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Friday, September 18, 2020

Autumn is Arriving

Fall is starting here. The leaves are beginning to change. Today, I climbed up to higher elevations on my mountain bike, up close to the Continental Divide. The golden aspens lining a dirt road seemed to beckon me up higher and higher. It was still warm enough for summer riding clothes but the colors were amazing.

A few spots in Labrador Valley are starting to glow with autumn colors. I pulled out my tripod to try to capture the beauty of golden leaves along the creek. The air was still very smoky, which cast a reddish hue over everything.

Before too long, we will see that same scene with full autumn colors. I think that it will be glorious.

The pups love the start of autumn because it is cool enough for them to run their hearts out. They take frequent breaks in the creek, splashing from shore to shore. They know how to live!
Is it starting to look like fall where you live?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Twenty-four hours at Labrador Valley brings lots of excitement! At the end of a quiet hike last evening, we saw a bear on the trail between us and our house. He looked big and beautiful. Of course, Hachi got upset about him (understandable) and barked. The bear walked up the hillside above the creek and settled in to let us pass. So that he'd know that we meant no harm, I talked to him in a calm voice as we hiked on the trail below him. Here was his silhouette as he watched us.

As soon as we'd passed him, he returned to the trail that we'd been on, continuing on his path down the valley. We continued up the valley to our house. That felt like peaceful coexistence.

The next morning, the smoke was back. The sun rose dim and pink in the east.

It was cold because the sun was so obscured by the smoke but I sat on the deck for breakfast anyway. I was glad that I did because a big dude came through the meadow!

He heard my camera shutter and looked up toward the deck. I felt safe so far above him. Look at how different his left and right antlers are. Odd.


Then, he went up our driveway, past the old cabin, on his way to higher ground. We didn't see him again after that.

I am so thankful to live in a place where nature has been preserved by many caring people before us. It means that the bear, moose, American martens, hawks, owls, and many more animals have a peaceful place to live.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Snowy Mountains

Nearby view

Our road

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Bears of Labrador Valley

One of the best parts of Labrador Valley for me is the bears. I have seen so many already! I think that our chokecherries brought in quite a number of hungry bears but that there are a few who call this place home for the majority of the year. 

I spotted this one while sitting on the deck. I've learned to always have a camera with a long lens next to me. She was foraging for chokecherries.

I think that she's a youngster. Her ears look big relative to his head, which usually means she's a small bear.

We do have some chokecherries left but the supplies are dwindling. After looking closely at some bushes, we think that bears eat them by grabbing a whole cone of cherries in their mouth and stripping the chokecherries off the stem. That's a fast way of eating them but it means that they eat lots of cherry pits! You should see their scat - bright red (from the cherries) and filled with pits.

The bears here seem to be curious about my trail cams. In the majority of videos, they are monkeying with the cameras, pointing them off into the bushes rather than at a trail or tree. It's gotten hilarious to me - it's as if the bears don't want video taken of themselves so they change the camera's aim!

Check out the compilation of video clips that I've gotten so far in our valley. I think that the smallish bear who you'll see in the snow is a regular here. It'll be fun to watch her grow up!

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi is having fun in life. For the first time, I feel as if he's having more fun than stress. In other words, his fun to stress ratio is greater than one! (yes, I'm a geek). He and Shyla had a wonderful week of play.

We had another group over for a visit, and I think that it proved to be too much for Hachi. A big part of him wants to meet people and new dogs but then he gets scared. His fearful outbursts can scare everyone around him, which can start a spiral. All that we can do is keep on learning. When more than 2 people come to the house, Hachi needs way more space than we tend to think that he needs. We'll get it right next time.

Hachi bounces back fast after each stress (like visitors). He danced with his sister after one!

All in all, Hachi had a great week. He has a lot of joy in his life, and he brings us lots of joy. Happiness all around.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog had a heart that knew no bounds. He had serious surgery on his elbow his first birthday. As a puppy, we'd noticed him limping, and imaging showed that he'd been born with elbow dysplasia. 

His breeder offered us a "new puppy" if we returned R to her. We didn't even consider that option for an instant. It was not an option - R was ours and we were his.

During the month leading up to his elbow surgery, he was not allowed to run at all. As an 11 month old puppy, getting no exercise was impossibly hard on R and on us. Finally, when he had not improved at all during his rest, the vet said that it was okay to let him romp in the time leading up to his surgery. 

With permission to let him run, we went out the front door, and unhitched his leash. Then, he flabbergasted us when he took a flying leap off of the landing onto the ground that was about 8' down. His flying trajectory reminded me of a dock-diving dog. He landed in the grass and did joyful laps around the house. He was irrepressible.

That surgery did give him some relief from his pain, for at least a year or so. He never hesitated to go out and have a wildly good time even when his elbow was hurting. We knew that we should try to limit his boisterous play to save his elbow for later in life but neither of us had the heart to do it.

Here he was during a break in a happy romp.

R's happy face appears in my mind's eye every single day. His face had a bit less mischief in it later in life but his purely hopeful and happy eye(s) never changed.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. Just looking at R's face makes me smile, and he would want us all to smile in his memory.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is finding happiness in Labrador Valley. The complete change in routine and setting since our Black Dog's death has helped her. Because our patterns have changed, the absence of her brother is probably less jarring to her.

I keep talking about play for our dogs because I think that it is so key to their happiness. Just outside our door, they can play with abandon - which helps them so much!

Shyla is as enthusiastic about playing as Hachi is. Their bond is growing through play.

One issue that has caused all of us distress is Shyla's separation anxiety. We are learning to adapt our habits to her need to be right next to one of us at certain times of the day (at the times when she used to be with our Black Dog). For example, in the evening, we have her in an ex pen between our chairs while Hachi is free. Shyla is calm because she's next to us, and Hachi is calm because he is free to move around.

Just before walks, we are now trying out having each of us have a dog on leash while we get ready. They are both quiet and calmer if they are right next to us.

And then they go outside to do this!

I think that Shyla is okay. We always knew that losing her big brother would be a pivotal point in her life because she emotionally depended on him so much. Yet, she is now functioning without too much anxiety just four weeks after his death. That is the best possible news for our Shyla.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Feline Friday: Who is a mountain lion afraid of?

 This video from my trail cam should answer the question!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for this valley where there is still green grass although it has a layer of snow on it now.

This valley is making our pups so much happier. They can sprint through the grass and snow. We scan the world for wildlife before we let them play. Keeping the wildlife and the pups safe is our guiding principle.

They love the snow, and there will be plenty of it this winter. They are best friends. We may even be able to let them be together indoors after life calms down a bit.

Even in winter weather, amazing birds line the creek. This poor little one was cold due to this very early winter weather. I hope that he's okay.

This new home has filled us with gratitude.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Delayed by a power outage and no cell service in Labrador Valley!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

One-eyed Jack Marks a Tree and Takes a Bath

As I sit here watching a snowstorm outside, it's fun to watch a video of a bear doing a typically summer activity. 

You might remember One-Eyed Jack, a bear who visited an elk carcass in June. He had a spa evening recently, rubbing his back on a tree and taking a bath. He is looking fabulous. He's fat and ready for winter. What a year for him! He mated with a bear sow who is a great mom (Mohawk) and he found plenty to eat. I'm happy for him.

Check out the video if you have time. It's short but relaxing.

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi absolutely loves Labrador Valley. At our old place, he rarely gets off-leash time with his sister due to the many neighbors, some of whom don't like dogs. Here, even our driveway is fair game for running. It's about a half mile long and parallels a creek. Hachi has started going in the creek, and he even crossed it a couple of days ago! Maybe the fear of water is fading.

 In the early afternoon, we take the two pups for a romp along the driveway and in the creek.

And sometimes we visit the meadow too.

We've had a surprising number of visitors to the valley this week, all invited by us so we could be ready to help Hachi deal with meeting non-pack members. When it was two visitors or fewer, we brought him out on leash. (For larger groups, we had him snooze in the bedroom). He did well when he interacted with these strangers. He was fine as long as they were 10' or further away and did not look at him.

He repeatedly did this odd behavior that he's done for his entire life when people are sitting around in a group. He'd creep toward the strangers, looking like he wanted to be petted. They'd look at him, and he'd burst into aggressive-sounding barking - like he'd scared himself by getting too close. Then, he'd be fine when we backed him up. I think that we need to hold him in a position where he can't get "too close" and stop him when he starts creeping forward. He's so close to being okay with strangers that it's tempting to let him try approaching them - but we need to prevent him from scaring himself like that.

He's happiest with them out in the meadow. He can keep his distance, and he'll even come up and snuzzle their hands from behind. We coach them not to look at him, and all is good.

Now we must go enjoy the last day of summer. The temperature is going to plunge to 15°F tonight, and we will get 15" of snow! Holy moly - it's hard to imagine because it's 60° now. We spent yesterday getting ready for the snowstorm. At our old home, we harvested as many veggies as we could, and we put a heater in the greenhouse. We will see how the world, including the precious hummingbirds, survives this surprise blast of winter.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog lived every day of his life with utter joy. As a small puppy, we took him to socialization classes. He would start rejoicing when we got within a few miles of where his class was. His barks and joyful yips were so cute when he was a tiny puppy even in a small space like a car.

At class, he played with abandon. He got along with every puppy in his class, and he was deft at defusing tensions when another puppy got growly. R seemed to believe that there was never ever anything to worry about in life. He'd leap into the pile of other puppies without any hesitation, simply assuming that they were all friendly. I'm sure that our Black Tornado was a little scary to more sensitive puppies but he couldn't be anyone but himself - a wildly happy labrador.

I didn't even own a camera until R was around four years old so I don't have many photos from his youngest years. Somehow, I do have photos of R at his first birthday party. We had to celebrate early because, believe it or not, R had his first elbow surgery on his first birthday (he had congenital elbow dysplasia). So, a week before his birthday, we cooked up steak for the three dogs, served with a candle of course!

Being the sweet-natured dog that he was, our Black Dog was happy to share his steak with the other dogs, Samson and K.

We miss him but every Sunday is a Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Shyla Saturday

 Shyla loves Labrador Valley. She is a water dog who will play in the water as much as you let her.

I think that her joy (and ours) about the open space and the water is helping her to cope with the loss of her brother. Her separation anxiety has racheted up a few notches since his death. She wants to be as close as possible to us at all times.

However, when she gets outside with Hachi, it seems as if the joy overwhelms her. She leaps in the creek, retrieves sticks, and does her happy gallop. 

Even for Shyla, life is a wild mix of sadness and happiness. I hope that the happiness wins.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Lion Prowling a Ridge in Daylight

On a ridge near a favorite trail of Shyla's and mine, mountain lions pass by scent scrapes amazingly regularly. Usually, one passes through, and then he's gone for a few weeks.

Recently, one lion seemed to return repeatedly, and it was almost always during daylight. Shyla alerted me that he'd been there as I mountain biked along the trail. When a lion has scent marked there, Shyla sniffs the area extensively, lingering there for longer than usual. That tells me to check the cam. 

On the last occasion that she did that, I was astounded by the daylight visits by a mountain lion. My guess is that he made a kill somewhere in the area, and so he stuck around for about a week. Each time he moved between the spot where he snoozed during the day and the spot where he'd cached the carcass, he stopped to check the scent posts. It seems as if he sometimes skips scent marking if he doesn't smell that any other mountain lions have been there.

As you watch this video, imagine a human trail about 10-20 yards to the side of the route that the lion is using. That's where Shyla and I ride, and that's why I feel a moment of worry when I see a mountain lion has been there during daylight.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Life is a crazy mixture of joy and sadness. This view is the moon setting over our new valley. The beauty of the stark peaks jutting above the horizon with the moon setting over them awed me.

Yet, I have these deep pangs of sadness even while soaking up such beauty. I miss our Black Dog.

I am thankful for the beauty of our world and for all the years of happiness with our Black Dog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Bears of our Valley

From the first day at our new place, we saw bears! On the first two days, we saw a sow and her two cubs. We saw them in the evening on the slopes above the creek that runs through our land.

They were eating chokecherries. There are acres and acres of chokecherries hanging from bushes right now. The bears are in their most intense phase of trying to gain weight so they eat about 20 hours per day. It seems that our chokecherries are a delicacy to them.

 I've had cams up at our new place for only about a week yet they already have recorded lots of bears. The closest cam is about 20 yards from our house, positioned to video animals who cross the bridge over the creek. Here are Hachi and Shyla crossing the bridge.

And, in broad daylight, here are a pair of cubs.

I've made a short video of the bears of our valley over the past week. Check it out if you have time! As you can perhaps imagine, I am incredibly glad to share this habitat with the bears.

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi and Shyla absolutely adore our new place. They get multiple romps per day, and their play is hilarious. 

They run circles around us. Chase is the game of the day.

When they catch up to each other, playful wrestling ensues.

I am beginning to think that this place may heal Hachi's heart.

He is so happy when playing in the meadows with his sister. This may be the happiest that we've ever seen him.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

R arrived in our family shortly before Christmas of 2007. For most puppies, having Christmas celebrations within a week of arriving at their new home would be overwhelming. For R, it seemed to be nirvana. From Day One, he loved people. He wanted to meet everyone and shower them with puppy kisses. As a tiny puppy, that outlook meant that he did truly meet everyone who crossed his path. They could not resist his playful and friendly demeanor.

Samson, R, and K


Over the year before R arrived, we'd been dog sitting my sibling's yellow Lab, Samson (left in photo), sometimes for long periods. His family had two toddlers and lived in the city. They were overwhelmed with family life, and were always short of time for taking care of everyone. We'd have Samson stay with us to give them a break, and we loved him dearly.

K adored having Samson stay with us. She was really sad about having no siblings - and seemed to develop fears without an older dog to guide her. So, a few months before R arrived, we officially adopted Samson. He was about 13 years old in the photo.

In contrast, R was about 2.5 months old. Perhaps you can see by the look on his face, that he was not going to "stay" for any more photos after this one. Just after this frame, he leaped off the walkway to do one of his frolicking sprints on the driveway.

R rocked our world when he arrived. His love of *absolutely everything* made him a pure joy but also a whirling dervish of puppy energy. He'd bite Samson's ankles and leap onto K's head, and then he'd sprint a few laps around the inside of the house. His frantic energy was hilarious.

Eventually, he'd fall deeply asleep in the Runner's or my arms. We'd breath in his puppy breath, and we'd know that he was ours forever. And he is, even now. I can feel him nearby.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Feline Friday - A Surprising Bobcat

I've had a trail cam at a pond for spring and summer. Much to my surprise, not many animals have visited it despite the drought and heat. I think that the reason is that the human presence has grown a lot this year. But, finally, a bobcat visited it early one morning.

What does a bobcat do by a pond? First, she ate some grass (and you all educated me to know that this is normal for a cat so I wasn't too surprised). Next, she hunted dragonflies. And, here's the surprising one - she voluntarily went into the water. A cat!!!!! Whoa! After getting wet, she walked out on a downed tree to survey the water.

It was so much fun to watch her go about her business by the pond. This is the kind of view that only a trail cam can give you.

Enjoy the video!


P.S. We are going into another period when my posting and online presence may be spotty. I'll be back!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for sweet Shyla. She makes me smile, no matter what.
Life is full of heartbreak and change right now. But one constant is Shyla running by my bike and happily posing for my camera. We have so much that we love to do together. We are both grieving but we find joy in our time outdoors together.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog arrived in our lives just before Christmas of 2007. He was flown to us in a climate-controlled hold in a jet. It wasn't a long flight but he was only 8 weeks old. 

It was a bone-chilling day in Colorado. We drove into a windswept parking lot near the hangar where we were told to meet R. The attendant told us that he had not deplaned yet. We didn't totally believe her so we scanned the crates that were on a rack nearby. A little black nose and big brown eyes peered back at us. It was HIM!!!!! 

We tried to contain our excitement while we signed the forms to take him. The attendant worked SO slowly. Sign this, sign that... and then a high pitched bark emanated from puppy R's crate. Maybe he knew that we were his people?

When we finally could go to him, we opened the crate and scooped him up. He was so cute, cute beyond words, but he had peed and pooped in his crate. It was all over his fur. He smelled horrendous but we still wanted to pet him and snuggle him. However, a little puppy being wet in the wicked wind chill outside was not good. 

So, after we'd both met him, I put the stinky little guy inside my winter jacket to walk to the car. The Runner drove, and I sat with eight pound R inside my jacket all the way home. His nose was outside the jacket, and he kissed my chin whenever he had a chance. 

When we arrived home, he had a bath and a nap. Then, he met his big sister, Angel K.

They loved each other almost right away.

Thus, our love affair with our Black Dog began. We'd go on to have almost 13 years with that wonderful little puppy. Despite the heartbreak of the end, we would do it all over again. The love of those 13 years by far outweighed the final heartbreak. His gentleness, fun-loving spirit, and love made him such a special dog.


As an aside, I will probably be offline for a couple of days. I will be back.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Shyla Saturday

We always felt that, when the time came, R's death would be very hard on Shyla.

Dark Smoky Days

R was Shyla's rock, back in the days when it felt like Shyla could barely function due to her fears. Soon after Shyla came to live with us, it was clear that R being present raised her confidence immeasurably. Whenever possible, it was Shyla's choice to be close to R - whether it was during a hike or when snoozing in the house. In fact, as many remember, Shyla loved to snuggle up to R very closely.

Indeed, losing R is very hard on Shyla. Shyla has a variation on separation anxiety that has escalated in the past week. She cannot stand to be kept away from me and the Runner when we're at home with her - and starts barking continuously when that happens.

We are sorting through solutions that let Shyla be next to us but also give Hachi some freedom within the house (we are keeping them separated). I will spare you the details but it involves an ex pen around Shyla's bed which is placed right next to us. Shyla is totally content when she's close to us, and Hachi is totally content when he's able to be free. So, this is working so far.

On the happier side of the ledger, Shyla completely adores our new place which we've been visiting regularly. It has a big creek, and Shyla joyfully splashes and swims in it. She also is working on perfecting her belly flop into the deeper parts of the creek. Then she comes up, nose high, ready to sprint out onto the bank to do it again.

When she comes out of the water, she and Hachi play joyously. I am so glad that she and Hachi are such great play buddies! 

I think that Shyla will be okay. All of her frolicking will help her heart to heal. But she will never ever forget the big brother who gave her the confidence to walk through this world happily.

Friday, August 21, 2020

A bear and a mountain lion visit a cool spring

As many people know due to our wildfires, Colorado is in a state of drought. I cannot remember the last time we had a plentiful rain storm. Most wildflowers have wilted in the heat. 

Also, many water sources that wildlife rely upon for drinking and bathing are completely dry. Fortunately, a few nearby springs are still bringing water to the surface. In those spots, wildlife quench their thirst and cool off in the water.

Recently, at one cool pool, a bear took a bath and a mountain lion lapped up water noisily. Check out the refreshing video if you have time.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thankful but Sad Thursday

I am both thankful and sad all at the same time. We found a place that instantly feels like home. We closed on it yesterday.

We took a hike there, and we saw seven gorgeous elk, including a calf. Here are four of them.

Hachi and Shyla zoomed and played. They splashed in the creek. They were so full of joy to have space to romp.

But, our Black Dog isn't here to start this new chapter with us. It's like a gut punch every time I realize it all over again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020