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Monday, June 14, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi overall had a great week. He loved playing with his sister out in the meadows. One day, Shyla was reluctant to start playing so Hachi threw himself onto his back to entice her to play. We love seeing him be so socially savvy!

His strategy worked well. Soon, she'd be pursuing him.

All of his formal training went great too. He relaxed, he learned to be more consistent at taking a breath on cue, and he handled having workers outside remarkably well. In fact, when the foundation was finished for the greenhouse, Hachi seemed to think that we'd built him his own personal basking pad! He declined to go for a walk because he preferred to sun bathe!

Late in the week, he did run into a little bit of stress that caused him to act out. We asked too much of him socially. On one day, he went to a friend's house and hung out on their deck. Then, on the next day, we had friends over for a picnic. After sitting close to them for a half hour, he went over threshold and snarled at Shyla as we got ready to walk back to the house. It was all noise and no damage but I hate when it happens. 

I think that he's reached a phase where he can outwardly appear to be handling a situation well because he has no outbursts or other signs of distress. But then, all of a sudden his stress bursts out. I feel like we need to realize when he's stoically managing a situation and diffuse his stress before he bursts. But it is hard to identify the moment when that's needed.

In general, when Hachi looks like this, he is happy and relaxed.
Overall, he had a great week. I like to analyze the small outbursts so that we can help him avoid them. But they were a very small part of the week.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

As I rode my bike today, I was thinking about our Black Dog. I tried to think realistically about how my relationship with him evolved over the years. As a young dog, he was wild. Indeed, he was so wild that I had some trouble appreciating him. I wanted him to calm down. At the time, I didn't yet realize that his endless joy for life was what I'd end up loving the most about him.

Then, I started doing more things with him solo. I'd take him for little bike rides to enjoy the flowers or the leaves or the snow. During our outings, I'd do bits of training. Our bond started to grow.

Later on in his life, his elbow dysplasia got really bad. The vets said that all of the cartilage was gone from his elbow and the bones were banging together. There was only one kind of surgery that would help him. But, after a lot of research, I discovered that no one in our area did it. That discovery made my bond to him so obvious to me - I became doggedly determined to get him the surgery. I searched and searched, and I finally found a superb veterinary surgeon who was willing to fly to us and do the surgery. That filled my heart with hope.

After his surgery, the recovery exercises cemented our bond. We turned them into games - hilarious and fun games that both of us loved. That bit of fun time that we spent together every single day cemented our bond.

At that point, I had learned how to appreciate our Black Dog for who he was - an absolutely joyful soul - so joyful that he couldn't contain himself at times.

As I think about the evolution of our relationship, I know that it taught me to figure out who each of our dogs is and to try connect with each of their unique spirits. We have wildly divergent personalities in our current two dogs - but I've learned to love them both, mainly by finding things that bond me to them (and them to me).

Our Black Dog taught me that. I'm so glad that he and I found such a deep connection which taught me so much. Of course, that makes me miss him even more but it was so worth it.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Shyla Saturday

There have been many moments recently when I think that Shyla is staying young due to the playful influence of her younger brother. 

Shyla doesn't love warm weather, and she tends to lag a bit on outings with me if the sun is out. Yet, when Hachi goads her into playing, she seems like a puppy.

I think that the relationship between these two goes both ways. Shyla is helping Hachi learn to be happy in this world, and, at the same time, he is keeping Shyla more playful and silly than she would otherwise be.

It's a happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Bears love to mark a leaning tree!

Bears really love marking leaning trees. If a tree leans across a trail that is used by bears, it is very likely that it's an important marking spot.

Check out the first few bears who marked a favorite leaning tree this spring. Their behavior is so fun! Tiny hadn't been there yet at that point in time but he was coming soon!

Here's the short video!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for springtime, finally!  Lab Valley is finally adorned with green leaves and green grass!

 The meadow birds search for insects just outside our windows every morning.


 Deep in the pine forests, orchids are flourishing.

At this time of year, there are not enough hours in the day. Between working on the house, trying to empty the moving boxes (but needing more cabinets in order to do that!), gardening, exploring, and simply enjoying the sunshine, I cannot find time for everything!

I love springtime!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A contemplative bobcat

A contemplative bobcat sat in front of my camera while he pondered the world. It's a moment of zen in our busy world.

Enjoy the video.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had a great week. He seems more relaxed than he's been in quite a while. He and Shyla have enjoyed playing chase in the meadow daily.

We had workers here all week getting the site ready for our greenhouse. Since they started on this job ten days ago, we have taken Hachi outside to watch them work. We're specifically using a technique called "BAT" (behavioral adjustment therapy). That's a fancy name for taking him to a spot a sufficient distance from them that he's able to hang out without obsessing about them. I adjust how far away he is based on how he's behaving.

By the end of this week, he could hang out fairly close to the workers without barking or getting upset. That was a huge contrast to when they started the job, and he'd go way over threshold (barking and lunging in their direction) as soon as we stepped out of the house. It is SO good to see him adapt to having strangers around the house. He's always had trouble with understanding that some people come to the house but work independently of any of us. This is the first time that he made such strides in handling it!

It's been a happy week for Hachi!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

The flowers are starting to bud, reminding me of the sweet times that I'd have with our Black Dog in the meadow wildflowers.

Every summer except his last summer, our Black Dog would run along side me as I rode my bike to a spot the meadow where we'd settle in to enjoy the beauty.  Even with an elbow that hurt and being almost blind, he loved our little bike rides so much that he'd bark joyfully while running next to me. I'd smile the whole way.

I think that our Black Dog believed in the motto "Live, love, bark" no matter what curveballs life had thrown at him. He didn't let a day go by without finding some joy.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Shyla Saturday

This week, Shyla started the second antibiotic in the treatment plan for leptospirosis. It made a big difference! Her water drinking dropped from 2000 ml per day to 1200-1500 ml per day. Now, we are truly in the "normal zone". I feel relieved.

Shyla and Hachi have been loving springtime at Lab Valley. Shyla is the best big sister that I can imagine. Our electronic photo frame has been showing photos from two years ago when Shyla was teaching Hachi how to play. This was during a very stressful phase in our dog life. Hachi was turning on our Black Dog, and we were awaiting a far off appointment with a behavioral vet. I've been so cautious with Hachi ever since those dark days that I am surprised that I trusted him and Shyla together. I'm so glad that I did!

I think that the days when Shyla was guiding Hachi on how to play cementing their friendship.


At this instant, Shyla and I are enjoying our first afternoon on the deck. The sound of the raging creek is peaceful. The air is warm. Shyla is snoozing, and I am relaxing. Happy Day!

 Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Spa day for Tiny

At the bears' favorite bathing spot, Tiny was the first of the year to take a dip. Check out the video and smile along with me.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Thankful Thursday - For the beautiful and tough bluebirds

It is my favorite time of year, and I'm so thankful for the natural beauty around me. Some mornings start with beautiful sunrises over Lab Valley.

After breakfast, I head out for a mountain bike ride with Shyla. As I've mentioned, we put up a lot of bird houses in Lab Valley this winter. The birds seem to love them. In fact, this pair of Mountain Bluebirds have chosen one as their own. Others are occupied by wrens and swallows.

Usually, life at the Bluebirds' nest box is peaceful. The exception is when the tree swallows come around to search for nest holes. Then, Mr. Bluebird is on high alert watching for aerial assaults by the swallows.

Soon, he flies into the air to defend the nest.

My camera shows me the mid-air combat that occurs. Mr. Bluebird is tough!


He returned victorious from that fight.

But he did not get to rest for long before fending off another invader.


I was amazed how he held his own despite repeated attacks by the swallows.


One time, he returned to the nest box so frazzled that he flattened his mate as he landed.

For now, the swallows have turned their focus to other nest boxes, and the bluebird couple has continued taking twigs and grass into the box to build their nest.

I am so thankful for springtime! I love watching the birds in the warm sunshine.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

We had a lunar eclipse last week that we woke up very early to see. Much of our world was under the cover of clouds but the moon found a clear spot of sky to shine. It didn't quite reach totality before it dropped below the horizon.


Soon after the moon set, the sky began to get light. A mountain bluebird appeared and began calling from a treetop.

It was worth getting up so early to see the mountains with alpenglow.

This post was not so wordless today but I needed to explain the photos!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Tiny the Black Bear on the Mating Trail

On the same bear marking trail as I featured last week, Tiny the Black Bear marked soon after the others. First, a sow came through, sniffing the tree to see what bears had marked it. It is possible that the sow was a long-time beau of Tiny's but I am not certain yet. Then, Tiny followed about six days later. He was in fine form, obviously ready for mating season to get underway.

Enjoy the video!

Monday, May 31, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

A good week!

It was spring this week. The pups got lots of romping time in the meadows of Labrador Valley. Hachi seemed overjoyed.


There were some stressors this week. Two people worked on preparing a greenhouse site for us. That was outdoor work, and Hachi was fine with their presence when he was in the house. He wasn't so sure about them when he was outdoors. I hope to take him out to watch them from a distance this coming week. It would be great for counterconditioning him to strangers being near our house.

As soon as they departed each day, we took the pups out to romp. It was fun!

I've been doing his relaxation protocol with him each day. It really makes a difference. I've also been using shaping to teach him to take a deep breath to relax. I have reached the point where he takes a breath but it's not a deep breath yet. On another front, I'm also working on a new approach to helping him handle people who suddenly appear on trails. It's called a "pattern game". I play a game with him indoors where I say "1, 2, 3". Simultaneous to "3", I drop a treat on the ground. He now knows this game very well so that he looks at the ground before I say "3". The hope is that he'll get such an innate memory of this game that he'll be able to play it as people pass on a trail.

I've mentioned before that it can be very stressful having a dog like Hachi. I don't want him to bark or lunge at strangers like he sometimes does. He can really scare people. Then, I felt a little differently when we had a weird guy trespassing on our land a couple of days ago (three times within a day). I'll spare you the whole story but I am suddenly a wee bit grateful that Hachi won't let a stranger near me (especially a stranger who we are not welcoming). Our "Beware of Dogs" signs are for real but this guy ignored them.

I feel very glad about Hachi's progress. Even with workers near the house, he's doing a lot better than a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Many of you remember that our Black Dog had very major elbow surgery in 2016. This was a few months after it. We still had a harness on him so that we could help him not injure the elbow. His sister was his nurse. I found her snuggled against him very frequently.

A couple of years later, he could run like the wind again. This was during a late May trip to New Mexico. We camped in a glorious spot, and these two loved running across the soft grass.

Our Black Dog was truly irrepressible. Nothing could get him down. I'll try to use his joyful attitude when the predicted snow arrives tonight. Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla has been on a streak of finding antlers that deer and elk have shed. It astounds me how well her nose leads her to them even from a long distance.

She's continued treatment for leptospirosis. She's on the 2nd week of 4 weeks of antibiotics. While her water intake plummeted in the first week of antibiotics, it has stabilized at about 2000 ml, which is the absolute top end of normal (and some literature says that it is too high for a 20kg dog). I have to admit to a bit of worry about it. I'll see what our vet has to say.

Despite that, Shyla seems happy and energetic. She loves playing with her brother. This photo makes me think that she's still wild even at nine years old.

Shyla is the perfect big sister for Hachi. She never gets angry when he is grumpy or when he plays too hard. She seems to truly enjoy playing with him - often acting as the instigator to get him to play.

Happy playful Shyla Saturday!

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Essence of Springtime - Black Bears marking trees

For me, the emergence of bears from their dens marks the true start of springtime. In the past couple of weeks, the bear marking trees have been busy. Tiny the bear was the first to mark a tree this spring way back in early April. Since then, a couple of smaller bears have been very active rubbing trees.

The first bear to arrive on a "stomp trail" on May 10 was a sow. She first marked the tree and then she walked back and forth. Notice her funny gait. She was placing each paw in a depression in the soil where bears have placed their paws for decades. She did this to leave scent from her paw pads on the ground. Then, when a male bear comes along, he can follow her by smelling the scent on the stomp trail. It's called a "stomp" trail because some bears hit those spots hard with their paws to maximize the scent they leave.

This sow was very enthusiastic about marking, so much so that she climbed the tree and then descended it like a pole in a fire station! Many hours after she departed, a male bear came along a sniffed (and licked) the tree with great interest. He also walked with his paws in the depressions in the soil.

I will continue this story soon with visits from other bears, including my favorite, Tiny!

Happy Springtime. The bears are out animating the forests again! Enjoy the video.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the beauty of springtime. It is making me smile so much.


I was hoping that I'd be thankful for an operational internet connection (I wanted to include some more springtime photos but I cannot upload them). Our technician didn't show up for his appointment at our house. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll go outside and enjoy springtime.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Our internet worked very briefly to let me upload this photo of a wonderful sight this week. It is a Pasqueflower rising up from a steep hillside that was covered in snow very recently.

I am hopeful that the internet will be fixed tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A coyote pack's scent post

I found a spot on the edge of a meadow where coyotes visit regularly. Sometimes it's one of them and sometimes it's as many as four. Based on the direction that they come from each time, I think that they have a den nearby. Of course, it's the puppy time of year so I'm hoping that we get to glimpse them at some point.

They leave pee-mail almost every time that they pass. I am guessing that it's a pack scent post, a spot where they advertise that it's their territory to all passing animals. The other regular visitors have been bobcats and moose.

The coyotes visited so many times that I had to speed up their visits to avoid it being too long. Thanks to that trick, I condensed it into a short video. Check it out if you have time!

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had a better week. He seemed more relaxed than last week although he still isn't at his baseline yet. He did have to deal with some visitors/workers. We tried having him in the house for a glass installer who was making a lot of loud noise. Hachi was quietly enduring it in a corner of the house far away from the work. Then, the Runner noticed that Hachi's pupils were as big as saucers. That is a sure sign of fear so the Runner moved him to a vehicle for the rest of that worker's visit. Poor little guy.

We met with Hachi's "behavioral therapist" this week. She's a highly trained behaviorist who knows the best ways to try to help a dog like Hachi. She whole-heartedly agrees with us that relaxation exercises are key right now. We added another one to work on - teaching Hachi to take a deep breath on cue! I didn't know that a dog could be taught such an almost unconscious thing. Believe it or not, he is already picking up on it. We are using clicker training to do it.


Life is so full of unknowns. There will be ongoing work at Lab Valley but much of the schedule is not yet solidified. We do know that a very skilled stone mason will be fixing a retaining wall and putting in a foundation for my small greenhouse starting this week (happy dance time!). He'll be working outdoors so that should be less stressful for Hachi than interior work.

All in all, I feel upbeat about Hachi's trajectory. He definitely was less stressed out than last week. That's a step forward!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog loved sun puddles. When I saw the sun shining on him, I'd sometimes join him on his dog bed to snuggle. His fur was so soft and silky. I'd stroke his velvety head and bury my face in his fur.

Our Black Dog  made the most of every day, whether it involved running wildly through a meadow or snoozing in the sunshine. I wish that I could be as utterly content as he was.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is doing better. She had a bunch of tests that were inconclusive. The two clues as to what might be going on were that she had an abnormal white blood cell count and her kidneys were uncomfortable when the vet touched them. Our vet's hunch was leptospirosis so we started treatment for that right away. Within 24 hours, her water intake was back in the normal range.

Oddly, the test came back as negative for leptospirosis. However, there are strains of lepto that do not trigger a positive test (and are not covered by the vaccine). So, our vet says that we should do the entire course of treatment for leptospirosis. That involves four weeks of antibiotics.

I am so glad that we caught this. My reading says that some dogs can have their kidneys fail due to this disease if it remains untreated. I think (hope) that we caught it in time.

Shyla seems to feel good and be very happy. She and I have been having a glorious time exploring Lab Valley. We are finding caches of pasqueflowers (wild crocuses) in the most unexpected places. That makes me so happy!

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Nature Friday - Animals of a very cold gulch

These are the toughest of the tough. In the depths of winter, they continued to use a deep gulch filled with very cold air. Moose ate foliage from the sides of a trail, bobcats hunted rabbits, rabbits ate plants from under the snow, and coyotes passed through on secret missions.

Check out the video of these animals and others deep in the gulch. Remember that the temperature readings from the trail camera are terribly inaccurate. They are usually substantially higher than reality because the camera heats up as it records.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for signs of spring. I've been planting my veggie garden, which is a joy, but the amazing setting makes it even better. As I work the soil and then plant the seeds, I can hear the creek nearby and the birds singing. I am so grateful that the Runner moved my vole-proof raised beds and my rich soil here last fall! 

As I work, I keep my camera nearby because I see wonderful wildlife while I'm out there. Shyla lies in the warm sunshine nearby, keeping an eye on me. 

One project that we did this winter was putting out bluebird houses, hoping to entice some of them to nest in Lab Valley. You can imagine how delighted I was when I saw a Mountain Bluebird checking out one of the houses while I worked on the garden.

As I took photos of him, he flew to a nearby bush, looking for his mate. Maybe he wanted to show her the bird house? I hope so. We put up lots of them so we are hoping that the birds will like them!

Lab Valley makes us so happy. Not only are the birds and other wildlife amazing but our pups have such fun too.

Look at the happy and relaxed face on Hachi when he's been playing with his sister.

There is so much to be thankful for!