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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

In the midst of trying to come to terms with R's progression toward blindness, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with him and his sister on bike rides during this past week. It was a beautiful time of year to do it!

They look like a singing duet in this photo! Actually, R was singing while waving. He's multi-talented!

R never ceases to make me laugh. He's revving up the propellers for take-off in this photo. (His furless belly is due a recent ultrasound).

R has become very good at waving. He waves very high, way up over his head - like he does when he and I are doing some elbow-shoulder range of motion exercises.
You can see the asymmetry in his eyes in the last photo and the next photo. His left eye is blind, and it's bigger than his right eye due to the high pressure inside it. There's a chance that he'll end up losing that eye if the meds cannot control the intra-ocular pressure. Apparently, high pressure could make an eye become very painful, leading to its removal. I hope that doesn't happen but we'll do whatever it takes to keep R happy.

No matter what, I'll always love getting photos of this Duo.

They make me smile and laugh so much!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Yearling Bear Cub Climbs an Apple Tree

This summer, for the first time in a long time, a very old apple tree that sits out in the wilderness grew apples! I suspect that this tree was planted a long time ago by someone with a mining claim nearby.
My interest in the apples stemmed from the location of the tree - right on a major bear route. I immediately wondered if the bears could climb the very thin-limbed tree to eat the apples. To find out, I pointed a trail camera at the tree, hoping to capture footage of bears getting to the apples.

When I set up the cam, our uniquely colored yearling cub hadn't caught my attention yet. So, the possibility that only small bears would be able to stand on the limbs didn't occur to me.

Indeed, it turned out that only our yearling bear cub ate these apples. Full grown bears walked right past the tree without trying to climb it.

In the next photo, the apple tree is the middle tree. The yearling cub is marking a small juniper tree below the apple tree. He gave that juniper a thorough marking before moving onto the apples in the tree.

After marking the juniper, he started climbing the tree.

Like most young bears, he is a very fast and agile climber.
It turned out that I didn't point my cam quite high enough. This cub was small enough to stand on the very highest (and very thinnest) branches. If you see where the tip of his nose was in the last photo, you'll see that his paws were in that same spot a short time later when you watch the video.

His first visit to the tree was 8/11 and he returned again on 8/20.

Again, he went right toward the top of the tree. He ate some apples while in the tree, and then he picked up the ones that had fallen to the ground under the force of him climbing the tree.

During each visit, he spent only a couple of minutes at the tree but ate a bunch of apples each time.

I have a short video of him climbing the tree each time. I hope that you're as fascinated by it as I was.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Autumnal Flower Friday

Our mountain trip teetered on the knife edge between summer and autumn. The tundra looked like pure autumn to me. It was gorgeous.

In my favorite spot for sunset photos of the Duo, the flowers had finished blooming. Most years, small flowers would have been around Shyla in this scene.

The warm autumn colors transformed the alpine world. This was a curious marmot who sat in the midst of red ground cover before scurrying down into his den below the boulder.

Nearby, granite rocks in the ground were surrounded by brilliant red ground cover. It was as beautiful as any lush summer flower.

When I looked very carefully, peeking in moist spots below treeline, I did find a few patches of brilliant flowers.

My jaw dropped when I spotted this beauty near a spring in the forest. I believe it's called Monkey Flower. I didn't expect to see this flower in a year of such a severe drought.
It was an interesting time to be in the mountains, seeing how an extreme drought affects the seasons. I hope that we have abundant flowers again next year but, for this year, I loved seeing autumn.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

An Alpine Journey

Every year, I pick out a couple of long mountain bike rides to be my big goals for the year. One is always a point-to-point ride in the southwest corner of Colorado, high in the mountains. The pack drops me off at a trailhead on a paved highway, and I ride through the wilderness to meet them at a campsite that we love on a very rough jeep road.

This year was different from most because of the drought. Usually, I see meadows full of flowers even in August. This year, most flowers were long gone. There still was beautiful color from the fiery stems of fireweed, and from the autumn colors of the tundra.

The ride starts at an elevation higher than 10,000' so there's thin air the whole way. This year, I felt nervous at the start. There's something about spending hours far away from any help, completely by myself, that gives me temporary jitters. However, after about 10 minutes of riding on narrow mountain paths, I settled down and could enjoy the beauty.

It was an odd day weather-wise for the high mountains. There was a decent chance of storms early in the morning, and then the clouds cleared out. This was early in the ride, just after the clouds stopped looking so scary.

As I pedaled along through a forested section, a sheep guard dog approached me. Large herds of domestic sheep graze in these mountains, protected by dogs who live with them in the mountains. This guy was very serious about his job. He walked toward me and then sat in the middle of the trail, planting himself between me and his flock.

I've read lots of warnings to be very cautious with these dogs. They see humans as worrisome interlopers. I started talking to the dog in the friendliest tone I can use. He never overtly acted welcoming but I could see him relax a bit. Eventually, he turned and walked along the trail toward his flock. I had no choice but to follow because that was the direction that I needed to go too.

We emerged into a meadow, and the flock was uphill of the trail. They look almost like boulders uphill of the dog.

I was pleased when the dog finally lost interest in me, and I could move forward at a more reasonable pace. A couple of sheep stood atop a ledge looking down toward the valley below.
While I do enjoy seeing the traditional mountain scene of sheep grazing, I am always mindful that sheep grazing was an excuse to kill off predators in our state well into the 1900's. Grizzly bears were driven to extinction by government bounty hunters who killed them in the name of protecting sheep. Wolves had a similar fate. The loss of those predators has left us with an out-of-balance ecosystem.

When I was clear of the sheep flock, I could pedal hard again, and I soon made it above treeline. This is the part of these summer bike rides that I love the most. I was at an elevation of well above 12,000' and approaching the halfway point in the ride. I was thrilled to be feeling incredibly strong.

I slogged up toward the high point of the ride. I met a marmot as I pedaled. He was looking fat and ready for winter. He whistled warnings to his family and then disappeared under his boulder.

After a brief chat with the marmot (for real! I talk to all the animals), I made it to the high point. Usually, I'd want to sit and enjoy it for a while... but a wicked wind buffeted me. I sent the Runner a quick message telling him where I was and that I felt great. Then I threw on a jacket and moved downhill to get out of the wind. This was the view from the high point with my "new mountain view" that I'd see almost to the end of the ride.

I was sad to see so many desiccated flowers but the autumn colors did make up for it to some extent. Also, parts of this descent used to scare me enough to make me get off my bike. Not this year! That's partly due to my gnarly trail bike and partly due to newfound confidence - despite my broken rib from crashing earlier in the trip.

After descending, I had to wend my way through forested terrain that isn't as gorgeous as the alpine tundra. However, there was one waterfall that was still running, despite the drought!

The forested part didn't require too many hard efforts... but the last bit of the ride is like a kick in the butt - it's a lot of climbing up to another high mountain pass. The wonderful part is that I was up so high that the views stretched for miles! I get euphoric when I can ride so high in the sky.

All too soon, the ride was almost over. The last mile tips straight upward toward our campsite. No matter how good I feel, it's hard to pedal up so steeply. But, I was distracted from the pain by the incredible autumn colors with the blue sky as a backdrop.

And then, there was the Labmobile, sitting in our favorite campsite in the world. I'd just completed the ride in my best time ever, and I didn't even feel tired. I was ecstatic that my spring and summer riding had prepared me so well for riding a long distance at such high elevation.
I treasure our days in this campsite... a sunny and warm day there is like heaven on Earth with truly endless views.

And our pups love it too! There's running, swimming, and dozing in the sunshine. What more could a pup want? Not much.
I wish that I were there now!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Memories of Madi

To our BFFF, Madi...
We miss you already, as Blogville is a little less bright without you here. Your comments and posts made us smile, every single time. Now, we think of you, and we smile at our wonderful memories. We were so lucky to know you.

We remember how you loved red... and curling up in a warm spot. So, we imitated you.

Til we meet again up in the red sky...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A change in plans...

I really wanted to write the story of my long point-to-point adventure mountain bike ride in late August for today's post. It was SO beautiful, and I surprised myself with my endurance. I trained carefully for it, and my training worked.

This was a view as I approached the high point of the ride, above 12,000' on a windy mountain pass. I plan to tell the more detailed story of the ride soon.

As I prepared to write the post, I got badly sidetracked as I was getting the photos ready. In that process, I ran into this photo that I took of R just after I finished the ride and met the rest of the pack at our campsite. This photo stopped me in my tracks. R's eyes looked almost perfect then - and it was less than a month ago!
I haven't shared any of the photos where his blindness is most obvious to me... but let me assure you that his eyes don't look so healthy now.

Photographic evidence of how fast it happened led me to forgive myself.  I have continually wondered if I could have saved R's eyesight if I'd taken him to a ophthalmologist sooner. Now I know that I really couldn't have noticed it much sooner. It occurred too fast.

I feel sure that we will all reach peace with our new circumstances - but my heart is still stuck on coping with the loss and the progression to total blindness that is still ahead of us.

I have spent the past few days getting advice from owners of blind dogs. For example, I am thinking about what verbal cues to teach R that will help him with navigating the world when he is blind. I think that they will be easier to teach now while he still has some sight.

He's an amazing dog, and I know that he'll keep loving life even when his sight is gone. We will help him as much as we possibly can.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Moose During Mating Season

It is incredible how our moose population has exploded. Prior to 2010, I'd never captured a trail cam photo of a moose. Now, they are the most numerous species that my cams record. Here is a big bull moose in the midst of losing his antler velvet.

In early September, I was heading for a trail camera that I have set up to capture video of bears digging up an ant hill. As I walked toward the cam, a bull moose trotted away from the cam. He stopped a short distance away to watch me. His antlers were losing their velvet... and he looked huge.
When I checked the cam, I discovered that the bull moose had been lying on the ant hill for several days in a row. That truly puzzled me because I go crazy with ants crawling up my legs when I check that cam. The cam is about 15' from the ant hill. Why, oh why would a moose want to lie on the ant hill? My best guess is that the sand is cool, and his fur is thick so the ants don't bother him.

The first clip in today's video is of the bull moose on the ant hill. Here is an instant in mid-yawn.
The rest of the video is showing interesting snippets of behavior of moose during mating season. It has rained only once this month, and it was a humdinger of a thunderstorm. A bull moose chose to chase a cow moose through the forest during that scary storm - and they both seemed oblivious to the flashes and booms. That is the second clip in the video.

During mating season, the moose seem to love a pond on my friends' land. One bull hung around there by himself one day and evening. He decided to attack a tree right next to my camera. It rattled the camera in a huge way but, thankfully, didn't damage it. It was amazing to "feel" the force of the moose's antlers via the camera recording.

At that same pond, moose couples showed up a number of times. I found it so intriguing to listen to them vocalize as they foraged by the pond together. They sound almost eerie as they "converse".

I hope that you enjoy the short video.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

It was a gorgeous autumn day here so it was time to go out and play with R!
No doubt - now that I know that he's almost blind, I'm seeing his behavior in a new light. Just like last time I took him for a short bike ride, he leaned into my leg for a lot of the ride. I think that he was using touch to help him follow along.

He wants you all to know how much he appreciates your support. He has one question for you - does anyone know of a waterproof beeping ball that he could retrieve from water (another kind of sound would work too). This human has googled like crazy but hasn't found one yet.

Aside from that one small need, he's a super happy dog!
Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Wonder of Watching Bears Swim!

It has been a rough week of four migraines and unwelcome news. So, I was absolutely thrilled to find my favorite kind of wildlife video on my memory cards - bear swimming. Something about a bear swimming makes me grin from ear to ear. They seem so relaxed and happy in the water that all my tension fades away.

This was the first site of a bear swimming. I believe that this is Mohawk, the youngish sow who was a star of the mating season. It's actually quite hard to identify a bear after she's been eating for 20 hours a day for the past couple of months. My ID of "Mohawk" is that she's the right general size, the right color, and she keeps rubbing her left ear. She did that repeatedly during baths back in June.
She swam around, snorting and stopping to groom, for about 2 minutes! It was early evening in a pond on my friends' land. It looks so peaceful and refreshing.

I could not identify the next bear to swim in a different pond that is not far away. I have two cams on that pond, and the first cam captured a photo as the bear entered the water. She looks fat and beautiful. That's how bears should look at this time of year!

She swam straight across the pond, and seemed to be showing off for my other cam. She looked gorgeous as she swam toward that cam for the first time.

Then, she stopped and her head bobbed straight upward in front of my cam. Doesn't she look cute?

And this photo was just before she exited the pond right in front of my cam. One way to know that she's not as big as a full grown male is that her ears look big relative to her head. That's always my first clue about whether a bear is an adult female or male.

Our weather turned much cooler over the past two days so the bears may be wrapping up their swimming season. It was 37°F this morning. Brrrr.

Of course, I want to share the video of these bears' swims. I hope that your stress melts away like mine did when I watched these bears enjoying the water.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Autumn's Glorious Colors

It is really autumn... a season that I love and dread at the same time. One thing is for sure - the arrival of golden leaves and cooler air fills me with urgency to get out and enjoy the warmth before winter arrives.
We have been doing our favorite autumn activities. Most of it involves being out in the sunshine, enjoying the leaves and wildlife, and feasting our eyes on nature's incredible show of beauty that defines autumn around here.

I adore the autumn colors of a huge aspen grove that I see almost daily. It is currently changing colors, although not all at once. Some leaves are golden, some are reddish, and some are still green. I took a video from above that grove the other day. It's a short video, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Most of all, thanks for the kind words of encouragement about R yesterday. We are already starting to to get used to the idea of R losing his sight (although we are determined to postpone the day of full blindness as long as we can)... and I'm pretty sure that R has been adapting to losing his sight for quite a while. You are right that dogs are incredibly smart and able to cope with big changes!