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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Swimming Saturday

I told you about my bike ride to our favorite campsite in Colorado. This is a sight that will always make me smile. For those of you who are wondering, that yellow thing is R's "peanut" that we use for his elbow exercises. That peanut has spent so many vacations with us in the LabMobile that we've named it "Penelope".

Not only does the campsite have stupendous views but the area around it is wonderful too. You cannot see all of them but we've counted five lakes in the vicinity. In this photo, two are in the middle and the biggest one is off to the left. You might immediately realize that our Labraduo adores those lakes! Daily swimming is part of our stays there.

Here is Shyla in one of the lakes. She uses her tail a lot while swimming. When she's ready to grab a ball and turn toward shore, she flips her tail up out of the water, creating water art.

This year, to her brother's chagrin, she learned to carry two balls at once. You can see an orange one back in her mouth and a yellow one in her front teeth. This new development is part of why we now have to bring three balls on every water outing. When we occupy Shyla's mouth with two tennis balls, we can throw the third for R.

With our continued foggy, misty, and rainy weather, looking at our photos from our time high in the mountains makes me nostalgic. The next photo was from one instant early this morning when the sky cleared just a tiny bit.
For the rest of the day, the clouds closed in around us making it feel like there were no mountains or trees near us. I know that this pattern will break soon. I have the feeling that it will even help my spine when it's not so cold and damp anymore!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Autumn's Beauty in the Mist and in the Sunshine

Back on the home front, we've been in the midst of a rain and fog pattern that feels as if it has been here forever. At times, we can barely see the colorful trees through the mist and rain.

My riding has been limited by my spine but Shyla and I still get out a bit each day. Usually, we are both soaked to the bone but, occasionally, the clouds part enough to let the trees glow.

Before this weather pattern landed over top of us and stopped moving, I had fun trying to get footage of one of the biggest aspen groves near us. As some of you may have guessed, I have a drone in my possession now. I am almost embarrassed to admit that fact because I feel so strongly about the potential for drones to ruin peoples' outdoor nature experiences. My goal is to use it only at times and places where no one else is around.

It is a challenge to learn to fly it while controlling the camera in such a way that it records smooth footage of nature's beauty. Here was my first attempt over an aspen grove that was just turning gold. I am hoping that the leaves are still on the trees when this awful weather finally departs. I love when this grove turns deep gold.

You can watch the video either here or at Youtube.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Mountain Biking Adventure in the Alpine Zone

Almost every summer, I do a couple of point-to-point rides high in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. We plan them out so that the Runner drives the LabMobile into a fairly inaccessible place where we'll camp. At the same time, I ride trails to meet him there. It serves two purposes. It means that my poor spine doesn't have to endure a bumpy jeep road, and I get the gift of a long mountain bike ride across beautiful terrain.

It seems as if the whole region is very high. My ride started at an elevation over 10,000'. The beginning of the ride was through reddish soil on a ribbon-like trail cut into mountainside. The vegetation was glowing with an autumn gold.
This year, unfortunately, I started my ride at about the same time as a group of inexperienced mountain biking guys. They felt that they *had* to outride me (a female on a bike - let's crush her!) but they didn't have the skills or fitness to do it. It meant that I spent the first hour being chased down by a testosterone-driven guy, then he'd have to stop to rest so I'd pass him, and then he or one of his buddies would repeat the whole thing all over again.

It took me about an hour to leave them behind me for good, just as I was getting above treeline and discovering that there were still a few flowers left!

I dropped my bike to enjoy the wildlflower meadow. I was like heaven on earth even if the flowers were nearing the wilting point.

My favorites are the crimson paintbrush. I love their vibrant color.

When I'm above treeline, I always am scanning for potential thunderstorms. The forecast said that the odds of one were low... but of course, some clouds began to concern me when I was in the very long exposed stretch of this ride.

Thanks to those clouds, I worked hard to reach the high point of the ride quickly. I adore this high mountain pass. Behind me, I can see the mountains that I just rode across. Ahead of me, I see the mountains that I'm about to pedal through!

The descent from that pass is steep but easily ridden. However, I usually dilly dally looking at a hillside full of wildflowers. This particular hillside had no flowers left for me so late in the summer. Ah well - the views were still beautiful.
A sharp hairpin turn was just ahead of me, leading to that lower trail segment in the left of the photo
Down a little lower, the autumn colors were unfolding, painting the hillside a subtle gold.

And, to my utter delight, I found one Columbine still blooming. I stopped to enjoy its beauty. I thought that it might be my last columbine until next summer. I was wrong but I still loved seeing it!.
After descending from the highest point on the route, I traversed a long section of trail in the forest that climbed in and out of drainages containing creeks of rushing water. It's usually a kind of riding that slows me and makes me start to lose my confidence.

Not this year! I have a "new" bike with a very smooth suspension and wide tires. My internal monologue included "my bike eats rocks for breakfast!". That monologue was meant to keep me riding with confidence even in this technically challenging part of the route.

It worked! Much sooner than expected, I popped out of the forest into the huge open area that signals that I'm getting close to camp. The trail ahead of me pointed at the "Lizard Head" mountain range.

I pedaled happily on the curvy trail that took me through the meadow. I marveled that, even though I'd been riding for a long time, I still felt great. Yay!

I arrived at camp about an hour faster than ever before on this route. That wasn't a total surprise. I worked hard this summer building up my endurance and strength, finally feeling a tiny bit of confidence in my physical capabilities despite my "messed up" spine.
Of course, as I mentioned two days ago, my messed up spine has made itself known again. However, it was fun having a period of time this summer when I felt almost like I did in the summers before my spine pain was so bad.

What a gift this ride was! I loved every moment of it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Rainbows and Labradors

On our first night in our favorite campsite, we saw a rainbow at sunset.

And our Labs could run under it!

It was a gorgeous start to our week in that spot!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A View of our Autumn-Winter Storm from on High

I had planned to write a post about a long and wonderful mountain bike ride that I did in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado during our extended trip. In late August, I was in the best shape that I've been in for years. I was stronger and had better endurance than anytime that I can remember. For that reason, I had some amazing bike adventures which I still do plan to share with you!

However, I'm in a huge amount of pain from tweaking my spine so I don't want to sit for long enough to write that fun post. My regular doc is out of town. When the doctor covering for him looked at my past MRIs, she concluded that I have a "very messed up spine". Yup, I knew that - I have lots of titanium rods and plates in my lumbar and cervical spine. I'm a big fan of conservative treatment so I'll see my PT tomorrow for gentle work, and I'll take it easy on myself for a while. I don't want any more spine surgery!

In light of these circumstances, I'm going to share footage from an aerial view on Monday morning when there was a small hole of blue sky over top of us. The clouds were swirling around us at our elevation until but there was a view from slightly above them!

The white on the horizon is snow-covered mountains! Yes, it is autumn!

Even the ski area had some snow on the slopes. I doubt that it will last but it shows how early winter starts up high.

The part that I enjoyed most of all was a 360° view, showing the western horizon with snowy mountains and the wall of clouds to the east. You can watch the brief video here or at Youtube.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mama Bear and her Cub

Throughout this summer and fall, it's been amazing to see the mother bear and cub pair so frequently via my trail cams.

The cub who was so tiny at the start of the summer is looking so big and healthy now! She and her mom recently walked a bear trail in our neck of the woods, giving us a nice view of how big the cub is!

Here was mom as she passed the camera.

This is still mom, a step later.

Then, here is her cub. She is looking SO big!

The camera didn't catch the cub going over the fallen tree but I so enjoyed seeing her healthy!

We now have two bear families intensely using our neck of the woods. The other one is the mother with two cubs. I am hoping so strongly that one of these families chooses the den for this winter that I have staked out with a cam. These cubs will stay with their moms through the winter and early spring. So they will share dens with their moms!

I have some fun footage of the mother bear with the single cub at a water hole. I talked with a biologist about the fact that the bears love this absolutely horrendous smelling water hole so much. As one of you suggested a while ago, the biologist's first guess was that something in the water kills both external (e.g., ticks, fleas) and internal (e.g., intestinal) parasites. That might explain why it seems to be the favorite water hole of our bears every summer.

At this water hole, the bears make sure to get this water all over their bodies, including their heads, whenever they bathe there. You'll see that in the first 3/4 of the video. Then, later that evening, the pair visit a very clean water source. It's fun to see mom stop in a certain spot for a noisy drink, lapping up the cold water, and then her cub imitate her behavior so closely!

Here's the video. I hope that you all enjoy it either here or at Youtube.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alpine Black Dog Sunday

We knew that a blast of wintery weather was headed our way so we snuck in a quick visit to a high alpine lake before the snowflakes arrived. We have a long history with this lake. It's way off-trail so we always have it to ourselves. We made a tradition of visiting it to celebrate Angel K's birthday every September. That tradition continues, more than five years since her death.

It was already chilly but our Black Dog and his sister didn't hesitate to play and swim in the water. I love that our Angel K helped shape R when he was a little puppy and that she swam in this lake so many times.

I loved watching R splash through the water with the orange ball gripped in his jaws.

Then he exited the water with long rivulets of water streaming off him.

He managed to shake off the water without dropping the ball.
I hate how short dogs' lives are but the knowledge of that fact makes us seize as many days for joyful play as we can. It gets us out to have fun with the Duo more often than we otherwise would. 

I'm also glad that we had our Friday outing because, out of the blue, my spine hurts so much that I can't stand up straight. I certainly wouldn't be able to hike to that lake now... My fingers are crossed that it passes although that miracle doesn't happen often to me because so much of my spine is surgically fused.

I'm so glad that we saw this glorious autumn scene from high in the Rockies. You can see that a change in the weather was on its way from the sky over the mountains.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Swimming in High Mountaiin Lakes!

One of our favorite things about our time high in the mountains is being near lakes where the Labraduo can swim almost every day! They are happiest when swimming. All of our Labs except for one have adored swimming.

In the photo above, R knew that he was beaten by Shyla so he held back. Shyla took a flying leap.

I really love watching their graceful landings into the water. They each reach down with one paw, usually the left, to hit the water with it first, while their rumps stay high in the air. I wonder why this has been uniform among all our Labs? The similarity is surprising.

Then it was R's turn. He loves to take a very high trajectory as he leaps. Seeing him play like this makes us smile so widely, knowing how badly he was impaired by his elbow before his CUE surgery. Now, his elbow doesn't slow him down at all.

He truly flies.

And then he does the "classic" landing.
We have snow in our forecast for Sunday and Monday so we're going to try to get the pups out for a swim before the cold front hits. Then, we have a lot of chores to get our gardens ready for the first frost.

Our swimming outings are a favorite part of autumn for us. I'll be sad when the season is over. I am sure that this weekend's snow will melt, and we'll have more warm weather before the freeze truly sets in. We will enjoy it!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Autumn's Glory in the Rockies

Back to our world at home for today because I am overwhelmed with the beauty. This is our playground, turning into a kaleidoscope of autumn colors.

It is a glorious sight. I love being able to see that many aspens are still green so we still have lots of autumn ahead of us. I'm looking right past that snow in the forecast in the next few days!

Today was a day to be savored. It was warm enough for a sleeveless top and shorts. The sun felt soft but warm on my shoulders. Shyla was a joy to have along for part of my bike ride. She seemed as happy as I was, taking flying leaps whenever she could.

In a sense, those golden and reddish leaves are our flowers for this time of year. They make us smile and want this season to never end.

Shyla's smile summed it all up.
We will savor every last warm and sunny day that this season will give us.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Learning to teach sensitive Shyla

You might remember early in the summer when Shyla ran away to a carcass and ate so many bones that she landed in the hospital for a couple of days. I said that it was "my fault", and I really meant it.

We had a problem. I'd done everything to train Shyla to come when called and to stay close when we went for bike rides together that I'd done with my previous dogs. By Shyla's age, K had been a very reliable biking dog. I was getting aggravated with Shyla almost daily, feeling upset with her tendency to choose the temptations in the forest instead of coming to me.

The carcass run-away was a wake-up call for me. I knew that I needed to address the issue or else stop taking Shyla on bike rides with me. Not taking her on bike rides would have broken my heart. That left one option.

That very day, the Fenzi school opened up registration for a new round of classes, and one of them was "Recalls". I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I already knew how to teach a dog a recall. Then, it hit me. I didn't know how to teach *sensitive Shyla* a recall. My methods had worked for other dogs but not for her.

So, I signed up. The class is now over, although our hard work is not. We've come a MILLION miles since the class began. We started from ground zero with a new recall word, and we practiced a zillion "set-up" scenarios, teaching Shyla to choose to come to me instead of chewing on bones or eating bad stuff.

We practiced throughout our trip to Wyoming and the Colorado mountains. She wore a 20' long line for most of our practice so that she couldn't fail. The photos are from after she'd graduated from the long line when we were in the wildflowers of the Colorado mountains.

One of the biggest parts of retraining Shyla is retraining ME. I am an intense person. When I fail, I try harder and with greater ferocity. It turns out that my intensity scares Shyla and makes her much less likely to come to me or stay near me.

I've had to learn to stay lighthearted and happy with Shyla, no matter how worried I am about the situation that we find ourselves in. For example, if she finds a fresh animal body part from an animal killed by a mountain lion, I still call her in a sing-song way and play with her as if there's no danger nearby.  That part is very hard for me...

But, we've been very successful with our recalls since returning from our trip. After our bike rides, I'm happy and smiling rather than stressed and upset by Shyla's latest escapade. She's staying by my side while I ride, and she chooses me over the many temptations in the forest. I also set up temptations for her, like planting a bone in the middle of the trail, and then asking her to recall to me and away from the bone. I carry yummy treats, and she is now consistently choosing me.

I know that I have to keep practicing, especially so that my attitude remains light and happy. I can't let the "intense KB" make too many appearances or we'll be back where we started.

For now, I'm nothing but happy. I've learned how to train my sensitive Shyla much better, and that's worth its weight in gold.
Sometimes it's worth taking the blame upon yourself like I did when Shyla landed in the hospital, not so that you wallow in it, but so that you take positive action to change.

I'm so grateful that we've reached this point, where I'm starting to trust Shyla again in the forest. A million thanks to our teacher who helped us so much!