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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Signs of Spring, including a Bear Den Video

As human society is grinding to a halt, springtime is unfolding right on schedule. It is comforting to see that our wildlife behaving like they do every spring.

Mountain bluebirds are making forays up to our mountain zone. They are occupying the areas where they will eventually nest. Their nesting meadows still have a deep covering of snow so the bluebirds come and go. We see them up here on warmer days but they retreat to lower elevation on colder days.

Some bears are waking up. These bear tracks that were a couple of days old by the time I saw them. I am hearing that a bear has begun raiding birdfeeders so it's time to bring them in or bear-proof them.

And, based on past years, we know that the bear cubs born this winter inside dens are beginning to explore the world just outside their den entrances. At the den that I monitored in 2016, April 10 was the day that the cubs escaped their mom's grasp and began exploring.

I think that the videos from that year will help us all to keep smiling. It is incredible to me to see the miracle of these cubs in the deep forest where there is so much snow. I'm going to share the videos sequentially this spring. Today's video is from the very beginning of the cubs' explorations outside the den.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Another good week for Hachi! That is pretty stunning because Hachi thrives on schedules and having life be predictable. As everyone on Earth knows, all schedules have been obliterated in the past weeks.

One thing that we know is critical for Hachi's happiness is our evening hike. We rarely miss it.

His play with Shyla seems to lighten his spirits and make him ready to snooze for the evening.

They bound through very deep cement-like spring snow. It slows all of us down but Hachi and Shyla are still speedsters.

That snow will fuel meadow wildflowers in the spring. Imagine a carpet of golden flowers below Hachi in this photo. That vision keeps me hopeful at this time of year.

We continued counterconditioning with Hachi this week. He is now so chill about having his nails clipped that it's hard to imagine that we had to muzzle him for it a few short weeks ago. It is SO rewarding to see progress like this.

We are now devoting more time to using counterconditioning to help him with other kinds of handling. For now, our focus is manipulating his hind end, doing things like pushing to get him to roll his hips to the other side. He's improving already. The goal is that he's eventually okay with us moving him around as we need to for grooming/veterinary stuff.
In other news, Hachi is making more dog and human friends on our trails. He is beginning to make the attitude switch where he thinks that new people and their dogs may be fun rather than automatically assuming that he should be worried about them. It is wonderful that he has new dog friends to play with.

These days, I occasionally allow myself to daydream that there will be a day when the early days with Hachi will be a hazy memory because he'll be almost normal. The fact that these little visions cross my mind shows my optimism.

A good week with Hachi makes us smile.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

As our Black Dog has recovered from surgery, he's regained his enthusiasm for hiking with the pack. It's been quite a few months since he's had the spark to want to hike so we are happy.

We did a pack hike as a snow storm moved into the area.

His siblings were running around like lunatics. I am so happy that we live in a safe place for them to run.

Now that R is completely blind, we almost always keep him on leash. He and I lagged behind for a few photos. I love the alertness and energy in his demeanor. It was missing for quite a while.

This week, I also finally got around to trying out his "halo" for blind dogs. We bought this just before his diagnosis so it was sitting idle for quite a while.

The idea is that the plastic "halo" bumps into things before R's face or head hit them. He is standing next to some cabinets that he frequently bangs into. The halo did its job, and R didn't mind wearing it. It's a good idea!
R gained 1.5 lbs this week, just today!!!! We hope that the weight sticks around. His rations have been steadily increasing which he loves! We'd like to see another 2-3 lbs on his frame.

Every day with our Black Dog is a gift. Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Shyla Saturday

The desert is a happy place for me and Shyla. Shyla regularly howls with joy when we are there.

We may not get to the warm and sunny desert anytime soon due to the pandemic but we're doing our best to appreciate what we do have.
We are so thankful to live someplace where we can have fun and soak up nature despite the pandemic. I know how lucky we are.

Dogs excel at appreciating whatever life offers them. Shyla is no exception. No matter what, she is joyful about heading out for a romp in the forest. She bounds through the snow and smiles the whole way.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday: Male lion on the track of our caterwauling female

I've shared a couple of loud videos (here and here) of a female mountain lion who caterwauled her way around our forest in February. Usually, that means that she is in estrus and trying to call in potential mates.

 I did pick up footage of a male mountain lion who went around to most of the same spots where she'd been. He was clearly a male because he was leaving "scrapes" made by his huge hind paws and he had what one of my friends calls "the fuzzy dice" under his tail. When you get a peek under the tail of a female, you see nothing but the anus. A male has a clear dark pair of enlarged spots. I don't have a photo of that but watch for those peeks in the video.

Here he is marking, kicking back pine needles with his hind paws.

He departed after marking. I tried to track him to see where he went from here but he balanced on a knife's edge of a rocky ridge with no snow. As far as I could tell, he was leaping from one melted boulder to another on an extremely steep slope - so I couldn't track him

A couple of things amaze me about the travels of both lions. They are never far from civilization. You might think that these spots are far away from humans - but they are on the edges of where people live and hike. Second, I am amazed by how well they can smell signs of each other. This male was following the female a couple of weeks later. She was doubtless out of estrus by the time that he was there but he was still on her route.

In the video, you'll see that the lion lies down on the ground and then starts to eat something at about the 1:16 mark. He is eating from where an older scrape is. The surface is pine needles that is doubtless permeated with the scent of multiple lions. Do you have any idea what he might be eating? I am asking because you all taught me that cats, including bobcats, like to eat grass. I'm hoping that you might have ideas about this!

Check out the video if you have time!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Starting about a year ago, I decided to try to photograph the full moon as it set over our mountains every month. To do this, I have to ride my fat bike over the snow in the dark to a point where I have an unobstructed view of the mountains to our west.

That task sounds so easy when I type it but it isn't. I have floundered in deep snow some months, just barely making it up to the lookout point in time. One month, I was too late. Then, sometimes, it was absolutely freezing cold, and my Raynaud's syndrome caused my fingers to go completely numb. That meant that I couldn't control my camera very well, and the photographs suffered.

On bad mornings, the Divide was completely obscured by clouds, making my early rise and dark ride useless.

The absolute worst mornings were the ones when the moon was visible but my camera skills were not up to the task so I came away with no decent images. I was so disappointed on those mornings.

So, all of that means that I am absolutely filled with gratitude for each full moon setting photograph that turned out well. This is one of those.
On this Thankful Thursday, I am filled with gratitude for the beauty of the full moon and our mountains, and that this image turned out well!

I hope that all of you are healthy and finding reasons to smile even in the midst of this global disaster. Both our state and our county have ordered us to stay home. We are fortunate that our house is surrounded by forest and empty space so we can venture outdoors.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Magical Clearing in the Forest

Small clearings in the forest can be magnets for wildlife. I found one that attracted a huge variety of wildlife.

Our winter elk herd passed through it regularly. This was in May, at the end of a long and difficult winter. They seemed thin and tired. But, don't worry - the grass was about to green up, and they'd get happier very fast!

Where there are elk, there are those who stalk the elk. This guy gave my cam a close up examination.

Sadly, a person demolished the cam, and I haven't put another one there since that happened. But, in the meantime, I wanted to share the magic of the clearing with you in video form.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

What a weird week since the last Hachi Chronicle. Hachi loves social distancing, which involves being able to go in the forest all by ourselves.

A few weeks ago, someone asked what Hachi looks like when he's relaxed and playful. We get to see his "Happy Hachi" look while he plays with his sister.

Soon after I took the photo above, a huge storm bore down on us. We got 2' of snow.

Hachi and his sister had a blast together plowing through the snow.

Prancing through the snow!

He and his sister searched for places where the snow wasn't so deep. One place was on our driveway, where they had a wonderful time playing the day after the storm.
We continued with counterconditioning to help Hachi with his fear of nail clipping. He's doing really well. I clipped all of his nails over the past week. A big step forward! Along the way, we realized that other "handling" is an issue for him, like us trying to reposition him on a bed for easier nail clipping. He snarled at me once for that type of handling so we'll be working on that too in the coming week.

Loving Hachi has taught me a lot of empathy. He is afraid, and that is what leads to his bad reactions like when I tried to reposition him for nail clipping. Rather than feeling angry at him, I feel even more determined to help him with his fears.

We love our Hachi.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Throughout his life, our Black Dog has been a big hearted and affectionate dog. That was so important when terrified Shyla joined our family. She was so fearful, and the adjustment to a new home wasn't easy for her.

Just a few months after she joined us, I found our Duo in a sun puddle together. They looked warm and content. I took out the camera to capture the heart-warming scene as they lay together. Unexpectedly, R started sniffing Shyla's nose. She looked surprised!

Then, he kissed her, and she kissed him back.

After all that loving stuff, he asked her to play. She agreed after she realized that he meant no harm with his paw.
As I gazed at those photos, I was so filled with love for R and gratitude for him. I am so glad that we get to have more time with him.

He has the most happy heart of anyone who I know.
Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla and I were out in the forest together as a monster snow storm moved into our area. I was freezing cold as we were pelted with spring snow but she was happy to snooze on a boulder. She was so relaxed that I had trouble convincing her to open her eyes. The forest is her happy and chill place.
As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we have started Shyla on meds that will hopefully reduce her anxiety. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much effect yet but her dose is low to avoid affecting her epilepsy. Even with the meds, she still gets nervous around people who aren't me or the Runner (so she thinks that social distancing is wonderful). The only good effect so far is that her separation anxiety is somewhat better. These meds take time to work so we'll be patient.

Along with snow, the storm brought fog and clouds to ground level making for murky views. We saw a small cluster of elk, barely visible even though they were close. Shyla is a star around wildlife so she stayed by my side without even thinking about bothering them.

After the storm was all done, the snow was very deep - easily up to my thighs. Shyla is our snow dog, and she seemed to love plowing through it.

She also loved playing with her brother in it.
Every day is better with Shyla in it. Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Feline and Nature Friday - A Caterwauling Mountain Lion

You might remember that a female mountain lion was caterwauling under a big pine tree for days on end in my previous lion post. In the following days, she continued her loud vocalizing, sending all sorts of crazy sounds emanating throughout the forest. She visited the same spot over and over again. My guess is that she had a big meal cached nearby and was stopping to call on her way to and from it.
Today's video will share this female's behavior as she broadcast her presence. I am overjoyed to have captured this footage - it is so rare to see a lion behaving so naturally.

I made a video of the travels of this magnificent feline. Be sure to keep your sound on so that you can hear her voice.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thankful Thursday - For R's News!

We are incredibly thankful that R's spleen has been reexamined, and they still think that the tumor was benign! He won the lottery!

His recovery continues. He loves the process of trying to gain weight. What Lab doesn't love to eat? And, we all are hoping that his body starts making some new red blood cells soon after his splenic bleeding ran him down for so long. Our vet tends to be a worrier but she is content to give these things more time. So, we'll do that while having fun along the way.
We are joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop because we are so thankful!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Dawn after a recent storm...

My Shyla running in the snow...

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dazzled by the Beauty of it All

Don't the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you're waiting for the sky to fall
The next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all

Bruce Cockburn

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had a good week with lots of fun and a peaceable attitude.

I cannot over-emphasize how much his friendship with his sister enriches his life.

They run and run and run. And we smile as they do it. So, it's good for the rest of us too!
We've done counter-conditioning every day with him, particularly focusing on clipping his nails. We started with me touching his paws and him simultaneously getting treats from the Runner. The next step was that I'd show him the nail clippers, and he got treats while it was within sight. The third step was both at once - I'd hold his paw and show him the nail clippers while the Runner delivered carefully timed treats. Finally, tonight, I clipped a single nail with no reaction from Hachi!!!!! Woo hoo - progress!!!!

Counter-conditioning is as slow and boring as watching paint dry. A huge key is not to rush it. The small victory of clipping one nail with Hachi happily eating treats made it seem worthwhile to work so patiently with him.
I know that this roller coaster ride of Hachi's fears will probably continue but we come out of each scary part with a better understanding of how to help him.

We love our Hachi.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is a happy guy. When I head outside with him alone, we have fun. He really loves the snow. Yes, it's still snowing, and it will be for a while - much to the delight of our Black Dog.
He is very eager to go for a short daily run with the Runner these days. It's always his choice as to whether he wants to go. Occasionally, he doesn't want to but he's been leading the way in recent days.

On the health front, we have no results from the second pathology study of his spleen. I sure hope that we hear soon. We are a bit worried because R is continuing to lose weight despite eating an entire extra meal every day. Now, we are trying replacing some of his home cooked food with very calorie dense kibble. We have a phone appointment with his vet on Wednesday. They are trying to avoid in-person appointments due to the pandemic. It's not a good time to have serious veterinary issues but we totally support their efforts.

He seems so content to have the pack all together in these days of "social distancing".
We will feel better when we can put some weight on his bones and when we resolve the nagging issues.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!