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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wordless Wednesday - A Sunset to Remember

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Full Moon over the Mountains

It was the morning that I thought that the setting moon over the Divide would be most pretty. That meant an early alarm clock. As I hopped out of bed, I could hear the wind buffeting the house, and I wondered what it was going to be like up at our viewpoint with a direct view of the Continental Divide. When I read that the gusts were over 60 mph, I knew that we'd be lucky if we could avoid being blown away but I steeled myself to head out into it anyway. Soon, Shyla and I set out in the dusky light for the snowshoe hike to our photographic spot.

When we arrived at our exposed spot, I had to very carefully set up the tripod while always keeping one hand on it so it wouldn't blow away. Then, I got out my camera and attached it to the tripod. After the camera was attached, I spent the whole time leaning on the tripod to keep it from becoming airborne. 

Even in that terrible wind, my sweet Shyla had my back, lying just behind me.

We watched the alpenglow warm up and the moon sink to the Divide. It was gorgeous. I love seeing it even when it is cold and very windy.

After most full moon photoshoots, I hang around to watch the sky for a while after the moon disappears. Not today. I packed up my tripod, and then I noticed the scowl that Shyla was giving me. The wind was coming from behind her, and you can see the fur on the top of her head standing up due to the wind. She did not look pleased.

Thank you, Shyla, for watching my back despite those winds. You are the best.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi has had a peaceful week. It's springtime in the Rockies so he's been playing in snow a lot.

Unlike our pure Labs, Hachi isn't always crazy about snow. However, if he has his sister to play with, he usually forgets that snow is cold and makes his poor shaved belly cold (it was shaved for an ultrasound when he was sick).

One really nice note of progress for him is that he seems to be reacting less strongly to strangers who surprise him by driving down our Lab Valley driveway or by appearing in the distance. He still barks but it's not quite so strongly. Also, he's recovering from it faster than before. When workers arrive at Lab Valley, they disappear into the house. Hachi seems to forget about them very rapidly. That is a good thing!

For any of you who have reactive dogs like Hachi, you might enjoy a podcast called "The Bitey End of the Dog". The host (Michael Shikashio) interviews experts on helping reactive dogs and their owners. I am learning a lot and also discovering just how common our journey is. One of the experts focuses on the human end of the relationship - talking about the long process of accepting that your dog won't be cured instantly and how to cope with the various phases of that acceptance. It was helpful to me.

All in all, it was a good week for Hachi!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

No one in the world taught me to appreciate each day, no matter what the weather, more than our Black Dog. On this day, the snow was up to his chin. He tilted his head as he examined whether I might have a treat in my mitten. Surprise - I did!

That snow brought us amazing flowers in the summer and sweet moments of happiness as he and I shared the wildflower beauty.

His sunny outlook on life taught me so much and still brings me joy.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Shyla Saturday

We arrived at Lab Valley for the weekend, and the chaos is almost unbearable. There is construction equipment littered throughout the house, and some rooms are completely filled with it. There is fine dust on every surface. I am wearing an N95 mask inside the house to avoid an asthma attack. Thank goodness that we love the land or we would have turned around and headed back to the old house in seconds.

The good news is that they are making great progress. Phase 1 should last only a few more weeks. Then, we get a break before the next phase.

Regardless of what else is going on in our lives. Shyla is such a source of happiness for me. I love spending time in the forest with her. We play games, hike with wide eyes, and do photography.

She's the best friend that I could ever ask for.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Winter at a pee-mail spot

It's a spot in the forest that does not look special. It's a normal forest path but there's one spot along it where the pine needles often get rearranged by the paws/hooves of passing wildlife. I first noticed the spot due to mountain lion scrapes left there.

I previously showed you a fall installment of the activity there with lots of mountain lions marking the spot. As fall cooled into winter, other species dominated. First deer visited frequently, particularly during the rut. One deer was followed by a mountain lion.

Then, the red foxes (including the black-colored morph of the red fox) and the bobcats took over. Watch closely when the black-colored red fox meets the red-colored red fox. One of them had their tail straight up in the air which I've never seen before. Do you think that they were friends?

Whenever a bobcat comes on the screen, watch their tail. It always seems to me as if they cannot control their tail twitches. I love how expressive their tails are!

Check out the short video if you have time!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Thankful Thursday

Winter has decided to stay for a while. It has snowed almost every day for a couple of weeks. After one snowfall, I spotted a red-tailed hawk perched above Lab Valley. I first saw him at dawn, and he was still perched there three hours later. He looked like he'd had a cold and damp night. He was in a good spot for catching the rays of sun when the clouds briefly cleared.

While Shyla and I did a little fat bike ride that morning, we spotted a coyote who was walking on the the crust atop the snow. The only season when coyotes are easy to spot is winter because they stand out against the snow. On this morning, he was keeping his eye on me and Shyla.

One of the best parts about snow is how much the pups like playing in it. Shyla finally has all of her enthusiasm back for playing since being sick. She loves the snow.

After a winter of so little snow until recently, we are thankful that it is finally falling. Not only will it help spring to have more bountiful flowers but it also makes Shyla so happy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A Project with Spring Overtones

It's technically spring now even though it's been snowing almost every night here. In the spirit of spring, this is a post about a bird that I saw last spring, a Western Tanager. These birds love pine trees, and it's really hard to get a good photo of them that isn't filled with dark twigs and other stuff. In this case, he flitted out of the pine canopy briefly, and I snapped a photo.

I used this photo in a course about using Photoshop for art work. The idea is that you use a photo that you took, and you use tools within Photoshop to give your subject a different background. It is not meant to trick people into thinking that your new background is real. Rather, it lets you use art to highlight your subject.

In this case, I wanted to make a background for the Tanager that reflected the deep green and textured background that the boughs of a pine tree create. I also wanted to use colors that complement the Tanager's colors. This is what I came up with.

I have no idea if it is "good" but I do know that I loved the process of creating it. I was totally engrossed in trying to use certain colors to complement the Tanager. It was such a relaxing project.

It will still be a couple of months before I see a Tanager this year but this one has made me smile through the recent snowstorms!

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi is so filled with joy when we can return to Lab Valley. He can run off leash at full speed.

And, he can play with his sister. I love when I catch a moment of eye contact like this one.

I have to admit to some recent moments of discouragement with our efforts to help Hachi. Some of the training games seem to move forward more slowly than a slug. Yet, when we have our monthly meeting with his behaviorist, I can see that we've made tiny bits of progress. We hope that, by being consistent in doing our training games with him, a day will come when his trust blossoms so that many different fears fall by the wayside. I still believe that will happen someday - and our job is to keep "showing up" for his training to make it possible.

We love Hachi like crazy. There's a sweet heart inside his fearful outer shell.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog was an affectionate and sweet big brother to Hachi. He played with Hachi so gently and nicely in the early months of Hachi's life with us.


Our Black Dog was affectionate and reassuring to Hachi just like he'd been to Shyla when she was young. Despite how things evolved as Hachi matured, their friendship in those early months is a memory that we cherish.

Our Black Dog always had such a sweet disposition. He assumed the best in dogs and people. It made my heart swell as I watched him navigate the world projecting sweetness to everyone. He often went to a university campus with the Runner, and the students would flock to him wanting to pat him. That happened the most during exams so we often joked that R should be a therapy dog for students! As a mature dog, he had the perfect disposition for it.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is the sweetest pup who I can imagine. Her heart is huge, forgiving anyone who upsets her almost instantly. She has forgiven Hachi many times, and I am so grateful for that. She is the perfect big sister to him.

I remember this day back around the winter solstice but somehow I forgot to post the photos back them. At dawn, we saw the sunrise lighting up the sky brilliantly, and we sprinted up to where we could see it better. Because she is my muse, Shyla hopped up on a boulder for some howling and photos.

After howling, she sniffed the wind, learning all about the happenings in the forest.

My gratitude for having Shyla in my life is endless. I am realizing that even more acutely as I am starting to see more signs of aging in her. The "tic toc" that I hear in the distance when my pups are seniors has reached my heart recently. I hope for many more years of wandering in our beautiful world with Shyla.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Winter is the hardest season for our wildlife

I've had a trail camera at a local pond for years. Every year, I am struck by how the demeanor of the animals tells me that winter is very hard for them.

After the pond freezes, some animals eat snow while others lick the ice surface when they are thirsty. Except for the youngest elk, the herd seems consumed by survival - drinking water, eating grass, and saving every calorie of energy that they can. The local bobcat trudges across the pond slowly, with no extraneous movements.  Only the coyotes still move fast, trotting briskly across the pond.

Check out the video!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Thankful Thursday

The joy of our dogs when they can romp and play makes us smile.


Cold and snowy weather makes them want to play even more.

We think that play is so important to Hachi. It helps him to relax for a long time after the play ends.


Our driveway at Lab Valley is a favorite play site. It is plowed so they can run hard on it. That's not currently possible in unplowed places. Three feet of heavy snow makes it difficult to run very fast!

Today, we are thankful for the joy of dogs playing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A frosty mountain lion out in daylight

On Valentine's weekend, we had our coldest days of winter so far. It hit -20°F in our area. The cold front came in with a wave of fog so frost appeared on many surfaces.

Surprisingly, one of those surfaces was the back of a mountain lion. He had probably snoozed the day away, curled up in a secret spot. Then, an hour or so before sunset, he headed out to hunt and perhaps feed on a hidden meal.

On his way out into the world, he passed a couple of my trail cams. He had frost on his face, head, back and tail.  He shook the snow off of his paws at one point during his walk. Fortunately for him, it appeared that he'd been eating well, with his full stomach hanging down from his frame. That helped him on this crazy cold day.

Ignore the temperatures written on the video. Trail cam thermometers tend to be so wrong that I wish that the trail cam companies would stop showing them in the videos.

This daytime video is short and fun. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

We are having fun in the snow storm. We returned to Lab Valley for the first time since Hachi was so sick. His behavior toward Shyla has returned to normal after the blip of nasty behavior during his illness. Now, the two of them are playing in the snow like the good buddies that they are.

The storm started a lot later than expected. By Saturday afternoon, it finally arrived, at least 12 hours late. We'd had small snowfalls every night for a while so the world was already white. The pups played together in front of the old cabin on our land.

And they sprinted side-by-side in the driveway.

We awakened on Sunday morning to a lot of accumulated snow, and it was still snowing very hard.

The two pups went down to the creek together through snow that was over their heads. Coming back up the creek bank was a serious challenge.

It was great to see their exploring and playing partnership come back as if nothing had happened. I think that completely separating them while Hachi was sick was a good move. 

Life is good for Hachi and the rest of us.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

As it is snowing outside, I've been thinking of our Black Dog's love of snow. For his whole life, I always tried to find some fun time when it snowed. His joy made me happy.

As a young dog, he never wanted to stay still while out in the snow. I remember the first time that I took him cross-country skiing with me. I needed a pee stop so the two of us went well off the trail (even though no one else was around). I told him to "stay" in my most serious voice. I planted my ski poles in the snow, and, as soon as my pants were down, he grabbed a pole and sprinted through the forest with it. It was hilarious. He did eventually bring it after his joyful sprint with it was finished, and we collapsed into the snow as I laughed.

In more recent years, he was willing to sit for a photo. But, he still jittered with happy energy, throwing in waves at random times. On this occasion, he waved and wooed at the same time.

Whenever we have a snowstorm, I remember how our Black Dog loved snow. He found utter joy in playing in it.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Shyla Saturday

I am very glad to report that Shyla is feeling much better. Her energy and happiness are sky high. Her GI tract is back to normal. We are so relieved. We still don't know what caused her illness.

Most of our week was quiet, as Shyla rested. It was worth it. Hearing her voice in the mountains at sunrise is music to my ears.


Now I think that she is strong enough to play in the fresh snow that will arrive soon. Having dogs who love snow makes these storms so much more fun!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Nature Friday

Our area has snow fever. The most recent forecasts are tending toward the high end of the range that I mentioned yesterday. That would make the depth of the snow greater than my height! We are excited. It should start this evening.

Part of the reason is that we haven't had a big storm in a long time. These are some photos from big storms over the past couple of years.

Hachi leaps vertically to navigate the maze of paths...

Shyla plows through it!

Happy Nature Friday! Please go visit the LLB Gang for their blog hop. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I have two things to be thankful for today. First, Shyla is steadily getting better. She woofs her displeasure if she doesn't get to go on a morning bike ride with me. So, we've restarted riding together, albeit with short rides and some howling thrown in.


She was full of energy this morning, wanting to run and leap in the fresh snow. I am so thankful to see her bouncing back.

The other thing that I am thankful for is that there may be a HUGE pile of snow for her to play in soon. A storm is taking aim at our area and will probably stall out over us, dumping lots of snow on our area. Various weather forecasts put the total snow over four days at 2-7' (it's very hard to predict the weather close to the Divide). For once, I am enthusiastically cheering it on, hoping for enough snow to dig us out of our drought. I want flowers and no fires this coming summer!

This was the driveway to Lab Valley after our last fairly small snowstorm. I am hoping that we soon have more snow for the pups to play in and for picturesque winter scenes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

From one year ago - a favorite of mine


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A pee-mail spot with lots of visitors

When I find a mountain lion scrape in the forest, I tend to think of that place as a lion place. But, it often is popular with far more species than just mountain lions.

In this case, the scrape area is visited by foxes, bobcats, skunks, and lions. You'll notice a mostly black fox with a white tip on his tail. That's the silver morph of a red fox. Apparently, they often look silvery over their whole body but, around here, I've seen only black ones. He is cool looking.

You'll also see that a mountain lion has a kink in her tail. That is often caused by in-breeding which is sometimes a sign that a mountain lion population is in trouble. I'm hoping that this lion's kinked tail is an old injury rather than a genetic aberration. A later lion decided to roll around where the main scrape is. I've seen that behavior before but it always surprises me!

Enjoy the video!

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been a week of Hachi getting back to 100% since his illness. He seems like he feels great. We've kept him away from the construction because our guess was that stress was a big part of why he was so sick. Now, with Shyla having had seemingly the same illness, we are not so sure about that. However, whether it made him sick or not, it was stressful, and it seems better to stay away from the construction.

A couple of good things came from Hachi's bout with this illness. We learned more about the best place to get him veterinary care, and we learned about what an amazing resource our behavioral vet is. We found out that the method for sedation used for most dogs didn't seem to slow him down at all. The vet went to Plan B which did work. As hoped, the sedation prevented the long period of fear that resulted from Hachi's previous visit to the vet. That is good.

On the day when Shyla went to the hospital, we both had to be away from home at Hachi's medication time. Yet, we were pleasantly stunned that it worked well to have our and Hachi's good friend come into our house to give him his pill pocket. Hachi has known this friend since he was a teeny tiny puppy, and he loves to see her on the trails. We didn't know for sure how he'd handle her coming into our house when we were gone. But, she says that he wagged his entire body from inside his ex pen. She gave him his pills and patted him. Yipee - that is a big step for Hachi! Learning to trust is a challenge for Hachi.

Now, all of us are hoping for a very boring week. No illnesses and little stress will make all of us happy, including Hachi.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

On a recent snowy day at our old place, I stopped to gaze at this sign where the "back trail" heads into our land. I love the understated humor in it. It's even funnier if you knew our Black Dog, He was far too friendly to be a guard dog. We do plan to take it with us to guard over Lab Valley.


Shyla and I have done some short walks together since she came home from the hospital, out past our "Black Dog Guard Dog" sign and then to a spot that is bathed in warm sun at this time of year. I used to take her and R's photo there at this time of year. We paused to gaze at the spot, remembering her sweet big brother. 

Shyla used to rely on R's support to stand tall and confident. Thanks to him, she now stands tall on her own.

 Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla was well enough to come home yesterday afternoon. They used an IV to rehydrate her. They said that it was a very bad case of dehydration caused by "acute hemorrhagic diarrhea". Her blood pressure fell to a low level, and many of her bloodwork values were very "wrong" due to dehydration.

No one can explain the cause of the dual illnesses of Hachi and Shyla. We have racked our brains for a commonality but we haven't found one. The 13 day gap between their illnesses is too long for a virus or other pathogen to have been passed between them.

Now, we will rest and hope that we are finished with this illness. I am so happy to have our sweet girl home.