One "side effect" of Shyla's time off from mountain biking when she was adapting to her new epilepsy medicine was that I had the chance to spend some wonderful time with R. It's been a while since I've mountain biked with him alone. I have to say that he's really matured into a wonderful mountain biking companion, always staying close and doing as I ask.
He gets impatient with photography pretty fast so I learned that I'd get one or maybe two tries at a given shot during a ride. That made me be very careful that I was ready when he started running! I love seeing him in front of our mountains with his ears up like a shepherd.
I also love seeing him gallop. His gait is so much better than it was before he had his major elbow surgery almost a year ago.
He loved galloping on the soft ground, and he looked so shiny in the dappled forest light.
Even after Shyla returns to normal, I think that I'll ask to take R mountain biking more often than I have over the past few years. It's hard to believe that he's nine years old because he's still so fit and able to run!
We've been seeing our elk herd regularly recently.
I like to see them in the afternoon when the light is golden.
Some just ignore me and keep on munching on the dry grass. The younger ones are more prone to stop eating to check me out like the one on the far right.
Many males still have their antlers but I bet that they'll drop them soon. I've thought about training Shyla to show me where antlers are because I know that our herd drops them in our neck of the woods.
One day, I saw the herd while I was riding my bike. They were jittery. First they stared.
Then one stuck her tongue out as they departed.
My last view of the herd was their rumps disappearing over a rocky embankment. Notice how their ears were rotated 180° listening behind them to make sure that I wasn't chasing them.
It's a tough time of year for the elk. All the vegetation here is dry and brown. Very few plants are sprouting yet. I've read that this is the hardest part of the year for the weaker ones to survive. I am rooting for some moisture so that they can eat green grass before they depart for the high mountains in early summer.
Today, we are participating in a special Flower Friday, in memory and tribute to Dory, who passed away recently. She loved participating in Flower Friday every week except in the winters.
She introduced the 2017 Flower Friday a little while ago. What a beauty she was. And, a wonderful heart dog to her human family. We know how much they loved her and she loved them. She stole our hearts too, even those of us who never met her in person.
That's why we are all posting flowers today - in memory of Dory.
photo from Dory's blog
Around here high in the mountains, we don't have many flowers blooming outdoors yet. We do have an Amarillus that is going crazy with blooms.
On our usual cold and snowy days of spring, indoor flowers really help my mood!
Unfortunately, we haven't had a very cold or wet spring (making fire danger high) so some flowers are already going wild. Our wild crocuses, called Pasqueflowers, are blooming.
They are distinctive because they totally close their flowers when it gets cold. They can survive being swamped by a foot of snow. They might look a little bedraggled after the snow melts but they keep blooming.
Here are some ice-covered ones.
And here are some in full sunshine on a warm day.
The other flowers that are blooming are our Ball Cacti. I love their blooms!
They, too, have a unique ability to completely close when it's cold and open for the sun. On this cactus, one flower is open, and a few others are still closed.
I wish that we had more flowers blooming to share on Dory's Flower Friday. Most of all, we want to tell her family how lucky Dory and they were to have found each other and spent all those years together. I have some idea how tough these days are, and I send lots of love and support.
Recently, our elk herd was just hanging out nearby.
They gave me the impression that they were unconcerned with me but this elk's ears told the real story. It's amazing how she could twist them around to listen behind her.
Then, in the part of the herd that was in the shade, I saw some commotion. Suddenly, two cow elk reared up and began sparring. They appeared to be doing something with their mouths in addition to flailing at each other with their hooves.
Sometimes, their hooves actually met, making a loud clacking sound.
It appeared to be an almost choreographed dance but the intent was definitely not completely friendly. I suspect that these two cow elk were fighting over something having to do with their herd status.
Then, as rapidly as their spat started, it ended. Both elk lowered themselves toward the ground.
Then, one trotted away with the other following. Soon, the pair was mixed in with the rest of the herd so I couldn't tell whether they were still bothering each other.
Another cow elk looked on serenely. She's looking good, with luxurious fur, for this time of year.
When we first moved here eons ago, an old timer told us that we'd get sick of the elk over the years. I thought that she was wrong, and she was! We love watching them in the evenings as the shadows grow long.
What an amazing place we get to live!
P.S. I may take some blogging break days in the near future. Don't worry if there's no post for a day or two here or there.
We had yet another bike ride of seeing no one on the trails so I don't yet know how being hit by a stranger will affect Shyla's reactions to others. A kind neighbor has offered to pretend to randomly meet us on the trails so that Shyla can have a good experience in the near future. I love our neighbors!
I also love how our Labraduo loves to move in sync.
They warm my heart and make me smile.
We've loved having R join us on our bike rides. Yesterday was exactly his one year anniversary since his elbow surgery. Look at him jump with his sister! I'm trying to leave the anger behind and enjoy this wonderful pair of dogs.
R escorted us on the trails again today. I think that he knows what his job is. I asked both dogs to "take a bow" but he insisted upon standing tall and burly like a body guard!
The wonderful sounds of birds singing in the treetops made me pause there for longer than usual. Shyla snuggled against R and fell asleep. He definitely makes her more comfortable.
We had a peaceful ride, filled with the joy of the two dogs romping together.
It was the warmest ride of the year, with me in shorts and short sleeves! What a glorious feeling after a winter of being bundled up. I have no doubt that it will snow here again (and I'm rooting for that!) but I enjoyed this day.
You can tell that it was warm because the dogs were panting for one of the first times this year!
Again, we saw no other people during our ride. Most of our rides involve complete solitude. That's one reason why the event during our ride the other day was so utterly shocking. I'd really like for Shyla to see her first "stranger" in the forest with R present but it might take weeks of borrowing R from the Runner for that to happen.
Shyla has seemed very happy and unworried on our rides with R. I think that we'll take him with us for one more day, and then we'll try it on our own. R will go back to his routine of running with the Runner. We sure have appreciated how R has bolstered Shyla's confidence since that day that the woman decked her.
I hope that you're having a great spring holiday weekend!
Yesterday was a shocking day. It started out normally, with me and Shyla heading out onto the trails together. We stopped to soak up the sun, on the first really warm day of spring!
Then, I pedaled and she ran by my side directly up to Hug Hill, a place of peace and fun to both of us. We always take a happy break atop Hug Hill. Yesterday, we started our break with some games, aimed to teach Shyla to imitate me as a way of teaching her new behaviors.
As we were playing, I saw Shyla's ears perk up and her eyes dart to the east. I turned around, and I could make out the shape of someone running up the hill but I couldn't identify the person because the bright and low sun was directly behind her.
The woman said "hi" in a happy voice, and I thought that I knew who she was - a neighbor who lives quite close to us. However, I wasn't absolutely certain.
Thinking it was a neighbor, I released Shyla from a "stay" and said "go ahead and say hi" because my neighbors love Shyla and have been a huge help in her rehabilitation from her paralyzing fear of non-family members.
Shyla trotted toward the person in a typically meek way, with her body low to the ground. The person said something in a high pitched voice that encouraged Shyla. Shyla slowly rose on her hind legs to see the person's face better but didn't jump on the person. However, I suppose that the person might have thought that Shyla was about to jump on her.
As Shyla peered at the person, the person belted Shyla across her face. Given the unstable position that Shyla was in, she fell over... and actually didn't get up immediately. I was stunned into silence as life took on a slow-motion and silent-movie quality. Slowly, Shyla got up and almost crawled to me, obviously terrified by what had just happened. At first, I worried about whether she had a head injury but I think that she was just scared to death.
At that point, I broke the silence with verbal barrage at the woman, who I now realized was a stranger. "Do not hit my dog, EVER", I yelled. I honestly don't remember the rest of what I said as I slowly got closer and closer to this evil woman while yelling at her. There was no defense for her behavior - none. She walloped an innocent dog - and that dog happens to be more fragile than most. I've worked hard to teach Shyla that strangers are not a threat, and I honestly thought that years of work had been destroyed with one punch.
My rage must have scared the woman because she started crying and began to run away. I realized that I needed to get some basic information about her so I asked who she was and how she'd gotten onto land that is only accessible to people who live adjacent to it.
Since then, I've learned that the woman is a chronic trespasser who has been banned
from everyone's land. She gained access to Hug Hill by trespassing
across land that she's been told that she may *not* set foot on. She is not the kind of person who I should have trusted to interact with Shyla. It was a costly mistake.
We tried to do a normal ride home after the altercation but Shyla didn't want to run. We moved at a slug's pace as we headed home. I had tears in my eyes the entire way. I spent the whole day obsessing over the event, too upset to even write a blog post about it.
There is a decent piece of news now, the day after that trauma. I took Shyla's older brother, R, along on our ride today to bolster her confidence, and she seemed very happy. We didn't see a single person so I don't know how Shyla will cope with seeing non-family members on the trails after that terrifying event.
Here's a photo of the two of them today, atop Hug Hill. Today was "take back Hug Hill" day. I wanted to go right back there and have a ton of fun with my dogs, like I've done almost every morning for years. I figured that if that awful woman showed up again, R would deal with her.
Just kidding - sort of. R doesn't have a mean bone in his body but he can look scary.
I think that R will be with us again tomorrow. He's a great source of security for Shyla and for me.
Shyla and I were out before sunrise yesterday to see the full moon set over the snowy mountains. I was sad that it didn't set over the more craggy part of the mountains but it was still beautiful.
We sprinted up to a lookout point, and we barely made it in time. The moon waits for no one, and it sets about 20 minutes earlier than the published time if you live in the shadow of the Continental Divide.
This was the first photo that I took.
It's not a "super moon" but it still looked massive over the Continental Divide. Here was a wider view, with our local ski area in the far left of the photo.
Within a minute or two, the beautiful moon was disappearing below the Divide.
I first became interested in photographing the full moon about 18 months ago. Since then, we've had only three full moons when the horizon was clear enough to see it rise and set. I didn't know that a clear horizon for a full moon was so rare!
After the moon had set, the sun was rising, and Shyla and I had a little photo shoot in the shadowy light of the early morning.
Our epilepsy ordeal has truly shown me how much I've grown to love Shyla. I still miss the little pieces of her that the medicine has stolen and hasn't given back to us yet. However, I appreciate each morning that we can spend in the forest together.
I've noticed in our recent outings that she is more focused on me than in the past. I used to get lots of photos of her gazing off into the distance, as if I wasn't there. Now, she seems to want to keep me in her view, like in the photo above. She didn't look straight at me but she also never looked away.
That's just one tiny hint of how strong our bond has grown.