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Friday, September 30, 2022

Autumn update

It's been a few months since I last posted. I've been busy with lots of things, including trying to save a wetland that I think of as "Tiny's Water Hole". I found out about construction plans to bulldoze it to oblivion, and I decided that it was my calling to make a difference. Saving it is still a work in progress but I'm optimistic that it will still exist when the construction is over. I will write more about it in the future.

I've also been "working on myself". After the years of my dad's illness and several other major stressors, I found that I had a problem with anxiety. I've been working with a counselor on the anxiety, and I've also taken up meditation. I am on the road to a less anxious life but I still struggle at times.

And, alas, the construction on the house has continued. We are almost finished for this year with one more big renovation season planned for next summer. Our new house is getting closer to our vision for it. While the land has always felt like home, the house is gradually feeling more and more like home.

In addition to all of those things, I've taken the time of not blogging to work carefully on my photography. I am taking far more landscape photos now than ever before, trying to show how nature provides glimpses of brilliance even when life is hard. Here is one from about 9 days ago on a soggy, foggy, and cold day. It wasn't what I would call a "beautiful day" but the nascent autumn colors made me love it. I feel so lucky that this spot is a 1 minute walk from my door.




Friday, July 15, 2022

Hachi Update and Thank you!

Thanks to all who offered support for Hachi yesterday. They figured out a super sedation protocol, and Hachi had a full exam from our behavioral vet. He's recovering well although he's still a little subdued and confused. Thanks so much for lifting my spirits yesterday.

Here's a photo of him from our most recent trip to the desert. We are giving him the best life that we know how to give him. For him in particular, every day is a gift that he wouldn't have had in other circumstances. We know that, and we remind ourselves of it when we need a lift.



 
 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

I have not written a "Hachi Chronicle" recently. I'll be honest - it's partly because things have not gone as I hoped. We've been working with trainers on trying to help Hachi feel okay around strangers - with the goal of him being capable of receiving vet care more easily. 

We seemed to be proceeding well until about 6 weeks ago, and our trainer even touched him during a session. Then, a week later, things went backwards - and Hachi was more afraid of being close to her. We all decided that we needed to slow down, and that there would be no unsedated vet exam this year.
 
Fast forward to today. Hachi is spending the day at our behavioral vet's hospital. They are figuring out a sedation protocol that works for him. His brain is so different from normal that the usual canine sedation protocols don't even slow him down. They hope to find a drug cocktail that works today. Then, our regular vet will use it for his annual exam and dental cleaning.
 
It is heart-wrenching to be Hachi's humans. We so badly want life to become easier for him yet our efforts have seemed so ineffective so far. Sure, on "Hachi's scale", he's come a long way but he's nowhere near normal and is still very afraid of people.
 
So, Hachi could use some good vibes today. He is very scared being in a big vet hospital for the day.
 

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wordy Wednesday

Feeling some blues. One of the repairs to my shoulder from surgery four months ago has probably failed. The decision about what to do is obvious to me. No more surgery on it. This photo fits my mood.

I do know how grateful I am to have this river running past my house. Its sound and sight is so soothing.

Time to head outside and ride my bike along side this water.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Caught by a storm

A couple of days ago, I climbed up high on my bike. The route was forested so I couldn't see the clouds building over the Divide as I pedaled. When I popped out above treeline, the flowers, the water, and the threatening sky were stunning. I took a couple of quick photos and fled downhill away from the storm. Alas, I couldn't outrun this one. I ended up huddled under a small spruce tree as hail pelted out of the sky. Despite that, I was so grateful for seeing this beauty and for living so close to it.


 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Happiness in a storm

A theme in my life over the past few years has been learning to see the beauty even when I'm scared by a storm. I'm sorry for being so inconsistent here but I've needed time. I'm finding my way but I'm not there yet. Perhaps I'll never be but I sure have learned a lot in the journey.



Thursday, June 23, 2022

Thankful Thursday

 There's no place in the world that I'd rather be. The wildflowers are popping and the birds are singing.


 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Stunning Red Flowers

As I rode my bike in the desert, I scanned the landscape. This bunch of paintbrush flowers stunned me. I saw it from a long distance, parked my bike, and headed onto the desert floor to see them closer. The red against the white sand was brilliant. It was a testament to how being present in the moment sometimes shows you the beauty in the world around you.




Friday, June 17, 2022

A Miracle - Tiny the Black Bear Appears at Lab Valley

I've been following the biggest black bear I've seen, who I dubbed "Tiny", for years. I spotted him with a cam near my old home in April. Then, he disappeared from that area. He's an older bear so I began to suspect the worst. 

I said to the Runner that I was so sad because I thought that Tiny might be gone. When I said "gone", I meant dead. Young and hulking male bears have moved into his territory near our old home. They could have fought him and killed him or simply driven him out.

Then, I said the key thing -  "Isn't it odd that a bear who marks trees while sitting down, just like Tiny, has recently arrived near Lab Valley?".  Bells went off in my head. Maybe the bear near Lab Valley was Tiny. I thought that the probability of that was SO low that I didn't even start comparing their images until a full day later.

After staring at videos to compare Tiny near our old home and the new bear near our new home, I concluded that it was Tiny at our new place!!!! He has been here for close to a month, last seen with a sow near a water hole. Can you imagine the sheer luck to have made that happen? There are literally thousands of acres of forest land between our old home and our new one. How did I get so lucky?
 
Questions abound. Did he get fed up with the crush of people, development, and noise near our old place like I did? His habitat was rapidly diminishing there. Or, does he do this commute every year? I know that he disappeared from our old place every year around the start of June until just before he entered a den in the fall. Maybe he was here in early summer every year.
 
I am SO filled with gratitude to have this magnificent bear near our new home. It makes it feel even more like home. I wonder how long he'll stay? Time will tell.

Check out the video of him at our old place and our new one.


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Sandstone Castles in the Desert

At sunset in the desert, there's a hidden expanse of slickrock where we love to relax. In the distance, we can see K's Rock - which looks like a series of red rock castles from this angle. Sights like this one take my breath away.


 

Friday, June 3, 2022

A long and restless nap by a bear

A big male bear lumbered in front of my camera. I assumed that he was scent marking and would be on his way soon as I watched the first few seconds of video. Wrong! Next, he dug a day bed in the thick carpet of pine needles. Finally, he lay down to sleep. He spent six and a half hours snoozing restlessly.

Check out the very condensed video!


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Almost Wordless Wednesday


 

A storm was fast approaching on the horizon as I hiked in a wash deep in Utah's red rock desert. I felt the wind pick up and the air get colder. I began to hustle toward camp and our LabMobile. Then, I noticed a brilliant clump of Paintbrush at my feet. I stopped to appreciate it despite the threatening storm. Perhaps this is a metaphor for how to live life.

Friday, May 27, 2022

A tenacious tree

A tenacious little tree. I wonder how long it's been fighting for its life atop this wind-swept cliff. The only dirt it has is a bit of sand in a crack between the rocks.


Amazing.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Sunday Snow Joy

We are in the midst of a May winter storm cycle. We had cement-like snow fall to the tune of about 10". It was 15°F this morning. A hummingbird in torpor appears to be frozen to the side of the house next to our hummingbird feeder. We're watching to see if he survives when he thaws. It's supposed to snow more this week amidst below freezing temperatures. 

Our pups love it much more than the hummingbirds do!


 

I am getting stronger all the time. However, the very act of pushing the limits in terms of my shoulder and wrists exhausts the muscles. I am so happy to be in the phase of getting stronger even with the muscle fatigue exercise can cause. I have at least an hour and a half of rehab exercises to do daily.

This winter was so hard in so many ways that it's left me in an introspective mood. I meditate daily as a way of grounding my spirit. I'm feeling more calm with each passing day. That is good.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Peaceful mother mountain lion and her kitten

A serene moment of life with a mother mountain lion and her kitten.

 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Winter Travelers on a Mountain Lion Path

Last week, I made my way to a trail camera that sits next to a seasonal stream. I was shocked to see that it was not running. Last year, it ran from when the snow melted until September. This year is different. Water is going to be of paramount importance to our wildlife. I hope that some sources keep flowing.

The animals kept flowing along their trail throughout the winter. It's a trail that is dominated by bears when they are not in dens. In the winter, it is owned by mountain lions. Many different lions walked this trail over the winter.

Check out the video to see them all.


PS I'm going to take a little blog break. Typing has recently become harder again. I'm not sure why.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the joyful play that our pups love. It snowed this past weekend, and the dogs were ready to romp as soon as it stopped. Shyla has cultivated this playful friendship with Hachi since he was a young pup. Their happy play fills our hearts with joy.



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A mama mountain lion with three young kittens!

Last week, Shyla and I checked a trail camera that is pointed at an area where male mountain lions like to scrape. I was overjoyed to discover that a mother mountain lion with young kittens had visited the spot.

She had triplets, and they were about 4-5 months old. They are look exceedingly healthy!

Check out the video!


Monday, April 25, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

This week was mixed with Hachi. We had a great visit to the vet hospital. I've never seen him so relaxed in the exam room. We played games, let him explore, and did the bucket game. We were so happy with how it went!

 

Our trainer came to our house a few days later. We started with the treat-retreat game in a different part of the house than usual. It went well. However, in retrospect, Hachi was a bit amped - but he was very happy. He loves playing these games with our trainer.

Then, we moved to the room where we usually work with our trainer, and we tried moving her even closer to Hachi than last week during the bucket game. Last week, we had her about 2' away but in front and slightly to the side of Hachi. I was on the opposite side of Hachi, and the Runner was in front of him. 

Since we wanted the trainer to possibly touch Hachi this week, we moved her so that she was almost exactly opposite me on Hachi's side. Hachi (wearing a muzzle) then needed to walk directly between her and me to lie on his mat. That was too much for him. He did lie on his mat but then he seemed to realize that he was very close to the trainer and sandwiched in the middle of three people. He reacted with a round of barking at the trainer. After that barking, our trainer moved further away but Hachi was spooked.

To end on a good note, we all took a break, and then we went back to exactly the same setup as last week. It went great. That speaks to how resilient Hachi has become. We inadvertently took him over threshold but he was able to calm down very quickly. No long term harm to his training!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Tiny, the Black Bear, Celebrates Springtime!

Many of you know how I adore seeing Tiny the black bear. Recently, Shyla and I took a hike to check some of my cams in Tiny's territory. I was overjoyed to see that he is active and looking good! He's the only bear who my cams have seen yet. For years, he's always been the first bear to appear on my cams in springtime!

He still has that chronic hind limb injury that requires him to sit while marking trees. It looks no worse than in recent years so that's good news. He's an inspiration!

Check out the video and help me celebrate the start of springtime!


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for Shyla, the dog with the biggest heart that I can imagine. Despite her own fear issues, she took Hachi under her wing and has loved him ever since he joined our family. Even after she is the recipient of a growl, she instantly forgives Hachi. It almost seems like she understands that his growls are motivated by fear so she's kind to him no matter what.

Shyla did not have an easy start to her life. We adopted her at 9 months old, and she was the most fearful and submissive dog I'd ever seen. It fills my heart with joy to see that her heart is healed enough for her to be able to help Hachi gradually find his way.

Alas, that is an old photo. After Hachi's aggressive behavior toward our Black Dog, we are not comfortable letting these two be free together in the house. However, they do peacefully coexist on the deck - which is a fairly new discovery. They aren't snugglers on the deck but they do hang out close to each other.

I am so grateful for our love-filled Shyla.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

A bull moose and a bull elk meet face to face!

 It is rare to see two different species meet face to face. At a junction of two valleys near our house, a bull moose was walking downhill on a path when he met a bull elk who was coming up the path. There wasn't enough room for them to pass. What do you think happened?

Check out the video!


Monday, April 18, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

Hachi's brain seems to have opened up to learning. Here's what we did this week.

We went to the vet hospital for a Happy Visit. Hachi was relaxed despite a big German Shepherd barking at him as we walked into the clinic. Hachi barely reacted to that dog's barking. Inside the exam room, we played games with him including asking him to do all his tricks, tossing treats all over the floor for him to clean up, playing "go say hi" where one of us sends him to touch the hand of the other one, and, of course, the bucket game. He had one vocalization at a loud voice outside the room but he was not reactive besides that. I am blown away by his progress.

Then, later in the week, our trainer worked with us. We moved our easier games to a smaller space in our house - a hallway with open areas at both ends of it. Hachi was happy despite the new location. We also had the trainer leave and return via the front door several times. She talked to Hachi, looked at Hachi, and switched between sitting and standing (when we started these games months ago, she never looked at Hachi, moved or spoke). None of these things bothered Hachi.

Then, we did the bucket game in our biggest room. We did it there because we knew that we wanted the trainer to move closer to him than ever before. It went superbly. The trainer was within 2' of him, sitting on the floor next to him. She'd say "hand" and then reach into the air near Hachi but didn't actually touch him. He didn't even give her side eye! Woo hoo!

 

I know that reading these reports is a little like reading about paint drying - slow progress. To be honest, I've stopped projecting into the future for Hachi. I don't think about goals on a regular basis. Rather, I look at what he can do *today*, and we work from that place. This non-goal-setting attitude is new for me, and I adopted it as a form of self-protection to avoid disappointment. Surprisingly, the change in attitude coincided with things going much better with Hachi. Perhaps it is a lesson in the power of focusing on Now.

We love our Hachi.

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Animals of Lab Valley from Fall through Winter

There's a spot close to our house in Lab Valley where an aspen grove narrows the travel route to a thin path. Many animals pass that spot and then even cross the bridge by our house despite our presence in the valley. Within our first month here, there was a mountain lion but there hasn't been another since then. However, the variety of animals since then still makes me smile.

Check out the video to find out who we share the valley with.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Thankful Thursday

I'm starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and for that, I am grateful. It is 6 weeks since my surgery so things are close to on schedule. My range of motion improves day by day. I am starting some strengthening exercises. It feels so good to be on the road to regaining strength. The only worry is that I seem to have a nerve "entrapped" in the scar tissue of my surgically reconstructed shoulder. That hurts and keeps me awake at night. I am told that it should probably resolve as my range of motion returns.

I am allowed to take short bike rides outdoors. No trails or bumps or falling down are allowed. I had to smirk about the "no falling down" rule. I never plan to fall! But I am being very careful. My goal is to be able to ride on all my favorite trails this summer.

I also can pick up a camera again. I started with a little pocket camera, and I've progressed to my normal camera. I support it with my normal arm (left) and push the shutter with my surgical arm. Taking photos has made my heart so happy!

I am thankful. This has been a dark winter for me. I'm doing the work to feel better, and I am seeing results. Big smile.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Moose Alley became Coyote Alley in Wintertime

 The place in Lab Valley where the mother moose and her calf spent tons of time last summer turned into "coyote alley" over the winter.  I love these beautiful canines, especially in the crisp winter light trotting across the snow.

Check out the video!


Monday, April 11, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

This week saw more progress for Hachi.

First, we had a really good visit to the vet clinic exam room. Hachi had only one minor outburst at noises in the hallway. For the rest of the time, he relaxed more than ever before. We had him do his repertoire of tricks in the room. And, for the first time, he relaxed enough to want to explore the room. He sniffed all of the corners, furniture, and veterinary equipment. I thought that his ability to explore was a huge sign of his less-stressed state of mind. He did super well when we did a mock exam on him. Afterwards, we started talking about how to introduce another person into the room. That'll be a big step.

Then, our wonderful neighbors offered us the chance to use their house for our weekly appointment with our trainer. A new setting can be tough for an underconfident dog. Hachi handled it well. He was curious about their house, sniffing and looking around. But then he settled into our normal routine. We played all our usual games, and we also did the bucket game with our trainer. This week, she was within 4' of him (it was 6' last week), playing the role of the vet without actually touching him. She said "hand" and then reached toward him as if she was going to touch him. He was fine with it!

Weeks like this one are so rewarding! We love our Hachi.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Shyla Saturday

This was from one of our big snows last April. There was a big storm in the forecast for this week but, like our other spring storms this year, it seems to be petering out. While my heart yearns for true spring, I know that our huge spring storms protect us from wildfires and nourish our wildflowers. So, I am a bit sad that it's petering out.


This girl makes me so happy. She is still a very young spirit, and I want to keep her just like this. I cannot wait for the day that I can snuggle with her again. My shoulder is still too ouchy for that. The shoulder pain wakes me up every night and often keeps me awake. One night as I lay there in pain, Shyla came over and rested her chin on my belly - which was so soothing and did not hurt me at all. I hope that it becomes a habit!

Friday, April 8, 2022

A year in the life of a bear marking tree

I'm starting to think that I should not even try to post after physical therapy. I'm so tired every time that I make big mistakes. In this case, I posted the wrong video. I have fixed it. Sorry about that!

It's always fun to look back at a full season at a very popular bear marking tree. It's fun to see the big dominant bears, the female bears, and the cubs all interact with it. This one had a lot of visitors last season, and I hope that you enjoy seeing them all leave their scents upon the tree! 

Our bears are starting to emerge from their dens so they will soon be marking these trees again. That makes me happy! Check out the video if you have time.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Thankful Thursday

One morning recently, a gorgeous sunrise sky gradually appeared on the eastern horizon. I went to get my little pocket camera to photograph it. I stepped out into the chilling air, and a sound stopped me in my tracks. A robin was singing its heart out from the treetops. The sound of his song accompanying the brilliant sky brought such happiness to my heart.

I am thankful for every little sign of springtime and for the morning skies that delight me so often.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Wordless Wednesday

 The desert in springtime makes me smile, especially when it's blooming!



Tuesday, April 5, 2022

A spot where the moose were as thick as mosquitos!

I've had some time to look through my footage of animals who were very close to our house in Lab Valley over the past year.

In one amazing spot, mama moose and their calves loved to hang out. Soon, it will be as green as in that video, and the moose will be as thick as mosquitos! Check out the video if you have time.


Monday, April 4, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

Progress with Hachi continued to be slow and steady. Our session with our trainer went really well. Hachi is mostly relaxed around her. We are working toward having our trainer substitute for me in the bucket game. You may remember that the bucket game involves Hachi focusing his eyes on the treats being held by the Runner as a way to tell us that he's ready for me to touch him. After his eyes are focused on the treats, I say "hand", and then I put my hand(s) on him. We use this game for fake vet exams, for looking at any part of him that we're worried about, and even for clipping his toe nails. 

We are preparing Hachi for the trainer to participate by gradually playing the bucket game closer and closer to her. This week, she was about 6' away. After we did a few reps with me saying "hand" and doing the normal routine, the trainer started being the one to say "hand". After saying it, she reached toward Hachi but, since she was 6' away, she didn't even come close to touching him.

We will gradually move the game closer and closer to the trainer until she can reach out and touch him. That will simulate a vet examining him.

 

We are getting closer to our goal, one teeny tiny step at a time.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Shyla Saturday

After shoulder PT today, I am completely wiped out and so sore. So, I'll simply share a photo of my sweet Shyla. She is the queen of silhouettes!



Friday, April 1, 2022

Teeny Tiny Highlights Video

You might remember "Teeny Tiny" the bear cub from last summer. His name is based on the fact that I thought that he was the son of our biggest bear named "Tiny". He was a character right from the beginning showing independence from his mom the very first time that my cams saw him. Then, he started marking trees and stomp marking within a short time of leaving the den with his mother. 

He delighted me and made me laugh all summer long. If his mother is true to her usual schedule this spring, we won't see him before she sends him off on his own prior to her participating in the May-June mating season. Don't get me wrong - I hope that we see him but there's a good chance that we won't.

So, it seemed like a fun to put together clips of his antics from last summer so we can all remember this precocious cub. The final video made me smile and chuckle, and I hope that it does the same for you!

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful that I am starting to feel a bit better. I have been working hard at my range of motion exercises, and they are paying off. I can even reach my keyboard with my right hand! I can also reach my handlebars on my indoor bike trainer. 

I am so fortunate to be able to get my shoulder fixed and to have an amazing physical therapist working with me. I'm also so thankful to have the Runner helping me so that I don't have to push the limits more than I should.

It still feels like normalcy is a long way off but I am doing my best to be patient. I am hopeful that I'll be able to ride to my favorite places by summertime. I don't know if I'll be able to handle rough trails on my bike that soon but time will tell. I certainly will try to be strong enough for my favorite trails! This photo was from a long fat bike ride just before I blew out my shoulder.



Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Wordless Wednesday

I'm learning to turn my photos into paintings. It turns out that painting in Photoshop (using a tablet) is really nice rehab for my shoulder.


 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Bears and cats at a leaning tree

Last fall was when I began falling behind on almost everything, even my wildlife cameras. I just ran across footage from one of my favorite sites - a leaning tree that bears love to mark and cats love to scrape below. It's intriguing to see how our biggest carnivores are drawn to the same spots.

Check out the video!

 

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

We had a week of continued steady work with Hachi. We did multiple visits to the exam room at our vet's clinic. He continued to get upset about voices in the hallway outside the room but he let his tension go pretty fast after reacting. By the end of each session in the exam room, he could hear the voices and not react. That meant that we had great practice rounds of the bucket game at the end of each session.

We also had sessions with our trainer. It is heart-warming to see how much Hachi has come to eagerly anticipate our sessions with her. He loves all the treats that he gets while interacting with her. And, this week, we made good progress on one lingering problem. That problem was that he'd be relaxed around the trainer all of the time except in those unstructured phases in between games. For example, if the trainer was playing one game with him but wanted to transition to a game outdoors. Hachi would bark at her as he moved toward the door to go outside. 

We implemented something called a "pattern game" to use in the transitions. The specific one is "1-2-3". The handler (always the Runner right now due to my shoulder) says 1-2-3. He drops a treat to hit the ground in sync with him saying "3". He repeats this until we get started on the next game. I hope that this is a path toward Hachi feeling better about transitions between activities.

In between all the training, Hachi and Shyla loved playing together. I can't yet photograph them but this one was from shortly before my surgery. I am so grateful for their friendship.



Saturday, March 26, 2022

Shyla Saturday

My girl on a spectacular evening...

 


 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Glimpse of springtime

It has been a week of starting to recover my range of motion in my shoulder since my surgery. However, with the work of stretching the muscles, I tend to end up in really bad pain by the evening. For that reason,  I neglected this blog. I usually write my posts in the evening but I really wasn't up to it this week.

We are seeing signs that spring might be sneaking up on us. This photo is from a previous year because I can't even hold my real camera yet. I caught a glimpse of blue the other day that I thought might have been a bluebird!

Enjoy the glimpses of springtime wherever you are!


 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Black Dog Sunday

I remember the day that I took this photograph so well. We were camping high in the mountains, and our Black Dog and I got up early to visit some wildflowers. Our Black Dog was almost completely blind but he enthusiastically followed me through the unfamiliar terrain to a quiet spot. He was eager and happy, just like he always was. We lay in the grass talking and playing with treats. We both smiled.

These days, I am trying to have an attitude that is as irrepressible as our Black Dog's spirit was. He was an amazing example that I am particularly thankful for right now. The dream that I had of him a couple of weeks ago has stuck with me. He still brings me peace and happiness has my mind's eye sees him standing peacefully in our meadow.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Shyla Saturday

This amazing girl is making my down time since surgery so much better. No matter what, she's by my side smiling at me.

 This photo was from a sunrise earlier this winter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

A parade of animals check out a mountain lion scent post

During this recovery, I have had time to look through some trail camera footage that otherwise might've fallen by the wayside. I had a camera pointed at a series of mountain lions scrapes that were very active last year. The scents left by the mountain lions attracted a huge variety of wildlife from Bear's to deer to foxes to bobcats to turkeys!

Check out the video if you have time. And, when you walk past pine trees with deep layers of pine needles below them, think about who might have been marking there!


Monday, March 14, 2022

The Hachi chronicle

We continue to move forward with Hachi's training a teeny bit at a time. Since I last wrote an update about him, he has learned to target our trainer's hand and to play the bucket game in an exam room at the vet hospital.


 

With our trainer, we took advantage of a gorgeous warm day to work entirely outdoors. We started with a warm up walk on the driveway during which our trainer was handing Hachi treats as he walked behind her. Then, we moved to our deck where our trainer played the treat-retreat game with him. This is a game that they've played many times in the past. Over the past few weeks, our trainer has begun sticking her arm out to the side with her palm towards Hachi just before she tosses him a treat. The goal of this was to get him used to her making extraneous movements and to eventually have him touch his nose to her palm. At a particularly relaxed moment in the game, our trainer interjected the cue "touch" which told Hachi to touch his nose to her hand. He did it, and she gave him a treat. They repeated this several times. Hachi being relaxed enough to touch her hand was a concrete step forward!


 

In that same week, the Runner and I took Hachi to the vet hospital. We had reserved an exam room so that we could get him comfortable in there without being rushed. After he was acclimated to the outside of the vet hospital while wearing his muzzle, we walked him into the exam room. Unexpectedly, there were a lot of excited and happy high-pitched voices coming from the direction of the waiting room. The voices scared Hachi. He reacted by lunging toward the door and making scary barking sounds. We distracted him from the noises by feeding him almost continuous treats. He quickly calmed down and more thoughtfully listened to the voices. In that phase, we gave him treats whenever he looked toward us. After about seven minutes of simply listening and being rewarded with treats, Hachi was ready for a short bucket game. He did very well to focus on the game rather than the noises of the vet hospital. After that success, we quickly headed for the car so we could end on a good note.


 

For Hachi, these were big steps forward. I must emphasize that we know that this would be very slow progress for a normal dog. However, for our Hachi, it was cause for celebration. A big part of learning to rehab Hachi has been accepting that we need to move at his pace. I no longer focus on the end goal. Rather, I focus on the process and giving Hachi a good life. The goal of having a vet be able to examine him is important but I drive myself crazy if that is all that I focus on.

Because my right arm is in a sling after shoulder surgery, I dictated this. I tried to catch the mistakes but I seem to miss some funny ones every time. Also, I cannot hold a camera so the photos are from a little while ago. I am doing my best to keep moving forward despite not being able to use my right arm or hand.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Wordless (Worthless) Wednesday – A bluebird day in the mountains

Dictation is hilariously terrible. I just saw that it changed the word "wordless" into "worthless"!


 


 


 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Black Dog Sunday

It has been such a hard winter. Not only have I had three surgeries but I also lost my dad. The most recent surgery has thrown me a curveball because I cannot use my usual coping strategies. I cannot ride a bike, I cannot snowshoe hike, and I cannot even type. I have to constantly be in an arm sling, and I must absolutely avoid damage to my shoulder. Even typing is super hard because I can only use my left hand. I am dictating this post but, to be honest, dictation does not work all that well. But I have a story that I want to share with you.

The other night while I was sleeping, our black dog visited me in a dream. It was spring time, and the meadow outside our house was verdant green. A thick fog was hovering above the meadow, obscuring everything except the glow of the green grass. Then the fog parted, and our Black Dog was standing in the meadow gazing at me. He was young and physically perfect, his black fur glistening in the fog. He gazed at me with his warm brown eyes, and I was enveloped in a feeling of warmth and peace. We stood suspended in time looking at each other. Then, I started to walk towards him. Within a few steps, the fog closed around him, and I could not see him anymore.


I woke up feeling happy and so lucky to have had our black dog visit me as I slept. He is with me all the time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Recovery time

It is time to start the recovery walk. 


 

In my shoulder surgery yesterday, they fixed my ruptured biceps tendon but then they discovered that I'd also damaged my rotator cuff. So this is going to be a long recovery. It is really hard to live with your dominant hand in a sling and with orders that you may not use it in any way at all. 

 

I have to admit that I am discouraged to have to face such a very long recovery without being allowed to ride a bike or pick up my camera or countless other things. But I also know that I am lucky to have had surgery so rapidly after the injury and to be on the path of recovery.

Thanks so much for all of your good thoughts.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

A ruptured tendon

I've not said much about my wrists and surgery recovery because a new problem has been shadowing my view. My shoulder started hurting badly back in October It's gotten worse and worse. Then, a little while ago, I made an involuntary fast movement with my right arm to avoid slipping and falling. I didn't fall but the pain in my shoulder was instantaneous and excruciating. 

An MRI shows that I ruptured the tendon that attaches my biceps muscle to a spot near the shoulder. I mean *completely* ruptured it so the muscle is now untethered within my arm. I've decided to get it fixed surgically, and that will happen pretty soon. I don't know the day yet but we are hoping that it's early next week.

This has been a winter of difficult times. But, at least, I saw lots of glorious winter sunrises with Shyla. This was the view of the forest on the hillside above our house just as the morning sun first touched them. I will never tire of seeing this instant of rose-colored sunlight.

It will be an eight week time period of not stressing my shoulder at all after surgery. The optimist in me immediately realized that I'd be ready to start to return to my active life in time for our high mountain spring. That's one good thing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Watch fall morph into winter on an animal path

As an arctic storm is hitting us, it's fun to look back at this fall during the phase when the world was going to sleep at the end of fall. The scene was an animal trail that includes trees that bears scent mark. A variety of wildlife passed the spot - including a bear or two! The bears are most certainly asleep now. In contrast, the snowshoe hare who appeared partially white on 10/2 is probably still active in that very same spot. What an amazing small animal!

Check out the video. It's short, and it reminds me that winter will soon start to give away to spring because the seasons change fast!


Monday, February 21, 2022

The Hachi Chronicle

 Hachi has continued on his generally good trajectory. Our work with his trainer has been going super well. We start out each session with a short walk on our driveway. She walks ahead with Hachi on a leash behind her. She drops treats for Hachi as she walks. Last week, she began letting him take treats from her hand as he walked behind her. That was a big step!


After a short walk outside, we move inside our house to our living room where the trainer can toss treats to Hachi in what's called a "treat-retreat" pattern. She tosses a few treats either to him or between her and him. Then, she tosses one behind him to let him de-stress by going further away from her.

Partway through, the Runner and I do a vet exam on Hachi using the "bucket game". After a few weeks of this, Hachi is able to completely focus on the game rather than keeping an eye on the trainer. We've gradually moved the game closer to the trainer. Last week, we were only about 6' from her while we played it. Our goal is that the trainer will eventually participate in the game, either as the treat-giver or, ideally, as the person doing the exam. That will simulate a vet eventually giving Hachi an exam.

His work at the vet's office is going well. He is getting more and more relaxed while walking all around the outside of the clinic. He can let it go quickly after a person with a dog goes by him. He does all of our "vet training" with a muzzle on to prepare him for wearing one for an exam. The act of putting on the muzzle, either in the car at the clinic or in our living room with our trainer present, is getting to be very easy. He no longer seems to worry about putting it on in stressful situations.

The exam room where we would like to train with Hachi has been very busy but we have a few reservations coming up so we can work on his comfort in that room.

So, the Hachi report is good. He did have a couple of "off days" during which he could not relax. We've learned to let him decompress on days like those rather than trying to push forward with training. Fortunately, they passed. Our greatest fear is that someday he won't return to his new normal but that did not happen (and hopefully never will).


These are good days for our family. Hachi has a wonderful big sister for playing with him. That makes us all smile!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Sunrise Sunday

We have had a winter of incredible sunrises. This was a recent one.

Just as it started to get light, the sky lit up. You can see the sky reflected in the greenhouse (where there are actually plants growing, even in the depths of winter!).

The forest silhouetted against the sky was gorgeous.



Even if I cannot ride my bike to fun places for sunrise, I can certainly enjoy views like this one from my house!