Putting on the dog this holiday season…

animal rescue, dogs, holiday events, Uncategorized

Happy Howlidays! Lucy looks festive in her garland of candy cane lights.

Fayston, Vermont. Whether you dress your dog in a holiday outfit to match yours or you wear the reindog headband because your pooch just won’t, celebrating the holidays is not just for humans. I’ve pulled together a short list of Vermont dog-friendly holiday events plus a couple of special events that benefit dog rescue organizations. (I plan to be at the Ugly Sweater Party at Prohibition Pig to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue. All three of my dogs were adopted through GHR.) Search your area for similar events if you can’t make it to Vermont!

To do with your dog(s):

Snaps with Santa
Saturday, December 10; 11 am – 2 pm
Pet Food Warehouse, 2500 Williston Road, South Burlington
Bring a donation for Claus for Paws.
More info: http://www.pfwvt.com; 802-862-5514

Dog Mountain Holiday Celebration
Saturday, December 16; 10 am – 5 pm (Tree lighting @ 4, bonfire @ 5)
143 Parks Road, Saint Johnsbury, Vermont
Free!
More info: http://www.dogmt.com/Events
1-800-449-2580

8th Annual Dog Parade & Canine Costume Party
Sunday, December 31, 1 pm
Sugarbush Resort, 102 Forest Drive, Warren, Vermont
$10 cash donation to PAWSitive Pantry
More info: http://www.sugarbush.com/events/dog-parade

To benefit dog rescue organizations:

Making Spirits Bright
Thursday, December 14; 6:30 – 9 pm
The Automaster, 3328 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, Vermont
Tickets: $35 per person, http://www.passion4paws.yapsody.com
Silent Auction proceeds benefit Passion 4 Paws

Ugly Sweater Party
Thursday, December 20; 4 – 9 pm
Prohibition Pig Brewery, 2 Elm Street, Waterbury, Vermont
Half price tacos if you wear an ugly sweater and for every house draft beer purchased, ProPig will donate $1 to Golden Huggs Rescue

A final note: As always, be careful of what you feed your dog – all those rich holiday treats might make your dog’s event experience memorable not in a good way. And be careful of what you consume so that you and you loved ones arrive home safely…

Wishing you all the season’s joys and a Happy New Year!

 

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dogs, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Linus in their orange vests on a recent walk in a Vermont state park. Their leashes are at my feet.

Fayston, Vermont.  My apologies for once again not sticking to my first-Wednesday-of-the-month schedule. Our power was out for a couple of days last week, and our internet was down for over a week. I’m finally back on-line with a new, faster modem. But leash lines, not power lines, are this post’s topic.

Do you carry a leash?

My town’s leash law allows dogs to be off-leash if they are under voice control. I have yet to meet a dog during our wanders who is actually that obedient. Admittedly, mine are intermittently obedient. Know that I love to let my three dogs off leash. It is wonderful exercise for them as they run at least three miles to each one I walk. They are very happy to explore and play with each other. I have a couple of places where I can do that without too much worry, but the best place is on my own property, which is mostly wooded and has a trail looping through it.

We are working on the command “come.” Each of my dogs does fairly well when I work alone with one of them, but when they are together, not so much. Linus and Charlie Brown have selective hearing. They are usually not far; they are too busy to come. We have much work to do.

When we are out (and my dogs are on leash), we occasionally encounter unleashed dogs. “Oh, he’s friendly” – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that line from an owner of an unleashed dog. That might be true, but one of my dogs is reactive.

Linus meditates…

Linus is not always friendly. He barks at dogs on t.v.  While we are working on that, too, it is the top reason I have him on a leash when we leave our property. It is also why I time my walks to avoid the other “regulars” in my neighborhood. Sometimes we meet, however, and it’s hard. My neighbors are extremely patient and understanding. 

So, while your dog might be friendly, another dog might not be – please keep that in mind when you let your dogs off leash on a public trail. Always carry a leash, and leash your dog when you come across others. Please.

Another reason for keeping dogs on leash during November in Vermont is because it is hunting season. My dogs look adorable in their orange bandanas and vests, but underbrush could conceal and camouflage them. A tired hunter might react simply to movement. To be safe, I keep my dogs leashed.

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Charlie perches atop a hay bale for a portrait

Third, some folks might not want to meet your dog, even if doggo is very friendly. About a month ago, I brought Lucy to the reservoir to swim. The park had just closed for the season, but it was a warm, sunny day. Lucy was on leash as we walked to the water. About 50 yards away, another woman was working with her young dog. The dog was much more interested in Lucy than the owner’s commands and treats. The lady persisted in struggling for his attention. Lucy was oblivious as she just wanted to swim.

Swim she did. I had brought my camera and started to take pictures. I noticed a hilltop that would provide a scenic backdrop for a Lucy portrait. After a bit of swimming, I leashed her to walk up the steep hill to see the view. At the top we were immediately and enthusiastically greeted by two off-leash black labs. Their owner was calling them to no avail. The meeting was friendly, but I was overwhelmed by our new friends. In the happy frenzy, I became tangled in Lucy’s leash between three large, wet, jumping dogs and was nearly knocked to the ground. The owner asked me not to unleash Lucy because her dogs had been attacked by off leash dogs.

Oh, the irony…

Lucy at the Waterbury Reservoir, post swim and Lab greeting

Snaptastic! Readers share their dog portraits

dogs, How-to, photography, Uncategorized
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In an image sent in by Carol, Bradley the Labrador (owned by Carol’s son) enjoys a dip in a lake in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Fayston, Vermont. After a couple of posts giving photography tips for capturing a good portrait of your dog, I put my readers to the test. (Well, it was an optional assignment.) I received excellent submissions through which I can not only see your dogs likeness, but I also feel how special your dogs are.  That emotion is the end goal of a good portrait, so congratulate yourselves on an assignment well done!

From Carol, in New Jersey, I received images of of her son’s dog, Bradley, and of her Labradoodle, Wilson. Kersten, also in New Jersey, shared photos of her dog Rhodie. Andrea in Connecticut sent in photos of her dog, Filbert. And Nancy, who lives not far from me in Vermont, forwarded photos of several of her dogs. Thank you all for sharing your images!

I’ve assembled the photos into a gallery, below. Click on an image to see the dog’s name or owner. Sweet!

Oh, snap! (Send your photos before it’s too late!)

dogs, How-to, photography, Uncategorized
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Linus, Charlie Brown, and Lucy take a break during our evening stroll.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

A gentle reminder: Dear readers, I’ve only had two of you send in dog photos for my October post! I am grateful to those faithful two, but I’d really like to show photos from a few more of you – especially if you have found my photography tips helpful!  So please give portrait shooting a go and email your images on or before October 1, 2017 (that’s this Sunday) to me at silvernaildesign@gmail.com. I won’t sell your images or give them to any other party to use, I promise.

If you don’t have a dog, I will post your portrait of another pet or a favorite person of yours. The idea is to have you try the tips I gave you to see if they help you take a better picture. (I’m betting they will! To review my last post, please click here.)

In addition to sending your portrait to me, I’ve found a few more places for you to submit your dog’s photo. Two of the three are time-sensitive, so start snapping!

  1. Orvis is looking for a catalog cover dog. Submit your photo by September 30, 2017.  Prizes, Orvis merchandise, and the coveted cover are at stake! Check out their gallery of entries for inspiration.
  2. Adventure Dogs Official is an Instagram account that features fun reader-submitted photos of dogs out having a great time. It’s a wonderful account to browse for ideas and just be bow-wow-ed! They are always looking for dogs to feature. Send a high resolution photo with caption and location of pic to advernturedogsco@gmail.com or tag #AdventureDogsOfficial on Instagram.
  3. Smithsonian Magazine is also holding a dog photo contest. Actually, Smithsonian offers many categories for its annual contest. Even if you don’t want to enter, it’s worth browsing through the submissions. (I feel so boring and landlocked after I viewed some of the wonderful entries. Maybe I just need another glass of wine.) Contest entries are due November 30, 2017. You must create a profile before you can submit a photo.

If you have any questions, please send an email to me or use the contact form, below. Thank you for your participation. I’m looking forward to seeing your photos! 

Kind Regards,

Rebecca

wagmorevt.com

Picture Perfect Dog Portraits, Take 2

dogs, How-to, photography, Uncategorized

Lucy on a sleepy Sunday morning

Fayston, Vermont.  Still struggling with taking a decent photo of your dog? To follow up on my post from May 7, 2017, Picture Perfect: Tips for Taking Dog Portraits, here’s a simple exercise to start you on your way to taking better dog portraits. Yes, a little homework – it is back-to-school time – then, please send your assignment photos to wagmorevt.com and I’ll post them next month.

The assignment theme: “Let sleeping dogs lie”. I heard from some of you that your dog just won’t sit still long enough for you to take a decent photo. Training tips aside, let’s remove the action bit as much as possible and start with a tired pooch.

Step 1: Take your dog for a good walk. The light will be best for photos in the early (early-ish) morning or early evening, so time your walk with your mission. Tidbit from Captain Obvious: Pick a day that’s not raining or about to rain. You want good light. Wet dog is your call.

Step 2: When your dog settles down for a post-walk rest, take out your camera or smart phone. Hopefully your dog will be some place where you will have natural light, like through a window or outside on your deck. Turn on your camera or the camera on your phone.

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Charlie Brown does not like mornings. To take this shot, I steadied my smart phone on the deck while I crouched super low, almost lying down, to take the shot.

Step 3: Set up your shot. Focus on the dog’s eyes. (With the smart phone camera open, tap on the screen over the dog’s eyes.) The dog’s eyes will probably still be open, and that’s good. Figure out which way the light is hitting your dog’s face, and set yourself up so that you see that light on your dog’s face. Hold your camera/phone at dog eye level, which might mean getting down on the floor. I do this all the time…

Step 4: Take the picture! Take several pictures: Try different angles, like above and below your dog, and take multiple shots. Try moving in very close for just the face, then farther away for the whole dog.

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Linus rests after his morning walk, Note how the soft light coming through the windows hits his face from the right side and behind him.

Step 5: Edit your image. Simply using the auto-enhance feature in iPhoto (or whatever you have) is often all you need. If you still have a lot of shadows, move the shadows slider in iPhoto to the right to lighten the shadows. Use the brilliance slider to lighten up dark photos, too. Cropping unnecessary bits will help your composition by “focusing” the attention on your subject.

Step 6: Send your finished image to wagmorevt.com! I’d love to see them, and I’ll share them in next month’s post. Please tell me your dog’s name, your name, and where you took the shot (town, state, and then anything else – living room, under the bed…) Your deadline for inclusion in the next post is Sunday, October 1, 2017.

Email photos and information to: silvernaildesign@gmail.com

Note: If you don’t have a dog, improvise! A cat, a teddy bear, your spouse;-)

Have fun!!! And, happy snapping!

Rescue Squad Leader

animal rescue, dogs, Interview, Uncategorized
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Cindy Thrasher, Golden Huggs Rescue (GHR) Foster Extraordinaire, at the GHR Yard Sale, July 22, 2017

Editor’s note: Although I adopted all three of my dogs through Golden Huggs Rescue, Cindy was not the foster for any of them – I had never met Cindy before the interview.  And, while this post has been percolating, National Mutt Day (July 31, 2017) came and went.  This post is dedicated to all those volunteers who work in animal rescue.

Shelburne, Vermont.  With Cindy Thrasher, a volunteer foster “mom” for Golden Huggs Rescue.  Cindy, who lives in Columbia, Kentucky, was recently in Vermont to support the GHR fundraiser held at Collette’s Furniture in Shelburne, and to visit with friends.

How long have you been with GHR?
I’ve been involved with GHR since 2009, but I was with Border Collie Rescue before that. So 11 years total in rescue.

What got you started?
A friend of mine at work had Border Collies, and she was involved with Border Collie rescue. I went to a shelter to assess a Border Collie for her, and I picked it up. Once I started doing it, I really felt it was my calling.  I didn’t know anything about rescue; I didn’t even know it existed. I knew that we had tons of animals in need. Since then, I fostered over 600 dogs and puppies.

What are some of your favorite stories from your rescue work?
Most of the dogs we get are strays, so they come with a lot of stories we don’t know. Sometimes we can tell physically or by behavior what’s happened to them. Some that are special are if they’re a senior and they get adopted, and they get a second chance at life.

Black dogs – since I’ve been with GHR, they’ve been pretty liberal with me about having black dogs on our site, even though they’re not golden retrievers or golden mixes – because of “black dog syndrome”, where big black dogs are the last to get pulled out of shelters and they’re the first to be euthanized. We see many more Labrador Retrievers where I live than Golden Retreivers because they use them for fowl hunting. We have tons and tons of pure-bred Labs and tons and tons of Lab mixes, and they tend not to get out. I try my best to keep at least one black in foster care at all times. They’ve [GHR] been very liberal with me allowing me to do that.

Everybody’s a great dog – eveerydog is perfect – for the right home. That’s why it’s so important for out adoption process, the way it works. Because we’ve had very few of mine that have had to be moved around after, and usually it’s the humans’ fault. Not the dog’s fault. It’s important for them to have their forever life.

Do you have any dogs of your own?
I have three that are permanent fosters that were deemed unplacable for behavioral reasons, and I have two Border Collies, and several mixed breeds at my house.

I keep about 18-25 dogs at a time. I try to move them on. I’ve had fosters for over a year because no one wanted them, but I always tell my board members that the right person comes for the right dog at the right time. I takes awhile sometimes.

I had one last year, she was wicked female alpha aggressive, so she wanted to attack all the females. You can’t place a dog like that everywhere – that’s not a dog park dog, a dog you can walk around the neighborhood. She lives in Massachusetts now. She’s stunning. Brilliantly smart. She’s an only dog in a fenced yard, and they love her.  She’s living a great life.

I commit to each one, whenever their life to be realized, realizes. I’m the only one they have. Many times, they’re moments before the euthanization. I was lucky to go to Maine and visit a couple who have adopted three dogs from me, two I had in foster for over a year. One I got from a shelter I stopped at on my way to somewhere else. It was 4:30 on a Friday. The vet was coming at 5 to euthanize everything there. There were 30 dogs there. I had to look at those dogs and know that they were going down. This one sticks out to me more than any because it so explains the plight of these animals. There were three little puppies in the crate next to her. I was getting the puppies because they were fluffy puppies and I knew we could place them.  She’s a red cattle dog mix, solid red, and she was reaching through the kennel, screaming at me. Like she knew what was going to happen. I’ve never heard anything like it, before or since. She’s never made that noise again. She was literally screaming to me to get her.  I couldn’t leave her. I had to walk away from 20-some others, but I couldn’t leave her. I had her for 13 months in foster. She’s not what people look for from us, but she’s got a great life now. She lives right on the ocean.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to say our culture’s different down there. Human life isn’t valued much, and animal life isn’t valued at all. Animals are considered disposable. While there may be reputable breeders, most of the ones are from back yard breeders. They’re just doing it for the money. They don’t keep their dogs healthy. They adopt out dogs that are not spayed or neutered.  That just becomes more puppies that don’t have homes.

I would encourage anyone up here, if they have any influence at all, to push for Federal legislation for pet protection. KY ranks 50th in the nation for animal cruelty and neglect for 10 years in a row…

It’s a struggle. I encourage people to adopt rescue dogs because they are perfect. They may not be purebreds, but they are pure of heart.

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My Charlie Brown, center, with Golden Huggs Rescue volunteers at their fund raiser yard sale held last month at Collette’s Furniture in Shelburne, Vermont.  Thank you – your work makes a difference in the lives of so many dogs and their people!

If you have a comment or a story to share, please use the form, below.

Shades of Pet-Friendly

dogs, travel, Uncategorized

Lucy at sunset, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Fayston, Vermont. In my last post, I wrote about my upcoming road trip with dog Lucy and my college-age son to visit my parents in the Midwest. The trip involved crossing the US-Canadian border and hotel stays in several different locations. The trip went well, most of the time. Here’s what I found:

Border Crossings
My research told me that I needed to bring Lucy’s health and rabies shot records, $30 to pay the Canadian fee crossing into Canada, and her food in its original bag so that the ingredients could be easily determined. What actually happened is that I was not asked about the dog at all. No fee collected. No need to show health papers. No search to determine food ingredients. Most of the border agents’ questions were regarding weapons, which I did not bring. I didn’t even bring my golf clubs or a fishing rod. We enjoyed unremarkable crossings.

Having Lucy along likely made the crossings easier.  On our return across the border into Vermont, the United States agent asked the usual questions in the usual no-nonsense-just-the-facts-ma’am manner. Until he asked me to roll down the back seat window and met Lucy. His face morphed into a giant relaxed smile as he reached into our car to pet Lucy. Lucy wagged with excitement. “Welcome home,” he said and waved us through. As we drove off, he shouted: “I love Lucy!”

Lodging
I made most of our hotel arrangements well ahead of our trip.  I searched for pet-friendly hotels, and Best Western made it easy with most locations listed as such. I also used BringFido.com, through which I found a boutique hotel, the Old Stone Inn, in Niagara Falls, Ontario for our first night.

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The Old Stone Inn’s courtyard

I highly recommend The Old Stone Inn in Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side.  Lucy was warmly welcomed with a special gift of a travel dog dish, treats, and souvenir door hanger.  The room was large and the beds were deemed “the most comfortable ever” by my son.  We were allowed to leave Lucy in the room – I had brought her crate – while we walked around the falls.  We ate a delicious supper of burgers and local brews from the hotel’s pub in the attractive courtyard. The hotel’s location was ideal: just a short walk down a wooded path to the falls. The hotel was charming and the staff was friendly.  We were off to a great start!

 

After a long day of driving, we made it to Indiana, where I had made a reservation in a Best Western just off of I-80 near Chicago. Pet-friendly meant something else here. Upon arrival, I was asked to sign a pet agreement, part of which was to have our room inspected by a maid before we were allowed to check out. Dogs were not supposed to be left alone in the room, but when I said I had a crate, they didn’t press the point. We were tired and didn’t want to leave the room that evening anyway. Where would we go? Instead, we devoured a delivered pizza and enjoyed local brews from the hotel bar. We could hear another small dog barking all evening and into the night (wonder if the dog was left in the room alone?) but luckily Lucy did not bark in return. The maid was afraid of Lucy, but we passed inspection.

After several days staying at my mom’s house, we were back in the car headed to Sturgeon Bay, in Door County, Wisconsin and another Best Western to meet up with my dad and step-mom. Again, I was presented with the dog agreement at check-in, but this time the staff person was adamant that I do not leave the dog in the room alone, under any circumstances – not even to go to breakfast, which was included in our room fee. No maid inspection requirement at this property, however.

I was flustered and frustrated. My dad and step-mom were staying in the same hotel – that was the point. We planned to stay three nights. I was not told of the pet policy details when I made my reservations through the Best Western central reservation toll-free number, and I didn’t know what to ask at the time. But not being able to leave Lucy for a few hours was not going to work with the activities my family wanted to do. Add to that, we were assigned a room right next to the pool and the breakfast room. Bacon smells, kid noise, and water splashing sounds and they expect my golden retriever to not bark?! I canceled the last two nights and plugged in my computer to find another hotel.

Using the pet-friendly filter at Expedia.com, I found a room at The White Birch Inn. The room’s decor was something of a marvel, locked in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s, with mauve carpeting and wallpaper borders. But I would be allowed to leave Lucy in the room if I left my cell number. At check-in, I was given a token for a free drink from the bar. Breakfast was continental, and the first day, I enjoyed a bowl of beautiful fresh berries. The room was large and clean, and the price was right.

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Lucy in front of one of the many murals in Sudbury, Ontario.  The murals are created as part of an annual music and art festival.

Our last night of the trip was also in a Best Western in Sudbury, Ontario. The hotel is located on the same street as the police station and across the street from a small park. Again I was given a pet policy form to sign upon arrival, but leaving the dog in our 5th-floor room while we went to breakfast on the first floor was o.k. Or we could go just about anywhere else, as long as no one complained about the dog barking. The desk manager laughed when I told her about the room inspection clause I encountered in Indiana. As Best Westerns are independently owned, she explained, the pet policy (and its enforcement) varies from property to property.

 

The Lodging Upshot
Smaller inns will likely have more generous pet policies. It takes a bit more time to comb through search sites and requires a few extra telephone calls to find a good fit. Know what you are going to be doing helps filter, too – the Sturgeon Bay Best Western would have been fine if we had planned to be out all day hiking with Lucy.

Be prepared to pay a small additional fee for each pet. Fees were well-disclosed during the reservation process. Some hotels have a size limit for the pet, so pay attention to that detail if you have a large dog.

Food & Play Finding dog-friendly casual dining was pretty easy. We found several restaurants that welcomed dogs at their outdoor seating areas. Culver’s, a Wisconsin favorite with locations also in Minnesota and in Michigan, even had water bowls set out for four-legged guests. Try the cheese curds… In Sturgeon Bay, we ate dinner outside on the water at Waterfront Mary’s and Sonny’s. We also enjoyed take-out and either ate in the hotel or sat in a public park that allows dogs.

If you go to Door County, Wisconsin, be sure to visit the dog beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park. A day pass cost us $11 for the car, which we paid for at the ranger station. We enjoyed an afternoon on a beautiful, clean, sandy beach on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lucy swam and swam and swam.

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Lucy at Alimagnet Dog Park, Burnsville, Minnesota

When visiting a new town, check local community websites to find dog parks and leash laws. The town where my mom lives has a big dog park, Alimagnet Dog Park, with a pond for dog swimming and a walking path. The park is fenced, so dogs are free to be off-leash. Plus, dogs are allowed off leash during the warm months in all of the town’s outdoor hockey rinks with a gate. My mom lives in hockey-crazy Minnesota – a lot of off leash spaces!

 

While bringing Lucy made the trip more difficult in some ways – and certainly created a problem for our family visit in Door County – it also made it easier to meet people. Lucy basked in all of the extra attention as people of all ages told me delightful stories about their dog “at home.”

My morning walks with Lucy were quiet times to explore and wander. I found some of the murals in Sudbury, Ontario while my son was still sleeping. I watched the sun rise over the ball field where I used to play as a kid. While walking Lucy at dawn along Niagara Falls, I met a man from Michigan who told me about his dog, a 130 lb. chocolate lab. Named “Fudge.”

I want to meet Fudge.

Note: The manager at the Sturgeon Bay, WI Best Western did pay me a visit the next morning and offered to let me keep the dog in the room unattended, but it was too late at that point as we were already packing up to go to the White Birch Inn.

Images, below: Lucy at Whitefish Dunes State Park; Fire tower in Sturgeon Bay and a view from it; Sturgeon Bay waterfront and drawbridge; white thistle that is rare and specific to the Whitefish Dunes area; Lucy on the dog beach of Lake Michigan; Spoon Bridge and Cherry with Minneapolis skyline; Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sebastian Joe’s, Minneapolis; chillin’ with my pal Snoops at Valleyfair, Shakopee, Minnesota; Niagara Falls from the Canadian side; and Lucy at Niagara Falls at dawn.

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And away we go

dogs, travel, Uncategorized
LUCY with triptik_IMG_5674

Lucy studies the map.

Fayston, Vermont. For the first time in many years, my summer calendar is OPEN. Blank spaces for days and days. No work, at least not much. No events. At least none that I HAD to attend. No obligations. At least none that I’m aware. So when my mom asked me to visit her back home in Minnesota instead of her flying East, I said o.k.

What if I drove? I posed this question out loud one evening last March when my son was home from college. He said if I drove, he’d go, too. What? Really?! He said we could take our cameras and make a road trip out of it. Over the next several weeks, I kept asking him if he still wanted to go. I expected he’d think about all those hours in the car with mom and change his mind. He didn’t.

Well, you can’t leave me with three dogs all that time, said my husband. I can’t take them all to work with me.

Which one don’t you want to take to work? I asked. Lucy was his answer.

So now my trip home is a two-week road trip with my son Erik and dog Lucy on a route that will take us through Niagra Falls and a bit of Ontario. After several days with mom in Minnesota, Lucy, Erik and I will meet up with my dad and stepmom in Door County, Wisconsin before looping back through Ontario then Montreal, Quebec, then home to Vermont. I used the on-line AAA TripTik route planner, which made the task very simple.

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Sorry, Charlie. I will miss you terribly – we’ll Facetime! And you’ll have lots of fun with Linus. I’ll miss Linus, too.  Lucy’s not nearly as good of a lap dog.

Preparations have preoccupied me for weeks. I researched and read Canadian and U.S. information about crossing the border with a dog: Dogs must be in good health and a rabies certificate from the vet must be presented to the border agent along with payment of a $30 fee. I coordinated our plans with my parents, finalized our route, and then made hotel reservations at pet-friendly places that welcome bigger dogs. I also needed to attend to other travel details: obtaining a copy Lucy’s vet records (that was easy – thank you Dr. Roy’s office); arranging an oil change for my car; emptying a ridiculous amount of old photo files from my computer to make room for new photo files; changing some money so I have Canadian funds to pay the pet fee at the border; and shopping for a new pair of sneakers.

The car is packed. My camera battery is fully charged. And away we go!

I will post a photo gallery from our trip in next month’s article here on wagmorevt.com. For daily road trip photos, please follow me, @skimor, on Instagram!

Picture perfect: Tips for taking dog portraits

dogs, How-to, Uncategorized
RS_welcoming committee 2017

Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Linus sit for a portrait outside my front door. This “welcome mat” was shot using my iPhone.

This post is written in response to the requests I’ve received for tips on photographing dogs. Photography, in general, is subject about which A LOT has been written, so I’m going to hit on quick and simple ideas that I’ve found useful with my dogs. I’ll “focus” on these areas: dog wrangling, light, composition, equipment, and editing for taking dog portraits.

1. Dog wrangling. 

linus portrait 2017

Linus is staring at the treat in my hand. Ths “stay” command allows a few seconds to focus and press the shutter a few times so I can choose the image I want.  Yes, Linus enjoyed the treat!

Use basic commands of “sit,” “stay” and “come” when taking dog photos. Photo sessions double as training sessions! I have noticed an improvement in my dogs’ response to “stay” since I’ve been taking more frequent squad photos. When Linus sees the camera, he will sit before I even give the command. Reward and praise – and be patient.

 

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Charlie on a foggy morning walk.  I liked the mystery created by the fog but had to lighten up the image with editing to see Charlie a bit better.

2. Light. Take note of the light source and light direction before you start shooting. Light is important for evoking emotion and capturing details. The topic of light in photography is too broad to discuss in depth here. However, here are a few thoughts:

  • Consider what you’re trying to shoot then find the right light. I prefer natural light, whether outside or inside next to a window. Early morning and late afternoon provide better light than full sun midday when shadows will be strong and could make your image striped or dappled. If the sun is bright, move into the shade for even light and no squinting. Shade on a light-colored sidewalk or on sand will yield more true colors than shade cast by bushes on the grass, which will give a greenish cast.
  • Bright light will better define the action at high shutter speeds for action shots.
  • Fog and mist create drama.
  • Generally, you will need more light to photograph a dark colored dog like my Charlie Brown than you will need for a light colored dog like Lucy or Linus.
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Linus, giving me the eye. Black & white shows texture well.  Also, note the circular (triangular?) composition of the dog’s body around the shadow.

Optional exercise: Try converting your images to black and white and discover the lessons in contrast and texture to be learned from black and white photography. Also, experiment with apps (some of my favorites are listed under the equipment heading) and their settings and filters to figure out what you like the best in your images.

3. Composition, or how the viewer’s eye moves around the image, is another topic too broad for this post to really cover well. That said, the viewer’s eye will be attracted to the lightest spot (usually), so pick a focal point that is light, such as the eyes.

  • Before you start, think about what emotion you’re trying to show or what the story is you’re telling – your focus, so to speak. Also, take the time to look at your surroundings with your photo in mind. An uncluttered background puts the attention on your subject for a classic portrait. If you are shooting a landscape, have your dog be the focal point for an interesting composition.
  • For a basic portrait, focus on the dog’s eyes.
  • Shoot with the camera at dog-eye level.  This tip is also useful when shooting human subjects.  Also, try holding the camera lower than your subject or directly above for a different view – play with the angles!

    RS_Lucy portrait in leaves_2017

    Lucy poses during a recent walk in the woods. I called her name to get her attention as I hit the shutter.  She was above me on a rock ledge so I could stand when I shot the image. This was shot with my iPhone.

  • Hold a treat behind or above the lens so the dogs look directly into the camera. Or make a noise to attract their attention to you, behind the camera, for a view of the subject’s face. Profile or 3/4 views also make lovely portraits, so please don’t think there is only one right way. Photos of paws, or a nose, or even a tongue tell a story about personality.
  • Pay attention to shadows and reflections – they can really enhance your composition or detract by fighting for attention with your subject.

4. Equipment: Smartphones work just fine! Use what you have, and learn how to use it. If you’re like me, the camera always in your pocket is your smartphone. The newer smartphones have good cameras, so invest a little time in learning how to use the camera and take advantage of the extra features available with apps. While my Canon 7D DSLR takes awesome photos, it’s not always convenient to carry. I tend to leave it at home when I go out on a hike and use my iPhone.

Remember, with a smartphone’s camera on (or open), tap on the area you want to be in focus. The smartphone camera will want to focus on the closest object, which on a dog’s face is the nose, so tapping on the eyes on the screen will tell the camera otherwise.

With a few apps, shutter speed and aperture can be set to better control a smartphone’s camera. These two sets of photography numbers do two different things.

RS_Lucy on the ball

Lucy is frozen in mid-air by setting my iPhone’s shutter speed to 1/1000 using the CameraPlus Pro app.  The morning was dark, so the image is dark, even after editing.

  • Shutter speed: the larger the number, the crisper – or more frozen – the action will be. 1/1000 freezes Lucy’s hair mid-leap. A setting this high works best in bright light.
  • Aperture: Or the f-stop number; the smaller the number (portraits), the more blurry the background will be. The larger the number, the more will be in focus (landscapes). Start with setting either the shutter speed or the aperture leaving whichever you don’t choose on “auto” until you become more comfortable with the settings.
  • Steady the camera. Make yourself into a tripod: Decrease camera-shake by holding or leaning on something as you hit the shutter or putting your camera on something. Make sure your setting for stabilization is “on.” Exhale as you hit the shutter.

Some of my favorite apps for my iPhone include Camera Pro Plus (costs a few dollars, but it’s great for setting shutter speed and easy editing), Slow Shutter (for low light and long exposures), and PicsArt (great for adding text or fun filters). I also use Photoshop.

5. Editing apps can really make a difference between a good image and a great one, and apps only take a few seconds to use. While editing tools cannot un-blur a blurry image, they can improve lighting, lighten up shadows, boost color, remove unwanted objects or even the entire background, and crop to improve the composition. Filters on apps can change the mood with a single tap.

Different apps offer different filters and some of my favorites are on the Photoshop Express app. PicsArt has filters that “convert” your photo into a “painting.” The Camera Plus Pro app has a wonderful Clarity Pro feature, under “The Lab” tab, which allows one to adjust the amount of intensity and vibrancy not offered on the free version. The free clarity feature gives results that are a bit overdone for my taste, but try it to see for yourself before you spend money on the Pro version. (I don’t receive any compensation from these app mentions.)

 

RS_Charlie eyes on it

Charlie Brown focuses on the treat. I’ve focused the camera on his eyes to better show his expression. This was shot with my Canon 7D.

6. Have fun! The most important thing is to have fun with your dog. During training time, have your camera handy but keep the sessions short. If you want a big family portrait, practice often with your dog before you gather the people.  Take a walk, and take some photos along the way.  Your dog will love the walk – and the extra attention – and you’ll be taking wonderful photos to show off your beloved pooch!

 

Fostering family

Uncategorized
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Bella

Duxbury, Vermont
With Fran Olsen, volunteer and foster extraordinaire for Golden Huggs Rescue (GHR), and her dogs Bella and Lucy.  We have always been a two dog family. When we lost one of our oldies, we needed to have another dog – we always need to have two. We started looking and looking, and I applied to Golden Huggs. Amy [GHR volunteer] came and did my home visit, and she convinced me to foster with intent to adopt. I didn’t know about that foster thing… but I agreed.

That first foster worked out fine because my son Matthew ended up adopting her. It was a huge litter. There was about eight or nine of them that came from Tennessee. That was seven or eight years ago.

We’ve done 15 fifteen fosters. Bella is our foster failure.  I think every foster has at least one foster failure – one comes through the door that you know is staying… We picked her up in Richmond. She was part of a whole litter that came up in Brigitte’s [GHR founder Brigitte Ritchie] car. When I saw Bella, I said to Brigitte “That’s not fair.” Bella’s now about 6.

And then from there, Golden Huggs had a lot of dogs and a lot of vetting, and was robbing Peter to pay Paul. I called Laura Howe [a GHR volunteer and organizer] to say we needed to do something. Selling t-shirts wasn’t cutting it. So we put our heads together and came up with Party for the Pups, which we did for five years. It was a lot of work, and as time went on, we found that the new type of adopters is of a different mindset than the party and drink and dance type we had in the early years. Now they are more the outdoorsy type, so we need to change up our [fundraising] activity. We’re thinking we’ll do a big yard sale mid-summer. Collette’s Furniture – a big supporter of GHR – has offered to host it at the store. [The yard sale fundraiser is still in the planning stage, so please check the GHR site in the coming weeks for details.]

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Lucy

Lucy is not a Golden Huggs dog, but she is a rescue. I went into Pet Food Warehouse to get supplies, and some arbitrary rescue – I couldn’t tell you the name of it – had a pen in the middle of the store. I walked by and thought “That one’s cute.”  I felt like she was watching me walk down the aisles all through the store.

I tried to call my husband, but he was off snowmobiling with a buddy and didn’t answer and didn’t answer. So I said “C’mon.” She jumped right into the front seat of the car and I said “Lucy, we’re in trouble. We have some ’splaining to do.”

The adoption lady was really nice and told me to call her if the dog didn’t get along with our old dog or if my husband was mad, and that I could bring her back. When my husband first met Lucy, he picked her up and that was the end of that. We’ve had her for about 10 years.

Lucy isn’t a lover of big dogs or older dogs, so we foster only puppies. Lucy teaches them. A lot of people don’t like to do puppies because they think they’re too much work. But I bring [the puppy] with me everywhere.

And, my husband loves the fostering. He calls it “test-driving puppies.”

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Bella & Lucy

Editor’s note: The Mad River Valley has many active rescue groups with beautiful pets that need loving homes. Some of these organizations and their volunteers have been previously featured in wagmorevt.com. We so happened to have adopted all three of our dogs from Golden Huggs Rescue, beginning with our Lucy. Laura Howe was Linus’ foster mom. Charlie Brown is our “foster fail.” I first met Fran several years ago at the Party for the Pups fundraiser for Golden Huggs Rescue. The GHR adoption network has become a community that grows with every adoption.

To learn more about Golden Huggs Rescue, please visit their website at www.goldenhuggs.org.

If you have any comments about this post or questions for wagmorevt.com, please share them in the reply box, below, or contact me via email at silvernaildesign@gmail.com.