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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

I find myself feeling as if I need a little Black Dog inspiration. Just as I thought that the pandemic-induced isolation for my father was going to ease, the evolving virus variants threaten the efficacy of the vaccine that he recently received. My spirits are low. 

When I got the blues while our Black Dog was alive, I would find a few minutes to sit outside with him - cracking jokes, petting him, and smiling - to beat the blues. This photo was from one of those moments.

I had a nightmare about our Black Dog this week. He jumped in the water and dropped like a stone. I jumped in after him and pulled him up very quickly, but he was gone. When I couldn't shake the dream, the Runner had to remind me that, although R left us unexpectedly, we kept him safe from drowning even when he was blind and had laryngeal paralysis. He wore a flotation donut around his neck.

When I first saw the flotation donut, I thought that R would never relax enough while wearing it to have fun retrieving in the water. I was proven wrong within about 30 seconds of R starting to wear it.

He had a summer of wonderful water play thanks to that donut. Now, it is sitting in our basement, and it makes me smile whenever I glimpse it. Wonderful memories of an irrepressibly happy dog.

Just writing this and looking at the photos has made me smile. Thank you, Black Dog. Your spirit lives on.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Again and again, I realize that Shyla is the sweetest, gentlest, and most loving dog that I can imagine. Over the years, her fear of strangers has been replaced with an incredibly sweet approach to them. She's winning the hearts of the people working to fix up our new house. After she gets over her initial shyness, everyone wants to pet her and hang out with her.

A huge highlight of every day for me is my morning outing with Shyla. We start out with golden hour photography just as the sun is rising. My favorite subjects is her (surprise, surprise). Then, we ride together, sometimes stopping for more photography like the next photo up near the Lone Ponderosa.

She's been showing small signs of her age (9) in terms of occasionally getting sore legs. While I should be prepared for it, these signs still scare me. I'm sure that we'll need to adapt our routine in the future. However, for now, we'll keep enjoying it for as long as we can. Every day is precious.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Plethora of Wildlife in a Gulch near Lab Valley

There's a gulch near Lab Valley where a surprising number of animals like to spend time. I thought that the cold and snow would make it an unpopular spot in winter. So far, I was wrong about that. However, it has hardly been a snowy winter to date.

I first became interested in it when I noticed bear marking trees. Of course, the bears are asleep now so no bears have ambled through there in months. Instead, cats are prevalent - both mountain lions and bobcats. And, big bull elk with painfully heavy antlers love the gulch. Deer love it too.

As I've discovered the variety of animals there, I've put up a few cams, mainly because different species like slightly different parts of the gulch. The footage today is from three cams all within about 30 yards of each other.

Check out this video if you have time. I always love spots that attract all sorts of wildlife, and this is one of them.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Thankful Thursday

It's been a quiet and wintery week, and I'm grateful for the peacefulness of Lab Valley. On the morning before snow moved in, Shyla and I enjoyed the view of the Continental Divide while we played.


Then, a small snowstorm moved into the area. We've had so little snow this season that I was enamored with seeing Lab Valley in white! This is the Lone Ponderosa where we buried the ashes of our departed pups. It is such a special part of Lab Valley. I find this towering tree to be inspiring.

In National Forest near Lab Valley, there are serene places to ride my fat bike. No other humans had been out but a bobcat and a coyote pair had wandered this forest road before me. Further down the road, I ran into moose tracks in the fresh snow.

Living in a peaceful and beautiful place means so much to me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Lone Ponderosa

Hachi with Lone Ponderosa in view

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A parade of wildlife ended by an elk's antlers

Even in winter, I've been continuing to explore the Lab Valley area. I am particularly curious about the routes used by our mountain lions as they hunt and mark their territory. Prior to the onset of winter, I found a few scrapes but they are very difficult to get to now due to drifted snow. I will wait until spring to check them again.

One area that I've targeted is the edge of a meadow. The meadow is pocked with deer and elk tracks - they forage for food in the meadow. On the first occasion that I visited the spot, I found the tracks of a female mountain lion. She'd patrolled the meadow from the cover of a forest, probably searching for prey.

I set up a cam in that spot, and I waited a couple of weeks before going back to check it. See what I found! There's a funny ending to the video courtesy of a bull elk with a big set of antlers.


Monday, January 25, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has had an up and down week. Moving back and forth definitely stresses him. We can see it in our training games, in his ability to stay calm while being handled, and in his demeanor during walks. 

He loves Lab Valley and playing with his sister. That seems to spill over to other parts of his life, making him much happier overall.

When we are at our old place, I am constantly astounded by how well Hachi reads peoples' body language from a long distance away. From about 75 yards or maybe further, he instantly picks up on whether a person is someone who is nice or someone who is not. It seems as if his accurate judgements even extend to people who he hasn't seen on the trails previously. 

I read a book titled "A Wolf Called Romeo" about a very friendly wolf who lived near Juneau, Alaska for years. He liked to spend time at a recreation area where he'd play with people's dogs and even people themselves. He had a similar ability to "read" people which helped him to live a long life. 

We rarely see anyone else on our hikes at Lab Valley so Hachi can relax and just have fun.

Overall, it was a good week for Hachi. He definitely feels stress about us moving frequently but he can let it go when we get to Lab Valley. That's great news!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Today, all that I can say is that we miss this guy. What I miss the most and will stay with me forever was the pure hopeful happiness in his eye. When we did little outings together, like this one during a snow storm last winter, his eye would fill with joy.

I visualize the look in his eye every day, and the vision reminds me to make the most of the day.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Life is discombobulated with all the moving to and fro. But, Shyla always makes me smile. She will chase sticks for as long as I can throw them, and her enthusiasm makes me grin.

I grin even more because I know that it was a long journey to reach a point where she can leave her worries behind and play joyfully. I remember when her previous owner told me that Shyla was "useless" at retrieving. With years of building her confidence, she loves retrieving more than almost anything.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, January 22, 2021

All sorts of Carnivores love a Mountain Lion Scrape

Mountain lions mark in spots that can look nondescript and boring. More often than not, these spots are under pine trees where a thick carpet of pine needles lie. Shyla is the best at finding these spots based on scent. Then, when I follow her and take a look, I see the small piles of pine needles and "scraped" spots under the trees. Without Shyla, I'd walk past most of them!

Indeed, today I show a spot that I literally passed on my bike for years before I noticed the scrapes under the Ponderosa Pine trees. When it finally caught my eye, I felt embarrassed that I hadn't noticed the obvious scrapes for so long!

After a lion anoints a spot by scent marking there, other carnivores visit too. In today's fun video, you'll see a whole series of carnivores who seem to check this spot whenever they are passing by. Then, you'll see the big cat come into the area. He was all over the area for about 48 hours prior to my visit to check the cam (I have multiple cams in the area). I got really nervous when I saw him on the videos even during daytime, and I kept looking over my shoulder while I quickly changed out memory cards. Fortunately, he didn't seem to be nearby while I was there. Or, perhaps he's really good at hiding!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the freshness of new beginnings.

Each sunrise feels like a new start with a new day stretching out in front of me that holds hope of being a special day.

I am thankful for new starts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Rock Corridor Used by a Menagerie of Wildlife

Last winter, I found giant mountain lion tracks in the snow next to a meadow. Being a silly person, I followed them up a steep hill to a spot where huge boulders make it seem almost impossible to go down the other side. Yet, the mountain lion didn't hesitate. He wound his way around a few boulders, and then he led me to a magic rock corridor. That corridor is a secret passageway for getting down the other side of the steep hill.

Of course, a little later, I brought a trail camera to that spot. I set it up to record the animals who used the rock corridor. The very first animal was a female mountain lion. After her, a menagerie of wildlife appeared on the cam. Some used the corridor as a travel route, and others seemed like they lived in the rocks making up the walls of the corridor.

Check out the video if you have time. It's a relaxing interlude in this crazy world.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been a happy week for Hachi. He's had many good days, as we were either at Lab Valley or the Runner took the pups there just for an afternoon romp. When they have the chance, they play chase every single day.

One thing happened that is so routine for most pets. We got our notice that it's time for Hachi's annual exam. You may remember how absolutely terrified he is when being examined by anyone but us. He was so afraid last year that we felt that it took him a couple of months to get back to his baseline after his annual exam. Over that time, he was more afraid of us and of everything else. That is despite the fact that we have the most gentle "certified fear-free" vet that you can imagine. All of our other dogs have loved her.

We've been playing the "bucket game" with Hachi as a way to give him agency when being handled. The general idea is that we have a cup of treats (the "bucket") in front of him. If he looks at the "bucket", he is saying that it's okay for us to handle him. As soon as he looks away from the treats, we take our hands off of him. He gets a treat from the bucket after each time we successfully handle him. We've literally been playing it daily for months, and he's just now making serious progress with it. We can look in his ears, handle his paws, and gently pinch his skin as if he's going to get an injection. We have not yet started actually clipping his toenails or brushing his teeth during the game but I predict that we'll be able to do that soon. There are some good videos of it online if you google it.

Despite our hard work, we are not close to the point when anyone but us can handle him. We do have the option of sedating him for an annual exam (and vaccines) which I think will be the solution for this year. But, we also have the issue of Covid, which means that we cannot go into the vet hospital with him unless they take extraordinary measures to protect themselves and us. We'd want to be there for him, especially until the sedation kicks in and after it starts to wear off. So, we will probably delay his annual exam until more of us are vaccinated.

Hachi's first silhouette photo

I had no idea that a simple annual exam could be so anxiety-inducing, even for us humans. Have any of you had a pet who was as terrified of being handled as Hachi is? Any tips for annual exams?

Hachi may be complicated but we love him. We'll figure this out.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

I remember these days like they were yesterday. Our Black Dog and Shyla let their new little brother snooze between them.


It was Hachi's first winter with us. Our Black Dog was the big brother that everyone would want to have.


He was Shyla's best friend.



And he was Hachi's best friend. Hachi followed R everywhere, always wanting to be as close to him as he could be.  They took many naps snuggled together.


As you probably know, it didn't remain quite so idyllic. But for a while, it was incredibly sweet.

Even after Hachi's behavior took a turn for the worse, our Black Dog showed his forgiving and generous spirit. He was always glad to offer brotherly love to Hachi.

Happy Black Dog Sunday. Memories of our Black Dog are so sweet.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Shyla Saturday

After a rough start to life, Shyla has reached a confidence level that makes me smile. She eagerly greets our contractors at the door, - and and she wins their hearts almost right away. She often brings them a toy as a welcome gift as they come through the door. Then, she stays nearby while they are here. 

As a young dog, she was much too terrified of strangers to even go near them. Seeing how she's changed over time is heartwarming.

What a sweet and wonderful dog Shyla is. Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Feline and Nature Friday - Part 2 of "A Mountain Lion Scrape in 2020"

Last week, I shared a video of a very active mountain lion scrape. It ended with a female caterwauling at the scrape, trying to call in a mate. Many of you said that you were so curious to see how her vocalizing efforts worked.

This video picks up at that point, and the ending is super exciting!

Enjoy the video!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for this vision that has become reality. It's such a serene spot with the mountains watching over us. While there's lots to do to make the house suitable for us to live there full time, the setting is what stole our hearts.

Shyla is just as happy about it. This is her at sunrise on the ridge above the house.

Believe it or not, this was the first place that we'd even looked at an online listing for. The Runner found it, and he confidently told me that he'd found our new home. He was right. I am so thankful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Here's what I saw during an early morning roll out from our Lab Valley house the other morning.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Moose voices during the rut

It is no secret that I am barely keeping up with things these days. With the remodeling of the new house and the traveling back and forth, I am overwhelmed. Add needing to apply for permits for future work to the list of why I'm overwhelmed.

That has extended to my trail cam work. I just recently discovered some footage from October that made me smile. It was from a cam that is pointed at a mountain lion scrape. However, our moose took it over in October during their mating season.

On one day in particular, they spent a lot of the day deep in the pine forest where lions like to leave their scent. I guess that moose have nothing to fear from mountain lions so they can hang out there without worrying.

The cool part of their behavior was their voices. The bull moose whined and sang with such a high voice that it was hard to believe that such a huge animal was making the sound.

Check out the video and keep your sound on!

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi's week had a not-so-great part and then a much better part. The reason was that we spent time at our old place and then at our new place. At our old place, the number of people on the trails has skyrocketed, and we were frequently meeting people. Some of them were wonderful people who we were glad to see and some of them were not-so-pleasant people.

Hachi's worst moment was when a person suddenly appeared around a blind curve in the trail during our evening hike. The person was well within Hachi's fear threshold - which means that Hachi was terrified. Then, this person kept striding straight at us even though Hachi was barking and lunging wildly. As this was happening, I was trying to get Hachi off the trail and far enough away that he could handle seeing an unfriendly person (he absolutely recognizes the difference between friendly and unfriendly people). The person got so close that it scared me but at least we managed to get out of his path. The icing on the cake was when the person snickered at us. - That incident replayed in my mind for days afterwards.

Fortunately, during a break in remodeling of our new place, we were able to go to Lab Valley for the end of the week. The peace and tranquility of Lab Valley is like balm to the soul. It is where we belong, and I cannot wait to be there all the time!

Hachi is a different dog at Lab Valley. He relaxes. No one seems threatening, and he can frolic happily.

We love our Hachi like crazy. He had a very bad start to life, and overcoming it is a huge challenge. He has made big progress, and I think that it will zoom forward when this transitional phase is over.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

 From last winter...

Our Black Dog and I had a fun little outing during a snow storm. He was so happy just to be out having a little play time with me. 

On that day, like many others, he showed me that he never wept over what he couldn't do. Rather, he embraced what fun things he could do. We had such fun that day!

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Shyla Silhouette Saturday

A cloudy day with just a sliver of horizon visible is perfect for a brilliant sunrise. As I drank my coffee in the pre-dawn light, I saw the glow from the horizon. I dressed quickly so that Shyla and I would not miss it. We pedaled to a good viewpoint, and Shyla pointed her snout toward the sky. What a glorious sight.


As she howled, for the first time ever, a coyote answered her. They went back and forth a couple of times with Shyla looking shocked by his voice each time.

It was appropriate because I call this boulder "Coyote Rock" after a coyote who I saw on top of it years ago.

What a wonderful morning out in the forest with my muse, Shyla. Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Feline and Nature Friday: Six months at a mountain lion scrape - males marking and females caterwauling

There's a spot in the forest on the edge of a meadow where mountain lions leave their scent. It was a very active place over the past year. Not only did the male lions "scrape" to mark their territory but a female desperately searched for a mate at this site. She was a vocal lion, trying to call in a male.

Here is video from six months at that mountain lion scrape. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thankful Thursday

After the day that we had yesterday, I am grateful for the simple things that can be found out in Nature.

The morning's golden light never ceases to wow me and Shyla. And the peace of sunrise is a welcome break from the rest of life.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Shyla at Sunrise

Sunset over Lab Valley


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Part 2 - Life within the Elk Herd during the Rut

The elk rut happens when the world is still somewhat warm, and life is easy for the elk. Since it was warm during the rut, the elk love ponds. While the bull elk is so serious about the rut, the younger elk still want to play. Sometimes they play in the pond and sometimes near the pond.

Today's video is from a pond almost adjacent to the one from last week's video. However, the tone within the herd was quite different. The bull elk was standing in the water banging the water, kicking the water, and then destroying a bush with his antlers. Meanwhile, the females and calves were chasing each other, seemingly swirling around the rest of the herd. I found it to be mesmerizing to watch the whole scene.

Check out the video if you have time.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Happy Hachi!


This was another good week for Hachi. He loves Labrador Valley so much. Running like this a couple of times a day helps him to relax.

We made an interesting observation this week. While we were out on a hike, Shyla paused to pee. Hachi attempted to tackle her to start a wrestling match at that instant. Shyla was not pleased. She barked out two serious barks. Hachi backed away, waited for Shyla, and then they played. That showed me that Shyla can tell Hachi when he's out of line without him getting aggressive. I was previously pretty sure that Shyla could correct Hachi without him over-reacting but it was super to see it with our own eyes.

Hachi's history of resource guarding has made us very nervous about using any treats for training when Shyla is present. Unfortunately, the result of not using treats was that their recalls were getting weak. Over the past two weeks, we've reintroduced cheese for recalls when they are romping together. Our routine is that the Runner calls Hachi first, and gives him cheese when he arrives. Then, the Runner keeps Hachi while I call Shyla and give her a cheese reward. It has worked beautifully, and both of them are coming when called about a million times more enthusiastically. We are not seeing any signs of Hachi being upset about Shyla getting treats. We are so pleased!

We are so happy with how Hachi is doing. When we finally can live at Lab Valley without going back and forth due to construction, this is going to be a happy pack!


Happy Hachi Monday!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog loved the snow. He galloped through this 2' of fresh snow last winter. He was so happy to be out in it.

He also adored when the snow got packed down, melted a bit and then refroze. It would reach a perfect texture that only he could judge. When it did, he'd throw himself onto the ground, roll onto his back, and wriggle on the snow. 

He loved doing this so much when the conditions were right that it was almost impossible to cover any distance on a hike. All that he wanted to do was wriggle! The only time when he refused to wriggle was if I tried to photograph him. He'd leap to his feet and act as if he hadn't been doing anything at all.

What a joyful dog he was.

Happy Black Dog Sunday! His relentless optimism and hope is a good attitude to imitate.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Shyla Saturday

The morning dawned cloudy but with a glow burning from the eastern horizon. That often means that it will be a beautiful sunrise. 

My mind was spinning, trying to think of where I could shoot a silhouette photo of Shyla in Labrador Valley. It was one of those moments when figuring out every little thing about our new place felt overwhelming. I almost gave up and stayed inside.

But, if you don't try, you never learn. When I'm not in a sleep-fog, I can get excited about figuring out all of the new things. In retrospect, I am very excited about it.

We did finally sprint out the door to try to find a spot where we could see the sunrise before it was over. After a wildly exhausting gallop up a steep hill, we did. It's not the perfect spot yet but it was good!

It occasionally crosses my mind that I have no idea how I'll function when Shyla cannot do these small adventures with me. Then, I push that thought out of my mind and enjoy that she can do them today.

I am thankful for sweet Shyla being by my side.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year

Early in 2020, I saw this view at sunset. It looked ominous with the fire-like glow on the horizon, perhaps portending how our world was about to change.

Although we had tough times in 2020 both individually and as a society, there were moments of great beauty.

Comet Neowise was a wonderful surprise of 2020. We had such fun watching it. On one of our outings to a mountain lake to watch it, we took R with us (and left the others at home) as a special treat for him and us. I am so glad that we did. In a sense, it was one last adventure with him.

I am sure that 2021 will hold both wonder and sadness like most years do. I hope that wonder wins in our hearts.

Happy New Year.