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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Our Black Dog's New Year's Song

Our Black Dog vocalizes more than any dog I've known before. This last surgery seems to have put him over the edge, and I can't blame him. After elbow surgery in April that put him out of commission for a very long time, he was finally back to an almost normal life.

He and the Runner were exploring our trails during long runs again.

And he and his sister were racing around like siblings again.

We humans both felt that R was in less pain from his elbow than he'd been for many years. He was born with elbow dysplasia, and it relentlessly progressed over the years. The CUE surgery seemed to take him back many years to the days when his elbow was nothing more than a small bother.

Then, we found a couple of growths on his good front leg, and our vet was concerned that they might be cancer. Thank goodness that they weren't cancer!!! However, poor R is now at the end of another 2 week recovery period. It's almost nothing compared to what he went through with his elbow surgery but I get his attitude.

When I have to take Shyla for her normal outings without him, he howls mournfully as we leave. He's done more sad howling in the past two weeks than in the rest of his life combined.

We captured some howling on video for you. In this case, it wasn't sad. We had construction going on in another part of the house, and he began harmonizing with a Sawzall just like he harmonizes with our local coyotes.

I hope that you enjoy hearing his wonderful voice in this video!

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Last Bear of 2016!

Our last bear wandered the paths in our forest in early December. Now, he's gone to bed just like all his brethren.

I have footage of his last days of wandering. It's remarkable how slowly he was moving as his metabolism wound slowly down toward hibernation.

Early on 12/3, he started walking on bear trails, albeit very slowly. I first picked up his image at a bear-marking tree. He sniffed it...

... and sniffed it some more.

Before leaving, he showed us the snow matted in his rump. I think he'd been sitting someplace for a while before he walked to this tree.

Just a little later, I found his tracks. On this remote road, he loped along the left edge, I rode my snow bike in the middle, and a rabbit hopped along the right of the road. We all left our tracks.
I captured video footage of this bear at several sites over the next 36 hours. He visited several bear-marking trees and then came to my house! That made me laugh after I'd had fun tracking him the previous day.

We have a bear-proof bird feeder that the local bears all know is truly bear-proof and rarely visit. I don't think that this bear was a local bear so he spent a long time on his hind paws staring up at the food over his head. His slow pre-hibernation behavior was markedly different from the behavior of the only other bear who visited back in May.

I hope that you enjoy the video!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Smiles for a Gray Winter Day

The reality of winter set in yesterday, with a gray day with light snow falling all day. Oh, and I almost forgot - the wind was whipping fine ice pellets into my face as I rode my fat bike. The trails had pure ice under the thin layer of new snow. This was one of the first days that I wished for studs on my fat bike tires while riding in Colorado.

So, to counteract my gloomy mood, I decided to highlight some fun photos that make me smile. I hope that they make you smile too!

For a Labrador, there is nothing as worthy of a huge effort as a treat.

She pulled it in...

Didn't quite snag this one....  but look at her eyes!

Her eyes only got wider on the next one.
That was worthy of a smile, I think!

Every day is a handful of seconds longer now. Knowing that is another reason to smile!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Here is Shyla, standing on the rock where K loved to perch at sunrise. Shyla seems to love how she can see so far from this spot.

However, she loves being in the forest more. Here is Shyla lying on her favorite rock for sunrise viewing. I love how she's looking to me with such intensity. The look in her eye tells me the story of our 4.5 years together that have helped us to build an incredible bond.
Happy Almost Wordless Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sick but Lucky

We are dragging here in Colorado. We both got an awful cold just before Christmas. It was so intensely bad that we didn't think that anyone should be near us (especially not senior citizen relatives) so we spent the holiday weekend on our own - sleeping, snoozing, sneezing, coughing, and watching silly movies.

As some of you know, I adore the morning light around the Winter Solstice in our neck of the woods. Prior to getting sick, I'd had days and days of gray mornings, with no sunrise light although I was out there every morning looking for it. Then, after the sneezes and coughs hit, the clouds cleared out. So, I didn't accomplish much this weekend except for getting out to see the sunrise with Shyla.

I love seeing her chocolate fur turn red in the rosy first sun rays of the morning.

She seems to remember our winter solstice routine from one year to the next. This girl is such a wonderful friend! I cannot believe how close our bond has become.

I took the next one just as the whole sun cleared the eastern hills. The light is almost blindingly red.

Literally, just minutes after sunrise, the sun ray color starts to return to normal.
It's not something that I am willing to miss, no matter what. It lasts only for a few minutes each morning and for a few weeks out of each year. So, sick or not, I was going to be out there with Shyla.

Now, we're both tired of being sick. We're hoping to be well enough to reschedule our Christmas plans for next weekend. We feel lucky to have each other, our wonderful (and mostly healthy!) Labraduo, and our warm house in the mountains. Even if we're sick for Christmas, we're lucky, and we know it.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fun on an Arctic Day!

About a week ago, we awakened to arctic air. It was -10°F outside. Since getting a snow bike, I view days like this one as challenges, to see if I can stay warm enough to do a real ride in the snow.

I set out with Shyla, who was shod in dog boots to protect her toes. Her toes seem to be the only part of her that gets cold during exercise even in Arctic temperatures.

Her face quickly got covered in frost.

Similarly, my neck gaiter, hat, and hair all had frost on them by the end of our ride. However, I was warm!!! In fact, I even overheated during a long uphill slog. Of course, I was wearing six layers on my upper body and three on my legs. I had chemical toe and hand warmers because I have Renaud's Syndrome, which means that my toes and fingers can't stay warm no matter how many layers I wear unless I provide them with a source of heat.

Shyla and I had a lot of fun. She wore her UltraPaws which are the only kind of dog boots that don't make her too morose to run and jump.

Then, the Runner and I did a whimsical experiment. We boiled a few cups of water which the Runner tossed into the air while I videoed. The result was FUN. Check out our short video of the boiling water instantly turning into snow when the Runner tossed it into the air.

That made the freezing day worth it!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, from our pack to yours. We are so happy with the gift of good health for our Black Dog!

Perhaps some of you are getting a white Christmas.
I hope so! Enjoy the holiday!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Early Christmas Gift!

We got the best news that we could last evening - R's tumors were totally benign. Removing them was completely curative! This was the fifth anniversary of a very dark day for us, when we found out that K had osteosarcoma, so we're really glad to have turned around that history.

R is recovering well. Can you believe that they gave him a "Bad Hair Day" bandage?

This black dog is not having a bad hair day.
Now he needs to take it easy for another 10 days or so until the stitches are taken out. Then, he can return to normal life! Yipee!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Puppy Party

A little while before R's recent surgery, the lovely Miss Sadie came to visit again. She's a 4 month old puppy - a mix between Lab and Shepherd - and she's still trying to decide how her ears will turn out. She also loves R's peanut, and imitates everything that he does on it, much to our amusement.

It is so fun to watch Sadie's and R's expressive faces as they play. It's pretty amazing for a 9-year-old dog like R to enjoy playing with a puppy so much!

We've started calling him "Uncle R" - because he's teaching Sadie so much. He rolls on his back and lets her attack a lot of the time. Look how wide her eyes are!

Sometimes, they play standing up. The problem with standing is that Sadie is still at the "ankle-biting" stage. R lets her know that it's not okay to bite his back legs but she forgets sometimes (I don't have good photos of it). It makes us laugh because Puppy R used to bite K's ankles. Now he's getting it back!

When Sadie plays fairly, R is glad to reciprocate. He sure does like showing his teeth!

Sadie goes home as a very tired puppy after all the playing.
This time, Sadie went home and baked R some "Get-Well" dog bones. She's a very talented puppy! Both R and Shyla love the dog bones. Thanks Sadie! We hope that you come visit again after R recovers!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

More Mountain Lion Action

Yesterday was devoted mostly to trying to keep our black dog calm and not-too-unhappy. I can't blame him for feeling upset. He just went through this same thing so very recently. What he doesn't know is that this episode should be much shorter - assuming that the pathology reports are not bad.

In the meantime, I spent some time sorting through the 200 GB of footage that I have so far of animals eating the elk carcass. For today, I'll share mountain lion footage. No other mammals, like coyotes, dared to go near the carcass while the mountain lion was still interested in it.

In the video, you'll first see one of our favorite dog friends check out the carcass and try to eat a little of it before sprinting back to his human. Then, you'll see the mountain lion arrive for his second night of eating. The contrast between the Lab's size and the mountain lion's size is stunning to me.

The mountain lion was always very wary while at the carcass. He'd stop eating to scan his surroundings regularly. I'm not sure if he'd be so wary if he weren't close to humans. He did one bout of eating from nightfall until 7PM. Then he returned at 4AM and ate for an hour. I wonder if his umbilical hernia limits how much he can eat in one bout because it must hurt if his intestines get full.

His strength awes me. When he first arrived both times, it looked as if he tried to move the elk but couldn't pull it uphill. If it were a smaller prey item or if a secluded spot were downhill, I'm sure that the lion would have opted to move the carcass to a safer spot.

Finally, when he departed at 5AM, he covered the carcass with snow, using his mammoth paws to throw snow backward onto the carcass.

Enjoy the peek into a mountain lion's life in the video.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Shyla is happy to have her brother home again! The photo taken before R's surgery - now R has a bandage. The surgery went smoothly, and we await the pathology reports.
In the meantime, our high energy black dog is restricted to resting. We know this drill!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A day of waiting...

Today is a day for distracting ourselves while R is in surgery. Shyla and I are taking our daily bike ride and stopping for training games along the way.

We like to play the "high five" game where she alternately high fives with my right and left hands. The other day, Shyla accidentally missed my hand and hit my mouth with her paw. I have a fat lip and a bruise to show for it. When she plays, she plays hard! It's a good thing that I wear a helmet for this game...
We're all hoping to have R home with us tonight and that the pathology reports turn out well. All of you pet lovers know how much we sweat this stuff, especially after all that R has been through in the past year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mountain Lion Works on His Prey

Two days ago, I wrote about a mountain lion that had killed a cow elk nearby. His pattern so far has been that he arrives at the carcass as it's getting dark, eats the carcass on and off during the dark hours, and then leaves the area at about shortly before first light in the morning. For the day, he doubtless makes a day bed in a very secluded spot to sleep and digest.

I've been seeing his tracks in the snow in the general area where I'm guessing that he makes his day bed. Each day, he walks past one of my trail cams as he heads for bed. The spot where my trail cam is seems to be a "touchstone" for him. His tracks swerve out of his way to walk through that little clearing early each morning. Here's a photo from the clearing.

He usually arrives at the carcass either just before or just after darkness falls.

Then, he eats sporadically throughout the night. Here's a bit of footage from his first night eating the almost intact carcass.

As you'll see in the coming days, the combination of this mountain lion, coyotes, and corvid birds will use up every single bit of nutrition from this elks' body. It's very sad to me that she had to die but it is comforting to know that her body won't go to waste.

I feel so fortunate to be able to document how a mountain lion behaves when he earns such a huge windfall of food. I hope that you enjoy watching it!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Black Dog Sunday - A Tough Week Ahead

Unfortunately, our black dog is having another surgery on Tuesday. He has two growths on his good front leg that need to be removed. Consequently, he'll be facing some more down time, when he'll have to refrain running around or playing. We're going to miss his play sessions with little Sadie.

That's right, R. It's your right front limb with the problems now. We are, of course, worried about whether the growths are benign. One looks like melanoma but the surgeon believes that removing it will be curative. We will be holding our breath while we wait for the pathology to come back.

We all hope that this dog doesn't get sidelined from the romping that he loves for too long. If the tumors are benign and R heals as expected, it should be only about 2 weeks before he's resuming normal life. However, I have to admit that I always wonder if vets understand what "normal life" is for us!

I am going to miss doing our daily circus act of rehab exercises. I've come to love spending that time with R every single day. I took the next photo during a short break during a rehab session - the faucets were open and R wanted more treats!
We're hoping for a happy week for our black dog.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Mountain Lion Kill

The other morning, my friend called to tell me that there was a dead elk on her land. She'd seen the carcass as she drove out for the day and asked if I'd go take a look to see if I could tell what had killed the elk.

I went to have a look. I saw the carcass almost right away based on her description of the location, and I stopped to scan the world around it to see if any predators were around. I didn't see anything scary so I went closer.

It was a cow elk. It was partially covered by snow and debris but the body was completely intact. It was obvious to me that the covering was intentional. Based on that clue, I immediately was sure that a mountain lion had killed her. Then I saw the mountain lion tracks in the snow, confirming my conclusion. It was a fast and precise kill, probably a severed spinal cord, that left no blood in the snow.

I took a few steps backward and again scanned the world around me. Was the mountain lion watching me? Was he nearby? Was he up high in the trees that were next to me? I couldn't see him but I imagined that I could feel his eyes boring into my back.

Seeing no danger, I turned back to the carcass, and my heart broke for the cow elk and her calf. I could see that she was lactating and her calf had been nursing up until the time of her death. I wanted to cry for that calf who surely wasn't too far away and for the mother who surely didn't want to leave her calf behind.

I pushed those thoughts aside so that I could work quickly. I had come prepared with trail cameras to document the predators or scavengers who would consume the carcass. It comforts me to some extent to know that other animals will flourish due to this windfall of calories and nutrition. I quickly set up the cameras, and I departed.

I picked up the memory cards from the cameras yesterday at midday. They told me that the mountain lion who killed the elk arrived a couple of hours after I set up the cameras. I was astounded to see from the trail camera photos that he arrived in daylight because this was a spot very close to a road and houses.

He was very wary, constantly scanning the world around him.

In between his nervous scanning, he started to work on the carcass. First he removed a lot of fur. Then, he had to break through the outer body wall. That takes great strength that you can almost sense in the next photo.

He stopped to scan again. When I saw this photo, I realized that I know this cat. He's been traveling through our area for at least a year. He has a distinctive abdominal bulge that you can see in this photo. I'm not sure what it is - but I do know that he seems as strong and as healthy as ever so it isn't preventing him from hunting and thriving.

This photo gives you a good sense of the relative sizes of the lion and the elk. The elk was at least twice as big as the lion, yet the lion took her down seemingly with ease.

This photo shows you how close to people he was. Do you see the vehicle behind him?

He took a break from eating after a while, and he stopped to pose for my camera briefly as he left to rest.
I also have a camera recording video, and I'll share that video very soon. I think that he'll be working on this carcass for a while if nothing goes awry.

I feel privileged to be able to see this secret life of our forest's fiercest predator. I promise that I'll share more of this episode in future posts.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Flying Friday

Since we returned from the desert, winter has hit. In the past week, it seems to snow at least a little almost every night. And the wind is wild. I actually am learning to love the wind - to appreciate its energy and wish that I could harness some of it for my pedaling!

Shyla adores winter and snow. She runs around and takes flying leaps like a puppy.

Some of her leaps astound me. She flyies high through the air, for absolutely no discernible reason. I'm sure that she does it simply because it's fun and she can!
Her amazing snow-fueled energy helps me to keep laughing through the winter. I do have to work hard to keep my spirits up during the time of darkness and cold. It's impossible to ride the trails near my house with anything but a fat bike - and pedaling a fat bike is such hard work (even though I have an absolutely awesome fat bike!). Some days, I find myself counting down the months until we might see the dirt below the snow again.

When Shyla takes a flying leap, I forget all those negative thoughts and try to get into the winter happy state of mind!
Happy Flying Friday.