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Monday, November 30, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi is settling into Labrador Valley, enjoying his playtime and off-leash running. He is an incredibly athletic dog who needs daily opportunities to stretch his legs. He got those in the desert on the slickrock and he gets them here.

That doesn't mean that his behavior has been perfect. On the good news side of the ledger, he is getting along beautifully with Shyla (and that's so important!). But, he had a bad few minutes when he saw some people who he's never met before. And, he's suddenly decided that he doesn't like sleeping in a crate. He barked the night away last night - until the Runner kindly took him to the living room for some snuggle time.

He's a complicated dog. The damage from his early days is not easily fixed. But, in general, he's very slowly getting better. We have to keep the faith when the inevitable hiccups happen.

It was ironic that I had a dog chase me aggressively the other day during a snow bike ride. I happened upon some people who had driven back into the forest to illegally cut Christmas Trees. They had their dog loose, and he was worse than Hachi is with strangers (I was the "stranger"). Yet, the people didn't even try to get the dog away from me. Fortunately, Hachi has taught me the best reaction - ignore the dog while moving away from him. That strategy worked while the owners watched silently. Perhaps they didn't know what to do? I know how difficult it is to be the owner of a dog who behaves like that.

We will keep helping Hachi to be less afraid of strangers. We love him so it comes naturally to us.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

After years of waiting to "know" where to bury our dogs' ashes, we finally did it. After moving to Labrador Valley, we both fell in love with a side valley that has a lone pine tree in the midst of aspen groves. That pine tree is a Ponderosa. It stands tall and strong, leaning and bending with the west wind but still flourishing. It is a testament to the power of life.

Here is a view of it from lower down in the valley. It's in the middle of the photo almost at the top of the valley.

We decided to bury the ashes of the dogs who came before Shyla and Hachi at the base of that
beautiful pine tree. Here's a closer view of it.

It is a peaceful oasis to serve as a final resting place. We waited for decades to choose a spot so you can imagine how special we think that Lone Ponderosa is. We go through the Lone Ponderosa's valley almost every day so we'll feel as if our departed pups are part of our new life here.

Because our Black Dog's death was recent, it was especially hard to say a final goodbye to him. But we know that his ashes belong out in nature, where they can become part of the cycle of life.

Our Black Dog sprinting like the wind across a mesa

Rest in Peace sweet dogs. We wish that all of you could have been alive for this chapter of our lives. But, we are comforted that we have your ashes here with us in a glorious spot.

Our Black Dog would want all of us to find a reason to smile today. I am smiling at his memory with eyes full of tears.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Our Birthday Girl.

I feel so lucky to have her as my best friend.

Happy Birthday, Shyla!


Friday, November 27, 2020

Nature and Feline Friday - Female Mountain Lion Following behind a Male

Shortly after that male mountain lion marked his territory in daylight, a female entered the same area. She first got a big drink, and then she went to the same marking area where we saw the male.

I think that this female was out looking for a mate, and she picked up on his scent after he marked.  She's a beautiful creature, probably one of the mothers who we watched raise her kittens over the past couple of years. Her last litter of kittens probably stayed with her until they were 18-24 months old before they headed off on their own.

This is part 2 of 3 of the story of these two lions getting together. Check out the video!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the beauty of Mother Nature.

I am thankful for the slices of history in our world. This is an old mining cabin, probably close to 100 years old. Can you imagine living in that cabin way back in the early 1900's?


I am thankful for my pack. Where ever they are located is my home. Do you see our LabMobile in this photo? It was almost engulfed in shadow. I call the LabMobile "home" while we are camping.


 I am thankful for peace.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Male mountain lion out scent marking in daylight

 At our old place, mountain lions have been out in daylight. In particular, my trail cams have picked up one male and one female. The female is hitting all of the "scrape" sites where male mountain lions leave their scent. I suspect that she's looking for a mate.

This short video shows the male marking in his territory, and then the female approaching the area where he scent marks. There will be a couple more chapters to this story because they seemed to track each other for a while.

I love knowing that these creatures are living out their rich lives in the midst of this increasingly human-dominated world. They go about their lives while remaining invisible almost all of the time. They are like the ghosts of the forest.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

Nothing makes Hachi happier than playing with his sister.

We camped in very quiet parts of the desert with almost no one else around. This was a "wash" which is like a river bed that fills with water only when there's a flash flood. It has a sandy bottom and goes on for miles. We love to hike in these washes.

On a dry day, it's a perfect place for the pups to play as we walk.

Hachi is transformed by play whether it's with us humans or with Shyla. He gets loose and goofy. Nothing fazes him while plays.

I began playing with Hachi almost a year ago. It continues to be a daily thing. As soon as we wake up, we humans play with Hachi for 10 or 15 minutes. He rolls on his back and acts like a silly puppy. It's so much fun!

Life is still pretty frantic around here but it feels like Hachi is settling into Labrador Valley. It's a place that soothes all of our souls - but it makes Hachi the happiest of all of us. It's a place where he can run and play just like he did in the desert.

I think that we're getting back on track.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog lived each day as if he knew that you don't get days back just because life hasn't gone perfectly.

Back in the fall of 2018, he had to have an eye removed due to glaucoma. His surgeon gave us permission to take him camping in the desert just a couple of weeks later. We were amazed by his exuberance on that trip. He sprinted across the top of Shyla's Mesa on our first day there.

He raced with his sister as if his vision was still perfect.

His refusal to be dragged down by the hurdles that life threw in front of him was inspiring. His joyful approach to life can perhaps guide us all in this moment of crisis due to the pandemic. There are no "do-overs" in the journey of life. Our Black Dog would say to try to find joy in each of these days despite the hardships that we all face.

Happy Black Dog Sunday

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Shyla Saturday

While we were in the desert, the sky turned brilliant shades of yellow, orange, purple and blue at dusk, even when there were no clouds in the sky.

My best friend, Shyla, was more than happy to pose for me with that vivid sky behind her. She did it despite the fact that our photo session delayed her dinner by a few minutes.

This dog is my best friend. Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, November 20, 2020

A popular cool spring in early summer

After almost 2 weeks of working so hard on our old house, it's relaxing to sit back and remember this past season at a local spring. This spring either dries up or freezes late every fall and so it's devoid of wildlife from mid-November through April. Then, in May, the pool thaws and new water fills it completely. It becomes a very popular spot for summer and fall.

During May and June, bears dominate the spring but some other species drink from it too. This video includes every animal that triggered the camera during May and June 2020 which makes for fun footage.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thankful Thursday

I am so very thankful for peaceful time in the desert with our pack.

It was serene with time to gaze at the beautiful desert colors.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Dancing in the Desert

Psst, Shyla. She's taking our photo. I'm gonna wave!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Mountain Lions of Labrador Valley

I had about 6 weeks to explore Labrador Valley and the surrounding wilderness before we evacuated, then went out of town for a vacation, and then had to stay away while work was being done on the new house.

During those six weeks at Lab Valley, I searched for spots where mountain lions liked to mark their territory. I found a few spots, some as far away as 3 miles as some as close as 50 yards from the house. This gives me some spots to start searching for their preferred routes. That will let me understand their paths between marking points.

In this video, you'll see big male mountain lions leaving scrapes as they mark their territory. You'll also see a mother mountain lion with a couple of kittens pass by a camera without sniffing the male lion's scrapes. I sure hope that all of these lions survived the fires.

I was so thrilled that I could figure out this much about them in such a short time. 

Enjoy the video!

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Hachi Chronicle

For all the tumult in our lives, Hachi has done remarkably well. On our first day in the desert, it was balmy and warm so Hachi and I played together close to K's Rock. I could see that he was a bit tense but he seemed to loosen up with time.

A winter storm front arrived a few hours later. The temperature plummeted by about 50°F, and it snowed really hard. K's Rock looked totally different by the next morning.

The cliffs along my riding route also looked spectacular with snow on the ground.

By that evening, the snow on the slickrock area near our campsite had melted so the pups could play.

Hachi played beautifully with Shyla throughout the trip. He was goofy and happy when they ran around together. However, I wish that I didn't have to report that he lost his cool toward Shyla a few times in our campsite for no obvious reason. Each time, he got in Shyla's face barking aggressively. Shyla reacted to his aggression with total shutdowns. She simply stood rooted in place and did not respond in any way. Shyla has a long history of responding to stress in this way, and it's probably good for defusing aggression from another dog. Within minutes afterwards, she seemed absolutely fine and was willing to play with Hachi when we let them off leash together.

The aggression was upsetting to say the least. However, we both think that Hachi was trigger-stacked by how many parts of his life are unpredictable. The vacation was great for us humans but probably tough on Hachi who was already confused by our move. We've been super careful about keeping them separated inside the house since then. They still play wonderfully outdoors so that's good. Shyla is not afraid of him.

Hachi is a complicated dog. Humans failed his mother and him early in his life by letting his mom be a stray on the streets while pregnant and then raising pups. It's difficult to help him heal from that damage. However, despite the recent setbacks, I think that he's come a million miles since we first met him.

We love our Hachi. We are as devoted to him as he is to us. We will help him through this phase.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Black Dog Sunday

Last year at this time, we were in the desert. I loved playing with our Labraduo atop Shyla's Mesa. They'd howl in harmony with each other.

And they'd cross paws while lying atop the mesa. I've never known a pair of dogs who loved each other as much as these two. Shyla's resilience amazes me.

I felt R's spirit atop the mesa during this past trip. Shyla and I found new ways to play together, which was sad but a step along the way to healing our hearts.

As I searched for photos from Shyla's Mesa for today's Black Dog Sunday, music was playing in the background. Suddenly, the words broke through my concentration. It was Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris singing "If this is goodbye". The words took me backward in time to August 12 as I realized that it was truly goodbye.

Even though it's a sad song, it's beautiful too. There's a great video of them performing it together that you might enjoy checking out.

Our Black Dog's spirit stays close to me all the time. I can feel him smiling at me with his huge hopeful eye whenever I'm out playing with Shyla or Hachi. 

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Shyla Saturday

Since we've been back, we've been staying at our old place, working hard to clean out the "stuff" that we accumulated over the course of 20 years living in it. We've made huge progress, buoyed with energy from having rested for a couple of weeks. The clean up phase is almost finished and now we need the work on the new place to move forward a similar pace.


Aside from all of these details, I think that changing places and the uncertainty of it is tough on the dogs. They aren't sure where we actually live - In the LabMobile? In our old house? Or in our new house?

Shyla has shown the stress by being more easily upset than usual about being alone She expresses her anxiety by barking in an upset tone. I feel badly that she's stressed out. I hope that she can find more calmness when we head back to the new place soon and hopefully settle in for a while. I think that stability will help her.

The dogs have a far more fun life at our new place. They can be off-leash and play together - and the quiet world there calms them both (it calms us humans too!). I am looking forward to getting back to it.

While we were in the desert, my sweet Shyla barked with happiness when we played on top of "Shyla's Mesa" early in the morning. 

I love the desert so much, and I think that sweet Shyla does too!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Nature Friday - More Craziness from the Moose Rut

This fall, the chaos of the moose rut was astounding. It seemed to pervade the forest everywhere. We even heard the sounds of a moose vocalizing from a long distance during a hike. The moose was hidden by the forest but we could hear him!

Every time that I play video of the moose rut, their vocalizations blow my mind. Their voices do not sound like I expect them to. 

Here is a second video from the same pond where my trail cam previously videoed moose rut activity. Be sure to have your sound on and reasonably loud so that you can hear the vocalizations.



Also, join the Nature Friday Blog Hop over at the LLB Gang's Blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thankful Thursday

Every single day - I am thankful for Shyla. She will run to the ends of the earth if I ask her to.  She will play with me endlessly high on desert mesas. She finds joy in every day.

Each year, more of her face goes gray. She began graying early (she started at age 1) because being such a sensitive dog is tiring. I think her face is beautiful.

Shyla is the example of how to love with all your heart. I am so thankful for her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mountain snow and Tiny the bear returns!

We are really back in our mountains, enjoying a blustery winter day. After a couple of very warm weeks in the desert, true winter is chilling my bones. The good news is that this weather may make it possible to really put out the fires. Snow and cold are in every day's forecast for the foreseeable future which will help the firefighters. The fires were substantially slowed down by snow a couple of weeks ago but they nonetheless kept burning. They didn't gobble up substantial new land due to the heroic efforts of firefighters. And so our new house still stands...

Now that we're back in the mountains, I have wonderful news. Tiny, our biggest black bear, has returned to our neck of the woods and is looking huge. His waistline expanded so much that I wonder what high calorie treats he was eating. He's still limping and marking trees while sitting down rather than standing but I suspect that's now a permanent state of affairs. His injured hind limb is probably not going to heal two years after the injury.

I didn't share it here but I was very worried about him all summer. He disappears every year from June through early autumn. I don't know where he goes, except that it must be a place with lots of food because he always comes back fat. This year, early in the summer, I heard about a bear who was visiting campsites up higher in our local mountains. Our state wildlife agency said that they were shutting down the area to re-educate the bear about plundering campsites. We all assumed that meant that the bear would be hazed so that he'd leave campsites alone in the future.

Within 2 days of the closure, a press release said that they'd shot the bear. As part of the press release, they said that the deceased bear had an old but serious injury to a hind limb and that he was very large (they estimated 200 lbs). I thought that Tiny was substantially bigger than 200 lbs, and so did my friends who have seen him in person, but I worried anyway. So, I was extra happy to catch a glimpse of Tiny on my trail cams in October. I'm glad that the dead bear wasn't Tiny but I still grieve that another bear lost his life due to campers leaving food lying around their campsites.

Check out fat and handsome Tiny in this video. I'll take any reason to celebrate, and this is definitely one!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Back Again

We are back after a relaxing break. It was a time when it was good to be off-the-grid, even though we were itching for news. 

Shyla had lots of reasons to howl. Perhaps she was howling to our Black Dog up in the sky in this one. We've been missing him like crazy. His happy heart made us smile so much. As I thought about him, the song "Here comes the sun" often flitted through my head. He was sunshine in our world.