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Friday, January 31, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - A Female Mountain Lion in Estrus

A female mountain lion who was recently in estrus must have her territory with our home as its epicenter.I delighted in seeing her behavior in a circle all around where I live.

I first picked up her footage when she was with a male lion - probably our resident tom cat. I caught only about the last day of their time together. But, it sure was fun to see them together and to listen to their vocalizations.

Then, the female was on her own. Based on her behavior, she was searching for another mate. She was visiting lion "hot spots" where there are clusters of scrapes (scent marks) close together. At the first one, she was interested in something up in the air, above the view of my camera. When I looked up there, I didn't see anything but she seemed to smell something.

Then, she lay down in the scrapes left by male lions, and she rolled. She also groomed. In this frame, she was licking her shoulder. Look how her toes were spread out on her hind paw.

Then, she seemed to smell something again.

As she left this site, she started calling out, perhaps calling to male mountain lions. I absolutely love hearing these sounds.

Be sure to have your sound on when you watch the video.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Every now and then, the clouds whoosh up the canyons and our world becomes obscured. It happened one day earlier this winter when I was out on my bike. I was in a big meadow, and I was disoriented by having almost no visibility. The tree in the background was only about 15 yards away.

I grabbed onto things that I could perceive. First, I listened for sounds. A road was not too far away, and I oriented myself using car sounds. I was off my bike and walking because I couldn't see far enough ahead to safely ride. Next, I saw this fence. That was a very welcome sight because it meant that I was almost to the edge of the meadow!

It felt a bit like a metaphor for life. We all want our lives to be as clear as a bluebird day with all the coming steps and long-term goals being obvious.

But life doesn't tend to be that way. I remember our shock and confusion when Hachi started behaving aggressively toward R last spring. They'd been so close up until that point that our heads were reeling. Prior to that, they always liked to be close together, even snuggling. (This photo is from last March. Sadly, I doubt that we will see this scene again.)

It was one of the more disorienting periods in our life because we'd fully expected a dog pack who would get along peacefully. But, like on that foggy day in the meadow, we grasped onto any guides that we could find - as we tried to navigate a world that we had never been in previously. We were so fortunate to have resources to help us - a good friend who is experienced with situations like this one and excellent dog behavior veterinarians.

And that is what I am thankful for today - the help that we found as we devised a plan for keeping Hachi in our family. Now, we know that we can keep all three dogs safe so our goal has evolved. Now we want to rehab Hachi as much as we possibly can. We've already come so far that who knows where we will end up? That is the hard part - not knowing, like in a huge foggy meadow.

Thanks to all of you who have offered support over the past year. And thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Orange Clouds at Sunset

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Meadow that is Paradise for Wildlife

I've been wanting to share some peaceful scenes from a meadow that the wildlife think is paradise. It is a windy and very cold spot but that doesn't seem to affect the coyotes or elk. You can hear the power of the wind in some of the clips. Despite the howling wind, the animals love it.

Lots of coyotes traversed the meadow over the past month. They trotted or galloped past my camera one-by-one. This one is headed past the den that the pack used in past years. You can see where it is because there's a broken branch sticking up from the snow.
February is the usual coyote mating season. It will be interesting to see how their behavior changes during mating season and then as they prepare for pups to arrive in about April.

The elk also enjoyed this meadow over the past month. My cam recorded lots of small groups of elk grazing and relaxing. However, I chose a clip of many elk galloping into the middle of the meadow to share with you. The sheer power of the herd awed me.

You'll see in the video that they formed a tight group after they arrived in the middle of the meadow. That usually means that something scared them into fleeing. If it were a predator like a mountain lion (not likely in broad daylight in a big open meadow), you can imagine how all the elk being very close together would be safer.

Check out the video if you have time!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle - Lots of Smiles

Hachi is making fantastic progress. He is more playful, more mellow, and more peaceful. I don't know exactly why this is happening now but I'll take it! I suspect that it's a combination of being on the right meds (finally!) and lots of play with me and Shyla.

One good thing is Hachi's friendship with Shyla. They play together almost every day. Here he is starting to chase her.

They often play chase the dog who has the stick. Of course, they eventually catch up to each other, and then they play some tug with the stick. They both love it so much.

And then the cycle restarts. Shyla ran off with the stick, and Hachi chased. They would keep doing this for hours if they could.
As I watch them play, I wonder if playing with another dog does similar wonderful things to a dog's state of mind as playing with a human. I'm guessing so. So I think that Hachi's playtime with Shyla is probably part of why he's doing so well.

The other huge good sign about Hachi has occurred when R blindly wanders toward Hachi's ex pen. Up until quite recently, Hachi reacted in a big way with aggressive-sounding barking that scared us all. In the past few days, R has wandered quite close to the ex pen twice, and Hachi did not react at all. He just lay on his bed peacefully as we guided R away. I was astounded to see Hachi not react.
We are in such a good phase with Hachi. His warm heart is finally shining through his fear. I am grateful beyond words.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog had a better week. He's more adventurous despite his blindness, trying to walk from one part of the house to another by himself. He's also getting lost inside the house less frequently. I am trying to let him "work it out" when he seems flummoxed by the layout of the house because I think that he'll learn faster if we don't intervene to help him immediately every time.

The biggest good thing is his demeanor. He seems happier. He still goes for short runs in the mornings with the Runner when he wants to. Not only does he want to but he's resumed carrying the leash in his mouth as he runs. He did that for his whole life until recently. That is a true sign of happiness and enthusiasm!
(This photo was taken at the end of last winter - in May. I don't think that he'd run like that now although some blind dogs learn to do so.) 

He is learning the new cues that we use to lead him like "step up", "step down", and "follow me" really fast. He's so good at them that our timing needs to be impeccable so that he doesn't step up or down too early!

It's incredible to watch him bouncing back from his world going dark. Can you imagine how scary it must be for anyone who becomes blind, even if it's a slow process? Yet, our Black Dog seems light-hearted and happy already. He's my inspiration.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A Morning with Shyla

Shyla and I stood together as the sun peeked over the eastern hills one morning this week.

Then, we entered the forest that I love so much. I adore how the sun lights up selected pine trees in the forest at sunrise, and of course, how it shines on my Shyla.

Shyla flashed me a difficult-to-interpret look as I snapped a photo.

Soon, we headed up higher to where we can see the mountains with no obstructions. Hug Hill is so glorious in the morning but also so cold when the wind is blasting off of the Divide. That wind out of the west was why the clouds were so beautiful but it also meant that my fingers went numb while taking this photo.

On a more serious topic, after much deliberation and research, we've decided to try a daily medicine to reduce Shyla's anxiety. I'd love if we could get rid of the worry that still colors how Shyla sees the world and even prevents her from doing some things. She's starting at a low dose, and we'll see how it goes. The biggest worry, as with any epileptic dog, is that it might increase her seizure frequency. Based on my research and the vet's advice, I think that the odds of that happening are low which is why we are trying this.

What a special dog Shyla is. We want her to be as happy as she possibly can be.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - Scent Marking by Mountain Lions and a Labrador

This is the story of a mountain lion marking site. You might remember the breeding pair of mountain lions who we followed back in November (Part 1, Part 2). Their path to getting together started in this site. The female showed up here first.

She marked under the tree.

She even rolled under the tree.

Then, last November, she went off and spent a few days with a male lion before returning to mark the same spot again, doubtless hoping to attract another mate while she was still in estrus.

Soon thereafter, we had a couple of big snowstorms, dropping several feet of snow. No animals passed this spot for months because the snow was just too deep for walking in this area.

Then, in early January, a yellow Lab came by (her humans were outside the view of the cam). Notice that I'd rotated the trail cam to the left based on the the November lions' behavior but it is the same spot. The Lab must have smelled the lion's marking scents, and she chose to mark in the same spot as the lion did a couple of months earlier. A dogs' sense of smell blows my mind. Her audacity blows my mind too but I've seen Shyla do this same thing many times.

Just a few days later, a male lion visited the same spot. In this photo, he'd just marked the same spot as the Lab and the female lion from November.

The male lion paced all over the area under this sprawling Ponderosa Pine, marking four times - so he was leaving very strong signals. Then he stopped and looked straight at the camera. I think that he'd spotted it.
As you'll see over my coming posts, a female lion found his scent markings. The male and female ended up getting together. I believe that the female was the same one as from last November. She must not have gotten pregnant so she is in estrus again. 

Check out the video if you have time. Daytime footage of a lion is rare and so interesting.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I could be happy never going into a town or city. Alas, that's not possible but I always feel grateful for coming home to our more peaceful part of the world after a day in more urban places.

As I drive home, I let out a sigh of relief as I pass this sign. To me, it symbolizes leaving the concrete world and entering a more peaceful world.

A short distance later, I pass another sign that I love.
Yes, that's an elk. A jokester added a funny fart sticker to it.

Just after the elk sign, the elk herd loves to cross the road. I have waited for 5-10 minutes for the herd to pass in front of me on multiple occasions. That's the best kind of traffic jam.

Then, I pass this sign.
It's been hanging there for decades, and some of the print has faded too much to read. However, the point is obvious even without reading the sign. There are bears here, and please don't let them get into your garbage.

It is so peaceful to pass this scene on my way home.

Or to see this scene. If you look closely, there are elk at the edge of the forest.

No signs warn of this one - but I absolutely adore that the Continental Divide peeks through the trees near home.
My gratitude for having a home surrounded by nature is boundless. It feeds my spirit and happiness.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Throwback/Look Ahead to Summer

This is the point in winter when I need a reminder of what the future holds. All that snow high in the mountains will eventually melt, making the flowers bloom endlessly! I had fun going through my images from last summer, choosing some "rejects" to share. I hope that it helps you smile today too!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Juvenile and Adult Golden Eagles at an Elk Carcass

I am still over the moon about the footage of Golden Eagles on the elk carcass (Part 1, Part 2). As an aside, I just discovered that I have footage of the feline character who killed the elk but that's for another day.

When I first saw the two Golden Eagles, I hoped that they might be a breeding pair. An expert reader pointed out that one of the pair was a juvenile. This photo is of the juvenile - who has the characteristic white feathers on his tail that indicate that he is younger than "several" years old.

The other thing that the reader pointed out was that the juvenile was forced off the carcass by the adult. In this photo, the adult (closer to cam) has just swooped in landing almost on top of the juvenile. You can see the white feathers of the juvenile's tail to the right of the adult.
Juvenile Golden Eagles usually leave the area where they were born to settle someplace else by November of the first year of life. So, this juvenile may be settled here for the long-term. That's good!

Here is a video of another set of interactions between the two Golden Eagles. Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had a happy week. Every morning, he wakes up happy and bursting with anticipation of what might happen that day.

My instructor from the rehabilitative play class kept referring to the "magic" that might happen if you play with your dog every day. I think that we're seeing a bit of that - Hachi feels "lighter" to me, as if he's not worrying all the time.
We are continuing to play, usually twice per day. I am looking forward to the day when it's warm enough for us to move outside onto the deck or the porch for play. The idea is that, by playing in environments where he is just a teeny bit worried, he'll learn to worry less about the world around him.

I love when I can write a good report about our boy! There was a time, early on, when I couldn't visualize what our life with Hachi would be like. Now I can, and it's good.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

I won't lie - it hasn't been an easy time for our Black Dog or for those of us who love him. It seems as if he has no vision. He's very tentative about moving around inside the house. We are teaching him some cues like "step up" and "step down" at stairs, and "follow me" while we walk loudly just ahead of him. He is learning those words fast.

We still find him stuck in corners of the house, which breaks my heart. Yet, he doesn't want to be constrained to stay in a single room by a gate (most "lost" incidents are happening as he moves between rooms). Constraining him often brings howls of protest so we give his freedom back.

Our Black Dog visited the veterinary ophthalmologist this week, and the pressure in his eye has tripled recently. It's not quite in the danger zone where the eye would need to be removed. However, the vet is worried that the pressure may be fluctuating so R will be having regular ocular pressure checks.

Why, oh why, does one of the sweetest dogs in the world have to endure so much? I wish that I could make it different for our Black Dog. All that I can do is make his life as fun and happy as possible, within whatever constraints he is facing. And we promise to do that.

We are continuing to play nosework games, and R absolutely goes wild for them. When he's searching for the scent, he doesn't care if he walks into walls (but oddly, it's infrequent). When he's doing a nosework search, I feel convinced that he's going to adapt to total blindness.

Shyla has been especially affectionate with our Black Dog. When I get home in the afternoon, they are often snuggled together. They melt my heart.
Happy Black Dog Sunday. We will have fun this week, even if the type of fun is a bit different than in our Black Dog's past.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is my guardian.  Although I rarely show them here, I have been taking a lot of photographs that are not of dogs. I know - shocking!

This is a favorite view along our route - it gives a glimpse of the Divide off in the distance. It is replete with wildlife so it pays to stay alert here.

Shyla always has her eye on me. I don't even need to ask her to do it. Here, she sat like a guard next to my backpack while I took photos.

After passing through that meadow, we usually return to the forest, where the pine bark glows in the early morning sunshine.

I do love the beauty of the forest but none of it would mean as much without Shyla by my side.
Happy Shyla Saturday!