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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A View of our Autumn-Winter Storm from on High

I had planned to write a post about a long and wonderful mountain bike ride that I did in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado during our extended trip. In late August, I was in the best shape that I've been in for years. I was stronger and had better endurance than anytime that I can remember. For that reason, I had some amazing bike adventures which I still do plan to share with you!

However, I'm in a huge amount of pain from tweaking my spine so I don't want to sit for long enough to write that fun post. My regular doc is out of town. When the doctor covering for him looked at my past MRIs, she concluded that I have a "very messed up spine". Yup, I knew that - I have lots of titanium rods and plates in my lumbar and cervical spine. I'm a big fan of conservative treatment so I'll see my PT tomorrow for gentle work, and I'll take it easy on myself for a while. I don't want any more spine surgery!

In light of these circumstances, I'm going to share footage from an aerial view on Monday morning when there was a small hole of blue sky over top of us. The clouds were swirling around us at our elevation until but there was a view from slightly above them!

The white on the horizon is snow-covered mountains! Yes, it is autumn!

Even the ski area had some snow on the slopes. I doubt that it will last but it shows how early winter starts up high.

The part that I enjoyed most of all was a 360° view, showing the western horizon with snowy mountains and the wall of clouds to the east. You can watch the brief video here or at Youtube.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mama Bear and her Cub

Throughout this summer and fall, it's been amazing to see the mother bear and cub pair so frequently via my trail cams.

The cub who was so tiny at the start of the summer is looking so big and healthy now! She and her mom recently walked a bear trail in our neck of the woods, giving us a nice view of how big the cub is!

Here was mom as she passed the camera.

This is still mom, a step later.

Then, here is her cub. She is looking SO big!

The camera didn't catch the cub going over the fallen tree but I so enjoyed seeing her healthy!

We now have two bear families intensely using our neck of the woods. The other one is the mother with two cubs. I am hoping so strongly that one of these families chooses the den for this winter that I have staked out with a cam. These cubs will stay with their moms through the winter and early spring. So they will share dens with their moms!

I have some fun footage of the mother bear with the single cub at a water hole. I talked with a biologist about the fact that the bears love this absolutely horrendous smelling water hole so much. As one of you suggested a while ago, the biologist's first guess was that something in the water kills both external (e.g., ticks, fleas) and internal (e.g., intestinal) parasites. That might explain why it seems to be the favorite water hole of our bears every summer.

At this water hole, the bears make sure to get this water all over their bodies, including their heads, whenever they bathe there. You'll see that in the first 3/4 of the video. Then, later that evening, the pair visit a very clean water source. It's fun to see mom stop in a certain spot for a noisy drink, lapping up the cold water, and then her cub imitate her behavior so closely!

Here's the video. I hope that you all enjoy it either here or at Youtube.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alpine Black Dog Sunday

We knew that a blast of wintery weather was headed our way so we snuck in a quick visit to a high alpine lake before the snowflakes arrived. We have a long history with this lake. It's way off-trail so we always have it to ourselves. We made a tradition of visiting it to celebrate Angel K's birthday every September. That tradition continues, more than five years since her death.

It was already chilly but our Black Dog and his sister didn't hesitate to play and swim in the water. I love that our Angel K helped shape R when he was a little puppy and that she swam in this lake so many times.

I loved watching R splash through the water with the orange ball gripped in his jaws.

Then he exited the water with long rivulets of water streaming off him.

He managed to shake off the water without dropping the ball.
I hate how short dogs' lives are but the knowledge of that fact makes us seize as many days for joyful play as we can. It gets us out to have fun with the Duo more often than we otherwise would. 

I'm also glad that we had our Friday outing because, out of the blue, my spine hurts so much that I can't stand up straight. I certainly wouldn't be able to hike to that lake now... My fingers are crossed that it passes although that miracle doesn't happen often to me because so much of my spine is surgically fused.

I'm so glad that we saw this glorious autumn scene from high in the Rockies. You can see that a change in the weather was on its way from the sky over the mountains.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday Swimming in High Mountaiin Lakes!

One of our favorite things about our time high in the mountains is being near lakes where the Labraduo can swim almost every day! They are happiest when swimming. All of our Labs except for one have adored swimming.

In the photo above, R knew that he was beaten by Shyla so he held back. Shyla took a flying leap.

I really love watching their graceful landings into the water. They each reach down with one paw, usually the left, to hit the water with it first, while their rumps stay high in the air. I wonder why this has been uniform among all our Labs? The similarity is surprising.

Then it was R's turn. He loves to take a very high trajectory as he leaps. Seeing him play like this makes us smile so widely, knowing how badly he was impaired by his elbow before his CUE surgery. Now, his elbow doesn't slow him down at all.

He truly flies.

And then he does the "classic" landing.
We have snow in our forecast for Sunday and Monday so we're going to try to get the pups out for a swim before the cold front hits. Then, we have a lot of chores to get our gardens ready for the first frost.

Our swimming outings are a favorite part of autumn for us. I'll be sad when the season is over. I am sure that this weekend's snow will melt, and we'll have more warm weather before the freeze truly sets in. We will enjoy it!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Autumn's Glory in the Rockies

Back to our world at home for today because I am overwhelmed with the beauty. This is our playground, turning into a kaleidoscope of autumn colors.

It is a glorious sight. I love being able to see that many aspens are still green so we still have lots of autumn ahead of us. I'm looking right past that snow in the forecast in the next few days!

Today was a day to be savored. It was warm enough for a sleeveless top and shorts. The sun felt soft but warm on my shoulders. Shyla was a joy to have along for part of my bike ride. She seemed as happy as I was, taking flying leaps whenever she could.

In a sense, those golden and reddish leaves are our flowers for this time of year. They make us smile and want this season to never end.

Shyla's smile summed it all up.
We will savor every last warm and sunny day that this season will give us.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Learning to teach sensitive Shyla

You might remember early in the summer when Shyla ran away to a carcass and ate so many bones that she landed in the hospital for a couple of days. I said that it was "my fault", and I really meant it.

We had a problem. I'd done everything to train Shyla to come when called and to stay close when we went for bike rides together that I'd done with my previous dogs. By Shyla's age, K had been a very reliable biking dog. I was getting aggravated with Shyla almost daily, feeling upset with her tendency to choose the temptations in the forest instead of coming to me.

The carcass run-away was a wake-up call for me. I knew that I needed to address the issue or else stop taking Shyla on bike rides with me. Not taking her on bike rides would have broken my heart. That left one option.

That very day, the Fenzi school opened up registration for a new round of classes, and one of them was "Recalls". I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I already knew how to teach a dog a recall. Then, it hit me. I didn't know how to teach *sensitive Shyla* a recall. My methods had worked for other dogs but not for her.

So, I signed up. The class is now over, although our hard work is not. We've come a MILLION miles since the class began. We started from ground zero with a new recall word, and we practiced a zillion "set-up" scenarios, teaching Shyla to choose to come to me instead of chewing on bones or eating bad stuff.

We practiced throughout our trip to Wyoming and the Colorado mountains. She wore a 20' long line for most of our practice so that she couldn't fail. The photos are from after she'd graduated from the long line when we were in the wildflowers of the Colorado mountains.

One of the biggest parts of retraining Shyla is retraining ME. I am an intense person. When I fail, I try harder and with greater ferocity. It turns out that my intensity scares Shyla and makes her much less likely to come to me or stay near me.

I've had to learn to stay lighthearted and happy with Shyla, no matter how worried I am about the situation that we find ourselves in. For example, if she finds a fresh animal body part from an animal killed by a mountain lion, I still call her in a sing-song way and play with her as if there's no danger nearby.  That part is very hard for me...

But, we've been very successful with our recalls since returning from our trip. After our bike rides, I'm happy and smiling rather than stressed and upset by Shyla's latest escapade. She's staying by my side while I ride, and she chooses me over the many temptations in the forest. I also set up temptations for her, like planting a bone in the middle of the trail, and then asking her to recall to me and away from the bone. I carry yummy treats, and she is now consistently choosing me.

I know that I have to keep practicing, especially so that my attitude remains light and happy. I can't let the "intense KB" make too many appearances or we'll be back where we started.

For now, I'm nothing but happy. I've learned how to train my sensitive Shyla much better, and that's worth its weight in gold.
Sometimes it's worth taking the blame upon yourself like I did when Shyla landed in the hospital, not so that you wallow in it, but so that you take positive action to change.

I'm so grateful that we've reached this point, where I'm starting to trust Shyla again in the forest. A million thanks to our teacher who helped us so much!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Autumn in our World

View from Hug Hill as unsettled weather arrived

Running through a golden aspen grove

Playing games in the autumn splendor

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Summer Days High in the Mountains

During our August trip, we arrived back in Colorado after a long haul from Wyoming. We finally made it to one of our favorite campsites in the world. As we pulled in, a double rainbow emerged in the sky. Wow!

We awakened the next morning energized to enjoy the trails in this amazing place. The Runner took both pups for a run, and I took a long bike ride to a flowery trail. It was very late for wildflowers but some waited for me!

It's a flowy trail that can be ridden fast. However, I love the flower and mountain views so much that I tend to stop a lot to soak them up.

Even Blue Flax were still blooming next to the trail.
I love riding in that area but it's hard. Our campsite is tucked in a quiet spot at over 11,000', and it's by far the best one that we've found in the area. However, my favorite rides end with 3,000' of climbing to return to our campsite. I am ready to rest when I arrive back at camp.

But, our campsite is surrounded by lakes so the dogs must dive and swim! I didn't do enough resting because we played so much. I'm not complaining although I think that I'm paying the price now.

They would play in the water all day if we let them.

That first day in camp was capped off by another rainbow sunset.

And we had a clear view of the Milky Way over our LabMobile!
During those summer days high in the mountains, we fully realize how lucky we are to have found a life that suits us so perfectly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bear Cub Acrobatics!

The black bear sows and their cubs have stayed close to our area this late summer and fall. The mothers are marking trees a lot, and that lets us see that they are still lactating. That's part of why their cubs are so big!

This is our sow who has a single cub. We've followed this pair all spring and summer.

Then, as they moved on from that dancing tree, they found another one that had been marked. Mom checked it out.

Her cub sniffed the lower branches carefully.

And then she climbed it to smell the bears who had marked the top!

The big surprise came in late August. A brown mother bear arrived at a marking tree. You can't see it in the still photos (it's in the video) - but she had TWO cubs! It was her first appearance this year. Again, you can see that she was still lactating. (that counters the argument that it's fine to hunt bears at this time of year because the cubs don't need them anymore).

Then one of her cubs imitated her! It made me laugh.

The same sow visited the same tree within the past week, and she roughhoused with her cub!

Most of these photos are frames from the video that I am sharing below. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did! It's also on Youtube.

As you know, I love observing bears. I'm overjoyed that two sows have managed to bring their cubs this far. It isn't too long until they den for the winter.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunset Sunday

At one campsite perched on top of a cliff, we could see storms as they came at us. One was almost upon us at sunset, producing incredible light.

Shyla glowed...

And the sky over the mountains was a work of art.
I could see a curtain of rain moving toward us across the valley below our campsite. Just after sunset, torrents of rain fell upon us.

I love the raw fury of mother nature. Because its so exposed, I think that this campsite is my favorite!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Back to Colorado - Mountain Swimming for the Labraduo

After the eclipse was over, we decided to cruise back down to Colorado. We would have loved to explore Wyoming more but we heard that the Grand Teton area, which we were most curious to visit, was still crowded with eclipse viewers. We'll go there soon!

It took 2 days but we made it to one of our favorite campsites that sits at the base of a big mountain that still has patches of snow...

And has lakes all around it.
We had an idyllic time there. It was sunny and warm. The mountain biking and running trails were fabulous (more about that later). And the dogs could swim every single day!

I think that swimming is their favorite thing in the world to do! R gets big air whenever he can. No need to worry about his elbow because he lands in water.

And he has a distinctive landing style that he uses every time!

Shyla likes to leap flat like an arrow. It's fast!

I love seeing the Labraduo SO happy!
It is rapidly becoming autumn here so these photos are making me wistful for summertime!