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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

We made it to springtime! It's a huge gift that our Black Dog is here with us after all he went through over the winter.

Yesterday evening, yellow flowers started singing in the meadow. Our Black Dog and I lingered behind the others to enjoy the warmth and beauty.
Some of R's and my favorite times last summer were relaxing in the flowers. I know that R can't see them anymore but I'm sure that he can smell them. I've been waiting for this day. It's a celebration of our Black Dog's indomitable spirit. Seize the day!

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Every morning, Shyla and I get ready to head out on the trails together. She brings me toys to play as I prepare. Years ago, Shyla couldn't play because she was too afraid. Now, she begs me to play!

Then, we roll out the door onto trails that look like this. Heaven.

We go look at the meadows where those brilliant yellow flowers will bloom soon, and they aren't blooming yet. So, we play in other places, still featuring the snowy mountains and blue sky. Shyla waved hello to all of you from a favorite perch.

The bird season is still fascinating me, as our newly arrived migrants are getting their nests ready and fluttering around in the sunshine. Shyla knows where I like to stop to watch them, and she settles in the shade next to my bike to keep an eye on me while my eye is pressed to the viewfinder.

The tree swallows appear to have had a problem with their first eggs (perhaps recent sub-freezing temperatures hurt them), and they're making more. Suddenly I felt guilty for invading their privacy.

Then, we roll onward. Today, we stopped at a new viewpoint where I photographed my beautiful girl.
Shyla has reached that sweet age where she and I mostly move in sync. I rarely have to ask her twice to do something (unless I'm calling her away from elk poop!).

We still do clicker training regularly. Today, I was going to show you how I taught her to get up on a new platform dog bed and lie down. However, it took her less than 30 seconds to figure it out so it wasn't very interesting! I love having a dog who can read my mind. That happens with years together.

I love this girl. I feel so lucky that we've had so many years together, romping on our trails side by side!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Tiny and Mohawk come visit me at home!

Last weekend, I was sitting quietly at my computer looking over memory cards from my trail cameras, contemplating Mohawk's choice of male bears. There seem to be 6 or 7 male bears all looking for females in our neck of the woods. And, as of now, Mohawk seems to be the only female on the mating trail.

I knew that she and Tiny were together two years ago, and I believe that he was the father of at least one of her cubs. I felt sure that I'd get to find out who she linked up with because male and female bears spend several days together when they find each other.

I was totally engrossed in my computer when I heard a thump from outside. I looked and there were two bears outside my window! I had a camera with a long lens next to me, and I grabbed it. I got the female's butt as she galloped away, although my focus was accidentally on an aspen tree instead of her.

A large male was standing nearby, under our bear-proof birdfeeders. I got better photos of him.

I thought "TINY" when I saw him! My only question was that injury to his right ear which I didn't think that I'd seen before. In fact, I think that it's really fresh. You can't see it in this photo but he also has a small injury to his snout. He must have had to fight for this sow, who I later confirmed was Mohawk! I'm glad that he won - because there are some other pretty big bears out there this year. I worry about him with his lack of mobility due to his injury.

My trail cam pointed under the birdfeeder gave a more complete story of what happened. Mohawk arrived, and gazed up at the bird feeders that are way over her head.

She sniffed the ground, and her trademark mohawk showed up along her neck.

She gazed up again, wishing to eat those bird seeds.

Then the thump happened. I don't know what it was. I appeared in the window, and Mohawk started to leave as Tiny appeared.

Then, they both realized that the Runner was outside and nearby. They looked at him. He never saw them.

Mohawk fled, and Tiny turned to walk away. You can see Mohawk's head up above Tiny's butt in this photo.
I am so happy that I got to see these two in person this year. They are my two favorite bears. I did have a glimmer of worry about them so brazenly going near houses but most people around here are bear-savvy. To be honest, seeing them in person made my bear-watching year complete.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thankful Thursday

My gratitude for the warmth and green of springtime is endless. It was a long winter, and that makes springtime all the sweeter.

We've had a plethora of migratory birds this spring. One of my favorites is the Yellow Rumped Warbler. He has yellow splashes on his head, chin, and rump! He catches my eye almost daily. There is nothing drab about this guy.

Of course, I never take our mountain bluebirds for granted. They have set up their nests and appear to be tending to them now. I love these birds!

Another green gift is the veggies growing in my new greenhouse. We are eating only home grown lettuce now. It is stunning how much better it tastes (to me) than store-bought. We always pick just minutes before we eat it. I have "fancier" stuff in the works for the summer in the greenhouse but those plants are still small!

There's lots of green out on the trails too. It may not be obvious to those of you from warmer climes how much greener the grass is now but it is!

And, the aspens. Oh how I love them!

I think that Shyla loves springtime too. I sure do love our time on the trails together.
There's so much in our natural world to be thankful for!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Fairy Slippers

Springtime on a Peak


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trail Cam Surprise - The Cuteness of Marmots

You may remember that I started preparing for a potential coyote den cam last fall. I set up trail cams at a site that ranchers and other locals said that coyotes liked to use to raise their young. I set the cams up so early because coyotes are renowned for noticing small changes in their environment. I wanted them to be used to the cams by this spring when it was time for pups to be born.

I stayed away from the site for weeks after the time when coyote pups were due to be born. Finally, for logistical reasons, I had to go to the cams. As I approached, I noticed marmots all around the den. I thought "that's odd - you'd think that they'd be afraid of coyotes". I stayed still to watch them, and I realized that the underground den must be occupied by marmots this year.

Indeed, I was right. For some reason, the coyotes chose to den elsewhere, and the marmots moved into the den. At first, I was disappointed. Then, I realized that marmots are pretty cool. They are highly social animals living in groups, and they are probably raising young inside that den. They live for a very long time, 15-18 years. That's exceptional for an 8 lb animal.

Marmots are so cute when they play. They are like fat wrestlers who love to stand on their hind paws and face each other down.

Then, one animal ends up on his back. The other lets him back up, and they start all over again.
I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep a cam here to see their young who haven't emerged from the den yet. It's grazing territory, and cattle season is upon us. No matter what, I am nothing but grateful that we had the chance to catch a glimpse of the private lives of these animals.

That's the best part of trail cams - you get to see animals behaving as if no people are watching. In contrast, with a handheld camera, the animal is almost always aware that a person is nearby - and they don't behave naturally.

If you have time, check out this short video of the marmots playing!

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

We have seen a lot of "Happy Hachi" this week. He's exuberant to greet us and then have a play session with me every morning. He always accepts affectionate or playful overtures from us humans. It's really wonderful to see him so happy.

Additionally, he's doing well when we see any of the many people who are unexpectedly popping up on our trails. He's in the process of making a new friend or two - people who are willing to work with us to let Hachi get used to them. There are a few, however, who will never offer to help Hachi get used to them - and I do worry what the behavior of those exceptions prevent Hachi from generalizing that strangers are not scary.

I was not feeling happy when I wrote last week's Hachi Chronicle. This particular combination of three dogs is difficult - and their many quirks were getting to me. First, we have Hachi, who must be separated from the others when indoors to prevent his aggressive acts. That means that we have gates in almost every doorway, and an ex pen in the middle of the main room of the house. We must ascertain where each of the dogs is before going through a gate. Then, we have Shyla, who suffers from separation anxiety that primarily manifests as non-stop barking when she is not able to be with us humans when we're all in the house (due to the logistics of separating the Duo from Hachi). Finally, we have R - who is completely blind and has not figured out how to navigate the house himself. If he wants to move, he barks for help - and we help him.

I don't mean to whine but I wanted you to have a picture of what was frustrating me me when I wrote last week's chronicle. I love each of these dog so much individually but they've proven to be a challenging combination of dogs. We are working on a few things to help them coexist in the house a bit better.
Back to Hachi, it is so rewarding when he has a week like this one. He seems so happy - and that is the best gift that he can give us.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog loves springtime. It is pure happiness to go out into the warm sunshine with him. He loves soaking up rays with his black coat.

Our Black Dog is such an utterly trusting guy. He cannot see anything yet he trusts us with his life whenever we take him outside. We lead him through a veritable obstacle course of rocks, roots, trees, and bushes. He does sometimes refuse to walk on very rough trails but he's more than happy to follow us through pine forests and meadows.
His trust and resilience are the keys to his happiness in this chapter of his life. He's lost many abilities but he doesn't dwell on that. Rather, he finds his happiness in what he can do. He never refuses an invitation to go outdoors with us. His runs and walks seem to feed his soul. And having him with us on our evening hikes feeds our souls.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. We are so lucky to have this dog in our lives.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla and I are loving the start of spring. It's a crazy weather time of year here, ranging from below freezing in the morning to as warm as 65°F some days.

This was one of the cold days. It was freezing and foggy. Shyla was a good sport to pose for me.

What I love about her is how much she revels in every kind of day. This was a far warmer day. It was the first day of panting!

After all that running, she's happy to cover my back during a brief stop to watch the birds. This was an exciting day for the swallows.

They are now incubating their eggs!
On that day, I was so busy taking photos that a coyote could have walked right up to me without me noticing. Thank goodness for Shyla!

After the bird watching, she was back in high gear.
Shyla and I are the perfect match because we both love the outdoors and wearing ourselves out cavorting on the trails. Of course, we have our differences too - like how I want her tight by my side in meadows (for coyote protection) and she wants to search for elk poop. Ah well - every bond has its strengths and weaknesses. The balance is that we have an amazing bond.

It's a dream that every dog, no matter their innate personality, can find a way to have a happy life. I think that Shyla has done just that. Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Bear family from last summer emerges from their den together and healthy!

Our bear family, Mohawk with her two cubs, emerged from the den all together and looking healthy. These cubs are now yearlings, and they probably have only a couple of weeks of hanging out with their mom.

Just as we saw last year, the black cub hung out close to mom and appeared more timid than the brown cub. The black cub and mom arrived at a water hole together. At this moment, the black cub is checking out a bear marking tree. You can see that he's nice and fat. So is mom.

The mom headed straight to the water hole for her first bath in months. This bear (Mohawk) has visited this water hole dozens of times since I first named her back in 2015.

Mohawk and her black cub spent about 12 minutes at the water hole, checking out my cam, and checking out marking trees before they departed. As soon as they walked away, the brown cub appeared. He must have been exploring nearby the entire time. Perhaps you remember his trademark bipedal posture from last year.

I condensed the 12 minutes of video to a much shorter synopsis. It may be our last glimpse of this family all together before mating season begins in earnest so enjoy it!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thankful Thursday

My gratitude for the arrival of springtime is endless. There is green in our world!

This was from a trip to the south in May a couple of years ago. I seemed to spend a lot of my time looking srtaight up toward the sky while standing in the midst of towering aspens - my photo library is full of the images. I guess that the wonder of green leaves has captured my attention yearly!

Most years in May, we get a surprise snow storm, reminding us of who is in charge. Look at how snowy the mountains were as Shyla peeked at me. It will be winter up in the alpine zone for a long time. So far, the sneaky snow storms are not in the forecast.
On this Thankful Thursday, I am so grateful for springtime. I am sitting on my deck as I type this. I can see my greenhouse which is popping with salad greens that we are already able to harvest. The season of warmth and plenty is upon us.

We are linking up with the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Full Moon in March

My girl a few days ago

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Tiny, our biggest black bear, returns!

I had a wonderful surprise on a trail camera a few days ago. Tiny, our biggest Black Bear, survived the winter. In fact, he appeared to have gone into his den with a lot of fat on his frame. He must have gained a huge amount of weight after we last saw him last fall.

He first appeared at a water hole where he has bathed many times since I first started observing him a decade ago. It's a reasonably deep water hole in which normal sized bears take full baths, even dunking their heads under the water. For Tiny, it looked like he was lying in a very shallow puddle. He just rested there for a bit, enjoying the coolness of the water.
When he left the water, he went to a marking tree that is less than 10 feet away. That was when I realized that his right hind limb is not all better (it was injured two years ago). He still marks while sitting, like he started doing about a year ago. If you watch the footage carefully, you can see that he's avoiding pushing on his right hind paw while marking. But, he does walk pretty well. He's learning how to live within his capabilities.

 I have a video of this magnificent bear in action. I hope that you enjoy it!

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

We've been taking our evening hikes deeper in the forests, hoping to avoid all the people who have come out of hibernation all of a sudden. Meeting strangers who don't want to make friends is not among Hachi's fortes.

One evening, the fog was thick and murky. Within the forest, it was almost dark so I used a very slow shutter speed to capture Hachi in the fog. For a young dog like him, anything but the fastest shutter leaves a blur.

I wasn't feeling good that evening so we didn't go far. That was good because a mother mountain lion was a little bit up the trail from us. I believe that she gave birth to kittens in the past couple of weeks. She's been out in non-night hours, perhaps due to the stresses of taking care of her kittens.
I have to admit that I had a rough week with respect to Hachi. It wasn't anything in particular that he did. Rather, it was the constant effort involved in having a dog like him in the family. I love him but... I so wish that I didn't have to constantly open and close baby gates to keep him away from the other dogs. I wish that I didn't have to worry what might surprise him next when we're on the trails. I wish that I could use food to train him, even when his siblings are around. In short, I wish that I didn't have to always be on alert.

I wrote my monthly report to our behavioral vet when the exhaustion had colored my view. Fortunately, we talk with her on the phone this week so I can explain where I was coming from.

I love our Hachi. I think that my feelings simply reflect that it's not easy living with such a damaged dog. After doing some fun stuff with him, the exhaustion washes away and I remember why I love him.
If any of you have experiences from living with a reactive dog that you can share, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

For our Black Dog, life is cruising along. He seems happy and peppy. He love his daily run with his sister and the Runner. Prior to his surgery. he frequently said "no" to running. That never happens now.

He adores his sister. They love playing the game of "balance treats on your nose" side-by-side. Our Black Dog is an imp. Sometimes, as I back away from them, he jumps the "start" word because he wants his treats NOW (see the photo). He makes me laugh. Based on the look on Shyla's face, she can't believe his behavior.

He's getting more confortable with being blind. We still frequently have to lead him from one place to another in the house but we're learning to let R make mistakes and correct them on his own. He's learning from them, and he's making some notable progress in navigating.

Every evening when we prepare for our hike, he makes the journey to the front door all by himself. I know that sounds like a mundane achievement but it's not. He hasn't done that walk by himself in the months since he lost the last of his vision - until this week!

Our Black Dog and his sister love their snuggle time. This is how I often find them when I arrive home.
All is good in the Black Dog world. He's a happy dog, learning to thrive despite his blindness.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!