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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

River Otters at Lab Valley!

We visited Lab Valley last weekend. In addition to pondering the scintillating topic of sconces, I checked a few trail cameras.

I had heard through the grapevine that there might be a few river otters in the creeks in the Lab Valley area. River otters are considered "extremely threatened" in our state. At one point, they had vanished from the state but then wildlife officials reintroduced them in 1976.

They've gradually increased in numbers since then. A friend said that she'd seen their tracks on a snow covered creek in the spring months. You can imagine that I was motivated to set up a couple of cams to try to get footage of them on the creek that goes through Lab Valley.

Believe it or not, I got some footage of an otter, and some of the footage was in the daytime. One cam captured him bounding along on the snow atop the creek. Another cam captured footage of him playing under our bridge! He swam under the ice, doubtless fishing.

I am so excited to have River Otters in Lab Valley! Check out the video.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Despite the chaos of our lives, Hachi is doing pretty well. We humans are coping with construction decisions, and I am sometimes cranky about them. I think that remodeling a house is "death by a thousand decisions", and each of those decisions seems to be required *right now*. Today it is bathroom towel racks and which side to have the hinges on the basement door. Oh my...

No doubt, our stress affects Hachi. It becomes most obvious when we go back and forth between our places. He needs about 24 hours to settle in after a switch. That is understandable. I need 24 hours too. But, with Hachi, I need to work harder to remember to be more careful for those 24 hours.

In the first 24 hours, he doesn't play as well with me and the Runner. He will play a tiny bit and then check out his surroundings. Sometimes, he will spend half of a 10 minute session checking out his surroundings. We never pressure him to play. We simply make ourselves available to play if he wants. 

He almost never says "no" to playing with Shyls!

He also occasionally gets a little growly with Shyla in those 24 hours. That happened this weekend soon after we arrived at Lab Valley. We were out on a short hike, and it appeared that Hachi thought that the Runner was about to give him treats (although he was mistaken). He growled/snarled at Shyla who was next to him. Shyla barely seemed to notice but we humans did.

So, the lesson from this week is to be aware of the possibility of resource guarding when Hachi might be trigger stacked. I need to remember that what feels like a fun transition is also stressful.

This next photo was a fun from an indoor photoshoot when Hachi was about 4 months old. I love seeing the trio together. I remember Hachi's resource guarding from that day (no one else was supposed to get treats, in Hachi's opinion) - and that memory made me realize that how much better he's become since then. It is less frequent and less intense. That is a Victory!


We have accepted where we are with Hachi. We have wonderful days with him. Sometimes, bad behavior emerges. I have learned to analyze it and then let it go. It has taken me a couple of years to reach this point of acceptance, and I'm glad to be in this place. 

We are so glad that Hachi is part of our family.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

The definition of joy. 


Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Shyla Saturday

She watches my back while I am engrossed in photographing wildlife. As long as the animals are alive, she is totally reliable about leaving them alone (but all bets are off if it's a carcass!).


She is an amazing athlete who easily mountain bikes with me to this day. She can run like the wind.

How utterly wrong her previous owner was who said that she was "useless". Yes, keeping a puppy in a crate for the first 9 months of her life creates some psychological problems - but that owner did it anyway. I'm so glad that we invited Shyla to join our family and never looked back. In Shyla's case, love erased her past.

Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Nature and Feline Friday - Wildlife plowing through winter

A wonderful animal trail is now gone, bulldozed for a road. I've been going through my footage from that path and making videos to give others the sense of what a special place it was.

Now, I cannot go to that area because it makes me too sad to see the desolation where there once was a path so heavily used by animals. Since we are moving, I have decided not to try to figure out how the wildlife adapt to the loss of this key corridor. They have been coping with our transgressions for years, and I choose to believe that they will adapt this time too.

Let's enjoy seeing the wildlife activity from last winter, starting in November and going until the first bear marked a tree in April. For me, the "first bear of the year" marks the start of springtime. Enjoy the video!


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for signs of spring. I love when mountain bluebirds puff up their feathers against the cold.

 

I love when the swallows argue. They seem to argue more than any other birds who I know. Fortunately, they also seem to forget their arguments very easily.

 

I love when the mountain bluebirds glide past me.


 

 And I love when Shyla is happy.

We probably have a lot of snow days still ahead of us but the warmth of the sun, the brightly colored birds, and being outside with Shyla make me smile.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wordless Wednesday


There's still lots of snow in some places (and it's snowing again)

But some intrepid birds are here anyway (Western Bluebird)

 

Tree swallow

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Full moon setting

Almost every month, I go out early in the morning to try to get good images of the moon setting. "Try" is the most important word in that sentence because I don't always succeed. Some months the clouds get in the way. Some months the composition that I visualized doesn't work out. And some months I make too many mistakes - plain and simple.

Some months I walk away with a gorgeous cloud formation whipped up by the mountain wind but no good moon photos.

 

And then, every now and then, I end up with more than one moon photo that I like. That can happen because I usually go out for multiple days around the full moon. This was a second-most-favorite photo from a recent month. Moonset was a little later than sunrise so there wasn't alpenglow but I still like it.


I started my "full moon setting" project about 20 months ago. I think that I'll keep at it. It's a fun way to spend an early morning or two each month.

Do you have any full moon traditions?

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Even though we've been at our old place for a while now (construction is too intense for us to be at Lab Valley), Hachi has had a good week. He has been so affectionate with me and the Runner, spontaneously giving us kisses and snuggles. 

In bigger news, he's continuing to have a more muted response to strangers on the trails. Sometimes, if they are at a great enough distance, he doesn't even bark. That blows my mind when it happens.


Every single day, we play the "bucket game" for handling with him. I won't lie - it is going slowly. We are both feeling as if plain old counterconditioning might be working better. However, we will keep at it as long as our behavior team still thinks that it might work.

We also still play with Hachi every single morning. All three of us love it, and we humans think that it may be the single most important thing that we do with Hachi. While we play, Shyla gets personal time with her "machine", which is a Pet Tutor that is set to a program that delivers treats when she is quiet for a certain period of time. I think that her Pet Tutor time might be Shyla's favorite thing all day!

We also try to do Hachi's Relaxation program every day. It's a short training session that is designed to teach Hachi to relax whenever he's on a certain mat. It seems to be working but we still do it only at times of the day when he tends to be sleepy.

Moreover (this is a time intensive dog!), I try to practice putting on Hachi's harness every day. Putting on his harness has been a long term issue for him. It seems to terrify him, and his body language while it's being put on worries me. Just today, I managed to put the harness over his head without him becoming so worried. That was a great moment!

I decided to list all the stuff that we are doing with Hachi just so you'd know that it's a big undertaking to try to help a dog like him. Through a couple of years of having him in the family, we've become very committed to him so we are willing to spend the time. I still believe that there will come a day when we'll look back at his early years as a long-ago memory, kind of like how I have trouble remembering how fearful Shyla was as a youngster. 

I think that we'll be back at Lab Valley soon so he can resume outdoor playtime with Shyla. Despite the lack of playing for the past couple of weeks, he's a happy Hachi these days!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Shyla joined our family in 2012 as one of the most fearful and meek dogs who I'd ever known. From the start, our Black Dog loved her.

One day soon after Shyla's arrival, I came home to find our Black Dog lying in a sun puddle with her. I grabbed my camera to take a photo of their Labraduo snuggles. However, sweet R chose that moment to give his sister some kisses. I felt so lucky to have my camera out and ready at that moment.

Shyla looked sort of shocked - perhaps because of her retiring personality. Over the years, she came to expect spontaneous affection from our Black Dog and reveled in it.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Shyla Saturday

This girl is the best forest exploring companion who I can imagine. We've been hiking in the mornings rather than biking because there's so much soft snow. Hiking is good for our bond because we move more slowly and have more time to interact. Shyla gallops happily on the snow crust, sniffing and exploring. I call her over for treats and pats, and then we walk onward. 

We have no particular destination. We eschew the trails because they are so pock marked with peoples' footprints that they're very difficult for walking. Instead, we follow our noses to wherever the footing is best. 

Then, some mornings, there are glorious sunrises, and Shyla shifts into model mode!


Happy Shyla Saturday. What a sweet pup she is.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Nature and Feline Friday: Mountain lions, bobcats, and dogs all share a scent post

A scent post was started by mountain lions at least a decade ago. Over time, the spot became less secluded with hikers and bikers turning a tiny path into a bigger one. Over time, mountain lions have visited less frequently, and dogs have been the most common visitors. But, wildlife still marks the spot too, with feisty bobcats marking it most often.

Watch the dogs - they show strong interest in the spot. If you're curious about where wildlife mark in your forest, keep a close eye on your dogs. They will show you!

Check out mountain lions, bobcats, and dogs all in the same spot in this video.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Thankful Thursday

Yet again, I am grateful for the happiness of our pups. Their happiness makes us humans smile with gratitude.

 

At Lab Valley, we have a long driveway that is plowed. It is a great place for us to walk and the pups to play when the snow all around it is deep. You can see how tall the wall of snow is along the driveway when they sprint along the driveway.

Sprints like that one often end in some playing. I love Hachi's body language when he plays. I think that playing with Shyla makes him happier than almost anything.


 And sometimes, they even dance together.


The unbridled enthusiasm of our dogs for play is one of our great joys in life. We thank our lucky stars that these two get along so well. We humans walk along "supervising" and smile ear-to-ear.