Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

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!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wordless Wednesday - Maybe Spring is here

Seen outside our house. Woo hoo!


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Fun Bear Behavior

A while ago, I decided to make a compilation video of bears marking one of the trees that was destroyed for a new road. This seems like a good time to share it.

It was the most popular marking tree for years and years. It was a great spot for observing behavior because there was so little other vegetation nearby. All sorts of bears visited it from the biggest bear (Tiny) to a yearling cub.

Check out the video if you want to see some fun bear behavior!

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It has been an anxious week for Hachi. He seems taut with stress. We are doing his relaxation exercises every day, and they seem to help, albeit briefly. His sister remains his best outlet so I am including photos from their play here at Lab Valley. They are such good buddies.


Hachi's social skills continued to grow with Shyla. Not only does he frequently flip over on his back to invited play but he now does tons of play bows!

I think that the reason for Hachi's stress this week was that people were working on the house most days. Hachi worries so much about strangers. We tried to get him out of the house or have him be in "safe places" within the house while they were here. Despite that, his stress obviously rose over the course of the week.


His stress manifested as a growl at me while we were clipping his nails. I don't take that personally anymore but rather I take it as his form of communication. We stopped the session right away. He is usually tolerant of having his nails clipped thanks to counter-conditioning.


His stress also came out at the end of the week when we took a hike in a totally new place (to get out of the house for workers). He and Shyla were sniffing the same spot, and Hachi snarled at her. Fortunately, Shyla doesn't take these things personally either. It seemed like no big deal to Shyla. We were careful to keep them separated after that.

When the workers departed at the end of the week, all signs of grumpiness went away although Hachi still barked anxiously at times when he can usually be calm. 

I am hoping that this week is better. Perhaps Hachi will start to get more comfortable with workers being around. We don't want to have to go back to the old place, especially since all of our furniture is at Lab Valley now.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

I called this pair the "Labraduo" because they were so deeply bonded to each other. I would find them snoozing together almost every time that I looked for them.

They were opposite personalities when they met. Our Black Dog was a boisterous (some might say crazy) young Labrador. He loved every person and every dog who he met. His greatest fault was too much enthusiasm for meeting strangers, all of whom he viewed as instant friends. Shyla was very shy, afraid of strangers (afraid of us, at the beginning), and afraid to try anything new. Our Black Dog taught her by example how to navigate the world.

Our Black Dog worked his magic on her (and we humans helped a little), and the rest is history. It means so much to me that Shyla was so profoundly shaped by our Black Dog. He lives on in her.

May all of us view strangers as friends, unless they prove otherwise, just like our Black Dog. Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Our world had about 4 days of gray skies and snow since last Saturday. I'll admit to some unhappiness about the further delay of springtime. Shyla and I spent time outdoors together every one of those days but we had the most fun on the day when the sun finally broke through.

The world was gorgeous that morning with deep blue skies, a thick layer of fresh snow, and a happy Shyla.


I think that the one thing that Shyla doesn't like about deep snow is that it's hard to find sticks. She dug deep into the snow to find this one and then she wanted to show it to me.


After this fun session in the snow, we headed down to the flatlands for Shyla to have some blood drawn. I was so glad that we'd had such a glorious morning prior to the vet visit!

Her tests showed that something is not right but didn't pinpoint the cause. Now we are testing her for leptospirosis, a hidden unknown infection, thyroid issues, and cancer. My impression is that cancer is pretty far down the list but that didn't stop me from tossing and turning in worry. As we are doing all of these tests, we'll try a strong antibiotic to see if that reduces her need to drink so much water. That would help with either leptospirosis or a hidden infection.

Shyla is nine years old, and I am hoping for many more years with her. It feels as if she's still in her prime, especially behaviorally. It's wonderful to see how she is an outgoing and happy dog despite her rough start in life.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Nature Friday - Wild residents (including one you'll recognize) use a Labrador Valley trail

 In the valley that we call "Lone Ponderosa Valley", the wildlife activity is picking up as there's a glimmer of spring on the horizon. Coyotes, mama moose and calf, and deer are the most plentiful. Our family loves to visit the valley also, often when it's the most beautiful early in the morning.

Check out this short video, and enjoy the cameos by Hachi as he passes the cam during skiing and running outings with the Runner.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful that spring snow is pretty!

The incoming storm...

The next morning... In the snow, I spotted a red-tailed hawk nest with two hawks tending it near this spot. I hope to photograph them over the coming month!


A seasonal stream, fed by melting snow, has emerged in this spot. The Runner built a bridge over it, making skiing and fat-biking across it much easier! Do you see our house in the distance?

I am thankful that we are spending this spring in such an incredibly beautiful place! I feel sure that the big storms are just about over.

Monday, May 10, 2021

A menagerie walks through a pine forest clearing

At our old place, I spent a couple of decades learning the special places in the forests where the animals routinely visit. 

One such place is on the south side of a ridge where mountain lions usually scrape and leave their scent. For much of this winter and spring, no lions visited but many other species did. Bobcats dominated. They made me laugh when they obsessed over the tip-top of a bush that was suddenly within reach due to very deep snow. You'll see the bobcat rolling on that bush. 

The snow depth fluctuated so much that it's hard to tell that it's all the same view from the same cam but it is. Watch to the end for a puffy ending!

Check out the video!

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi's behavior this week has been all over the map. He seems super happy on our hikes. He's overjoyed to run like the wind with his sister in Lab Valley. They also have a great time exploring together. I love seeing them running or walking side-by-side as they enjoy all the scents in our valley.

In his training, he started to have an old issue this week. At times, he seemed unable to calm himself sufficiently to focus on any training. He barked in frustration over things that he can usually handle. For example, when we play the "Bucket Game", he is supposed to tell us that he's ready for us to handle him (e.g., paws or ears) by lying still while looking at a container full of treats. He gets a treat after we manipulate a paw or look in an ear. This week, he barked in frustration during the game to such an extent that we ended it.

He had this issue before almost a year ago, and relaxation exercises during the day helped immensely. However, with all of the chaos in our lives, I lost track of his relaxation mat so I stopped doing the relaxation exercises. This week, I finally refound his mat, and we've restarted his relaxation protocol. And, after just a few days, he's capable of doing the Bucket Game again without barking in frustration throughout it. Woo hoo!


Another snow storm has started that is predicted to dump another foot of snow on us. Our internet was down Sunday afternoon/evening due to the snow so this post is late. I'm so ready for the snow to end for the season but the pups were over-the-moon happy during a hike as the storm started They love it. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog had an impish side. He loved to be in sun puddles with his sister, and sometimes he'd invite her to play with a friendly paw to the forehead.

R knew how to teach Shyla to trust him. He used a combination of playfulness and love. His lessons were the start of a happy life for Shyla.

Happy Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Snow, snow, snow. We've been having about one big storm per week over the past umpteen weeks. For most of this winter, I really enjoyed the snow. But, in my opinion, it is now time for springtime. Mother Nature does not agree. Another foot of snow is due in a few days.

Thank goodness for Shyla and Hachi. Their joyfulness about snow, no matter what month it is, makes me smile. It seems that almost all of my photos of Shyla this spring have been in snow!

Shyla seems very happy with being at Lab Valley. However, I've noticed her drinking more water than in the past. We have a blood test and urinalysis set up for her this coming week. Yesterday, we measured how much she drank, and it was 3000 ml, which puts her squarely in the "drinking too much water" category. She's been taking seizure medications for years (with great success in controlling her seizures). I hope that they haven't messed up her liver or kidney function. We will know more in a week or so.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Kitty, coyote, kitty, kitty

This clearing in a forest is a mountain lion favorite. You might remember it from when a lion visited it 2-3X per day while he devoured a carcass that he had cached nearby. There has never been quite that level of activity since then but it is a spot that lions and other carnivores visit regularly.

This video includes 6 months of visitors: bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. Not only do single male lions visit there but families do too! Be sure to watch to the end to see a mother lion with her two kittens play in the clearing.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Thankful Thursday

Snow in May is pretty normal at our elevation in the Rockies, and it is a key source of moisture that helps us in the summer. However, every year, I am ready for spring by May. Fortunately, our pups make me smile my way through the May snow storms.

They played happily on the day of the latest storm.


And then we were gifted a bluebird day on the day after the storm.


For a little while, the snow stayed on the trees set against the azure sky. Amazing!

I am thankful, however, that the bluebirds will doubtless return very soon. They've "arrived" several times already but they retreat to lower elevations when we have snow storms. I'm ready to enjoy their kind of spring beauty!

I keep reminding myself that a snowy spring will lead to amazing wildflowers. I will be thankful for that!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

A wildlife message center at the junction of two valleys

Down Labrador Valley from our house, a second valley joins in from the north. For wildlife, the meeting of two valleys is a bit like a major traffic intersection for us humans. They love to travel along valley floors because travel is easier than in rough terrain.

One species that is there frequently is moose. We have a mother and yearling calf pair who have been around all winter, and they pass through that intersection regularly. The other morning, they joined us for breakfast. Indeed, they were so close to our deck that I didn't need a zoom lens to take a photo of them!

And here was mom's glamour shot! She's a beauty.

This pair, and other moose, frequently go through the valley intersection where I have a cam. I first placed a cam at that intersection because bears passed through there a lot in the fall. However, bears sleep all winter long so other species dominate for the winter.

Check out the video of the animals who traveled past the cam. It included both herbivores and carnivores. The carnivores seemed obsessed with reading the messages from others as well as leaving their own!

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

After feeling like Hachi's progress was stuck for weeks, he now seems much more relaxed. It may be that we humans have been maxed out recently, moving back and forth multiple times per week and feeling completely exhausted.

As soon as we got to Lab Valley, we humans relaxed and so did Hachi. I'm sure that our mood affects him but I also think that the opportunity to be off-leash (while supervised) multiple times per day makes a huge difference to him.

On Sunday afternoon before another snow storm moved in, we had a mellow walk and then simply hung out in the meadow by the house. The two pups quietly explored the newly uncovered grass 45 minutes or so. There was no raucous playing while they both seemed to decompress from the recent stress.

Then, Hachi wanted to play but Shyla was reticent. So, Hachi did something that is pretty new to him. He lay down on his back to invite Shyla to play. If you think about it, it takes a lot of trust and confidence to assume such a helpless position. It worked.


Soon, they were really playing, with some chase and some wrestling.

They danced a bit too!

We are so hopeful that, during this break in frenetic activity, Hachi will zoom forward in terms of his behavior. When he is able to relax, he's a different dog. 

It's been very interesting listening to a Podcast called Cog-Dog Radio by Sarah Stremming. She is a trainer who handles very tough cases. One of her first recommendations for dogs like Hachi is to find someplace where it's safe for them to have off-leash time at least a couple of times per week. She says that many behavior issues are solved by this simple step. The hard part is finding such a place especially when your dog is reactive.

Even before I'd found her podcast, we'd come to realize that off-leash time made a huge different to Hachi. Due to an influx of people at our old place, that had become impossible. I'm so glad that we have a new place where it is absolutely fine!