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Monday, September 30, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had a mostly good week, with only a couple of small incidents. On his revised medicine schedule, we notice his arousal and intensity rising around dinner time, prior to our evening walk. This is despite the fact that he should be well-covered by meds at that point because we give doses in the late afternoon to head off this intensity.

His intensity blows me away. We've been working very hard on his recalls, playing games where one of us is the distraction and the other calls him. He has learned to bolt to us when called very fast. This is what the start of a recall looks like. That sure is intensity!

His focus and intensity mean that he can learn new things very fast. He rockets to a high level of proficiency in the blink of an eye.
The downside is that, when his intensity ratchets upward, he becomes more likely to show signs of aggression toward the Duo. For example, when he's too intense, he will resource guard a mushroom in the forest from R, even though it doesn't appear to me that Hachi likes to eat mushrooms. That's what happened this evening. It was just a short snarl - no harm done to R.

He had another harmless incident when we were preparing Snuffle Mats, loaded with kibble, for the three dogs. R walked into the room, and Hachi barked aggressively at him from inside his ex pen. It wasn't a big deal but it does make me think that we need another medicine adjustment.

I've noticed that Shyla can read Hachi really well. She seems to know when it's okay to approach him, greet him, or join him in sniffing something. She sometimes appears to try to soothe him when he's over threshold in his ex pen, and she lies right next to it (perfectly safe due to the ex pen). It's interesting to see our fearful girl playing this role.
Despite those two incidents, I'd say that it was a pretty good week. Hachi was mostly happy and relaxed.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

When we were at my favorite campsite high in the Colorado mountains, our Black Dog and I played games together. This "youngster" kept leaping right out of my camera frame because he was so pumped to play!
After 12 years of playing these games with me, he still shakes with excitement when I invite him to play!

In his intense enthusiasm, he also knocked me over a couple of times, not slowing down as he got close to me and my camera. In his defense, I don't think that he saw me due to his near-blindness. He also broke into song a few times.

His joy is contagious. Playing with him is so uplifting.
Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sweet Shyla Saturday

This girl - thank goodness for her.

She has a heart of gold and a spirit that cannot be squelched.

She can sense just what her humans are feeling. Her sensitivity is what makes her fearful but it's also what makes her such a loving dog.
On the evening when I took these photos, I was so happy to be in the high mountains, sleeping at 11,500' in the thin air. Shyla sensed my ebullient mood, and she was leaping with joy. You can see in that previous image that she was launching into a leap even though there was nothing to jump over!

She can sense other moods too - sad or unhappy ones - and she responds with a soft and sweet approach. I needed her in that mode this evening, and she was there for me.
When I first met Shyla, I had no idea how deep our bond would become. I'm so fortunate to have her in my life.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Our bear family travels and plays

As the bear family walks through their territory, mom works to find food and the cubs play. Playing is how the cubs learn and get stronger. One favorite form of play is climbing trees. Brownie is in  bear marking tree, spreading her scent all over it.

The cubs are instinctively attracted to the trees that have been marked over many years by myriad bears. They do tree-marking dances when they don't climb the trees.

Sometimes, they just dance around the base while balancing on two legs.
This footage was from before the bears departed to find more to eat than was available here. I haven't seen any sign that they've returned yet.

Please check out the short video if you have time.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thankful Thursday

Over these months of difficult times, photography has been helping me reduce my stress. I become totally engrossed in it, trying to express various aspects of the swirl of emotions inside me.

The biggest theme has been finding the beauty and the brightness along the path of life. Seeing a dog in the dark forest at sunrise, with the sun aligned just right, is an expression of that theme. On this particular morning, Shyla's breath was turning to mist which the sun lit up beautifully.

Within the darkness, beauty shines through.

Another expression of that theme is noticing small flowers that are glowing in the sunshine along a forest path. These flowers are tiny but they still can catch my eye as I pedal along a path.

Of course, it's sadness over my dad's cancer that has me seeking out life's beauty. All of the official news about my dad's surgery is fabulous. The surgeons believe that they removed all of the cancer. Even though they had to remove a big muscle that moves his arm and transplant a muscle from his back to replace it, he is moving his arm well - and that was not predicted! The downside is my dad's cognitive haziness. He is confused and scared some of the time, and that breaks my heart. I don't know the prognosis for that... but I'm remaining hopeful. I am experiencing the role reversal that so many sons and daughters experience at some point in their parents' lives.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to seek out beauty that makes me smile every single day, even on days when I'm sad. It always helps me, and I love trying to take photos that let others see that beauty too.

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wordless Wednesday

I found myself relentlessly searching for beauty along the path of life this summer. Here were a few sights from the high mountains that made my heart sing.

Many thanks to Comedy Plus for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A very curious mountain lion (7/20/19)

This summer has been so out of kilter that I somehow overlooked footage of a very muscular and beautiful mountain lion who visited the edge of my trail cam territory back in July. I was feeling so tired that I almost didn't even look at the memory card - and you can probably guess what an oddity that would be for me! I'm really glad that I did check out the memory card.

Here he was, checking a scrape left by another lion about two weeks earlier.

It was this lion who had left the scrape that fascinated the night-time visitor so much.

My absolute favorite part of the lion's behavior was when he stretched his neck toward the sky, and he sampled the pheromones in the air.
Isn't he a beautiful? I think so.

Check out the short video if you have time. It's an uncharacteristically leisurely video of the lion.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has had a boring week, despite some stressors like needing to go to the big city with us to visit my dad. The behavioral vet is guiding us through a change in his meds. We are increasing his Reconcile (doggy prozac) and adding a new short-term anxiety drug. Just for my memory's sake, I will say that he had no growls or snarls all week.

I suspect that his good week has had more to do with finally settling into a home routine again, after travel and a lot of worries for us humans. No doubt, he can read when we are stressed, and it affects him.

We've worked a lot on his recalls this week, mostly as a team calling him back and forth. Sometimes, one of us serves as a distraction as the other calls him. We'd like to make his recalls as strong as they possibly can be.

The photos in this post are from that glorious mountainside of yellow flowers that I've been featuring over the past week. We did recalls in the flowers - but, as soon as Hachi started to run to me, he disappeared below the flowers. All that I could see was the tops of the flowers moving as Hachi plowed toward me. It was hilarious!

When I work with him, I can see the sweetness in his heart radiating through his eyes.

As for "behavior modification", we continue to work on him disengaging from strangers when he spots them in the distance (he gets a treat when he looks away from them). He is great at this game when he's not surprised by strangers but it's very hard for him when they appear suddenly.
We love this little guy, and I'm feeling more hopeful again. It's amazing what a good week can do for my outlook!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog recently had a good eye doctor appointment. He has progressive glaucoma, which is why his left eye was removed almost exactly a year ago. His remaining eye is almost completely blind but, due to the Runner's twice daily application of eye drops, its internal pressure has stayed low. Low pressure means that it doesn't hurt so it doesn't need to be removed. That is great news. Just like human patients with glaucoma, R sees his ophthalmologist every few months to monitor the pressure in his eye.

His progressive blindness makes us sad but we are learning that R is very adaptable. Most of the time, you cannot tell that he is almost blind. He can do almost everything that he could do when he had full sight. He definitely doesn't mope about his blindness.

One thing that is noticeable is that he likes the soft light just before sunrise, just after sunset, and on cloudy days. I think that bright sunlight isn't comfortable for his eye.
Being in the wildflowers with him early in the morning was so sweet this summer. We were both content.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Shyla (The Super Dog) Saturday

Shyla is my right-hand dog. We share so many parts of life. Today, we searched for mountain lion scrapes (scent marks) together. She's amazing at finding them. I never taught her how to do it. Rather, with her keen sense of smell, she was curious about them from Day 1. Then, she observed my interest in them - and the rest is history. We make a great team. I know generally where to look, and she can pinpoint the locations of the scrapes.

There's another very useful behavior that I never formally taught her. As you know, she's my most frequent photo subject. These images are from that fantabulous mountainside of yellow flowers that we saw high in the Rockies just about two weeks ago. The sea of flowers was almost as tall as Shyla.

Often, when she's my subject, I call her to me for a galloping photo with her ears flying in the air.

Because she's Shyla the Super Dog, I don't have to physically lead her back to her starting place in order to try again (I never get it right the first time). Miraculously, over the years, she and I informally worked out a system where I say "go, go" after she runs to me. She knows that "go, go" means to go back to the same starting place and wait for instructions. She's incredible to work with, and I'm so spoiled by her.

Shyla and I have reached that sweet spot in life where we can almost read each other's minds. We can work together seamlessly, as long as we both have the same goal. I remember this phase of life with Angel K but, sadly, her life ended due to cancer soon after we reached it. I hope that Shyla and I have lots of years left together. She'll turn eight soon.
Happy Shyla Saturday. I love my girl.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Feline and Nature Friday

The bobcat family visited the same spot twice in a few days. They played, marked territory, and mom kept a close eye on the kittens.

The kittens love to play together  and do so in a friendly and fun way. One kitten is much smaller than the other. The smaller one loves to play as much as his sibling.

I did, however, spot one thing about the smaller one that gave me pause. That kitten's left eye doesn't shine in the invisible light of the camera. H'es the left one in the photo below, and you can see that his left eye looks black.
It's more obvious in the short video. I worry that it means that there's something wrong with that eye. Let's hope not.

I've been loving watching this family and I hope that they stay in the area for a while! I tend to see mother bobcats and their kittens well into the winter.

Check out the short video.

Many thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the nature blog hop and Comedy Plus for hosting the feline Friday blog hop!!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For good news, finally

Our family is thankful today because my Dad had a risky cancer surgery earlier this week. He came through it better than anyone expected. It may give him some more happy time on this Earth. He's a courageous and strong man to have chosen to have this surgery.

Hachi wants to shout our thanks from the mountaintop because we were all so very worried.
  Thanks to our friend Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wordless Wednesday

Just a few words today....

This image was from near the start of a long point-to-point ride at about 11,000' in the Colorado mountains. The trail disappeared into the distance beckoning me to hurry forward but I couldn't prevent myself from stopping to enjoy the view.

After pedaling for a couple of hours, I came out above treeline - my favorite place in the world.
Trails like this one mimic the wild and unpredictable journey of life. No one knows what is lurking around the next curve in the trail.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Relaxed August Day for the Bear Family

One day in August, our bear family had a relaxed walk through the forest and then a swim. As they walked, Brownie climbed a tree. It was the same tree that Brownie earlier used as an ambush site to launch and landed on Blackie as he walked below it. It seems that Blackie learned from that ambush and did not walk below Brownie this time.

That evening, the family hit a local pond for a very mellow swim. Mom went in the water first.

Her peaceful swimming reminded me of a human taking a restorative swim at the end of a hot summer day.

As she exited the pond, you can see that Blackie had gone into the water with her. He was following at a big distance.

Here is Blackie just before he came out of the water.
It turned out that, around the second week of August, the family disappeared. (I still have lots of footage to share from before they departed). I believe that they headed to a different elevation on our mountain where they could find food. It's been a horrendous bear food year here - so many different forms of nutrition failed. Even the ants failed to produce enough larvae for the bears to even try to dig up ant hills.

I always feel a sense of disquiet when local bears decide to travel. There are roads and cars. There are homeowners who don't tolerate bears. There are so many risks that I can't list them all. I hope that we see this family again before they go into a den so that we can know that they are okay.

I compiled these clips into a short video. Enjoy!


Monday, September 16, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

This week was so much better for Hachi. We've returned to a routine that he knows and is comfortable with. We met with his behavioral vet. Over the next few weeks, we'll slowly adjust his meds - adding another short acting anti-anxiety drug and increasing his Prozac.

To be perfectly honest, I am getting a little tired of the "slow and gradual" approach but I understand why we must do it. Any drug that affects his brain can have paradoxical effects that are the opposite of what we are aiming for. So, slow and steady is the safest approach. I am trying to remain patient.

From when we first met Hachi, he's been leery of water. That's the complete opposite of our Labs who adore swimming like nothing else. During the first swimming outing that Hachi participated in, he got very carried away with the Labraduo's enthusiasm for leaping into the water. As Shyla took a leap, Hachi momentarily lost his mind and followed her.

He did an amazingly high leap.

He landed in the water, and he swam back to shore with Shyla watching over him. He swam more smoothly than any of our previous puppies on their first swims.
The problem was that he scared himself badly. The water must have totally shocked him. After that, he was terrified of the water. He never jumped into the water, swam, or even waded again all summer long! I feel badly for the little guy - he is so prone to fear that he can cannot enjoy a cool swim.

I've become completely convinced that 99% of his issues are caused by fear. He is afraid of so many things - and he often deals with his fear by behaving aggressively toward the Duo. We saw many examples of that while we were in the high mountains. If, for example, a stranger went by us who behaved in a way that scared Hachi, he responded with a cheap snarl at one of the other dogs. Seeing that time and time again told me that addressing his fears may solve his other issues.

I really hope that we can help him with his fear.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

I love my solo time with our Black Dog. This summer, I've tended to take him to the wildflowers to enjoy the summer glory with him.

Even at his age, he's a quirky high energy dog most of the time. During our time alone quietly in the flowers, something calms in him - his quirky habits stop and he is peaceful. He looks at me with a steadfast gaze, and I smile.
Those are the moments that I live for with each of our dogs - but it was our Black Dog who taught me about the preciousness of time with him alone.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Shyla Saturday - She Struts her Talent

Shyla has been my shining beacon this summer. She has come so very far, and it makes me smile to see her be confident. She can make me smile when almost nothing else can.

She is the undisputed pack leader when it comes to all things athletic. She is absolutely crazy about swimming and retrieving from water. She knows that she's the best at it, and she struts her talent.
When I first met her, I could not imagine Shyla ever being confident about anything. That's why it's so gratifying and astonishing to watch her retrieving from water. Her first owner thought that Shyla was "useless" when it came to retrieving, which is part of why Shyla was the forgotten puppy who languished, not even learning to be house trained by the time she was 9 months old.

It's hard to believe that this is the same dog. Just look at her fly through the air with full focus on the ball that she's retrieving.

I love our Shyla more than words can express. Thanks for the smiles when I need them most, Shyla.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Tiny the Black Bear is Back

You may remember that Tiny the Biggest Black Bear was ailing last spring. He hurt his right hind leg in the summer of 2018, and then he re-injured it soon after coming out of his den in 2019. He quit mating season early and headed someplace else to fatten up. Here was the last sighting of him in early summer.

I get emotionally attached to animals like him who I've followed for so many years. I didn't say it here but I feared that we'd never see him again. I was wrong. He showed up back in his stomping grounds about a month ago.

He marked a tree while sitting down, just like he was doing back in the spring. He's as tall as "normal" bears even when sitting on his rump. By sitting, he doesn't have to weight his bad limb as he marks a tree. I love his tree-marking dance moves, even when he's sitting.
Back in June I felt that he'd have a decent chance of recovering over this coming winter if he survived the summer and fall. The greatest danger to him now is going close to human houses to get "easy" food since he probably doesn't want to walk too far.

Let's all hope that he makes it into a den safely. Then, we may see a healed Tiny next spring. I will be thinking of him... and hoping that maybe we'll see him once more before he goes into a den. However, over the years, he's tended to disappear for the winter in August so we may not see him again this year.

Check out the short video of him.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For the beauty along the path of life

I love mountain trails. I love pedaling my mountain bike along them and soaking up the beauty along them.

I tend to think of those trails as a metaphor for every single person's life. We know where our life path will end - because it ends the same for everyone. But, there's stunning beauty along the way, and, to be happy, I need to take the time to revel in that beauty.

In this photo, a huge storm was sitting on the horizon, complete with dark clouds, rumbles of thunder, and hail (which pummeled me later). However, I still noticed the brilliant yellow flowers lining the trail. I knew that I'd face the storm ahead sooner or later but I stopped to enjoy the flowers along the way.
I think that reveling in the flowers despite the looming storm is a metaphor for my life that will guide me for a long time.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the beauty of life.