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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Thankful Thursday

We woke up the other day to find that a mama moose and her calf had spent the night in the meadow by our house. They surprised the Runner and Shyla when they went out for Shyla's dawn walk. The four eyes shining at them were a bit shocking.


We thought that they'd leave after being disturbed but they stayed nestled in the tall grass for a long time. Poor Hachi had to wait until they departed before he could go out for his first morning pee. He barks at moose so vociferously that it would've been dangerous to take him out. They didn't leave until hours after we'd all gotten out of bed.

Eventually they stood up and sidled toward the creek.

I am so thankful for our wildlife. They are an incredible part of living in Lab Valley. And, I'm saying that even though a bear ate a lot of our garden last night. He ate about half of the lettuce but left the rest of the stuff alone. The Runner got the parts for an electric fence and set it up today. We hope that Mr. Bear is deterred. I have a trail cam set up so we can know if he shows up tonight.

I love our bears, moose, elk, lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and turkeys.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Labrador Valley Bull Elk with his Harem

It's fall in Labrador Valley. Like most places, the leaves are changing and the world is an oil painting of golds and reds. Unlike most places, we have bull elk bugling in the air. A bull elk has chosen this valley for gathering and maintaining his harem.

On Friday afternoon, I was on the deck, and the high pitched elk sound called "bugling" emanated from the slope behind me. The glorious sound of a bull elk continued until it was time to take the dogs for their evening hike. We chose to go up the slope opposite the one where we thought that the elk were so that we could get a wider view.

As we crossed the creek, we looked back toward the house. There was a bull elk with his gigantic rack thrown back herding at least a dozen cow elk. They were only 50-100 yards from the house. We stopped to watch for a bit.

I have video from a trail camera of this bull elk and his harem. He bugles as he tries to keep his harem under control. Enjoy watching the crazy energy of the elk rut!

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been a good week for Hachi. We've been focused on helping Hachi get ready for the next time that he needs to go to the vet. In the short term, we'll rely on sedation for him to be examined by a vet. 

In the longer term, we're breaking down the hard parts of going to the vet into tiny steps. Here is the list of issues that scare Hachi in a vet visit. 1) Going to an unfamiliar place, 2) going to a place that smells like a vet hospital, 3) needing to be in a small room with an unfamiliar person (the vet or tech), 4) needing to be handled. If you combine all those things, you've got a dog in a vet hospital being examined by a vet.

We are working on exercises to address each of those issues. For example, to work on going to an unfamiliar place, we'll start with a friend's house where we'll walk through their door (no one will be in the house) and give Hachi a bunch of treats just inside the door. Then, we'll leave. Simple but important.

Over the coming weeks, I'll tell you a bit more about the specific exercises that we're doing to address each of the hard parts of going to the vet.

And, in the biggest news, we've been experimenting with letting Hachi and Shyla be together off-leash on our deck when there are no food items around. They don't seem to even notice that anything is different from the past. That's exactly what we were hoping for!

In the meantime, Hachi is loving being outdoors in our glorious autumn weather.

Progress happens in tiny steps. We're okay with that, and Hachi seems to be okay with it too.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Black Dog Joy

Whenever I see beauty, I think of our Black Dog.

 Autumn is glorious. We try to enjoy every instant of it.

 Our Black Dog loved all the seasons. 

Black Dog joy lives on.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Shyla has a new nickname: "The Chokecherry Queen".  This week, both pups discovered that they like chokecherries. Hachi was the first to discover them, eating bunches at a time. Shyla observed him gobbling the cherries, and she tried them. Now, she's obsessed with them - to the point of preferring to gorge on chokecherries rather than going for a hike!

The one thing that she'll ignore the chokecherries for is to cover my back when I'm photographing tiny flowers and autumn leaves.


And she adores being my photography model.

She's my best friend. Happy Shyla Saturday.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Mama bear and cub visit Lab Valley

Our evening walks have wowed us recently. The level of wildlife activity is amazing. Due to the wildlife, we always keep the dogs on leash around sunrise and sunset at this time of year. The bears are eating the many acres of chokecherries in Lab Valley, and they love to appear around sunset.

The other evening, we were walking down the valley when we saw two bears emerge from an aspen grove. They both stopped in their tracks to focus on our pack. Hachi immediately started to bark so the the Runner backed him away from the bears.

Shyla has tons of experience observing bears with me so she stayed silent. I asked her to do a "down stay" next to me, and I pulled out my camera. Here were the bears watching us.

One was a mama bear and the other was a cub. It was as if they'd done a dress rehearsal of what to do if they saw us. They calmly walked toward a big Ponderosa Pine tree.


As soon as the cub got there, she started climbing. At first, she climbed only a few feet off the ground and then she stopped seemingly waiting for her mom.

Mom came to sit next to the cub. She seemed to tell the cub to keep climbing.

The cub climbed smoothly and rapidly high into the tree while mom sat at the base of the tree.

At that point, Shyla and I started walking back to the house. When we got there, I pulled out my very long lens when we arrived there, and I kept watching them through my viewfinder. I think that the cub was up very high, just above the "V" of a branch going off to the right nearly at the top of the next photo.

The light was rapidly fading but I could see that mom remained at the base of the tree until darkness fell. She's a good mom!

I think that I've seen this pair before, via a trail camera at a water hole and a couple of bear marking trees. Check out the video if you have time.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Thankful Thursday

Life has been so hectic this fall that I feel deep gratitude for the quiet time we had high in the mountains in August. I mountain biked ribbon-like trails in the mountains each day.

Some days, storms appeared suddenly when I was far from camp. I'd pedal hard to try to beat them back to camp. Most days, I did.

Life is the same way, with storms blocking your path at times. I'm thankful to have a well of peaceful memories when those times come.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wordless Wednesday

Scenes from the day of a long bike ride in the San Juan Mountains.

Peanut Gallery watching me!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Bear, mama moose and calf, huge bull elk and bobcat all use the same trail

Deep in a gulch, there's a trail used by bears. It has bear marking trees along its sides. But bears are not the only ones who use it. Indeed, after mating season, other species dominate it. This year, a mama moose and her calf used it regularly. A humongous bull elk also frequented it. A light-footed bobcat trotted past it. And you'll see the rest in the video.


Monday, September 20, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

When we arrived home from our trip, Hachi seemed to make a breakthrough almost right away. There was a new set of people working on the outside of our house. They were doing some demolition at the beginning. 

It was loud, and we thought that the noise would stress out Hachi. Instead, he lay on a bed on the other side of the wall where they were working and fell sound asleep! The Runner and I wondered aloud if he'd had a secret lobotomy!

It has been the same ever since. As long as the workers are outside the house, Hachi can snooze right through their time here. It is so refreshing to see a breakthrough like this!

It's especially surprising because we think that trips are stressful for Hachi. You can see in the photo below that his mouth is closed and his face is tight. He ran around with exuberance in our campsite but his body language said that he was nervous.

So, despite a somewhat stressful trip (for Hachi - not for the rest of us), Hachi made a big breakthrough when we arrived home. We'll take it!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Whenever I see Shyla play in the water, I am reminded of Black Dog Joy. Way back in 2012, Shyla joined our pack as the most fearful and timid nine month old dog I'd ever met. She was afraid of almost everything. But, her big brother started enveloping her in his crazy joyful attitude from the start. Within her first month with us, we went to a favorite place called "Dog Leap Lake". 

As soon as we arrived, our Black Dog wanted to retrieve sticks from the water. At first, Shyla stood on the shore watching and then assisting with the final bit of the retrieve. Our Black Dog didn't mind her biting the stick at all. In fact, he turned it so that she could grab it more easily (photo from 2012).

During that very first day playing in water, Shyla got the courage to retrieve sticks on her own. No doubt, her big brother's joy helped her to be so brave.

Over the years, Shyla and our Black Dog played in many lakes together, one more than any other. It's an unnamed lake off the beaten path in the San Juan Mountains. When we visited it this year, we decided to name it Black Dog Lake.

Fast forward to this year, nine years later. This year, we all missed our Black Dog terribly. However, in his tradition, Shyla was ready to be joyful all on her own. We humans weren't sure that she'd be able to find this happiness without our Black Dog's excitement. But she was, and it filled our hearts with joy.

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Shyla Saturday

Whenever I take out my camera and ask Shyla to be my model, she is overjoyed! When we're camping, she eagerly anticipates our sunset playtime/photo shoot.

This scene was in our campsite while we were in southwest Colorado. I love the sight of the reddish mountains on the horizon. They complement Shyla's fur so well!

Part of the reddish hue was smoke from western wildfires. I must admit that the smoke made me sad. It made me feel as if our destruction of the planet is accelerating.

However, I cannot stay sad for long when I'm with Shyla. She is, quite simply, my best friend.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Teeny Tiny the bear cub marks trees!

You probably remember that there's a bear cub in Tiny's territory who is most likely his son. This little guy has an unstoppable attitude for such a young cub. In mid-August, he and his mom repeatedly visited one of Tiny's favorite marking trees. Teeny Tiny marked it again and again. And, to really make me laugh, he marked it while sitting down on one occasion. Just like his father.

Check out the video to see this cute little cub in action!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the wildlife who we see from our deck. About three weeks ago, a bull moose sauntered by at breakfast time.


 He ate some breakfast too! What a rack.

Then, a couple of evenings ago, a mama bear and her cub dropped by to eat chokecherries. This was during their departure, heading down to the creek. I think that I have "seen" these two on my trail cam at a nearby water hole. I'll share that soon!

At this time of year, we are constantly scanning the hillsides, knowing that the chokecherries are there waiting for the bears to devour them.

The wildlife is one of my favorite things about Lab Valley!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A bear cub tries to get her mom to play in the water

 A little while ago, I shared a video of Mohawk with her cub "Teeny Tiny". They were in a water hole, and Teeny Tiny wanted to play. Since he doesn't have siblings, he turned to his mom. She enthusiastically participated. It was heart-warming to see.

Close to Lab Valley, I found a water hole that bears love. A mother bear brought her two cubs to cool off. One appeared to try to get her mom to play. Please check out the video to see what happened. It was different from any mother-cub interaction that I've seen before.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Hachi Chronicle

It's been a long time since the last Hachi update. Since then, we took an almost 3 week trip in our LabMobile with him and Shyla.

We finally realized that Hachi has a history of become very stressed during our trips. It's been hard to see that pattern because the trips have fairly long breaks between them. This time, we were ready to carefully manage him to avoid having him take out his anxiety on Shyla. We did things like making sure that the dogs were far apart when a stressor happened like a bicycle going by our campsite. Another example was keeping Hachi well under control when Shyla was retrieving balls from a lake. Although Hachi doesn't want to dive into the water to get balls, he realizes that balls are valuable objects and he can snark (snarl/bark) at Shyla due to wanting to take the ball that she just retrieved.

These issues have become so much better during our normal life at home that it's rare that Hachi will react to them. However, when you add the stress of being away from home, he reverts to his old ways.

The great news was that our management worked. There were very few (and very minor) incidents. Hachi seemed to relax into the trip. By the last day, we were parked next to a forest road, and ATVs started going by. Hachi didn't react to them at all. That showed us how far he'd come due to our counterconditioning every time one went by throughout the trip.

Hachi had some fun too. The Runner and I played with him in our campsite around sunset some evenings. He loves to run - and does so with amazing intensity. We love that we know of campsites that are far enough off the beaten path that even Hachi can do some off-leash running!


We are lucky to have Hachi in our life. Sometimes he acts like a punk but he's *our* punk. We love him.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Black Dog Sunday

Our Black Dog was with us in spirit on our summer trip as we visited places that he'd loved. Because he was on my mind so much, I made a collage of some of my favorite photos of him. The one on the left was from the lake where Shyla joyfully swam this summer. She learned how to seize every single day from her sweet brother.

While we were away, we passed the one year anniversary of our Black Dog's death. Very soon, I'm going to change the format of Black Dog Sunday posts - so that it's less about specific memories of our Black Dog and more about the joy for life that he had. I'll write about sights or events from the previous week that reminded me of his amazing spirit. Believe me, I am reminded of his spirit every single day when I see beauty or happiness.

I haven't figured out what to call the posts yet - perhaps something like "Black Dog Joy on Sunday". Do you have suggestions?

Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Shyla Saturday

During our time in southwest Colorado, Shyla loved taking huge leaps into the lake to retrieve tennis balls.

 She was jumping for joy because she got to play in a lake almost every day!

Friday, September 10, 2021

A sweet oasis in the dry forest

 Around mid-July, I headed out on my bike in search of a new-to-me trail that I'd seen on maps. I knew roughly where to find it. As I got close to it, I noticed a well-worn path heading in the right direction. I blindly turned onto it. It was not the correct turn but it was a LUCKY mistake.  I found myself in a sweet oasis in the midst of a pine forest.

I immediately noticed the "stomp" indents in the dirt made by bears who were scent marking. That sight stopped me in my tracks. I dropped my bike in excitement and started exploring.

I noticed that a spring comes up from the ground there, creating a small pool of water in the midst of the dry forest. As I explored, I also found several bear marking trees. I knew that I'd hit the jackpot. If I'd had time, I would've put trail cams up on that very day. Alas, I didn't have time so I did it the next day.

Within the first week of putting up the cams, four bears visited the area. That was at the tail-end of mating season so I was thrilled to see them. After that, the bears didn't visit as often because they'd headed down in elevation to find food for their late summer fattening phase. However, lots of other animals did visit. 

As you watch, imagine this spot as cool in the midst of a dry and hot forest. Imagine the nearby pine needles crackling under your feet as you approach because they are bone dry. Then, you come upon a pool surrounded with green grass! It's an amazing spot. Enjoy the video!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Thankful Thursday

During this blog's break, our pack took a trip to the southwest of Colorado. We packed up the LabMobile and visited some of our favorite places up high in the mountains. It was wonderful to be outdoors under the stars for a few weeks. The sky was dark but the stars were somewhat obscured by smoke. Nonetheless, it was glorious.

Occasionally, the smoke lifted to let bright colors shine through.

I am going to be trying to take it easier on myself in the coming months. We still have a lot of construction going on. Today, it was a "three ring circus" with three different contractors working on our new place. I know how fortunate we are to be able to have this work done but it's still stressful - very stressful! Moreover, my Dad's cancer is back, and the doctors say that there's nothing more that can be done for it. I know that journey is only going to get harder.

But, through it all, I am so thankful that we have a pack that makes me so happy. And we have the amazing mountains that never cease to astound me with their beauty.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Almost Wordless Wednesday - From High in the San Juan Mountains

From our visit to southwestern Colorado... In the first one, notice the "layer cake" mountain on the left of the image.

This photo is from the base of that mountain. You can see the same layers. And I was overjoyed to find some flowers blooming there!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A menagerie of wildlife visit a bear marking tree

We are back after a lengthy break. I think that it was the longest break that I've taken in more than a decade. I'll tell you more about it in future posts.

On Tuesdays, I usually tell you a wildlife story. This one includes a huge variety of wildlife. Earlier this summer, I was riding through the forest, and I noticed a faint path going off to the left. I stashed my bike, and I followed it. It was an animal trail and not a human trail. 

Along the path, I found a towering Ponderosa Pine. I noticed that the area at the base of the pine was trampled to the point that the plants and grasses were dead. That led me to look closely at the bark to see if bears had been marking it. Indeed, there was black fur stuck in the bark!

I returned the following day with a trail cam, and I discovered that the tree hosted a fun menagerie of wildlife. Check out the short video, and especially notice the fun climbing by the bear cubs.