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Friday, March 31, 2017

Pre-storm: Elk and Magpies Hanging out Together

On a recent mountain bike ride, I ran across a small herd of elk.

Near the elk, I saw magpies in the grass. Soon, one had flapped upward and landed on an elk's back. In the photo, one magpie is on the left elk's back, and another is flying up onto the right elk's back.

Most elk don't seem to mind the magpies at all. The magpies eat fleas and other parasites that live in the elk's fur so it is a symbiotic relationship. If you look closely in the next photo, the magpie had a chunk of fur in his beak, probably accidentally pulled out as he grabbed a bug.

Everywhere I looked in the herd, I saw magpies on the backs of the elk, putting their beaks into the elk fur.

This youngish cow elk also had her own magpie.

Then, the magpie took off, showing us his distinctive plumage and tail.

As I stood still watching the herd, these two cow elk looked back at me. I loved how each elk had a grass piece hanging out of her mouth.

And this young bull also stared at me with grass hanging out of his mouth. Although he's young, you can already see the great muscle bulk that he has compared to the cow elk.

I always try very hard not to spook them. This was my last view. I could feel the tension among the elk rising so it was time for me to leave.
We have a snowstorm headed our way that might drop a lot of snow on us (multiple feet). It is notoriously hard to predict the weather this close to the Divide. However, my last check of the forecast predicted about 2' over the weekend.

Meanwhile, some transients began living in our forest during the warm spell. Today, I wanted to warn them about the storm as I rode by them, fearing that they didn't know (and they even have 3 small children with them). If we get that much snow, they will be stuck for a long time. Alas, no one was out and about in the encampment.

Shyla and I will have fun in the snow. I am so thrilled to have my girl's spirit back again!!!!
Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Shyla is Back!

I saw glimpses of Shyla's usual sparkle in her eyes early in the week. At that time, I had no idea how rapidly she would return to about 95% of her usual self. Now, she's been seeking affection almost all the time, and plays like her usual self. She brings me toys and insists on games of tug (even when I'm talking on the phone!). She is definitely back!!!!
Shyla is also back as my mountain biking partner. She's still much faster than I am. I can tell how happy she is to be back by my side. I am over the moon with happiness.

We rode out into 6" of very wet snow this morning. It was stuck to aspen branches, forming lattices above us.

It was tougher to find snow still stuck to aspen branches in the sunshine. The snow fell off within minutes of the sun hitting it. But I found one beauty!

After gazing at the beautiful snow art, I turned my full attention to how happy I was to have Shyla with me again. It reiterated the lesson that I should never take anything for granted.

We did a small loop, and it was clear that Shyla wanted to run further! Yipee! We headed up higher. Shyla was out in front wondering why I was stopping for photos yet again!

Clouds moved in near the end of our ride, making the western horizon look ominous. But Shyla was still happy!

I am so thankful that Shyla is feeling better again. It felt like she was "absent" for a couple of weeks. Being able to go out and enjoy nature with her made me even more thankful.
Thank you to our friend Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Two Transformations

It was so dry here for the past couple of weeks that I was planning my bike ride routes so that I could check that no campers had fires burning in defiance of our area's "no fires, no shooting" wildfire prevention measure.
Look at the dry pine needles under R's paws

Look at the dry meadow

Then, snow - and Shyla took a step toward normalcy at the same time!

A good day - I think that our Shyla is coming back

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Goofy Black Dog

R decided that it was time to make his voice heard the other morning.

He makes me laugh and laugh when he gets into this kind of mood.

At one point, he decided to shake his head while howling, which made for a very goofy look!

Then, during a later break in our mountain bike ride, he howled while waving. R is such a character! In contrast to Shyla who tries incredibly hard to do exactly what I'm asking her to do, R takes creative license. I like it!

On the topic of Shyla, we haven't learned as much as I'd hoped that we would by now. Our regular vet is away, and she is usually the one who gladly answers my many questions. I did learn that Shyla's phenobarbital levels are "within therapeutic range" for preventing seizures. The question that I didn't get answered was whether we can consider reducing her dose given that the side effects are still so strong. Another vet is working on this question for me, trying to get Shyla's neurologist to weigh in.

It's been a tough couple of days because I'm not feeling very well and we're still worried about Shyla. This photo seemed to match my mood when I took it yesterday.
It is a photo of the snowy peaks of the Continental Divide with dark storm clouds gradually engulfing them. We have snow in our forecast for three of the next four days. That's a good thing in terms of keeping our neck of the woods moist and healthy - although it is mentally hard to accept going back to winter after having tasted springlike weather!

Let's hope that good health will return to our pack and to the very dry world around us!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Glimpse of Shyla

A good friend asked me yesterday about how Shyla is. I replied that the best word to describe her demeanor is "depressed".

On every leash walk or run, she lags behind us. During the day, she chooses to nap at the other end of the house from us. When Shyla is normal, she likes to be on a dog bed close to us.

We started off Sunday with the same routine as every day since Shyla started phenobarb. Shyla went running on-leash with the Runner, and R went mountain biking with me. The reason why Shyla hasn't been with me is that it's impossible to ride a bike in the woods with a dog on-leash.

R and I had fun in the morning sun, playing the "toss the treat" game.

He gets very excited about this game and then begins drooling, which can look rather dramatic as he wildly tries to catch the treat.
He has been such a source of joy to me through this phase when Shyla has been "absent".

When R and I arrived home, I asked about Shyla's run. She lagged but she became incredibly enthusiastic when they crossed the route that R and I had taken. Upon hearing that, I wondered if a short mountain bike ride with me might raise her spirits.

No doubt about it - our little ride made Shyla wild with exuberance. At the start, I saw her heading toward a log as she ran toward me and got a photo of her arrow-like leap over it to get to me.
The problem was that her leap was one of the only coordinated things that she did during our little ride. I saw lots of stumbles on small rocks and high speed "slide-outs" on curves that she took too fast. The good news was that I didn't see any signs of her getting confused about her location relative to me. I didn't feel worried that she was about to get lost.

And, this afternoon, she's hanging out close to us, as if her funk is lifting. I see more of Shyla's spirit sparkling in her eyes than I have in weeks. It's going to be a difficult decision as to whether to repeat today's experiment in the coming days.

Tomorrow, we get her blood test results, finding out how her liver is responding and whether the phenobarb is at a "therapeutic level" in her blood. I think that I'll ask about whether we can consider a lower dose. We're now on Day 17, and she's not close to normal in terms of coordination. However, she's had no seizures - so it might be working.

Life is such a windy path - and I wish that I could see around the next curve!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Silhouette Sunday

Shyla, in silhouette!
I took this one way back before she started the phenobarbital. I can't wait until she can climb on boulders again!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hoping for Change!

I watched our elk herd last night around sunset. I was struck by how bedraggled some of them look and that they were eating such dry grass.
As I watched them, I was hoping for a change overnight.

First, I was hoping that Shyla would make a step in the right direction in adapting to her new epilepsy drug. I think that she did - although not a huge step. She came over to me for snuggling this morning, and that was the first time that she requested snuggling since she started phenobarbital. It made me very happy. She also got into the car far more easily than a week ago when the clumsiness and weakness from the drug made it almost impossible for her. Maybe we are headed toward normalcy. I can't wait to have my little girl back again!

The second thing that I was hoping would change overnight was how dry our world is. Look at that tall dry grass around the elk. That dryness has everyone on edge about wildfires.
A snowstorm, potentially big, was heading our way, and I had high hopes that we'd get enough moisture from it relax a bit. Unfortunately, it veered too far south, giving us only a thin layer of snow.

R and I had fun in the snow this morning, despite how sparse it was!

R and I have spent more one-on-one time out in the forest over the past couple of weeks than ever before. I absolutely love his enthusiasm. I also love that he's finally learned "impulse control" so he's a much easier off-leash companion than even a year ago.

We played recall games. One of my favorite training "tricks" is to find a place that is saturated in the scent of wildlife that were nearby very recently. In this case, it was deer. I put R in a stay right where the scent was the strongest (based on tracking signs) and then I called him from that spot. We had a huge treat party when he arrived at my feet!

Here's the amazing thing that happens when you play this game a lot. Your dog learns to run to you whenever they see wildlife (before you even call them) because they know that they'll get a treat bonanza for it. And they are absolutely thrilled to do that self-motivated recall!
The transition to our dogs coming when they see wildlife without us calling them has happened naturally after we've practiced a lot of recalls around wildlife or wildlife scent. I love it!

We are about to go for our sunset hike - and that's one of the times when we can truly observe whether Shyla is doing better. I'd love to have her yank me forward with enthusiasm on the hike.  Believe me, I never thought that I'd be wishing for her to pull on the leash but I am!!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Coyote Prediction Meter

At the start of this year, I couldn't check any trail cameras for weeks because there was too much snow on the ground. I finally waded through the snow in late January, and this was the first series of photos that I found.

After the past few weeks, I have to wonder if this coyote was making a prediction about our 2017?

No, he couldn't have been. He must have been one of the coyotes who put on a beautiful show in front of a camera on a frosty February morning. What beauty! I like that as a predictor for our 2017.
I have faith that 2017 will get better.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Springtime, Our Black Dog, and Shyla

We have had a frightful period of warm, dry, and windy weather. It's produced the earliest spring signs that I've ever seen. It's scary - to be honest. At this time last year, we were dealing with several feet of snow on the ground.

Alas, there is a lot of snow in our upcoming forecast so perhaps our terror of potential wildfires will let up. My favorite forecaster says that some models have 4' or more snow falling here over the next week. I am so hopeful that his forecast is right - and our world will get the water it needs.

Because I can't change our current weather, I'm choosing to be thankful for it as I sit our deck typing! We have mountain bluebirds here already. Their plumage is so brilliant!
Don't worry about them - they flee to lower elevations during our spring snow storms.

Like every year, they don't love having their photos taken so this one took off just after this photo.

And, our wild crocuses are starting to bloom.

I was down on the ground admiring the flowers when I saw a tick perched on one. Yuck! We shouldn't have ticks this early in the year!

Most years, we are inundated with snow now, and I feel like winter will never end. For the first time, I planted amaryllis bulbs timed to bloom around when the late March "endless winter doom" feeling hits me. The joke is on me because they are blooming now, and we have wild flowers outdoors!

As it is thankful Thursday, I don't mean to sound like a broken record but I am SO grateful for the time I've had with R while Shyla has been sidelined by the side effects of phenobarbital. I love our black dog, and he's made me smile almost everyday even when the blank look in Shyla's eyes has made me want to weep.
Our vet and others have told us stories of people who gave up on phenobarbital during the adaptation period - and so they never found out if it would stop their dog's seizures. They feel that their dog's spirit is gone forever. I totally understand their decisions because it does feel as if Shyla has been "absent" during this phase - and that would not be an acceptable state in the long term. I am so thankful for my vet and my friends who keep reminding me that Shyla will almost certainly be back just like the millions of epileptic dogs before her who have started this medication.

In fact, in the hugely thankful category, I think that it's starting to happen. Shyla has a sparkle in her eyes for more of the day now, and she runs around with toys at random times (not just during her golden 30 minutes in the morning). Her coordination still isn't up to par - she often stumbles and slips while playing - but I'm so glad that she wants to play.

I hope that we'll be able to let her romp outdoors again sometime soon!

Thank you to Brian for hosting this blog hop!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Black Dog Happiness

Our Black Dog lifting my spirits!

Running beautifully, with his bionic elbow!

Playing silly games with me - Do you see the treat flying past him?
I miss Shyla but it has been a joy to spend solo time with R on the trails. I am utterly amazed by his physical strength and super behavior. As much as I don't want to admit it, I think that he's finally growing up at age 9!