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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Learning Courage

Over the past month or so, I've been sharing some of the "goofy" training that Shyla and I have been doing. I've been helping Shyla learn to embrace novel things rather than be afraid of them.

Some of the training setups that I've shown you were based on a course that I took called "empowerment". One of the most fun parts of the course is referred to as "Yes, I like broccoli!". In essence, it involves putting a goofy setup of pots, pans, and other silly things that you have in your house out on the ground in front of your dog. Then, you prevent your dog from going to those things by pushing her away from them.

This "pushback" ignites the opposition reflex, which makes your dog really want to get to the silly setup. Here's a short example in video form for you.

I used this concept to get Shyla to sit in a Chewy box this morning. I put the box out on the floor, and I pushed her away from it, verbally egging her on a bit as I did it. As soon as I let her go, she was climbing in the box!!! Prior to this, she always acted very wary of boxes when I tried to get her to interact with them.

Shyla doesn't need any tricks to get her to interact with things in the natural world. This is K's stump, and Shyla stood tall upon it this morning as she inhaled a distracting scent.

And then, Shyla stood on the edge of a boulder with her toes hanging over.
She's such a courageous girl in so many ways!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Young Bears Learning to Tree Dance!

The main part of ursine mating season has come to a close. I usually still see a pair of bears together a few times for the rest of the summer but the frenzy of the season has passed.

This is the time of year when some younger bears dare to visit the marking trees that were decimated by the dances of the huge bears during the mating season. The younger bears have some funny notions of what they're supposed to do at marking trees.

This blond guy is my favorite younger bear. He's probably 2 or 3 years old - and definitely not mature enough to participate in mating season. He visited a marking tree and sniffed intensely. I aimed this camera so that the heads of the biggest bears would barely stay in the frame while they marked the tree. Look how tiny this cute little guy is!

After he finished sniffing, he showed off his bipedal skills.

He stayed bipedal for a little while! I know that he's a wild bear but that doesn't stop me from thinking that he's incredibly cute!
There was a cub in the area last year with similar coloring so perhaps this is a yearling.

Another bear visited a clearing that is usually the site of a wonderful pool where bears bathe. Alas, this year, the pool is dry. But, this bear found another thing to do in the clearing - mark an aspen tree (I've now reoriented the camera to have the tree closer to the middle). The funny part was that this bear let out a huge yawn in the midst of marking. I laughed out loud!

A youngish bear visited the leaning tree that so many bears marked during mating season. He sniffed...

And then he started a unique dance!

I hope that you enjoy the video of these bears' "dances" at trees. I have been amused by them recently!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Black Dog Sunday - His Physical Therapy!

Most of you know that our black dog was born with a very serious case of elbow dysplasia. After he'd had a few arthroscopic clean-out surgeries, we were facing up to the fact that he had essentially no cartilage left in the joint, and he was experiencing a lot of pain. Fortunately, we were able to get him a new kind of surgery called "CUE surgery" which puts synthetic weight-bearing surfaces in the elbow joint.

We are now more than 2 years post-surgery, and he is still doing very well. He runs on mountain trails daily with The Runner. He occasionally limps but it rarely lasts long. A big part of how we help our Black Dog to keep running happily is by doing daily exercises with him.

At this point, R is about 10.5 years old so he's starting to deal with age-related issues along with his elbow issues. Labs tend to lose hind end strength as they get older, and I've seen some very minor signs of that process starting for R. Consequently, we've added in a few exercises to strengthen his hind end, like sit-stand on a destabilizing squishy surface.

I thought that you might enjoy seeing his current exercise routine. I made a video with about half of his daily exercises on it. I'll make another video soon with the other half. Enjoy watching our crazy boy! You can watch it here or at Youtube.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Thirsty Mountain Lions Seeking Water

The mountain lions that have passed through our neck of the woods over the past month are showing a repeating pattern of movement - one that I haven't seen before this summer. They invariably stop by a reliable spring where they can drink water. Prior to this year, I'd never seen a mountain lion drink from that spring. Our drought is causing most springs to dry up - and I think that the lions don't have any choice but to drink from the one that is flowing well.

They arrive in our area to our west, briefly stopping to leave a scent mark and then they move along. This guy was about to scrape the ground to leave his scent mark but he moved slightly out of view before he did it.

Their next stop is usually a big Ponderosa Pine tree about 1.5 miles away. Under that huge tree, the lions scrape the pine needles with their hind feet while they urinate, leaving another scent mark.

Next, their route usually takes them another mile to pass under a leaning tree that bears love to mark. Sometimes the lions mark here and sometimes they don't.

Then, it's not too much further to the spot where the spring water gathers. The lions lap the water loudly and gratefully, sometimes drinking for as long as two minutes.

Occasionally, a lion deviates from this pattern, like this individual who walked nearby in broad daylight. However, this lion is the exception to what is becoming a strong pattern.

I believe that the drought is changing our wildlife's habits - leading them to frequent the few springs that are still running. It has started raining recently - and it is such a novelty that I ran outside to photograph the rain! It's truly wonderful to hear the rain falling... but, unless we have a deluge, I think that it is too late to turn things around before the winter. We need a winter of heavy snow to make a difference.

I made a video of the recent travels of lions through our neck of the woods, which you can watch here or at Youtube.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Flower Friday - Mountain Meadows

Our recent camping trip had a fantastic combination of lakes and wildflowers (and Shyla says that the scents were wonderful too!).

Some of the lakes even had flowers growing on the water! That was a treat to see.

 Shyla and I did a fun combination of swimming in lakes and playing in wildflowers.

The combination of rich red Indian Paintbrush and Purple Lupines captured my attention.

This combination looked like an Independence Day display!

I tried and tried to get aerial footage the meadows bursting with wildflowers. It took some practice but I eventually captured some video that I liked enough to share. I hope that you enjoy it!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mountain Meadows and the Milky Way in Motion

This Thursday, my gratitude is for the stars and to our friend, Brian, for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop. I love being in touch with the phase of the moon and the positions of different constellations in the sky. I am most in touch with the night sky when we camp.

We recently camped in the middle of a mountain meadow that was perfect for star gazing.

It had an incredible view of green meadows, misty mountains, and a lake.

I couldn't miss the opportunity to photograph the stars in the sky. Because the moon was new, the sky was dark enough to see the Milky Way. You can also see the faint outline of the lake in the lower left.
As I took the star photos, a lightning storm was underway in the lower left corner of my frame. The lightning made a cloud glow when it flashed.

I took photos almost all night long so that I could make a time lapse movie of the Milky Way drifting across the sky (condensed into 1.5 minutes). As you watch it, look for the glow of the clouds when the lightning flashed. You'll also see that there was a disappointing level of air traffic - it must have been an airplane highway to someplace faraway.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Boldness Training for Shyla

Shyla has become so very comfortable with the natural world. She happily explores boulders, water, forests, and almost everything imaginable in nature.

I suspect that her comfort in the natural world is a result of how much time she and I spend there. Over years, she's learned that she can have a ton of fun in these quiet places. She forgets all her qualms when it's time to leap into a lake.

And she reaches out to land in the dark water without a worry. Of course, this is partly in the genes of a Lab...

Shyla and I have continued our "silly training", where I try to present her with novel human-made setups to explore. The general idea is that she will (hopefully) become less wary of the huge variety of unknown objects and sounds if we play games where she is rewarded for boldly interacting with them.

One form of "silly" training that I thought of was to give Shyla a ride in a wheelbarrow. The first problem was how she would get into the wheelbarrow. It was high off the ground, and then the wheelbarrow was intimidatingly deep for Shyla to step into.

I realized that Shyla is comfortable with ramps so I set one up for her to climb up to the wheelbarrow. Then, I partially filled the wheelbarrow with wood so that the depth of the wheelbarrow wouldn't intimidate Shyla. She had to step only about a foot downward to get into the wheelbarrow.

I made a video of the different phases of training, from the first time she saw the ramp up to the wheelbarrow to when she could walk up the ramp and step into the wheelbarrow with little worry.

After all of that preparation, Shyla was not the slightest bit afraid when we finally rolled the wheelbarrow with her in it. There's no video of that because it was a total "non-event". I was thrilled to see her newfound boldness!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bears and Moose go for Swims!

Hot weather makes wildlife seek cool water. On a whim, I put a trail camera on a fairly "public" pond, in the sense that there's a residential tiny dirt road that goes near it. I've always assumed that it was too public for our secretive wildlife to use. I was wrong.

Bears love to swim in this pond. This smallish bear took a refreshing swim at dusk recently.

The next bear swim was late one afternoon. Don't believe the temperature read-out of the trail camera - they are notoriously inaccurate. It is considered to be scorching hot at our elevation when the temperature is around 85°F (and I've never seen it higher than that). Still, that day was very warm, and the water must have felt wonderful to this bear.

She seemed to want to get her face wet. She kept scooping her snout underwater as she swam playfully.

It turns out that moose like this pond too. It appears to be deep enough for a moose to actually swim. I laughed out loud when I saw this image on the trail camera's tiny LCD screen.
The moose did a couple of laps across the pond, and then did some crazy splashing as she got to the shore. Her splashing reminded me of a puppy learning to swim and banging their paws on the water surface. You'll see it in the video.

On another day, a moose chose to lie in a small water hole for more than an hour. It was a very warm day so perhaps that was the best way to spend the hottest part of the day. She chewed her cud and sniffed the air throughout the hour. Her eyes look crazy - I'd be scared if I saw that look in person!

She eventually got up to leave. It looks very hard for a moose to rise from lying down.

I made a short video of the bears and moose cooling off. I hope that you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog had tons of fun on our recent camping trip. He ran to lakes and through meadows of wildflowers with the Runner. Then, around sunset, I played with him in the wildflowers almost every day. I adore how his fur shines and his eyes glow in the sunset light.

We feel so lucky that, despite elbow dysplasia and a number of near-death experiences, he's still romping like a puppy!

He's a funny dog. He got so jealous when I took Shyla out to play with her in the wildflowers that he couldn't keep quiet. Then, when his turn finally came, he couldn't contain himself!

Believe it or not, R was considered to be the LEAST intense of the puppies in his litter. Look at his eyes in the next photo. His focus is laser sharp.
I suspect that he's going to be a "10,000 Volt dog" (a trainer used that term for him) for his whole life.

Here's to many more wonderful camping trips with our Black Dog!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Bathing Bear Time of Year

'Tis the season when bears love to take baths. They are so cute and hilarious as they scrub and soak their bodies.

A sow, perhaps "Mohawk", arrived at a small water hole and headed straight into the water.

Mohawk is a youngster, probably about three years old, who is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine. She dove right in and took a thorough bath.

Her mother taught her well. She scrubs her face magnificently. She used her paws to rub her face repeatedly during this bath.

She scratched her chin with her hind paw.

She took breaks to shake off the mud. She shook so fast that her body was a blur!
Mohawk's bathing behavior reminds me of a bear who I named "Dot" a few years ago. Her name was for a white dot on her chest. Sadly, Dot was killed by a car nearby as she traveled from one feeding area to another. I never wrote about it because I was too sad about losing her.

I truly hope that Mohawk stays away from people and roads. She consorted with Tiny and with other male bears during the recent mating season. If she comes out of this summer fat and healthy, she'll have cubs in her den this winter. I want to see Mohawk with her own little ones next summer!

I picked the best parts of Mohawk's 4 minute bath for a video. Enjoy the antics of this amazing bear!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Flower Friday

This was one view of our wildflower paradise campsite. Do you see the LabMobile?

The white flowers, "Osha" flowers, were tall. Here's Shyla in the understory of them with a red Indian Paintbrush.

Columbines also bloomed in the midst of the Osha flowers.

Indian Paintbrush have truly shined this year. I adored their deep red color near our campsite.

Red Indian Paintbrush, combined with the Lupines, make a beautiful tapestry.
I love the time year when the flowers are so numerous that I can barely mention all of them!

Thanks to the Gang at LLB for hosting the Flower Friday Blog Hop.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


We visited a magical place recently. I am so grateful that places like this still exist.

We camped in a high mountain meadow full of flowers some of which were as tall as me. In the distance, a lake sat at the base of a gully that cut through the middle of the meadow.

The purple lupines looked absolutely stunning in the sunset light. So did Shyla.

We were in this spot on a date that I can't help but remember every year. Angel K died on July 15 six years ago. I can remember K with a smile and a huge amount of gratitude for the years that I had with her. She's a star in the sky now. I still miss her like crazy.
So much to be grateful for...