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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Male mountain lion out scent marking in daylight

 At our old place, mountain lions have been out in daylight. In particular, my trail cams have picked up one male and one female. The female is hitting all of the "scrape" sites where male mountain lions leave their scent. I suspect that she's looking for a mate.

This short video shows the male marking in his territory, and then the female approaching the area where he scent marks. There will be a couple more chapters to this story because they seemed to track each other for a while.

I love knowing that these creatures are living out their rich lives in the midst of this increasingly human-dominated world. They go about their lives while remaining invisible almost all of the time. They are like the ghosts of the forest.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Nothing makes Hachi happier than playing with his sister.

We camped in very quiet parts of the desert with almost no one else around. This was a "wash" which is like a river bed that fills with water only when there's a flash flood. It has a sandy bottom and goes on for miles. We love to hike in these washes.

On a dry day, it's a perfect place for the pups to play as we walk.

Hachi is transformed by play whether it's with us humans or with Shyla. He gets loose and goofy. Nothing fazes him while plays.

I began playing with Hachi almost a year ago. It continues to be a daily thing. As soon as we wake up, we humans play with Hachi for 10 or 15 minutes. He rolls on his back and acts like a silly puppy. It's so much fun!

Life is still pretty frantic around here but it feels like Hachi is settling into Labrador Valley. It's a place that soothes all of our souls - but it makes Hachi the happiest of all of us. It's a place where he can run and play just like he did in the desert.

I think that we're getting back on track.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog lived each day as if he knew that you don't get days back just because life hasn't gone perfectly.

Back in the fall of 2018, he had to have an eye removed due to glaucoma. His surgeon gave us permission to take him camping in the desert just a couple of weeks later. We were amazed by his exuberance on that trip. He sprinted across the top of Shyla's Mesa on our first day there.

He raced with his sister as if his vision was still perfect.

His refusal to be dragged down by the hurdles that life threw in front of him was inspiring. His joyful approach to life can perhaps guide us all in this moment of crisis due to the pandemic. There are no "do-overs" in the journey of life. Our Black Dog would say to try to find joy in each of these days despite the hardships that we all face.

Happy Black Dog Sunday

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Shyla Saturday

While we were in the desert, the sky turned brilliant shades of yellow, orange, purple and blue at dusk, even when there were no clouds in the sky.

My best friend, Shyla, was more than happy to pose for me with that vivid sky behind her. She did it despite the fact that our photo session delayed her dinner by a few minutes.

This dog is my best friend. Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A popular cool spring in early summer

After almost 2 weeks of working so hard on our old house, it's relaxing to sit back and remember this past season at a local spring. This spring either dries up or freezes late every fall and so it's devoid of wildlife from mid-November through April. Then, in May, the pool thaws and new water fills it completely. It becomes a very popular spot for summer and fall.

During May and June, bears dominate the spring but some other species drink from it too. This video includes every animal that triggered the camera during May and June 2020 which makes for fun footage.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am so very thankful for peaceful time in the desert with our pack.

It was serene with time to gaze at the beautiful desert colors.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Dancing in the Desert

Psst, Shyla. She's taking our photo. I'm gonna wave!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Mountain Lions of Labrador Valley

I had about 6 weeks to explore Labrador Valley and the surrounding wilderness before we evacuated, then went out of town for a vacation, and then had to stay away while work was being done on the new house.

During those six weeks at Lab Valley, I searched for spots where mountain lions liked to mark their territory. I found a few spots, some as far away as 3 miles as some as close as 50 yards from the house. This gives me some spots to start searching for their preferred routes. That will let me understand their paths between marking points.

In this video, you'll see big male mountain lions leaving scrapes as they mark their territory. You'll also see a mother mountain lion with a couple of kittens pass by a camera without sniffing the male lion's scrapes. I sure hope that all of these lions survived the fires.

I was so thrilled that I could figure out this much about them in such a short time. 

Enjoy the video!

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

For all the tumult in our lives, Hachi has done remarkably well. On our first day in the desert, it was balmy and warm so Hachi and I played together close to K's Rock. I could see that he was a bit tense but he seemed to loosen up with time.

A winter storm front arrived a few hours later. The temperature plummeted by about 50°F, and it snowed really hard. K's Rock looked totally different by the next morning.

The cliffs along my riding route also looked spectacular with snow on the ground.

By that evening, the snow on the slickrock area near our campsite had melted so the pups could play.

Hachi played beautifully with Shyla throughout the trip. He was goofy and happy when they ran around together. However, I wish that I didn't have to report that he lost his cool toward Shyla a few times in our campsite for no obvious reason. Each time, he got in Shyla's face barking aggressively. Shyla reacted to his aggression with total shutdowns. She simply stood rooted in place and did not respond in any way. Shyla has a long history of responding to stress in this way, and it's probably good for defusing aggression from another dog. Within minutes afterwards, she seemed absolutely fine and was willing to play with Hachi when we let them off leash together.

The aggression was upsetting to say the least. However, we both think that Hachi was trigger-stacked by how many parts of his life are unpredictable. The vacation was great for us humans but probably tough on Hachi who was already confused by our move. We've been super careful about keeping them separated inside the house since then. They still play wonderfully outdoors so that's good. Shyla is not afraid of him.

Hachi is a complicated dog. Humans failed his mother and him early in his life by letting his mom be a stray on the streets while pregnant and then raising pups. It's difficult to help him heal from that damage. However, despite the recent setbacks, I think that he's come a million miles since we first met him.

We love our Hachi. We are as devoted to him as he is to us. We will help him through this phase.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Last year at this time, we were in the desert. I loved playing with our Labraduo atop Shyla's Mesa. They'd howl in harmony with each other.

And they'd cross paws while lying atop the mesa. I've never known a pair of dogs who loved each other as much as these two. Shyla's resilience amazes me.

I felt R's spirit atop the mesa during this past trip. Shyla and I found new ways to play together, which was sad but a step along the way to healing our hearts.

As I searched for photos from Shyla's Mesa for today's Black Dog Sunday, music was playing in the background. Suddenly, the words broke through my concentration. It was Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris singing "If this is goodbye". The words took me backward in time to August 12 as I realized that it was truly goodbye.

Even though it's a sad song, it's beautiful too. There's a great video of them performing it together that you might enjoy checking out.

Our Black Dog's spirit stays close to me all the time. I can feel him smiling at me with his huge hopeful eye whenever I'm out playing with Shyla or Hachi. 

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Since we've been back, we've been staying at our old place, working hard to clean out the "stuff" that we accumulated over the course of 20 years living in it. We've made huge progress, buoyed with energy from having rested for a couple of weeks. The clean up phase is almost finished and now we need the work on the new place to move forward a similar pace.


Aside from all of these details, I think that changing places and the uncertainty of it is tough on the dogs. They aren't sure where we actually live - In the LabMobile? In our old house? Or in our new house?

Shyla has shown the stress by being more easily upset than usual about being alone She expresses her anxiety by barking in an upset tone. I feel badly that she's stressed out. I hope that she can find more calmness when we head back to the new place soon and hopefully settle in for a while. I think that stability will help her.

The dogs have a far more fun life at our new place. They can be off-leash and play together - and the quiet world there calms them both (it calms us humans too!). I am looking forward to getting back to it.

While we were in the desert, my sweet Shyla barked with happiness when we played on top of "Shyla's Mesa" early in the morning. 

I love the desert so much, and I think that sweet Shyla does too!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Nature Friday - More Craziness from the Moose Rut

This fall, the chaos of the moose rut was astounding. It seemed to pervade the forest everywhere. We even heard the sounds of a moose vocalizing from a long distance during a hike. The moose was hidden by the forest but we could hear him!

Every time that I play video of the moose rut, their vocalizations blow my mind. Their voices do not sound like I expect them to. 

Here is a second video from the same pond where my trail cam previously videoed moose rut activity. Be sure to have your sound on and reasonably loud so that you can hear the vocalizations.



Also, join the Nature Friday Blog Hop over at the LLB Gang's Blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Every single day - I am thankful for Shyla. She will run to the ends of the earth if I ask her to.  She will play with me endlessly high on desert mesas. She finds joy in every day.

Each year, more of her face goes gray. She began graying early (she started at age 1) because being such a sensitive dog is tiring. I think her face is beautiful.

Shyla is the example of how to love with all your heart. I am so thankful for her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mountain snow and Tiny the bear returns!

We are really back in our mountains, enjoying a blustery winter day. After a couple of very warm weeks in the desert, true winter is chilling my bones. The good news is that this weather may make it possible to really put out the fires. Snow and cold are in every day's forecast for the foreseeable future which will help the firefighters. The fires were substantially slowed down by snow a couple of weeks ago but they nonetheless kept burning. They didn't gobble up substantial new land due to the heroic efforts of firefighters. And so our new house still stands...

Now that we're back in the mountains, I have wonderful news. Tiny, our biggest black bear, has returned to our neck of the woods and is looking huge. His waistline expanded so much that I wonder what high calorie treats he was eating. He's still limping and marking trees while sitting down rather than standing but I suspect that's now a permanent state of affairs. His injured hind limb is probably not going to heal two years after the injury.

I didn't share it here but I was very worried about him all summer. He disappears every year from June through early autumn. I don't know where he goes, except that it must be a place with lots of food because he always comes back fat. This year, early in the summer, I heard about a bear who was visiting campsites up higher in our local mountains. Our state wildlife agency said that they were shutting down the area to re-educate the bear about plundering campsites. We all assumed that meant that the bear would be hazed so that he'd leave campsites alone in the future.

Within 2 days of the closure, a press release said that they'd shot the bear. As part of the press release, they said that the deceased bear had an old but serious injury to a hind limb and that he was very large (they estimated 200 lbs). I thought that Tiny was substantially bigger than 200 lbs, and so did my friends who have seen him in person, but I worried anyway. So, I was extra happy to catch a glimpse of Tiny on my trail cams in October. I'm glad that the dead bear wasn't Tiny but I still grieve that another bear lost his life due to campers leaving food lying around their campsites.

Check out fat and handsome Tiny in this video. I'll take any reason to celebrate, and this is definitely one!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Back Again

We are back after a relaxing break. It was a time when it was good to be off-the-grid, even though we were itching for news. 

Shyla had lots of reasons to howl. Perhaps she was howling to our Black Dog up in the sky in this one. We've been missing him like crazy. His happy heart made us smile so much. As I thought about him, the song "Here comes the sun" often flitted through my head. He was sunshine in our world.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Update and Pupdate

We got into our new place. We had no power so we spent the time winterizing it to avoid bursting pipes or destroying appliances. 

The weather has made a drastic change. It's 13°F and there's a coating of freezing rain on everything. We are back at our old place which does have power.

It has been such a frantic and disorienting time. We are lucky to have our old house to take refuge. This would have been a lot harder without it. However, I also feel a bit lost. Some of our belongings are in our new house and some are in our old house. Many items are "lost", maybe thrown into bags as we evacuated and brought to the old house. Or, maybe they're in the new house. My heart is similar - confusion reigns as we are stuck between chapters in our life.

The most amazing thing is how well Hachi is doing. He just had a birthday, and he's 2 years old now. He's handling this chaos with surprising calmness. We had three sets of workers at the old house yesterday while we were there, and he barked a little but then snoozed. That is almost unbelievable for him. I have been blown away by his behavior repeatedly during this event.

We have continued his training while we've been evacuated, learning the "Bucket Game" for cooperative care. We'll use it (after he's learned it) for things like nail clipping and checking a body part if he's hurt. He has made a sudden breakthrough in his understanding of it. Why now when we've been working on it for months? I do not know but I'll gratefully accept it.

At some point soon, I really am going to take that blogging break. I need to rest and find my inner peace again. If the blog stops, please don't worry. I think that we're safe from fires, at least for now. The one in Rocky Mountain National Park could conceivably threaten us but it feels unlikely right now.

Thank you for your support and love.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thankful Thursday

This evening, we did a little hike to see what was happening on the fire front. When we arrived at the view of the Continental Divide, we were stunned. A wildfire on the other side of the Divide blew up today, creating a smoke plume that dwarfed the towering mountains.


That's a 13,000' peak below the smoke and it looks tiny compared to the smoke plume. The smoke looked orange due to the sun setting behind it.

The world feels entirely out of control here in Colorado. Our very hot and dry weather all summer means that the world is primed to catch on fire. If you add wind to that mix, it creates a disaster.

The world of the past few days has made me yearn for the somewhat more normal days of earlier this month. Our smoke was from further away, and sometimes we could see the world clearly like at dawn when the moon was full.

We haven't heard any real news about "our" fire. Time will tell. We will keep trying to get into our house to get it ready for the hard freeze this weekend. Rumors are flying around, which intensifies our feeling of having no control over our lives. We fear leaving the dogs alone in the house even briefly because a new fire might erupt, and we might not be able to get back in to evacuate them. We feverishly refresh the local wildfire news to try to understand what we're seeing outside. It's so stressful.

But, I do feel thanks for some things in our lives. I am thankful that our land and house haven't burned. I am thankful that I saw the full moon set earlier this month. I am grateful that Hachi is handling all the wildfire tumult and the craziness of cleaning out the old house amazingly well. And, I am always thankful for Shyla who makes my days brighter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Update and the Bears of the Lab Valley Area

Today is a big day. It's a "Red Flag" day, with extreme fire danger. The winds will be 30 mph and the humidity close to zero. There was a Town Hall for evacuated people last evening, and fire officials seemed obsessed with getting through today before thinking beyond it.

After today, temperatures will plummet to below zero. A foot of snow is forecasted to fall this weekend. They said that the snow will slow the fires but probably not put them out. The big issue for homeowners is that electricity is out for the evacuation area so there is no heat. Pipes will freeze if we cannot go to our houses to drain them. It seems as if the sheriff is working on a plan to escort home owners to their houses so that they can prepare for the frigid temperatures.

I am thinking of our wildlife. I put together the best footage of bears from Lab Valley since we moved there in late August. You'll see all sorts of bears including cubs and a huge male. The footage of one young bear was taken in a spot that might have been burned. I hope that she's out of the way of the flames.

Check out the video. I love our bears, and I hope that they are okay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Still Locked Out

We are still locked out of Lab Valley but the grapevine and official fire maps say that Lab Valley is not burned. These are photos taken by my drone a couple of weeks ago.

The fire is scarcely contained so I doubt that we'll get in soon. However, the fire has blown in the opposite direction from Lab Valley the whole time so perhaps I'm wrong.

I am feeling at loose ends. It's really odd being back at our old place. We had many wonderful years here, with a lineage of sweet dogs who lived their entire lives here. I adore the wildlife and love knowing many of the individual animals. Back in the day, we were surrounded by amazing neighbors and a quiet forest. But, this place has changed so much...

I am so glad that, so far, it appears that Lab Valley will be there for us when we can return.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fire news - little rest for us

We didn't get much of a rest. Until about mid-day yesterday, our world seemed calm and peaceful. The wind was blowing the existing fire away from us, and it was a beautiful day. 

Then, I saw someone post that there were reports of a fire very close to Lab Valley. I followed the post, and the information was being corroborated by others. We did a mad dash, quickly putting all of our packed stuff into two vehicles. We were out of there very fast. It was too close for any wavering about the need to flee. Smoke was starting to seep into Lab Valley when we departed.

As we drove away, I saw the smoke plume that was already being generated by the fire. Lab Valley is to the left of the fire plume in this photo.

Now, we're at our old house, following the news. So far, it appears that the fire is being blown away from Lab Valley. I feel badly being even slightly happy about that because I know that it means that others are in the path of the fire. I even think about the wildlife who I am just starting to know. Their habitat is being burned.

I am exhausted and numb. We've found our paradise at Lab Valley, and now we are hoping to get out of this fire season with it intact.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Black Dog Sunday - The Fire Edition

 Yesterday, we headed out for a short mid-day walk with the pups. I casually mentioned that there was a small fire not too far away, and then we forgot about it. 

Then, as we finished the walk, I noticed an odd looking cloud, and I said "Is that smoke?". Within another 5 minutes, it was very clearly a huge smoke plume. This was the view from our house. It looked like it originated just beyond our valley.

The wind was blowing at about 30 mph. Rapidly, the "small fire" ate up thousands of acres. We were very close to the border of the evacuation zone so we spent the afternoon packing at high speed, preparing to flee if needed. As of now, it seems that the wind blew the fire away from us although that meant that many other people and animals were in its path. I am holding them in my thoughts.

This blog post is late because we lost our power for a while.

Throughout the morning before the fire, our Black Dog was on my mind. As Shyla and I did our bike ride, I was talking to him in my heart. I even sang to him as we rode. I was visualizing him being as happy as he was one day high in the mountains about five years ago.

It turned out, so far, that the wind has pushed the fire away from us so we are still at home. The fire exploded to almost 7000 acres in a few hours so not everyone was so lucky. We will watch and wait to see if we need to leave. With R watching over us, I bet that we'll be okay.

He watches over us from a life-sized print of a photo of him galloping through the golden aspens a few years ago. His eyes are so happy and gazing at us from the image.


This fire is one more stresser in a long train. I've decided to take a blogging break to get some rest. I've had too many sleepless nights and migraines recently. I promise to update you if anything big happens, and then I'll be back soon.

I miss our Black Dog but I can feel his love. I see his sparkling eyes in my mind every single day. Thinking about his spirit helps me to find the good in every single day.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shyla Saturday

I took this photo of Shyla just a a few days ago when it felt as if the world was becoming a bit more normal. We'd had a day or two without thick smoke, and the golden aspen leaves still hung from their trees.

Then, a wild wind whipped into the area. In our immediate area, it ripped down the autumn leaves.

A bit further away, it whipped up a big fire, causing it to "explode" into the largest fire in Colorado history. That big one keeps getting closer to us but it's still at a safe enough distance. Then, believe it or not, another fire started and immediately spread due to extremely dry vegetation and wind. Our world is a scary place right now.

Now, we have no leaves and the world feels apocalyptic. It is dark in the middle of the day due to the smoke. The sun can barely glimmer through it.

The fires are still not that close but they are creeping this way. I sure hope that the wind stops and a big snow comes. That seems like the only thing that will stop them.

Through times like this, Shyla's unwavering affectionate nature comforts all of us. She loves to snuggle with us humans and play with her brother - which is exactly what all of us need now. She is the heart of this pack.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Nature Friday - The Craziness of Moose during the Rut

In moose country, autumn is an intense time of year. Bull moose are trying to find mates, and they behave unpredictably and sometimes aggressively.

At a small pond, the usual wildlife showed up to hunt or eat. And the moose showed up too. One bull moose was intent on pursuing the local mama moose and her calf. The calf seemed to go about her business without paying attention to the pushy bull moose. This calf is less than a year old so I was surprised that her mother might be in estrus already.

The most amazing part of the scene were the vocalizations by the bull moose. He moans and sang - and his "sound effects" were hilarious. When you watch the video, be sure to have your sound on.

If you watch to the end of the video, there's a special appearance by a very agile predator!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thankful Thursday

It was a long day of packing the old house that was no fun at all. But, before that, I had a wonderful morning out in nature with Shyla. 

The day started with a gorgeous sunrise over our meadow that has some golden color left in it.

After sunrise, Shyla and I headed out for a bike ride on trails. We found a few pockets of golden leaves that the wild wind had not blown down. We had fun in the sun among the leaves.

Then, we explored in a new direction, and we found a lake for Shyla to go swimming. It was still warm and tranquil when we got there. It was SO much fun. I threw sticks for Shyla to retrieve.

I wish that we'd tried going to this lake before winter was knocking on the door! Indeed, just after we left the lake, a wicked winter wind picked up, and it was not warm anymore.

Recently, I've been particularly grateful for my time with Shyla in the mornings. Having such fun first thing in the morning makes the tedious work of moving a bit easier.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - All in One Day

Morning was sunny and warm

By lunchtime, it was a small blizzard

Happy Dogs

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mother Mountain Lion and Kitten

Much to my surprise, a mother mountain lion led her small kitten to a mountain lion scrape spot. The mother urinated on the most recent scrape as her kitten milled around her legs.

That is very odd. I've never seen a mother with a kitten this small visit a scrape. The reason is that male mountain lions can be dangerous to her kitten. And then leaving her scent seemed even more inexplicable. 

Indeed, a male mountain lion arrived at the same spot two days later. He was exceptionally interested in the female's scent. He spent about 3 minutes sniffing the area and repeatedly marking. Then, he headed off in the same direction as she went.

I am mystified. Could the female be in estrus because she has only one kitten? Usually, they have three or four, although mortality means that they have two by the time the kittens get bigger.

Time will tell. In the meantime, check out the video!


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi is finding his inner puppy here at Labrador Valley. He is reveling in his off-leash play time. We humans watch him and smile. Pure joy.

I can take him with me for mountain bike rides here. That is such a joy! I took this photo in the middle of a ride on a glorious autumn day.

Most of the week was great for Hachi but he had one rough day. A couple of contractors visited the house and then, shortly later, we took him hiking at a popular mountain trailhead. He had a rougher time than usual with people passing on the trail even when we moved him far away from them (by going into the forest next to the trail). I'm chalking it up to the contractors making him tense before the outing... which then made hiking near strangers more difficult.

I'm not too concerned. Hachi is doing astoundingly well given the changes in our lives.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Every autumn, we take an off-trail trek to a lake that our dogs love. We call it "Dog Leap Lake" because our visit is usually a dog water party. As soon as we arrive, the pups usually head into the water. This is Shyla on the left and R on the right from 2012.

This year, it was hard to find the time to visit Dog Leap Lake but it felt important to go to remember R and his ecstasy whenever we were there. However, when we arrived, the lake was occupied, and the visitors showed no sign of departing.

They were not the sort of visitors that we even tried to share the lake with. We watched them for a while, and then we departed. No dog's paw touched the water.

As we watched them, we imagined that R would have had apoplexy if we'd arrived at Dog Leap Lake and he had not been allowed to play in the water. This was R when we arrived at the lake a few years ago.

Every year, when we arrived at the lake, he'd go nutso with excitement. He seemed to be yelling "throw it, throw it"! He adored retrieving from Dog Leap Lake.

He'd shake with excitement while awaiting the next throw.

He and his sister would sometimes bring sticks to shore together.

What a happy pair they were.

Our visit to the lake this year, even though it was not as raucous as usual, did bring back many memories of our Black Dog. He swam in Dog Leap Lake every fall for thirteen years. He never failed to have a joyful time and to make us smile and smile. 

Memories of our Black Dog will never cease to make us smile.