Our Black Dog is an endlessly happy guy. It's impossible not to smile along with him.
Our Black Dog is a very content dog.
those who have been following along with Black Dog Sundays, he will be
having tests done at the end of this week to try to figure out why his
red blood cell count is so low. In the meantime, we are planning to
enjoy these summer days with him.
We'll be taking a short blogging break and will return later this week.
I can't help myself. I love the yellow flowers. Shyla and I play in them every morning. These are my favorite days of the year.
This morning, I was having breakfast on the deck, another thing that I love about this time of the year. As usual, I had the sliding screen door open by about a foot so that Shyla could go in and out as she pleased. When she was lying inside, I saw a striped rodent zip past me and into the house. A chipmunk!
I quickly moved Shyla to another room and closed up that room to contain the chipmunk. By the time the Runner and I returned to look for the chipmunk, he was nowhere in sight. We searched, with no luck whatsoever. The Runner smartly suggested that I go get Shyla because she'd find him. She came into the room, did not seem to smell a rodent, and began playing with her toy, Elmo.
We humans thought that maybe the chipmunk had gone back outside. We waited a few minutes. Shyla finally left Elmo to sniff a corner of the room. The chipmunk was under the baseboard heater in that corner. Shyla chased him back outside. Crisis averted! Shyla was the nosework hero.
Here's my girl this morning in the field of yellow.
It is rare that I get footage from a trail cam that makes me laugh out loud. This one is of Blackie, the yearling bear cub who is on her own this summer. Family breakup was about a month ago, and she seems to be doing wonderfully.
Since family breakup, it has become absolutely clear that the black cub is a female, and the brown cub is a male. That means that "Blackie" will be sticking around! She will probably adopt some part of her mother's territory. I have started calling her "May Belle". It's partly in homage to the first sow who I knew well (about a decade ago) who I named "Mabel". This cub is almost certainly related to Mabel.
So, May Belle checked out a mountain lion scent mark but she put her own twist on her visit to this spot. I hope that you enjoy this short bit of footage as much as I did.
I think that she was a little embarrassed when she saw the camera. She checked it out - perhaps thinking "Oh no, I hope that wasn't recorded. It's so embarrassing!".
The female mountain lion who killed a deer on the edge of a meadow was continuing her daytime travels up to the day that she killed the deer. I am guessing that she killed the deer in daylight. With people nearby, that was a stunning move. (Before you get worried, let me say that she seems to have stopped her daytime travels now... having achieved her goal).
This is a fave trail cam spot for me. It's a small clearing about 30 yards from a trail. It's not a busy trail but it's one that I use frequently. The clearing is not visible from the trail but it is possible for an animal to see/hear movement on the trail from the clearing.
She entered the clearing with her nose down. I think that she was sniffing a bobcat scrape. It's also been a scrape (scent marking) site for lions in the past.
Very quickly, something caught her attention out toward the trail.
As she watched or listened. She decided to sit next to the tree. She sat there for almost two minutes.
Then, she got concerned enough to depart quickly. My cam only got this moment in photo form. It was restarting the video recording at that instant.
Just a couple of days later, the lion visited another popular lion site in the early evening. It is also close to a trail. I loved how the bright sky behind her turned her into a silhouette.
It was near here that she eventually found a mate. But first, she killed the deer in the meadow. A busy lion...
Check out the video if you have time. It's very zen to see this lion moving so slowly and calmly. She knows that she's the queen of the forest.
For Hachi's lifetime, we've had someone help with cleaning every couple of weeks. She, or other workers in the house, completely freak him out. They are very nice people but Hachi has not been able to accept that outsiders might come into the house and roam freely as they work. His response has been to bark hysterically and not ever calm down - even if the people are in the house all day long.
To give you an idea of how bad it has been, we've gone so far as to use a sedative to help him get through days with outsiders working in the house.
When the pandemic started, we canceled every outsider coming into the house... until last week. After more than 3 months of no outsiders in the house, someone spent last Wednesday here.
Drum roll please.... Hachi was fine with it. He spent the day up in the Runner's loft office, and he was quiet the whole time. I thought that maybe he was "shut down" (i.e., scared but not expressing it) but he definitely was not. He had a happy play session with me in the midst of it and then after the person was gone.
Maybe the long break from having visitors stress him helped. Or maybe he's starting to learn.
Now is the moment to remind myself that this is not a linear process. Hachi may not be as fine with the next outsider in the house. However, this week's breakthrough gives me hope.
As these photos show, Shyla and Hachi still love to play when we can find a time and place of solitude to cut them loose.
Our Black Dog continues to think that I'm 10 feet tall. I have to keep making sounds to remind him that I'm way down on the ground along with him. When we play in the flowers, I often see this look which is directed about 8 feet over my head.
Our Black Dog has been lagging a bit this week. We had his hematocrit (red blood cell count) tested, and that gave us an explanation. It's much too low for a dog who lives at high elevation. Our vet will consult with R's oncologist to figure out a course of action. We may need some more testing - because one worry is that he has another tumor. The first indication of his spleen tumor was a low hematocrit.
Knowing that he lacks red blood cells, it's not surprising that he's been low on energy during our evening hikes, sometimes even digging in his heels and refusing to go further. So, I've hesitated to ask him to visit the yellow flowers with me.
Finally, last evening, I asked the Runner to give R and me a 15 minute head start on the evening hike. I thought that we'd find a nearby patch of flowers to play in. But, lo and behold, R was peppy and happily walked all the way to my favorite yellow flowers. Yipee!!!!!
I was so glad that R could rally and enjoy some flower time with me. I told him jokes while we lay in the flowers, and he looked at me dubiously. If anyone overheard my end of our conversations in the flowers, they'd think that I was insane. They'd be right but it's a happy kind of crazy - Black Dog Crazy!
A dog like our Black Dog brings out the best in everyone around him, including me.
My morning bike ride with Shyla is often my favorite part of my day. We get out early, and the sun shines on us. The yellow flowers are blooming like crazy. We have so much fun together - two girls who are best friends!
We often take a break to watch birds. Shyla is so patient, lying next to my bike in the shade. Watching me take photos must be as exciting as watching paint dry. Perhaps she likes this break in the cool grass. This is a Flicker who seemed to wave at us from high in an aspen tree!
It's been such a slow process for Shyla to gain confidence that I have a tendency to take her happiness for granted. I remember when her ears were consistently pinned back because she was terrified. Not anymore.
I love this girl like crazy. From our morning bike rides to our daily snuggles, she's the best friend in the world.
Not all of the cool stuff at a deer carcass involves large mammals. While the animals ate the deer that was recently killed by a mountain lion, some bird behavior was super cool.
A Turkey Vulture showed up at the kill along with the magpies, ravens, and crows. A Turkey Vulture is many times bigger than a magpie so the magpies resorted to sneaky tricks to get the bigger bird to leave. They pestered him by pulling on his tail feathers. We saw this once before when magpies pulled on the tail feathers of a Golden Eagle at an elk carcass this winter.
A courageous magpie sneaked behind the Turkey Vulture and pulled on a tail feather. Look closely - you can actually see it happening here.
After that, the vulture was paranoid about the magpies. He repeatedly tried to scare them away by flapping his wings.
This pestering seemed to work. The vulture didn't eat as much of the carcass because he was watching the magpies, and it seemed like he finally departed to get away from the magpie pests!
The more that I watch magpies, the more I like them. They are feisty creatures.
At the same scene, two ravens seemed to do a "bow and click" dance. It looked synchronized which made me think at first that they were friends. But, it turned a little antagonistic. One of them flew away while one remained to eat.
I think that it's super cool that birds can work out their differences in such ritualized non-physical ways.
Sights like this one make me ridiculously happy. A trail, green grass, flowers, and the mountains! This is why June is my favorite month of the year.
When we get into meadows, birds are fluttering around everywhere. I think that this one is a wren.
In those same meadows, the flowers are literally brilliant. These Shooting Stars will be finished soon so I'm trying to enjoy them while they last.
And then, there's my Shyla in the meadows. Both of us smile while she gallops through the flowers.
I am so filled with gratitude for the springtime world around me. The animals are endlessly intriguing at this time of year, which keeps me very busy. The birds are busy raising their young. And the flowers are singing!
Happy June! My gratitude for this world is endless.
What a few weeks of mountain lion activity! Last week, our female mountain lion killed a doe on the edge of a meadow. The crazy thing was that it was less than 50 yards from a cabin and a couple of houses. I looked at the site, and my guess was that she would not come back to the kill because it was too close to humans. I was wrong.
I set up a cam by the carcass and waited to see what would happen. Indeed, the lion came back. It was early - before 10 PM - so people were still awake nearby. This lion must have been very hungry.
She ate for less than 30 minutes, and then she began to cover the carcass with pine needles. She departed before 10:30PM, perhaps heading off to another cached meal or to hunt.
She came back again around 3:30AM to eat for another half hour. Then, she did something that surprised me. As she prepared to depart, she walked about 10 yards toward the houses so that she was looking out over a meadow. Then, she caterwauled!
That was when I began to think that my interpretation of why she'd been out in daylight within one small area for weeks was wrong. I've only seen female lions caterwaul when they are in estrus and are looking for a mate. Perhaps that is why she's been behaving oddly.
As I watched the video, I figured that the action was over for the night. Again, I was wrong. Two bears showed up just as it was getting light. I was so shocked that I initially thought that they were two male bears.In the photo below, Mohawk, our main sow, has just dragged the carcass to the upper left of the photo. Her beau, One-Eyed Jack, is in the foreground. There was a lot of vocalizing as the two of them arrived at the carcass - and it was pretty aggressive!
Mohawk is one tough sow. She told brawny One-Eyed Jack to go find some scraps while she worked on the bulk of the carcass. And he complied! (Notice the lack of eye shine in his left eye socket.).
That was a crazy night of events. We had a caterwauling mountain lion eating very close to houses. Next, an amorous ursine couple showed up to have a romantic breakfast together.
Hachi had an uneventful week - and that's a good thing! We humans think that he's in a good place these days.
We are slowly but surely learning the rules of life for a dog like Hachi. He loves routine, and it's best to stick with the routine if we can. But, if we want him to adapt to something new, do it as gradually as we can. Last week, we turned his world upside down by accident when the Runner couldn't take Hachi on his normal morning jaunt. So, instead, I took Hachi for a bike ride into the meadow where we played in the flowers. Hachi's head seemed to spin with the stress of novelty.
This week, so that I could play with Hachi in the flowers, we all met in the meadow during Hachi's morning run, and then the Runner left him with me for 15 minutes. That worked much better! It had elements of Hachi's normal routine with one unusual part - playing with me in the meadow - and then his normal route resumed immediately after that.
He still was a bit stressed but nowhere near as badly as last week.
It may sound crazy that we have to think so carefully about Hachi's routine. Indeed, it feels crazy to us. However, we are learning that it's worth being careful. Slow and steady is the best way to help Hachi to change.
All is well in Hachi's world this week. We love him, and that's the most important thing.
Our Black Dog doesn't look backwards to yearn for what he had in earlier years. I, on the other hand, sometimes do. I wistfully wish for bygone days of taking a quick spin into the meadow with R by my side. I'd lay down my bike near the flowers, and we'd play. With his loss of sight, it's not so easy anymore for R or for those who guide him.
I need to learn from him. He's so joyful about what he can do. He enjoys each moment, one at a time, without looking backward or forward. He doesn't mourn what is gone or worry about what the future might bring.
In that spirit, I push everything extraneous out of my mind when I have a few minutes with our Black Dog in the flowers. He and I smile and even laugh together. Time stands still.
It is starting. The season of my favorite yellow blooms. Yesterday, there was a small patch of these flowers blooming, and today the patch had at least doubled in size. Shyla and I were out early today to enjoy playing in them.
A Western Meadowlark perched nearby and sang his gorgeous song while we played. I found a video to share of his flute like voice.
Then, Shyla and I rode off to the shadier side of the mountain. I moved a camera to a spot that a mountain lion passed in the snow several times this past winter. I tracked him to this spot but didn't have a cam to put there. Finally, I had a camera available to move into this rocky corridor. The trail cam took a photo of us while we were working. Shyla was watching my back while I checked out the camera placement.
I feel so lucky to have these days with Shyla. She is such a sweet soul, and most people who see her on the trails immediately recognize her gentle nature. When the person is gentle like her, she's overjoyed to make friends. I am a fortunate human to have Shyla as my best friend.
Mohawk is our main sow. Black bear sows mate with multiple males every spring. She was with Tiny a couple of weeks ago, and I've discovered that she found another very large male bear.
I've seen this guy before but I never have found one recognizable feature to help me to identify him. It turns out that he is missing his left eye (probably due to an injury). You'll see that his eye is missing in a close-up of his face in a future video where he interacts with Tiny. Due to his missing eye, I dubbed him "One-eyed Jack".
One-eyed Jack started out a recent morning soaking in the tub. He soaked and soaked for about 10 minutes.
He took short breaks from his bath to mark a nearby tree.
It seemed like a wonderful start to his day.
One-eyed Jack's day got even better. About an hour after he finished his bath, he returned to this spot with Mohawk! She led him around the forest for a couple of days, like she does all of her beaus. Mohawk is definitely the leader in these relationships.
My cams saw that they spent at least two days together. This is such a fascinating time of year for observing bears. Check out the video if you have time.
I think that it is so helpful to think about what I am grateful for each week. Many weeks, my gratitude is for this glorious place that we call home.
This morning, the remnants of the winter storm lingered here. The snow was gone but the clouds over the mountains were winter clouds - a white puffy pillow that hugged the peaks. Above those white clouds, dark ones hung. This is a typical winter sight - very unusual in June. I love how majestic the mountains look when cloaked like this.
After stopping to gaze at the mountains, I rode on about 100 yards with Shyla by my side when a flicker of bright colors caught my eye. We don't have many brilliantly colored birds here so I knew it was a Western Tanager.
At first, I watched only him but then an olive colored puffy bird flew to him. A baby tanager!
As I think that the father bird wanted, his flashy colors drew my attention away from the baby as he fluttered and flew.
I've taken courses with an expert bird photographer so I was almost ready in the few seconds that I had before he flew. My depth of field was pretty good but the tips of the wings still blurred a little because he moved them so fast relative to my shutter speed. I kind of like the effect. The feathers have a wave-like pattern.
That interlude was an incredible treat. I see Tanagers a few times per summer but I am rarely ready with my camera before they fly away.
For me, having the mountains, birds, and other wildlife right outside my door is an astounding gift. And being able to enjoy it with Shyla by my side makes it like heaven to me.