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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Silhouette Sunday of 2017

Silhouettes of dogs against gorgeous skies combine two of my favorite things: dogs and nature.

I have certain favorite boulders for taking silhouette photos, depending on where the colorful part of the sky is. Shyla is so used to being my model that I simply point to the boulder, and she climbs into position. Then she patiently waits while I take photos from every angle and even wait for the sunset colors to morph toward twilight. She's amazing!
I really thought that we'd never reach this kind of relationship when I first met Shyla. In most ways, she's become the perfect companion for my photography and mountain biking. She's so patient with me during the photography, and I sometimes need to be patient with her during the mountain biking.

It's give and take, from both sides. I love my girl.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Last Silly Saturday of 2017

As I looked through the past year's photos, I ran across my "silly series". These were photos of Shyla as she tried to snarf treats.

I hope that they make you giggle like they did for me!

She snarfed that last one with authority!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happiness is Sunrise and New Mountain Lion Observations

I have my "touchstone" things that almost always make me smile. Especially at this time of year, I make sure that I do them as often as I can.

One is getting out at sunrise with Shyla. Yesterday, it was so cold during our photo session that my fingers completely lost circulation. I have Ranaud Syndrome so that's not too uncommon but still can bring tears to my eyes due to the pain when they rewarm.

It's worth it though - when I get to see my girl in that incredible light.

I do lots of action shots so that Shyla doesn't get cold. This one is from last winter when Shyla surprised me with a huge jump. She is an incredible athlete.

Another touchstone activity for happiness is wildlife observation. A few days ago, I went to check the bear den that I know about, and it was empty. My spirits were deflated. There's nothing like having the den being occupied by a sow and cubs to keep me excited all winter long.

Over the past year since last December, no bears checked out the den. In previous years, bears arrive in the summer, climb into the den, stay inside it for 2-3 minutes, and then leave. I presume that they are checking out its comfort to decide whether it's a candidate for their den the next winter. It's a big den so I think that it's best suited to a sow who will have cubs sharing it.

Despite the den disappointment, I did recently have a bunch of wildlife excitement when my friend called to say that he had a mountain lion on his land being harassed by coyotes. I hurried over, and we had fun solving the wildlife mystery. We found the reason for carnivore activity - a fairly fresh cow elk carcass. We set up a couple of trail cams. Over the past few nights, my cams have recorded the lion-coyote interactions around the huge meal. It's amazing to see how bold the coyotes are with the lion - trying to drive him off the carcass. I have a lot of footage to sift through but I hope to share some soon.

For now, here's our well fed mountain lion as he departed the kill the other night. Believe it or not, this photo was followed by a video of coyotes chasing the lion! I had no idea that a lion would run from animals who are a mere fraction of his body weight.
So, despite the "empty den", there's still fascinating wildlife activity going on nearby! I love documenting it and trying to understand it. It makes me smile!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Favorite Photos of our Labs

My Wednesday was consumed by finally finishing my photo calendars for 2018. Would one of you (or more) tell me to start earlier next year, please? I am a master procrastinator.

As I went through my photo archives, a few photos of our Labs stood out as among my very favorites.

Our Black Dog looking so fit and healthy during a desert trip...

A winter sunrise with Shyla...

The Labraduo in the sunset light... I didn't pose them for this. In fact, I doubt that I could convince them to stand like this if I tried. However, they chose to stand cheek-to-cheek one afternoon, and I snapped the shutter at the right time!
I love this pair!

I am so thankful to be finished with making this calendar!!!!!! Is that okay for "Thankful Thursday"?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Christmas Present - Mountain Lion Kittens!

In the week before Christmas, a mother mountain lion entered our area with her kittens. I first was aware that a lion family was among us based on the tracks that they left.

Three sets of huge wide cat tracks walked parallel to each other. I worried a little as I observed that the tracks went within a short distance of a pen holding goats. The lions left the goats alone. Phew.

For a little while, a kitten's tracks paralleled my fat bike tracks. I love that sight!

As the family entered our neck of the woods, a kitten appeared first. This was the same site where a mountain lion stalked prey a couple of weeks ago.

Mom and the second kitten were next in line.

The second kitten lingered in front of the cam, letting us see that he still has spots. He's on the young side - maybe 4 months old. That's a wild guess.
This sighting made me go back to see what other mountain lion kittens my cams have recorded this year. All the other kittens were older than these ones.

This one repeatedly followed an identical path down below my trail cam in September, as if there was a den down there. I show the footage from his visits in the video below.

And this kitten was traveling with his mother and sibling, visible in the background in June. He was a mature kitten, probably approaching the stage of life when he would strike out on his own. You'll see in the video below that he was almost as big as his mother in June.

Those were all of the mountain lion kitten sightings from 2017. It may not seem like much but my cams don't see any lion kittens some years.

I compiled the video clips into a short video that you can watch here or at Youtube.

I hope that you enjoyed that little "tour of our mountain lion kittens"!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Peace on Earth

We are having a white Christmas. It's very cold and windy. The snow is fluffy!

Our beautiful and poised Shyla posed for me in the winter splendor. I almost can't believe that this is our Shyla. She's come so far and stands so proudly.

Most of all in this holiday season, I wish for peace for the community of people who share our world and for each of you personally.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Winter is Upon Us

Winter is here. It was late this year but I think that it's staying this time. Every year, I sow wildflower seeds just before what I believe will be the snowfall that will form the bottom snow layer that will lie just above the soil for the rest of the winter.

I usually plant my wildflower seeds in late November. This year, it was two days ago. It wasn't a huge snowfall just after I planted the seeds but it was very cold and light snow. It hasn't melted the slightest bit yet. And, underneath it, a wonderful thing is happening. Columbine seeds are starting the process that will transform them to Columbine flowers in the future. That thought makes me smile all winter long!

 Shyla appears ready to settle in for the winter!
The solstice has passed, and today was 5 seconds longer than yesterday. Yipee! We're on the road to longer days!

Happy Holidays to all of you. I've met so many wonderful people through this blog, and I wish for the best for all of you.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Be Present and Notice the Beauty

This is a time of year when I am always feeling tired. I get up very early to catch the sunrise (always so worth it!) even if it's cloudy like in this photo.
It's a time of year when getting "my time" outside with Shyla is so important to my happiness but also contributes to the fatigue that hits every year in mid-winter. I think that being outside for hours when it's 8°F is much more tiring than when it's warmer.

Nonetheless, we keep on playing in the snow every day! We were out while it was actually snowing the other day. Perfect snowflakes were landing on Shyla's fur.

And then, this morning, we had a layer of light fluffy snow covering everything in the forest. It makes the world look so fresh and clean, especially when we go out to play before anyone else has been out.
Our world is so beautiful. I just have to push aside all the small things that weigh me down, immerse myself in the moment, and notice the beauty that is surrounding me.

I hope that you're enjoying these days leading up the holidays.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Winter Solstice

Shyla and I have been out at sunrise most mornings recently. The early morning sunlight near the solstice glows so red! I don't like the short days of this time of year but the glorious sunrise light almost makes up for it.

When I look at these photos at other times of the year, I am shocked by the brilliance of Shyla's reddish fur.

One time last year at sunrise, Shyla started looking behind me with great intensity like in the photo below.
It turned out that a group of three moose were foraging their way toward us from behind me. Thanks to Shyla's wide eyes, I saw them in time, and we circled behind some pine trees to a safer place.

Shyla has become a great moose-early-warning system. She senses them far earlier than I do, and she either stares toward them or refuses to move in their direction.
I think that sunrises are my favorite part of winter. I am very grateful that the days will begin to get longer now, and I celebrate that! But, until the longer days are noticeable, I'll keep enjoying the sunrise light!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thank goodness for Shyla!

Today was my day to not feel well - a migraine knocked me out. So I'll let Shyla say hi to you today!

I love when she looks at me like in the next photo.
Shyla makes me smile no matter what. And she's so sweet, even when I'm feeling so bad that I can't imagine that I'm particularly fun to be around.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Photos on Wednesday!

I am in the midst of my annual review of my photos for the year, with the goal of picking favorites for each month. It's fun to remember my favorite parts of the year.

Since this project is mostly so that I can make calendars, it's good to know that I've made to my autumn photos! Just a few months to go! So far, I have to laugh at myself because I've chosen about 1000 favorites to be in consideration for the calendars - and then I have to cull those down to 12!

I took this photo from the sky on a day with low clouds partially obscuring the golden aspen groves.

This is a lake, far from any traveled path, that we love visiting every year. We mostly visit in autumn. I love having touchstone places in our life like this one.

This past autumn, I captured on of the most serious looking photos of R ever!

And I can't help but smile right back at Shyla when I look at this one.
These journeys through my photo collection remind me of what a good year we've had as a pack.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Taking Flight with Joy

Yesterday's ultrasound showed that the masses (or "nodules", which sounds less scary) hadn't changed size by much. That makes it more likely that they are benign and less likely that they are malignant.

I must say that R seems fabulous right now. His kennel cough is gone, his elbow doesn't hurt, and he is FULL of energy. I took him out on the deck to do his PT exercise of crawling under a tunnel of chairs, forward and backwards, and he barked the entire time out of sheer joy. A neighbor who lives a mile away says that she knows when R is doing his chair exercise because she hears the joyful barks.

I've been going through all of my 2017 photos so I'll share a few of my favorites with this post. It's amazing how much leaping into lakes the Duo did this summer!

I find myself wondering, when will I ever internalize the lessons that R teaches us? Today is what matters. In fact, this instant is what really matters. He tells me that with each bark of joy.

I think that playing in water may be when his joyfulness shines through the most.

R must have written the Noosa lid sayings - I have another one that I love because it reminds me so much of R.
Heck, R pops the lid off daily with his exuberance!

He's taught his sister his lessons for living. She "lives life with the lid off" when we're out in the woods and mountains that she loves. Her brother is a huge source of confidence for her. She imitates his attitude a lot of the time.
The next step will be to take R to a specialist at CSU vet school in January but today's tests showed that we aren't dealing with a rapidly catastrophic situation. We may even be dealing with a couple of benign nodules!

Whew, we're happy about that. We can relax for the holidays. Thank you for all of your support!

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Mountain Lion Stalks Prey

Today is a big day for R. The results will give us some insight into what the future holds for him. As a distraction from that, I have one of the most fascinating footage of a mountain lion, in full stalking mode, that I've ever captured.

Just after our last snow, I found mountain lion tracks all around our area. They went through wild areas with no homes and also went close to houses that have domesticated animals (goats, chickens, dogs).

I had lots of fun following them around (going around private property and then picking them up on the other side) but I really wanted to find photos or video footage of this animal at one of my trail cams.

I discovered that I did have mountain lion footage on my cams! The majority occurred before the snow, like this guy passing a cam.
The other footage was some of the coolest action I've seen from a mountain lion in front of my trail cams. A mountain lion stalked an animal who must have been outside the view of the trail cam for about a half hour!

This was his arrival in front of my trail camera. It's a spot where there's a pool of water for most of the summer. When it dries up like now, the animal activity usually becomes almost nonexistent. Not this night! He took each step incredibly deliberately, avoiding making any noise at all.

It took him almost a minute to get from that first position almost into his pouncing position. As he moved each hind paw forward, he'd inch this front paw forward so that the hind could land where the front paw just was. It appeared to be a method to prevent him from accidentally making noise with his hind paws.

Then, he maintained this very uncomfortable-looking position for quite a while. I believe that he was ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Either there was a prey animal nearby or he expected that one might come looking for water. He held his tail up and off the ground the entire time.

He left the view of the camera a couple of times but kept coming back, always using his silent deliberate gait.
Knowing that these fierce creatures are out in the forest makes even nearby excursions feel like explorations (looking for signs of them) and adventures. I spent some time exploring near the water hole to see if I could find signs that the lion had made a kill there but I didn't find anything. However, they hide their kills well so I might have missed it.

Here's a video of this mountain lion's time near the dry water hole. It is not in slow motion. Rather, he was moving with such stealth that he moved very slowly.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Serene Sunday Sunrise

Yesterday, we awakened to clouds, which sometimes means that the sunrise will be gorgeous. It was.

And when I pointed my camera downward later in the sunrise, our world looked almost unrecognizable with the remains of the snow from the other day. The white snow framed the outer edges of the meadow, the trees, a pond, and rocky outcroppings.

Because I needed a relaxing experience, I made a video of the view from the air of our world as the sun came up.
I hope that seeing our world wake up was a serene start to your day.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Silly Saturday

I need some silliness after the week that we've had and knowing that R's insides will be scanned again on Monday.

Shyla and I had tons of fun playing games with treats this week because she couldn't run much. She gets so intense about snagging them out of the air that she makes silly faces! She also moves so fast that she sometimes is too fast for my shutter.

Although I tend to show you the bloopers when she misses, she's become quite good at this game. She keeps her eyes on the treat.

And knows when to open her mouth to snag it.

Here's the anatomy of a flawless snarf. She had her eyes on the treat before it was even close to her.

Then, she opened her mouth so wide that I can't imagine that she could still see the treat.

Finally, she snarfed it. She moved her jaws and head so fast and hard that her head looked oddly flattened after she had the treat in her mouth.
What a funny look on her face and in her eyes. She looks almost smug!

Way to go, Shyla!