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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!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Shyla Saturday

If it weren't for Shyla, I never would have discovered how much I love photographing dog silhouettes. Shyla has mastered the art of striking a dramatic pose better than any dog who I know.
This is from our most recent trip to the desert. I learn so much on each trip. I am anxiously awaiting our next visit to the world of mesas and buttes!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Nature Friday - A Bluebird and a Wildlife Bonanza

The meadows are alive with birds while the forests are barely waking up.

In the meadows, the mountain bluebirds are industriously working on nests inside of tree cavities. The couples hang out in close proximity to each other.

The nest building duties seem to fall to the female. She busily flies back and forth, collecting nest materials as her mate looks on. She is a gorgeous bird!

In contrast to the meadows where spring is in full swing, the forests are barely waking up. In the midst of towering pines, the snow melted only about a week ago. Snow drifts linger in the midst of the matted down ground that has just been uncovered. In one such place, I had a trail camera all winter long. I recently visited it to see what animals had passed it over the winter. I was quite amazed by the variety of animals from huge mammals to small birds. It was an active place!

Check out the short video if you have time. And don't be startled - there is a surprise moment in it!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thankful Thursday - For Pre-dawn Adventures

I love full moons, as many of you know. When a full moon sets over our mountains, it is simply gorgeous. May actually featured another super moon, so I was excited about seeing an extra large full moon.

I always get up super early to try to see the full moon set. With the early sunrise of May, I set my alarm for 4:30 AM this month. Because the moon sets further to the south near the June solstice, I rode to a different viewpoint that allowed longer views to the south.

It's a big climb up to the viewpoint. I pedaled hard through the murky darkness, not wanting to arrive after the moon had already set. As I got close, I could see the clouds drifting near the moon. I really didn't want to be late after awakening so ridiculously early.

When I arrived, the moon was indeed behind the clouds but the clouds were moving. So, I thought that there was a chance that it would peek through before it set. I set up my tripod, got my exposures dialed in, and waited. While I waited, a Hermit Thrush landed near me and started singing. His song is my favorite on Earth so the morning was totally worth it as I listened to him in the pre-sunrise world.

As he kept serenading, the moon did peek through.
To say that I was happy about my experience that morning would be an understatement. I always wonder about my sanity when I set my alarm super early for these outings. However, I rarely regret them.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for helping me to keep smiling.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Signs of Spring

Tree swallow couples working out their differences

Pasqueflowers reaching for the sky

And, most years, pups playing on Shyla's Mesa in the desert

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Bear Dancing Begins!

The bears are waking up slowly this year. Only two males have been marking trees so far. This is our young bear who seems to have settled on our area as his home.

This is one of the most popular marking trees in our neck of the woods. Whenever you see a leaning tree like this in areas where bear lives, check the lower side of the trunk for fur. Bears adore marking them!

You have seen our biggest bear ("Tiny") mark this tree in the past. He can reach even the highest part when he's sitting. That gives you perspective on how small this bear is by comparison.

He is sniffing to find out who the competition is for upcoming mating season. He probably won't like the news.

He gradually sniffed higher on the trunk.

Then he was standing at full height sniffing the marks left by the big bears. Don't worry little guy - you'll grow up to be as big as them someday - although Tiny may always tower over you.
As a side note, Tiny has not appeared yet this year. I am preparing myself for him not to show up. In my mind, the odds of him surviving this past winter were about 50-50 due to his very serious paw injury. If he died in his sleep in his den, that would not have been a bad way to go. That's the ending that I'd wish for our grand ursine patriarch. We will see.

On a lighter note, it is fun to watch these bears mark and sniff the trees. Check out the video if you have time!

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Just about a year ago, we had a really big snow storm. It seemed to be a tradition to get several feet of snow in mid-May. So far this May, I don't see a big storm in the forecast. As much as I am ready to move away from winter at this point, a lot of wet snow is perfect nourishment for our world at this time of year.

Also a year ago, Hachi was still a puppy. He was no longer a helpless tiny puppy but he was still very goofy.

It was around this time last year that we realized that Hachi's fears were not going to disappear spontaneously. We got him an appointment with a behavioral vet, and we separated him from R. It was an extremely stressful time because we knew that major decisions were looming on the horizon.

Part of why I started the "Hachi Chronicle" back then was so that others could follow along on our journey. We faced the same extraordinarily upsetting decisions as others with dogs like him. We chose to rehab him because we wanted to give him a chance at a life and because we already loved him, warts and all. It's been a year of anxiety and worry because his outbursts upset us and his extreme fear breaks our hearts.

Over this year, I have come to respect people who commit to an extremely fearful and reactive dog. Some of them do it over and over again - and they are selfless and admirable people in my eyes. Prior to Hachi, I was one of those dog owners who might have scowled at the owner of a reactive dog who scared my dogs and me. Now, I get it. Those owners are doing the best that they can. They don't want their dog to behave that way. They are probably mortified when their dog has an outburst. And, they have doubtless had to change their lives substantially to give that dog a chance at a life.

I am mortified when Hachi scares people or dogs. He still does it sometimes (barks in a scary way) - because he is afraid of the unknown, including strangers. But the alternative is no life for him - so we will keep working with him.
It's been one heck of a year but I'd make the same decisions all over again. There's a big warm heart inside Hachi. Anyone who gets to see it learns to care about him and even love him.

We sure do love him.