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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last Bear Bath of 2019!

With it being the last day of 2019, I thought that I'd share with you the last bear bath of 2019. It's a happy way to close the decade.

It was exceptionally early this year because our intense winter weather started early. Way back on 9/19, a bear who we followed last year took a bath. And no other bears took baths in any of the water holes that I monitor for the rest of 2019.

You may remember this dapper little guy from last year. He started out all blond, and then his winter coat came in black.

Here he was about 3 weeks later. His blond section was getting smaller.

And then, at the end of September, just before he went into a den for the winter, you can see that he was almost all brown.
I never named this guy because he was clearly young so I wasn't sure if we'd see him again. But, with him back again this season, I think that he should have a name. "Mohawk" is already taken by the mother bear with two cubs from this season. Do you have other ideas? I am coming up blank.

Here is footage of him taking a bath. He's grown a lot in the past year, and he's got only a sliver of blond along his spine. I also have footage of him from other sites which shows the blond better. I'll share those in the future.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

It is the time of year when I go through my photos from the past year to pick out favorites. Because we've had a snowy week, I picked out a few snow-filled ones of Hachi that I love to share in this post. The first one with Hachi wearing a purple sweater is making me giggle. That sweater is tiny compared to Hachi's current size. In fact, we gave it to our favorite dog trainer to gift it to another puppy who needs one.

Hachi had a great week. He had tons of fun playing with his sister every evening. They both adore chasing and wrestling with each other.
In fact, playing has been a theme. Hachi and I are taking a course on rehabilitative play. It's a program to help stressed dogs live more calmly and more light-heartedly. I did it with Shyla years ago. It was a long and slow process but I thought that it really helped her.

Hachi has learned to play far faster than Shyla did, probably because Hachi is really still a puppy in many ways. We play for short periods (10-15 min) several times a day. He's come to expect and happily anticipate our play sessions. The general idea is that we will eventually be able to go to a stressful environment (someplace with people around) and we'll play. Because play reduces stress hormones, he should be able to handle the stressors if they appear as he is playing.

As you can perhaps imagine, it will take a lot of practice before we'll be playing on the grass in a park with strangers around. Among other things, we need some warm weather to melt all the snow, and Hachi and I need to keep practicing our play. So, we are taking it a tiny step at a time with a great teacher advising us.

I am feeling hopeful that all the various things that we are doing (play, counterconditioning, and meds) will help Hachi be a less fearful dog. We are already seeing signs of that as he gets along well with so many people and dogs who he sees regularly on the trails near our house.
(Look at the size of Puppy Hachi's front paw!)

A really important aspect of all of these rehab activities is that our bond with Hachi grows. That's good for him and it's good for us. The bond is growing deeper and stronger every week.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

It's been a bit of a hard week for our Black Dog. He's showing signs that the last of his vision is truly gone. He's been getting stuck in places around the house and he calls for help by barking. We help him move through the house to where he wants to be. As he walks, he appears to be feeling the ground in front of him with his toes.

I have no doubt that he'll adapt, and we'll learn how to better help him. For example, we are thinking about marking his common routes in the house with an essential oil so that he can follow his nose.

We played one of his favorite games outside today - the treat on his nose game. Don't worry - it doesn't seem to involve much vision for him to snarf a treat from his nose.

When I said that it was time, he launched the treat, and it really looked like he was about to snarf it.

But, he just barely missed. Nonetheless, I adore the look on his face!
He's played the game so many times over his lifetime that he has the motion and timing memorized - and I think that he can do it almost as well without vision.

Our Black Dog still seems happy and enthusiastic about life. His blindness is harder for us humans to handle than for him. I expect that his confidence will return much sooner than we might think.

Our Black Dog makes me smile every single day.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Shyla Saturday - The Bond in our Canine Pack

I regularly think to myself - "thank goodness for Shyla". She adores playing with Hachi. Moreover, much to my surprise, she is completely resilient when interacting with him. Their relationship is so good for both of them.

Shyla has become the glue that holds our dog pack together. She adores R, as she always has, and she also adores Hachi.
To put it simply, I had no idea that Shyla had the mettle to play this role. I am so happy that she's comfortable with both of her brothers even if they aren't comfortable with each other.

Shyla is such a special dog. She has a huge heart, and it shows in every part of her life.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Nature Friday - The Sights and Sounds of our Elk Herd

Our elk herd has been here since October, living among us for the snowy season.

It makes my heart sing to see them as I drive, ride my bike, or hike near our house. They spend many days within a quarter mile of us.

They are one reason why I never leave my house without a camera. Who knows when they'll be hanging out with our snowy mountains in the background?

Some big bull elk are still hanging out the herd. This guy arrived with a BIG harem of cow elk back in October. He kept up his "rut season" bugling until late November.

He's not huge by Rocky Mountain National Park standards (where elk cannot be hunted) but he is big for our area where elk are heavily hunted.

In November, the herd visited a pond where I have a trail camera. They rushed past the camera but they made amazing sounds when they stopped near it. The bull bugled and the mother-calf pairs mewed back and forth. Some of their vocalizations remind me of whale sounds.

I made a short video so that you could hear the herd. I hope that you have time to enjoy it!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for our trio. They make every day brighter.

And I'm thankful for this glorious world in which we get to romp. It overwhelms me with its beauty.
My favorite thing about winter is the beauty of snow.

I am linking up with the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas

From our pack to yours...
Merry Christmas!

Winter Wonderland with Moose Ambling Through

One day this winter, we woke up to the entire forest being covered in snow.

It seemed as if every tree had been transformed.

Nearby, a group of moose were moving through the forest. They were gloriously beautiful. (trail cam photo)

A big rack in silhouette...

His buddy appears while another moose talked to them from the left of the image.

Such winter beauty seemed perfect to share on Christmas Eve. If you have time, check out the very short video of this small group passing my cam.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle - Gotcha Day

Do you remember a year ago? I sure do. It was the day that we met Hachi. He was said to be eight weeks old, freshly rescued off of city streets with his mom and surviving littermates.

He was cute enough to melt everyone's hearts. And he was tiny. If you look to the right of his snout - that's a human finger. The growth charts said that he'd end up 20-something lbs. He's about 50 lbs now. We think that either he was much younger than we thought or he was malnourished (or both).

He was very afraid but that's normal on a puppy's first day in his new home. This was our first attempt at a little walk with him. He wasn't interested in leaving the porch.

He loved his first toy, a stuffy that was about twice his size. He wrestled with it and looked so darn cute.

Fast forward a year - and he is a big strong dog. He's still afraid of the world but he's getting a little better with each passing week. Now that we understand his issues, we can help him.
When we met him, we had no idea what the coming year would hold. I won't lie - it's been a rough year with lots of worries. The amazing thing is that I feel as if all of us are coming out of the year stronger than we started it. Hachi is gaining confidence, and we are more bonded to him than ever.

Happy Gotcha Day, Hachi! We love you.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

I love the winter solstice. In the midst of the darkness, we know that the light will return little by little. I took this image years ago when I was out with our Black Dog and his sister at sunrise on the Solstice. I've shared a lot of life with our Black Dog.

I did a search of my photo library for images of our Black Dog taken on the Solstice. This was 2015. Look at those bright and young eyes, so full of happiness and mischief!

The following year, our Black Dog had a successful surgery to remove a melanoma from his leg shortly before the solstice. It's funny vet wrap but it does not apply to our Black Dog!

Because of R's "good hair",  it caught a snowflake the following year.

This one was from last year. Look at that handsome and earnest face!

And, this year. Still full of mischief, peeking from behind a tree.

Our Black Dog's vision may have darkened in the past year but his spirit is still bright.

Our Black Dog is such a fun fellow, always looking for snuggles, laughs, or one-on-one time with his humans. He inspires me to try to find the good in every day - because that is what he does, year-after-year and day-after-day.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Shyla Saturday

Shyla and I have rolled out into the sunrise light most days this week. It is so quiet, with just the sound of Shyla's paws as she gallops along side me. An occasional animal rustles in the forest but we roll by briskly.

The reward is seeing the light of the rising sun. The snowy mountains glow magenta. Clouds light up in pinks and oranges. And, the sun shines weak beams of red light into the forest. We find the spots of light between the towering pines.

The sunlight is so weak at the solstice (today) that it doesn't seem to warm the world at all. But, its color is ethereal. This is the only time of year when we see this deep red colored sunlight near our home.
Being out together at sunrise is something that Shyla and I love. Over the years, it's become a part of our bond. Every year, that bond has grown stronger, partly because we share so much of our lives.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Nature and Feline Friday - Mother Bobcat and Big Kitten

You may remember that it seemed that Little Kitten was no longer with the bobcat family when I last updated you (video). I was partly convinced of that fact by seeing the mother and Big Kitten together 10 days after the last cam sighting of Little Kitten alone.

On that day, it seemed very clear that mom was playing a lot with her remaining kitten. This is mom in the basin where she loves to eat grass.

Suddenly, mom sprinted out of the camera view.

And another bobcat, Big Kitten, appeared in the camera view (lower left) just after that.

Very soon thereafter, mom reappeared, sprinting up the gully with her kitten in hot pursuit.
One of my favorite things is seeing adult animals playing with their offspring. Wild cats tend to seem so serious - and seeing this mother playing chase with her kitten makes me smile! We also saw her wrestle with her kitten in an earlier video. She's a good mom even if she couldn't help Little Kitten grow up.

Check out the video if you have time!

I am linking with the Feline Friday Blog Hop and the Nature Friday Blog Hop.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Thankful Thursday

Near the solstice, I need the beauty of winter to shine through to help keep me going.

And I need Shyla's happy enthusiasm for playing in the winter wonderland.

I need the sunrise light to make each day brighter. (Psst, Shyla, there's a black dog chasing you).

And, yes, I even feel gratitude for seeing a band of FIVE bull moose together on our fat biking route. This group (give or take one or two each day) has been hanging out together since early November. They were feisty this morning - a couple of them were sparring and a big one was busy killing aspen trees.

One wandered a short distance from the group, and I had a nice peek at him.
It is always a challenge to keep my spirits up in the darkest time of year but all of these things help, and I am grateful for that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wordless Wednesday

We had another stupendous sunrise last week. Shyla and I were up before dawn to photograph the moon setting over the mountains. On that day, the moon was hidden behind clouds (we got it on another sleepless morning).

The flipside was that the clouds lit up into a glorious palette when the sun rose.

I have a question for you - Which of these two photos do you like better? I took both that morning.

 What a sunrise that was!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Best Duo Ever

R has been such a rock for Shyla. She is so bonded to him.
Sun puddle season is their favorite time to snuggle like this.

My heart swells each time I see them cuddled together because they are such an incredible pair. I try to appreciate every single day that they love each other like this. I want it to go on forever.

I love our Labraduo.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Another good week for Hachi! We have a good streak going.

He handled most of life calmly this week. He played enthusiastically with Shyla, he got along with every human and dog who we met on the trails, and he had no outbursts toward R. He did get very anxious when we had workers at the house all day on Saturday (you heard the barking)!

He's already making big strides forward with his harness. He is happy to see it when I take it out, and he seems to like when I clip the neck strap into place (because he gets lots of treats). That's as far as I've taken it - I've learned that it's much better to go more slowly than I think is necessary than to go too fast.

I've started a course on therapeutic play with Hachi. It's a course that I took a few years ago with Shyla, and it made a big difference in helping her to let down her guard. I already can feel my bond with Hachi growing stronger from playing together twice per day. The goal is to use play to help Hachi to relax in environments that he currently thinks are scary.

Shyla already knows how to play with Hachi!
Tomorrow, we make the long trek to meet with Hachi's behavioral vet. It marks six months since we first took Hachi to her. It's been a wild ride so far but the future is looking very hopeful.