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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A new bear oasis

Explore, explore, explore. I was riding along on my mountain bike, and a path caught my eye. I turned onto it, and I instantly knew that I'd found the best spot yet for bears near Labrador Valley. It's taking these almost invisible turns that often leads to the best finds.

There's water, there's a stomp trail that extends a long distance, and there are marking trees. Soon, I had a cam there, and the activity has been fascinating.

This was the first footage that I got in that area. It includes a bear swimming in a small pond, and then two bears at a marking tree. I was so overjoyed when I saw the footage on the cams!

Check out the short video. I might call this spot "Bear Land".

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Another good week in the books for Hachi! He seems like he has a softer personality when things are going well. He's wiggly and affectionate when he greets us. His eyes literally look softer than usual. You can see that in this photo with Shyla.

We've been getting ready for his vet appointment this week. We met with his behavioral vet with whom we identified a series of factors that would make his appointment most likely to go well. Then, it was my job to convey these to our regular vet. I felt very uncomfortable about it because a number of things would require her to bend some rules for us. They included: 1) allow both me and Runner to go in (the limit is one human per dog right now due to Covid), 2) use a big room for the exam, 3) have the vet already be in the room when we bring Hachi in, 4) no techs or other workers should come into the room while Hachi is there, 5) let us do as much of the handling as possible, 6) play the bucket game when we handle him.

That's a lot to ask! And, I'm not good at asking for special treatment. But, for Hachi's sake, I did. Our vet was so receptive and said that we could do all of those things. She also wants to see our videos of the bucket game so that she is ready to play it. I feel really good about this!

Let's hope that Hachi's great state of mind helps him to have a peaceful appointment.

We will be having some workers here this week, and I really hope that it doesn't ratchet up his anxiety. We'll do our best to help him stay relaxed.

We are so happy for good weeks!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

We are having a flower year like 2019 - when I took this photo of our Black Dog almost dwarfed by the flowers. 

Just today when I was playing with Shyla, I remembered how R used to opportunistically plunge his snout into my treat bag. He'd snarf treats as fast as he could until I managed to extricate his mouth. One time, I was squatting down, and he dove into the treat bag with such force that he flipped me onto my back (I was fine). He was a Character!

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla loves to swim and she especially loves to swim to retrieve sticks from the water. We had fun this week in our new neck of the woods using our daily mountain bike ride to visit a spot where she could swim and play fetch. We were both so happy about it!


Having water along our regular routes has made our summer outings better for Shyla. She can cool off along the way which makes her much peppier on warm days.

We have both loved the lush meadows and the wildflowers. They're amazing!

Shyla met a pair of our new neighbors one evening this week. She was so gently friendly that she made friends with them instantly. Somewhere along the path of her life, she became a totally happy and outgoing dog. I still glow when I see her making friends with strangers.

Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, June 25, 2021

A mother bear and her cub near Lab Valley

 A black bear sow and her cub are living near Labrador Valley. My cam spotted them on a path with a lot of bear marking trees - but remarkably few bears yet this year. The mother checked out a marking tree and rubbed her scent on it. This is just like what I have seen with Mohawk and her cub near our old place. The cub was very interested in the tree and what his mom was doing. He was so cute!

Check out the short video!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Thankful Thursday

This phase has been one of the busiest and most frantic in a long time. We are in the process of selling our old house, and we are trying to get things set up at the new house. We don't have all the storage places that we need yet (cabinets, closets, etc) so there are a lot of boxes placed willy nilly as we bring them from the old house. All the while, we are planning more renovations... but we don't know when they'll start.

I have wondered out loud more than once why we decided to uproot our lives like this. Fortunately, there's a good answer so it all feels worth it. Labrador Valley is so beautiful, wild, and makes us feel free. That's why it's worth it.

The flowers are stupendous, and the pollinators are hard at work. This reminds me of a person deciding to stick her whole face in the ice cream bowl!

The Columbines are opening!


And some are fully open!

Columbines are my favorite flower. They are sprinkled throughout the valley but there are none right by the house. At our old place, I spent a long time getting a Columbine garden to thrive, and it has been hard to leave it. So, last fall, I collected seed pods from my Columbine garden and planted them at Labrador Valley. Many of them are growing but, as I knew ahead of time, it'll be a year or two until they bloom. Until then, I'll nurture them and enjoy the wild ones.

One evening after yet another frantic day of trying to make headway on my to-do list, we hiked up to the viewpoint above Labrador Valley. The sunset was stupendous! That's called a "banner cloud". They occur on very windy days. The cloud dwarfed the mighty Continental Divide.

I am thankful that nature keeps showing her beauty and reminding me why we're working so hard to make this transition.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Home sweet home


Near home!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A bear pair marking trees and taking baths

Since discovering Labrador Valley, I've been searching for the places where bears spend their time during mating season. Although I've found a lot of promising places, I've found only a couple that have had regular bear visitors so far this mating season.

In one spot, there are multiple marking trees and a water hole. Recently, a male and female bear visited the spot together. They were together because it was mating season. As I've seen on every occasion when a pair was traveling together, the sow was first and the boar was trailing behind. 

At the start of the video, the sow sniffed a bear marking tree and took a brief bath in the water hole. Then she moved on. Then, the male appeared in the picture, marking the tree and taking a long bath. He made cute little grunting sounds the entire time, perhaps asking the sow to wait for him.

Check out the short video!

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi had another good week. One day this week, we had two workers inside the house all day long. He and I hung out in the basement because that was the quietest place in the house. He seemed fairly calm despite strangers being nearby.

Then, during a break in the chaos, we busted out for a hike in our valley. As soon as we were out of sight of the house, Hachi romped in the wildflowers. It is so wonderful to have land where he can run despite his issues with strangers. It seemed to relax him so much.

While we were out, I couldn't help but visit the amazing and delicate wild irises in Labrador Valley. Since Shyla wasn't with us, he watched my back while I focused my macro lens on them. The pattern on the petal reminds me of a runway inviting insects to land in the pollen.

Our regular vet will soon be able to let one client come into the clinic with each dog. Because she knew that we were waiting for this day (there was no way we'd terrify Hachi by sending him in by himself), she reserved us a spot on the first day. So, Hachi has a vet appointment!

I've never before had a dog who worries me so much when it comes to vet appointments. We immediately started practicing vet exams with Hachi's behavioral therapist who specializes in helping dogs like him. We've been working up to this for a long time with all of our practice of "cooperative care". Despite that, I know that it will be hard for him. We'll just try to minimize the stress so the appointment doesn't lead to a setback.

All in all, it's been a good week for Hachi. That's all that I can ask. He's a good little pup.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

It is wildflower time, a time that I will always associate with the serene moments that our Black Dog and I shared in the flowers. No matter how busy my day had been, I'd forget everything else while we hung out together in the incredible beauty. I can almost feel that peacefulness just by looking at the photos and remembering.

He had such a spark in his eye even though it was blind, as if he was listening raptly to what I was telling him. 

Have a happy and peaceful Black Dog Sunday.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla is happy and seems healthy. She finished the four week course of antibiotics for leptospirosis. Now, we are watching and waiting to make sure that it doesn't come back. We also measure how much water she drinks every single day!

She and I are loving the wildflowers in Labrador Valley. It's fun not knowing what flowers will bloom in each part of Labrador valley. I'm curious to see what happens next here.

 Happy Shyla Saturday!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Mohawk the Black Bear and her Cub

My trail cams revealed more mischief by our cub of the year. Just after a bath, the cub's mom ambled to a marking tree that our bears visit frequently. While she checked it out, the cub messed with my camera, again! I'm glad that the cub isn't bigger because the cameras would have been damaged by a bigger bear. His mom, Mohawk, grew up among my cams so she's seen them for all of her life. She doesn't seem to notice them anymore.

Watching this cub makes me wonder about the social development of a single cub. Mohawk's last litter consisted of two cubs, and they focused their play on each other. This cub doesn't have another cub to play with. I wonder how it will affect this cub? It's probably part of why he's noticing the cams and messing with them.

I do know that mother bears who have only one cub occasionally go into heat because the one cub's nursing isn't sufficient to prevent estrus. I've been wondering why Mohawk is visiting the trees that male bears mark during mating season. Is she perhaps looking for a mate? That's another risk in a single cub litter.

Check the short video of Mohawk and her cub.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for Lab Valley. I've never lived on a meadow before now, and I am loving having the meadow flowers right outside my door.

We are having an incredible flower year so far. Just down Lab Valley from our house, Shyla ran through the Golden Banner flowers.


Then, she watched my back while I photographed the wild irises. They don't last long so I am trying to enjoy them every single day while they bloom. I took this one with an "artistic" lens which softens everything but the part that is in focus. It's a tough lens to learn to use but I like this image.

As I was photographing an Iris the other day, an insect landed on it, drinking its pollen.

What an incredible time of year! I love living in a meadow where there is so much beauty. I will be sharing more of it as summer unfolds!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Biggest and smallest bears mark the leaning tree

Our absolute biggest bear marked a leaning tree. Then, along came his beau (Mohawk) with her cub. Both of them marked the same tree as Tiny marked. And, the cub continued his/her interest in photography, examining and rearranging the camera.

It's a fun video. Check it out!

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.