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Friday, December 15, 2017

From wildfire to snow in a day

This winter has been warm and very dry so far. Yesterday, I spotted a plume of smoke during a brief blast of wind. In the photo below, it had spread out a bit (it's in the right center) and looked less threatening than when I first saw it. It is very odd to be concerned about fires in December.
I called the emergency number, and then sprinted toward where I believed that the fire was. Often, the firefighters have trouble finding the source of a smoke plume - especially because forest locations tend not to have official names around here.

When I arrived at the location, I saw that the firefighters were all over it, and the fire was almost out.
People said that the fire source had been a small grill that a transient had been using for cooking. It had been overturned, and the grass around it went up like tinder. The person had a fire extinguisher but didn't use it - he just disappeared. When I was there, the grill and fire extinguisher were lying on the ground near the fire. The fire spread to about 30 yds by 30 yds before it was stopped.

That was a disaster narrowly averted. I was shocked to learn that, even if they catch the guy who abandoned a growing fire that he'd started, he would be charged with only a misdemeanor. That's insane - we need stronger laws to protect against negligence with fire in the forest.

Today, we awakened to a welcome sight! Snow! Not much - but it's something.

Shyla was hopping with manic energy at the sight of snow! I'm not letting her be at her normal activity level yet but she had fun in the brief period that she was outside. Yes, she was airborne quite frequently during our short ride.

Then she decided that she wanted to play with a stick. I threw it for her, and even the exertion of playing fetch didn't make her cough. Actually, I don't think that she's ever coughed during this illness while she was running around outside. It always happens when she's been resting indoors and gets up suddenly.
There's little doubt that we are almost to the end of this illness. The Duo started antibiotics mid-week when our vet became worried that they were both getting secondary infections and might be heading toward pneumonia. The antibiotics halted the coughing in its tracks.

More than anything, I think that Shyla is very glad to be feeling better again!
Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Don't Worry about "Udders"

We've had some worries in our family recently. The kennel cough will heal but we worry about more serious things with our black dog.

I am so thankful that we try to seize the days of good health and beauty to have as much fun as we can with our Labraduo.

This was at my favorite campsite in the world in August. R looked magnificent with a rainbow behind him.

Shyla looked gorgeous too under the same rainbow.
That was such a wonderful day. I'd just done a long point-to-point ride to meet the pack at one of our favorite places on Earth. It's remote, very high (11,200'), and has stunning views. Most people would choose someplace less extreme as their favorite place but not us!

As a post-ride snack, I had a yogurt. I thought that the saying on the top fit us perfectly!
It made me laugh - we definitely live exactly as we choose, regardless of what "udders" think. I am so thankful for the good year that our pack had together!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Fun Photos from this Year

These are some happy memories from our summer. Part of why we try so hard to make sure that we have tons of fun each day... is that you never know what lies ahead.

We had a fun and love-filled year with our Black Dog!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Colorado Canine Sick Ward

Life took an unexpected turn this past weekend when both dogs came down with "kennel cough". Shyla was struck first, and we hoped that maybe R would be spared. Alas, he was not. He started coughing about 12 hours later.

If you've never heard a dog with kennel cough, it is shocking. A previous generation of our Labs caught kennel cough but Shyla's cough was louder and deeper than anything I'd ever heard before in my life. So, we went to the emergency Vet on Sunday, just to make sure that it wasn't something worse than kennel cough.
They confirmed my amateur diagnosis but didn't give us any meds to ease the coughing. Later that day, R started coughing too. His cough is more like what I remembered with our previous Labs.

No one, canine or human, slept much on Sunday night as high-decibel and heart-wrenching dog coughs filled the air. Our regular vet got us some meds today to help control the coughing and maybe defeat this illness sooner.

The worst news of it all was that the Vet School where R had an appointment refuses to see him until he's better. Unfortunately, it's extremely hard to get appointments there so that will probably be in January. Our awesome regular vet is trying to accelerate the process for us. One of his masses is in a spot (on his right adrenal gland) where it will invade a major blood vessel if it's growing quickly so we want to get started on this process sooner rather than later.

Shyla and I are still seeing sunrise together each morning. She is amazingly happy during the interludes between bouts of coughing! Dogs have such incredible outlooks on life. I keep on trying to learn from them but it's hard to mimic their optimism.
My brief advice - avoid kennel cough at all costs. We don't know how our dogs caught it because they are seldom around other dogs. At least, it is something that will get better in a week or so. That's a relief.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A bull moose pair has a small fight

In last week's wildlife post, I showed you a pair of bull moose who visited a water/ice hole together.

My trail cameras have shown that they've been traveling together for about a month. At most cams, I get a simple video clip of the two walking single file past the cam.

One video clip was different. The larger bull moose appeared to be aggressive toward the smaller one - perhaps exerting his dominance in their relationship. Then, they were briefly apart, according my trail cams. However, just a short time later the pair was walking together again.

It's so interesting to get these glimpses into the lives of animals who we can't observe behaving normally in person. When people are around, the moose focus on the people so they don't behave "normally" at all. That's the beauty of trail cam footage!

The video is at youtube but you can watch it here if you prefer.

Happy Wildlife Monday!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Serene Almost Silent Sunday

In the rosy light of the rising sun...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Serene sunrise and then fear

The cracks in my outer shell of "toughness" started to reappear yesterday.

The day started off well, with an absolutely stunning sunrise. I was eating my oatmeal while reading the news when a glimmer of pink shined through our pine forest from the east.

I ran, and I do mean ran, to get my drone. I've become quite fast at getting it ready, doing my pre-flight checks, and getting it into the air before a dramatic sunrise fades.

The first photo was from fairly low but I love how the pond in the mid-left of the photo reflected the sky's color.

That first photo was just barely in time because the sun had peeked over the dip in the ridge to our east by the time I snapped the next photo.

As always, I had to get a view of our beloved snowy mountains, just barely visible on the horizon, bathed in pink alpenglow. I love how that pinkish hue even makes the pine forest glow.

As I said, that was the best part of the day. R seemed really "off" to me yesterday. He had a few accidents in the house, even when I was home so he could've asked to go out. I cleaned them up with the full knowledge that he wouldn't have had accidents if something weren't awry.

Then, he seemed very lethargic around mid-day. He was slow to come out for his lunchtime snack of a spoonful of yogurt, and he didn't even act happy when I asked if he wanted to go outside with me. His elbow was clearly hurting very badly. We have no idea what has caused it to flare for the first time in years. But I felt that there was something more than elbow pain hindering him.

I had a heavy heart all afternoon, fearing that I was seeing the start of a downward slide. But then, suddenly late in the afternoon, he was his usual goofy and energetic self. I am utterly confused but I'm glad that he recovered!

We go to the CSU clinic in a few days. I'm scared about it. I'm not ready for R to have cancer or to have a prognosis for his survival. I hope with all my heart that both masses in his abdomen are benign. Yes, I'm asking for a miracle.

In the meantime, I will remember the peace of this morning's sunrise. I made a video if you'd like to see the view floating above my house and rotating slowly. The world was magical. When I fly my drone, I feel as if I'm flying - and seeing the Earth from the view of a bird. It's amazing.

I hope that you have a wonderful Saturday.

Friday, December 8, 2017

So Grateful for the Morning Light

I fell into the dark abyss again (worried about R) but I can smile when I remember the gorgeous morning light that Shyla and I enjoyed at sunrise this morning.

It was 8°F when we headed out this morning. That is the coldest yet this year but the air was still. The lack of wind made it feel pretty warm. And, I enjoyed that no one else was out in the cold!

This light is what makes this time of year happier for me. It's actually a rough season for me, with lots of memories of bad things that have happened in the depth of winter plus the glaring loss of my ability to ski due to my spine. However, I have learned to revel in the low angle sunlight - it's a photographer's delight!
As a fun aside, sunset has already reached its earliest time for the winter (yes, that happens before the winter solstice). Sunset will now occur a few seconds later every day until the summer solstice! That's worth smiling about!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thankful Thursday - Shyla's Progress with her Fears

As I mention sometimes here, Shyla and I started nosework to help her learn to cope with her fears. At the beginning, we did every single search at home, an environment where she's usually confident. Nosework adds to that because Shyla is the leader during a search. I help a bit by guiding her but she's the only one who can find the source of a scent (I sure cannot!).

The idea was to help her build a very positive "conditioned emotional response" to nosework. That meant that she'd become conditioned to feel confident and happy when we did nosework. Then, when we took nosework on the road, the hope was that she'd feel equally confident and happy even in situations that used to scare her.
Shyla is usually very happy and confident near our house
We've taken baby steps toward this goal because one bad experience in a scary setting can erase the hundreds of good experiences with nosework at home.

Well, I really think that it's working. Yesterday, I took Shyla to a site where we did lots of counter-conditioning and socialization years ago to try to help her overcome her fears. There's a busy road next to the site, and she used to startle whenever a louder vehicle went by. There's a smaller road very close to the site, and the cars going slowly there used to scare her too.

Yesterday's search went better than I could have dreamed. I hid 4 scent sources, 3 on the picnic tables and 1 on the tree to the right of them. I made a short video of her search. You'll see only one fear-related glitch at 52 seconds or so in the video. She was heading for the scent on the tree when a car went by slowly on the smaller road. She stopped to stare at it, and she forgot about the scent on the tree. It took her another 45 seconds to come back to the tree and find the scent.

In the video, each time you hear me say "alert", Shyla has just done her typical "nose on the source" indication of the odor source. I go in and give her treats as close to the source as I can. Then, I ask her to "find another", which means to go find a new source (not the same one again).

Here's the video. I hope that you enjoy seeing the two of us having fun in town doing nosework. I actually never thought that Shyla would "have fun in town" but she did yesterday!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Winter Sunrises

Winter sunrises awe me. When clouds sit near the eastern horizon, the sky becomes a work of art.

When the eastern sky is clear, the low sun angle illuminates Shyla with a light that I love.
That means that almost every morning is gorgeous in the winter.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Magic of a Puppy

Tumultuous would be the best description of life in our pack these days. With worries about R and some other out of the ordinary things, I feel as if I am off-kilter.

But then some friends invited me to drop by and meet their puppy. She's still tiny - barely as big as a person's shoe. She's a yellow Lab within her first couple of months of life.

She has already learned that she loves chewing sticks. I wonder if she's been talking to R. He chews nothing besides sticks... so sticks must have cracked the two teeth that he had pulled last week.

All that chewing has not affected her puppy breath! I love puppy breath! It's like a magical elixir that cures all that ails you.

Every time I see a puppy like this one, I want to get one of our own. I've often thought that perhaps our next puppy will be a yellow Lab. This little yellow Lab even has cute eye lashes! She didn't help me to keep up my defenses about getting a puppy.

Alas, when I snap back to reality, we have many good reasons not to get a puppy right now. Two good reasons are R and Shyla, both of whom need our attention.

I was really floundering with regard to R when we were first hit with the unexpected news of his tumors. I found that adrenal gland tumors are rare so I couldn't find a lot of good information about them on the web. That didn't stop me from trying - and I went around and around googling different combinations of words - until my head was spinning hopelessly. I felt so lost and so sad.

Then, the next morning, I decided to play with R rather than google dog cancers. We did his crawling under a line of 10 chairs and then reverse crawling back to his original position. He LOVES that game, and barks with joy between repetitions. It's actually a rehab exercise but you'd never know it based on how ecstatic R is about doing it. I made a little video of him and me playing the other day.

He does it with as much excitement as when he leaps into a mountain lake!
The truth is that R simply loves life. As we played, I realized that he's okay right now. He appears perfectly healthy so I should enjoy these days with him, without letting clouds on the horizon darken my mood too much to have fun with him. This is a lesson that dogs teach us over and over and over again.

Angel K taught me that lesson, and I will try very hard not to forget it again.
Dogs see the brilliant rainbows and ignore the clouds. Aren't they amazing creatures?

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Bull Moose Pair and a Trail Camera

Late this summer, I discovered a water hole in a gully that almost always has some water in it. I also discovered that the bears and moose love it, even though it's a pretty small water hole. It seems that the days of bear baths are over for the year but the moose are still around.

It's hard to tell in this photo but the left moose is an older bull and the right one is a very young bull. They were breaking the ice with their hooves and drinking.

The older bull is one of the biggest that we've had in our neck of the woods. He's been hanging around for a while so perhaps he's here to stay.

He took an interest in my camera and in the tree holding it, giving a nice closeup of his antler with snow on it the next morning.

Fortunately, he didn't hurt my camera. When he was so close to it, his focus was stripping bark from the aspen tree. The stripped area below my camera is new from his recent work on the tree. I believe that moose actually eat the bark.

I made a video of the activities of the pair and the closeups of the big bull which you can watch here or at Youtube.
These two bulls are continuing to hang out together but a recent video from a trail cam suggests that the older one may be getting tired of the company of the younger one. More on that soon!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunset and Silhouettes on Sunday

We've had wind almost every day for the last month. I'm lucky because it doesn't drive me insane like it seems to do to some others.

The upside to it is the clouds. Wow!
As soon as I see a cloud like that one forming, I start to think about where there's a boulder to do some silhouette photos with the cloud as the background.

Shyla is my trusty model. She is great at climbing up on boulders and can be trusted not to leap down unexpectedly. She even strikes beautiful poses!

This was such a deep orange cloud!

The boulder that Shyla posed on was one that I call "Coyote Rock". One time, as we hiked up toward it, I spotted three coyotes standing on top of it surveying the meadow around them. It was an incredible site. It's fun seeing Shyla in the same spot.

There is a panoramic view from that spot, and Shyla swivels her head to take it all in.

Of course, she is a nosework dog, and her nose rules.

A hundred photos later, the sky started to fade toward dusk. Look at the gradation from blue, to purple, to orange behind Shyla.

It was time to start toward home so it wouldn't be too dark for our walk. The parting sight of the sky was awe-inspiring.
I'll take the wind with a smile if it brings sky views like this one!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Year in Photos and an Update

Today was an "R Day", filled with phone calls and vet scheduling. I'm exhausted so I thought that I'd share a few of my favorite photos of R from the first half of 2017. I'm working on my 2018 Calendar so I've been sifting through my photos from the past year, choosing the ones for the calendar.

I love this one. R was out with me for a snow bike ride at sunrise. His fur was so shiny, his eyes so brown, and his energy palpable. I think that this one will end up in my Labraduo Calendar.
It's so hard to believe that anything could have been going awry inside such a healthy looking dog!

This next one was during the phase when Shyla was not able to bike with me because she had just started taking phenobarbital for her epilepsy. The Runner kindly loaned me our black dog for some canine companionship some mornings during Shyla's rest phase. Those were fun outings for me and R.

When springtime finally rolled around, I took R out in the nearby vast fields of golden flowers to see him play in them. His style was full-speed-ahead, as usual!
Seeing these photos, it's incredibly hard to believe that I spent my day researching his possible cancers and scheduling appointments for him.

Today I learned more about the "odds" for his masses in his abdomen. The first big worry is one on his right adrenal gland. I used my hard-earned knowledge of the CSU system to get R an appointment for less than 2 weeks from now. Without my insider's knowledge of how their system works, we were going to have to wait until mid-January for an appointment. And, that was despite the fact that it's considered to be a very "time sensitive" cancer.

I'm told that the odds are about 33% that his adrenal gland mass is "no big deal", about 33% that it's a cancer that surgery can help, and about 33% that its a fast-moving inevitably fatal cancer.

We have decided to deal with the adrenal gland tumor first. If he is lucky enough that it's either "no big deal" or operable, then we'll deal with the mass on his spleen.

As you can probably tell, it's a complicated situation. Our family vet did an amazing job of talking me through all the possible paths and helping us to choose one. She's such a good vet - I feel so lucky that we've had her as our vet for almost two decades! I feel better this evening, despite the fear deep in my belly, that we at least have a plan.

Let's end with a funny photo that has reached Shyla's list of finalist photos for her calendar.
Even I had to giggle when I opened up that photo today. What expressive eyes Shyla has!