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Friday, November 29, 2019

Shyla Saturday - She's a Snow Dog

What a big snow storm we had. It made riding my fat bike on the trails behind our house impossible for now. But Shyla and I have gone snowshoeing every day.

We've had so much fun playing in the snow.

Shyla wildly loves the snow. She doesn't mind going completely under the snow and then popping back up for air.

Galloping through such deep snow looks like exhaustingly hard work. Shyla stops for a breather in the middle of the snow.

She waves goodbye to all of you for this week's Shyla Saturday.
Happy Shyla Saturday!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving and a Birthday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, again, I want to give thanks for Shyla. She just turned 8 years old. Happy Birthday my sweet girl.

She is my inspiration. She is courageous and lives every day with abandon. She is so loving, and she's become the glue that holds together the canine part of our family.

I'm greedy - I want many more years with her.
I am filled with gratitude for the time that we've had together so far.

Happy Birthday sweet Shyla.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I love doing this blog, and it is because of you

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Contrasts

From the warm and earthy tones of the desert...

To the really big snowstorm of yesterday...
Contrasts keep life interesting!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mountain Lion Family with THREE big kittens

My trail camera recorded an astounding sight - a mother mountain lion with three kittens almost as big as her (October 2, 2019).
I had to pause and take a deep breath when I first saw this large family. That's a lot of cat, and they were out in the forest only slightly after we were out on our sunset hike. We weren't far from them. Wow. Thank goodness that they stick with non-human and non-dog prey.

I'm going to guess that these kittens are a year old or so. That mother has had to do so much hunting and very hard work to bring all three of them to the cusp of adulthood. She has to kill lots of prey every week to feed all of them. And, she has to somehow keep all those kittens in line - that's a lot of "cat herding". She is incredible! 

I thought that I might only glimpse that family once. But I was wrong. They visited a water hole a couple of weeks later. Around the water hole, the ground is always wet. In the video, it's hilarious to see the big and powerful cats shaking off their paws as if water is scary - I guess that getting wet wasn't on the agenda.

Check out the video if you have time. It's rare to get to see so many mountain lions together.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has had, overall, a great week. He's been relatively mellow and friendly. Most days, the reduction in his anxiety since he started Paxil is obvious. Most importantly (ha, ha), he's become really good at waving to me!

The only not-so-good part of the week was that on Saturday evening, I could feel Hachi's anxiety ramping up. I don't know why he was stressed but his sharp uncontrollable barking was undeniably anxiety-related. We thought that he was more relaxed Sunday morning but then he went after R during a run. He might have been resource guarding something edible on the forest floor but it was hard to be sure. They were both on leash so Hachi was quickly pulled off of R. That scuffle sure was deflating to me.

Now he's back to being a mellow and nice dog. I wish that I knew why things changed for about 18 hours.

While we're waiting for his new meds to stabilize,  I've been working on simple counter-conditioning goals with Hachi  - teaching him to tolerate a coat and teaching him to be comfortable with us touching his front limbs (and eventually paws). I've spent the most time so far on the coat. He started out scared of even seeing the coat 6 weeks ago, and  he's now wearing it for very short time periods indoors without seeming scared. He's a dog who hates having things like coats or harnesses touching his body. We still have a distance to go with the coat but it feels like he may someday be capable of wearing one without being terrified.

That's good since it's sometimes very cold, even during our desert trips.

So, the vast majority of the past week was good. I'll chalk up the difficult 18 hours to him adapting to the new meds. It's hard being patient but this "little" guy is worth it.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Black Dog Sunday - Adapting

Our Black Dog ran like the wind in the desert but only while playing with Shyla. It was an absolute joy to see.

Since we've been home, he's been perplexingly variable in whether he wants to run or even walk. He seems to be improving now but the odd part is that his ups and downs are not correlated with whether he's taking an NSAID or not. We are puzzled.

In the meantime, I've restarted nosework with him to brighten up the days when he doesn't want to run around outside. It's been amazingly fun. Although he hasn't done nosework with me in years, R remembers it! We are starting with basic nosework games to help him to sharpen his skills with easy stuff. Also, he needs to learn how to play the game with little or no vision (he could see back when we did nosework in the past).

I'm going to show a video of R doing nosework. We are doing a game where I have several boxes. Only one of them contains the target scent (birch). R needs to "alert" on that one by keeping his nose on it for long enough to tell me that it's the target box.

As you watch, the box with a piece of masking tape on top is the target box. Excuse my silly clothing - I'd just come inside from a snowy and cold bike ride! Here's the video.

You can see R's enthusiasm. He loves this game. I am so happy that I've found something that he loves to do even on days when his body hurts too much for running.

We are adapting and finding ways to keep R happy. Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Shyla Saturday

In everything that Shyla does, she puts her whole heart into it. When she howls, she arches her neck way back and puts all her energy into her howl.
Her enthusiasm is one of her traits that makes me love her even more. Back when she was consumed by fear, she sometimes couldn't shake her tendency to be meek. That's rare now - as you can see from her howling with all of her heart. Most of the time now, she lives with gusto and joy.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Nature Friday - Mind Boggling Desert

I love Utah for the crazy rock formations. They are so numerous that they become almost commonplace while we are there. Here is one that always catches my eye during our visits. The mushroom-like formation is as tall as a two story house!

The spikes on top of this formation are hundreds of feet high. The cracked earth truly looks like a classic desert.

 The scale of the rock formations is mind boggling.

On the last day that we were in that particular spot, my favorite trail was losing sunlight at about 1 PM because it sits on the north side of a spiky and towering rock formation. It was chilly when the trail was shaded.

Although it was chilly in the desert shade, it was astronomically colder at home than in the desert. At the moment that I snapped the previous photo, my trail cam near home captured this one. It was 10°F where those elk were foraging.
That cold and snow were shocking when we arrived home!

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Thankful Thursday - For the Bonds Among Us

I am so filled with gratitude for the relationships between our dogs. Hachi and Shyla love to play chase.

In the desert...

In the mountain snow...
Play makes both of them so happy. Their bond is strong.

As for Shyla and R, I cannot count how many times I've found these two snuggled together in the afternoon. The hard part is getting my camera out without disturbing them.

On sunny days, the snuggling is often in a sun puddle.
Our pack might not be perfect but there's joy in it for every one of us.

Wordless Wednesday

With winter weather bearing down on us, I want to look back at autumn in the desert.
Looking down toward the mouth of a canyon with brilliant autumn colors
Through a tunnel in a boulder
My girl

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mountain Lion Courtship

The mountain lions have been coming through our neck of the woods at a very fast rate. That's not too unusual for this time of year.

What is unusual is recording footage of courtship between two mountain lions. Our biggest Tom Cat was in a usual haunt where he marks his territory. But, he was not alone. A second cat was following him. She was smaller and seemed to pursue him.

She walked low to the ground and rubbed her body against his. He'd walk away, and she'd follow. She made cat snarling noises that I've never heard in our forest before. I believe that this is mountain lion courtship.

At the first site where I have footage of them together, she crawled under him. He almost stumbled as he tried to do his scent marking around her.

As he marked at another site, she laid down next to him.
I have a short video of the two of them. Be sure to have your sound ON. The noises made by them are priceless. This is some of the coolest footage that I've ever recorded.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle - Very Hopeful

This was Hachi's best week in a very long time. We stopped giving him doggy Prozac (fluoxetine) about 10 days ago. Soon thereafter, we started a low dose of a new med, Paxil. Almost immediately, his aggressive behaviors ceased. I really mean that there have been none in the past 10 days which is jaw-dropping to me.

He's acting very friendly toward Shyla. He has even solicited play with R while out on walks. He's asking to interact with some new people.

It feels as if it's the first real leap forward in a long time.
We are hopeful. We love our "little" guy.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog had some painful days in the desert. I guess that the slowing down comes with being twelve years old. Despite knowing that, it still hurts my heart when our Black Dog's usual sparkle is not at full strength.

One thing that brought us joy was to see R's absolute crazy happiness when he played with me and Shyla on Shyla's Mesa. We've played on that flat-topped high point many times over the years. When we first arrived at the nearby campsite, I thought that there was no chance that R would want to participate in play on the mesa. But I was wrong. I let him decide, and his choice was play!

He ran with all his heart as Shyla chased him.

His running was as beautiful as ever. My eyes filled with tears a few times. I love our Black Dog so much. I want him to be able to run forever.

At the end of one play session, I wanted to get a photo of the Duo. They decided to serenade me as I clicked the shutter.
It was a hilarious end to a fun morning on Shyla's Mesa!

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Shyla Saturday - Growing up into a Big Sister

When Hachi joined our pack, I never could have imagined the direction of this journey. I especially would not have imagined that Shyla would become his main playmate and guiding paw. Our most important criterion when we considered adding a puppy was that the puppy not be too domineering or pushy for Shyla. Shyla is still afraid of many dogs who have those characteristics.

Now, although Hachi is a strong-willed dog, Shyla is Hachi's best dog friend. She revels in playing with him.

I feel as if she keeps Hachi's stress levels down with their amazing play.

Tongue flicks, like they did in synchrony in this photo, are usually a sign of stress. Perhaps these two are so close because the world scares both of them to some extent.

But, they can both forget about their worries through play.

If you had told me this story seven years ago when Shyla was wracked with fear, I would not have believed it. But she is a different dog - one who has grown into being a big sister.
Life is so unpredictable. In this case, it has been unpredictable in a great way!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Full Moon Setting over Snowy Mountains - Nature Friday

We had a full moon this week. I have realized that I love seeing the full moon set to our west because it sets over the snowy mountains. The downside to this is that I have to wake up very early, when it's still pitch black outside. Then, I have to go out into the frigid winter air and pedal through the dark forest to get to a lookout point.

On the morning that the full moon set here, moose were seemingly everywhere in the forest. As I pedaled through a meadow, I heard some rustling. I pointed my head lamp toward the sound, and a bull moose was just waking up and getting to his feet. I was far enough away that I just pedaled harder to get past him safely.

When I arrived at the lookout point, I was overjoyed to see that the western horizon wasn't too cloudy. I've gone through this routine in past months only to find that the moon was totally obscured by clouds.

However, the moon was already closer falling behind the mountains than I expected because it was setting over a very tall mountain. I rushed to pull out my tripod and set up my camera.  I quickly took two exposures so that I could have both the mountains and the moon properly exposed.

It worked! It was such a glorious sight. The world was completely quiet, without even a whisper of the wind. And the one thin cloud near the horizon lit up gorgeously from the moonlight.
It was so worth running the "moose gauntlet" to see this sight.

It was over way too fast with the moon hidden below the mountains but its glow lingering.

I packed up my gear, and I headed home to pick up Shyla for a ride together. I spotted the brilliant purple hue coming from the east. When this color started appearing at dawn and dusk months ago, we learned that it was due to volcanic particles in the atmosphere, all the way from a volcano in Russia. I love the color.
It was well worth getting up so early and running that Moose Gauntlet.

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thankful Thursday

Life has continued to have some unwelcome twists and turns, with my dad still struggling to recover from cancer treatment and surgery.

At times like these, I feel such gratitude for a friend like Shyla. She is such a sweet soul, so attuned to being loving toward the people around her. She is joyful about each day, trying to have as much fun and find as much contentment as she can.

Her joy is infectious. When I see her strike a pose like this one on a mesa in the desert, I have to smile along with her.
I don't know how I got so lucky as to have Shyla in my life. But, I do know that my gratitude is endless.

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn to Winter

From this in the Utah Desert:

To this at home:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Mountain Lion Family Checks out a Scent Post (9/29/19)

We have several mountain lion families passing through our neck of the woods regularly. Early one morning this fall, a mother cat led her two kittens along a forest path. They passed a spot where male mountain lions scent mark, and the kittens were transfixed.

Mom was less curious about the scent. It was likely from a cat who she knew. So, she guarded her kittens as they sniffed.

The family spent a fair bit of time at this spot but their actions, as recorded by my cam, were a bit confusing. All three of them exited left after the initial sniffing. Then, one came back but startled -and leaped straight up the hill on the far right of the photo, knocking a big ball of dirt down the hill. Then, another one came into the picture, and carefully sniffed that ball of dirt before following the first cat. While all that was going on, a kitten was walking up the hill in the background.

Whew, a busy family!

Then, a short time later, a single family member showed up a bit to the west. I'm guessing that the kittens had been left someplace to wait while mom headed off to scout for prey.

She stopped briefly to groom and then look toward my camera. She's a beauty.
I am forever astounded by the responsibilities of a mother mountain lion. She must kill enough prey to feed the entire family. With how big kittens become very fast, that's a tall order!

I made a short Video of the family's escapades. I hope that you enjoy it.