursday post. After looking at the photos, I realized it was really a Thankful Thursday post.

The first thankful memory that I ran across was one was from a decade ago, before R or Shyla was born. I'd had an extremely major surgery in the early spring that required a 6-9 month layoff from biking. In the summer, we hiked frequently to help me keep some strength and get outdoors. At first, I could barely make it anywhere in our mountains. It was discouraging when pain turned me back within a half hour of starting to hike. I had to wear a restrictive back brace to allow multiple spinal levels to fuse in my lower back, and I was in agony almost all the time.

On the day shown in this photo, I made it "someplace" for the first time. We hiked up to a basin with lakes. And, as you can see, my favorite flower flourished there too - the Colorado Columbine. This photo was taken by the Runner -- and I'm with S, our yellow Lab who was our senior pack member, and with K who was a young dog in her prime.

A few weeks later, I made it about halfway up to a pass that I adore. It's the one where Shyla and I play every year. I remember other hikers expressing disbelief that we were turning around "with the top so close". However, I was so happy to have made it that far. It was a victory even though I didn't make it to the Divide.

It actually turned out to be a long road back to cycling after that surgery. I was scared to try to ride after the "recovery" was over, especially since my surgeon clearly didn't want me to do so. The "Runner" was my guide back. He convinced me to go for tiny little rides with him, just a couple of miles at a time, and he soft-pedaled so that I'd feel like I was doing okay. That was exactly what I needed. After a few months of easy and fun rides with him in the evenings after work, I started seriously rebuilding my strength so that I could use cycling as a way to keep my back strong and to have lots of fun.

Just so you know how we ended up with the pack we have now, here was the arrival of R. He came to us just before Christmas about 9 years ago, and he's flanked by S and K in this photo. Didn't his unique personality already shine through?
S was elderly by that time but worked hard to teach R some of his most endearing habits in the time he had left. S died the next year after living at least nine lives. For years, our pack was R and K, the black and the chocolate above.

K became my best friend. In this photo, she and I were celebrating that I'd managed to hike up to Hug Hill, after yet another spinal fusion surgery. Hiking that hill was a big step forward. After that surgery, I didn't let anything stop me from getting back on the bike as soon as possible. I'd learned that movement was the best pain relief imaginable.
This post started as a look back but made me so thankful for the human and canine family who have made all these surgeries and comebacks into joyful times rather than awful times. I feel so lucky to have or "have had" all of them in my life.

And, of course, I'm now grateful beyond words for sweet Shyla, who had the difficult role of joining our family after K died. However, despite those circumstances, she almost immediately became part of the fabric of our life. She's one of the most loving dogs we've ever known.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Every now and then, I am stopped in my tracks by seeing how confident and happy Shyla looks. This was one of those moments.
I'm so lucky to have Shyla in my life!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A puppy comes to visit

We had a wonderful little puppy named Sadie come to visit for an evening recently. She's a mix, including Lab and Shepherd. She is a cutie!

R knew right away that he wanted to play with the puppy. He repeatedly pawed at her in a playful way.

And, that's how a friendship started. The puppy was here for about three hours, and she played with R almost continuously that whole time.

Shyla was worried about the puppy for a lot of the time. This is the same puppy as Shyla growled at when I paid too much attention to her the first time we met. Over the course of the evening, Shyla gradually decided that she wanted to play too. She kept bringing different toys and enticing the puppy to chase her. It worked a few times, with the two of them doing laps around our living room, although the puppy couldn't even come close to keeping up with Shyla.

However, the puppy was more enamored with R's play style.

I felt sort of badly for Shyla as she watched them play. So, I played with Shyla to keep her happy while the other two roughhoused.

During the evening, R had to take a break from playing to do his elbow exercises. As you know, some of them involve him propping his front paws on his yellow peanut. Sadie tried to do the exercises in tandem with R but that didn't work too well because she couldn't keep up. However, after he finished with the peanut, Sadie did her own imitation routine on the peanut. It made us laugh and laugh!

We are planning more play visits for Sadie, which will be tons of fun! R can keep tutoring her on how to play like a big dog, and Shyla will hopefully figure out how to join in!
I adore puppies so I'll love any future visits too!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Moosely Monday

The moose are still around, according to my trail cameras, but they seem to be staying away from people as much as they can. This photo was taken by a trail cam on a very rarely visited and densely forested slope.

It was definitely one of our more mature bull moose.

He noticed my trail camera and gave it a close look before moving along. Look how far his dewlap hangs down. It's almost hitting the ground!
After I saw these photos, I started imagining what it would be like to meet a moose on that particular trail. The trail is very narrow and is cut into the side of a steep slope. I wouldn't have a lot of options for evading him. I hope that it never happens!

I never take dogs to the trails where the wildlife density is high so Shyla has never been there. I think that I'll keep it that way although I think she'd like the trail!
Happy Moosely Monday!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Black Dog Sunday

R has reached that stage of life when he can get away with much more than when he was younger. The Duo was in a down stay. Ahem, R, that doesn't look like a down!

With this Duo, Shyla has become the "goody-goody" while R is the rebel. However, R's independent streak can lure Shyla into bad behavior. I almost never have the camera out for those moments!
R has always been high intensity. He has laser-like focus on the things that he cares about - like rodents and horse poop. In this case, his focus was a hiker a long way down the hill. He was trying to decide whether to hold his sit-stay or ignore me and go greet the hiker. This time, he chose to stay. He got a jackpot for that good choice!

It's tough when a high intensity personality is met with a chronic physical problem. Both R and I have experienced that conflict. R is SO much better than before the surgery but his elbow will never be normal. In our first snow, I could tell that his elbow bothered him some when he ran. Yet, he still chose to run. Similarly, my spine has improved after each surgery but it will never be normal. Yet, I choose to ride my bike and hike (when I'm able).
In that regard, R and I are very similar. I've ridden my bike through terrible pain because I love it. Cycling makes life bearable when spine pain, migraines, or other painful injuries are pulling me down.

I know that my approach to life isn't like most other peoples' approaches who think that I ought to scale back my activity. My answer is that my pain almost always gets worse when I am not active so why not go out and do what I love?

I am no longer allowed to say "seize the day" due to Shyla's epilepsy so I'll say that both R and I live by the motto of Carpe Diem!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Silly Saturday

I talk a lot about all the training that Shyla and I do. In reality, our training is really all in the form of games. And, if there's "work" involved, it's only for very short time periods followed by play to make it fun for both of us.

These photos are from a game we played on a recent Saturday. Although I consider this game to be "play", it is actually qualifies as impulse control training. Shyla has to balance those treats until I release her to launch them.

She's great at waiting for permission. When she occasionally messes up and launches the treats early, she doesn't even try to get them off the ground. She waits for me to retrieve them and restart the game.
It's really hard to catch multiple treats that were balanced on your nose!

I love playing these games with her! She seems to love them too so we're a good match.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The First Real Snow

We had our first real snow of the season yesterday afternoon and evening. I had to pull out the bike with the huge tires for today (4.8" wide). It performed beautifully, although I always forget how hard my legs have to work to propel my fat bike anywhere!
I feel so lucky about where we live. I roll my bike out the basement door, and we are on trails that extend seemingly forever. Many times, I've ridden for hours from my basement without ever putting a wheel on a road. When we first lived here, I was afraid of some of the difficult trails that make these long and remote rides possible. I probably should still be afraid after breaking a rib and chipping my ulna this season but I've gotten over the fear anyway. The payoff, in the form of amazing rides, is well worth it.

So, the Labraduo and I went out to play in the snow this morning, with me on my Meriwether and the Duo playing crazily in the snow. I had to calm them down to be able to take any photos of them. I also take off their orange vests, just for photos, because I hate having a whole month's worth of dog photos ruined by a garish reminder of hunting season.

We started out down low at about the elevation of our house, and then I was able to climb a steep hill on my bike to get us up and out of the forest. That's where R appeared ready to take flight with his ears as wings.

I always have trouble mentally with the first snow, knowing that I'll be slogging big fat tires for months to come. That's why I try to focus on the absolute glee of the dogs as they run and play in the snow. If only I could learn to live by their incredible "in the moment" attitudes!
Rumor has it that our weather will be warming up again so this snow will probably melt. That will give me a chance to plant my wildflower seeds - an annual tradition of scurrying around sowing new flowers in the falling snow that will form the bottom layer that remains for the whole winter. Last year, I also managed to drop my keys outside the house as that layer of snow fell. I didn't find them until the great melt in May of this year!

You do have to find beauty in winter to live happily at our elevation. For me, that wouldn't be possible without our Duo and my fat bike!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Duo Plays in an Incoming Storm

The Labraduo and I got out before the snow storm started today. They are still wearing their vests to keep them safe from hunters although I haven't seen any in a while.

Our entire mountain was in a cloud. That made me sad because I don't get that many opportunities to photograph the Duo together. Sorry for the hazy and cloudy look in all the photos.

Despite me trying to calm Shyla down, she was determined to roughhouse with R. She loves playing with her big brother and doesn't get that many chances to do it outdoors. Somewhere along the way, Shyla became a collar-grabber. I always take off their collars indoors but I'm not comfortable with that outdoors so I watch them like a hawk so no one gets hurt.

R definitely loves playing as much as Shyla does. As soon as she lets go of his collar, he's after her.

 Here he is, in full chase with a ferocious look on his face!
Now, I'm sitting by the fire. Yesterday, it was so warm that I wore shorts to ride my bike. Today, I need to huddle next to the fire to stay warm!

Where have you been all this time, Old Man Winter?
That's not my real Meriwether Fat Bike. That super bike waits for a bigger snowfall before it comes out to play!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Setting of the Super Moon over the Mountains

Yesterday morning was special - the super moon was going to set over the Divide at just about sunrise. I planned Shyla's and my bike ride carefully so that we'd be at a great lookout point to watch the huge moon slide down behind our mountains. I loved watching it, and I hope that you like the photos!
At sunrise

10 minutes after sunrise

When I see glorious sights like this one, I forget about everything else. What a beautiful world we live in!