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Monday, August 31, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi and Shyla absolutely adore our new place. They get multiple romps per day, and their play is hilarious. 

They run circles around us. Chase is the game of the day.

When they catch up to each other, playful wrestling ensues.

I am beginning to think that this place may heal Hachi's heart.

He is so happy when playing in the meadows with his sister. This may be the happiest that we've ever seen him.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

R arrived in our family shortly before Christmas of 2007. For most puppies, having Christmas celebrations within a week of arriving at their new home would be overwhelming. For R, it seemed to be nirvana. From Day One, he loved people. He wanted to meet everyone and shower them with puppy kisses. As a tiny puppy, that outlook meant that he did truly meet everyone who crossed his path. They could not resist his playful and friendly demeanor.

Samson, R, and K


Over the year before R arrived, we'd been dog sitting my sibling's yellow Lab, Samson (left in photo), sometimes for long periods. His family had two toddlers and lived in the city. They were overwhelmed with family life, and were always short of time for taking care of everyone. We'd have Samson stay with us to give them a break, and we loved him dearly.

K adored having Samson stay with us. She was really sad about having no siblings - and seemed to develop fears without an older dog to guide her. So, a few months before R arrived, we officially adopted Samson. He was about 13 years old in the photo.

In contrast, R was about 2.5 months old. Perhaps you can see by the look on his face, that he was not going to "stay" for any more photos after this one. Just after this frame, he leaped off the walkway to do one of his frolicking sprints on the driveway.

R rocked our world when he arrived. His love of *absolutely everything* made him a pure joy but also a whirling dervish of puppy energy. He'd bite Samson's ankles and leap onto K's head, and then he'd sprint a few laps around the inside of the house. His frantic energy was hilarious.

Eventually, he'd fall deeply asleep in the Runner's or my arms. We'd breath in his puppy breath, and we'd know that he was ours forever. And he is, even now. I can feel him nearby.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Feline Friday - A Surprising Bobcat

I've had a trail cam at a pond for spring and summer. Much to my surprise, not many animals have visited it despite the drought and heat. I think that the reason is that the human presence has grown a lot this year. But, finally, a bobcat visited it early one morning.

What does a bobcat do by a pond? First, she ate some grass (and you all educated me to know that this is normal for a cat so I wasn't too surprised). Next, she hunted dragonflies. And, here's the surprising one - she voluntarily went into the water. A cat!!!!! Whoa! After getting wet, she walked out on a downed tree to survey the water.

It was so much fun to watch her go about her business by the pond. This is the kind of view that only a trail cam can give you.

Enjoy the video!


P.S. We are going into another period when my posting and online presence may be spotty. I'll be back!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for sweet Shyla. She makes me smile, no matter what.
Life is full of heartbreak and change right now. But one constant is Shyla running by my bike and happily posing for my camera. We have so much that we love to do together. We are both grieving but we find joy in our time outdoors together.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog arrived in our lives just before Christmas of 2007. He was flown to us in a climate-controlled hold in a jet. It wasn't a long flight but he was only 8 weeks old. 

It was a bone-chilling day in Colorado. We drove into a windswept parking lot near the hangar where we were told to meet R. The attendant told us that he had not deplaned yet. We didn't totally believe her so we scanned the crates that were on a rack nearby. A little black nose and big brown eyes peered back at us. It was HIM!!!!! 

We tried to contain our excitement while we signed the forms to take him. The attendant worked SO slowly. Sign this, sign that... and then a high pitched bark emanated from puppy R's crate. Maybe he knew that we were his people?

When we finally could go to him, we opened the crate and scooped him up. He was so cute, cute beyond words, but he had peed and pooped in his crate. It was all over his fur. He smelled horrendous but we still wanted to pet him and snuggle him. However, a little puppy being wet in the wicked wind chill outside was not good. 

So, after we'd both met him, I put the stinky little guy inside my winter jacket to walk to the car. The Runner drove, and I sat with eight pound R inside my jacket all the way home. His nose was outside the jacket, and he kissed my chin whenever he had a chance. 

When we arrived home, he had a bath and a nap. Then, he met his big sister, Angel K.

They loved each other almost right away.

Thus, our love affair with our Black Dog began. We'd go on to have almost 13 years with that wonderful little puppy. Despite the heartbreak of the end, we would do it all over again. The love of those 13 years by far outweighed the final heartbreak. His gentleness, fun-loving spirit, and love made him such a special dog.


As an aside, I will probably be offline for a couple of days. I will be back.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Shyla Saturday

We always felt that, when the time came, R's death would be very hard on Shyla.

Dark Smoky Days

R was Shyla's rock, back in the days when it felt like Shyla could barely function due to her fears. Soon after Shyla came to live with us, it was clear that R being present raised her confidence immeasurably. Whenever possible, it was Shyla's choice to be close to R - whether it was during a hike or when snoozing in the house. In fact, as many remember, Shyla loved to snuggle up to R very closely.

Indeed, losing R is very hard on Shyla. Shyla has a variation on separation anxiety that has escalated in the past week. She cannot stand to be kept away from me and the Runner when we're at home with her - and starts barking continuously when that happens.

We are sorting through solutions that let Shyla be next to us but also give Hachi some freedom within the house (we are keeping them separated). I will spare you the details but it involves an ex pen around Shyla's bed which is placed right next to us. Shyla is totally content when she's close to us, and Hachi is totally content when he's able to be free. So, this is working so far.

On the happier side of the ledger, Shyla completely adores our new place which we've been visiting regularly. It has a big creek, and Shyla joyfully splashes and swims in it. She also is working on perfecting her belly flop into the deeper parts of the creek. Then she comes up, nose high, ready to sprint out onto the bank to do it again.

When she comes out of the water, she and Hachi play joyously. I am so glad that she and Hachi are such great play buddies! 

I think that Shyla will be okay. All of her frolicking will help her heart to heal. But she will never ever forget the big brother who gave her the confidence to walk through this world happily.

Friday, August 21, 2020

A bear and a mountain lion visit a cool spring

As many people know due to our wildfires, Colorado is in a state of drought. I cannot remember the last time we had a plentiful rain storm. Most wildflowers have wilted in the heat. 

Also, many water sources that wildlife rely upon for drinking and bathing are completely dry. Fortunately, a few nearby springs are still bringing water to the surface. In those spots, wildlife quench their thirst and cool off in the water.

Recently, at one cool pool, a bear took a bath and a mountain lion lapped up water noisily. Check out the refreshing video if you have time.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Thankful but Sad Thursday

I am both thankful and sad all at the same time. We found a place that instantly feels like home. We closed on it yesterday.

We took a hike there, and we saw seven gorgeous elk, including a calf. Here are four of them.

Hachi and Shyla zoomed and played. They splashed in the creek. They were so full of joy to have space to romp.

But, our Black Dog isn't here to start this new chapter with us. It's like a gut punch every time I realize it all over again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Panicked moose calf searches for mom

Our moose calf usually walks on her mother's heels - so close that it looks like she could accidentally get hit by a hoof. Then, one day in early August, the calf was wandering a bit, not sticking to her mom like glue. I don't know exactly how it happened by the calf lost track of her mother. Here she was as she started to search.

Pretty soon, slow-paced searching gave away to panic. The calf sprinted back and forth while emitting high pitched sounds.

Check out the video of this pair. No worries - it ends well.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has been a bit subdued since R's death.  We managed to whisk him out of the room as the scene unfolded but he saw some of it, and he certainly knows that R is not here. Over the lives of our dogs, I've come to believe that some are not ready to witness the death of a sibling. Fortunately, so far, Hachi seems to be okay.

On R's last evening, he bumped into the outside of Hachi's ex pen when Hachi was in there. Hachi's reaction made us smile. He licked R's nose through the fence  and wagged his tail. That is a far cry from how he reacted even just months ago. Hachi's heart is healing, which seems to make him able to act lovingly toward all his family members, even if he's stressed out.

That being said, we are being really careful right now. The dynamics of the pack are in flux, and we want to be sure to keep the bond between Shyla and Hachi strong. For now, that simply means continuing to keep them separated indoors and looking for opportunities for them to play together outdoors.

We are closing on our new place this week, which doesn't mean that we're moving right away. However, it does mean that we can spend time there. With its wide open and private spaces, Hachi and Shyla should have lots more chances to play.  

Hachi's heart has grown so much that I feel as if he brings us mostly joy. That is how it should be.                                         

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

I did a micro-adventure with our Black Dog around sunrise a day before his death. We went out in the flowers near our house, played little games, and enjoyed each others' company. After he was gone, I knew that the photos from it were sitting on a memory card in my camera. I didn't want to look but I also didn't want to lose them. So, I uploaded them, and here are a couple of photos from our time together that day. 

What they show me is that R was feeling good. He was bright-eyed and happy. In his classic way, he was finding joy in the morning even though it was a "micro" adventure and not a gigantic adventure like he often had earlier in his life.

This was the very last photo that I ever took of him. My heart is so full of love as I look at it.

The suddenness of his death has left my spirit reeling. At first, I felt angry at the universe for taking him away from us so suddenly and having it be so traumatic. I kept thinking, " Why bother to try to enjoy life? It'll just kick you to the ground." 

Soon after those thoughts, our Black Dog's face came to my mind's eye. I saw his utter joy over every meal, every treat, every walk, every friend to greet, every stranger to meet, every dog to play with, and every moment that he could fill with love and joy. His legacy is having taught me that it's always worth living life with joy and exuberance. Of course, we will all die - that is for sure. But we should love as many moments along the path of life as we can. Our Black Dog did.

I think that R's spirit will guide me for the rest of my life. I will shed tears for him, and I've already shed buckets, but I will also try to live as he did.

I have the idea that I might keep Black Dog Sunday going for a while. I want to go through the photos from his whole life and remember the stories from each phase of his life. Would it make you sad for me to do that? Neither I nor our Black Dog would want that. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Because R would want me to say it: Happy Black Dog Sunday. He's watching over all of us.

Thank you for your love and support.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Universe has Gone Dark

Fires are sweeping across the west. We are okay here in terms of actual flames. However, the smoke is darkening our sky even in mid-afternoon.
 By evening for the past few days, it is almost dark and ash falls from the sky.
It seems fitting, as if the world is in mourning.
But, we know that many living beings are in the path of the flames, and we are sending up our wishes that the fires finally slow down.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Beautiful Young Mountain Lion

Thank you all so much for your kind words and insights. I am simply empty. No energy and no spark. I miss our Black Dog terribly. But, if he had to go (and we all do), I'm glad that he didn't suffer, at least not for long. For us, it was devastating - it felt as if he was here one moment and gone the next.

I'm not one to sit still so I distracted myself by checking a trail cam yesterday. It had a delightful little clip of a young mountain lion. I'm not sure how young he is but I was surprised not to see a mother nearby.

The hard part is that this clip from a wildlife trail that is currently being bulldozed into a road. I've called and emailed so many people in government to ask them to preserve at least some of it. But, "human progress" trumps wildlife needs, at least that's my interpretation of the total lack of interest.

So, we are getting down to the end of seeing the wonderful wildlife activity there. In particular, the bears will suffer. This is where many of the bear marking trees are. The trees that have been marked by bears for decades are being plowed down and tossed off the cliff. Progress.

Sorry for the negativity. The beautiful animal should help offset that. The video is very short. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Our Black Dog

 Our Black Dog died unexpectedly of natural causes last evening at dinnertime. 

This sums up his loving and generous spirit as he welcomed young Shyla to our family.

Our hearts are broken.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mama moose nurses calf in a pond!

A Mama Moose has been traveling our neck of the woods with her very young calf. They are almost always close together with the calf right on his mom's heels.

The two of them have delighted me with their cute and funny behavior in front of my trail cams. One day recently, they waded into a pond, nibbled on bushes, drank some water, and then the calf started nursing. This was before the calf started nursing.

This will be the first of several videos of them. Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Happy Hachi! He was even happy this week during a morning photoshoot with me. It is rare that I have time with him alone in the morning - so it usually makes him nervous. He was a lot better this time.

We've also found some time when Hachi could play with his sister during our evening walks. They were overjoyed about it. 

Soon, that long stick broke, and Hachi's big sister got the long end of the stick. Experience prevails over youth!

I (not Hachi) have had a rough week for reasons unrelated to him. It has been fun to realize how much my playtime with Hachi helps *me*. We are both goofy and laughing - and I reach the end of it with a big smile on my face. So, I guess that it's therapy for both of us! 

I am planning to share a video of a play session soon. It will be fun to show you goofy Hachi. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

The amazing and incredible Black Dog is completely blind. But, he can still hold a treat on his nose, toss it in the air, and catch it. He almost never says, "I can't". He never gives up, and neither should any of us.

I need his inspiration today, as I just found out that a very well loved wildlife trail (loved by me and the bears) is being turned into a road. In fact, the bulldozers are already at work plowing down bear marking trees. I need our Black Dog's inspiration today to keep my chin up.

I hope that our Black Dog's inspiration can help you to smile today too.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is feeling much better. She's been happy to play with me in the meadow since her emergency vet visit. I think that the bone shards have passed through her, thank goodness.

Look in those eyes. What do you see? 

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Feline Friday - Mountain Lions Tracking Each Other

The mountain lion population wows me with their daytime appearances and fascinating behavior. This was a spot where the "main Tom" had marked about five days later. This thin female sniffed his pee-mail next to a human trail around noon one day.

Then, she opened her mouth wide to better sample the pheromones. This is called the Flehmen response.

A similar series of events led to this female adopting a graceful pose as she sampled air.

Then, she looked toward the camera before departing.

So many people think that mountain lions live someplace far away or really deep in the forest. They don't. Rather, they are right here among us living out their lives. In this time of crowds descending upon previously quiet trail areas, it is important that people think about their actions for the sake of the wildlife. Why not stick with well-established human hiking areas so that the wildlife can continue to eke out their existence in the quieter areas?

Check out the video of these mountain lions who live in our midst. During this pandemic, the pressure by people upon them has escalated dramatically. Let's hope that there's still enough room for them to flourish.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for every moment that I get to spend with this pup. It's not easy to find those moments because we need to stay within his comfort zone. But that zone is getting bigger.
Dream on, Hachi. The sky is the limit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wordless Wednesday

Our Tuesday included a trip to the emergency vet for Shyla due to relentless vomiting. We discovered that she ingested some bone shards probably from an old carcass in the forest (she occasionally sneaks off to these for brief chews during our bike rides). The short story is that the vet thinks that they will pass through her. She seems much better now after the vet gave her some meds to calm her tummy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A bear has fun in the tub!

A bear visited the local bathtub on a hot day.

And he definitely knows how to have fun in the tub! Enjoy the video!

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi loves to run more than anything. He has the exuberance of the young dog who he is. Combining running with playing with his sister makes him so happy.

I think that our move to a much bigger plot of land will make the most difference to Hachi. We'll be able to take him and Shyla for off-leash walks every day through peaceful meadows and forest. Hachi will be able to run in circles around us as much as he wants to.
I think that being able to play with Shyla outdoors every day will make Hachi an even happier dog. I've come to strongly believe in the power of play for dogs with serious fears. Since we humans started playing with him daily, he has become so much more light-hearted than he ever was before. He wakes up playful, "ambushing" us to ask for play first thing in the morning. Just recently, he's started doing the same thing around mid-afternoon. It's incredible to feel the change in him.

Happy Hachi Day.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog is always up for a micro-adventure. One morning this week, I invited him outside in the morning - before my bike ride with Shyla. R was thrilled to do it although Shyla almost had apoplexy over her time being pushed later.

The flowers in the meadow have faded but some in the shade near our house are still going wild. R and I checked them out, and he seemed utterly content to relax next to them.
CBD oil is continuing to work its magic. I think that the reduction in pain has brought a lightness to R that hasn't been there in a while.

Even though his eye cannot see, it can still sparkle with happiness. I most often see that sparkle when I get home after being out. He perks up, "looks" right at me, and then we talk about how our days are going. His days seem joyful. He's naturally such a happy guy.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Shyla Saturday

I've known Shyla for almost eight years now. We've been through so much together. Her fearfulness has taught me to be more empathetic about fears that I don't understand and prepared me for the Hachi tsunami. I've learned to look at situations from her viewpoint so that I can gain a glimmer of insight into her fears.

She started on an anti-anxiety med last January. With the vet's help, we very gradually increased her dose. By April, the dose was reasonably high, and we were not sure whether it was making a meaningful difference. We took a break from giving it to her (with our vet's guidance because it's not okay to stop a med like this cold turkey).

Well, the verdict is that it was making a big difference. When she came off of it, it was obvious to me that her fear of strangers and separation anxiety escalated. So, she has restarted the med, and she is happier.

I'm so glad that we can help her with her persistent worries. I actually wish that we'd tried a med like this for her eight years ago. It's been quite a journey teaching her to live in this crazy world.
The journey that we've traveled together has made our bond even stronger. It hasn't always been easy but I've always known that it was worth it.

Happy Shyla Saturday!