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Friday, October 23, 2020

Update and Pupdate

We got into our new place. We had no power so we spent the time winterizing it to avoid bursting pipes or destroying appliances. 

The weather has made a drastic change. It's 13°F and there's a coating of freezing rain on everything. We are back at our old place which does have power.

It has been such a frantic and disorienting time. We are lucky to have our old house to take refuge. This would have been a lot harder without it. However, I also feel a bit lost. Some of our belongings are in our new house and some are in our old house. Many items are "lost", maybe thrown into bags as we evacuated and brought to the old house. Or, maybe they're in the new house. My heart is similar - confusion reigns as we are stuck between chapters in our life.

The most amazing thing is how well Hachi is doing. He just had a birthday, and he's 2 years old now. He's handling this chaos with surprising calmness. We had three sets of workers at the old house yesterday while we were there, and he barked a little but then snoozed. That is almost unbelievable for him. I have been blown away by his behavior repeatedly during this event.

We have continued his training while we've been evacuated, learning the "Bucket Game" for cooperative care. We'll use it (after he's learned it) for things like nail clipping and checking a body part if he's hurt. He has made a sudden breakthrough in his understanding of it. Why now when we've been working on it for months? I do not know but I'll gratefully accept it.

At some point soon, I really am going to take that blogging break. I need to rest and find my inner peace again. If the blog stops, please don't worry. I think that we're safe from fires, at least for now. The one in Rocky Mountain National Park could conceivably threaten us but it feels unlikely right now.

Thank you for your support and love.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thankful Thursday

This evening, we did a little hike to see what was happening on the fire front. When we arrived at the view of the Continental Divide, we were stunned. A wildfire on the other side of the Divide blew up today, creating a smoke plume that dwarfed the towering mountains.


That's a 13,000' peak below the smoke and it looks tiny compared to the smoke plume. The smoke looked orange due to the sun setting behind it.

The world feels entirely out of control here in Colorado. Our very hot and dry weather all summer means that the world is primed to catch on fire. If you add wind to that mix, it creates a disaster.

The world of the past few days has made me yearn for the somewhat more normal days of earlier this month. Our smoke was from further away, and sometimes we could see the world clearly like at dawn when the moon was full.

We haven't heard any real news about "our" fire. Time will tell. We will keep trying to get into our house to get it ready for the hard freeze this weekend. Rumors are flying around, which intensifies our feeling of having no control over our lives. We fear leaving the dogs alone in the house even briefly because a new fire might erupt, and we might not be able to get back in to evacuate them. We feverishly refresh the local wildfire news to try to understand what we're seeing outside. It's so stressful.

But, I do feel thanks for some things in our lives. I am thankful that our land and house haven't burned. I am thankful that I saw the full moon set earlier this month. I am grateful that Hachi is handling all the wildfire tumult and the craziness of cleaning out the old house amazingly well. And, I am always thankful for Shyla who makes my days brighter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Update and the Bears of the Lab Valley Area

Today is a big day. It's a "Red Flag" day, with extreme fire danger. The winds will be 30 mph and the humidity close to zero. There was a Town Hall for evacuated people last evening, and fire officials seemed obsessed with getting through today before thinking beyond it.

After today, temperatures will plummet to below zero. A foot of snow is forecasted to fall this weekend. They said that the snow will slow the fires but probably not put them out. The big issue for homeowners is that electricity is out for the evacuation area so there is no heat. Pipes will freeze if we cannot go to our houses to drain them. It seems as if the sheriff is working on a plan to escort home owners to their houses so that they can prepare for the frigid temperatures.

I am thinking of our wildlife. I put together the best footage of bears from Lab Valley since we moved there in late August. You'll see all sorts of bears including cubs and a huge male. The footage of one young bear was taken in a spot that might have been burned. I hope that she's out of the way of the flames.

Check out the video. I love our bears, and I hope that they are okay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Still Locked Out

We are still locked out of Lab Valley but the grapevine and official fire maps say that Lab Valley is not burned. These are photos taken by my drone a couple of weeks ago.

The fire is scarcely contained so I doubt that we'll get in soon. However, the fire has blown in the opposite direction from Lab Valley the whole time so perhaps I'm wrong.

I am feeling at loose ends. It's really odd being back at our old place. We had many wonderful years here, with a lineage of sweet dogs who lived their entire lives here. I adore the wildlife and love knowing many of the individual animals. Back in the day, we were surrounded by amazing neighbors and a quiet forest. But, this place has changed so much...

I am so glad that, so far, it appears that Lab Valley will be there for us when we can return.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Fire news - little rest for us

We didn't get much of a rest. Until about mid-day yesterday, our world seemed calm and peaceful. The wind was blowing the existing fire away from us, and it was a beautiful day. 

Then, I saw someone post that there were reports of a fire very close to Lab Valley. I followed the post, and the information was being corroborated by others. We did a mad dash, quickly putting all of our packed stuff into two vehicles. We were out of there very fast. It was too close for any wavering about the need to flee. Smoke was starting to seep into Lab Valley when we departed.

As we drove away, I saw the smoke plume that was already being generated by the fire. Lab Valley is to the left of the fire plume in this photo.

Now, we're at our old house, following the news. So far, it appears that the fire is being blown away from Lab Valley. I feel badly being even slightly happy about that because I know that it means that others are in the path of the fire. I even think about the wildlife who I am just starting to know. Their habitat is being burned.

I am exhausted and numb. We've found our paradise at Lab Valley, and now we are hoping to get out of this fire season with it intact.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Black Dog Sunday - The Fire Edition

 Yesterday, we headed out for a short mid-day walk with the pups. I casually mentioned that there was a small fire not too far away, and then we forgot about it. 

Then, as we finished the walk, I noticed an odd looking cloud, and I said "Is that smoke?". Within another 5 minutes, it was very clearly a huge smoke plume. This was the view from our house. It looked like it originated just beyond our valley.

The wind was blowing at about 30 mph. Rapidly, the "small fire" ate up thousands of acres. We were very close to the border of the evacuation zone so we spent the afternoon packing at high speed, preparing to flee if needed. As of now, it seems that the wind blew the fire away from us although that meant that many other people and animals were in its path. I am holding them in my thoughts.

This blog post is late because we lost our power for a while.

Throughout the morning before the fire, our Black Dog was on my mind. As Shyla and I did our bike ride, I was talking to him in my heart. I even sang to him as we rode. I was visualizing him being as happy as he was one day high in the mountains about five years ago.

It turned out, so far, that the wind has pushed the fire away from us so we are still at home. The fire exploded to almost 7000 acres in a few hours so not everyone was so lucky. We will watch and wait to see if we need to leave. With R watching over us, I bet that we'll be okay.

He watches over us from a life-sized print of a photo of him galloping through the golden aspens a few years ago. His eyes are so happy and gazing at us from the image.


This fire is one more stresser in a long train. I've decided to take a blogging break to get some rest. I've had too many sleepless nights and migraines recently. I promise to update you if anything big happens, and then I'll be back soon.

I miss our Black Dog but I can feel his love. I see his sparkling eyes in my mind every single day. Thinking about his spirit helps me to find the good in every single day.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shyla Saturday

I took this photo of Shyla just a a few days ago when it felt as if the world was becoming a bit more normal. We'd had a day or two without thick smoke, and the golden aspen leaves still hung from their trees.

Then, a wild wind whipped into the area. In our immediate area, it ripped down the autumn leaves.

A bit further away, it whipped up a big fire, causing it to "explode" into the largest fire in Colorado history. That big one keeps getting closer to us but it's still at a safe enough distance. Then, believe it or not, another fire started and immediately spread due to extremely dry vegetation and wind. Our world is a scary place right now.

Now, we have no leaves and the world feels apocalyptic. It is dark in the middle of the day due to the smoke. The sun can barely glimmer through it.

The fires are still not that close but they are creeping this way. I sure hope that the wind stops and a big snow comes. That seems like the only thing that will stop them.

Through times like this, Shyla's unwavering affectionate nature comforts all of us. She loves to snuggle with us humans and play with her brother - which is exactly what all of us need now. She is the heart of this pack.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Nature Friday - The Craziness of Moose during the Rut

In moose country, autumn is an intense time of year. Bull moose are trying to find mates, and they behave unpredictably and sometimes aggressively.

At a small pond, the usual wildlife showed up to hunt or eat. And the moose showed up too. One bull moose was intent on pursuing the local mama moose and her calf. The calf seemed to go about her business without paying attention to the pushy bull moose. This calf is less than a year old so I was surprised that her mother might be in estrus already.

The most amazing part of the scene were the vocalizations by the bull moose. He moans and sang - and his "sound effects" were hilarious. When you watch the video, be sure to have your sound on.

If you watch to the end of the video, there's a special appearance by a very agile predator!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thankful Thursday

It was a long day of packing the old house that was no fun at all. But, before that, I had a wonderful morning out in nature with Shyla. 

The day started with a gorgeous sunrise over our meadow that has some golden color left in it.

After sunrise, Shyla and I headed out for a bike ride on trails. We found a few pockets of golden leaves that the wild wind had not blown down. We had fun in the sun among the leaves.

Then, we explored in a new direction, and we found a lake for Shyla to go swimming. It was still warm and tranquil when we got there. It was SO much fun. I threw sticks for Shyla to retrieve.

I wish that we'd tried going to this lake before winter was knocking on the door! Indeed, just after we left the lake, a wicked winter wind picked up, and it was not warm anymore.

Recently, I've been particularly grateful for my time with Shyla in the mornings. Having such fun first thing in the morning makes the tedious work of moving a bit easier.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - All in One Day

Morning was sunny and warm

By lunchtime, it was a small blizzard

Happy Dogs

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mother Mountain Lion and Kitten

Much to my surprise, a mother mountain lion led her small kitten to a mountain lion scrape spot. The mother urinated on the most recent scrape as her kitten milled around her legs.

That is very odd. I've never seen a mother with a kitten this small visit a scrape. The reason is that male mountain lions can be dangerous to her kitten. And then leaving her scent seemed even more inexplicable. 

Indeed, a male mountain lion arrived at the same spot two days later. He was exceptionally interested in the female's scent. He spent about 3 minutes sniffing the area and repeatedly marking. Then, he headed off in the same direction as she went.

I am mystified. Could the female be in estrus because she has only one kitten? Usually, they have three or four, although mortality means that they have two by the time the kittens get bigger.

Time will tell. In the meantime, check out the video!


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi is finding his inner puppy here at Labrador Valley. He is reveling in his off-leash play time. We humans watch him and smile. Pure joy.

I can take him with me for mountain bike rides here. That is such a joy! I took this photo in the middle of a ride on a glorious autumn day.

Most of the week was great for Hachi but he had one rough day. A couple of contractors visited the house and then, shortly later, we took him hiking at a popular mountain trailhead. He had a rougher time than usual with people passing on the trail even when we moved him far away from them (by going into the forest next to the trail). I'm chalking it up to the contractors making him tense before the outing... which then made hiking near strangers more difficult.

I'm not too concerned. Hachi is doing astoundingly well given the changes in our lives.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Every autumn, we take an off-trail trek to a lake that our dogs love. We call it "Dog Leap Lake" because our visit is usually a dog water party. As soon as we arrive, the pups usually head into the water. This is Shyla on the left and R on the right from 2012.

This year, it was hard to find the time to visit Dog Leap Lake but it felt important to go to remember R and his ecstasy whenever we were there. However, when we arrived, the lake was occupied, and the visitors showed no sign of departing.

They were not the sort of visitors that we even tried to share the lake with. We watched them for a while, and then we departed. No dog's paw touched the water.

As we watched them, we imagined that R would have had apoplexy if we'd arrived at Dog Leap Lake and he had not been allowed to play in the water. This was R when we arrived at the lake a few years ago.

Every year, when we arrived at the lake, he'd go nutso with excitement. He seemed to be yelling "throw it, throw it"! He adored retrieving from Dog Leap Lake.

He'd shake with excitement while awaiting the next throw.

He and his sister would sometimes bring sticks to shore together.

What a happy pair they were.

Our visit to the lake this year, even though it was not as raucous as usual, did bring back many memories of our Black Dog. He swam in Dog Leap Lake every fall for thirteen years. He never failed to have a joyful time and to make us smile and smile. 

Memories of our Black Dog will never cease to make us smile.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Recently, my brother reminded me of Shyla's extreme fearfulness when we met her in 2012. She was so fearful  that we couldn't let anyone outside our family interact with her directly. If they looked at her or spoke to her, she'd collapse onto the ground and lose control of her bladder.

As we tried to help Shyla not to be afraid of new people, we'd orchestrate outdoor meetings with new people. She could only handle meeting them if they were walking away from me and Shyla. Shyla and I would shadow them by about 10-20 yards. As long as no one looked at her, she was okay.

My brother recollected that it was a couple of YEARS before he could look at Shyla without scaring her. And it wasn't just him, it was all outsiders.

My reaction to the memories of Shyla's early years was "REALLY?!?". I'd almost forgotten. Shyla is so close to normal now that I hadn't thought about her early days recently. Until my memory was jogged, I didn't remember that she and I met with a trainer weekly for a couple of years (with daily practice of the things that the trainer taught us).

Within that context, you can imagine our utter disbelief as we've realized that Shyla has stepped into the role of "Queen" of our pack. If Shyla and Hachi find a juicy bone in the meadow, Hachi lets Shyla have it without question. If Shyla crosses the creek, Hachi follows her path *exactly*. He won't cross the creek unless he can follow in Shyla's pawprints.

R was Shyla's touchstone, and perhaps he prepared her to take on this role for Hachi. He was such a gentle and loving big brother to her, and now Shyla can pass that along to Hachi.

It is amazing that Shyla has grown up to have such confidence. I am so happy for her. And it gives me even more hope for Hachi.

Friday, October 9, 2020

A parade of wildlife on a bear scent trail

Deep in the forest, I came upon a bear "stomp trail", which is a trail of indents made by thousands of bear paws hitting the same spots as the bears walk. Bears use these stomp trails to imbue the ground with their own scent from their paw pads.

The astounding part is how many species use trails where bears leave their scents. In this case, one example was a pair of mountain lions. They are a male-female pair who were probably together for a few days while the female was in estrus.

Check out the mountain lions and other species in the video. It's cool to see so many in one spot.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thankful Thursday

For all of the happiness associated with our move, the stress of having an endless list of things to do is getting to me. Migraines have been stalking me, and I really hope that I can find an inner zen in the midst of the chaos.

Despite all of the demands, I still get out to see the glorious beauty of autumn every day. Labrador Valley is stunning when it is cloaked in golden leaves. This photo shows a side valley that is lined with towering aspens. Surprisingly, in the middle of the valley, one long-lived Ponderosa Pine tree stands in the middle of the meadow. You can see it through the aspen trunks in this photo. Even though it's not golden at this time of year, that pine captures everyones' attention as they walk up the valley.

Shyla adores Lone Ponderosa Valley too. The ground is soft, almost boggy, which seems to invite her gallop faster and even more happily than usual.

Her happiness is contagious as she howls with happiness about the wonders of autumn. She loves the cool air in the morning (some might call it "cold" because it's below freezing). She still swims in the creek almost every morning even when I worry that her fur might get icicles!
I am thankful for this place that is bringing our pack so much happiness. I'll admit that I'm looking forward to the transition phase being over - but we will keep trying to find time to appreciate nature's beauty even when we have endless "to-do" lists.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Pepe the Bear eats apples from a tree

It is the season of apples. Near a favorite bear area, there's an apple tree that very rarely has fruit. Two years ago, it had just a few apples that made a young bear named "Pepe" go wild. He was small so he could easily climb into the tree to pick apples.

Last year, it had no apples. Pepe was around but the lack of apples must have made him sad.

This year, the year of the drought, the tree has more apples than I've ever seen before! Pepe arrived right on schedule. First, he ate the apples off the ground. On his next visit, he started climbing to get them. Climbing is more of a challenge now than 2 years ago because he's grown a lot!

I put together the footage of him at the apple tree. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Happy Hachi! There seems to be nothing in the world that Hachi loves more than playing with his sister.

 And one of my favorite parts of the day is watching the two of them have a blast chasing each other.

Overall, it was a great week for Hachi. He did well with strangers, especially when he had a chance to adapt to them before meeting them closer up.

He's been handling the frequent trips back and forth between the houses well. It seems like it could be confusing to a dog but he's settling into the new place and seems to be comfortable with it being our new home.

I've been listening to a podcast called "The Bitey End of the Dog" by Michael Shikashio. Listening to the stories has made me realize that we are very lucky that Hachi is coming so far. Some dogs with easier backgrounds than Hachi never recover. Hachi seems like he may be leaving behind his worries. I doubt that he'll ever be 100% normal but he's already getting close.

We are lucky and so is Hachi.


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

I've come to realize how much my little one-on-one outings with R made me happy. He was such a hilariously happy dog who brought out the best in me. 

Last fall, I made a big point of taking our Black Dog to spots with golden aspens. I loved how he looked at me with total focus whenever we stopped in the forest. He loved the games that we played. When he gave me a look like this one, it meant that I should start one of his favorite games and quit clicking the shutter.

So, I did. In the past year, this was his very favorite game. The more treats, the happier he was because he knew that he'd get to eat all of them. When he launched them into the air and didn't catch them, it was like the sky was raining treats. In fact, R seemed to think that the sky might start raining treats at any moment - he was that much of an optimist.

Now, as I go through the forest, I see certain spots that are gloriously beautiful, and I think "I want to bring R here". Then, I realize that I can't, except in my heart.

We've been so comforted by all of the photos that we have of R. They make us smile with the memories of the day when I took them. His endlessly happy and enthusiastic personality shines through in almost all of them. When I look at the photos, I feel like I can see the world through R's eyes and heart. He felt the potential for fun in every situation. He wagged his way through life.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. If he were here, our Black Dog would inspire us to find a few moments to enjoy the beauty of the world and play with him. Perhaps we all can find a fun few moments today in his memory.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Shyla and I are making the most of these days of cool air, sunshine, and golden aspens! Our mountain bike rides together are pure bliss.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, October 2, 2020

More Adventures of Mama Moose and her Calf

 I'm continuing to follow a mama moose and calf pair. The calf was born this spring but is growing up so fast!

They really like a "wallow" which is a spring that bubbles up from under the ground. The dirt over it has turned to really sticky and deep mud. In this video, the pair visited it in daylight which gives a great perspective on how deep the mother sinks into the mud.

Watching them makes me really glad that I never accidentally stepped into the mud -  I might still be stuck in it!

Check out the short video!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for autumn beauty in this peaceful place.

As Shyla and I stood atop a hillside near Lab Valley gazing at the golden aspens and the mountains, an immature red-tailed hawk circled over our heads. He was so close that it felt like we could reach out and touch him.

This hawk, and another like him, have been around Lab Valley since we first looked at the valley in June. They call as they fly which always catches my attention because it's like three screams in succession. They know just where the thermals are within the valley, and they love to ride them up, up and up!

We haven't seen them in the past five days or so. Perhaps their patterns change with the seasons. Only time will tell.

I am so thankful for the beauty of Nature in this wonderful new place.