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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Invisible Dog

Do you ever wish that others could know your dog as you do? To many, Shyla is the invisible dog. When she hears or smells people ahead of us on the trail, she vanishes. I've learned not to panic because she's always within a very small radius of me. However, she's completely still so that no one else knows that she's there.

People passing on the trail will ask - "Where's Shyla?". I used to look around and then point her out. Now, I very occasionally play along in Shyla's game and say that she isn't with me today. Don't tell anyone that little secret!

Truth be told, knowing Shyla has been an incomparable gift for me. This next photo may not look like much but she was standing in front of me with her tail wagging wildly back and forth. She seemed to be saying - "What are we going to do next? Please tell me NOW! I know that it will be fun! Let's go, go, go!".
Shyla is my first Lab who is very discerning about who she is friends with. All of my previous Labs have indiscriminately loved everyone - sometimes to my dismay. I used to joke that they'd gladly go home with someone new each day, and they might forget me within a few days. I didn't truly believe that but they did love everyone. I know for a fact that it's not true for Shyla.

For some people, Shyla's choice not to interact with them has nothing to do with their personality. Rather, she's not comfortable with their dogs so she vanishes when they pass us on the trail.

As soon as she's sure that they're gone, she becomes lovable imp who tries to get me to smile with all sorts of antics. Usually, she goes to our most recently learned trick - right now, she's learning "sit pretty".

When I first met Shyla, I didn't know how well our life together would work out because she was so different from every dog we'd ever had before. Now, I think that our life with Shyla is precious and wonderful. I keep wondering why it's going by so fast. I'd like to freeze-frame time so that I could savor today.
Thank you, Shyla, for making our life so much richer!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Shyla is Back Running & The Moose were out to Celebrate!

Shyla and I headed out together for a snow bike ride this morning. We stopped almost right away for some photos. She threw snow into the air in celebration!

She's not allowed to eat anything hard so I was using small pieces of cheese as my treats for her. The Runner and R came along, and they'd usually run right by. However, R sniffed the cheese, and he decided to stay! Anything for cheese... He'll even pose and look vaguely in my direction for the sake of cheese!
The Runner returned for him soon and accused me of "dog napping"!

Shyla and I rode onward in wind-packed snow that kept grabbing my tires and tossing me onto the ground. And sunshine!!!

Look at this scene. It looks bucolic with the snow and blue sky. You can see my wind-degraded tire tracks from yesterday. Do you see anything that would make you think that I should turn around?
People always laugh at me when I say that I have trouble spotting moose in the forest but the moose in this photo are not obvious despite their huge size. There are two in this photo, just to the right of and behind the pine tree in the middle of the picture. Shyla had told me that they were there by stopping in her tracks and staring straight ahead. I called her back to my side before I took out my camera.

The mother moose who we saw today has a distinctive mark - a silver spot on her right shoulder that may help me ID her in the future. I don't think that I've seen her before.

At first, she seemed unconcerned, looking away from us and reaching for aspen twigs to eat (photo below).
Then she gave us "the look", and I retreated fast. As you can tell by the first wide angle photo, we were not close to her. However, a dog makes a moose encounter much trickier because moose are so wary of them.

Here was the look that sent me away.
Indeed, as we retreated, she did a little trot in a circle. I don't know what that meant but I was glad to be far away. Her calf was just out of the picture and behind her in all the photos. It's amazing how moose have ended up dominating many of our winter outings for the past few years!

We took the long way home to avoid aggravating mama moose, and we stopped for a few more photos. Shyla was almost flying because she was so happy to be running again!
And, I was beyond happy to have her back out on the trails with me!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Black Dog Sunday

While Shyla was in the hospital or resting this week, I had some extra time with our black dog.

We had a glorious sunset on one of those evenings, and his fur shined in the setting sunlight.

He zoomed toward me when I called him.

And he highstepped through the rocks. This was before our latest snowstorm so it was very dry outside.
I think that I love the way the setting sun highlights his brown eyes more than anything!

It was amusing when I was talking with a nearby friend about helping care for each others' animals when snowstorms close our roads or other disasters happen. She opined that she wasn't sure that R would let her in our house. I had to stifle a laugh because he is the friendliest dog who you can imagine! I tried to explain that he might lick her to death or bark so loudly that her ears would hurt but there were no other dangers.

I love our Black Dog!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Home or National Geographic Show?

Shyla is limited to leash walks for a few days. We took our short walk yesterday morning but it was like a National Geographic show! Before any excitement started, I took Shyla's photo.

Then, her expression changed.
As you can probably discern, she was no longer interested in me, and she heard something behind her.

It turned out to be a mama moose and her calf. Mama moose did not look happy to see us so I hustled Shyla home without taking any photos. As we hiked home, a herd of elk galloped across our path. They moved so fast that I didn't get my camera out in time to get any photos. Sometimes I am simply awed by this stupendous place that we call home.

The most remarkable thing about galloping elk is how loud their hooves are. The forest was serene and quiet with snow falling silently. The elk herd sounded almost like a freight train coming through - the thundering elk herd!

After I left Shyla at home so I could ride my fat bike, I kept seeing the moose pair over and over again, as if they were stalking me! I think that this was the calf peeking at me through heavy snowfall.

I rode for a while longer. The next time I passed through that area, the mama moose and her calf were lying in the snow. Alert mama moose...

Snow-covered junior...

They were next to the trail that goes to our house so I had to pass that spot one more time. This time, they were up and looking ornery. At first, the mother didn't look very interested in me.

Then, she gave me "the look".
A direct look from an adult moose is enough to make me back away as fast as I can. That's a tough maneuver with a bike but I managed. I don't like to turn my back on a moose because I might not know that I'm being charged soon enough.

Now, as I sit next to a cozy fire, the snowfall is slowing, and it feels nice to have winter back again, even though trudging through a deep layer of fresh snow for the dogs' sunset walk is hard work. My spine particularly hates it... but February is supposed to be winter, and I'm glad that it is!

Happy Saturday to all my friends!

Friday, February 24, 2017

All Quiet in the Rockies

We just laid low yesterday. It was snowing like crazy, and all routes between town and home were closed so the Runner got stuck in town.

Shyla rested all day. On days when our steep mountain roads are closed, I just hope for no veterinary emergencies. My hopes were granted yesterday. Shyla had no more seizures, perhaps partly because I modified her pain medication regime. I suspected that one med might have made her more prone to seizures based on anecdotal evidence from others. I stopped that medicine, and she seemed to feel fine without it.

I went for a ride in the snow. It felt very odd not to spend outdoor time with either of our dogs!

After our crazy warm spell, the return of winter felt good. The trails were deserted again, unlike during our fake springtime. I love the quiet of winter - it's unlike any other time of year.

I feel sure that Shyla will be back to full speed leaping very soon! This photo was from before the latest snow. You can barely see that the forest still held some snow drifts but anyplace that got sun was dry. In fact, there had been a few smallish wildfires in the days before the snow.
When Shyla gets back to leaping, there may even be snow on the ground to cushion her landings!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Tooth Saga

Shyla spent yesterday at the hospital, having her molar extracted. Somehow, I let this event turn into a bigger deal than I should have. Based on my research, I didn't expect any options besides extraction. Then, there was suddenly the option of a root canal with a "cap". That option had the advantage of being less invasive and saving the tooth. The downside was that Shyla wouldn't be allowed to chew on bones or chew toys for the rest of her life for fear of breaking the tooth or the cap.

After much angst, we decided on the extraction.  While they did it, the vets realized that her upper and lower molars weren't correctly aligned. That might have been one reason underlying the broken tooth.

I don't know why I second-guessed our decision for the entire time that Shyla was in surgery but I did. I'm exhausted from all the second-guessing!

R will be very glad to have his little sister back home.

While Shyla was in the hospital, it was fascinating to see the change in R's behavior. Since Shyla joined our family years ago, R stopped alarm barking at visitors approaching the house. We've joked that he's "subcontracted the barking job" to Shyla. It seems to be true! While she was gone, he went back into watchdog mode for the first time in years.

Just R and I were home. His deep booming bark at anything moving in our clearing felt very protective. Thank you, R!
Unfortunately, when Shyla did get home, she had a seizure soon thereafter. We are hoping that the monster doesn't come back...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Few Words Wednesday - My Forest Friend

By getting out in the forest with my dog every morning, I get the honor of seeing all sorts of life.

Including this handsome guy.

I wonder if this was his arrival in our neck of the woods. I am not good at recognizing moose antlers but this guy's antlers look a little different so maybe not.

In any case, Shyla and I aren't having our normal morning outing this morning. She fractured a molar and is having it extracted. I miss her.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Rocky Mountain Traffic Jam

Have you ever been in a traffic jam that you liked? I have.

The elk move slowly across the road, often stopping to stare at the drivers.

They've been around a fair bit recently, and I enjoy watching these wild animals.

They seem to stare right back at me, all while chewing their cuds.

This cow elk did the same thing. She looked at me...

... and found me so boring that she started chewing her cud.

They usually let me watch for a while before they start to want to get away from me. I always stay in vehicle to watch them because elk are far less afraid of people in vehicles than out of them. As soon as they start to seem worried about me, I leave.

I think that our unseasonably warm weather is causing the elk to shed their coats early. I feel sure that we'll have more true winter weather so I hope that they hang onto some of their winter coats! And the moose too!
I'm still fighting the flu plus a migraine decided to join the fun and games today so I'm going to sign off now. I hope that you are all doing well.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Shyla's Nosework - Great Progress!

Shyla and I have continued our nosework training. Some of you may remember that I partly started this to help build her confidence.

Although I still get discouraged sometimes about her sensitivity, she has truly gained the confidence to work independently through nosework. One instructor suggested that I get rid of a leash for a while to build even more confidence.

Right now, we are working on "inaccessible hides" - which means that I put a small source of scent (a few q-tips in a container) in a place that prevents Shyla from getting her nose directly on the odor source.

She's doing great with these puzzles. I'm going to include a short video of her searching for: 1) A scent tube hidden above her reach on our rock chimney; 2) a scent hidden down below a big pile of wood so that she couldn't get down to the scent source; and 3) a scent hidden in a metal cage that was 2' wide.

In these "inaccessible hides", she needs to somehow point out where the scent source is without being able to touch it. For a high hide, she goes up on her hind legs and jumps toward it. For the wood pile hide, she acts excited with her nose above where the source is on the ground below the wood pile. For the metal cage, she "brackets" the hide, meaning that she goes back and forth with her nose, getting as close as she can from more than one side to show me where the hide is.

All of these "indications" have evolved naturally as she's done more and more of these inaccessible scent puzzles.

Here's the video. I hope that you enjoy it!

PS We've been dealing with the flu here. So far, my case is fairly mild but I'm still not at my normal energy level. I hope to get around to my favorite blogs soon! Thanks for all the well wishes yesterday!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Silhouette Sunday

Yesterday's bad day was due to a very sick visitor who was diagnosed with a severe case of the flu. Today, I'm not feeling so good. I did get a flu vaccine last autumn but the doc said it doesn't completely cover the kind of flu that our visitor has.

So, let's enjoy a couple of Shyla Silhouettes and try to forget our worries. One with the moon...

And one aimed lower so that we can see the colorful clouds!
Have a good Sunday!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Daydream

We are not having a good day so I find myself wishing that I were in the desert - anywhere but right here. Being camped next to K's Rock would be a dream come true.

The world would be peaceful, quiet, and wonderful.

The red rock world around me would glow with the red of sunset.

If only we could leave right now, we'd be there in time for sunset.

And we'd see the stars spin around the North Star.
Well that was a wonderful dream. Now back to reality...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sensitive Shyla

Over the years that I've known Shyla, I keep thinking that she's going to become "normal" and be able to show her trusting and loving side to other people. She's now five years old, and that hasn't quite happened.

She has chosen a few people outside our family who she thinks are very trustworthy. She showers them with affection when she sees them. They can't believe that she's not so outgoing with everyone.

But, she demonstrated to me multiple times today that she operates from a state of assuming that strangers are scary until they prove otherwise. I won't lie - it makes me sad to see it. I guess that whatever happens to a puppy when they're very young isn't easily overridden. We didn't know Shyla until she was almost an adult.
But I'll just focus on who Shyla is with me, the Runner, and her chosen friends. She simply can't contain her affection when she sees those people. The other morning, she woke me up to a shower of kisses and the drumbeat of her tail pounding on the bed.

That's a happy dog.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Today I feel thankful for our Labraduo. They add so much fun and warmth to our life.

I'm quite sure that I wouldn't get out in the forest as often if I didn't have eager companions. This leap was at sunrise. Somebody was full of energy!

This was after our morning mountain bike ride. Seeing them so cozy in a sun puddle made my heart sing.

And this outing was at sunset, with a recall race to spice things up.
Whether we're having fun with running, biking, snoozing, or training, I know that these two dogs make our life richer.