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Monday, February 24, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

I had some time on the trails with Hachi alone this week. We did a snowbike ride together on a bluebird day. He's always been nervous during these solo rides but there were a number of competing factors that could have been the cause of his anxiety.
I was trying to take his photo but he kept being startled by sounds behind him.
Over the past months, we've gradually exposed him to most of the factors that might be worrying him during solo bike rides. He's now fine when he's out for a walk with me alone - he used to worry when we didn't have another dog with us. He's also now happy on all of the trails - none of them make him nervous under normal circumstances.

That leaves one thing for Hachi to be afraid of during our solo bike rides, and it's my bike. So, I need to get to work on teaching him not to be afraid of my bike. I have to admit that the thought of more work makes me sigh. There's so much to do with this boy. However, I am getting better and better at counter-conditioning. Moreover, Hachi now learns faster now than earlier in his life, probably because his anti-anxiety meds are helping him. So, conditioning him to like my bike should be doable. Being able to take him for little rides that he enjoys will be a great reward for the work.

During our short ride, we went to Hug Hill. Hachi seems to love the long view that he has from this spot. He could survey the entire world!
Hachi's color looks great with the mountains and sky  as his backdrop!

In addition to his usual training, Hachi still gets to play a lot most days. He plays with me at least once per day - and we both love it. And, he plays with his sister during our daily afternoon hike. They are still best friends.
Shyla is the chaser but they switch roles all the time.

I think that Hachi would say that his life is good. We keep working to rehab him, and progress is slow but it's happening. Most of the rehab work is fun for him. Moreover, everyone in our little pack is happy, and that's all that I ask.

PS We await R's pathology report sometime this week. He had a good weekend.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is doing really well. He's happy and he's enjoying his short walks more than he did before his surgery. He's even been mischievous during them.

I know that he loves rolling in the snow. I decided that I wasn't going to let him do it for a couple of weeks after his surgery, primarily because he throws himself onto the ground quite hard. I didn't want any internal damage from the impact. Until yesterday, I'd see him adopt the body language that he uses just before rolling, and I'd hurry him along.

My rolling prevention efforts worked for a week. Then, the sneaky Black Dog tossed himself onto the ground without doing any of his usual pre-rolling behaviors. It was too fast for me to stop him. By the time he was on the ground, I couldn't think of any reason not to let him roll. So he did - and he was overjoyed about it.

I think that he loves how the crusty snow scratches his back.
No harm was done, and our Black Dog seemed very happy about his illicit roll!

I love this guy, mischief and all.
Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Shyla Saturday

In the wake of R's cancer, I am holding all who I love a little closer these days.

My Shyla is my partner in nature adventures. We both enjoy exploring our forests and our mountains so much. We spend lots of time together, just us two girls, traipsing through the forest. We follow tracks in the snow, both of us curious about what the wildlife have been doing. And Shyla uses her nose to show me things that I wouldn't otherwise perceive. We are such a team.

I am sure that some of you remember that Angel K died quite young. She was eight years old when osteosarcoma took her. And, that is the age that Shyla is. That realization pierced my heart when Shyla turned eight. I am greedy and want a long time with this girl.

Shyla still has some issues with fear and anxiety which we continue to work on - but she has gradually become the best friend who I can imagine.
Hold your pups tight. Hug them, love them  - and I'll do the same with sweet Shyla.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Nature Friday - A Bluebird Day

It felt as if we had days and days of little sunlight, very cold air, and snow falling from the sky. Both Shyla and I were drooping, getting tired from the cloudy skies during our morning rides every single day.

I wanted to see the sun, and today it happened. This was the path into the forest.

When we arrived up a little higher, the blue sky stopped me in my tracks.

Shyla frolicked in the snow with the high mountains and a ski area visible behind her.

And she surveyed her kingdom as we prepared to ride home.
It was one of those precious winter days when the beauty of the mountains in winter was on full display. It was glorious.

P.S. R had a peppy day, happy to go for his little walks in the sunny winter world. These are wonderful days with him.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I think that you all know what I am thankful for today.

Our wonderful Black Dog is still with us. He's recovering stupendously well. He's even regaining the weight that he lost in the weeks before the surgery. He's so hopeful and happy - a perfect example for how to handle the hurdles that life throws in our way.
We are thankful for every single day with him.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

A tiny fraction of our herd.

Galloping through our new snow!

R is continuing to improve. His spirits are amazingly good!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Magical Wildlife Clearing

Years and years ago, when I was first starting to use trail cameras, I found that my cam had been rearranged on a tree so that it was twisted 180° from how I'd left it. I leaped to the conclusion that someone was trying to steal it.

I made the snap decision to move the cam to someplace safer. I took it down from the tree and stuffed it in my backpack. I hurried toward another section of the forest with no real vision of where I planned to put it except that it needed to be well hidden from humans. So, I hastily chose an almost random spot but I figured that I'd move the cam again soon.

That spot was a pocket in the forest with a big Douglas Fir tree in the middle of it. I didn't know enough to recognize the animal sign in that small clearing - but the hints of animal activity are everywhere.

Much to my surprise, a mountain lion sauntered into that small forest opening within a week. The rest is history. I've had a cam there for close to a decade now. There are phases of little carnivore activity there but I know to patiently wait - because the bobcats, lions, coyotes, foxes and other animals will be back.

After about 6 months of little wildlife activity last summer, many species have come through this winter. As you know, I love my mountain lions. One female has come through three times. She is hilarious because she dislikes anything wet on her paws so much. Here she is in mid-paw-shake. She spends a lot of time trying to clean her paws.

Not only does she shake them, but she also licks them.

I have a short video of some of the wildlife who visited this forest opening including this female lion, bobcat, bull moose, and red fox.

P.S. For those who are wondering, R is doing well. His energy level made a big step forward yesterday.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle (with a short Black Dog update)

It has been quite a week. Just one week ago, we didn't even know that R had cancer. We got his diagnosis, he had more tests, he had surgery, he spent time in the hospital, and he's now is home. Whew, no wonder I am exhausted. He must be even more exhausted.

One good thing about having dogs in your family is that they need to play and run no matter what else is going on in your life. So, I had some fun time with Hachi this week despite all the other stress.

It snowed seemingly every other day so our world was white!

He is doing really well. It feels as if he's on the right meds for him, and he's finally relaxing. Not being on high alert all the time must feel great to him. By no means is he a normal dog but he's moving in that direction, inch by inch.

He still has the capacity to be a 10,000 Volt dog, and we see that in him every day. He adores recalls, and he runs to us as if there's a lion nipping at his heels.
On the less good side of that high intensity ledger, he has the loudest and most intense bark of any of our dogs ever. When he thinks that it's time to go outside for a hike, he blasts the inside of the house with that bark, and it's migraine-inducing. We need to figure out how to stop that.

In other news, R continues to slumber almost all of the time, as expected post-surgery. We have him wrapped in a sleeping bag, and he seems utterly content. He doesn't seem to have much pain. He's happy to go for tiny slow walks outside the house. He does want to roll in the snow - which we can't let him do. Soon, buddy, soon.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. He's doing well, although he's very sleepy.

It goes without saying that we are all thrilled to have him home. He has two weeks of recovery (lots of sleep and not much else) ahead of him. We'll spoil him as much as we can.

And his sister will nurse him. This was their position very soon after he arrived home. Shyla hasn't moved. I doubt that she will move for as long as she is needed. R is her rock.
R is one of those special dogs who floats through life in a perpetual state of hopefulness and happiness. His disposition has barely changed throughout his life - he was born happy and he still is.

I am so glad that it is a Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Wild Ride

In the end, yesterday was a good day but it seemed like it took a long time to reach that conclusion.

An early surgery time required a dawn departure to drive to the vet. There is a huge construction project between us and town with long delays daily. Yesterday, during one of those long delays, the car conked out in the construction zone.

There is no cell service in the construction zone so the process of getting help was very slow and frustrating. A construction worker eventually radioed for a tow truck. That got the Runner and R (plus the disabled car) into town but not yet to the vet, and it was already hours after R's surgery time. Then an Uber finished the trip. That was not the way that anyone wanted the day to start.

Along the way, the Runner handed a note to another driver sitting in the construction asking that they call the vet hospital to explain that R would be late. That was brilliant, and it worked.

Fortunately, the surgeons were able to wait for R and started his surgery soon after his arrival. For me, that was when the wait seemed to start dragging on forever. They ran into some unexpected complications with a tumor adhering to the body wall which added a lot of time to the surgery. We had tried to prepare ourselves for the possibility that R would not make it out of surgery. With that looming in the back of my mind, the wait was agonizing.

In the end, sweet R did make it. They found a large mass on his spleen (that was the one adhering to the body wall) - and they removed the whole spleen. It will be analyzed by pathologists. They didn't find other obvious tumors in his abdomen, which was the best news of the day.

That means that there is a chance that we will get more months with our Black Dog. That's why we chose the surgery so I am smiling. So are his siblings.

R will stay in the hospital, coming home today or tomorrow. I can't wait to see him. I took care of Shyla and Hachi during the crazy day. Both of them need meds throughout the day (Shyla for epilepsy and Hachi for anxiety) so they can't be left home alone all day.

Now, onto the healing phase!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sibling Love

I don't have many words today. I am falling into spells of staring mindlessly at my computer screen as my heart is in a surgery suite with R.

But, I ran across this photo from last summer. It's two coyote pups, siblings, who obviously adored each other.

It reminded me of our sibling Labraduo, and how much they adore each other.

Shyla is beseeching all who will listen to take good care of her brother in surgery today.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Thankful Thursday - For You

Today, I am thankful for all of you and for your kind comments. We will find our way through this, and you have no idea how much your thoughtful input means.

By way of thanks, here are a few images from a snowy snowy week.

Whenever it is storming, I notice the beautiful orange bark of our Ponderosa Pines as I ride through the forest. These pines are like beacons in the forest on otherwise monochrome days.

Every snowy day is followed by incredible beauty. This morning was one of the prettiest of the year.

A bluebird sky tops off the beauty when we are lucky.

On "powder days", Shyla adores playing in the snow. She makes me smile no matter what.
This is going to be a very hard phase for Shyla. More than anyone, she'll need extra love and attention because R is her absolute best friend. Perhaps she has become even stronger than we think. I hope so.

I cannot say "thanks" too many times because you all make such a difference with your support.

I am linking to Brian's Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday Black Dog News

Our Black Dog had an ultrasound on Monday to try to figure out why he has too few red blood cells. The news is not good.

He has a tumor on his spleen that is bleeding slowly. It's almost certainly cancer - and a dastardly bad kind called hemangiosarcoma. Our hearts are shattered by that news. It has been a tough 24 hours. But, our boy is still with us so we'll enjoy every single day with him.

We needed to make a decision fast about whether to treat it because the tumor is in danger of rupturing. After lots of thought, we finally decided to do so. He'll have his spleen removed on Friday. Depending on what the pathology report on his spleen says, we'll choose what comes next.

I spent some solo time in the snow with R the other day. He still loves life and loves snow. And his soulful looks melt my heart. 
We'll make all decisions with an abundance of love for R. Please don't worry - his happiness is what will guide us.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Colorado Mountain Magic

Do you know that feeling that you're being watched? I usually brush it off and tell myself that I'm being paranoid. But sometimes, you are truly being watched. I have a few examples.

A Great Horned Owl watched our pack as we headed out on our evening hike.

One day recently, I pedaled along with Shyla by my side, and she suddenly stopped. I didn't know why so I tried to cajole her to start moving again. Her stare up the hillside and into the forest became more intense. I finally looked where her eyes were fixed, and this is what I saw. A mama moose and her twins! They weren't aggressive so it was a pleasure to spot them.

And sometimes it is a coyote who is watching you from the forest. I was glad that I didn't have any dogs with me on that day. I also didn't have a good camera but I was glad to get even a low quality image.

Getting to see these wild animals is just one bright part of living in our mountains.
I love the Colorado mountains!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been a good week for Hachi. By the start of the week, he was finally over the vet appointment from a week earlier. He returned to being playful and mischievous.

We met with his behavioral vet one week ago, and we all agreed that it was time to try a bump up in his Paxil dose. We started that last week, and no bad side effects have emerged yet. We are on the lookout for any signs that it causes increased aggression. You may remember that his previous med (dog prozac) had that bad side effect, especially at higher doses.

He and I did a solo hike one evening. In the past, he's been very very nervous when we don't have either half of the Duo with us. He wasn't at all nervous this week!!!! The Runner has been taking Hachi out on the trails by himself almost daily, and it seems that he has a newfound confidence. I love breakthroughs!

With me and the Runner, Hachi is so loyal, affectionate, sweet, and playful. I love when I have one-on-one time with him.
My heart says that Hachi is headed in the right direction. That's a good feeling.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is the master of an upbeat attitude. It's what I love the most about him. But, there's little doubt that life is dealing him some lemons these days.

First, his blindness... He's learning to cope well with that. He definitely knows his cues "step up" and "step down". Both the Runner and I have made errors in when them so that it's not coordinated with an actual step. But, R makes an exaggerated step up or down even when we say it in error. That's a great test to show that he knows the cues! He's also learned a technique for finding the steps off the bed where he feels with his toes. It works really well for him.

 R and Shyla on one of our many snowy days.

Then, there's another twist. His red blood cell count is low but ulcer meds haven't helped it. The vet expected it to rebound quickly when we stopped the NSAIDs and started the ulcer meds. The vet is worried about a tumor. So, R is having an ultrasound on Monday. I have a knot in my stomach about it.

But, R looks as optimistic and hopeful about life as ever.
For now, all that we can do is enjoy every moment with our sweet Black Dog.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Miss Shyla - you are the best partner in exploring the forest and mountains that I can imagine. Every morning, you are enthusiastic to get out into the cold with me. Your enthusiasm helps me to head outside even when it is bitterly cold.

You seem to love our sunrise photography sessions. Did you notice that you had a black canine chasing you the other morning?

Even when we see 150 elk nearby, you stay by my side. This photo is only one small section of the herd.

You even stay by my side in blizzard-like conditions like we had yesterday morning.

And you watch the snowy elk even when they are very nearby without even considering chasing them.

Quite simply, you make every day brighter, even when the snow is falling so hard that visibility is almost zero. I love having our mornings together. Thanks, sweet Shyla.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - Caterwauling by a Mountain Lion

In the recent travels of the female mountain lion who was looking for a mate, she came very close to our house around mid-morning on a weekend. My cam captured some rare daytime footage. This was the last sighting of her before she left our neck of the woods.

She clearly wasn't happy to be so close to people. She trotted away (unlike the usual cat saunter), and she didn't visit any nearby scent posts.
I sure hope that she has kittens!

I made a video of her best bouts of caterwauling. It's short, and you might enjoy hearing her amazing voice. It overjoys me that we have cats like this female lion in our forest.

I am linking up to Feline Friday and Nature Friday Blog Hops.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thankful Thursday - For the Winter Beauty

Yesterday morning was painfully cold but gloriously beautiful with fresh snow covering the pine trees. We headed to gaze at the Continental Divide but I happened to look over my shoulder as we rolled to the lookout point. The sun was just rising.
The wicked wind was whipping from the west, and it caused snow to fly through the air, glittering in the light of the rising sun. The dramatic beauty took my breath away.

It was hard to stand and look at the mountains because the wind was so cold and powerful. It was worth it, though.

After the sun was fully up, Shyla and I played in the snow. It was our first fresh snow in quite a while, and it was welcome!

Shyla surveyed our world. She didn't sit on that exposed perch for long, though. Even she was cold.
She and I feel endless gratitude that we live in such a wild and stunning place. It may be extremely cold in that wicked wind but the freedom to run and the beauty of nature makes up for it.

We are linking up to the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.