Fayston, Vermont. Something stole our tomatoes this year. After a wet June and a coolish July, the tomatoes struggled to produce fruit. We only grow cherry tomatoes, which we plant in the sunniest and warmest spot in our backyard, hard by the dining room windows. It’s difficult enough to grow them at our 1,900 ft. elevation, but something was snatching the small fruit just before any ripened.
What critter could be doing this? Chipmunks are scarce, due to the vigilance of hound/lab mix Linus. Birds scatter with lab/spaniel mix Charlie as the flusher. And golden girl Lucy is too busy chasing butterflies to notice much else.
Or so we thought.
One day, I caught Linus chewing on a mystery something outside, then I saw him gently pull a tomato off a plant. Stop, Thief! It wasn’t long before the others met him at their living salad bar, all three lined up each at a plant, tails wagging.
Tomatoes are not toxic to dogs, but the plant itself can be. My pack plucked the sweet fruit and left the bitter stems. The tomato season is just about over. I’m glad that our blueberries are fenced.
I am also grateful for the Farmers’ Market.
Please, please bring a leash with you when you walk with your unleashed dog. Yup, it happened again: A “very friendly” unleashed big black dog was running free over the Labor Day weekend and we encountered him during our morning walk. I had never seen him before. Lucy and Charlie were leashed.
At first, I didn’t see the unleashed dog’s person. The dog was running up the middle of our street, happy in his freedom, zig-zagging up the hill. I signaled to a passing car to slow down. Luckily, the driver saw the black dog despite the dark morning shadows and slowed down, nodding an “affirmative” to me as he passed by.
The dog ran into an adjacent field, and I assumed home. Nope. Farther down the street, he came bounding at us, with the owner’s “He’s very friendly” call hanging in the air. Before I could reply, Lucy, who is usually behind me, put herself between me and the incoming dog. I was moving slowly that morning because of some pain. With a vocalization from Lucy that was halfway between a bark and a growl, the black dog stopped its advance. I asked the owner to please leash her dog.
She didn’t have a leash with her.
In my town, dogs must be leashed unless under voice control. A dog’s friendliness does not negate the need for a leash or proper training. My heart skipped a beat when I saw a loose dog and an on-coming car that might not see the dog. Why do people forget their brains – and their good citizen manners – when they are on holiday?
WAGMOREVT Photo Booth, and more!
Save the date! On Friday, October 11, from 3-6 PM, WAGMOREVT and Product Think Tank will host a Pet Photo Booth to benefit Pawsitive Pantry and Golden Huggs Rescue. Halloween costumes are encouraged! Suggested donation of $5 per photo/$10 if I take the photo so you can be in it, too. Product Think Tank, which sells locally designed natural fiber clothing for men and women, is located next to the Waitsfield, Vermont Post Office, in the Mad River Green Shopping Center, Route 100, Waitsfield.
I will also be in the shop with my greeting cards and photo prints for sale. Most prints will be matted and ready for your frame; a few will be framed. If you are in the Mad River Valley for the long weekend, I hope you will stop by. I look forward to seeing you.
Also, I plan to enter only dog photos in the Green Mountain Photo Show (GMPS) this year. The GMPS opens September 13 and runs through October 6. It will be held in the barn at Lareau Farm – home of American Flatbread – on Route 100, Waitsfield, Vermont. The show is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-9 PM; Saturdays-Sundays from noon-9. Admission is free. My entered photos will be framed and ready to go to their new home – yours!
You can also find my greeting cards at Artisans’ Gallery on Bridge Street, Waitsfield, Vermont, and in the Pro Shop at Sugarbush Resort Golf Club in Warren, Vermont.
Cheers to summer! Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown relax on the deck.
Fayston, Vermont. While temperatures at our mountainside home are usually cool at night, daytime summer temps plus high humidity can make the pack doggone uncomfortable. Here are my top three tips to stay cool this summer, even during those dog days:
One: Provide fresh water
Lucy enjoys our outside shower just for dogs. (The garden hose waters more than plants.)
Two: Install a pool
Charlie is just ducky.
Three: Stay shaded
Linus is feelin’ groovy.
I hope these tips help you stay cool and feelin’ groovy until the leaves start to turn.
In all seriousness, please don’t leave your dog in the car, practice basic commands so your dog is a good citizen, and take Fido with you whenever you can because life’s adventures are always more fun with a dog.
Have a wonderful summer!
Shameless plug: Please support wagmorevt by buying my awesome greeting cards and photos! If you are lucky enough to be in the Mad River Valley of Vermont, find my work at Product Think Tank (next to the Waitsfield Post Office) and at The Artisans’ Gallery (on Waitsfield’s Bridge Street). In Warren, my greeting cards are available at The Pro Shop at the Sugarbush Resort Golf Club. Plus, I have a curated selection of cards and matted photos in my Etsy shop, RSilbernagelPhoto. Thank you!
5:05 am Open eyes. Roll over and squint at clock. Stiffly thunk-thunk down the stairs to the kitchen.
5:10 am Flip on lights. Open dog crates. Weave through excited tails to open sliding back door. And they’re off to do dog things.
5:15 am Make coffee. Measure out dog food. Leave Linus’ bowl on the floor as he’s always the first one back for breakfast. Let Lucy inside, and put her food down.
5:35 am Realize Lucy ate her food AND Linus’. She’s sleeping it off under the dining room table. Call Linus and Charlie. Weird that they’re not back.
5:36 am Let Linus and Charlie inside and feed them.
5:37 am Pour that first cup of coffee and turn on the tv news. Sip slowly.
5:45 am WHAT’S THAT SMELL?!
5:46 am Send Charlie outside, locked on the deck. Back to coffee.
6:00 am Search for goretex pants, rubber garden clogs, cleaning gloves, and dog shampoo. Dress for bathing battle.
6:13 am Turn on the hose. Call Charlie, who’s now hiding. Bribe him with a treat as I put him on his leash.
6:20 am Bath time for Charlie!
6:30 am Peel off goretex and rubber layers. Eat breakfast.
So, how was your morning?
Charlie Brown in a dandelion field, Waitsfield, Vermont
Lucy & Linus pose at Sugarbush Resort Golf Club, where some of my greetings cards are for sale in the Pro Shop. We were trying to make a dog-golf photo for a card. Need more leaves on the trees, I think.
Linus, Charlie Brown, and Lucy sit for a photo during a recent walk in our woods.
What’s your go-to look for spring? As I sift through my closet for a cheerful floral something, I realize that my dogs have it all figured out: Perennial polka dots are Linus’ favorite, while Lucy likes fresh thigh-high stockings and the effortless straight-from-the-shower look. Charlie has mastered bed-head with a crust of something striping his coat.
It is mud season in Vermont. That glorious time when the world is one big puddle over a layer of decaying leaves and other unidentifiable matter. The mud is slick, thick, and smelly. My dogs are stoked.
The daily fashion show runway formerly my driveway features Linus wearing mud polka dots and dark socks. Lucy probably showered him with spots as she shook, making sure black dots were dispersed all over Linus’ light yellow hair. Lucy struts about sporting a more abstract print paired with her pond soaked golden locks. She leaves a gleeful trail of wet, muddy paw prints everywhere, like a flower girl tossing petals. Sweet Charlie resembles a tousled hair muppet exuberantly infusing the air around him with his latest eau de toilette creation.
Their enthusiasm for these spring looks remind me that it is too soon for white shoes. As for the leopard print trend, with enough paw prints, my once plain jeans have become fashionable. Sometimes, I miss the snow.
Charlie does a sit-stay
Linus with his longing gaze
Lucy in her Happy Place
An eft says “Hello”
Clouds blow in over the hayfield
Charlie steals my seat on our first “deck day” of the year
Fayston, Vermont. It’s snowing. Again. The streets haven’t been plowed or sanded. Large white, fluffy flakes swirl in the air, sticking to my windshield and covering up our tracks from our our morning walk, which was taken before most folks have had their coffee. I’m returning home after a mid-morning grocery and dog treat run.
Despite the snow, walkers are out. It is a holiday, after all. A young couple with an energetic Golden Retriever try to make him sit as I drive slowly by. Then, on my street, I see my neighbor, with a friendly wave. Just as I turn into my driveway, I spot another walker, a stylish woman with her ear to her phone trudging up the last hill of our street. Cautiously I made my way down my driveway as it is sometimes slippery under new snow. Cream on scream is what we call it in the ski school.
A happy yellow lab in a pink collar is running full smile down my driveway at my car. Not one of my dogs. I see her in time to stop, but I am shaken. I’ve never seen this dog before. I think perhaps she belongs to Phone Woman.
Not long ago, I had a run in with a seasonal neighbor’s three dogs, who came charging down their driveway into the street after us. I was walking with Lucy and Charlie, both leashed. Surprised, I slipped on the ice and let go of Charlie’s leash as I slid. Charlie charged back, pinning one of the dogs in the snowbank as the other two dogs stood a few feet from me and Lucy. The two neighbor’s dogs were growling and barking at us. Lucy was quiet and hid behind me. I quickly called off Charlie – the dog (bigger but younger than Charlie) was pinned but unharmed – which Charlie did, only to stand at the end of the neighbor’s drive and bark at said neighbor. No doubt scolding him. I picked up Charlie’s leash and pulled him along to the sound of my neighbor’s apologies.
Town is crowded with tourists and seasonal homeowners here for a ski holiday. Even though you are on vacation, please remember to leash your dogs while out walking the streets and trails. Even if your dog is friendly. Because my town has a leash law. Because Charlie will try to protect me. Because I might not be able to stop.
And if you’re driving on our scenic country roads, please slow down when you see us – or anyone else – out for a walk.
Podium shot: Charlie, Lucy, and Linus on the plow-created snow Mountain next to our driveway
Fayston, Vermont. It has been so cold that the snow left behind by storm Harper complains with squeaks and grumbles under my boots. Just suiting up for a short dog walk down the driveway is an epic adventure. The bundling up and unbundling take as long as the walk.
Linus won’t go outside. He stands on the threshold like an old man caught up in a memory, unsure of the present. I coax him outside with the promise of a cookie.
Charlie rushes out excitedly. But after about a minute, he freezes with one leg in the air as if tagged by an invisible “It.” Slowly, the raised leg lowers and is carefully placed on the ground. A different leg is haltingly held aloft. The deliberate leg exchange is repeated, resembling a dog version of Tai chi.
Lucy runs ahead, clearing the driveway’s giant snow bank in a graceful leap and landing a perfect bellyflop in a pillow of powder. She pops up snow-covered with her goofy golden grin and begs me to throw a snowball. I oblige. Many times.
Satisfied that Linus has relieved himself, we return to the house for cookies, and for me, a cup of hot tea.
Fayston, Vermont. …Just as long as we have we.” Words from Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas came to me as I relaxed into a recent late afternoon nap. I was tucked in by labby Linus, who back-spooned into my right side and put his head on my shoulder. Golden Lucy took my left side, and Charlie (aka Lord Wigglebottom) kept my feet warm. I hadn’t slept well for days. Then, after a trip to PT, I was so exhausted I declared a group nap.
I have some health issues that prevent me from sleeping well – and from skiing at all. While I’m going from doctor to doctor and X-ray to X-ray, through the tedious process that our healthcare system has become, I admit I haven’t always felt cheerful or even like leaving the house. Nothing life-threatening is wrong, and my pain is a mostly a result of my active life well-lived, but it still hurts both physically and mentally. However, I’m not allowed to sulk too long as the dogs make me get up and take walks. They remind me when it’s time to eat. They don’t care if I’ve haven’t showered or that I forgot to brush my teeth. I think they know when my pain is bad because they stay extra close, like in our nap.
At that moment when I drifted off to sleep as I was swaddled by my dogs, I felt lucky. Loved. Secure. My pack is with me. We have we.
I hope that you “have we” this holiday season.
P. S.The Ugly Sweater Party to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Vermont is ON this Wednesday, December 19th. Pro Pig will donate $1 to GHR for every draft sold. Half price tacos for those wearing Ugly Sweaters, too. The fun begins at 5 pm.
Williston, Vermont. Although the wind gusts persuaded me to not set up my wagmorevt.com photo booth, the rain held off and another CaniCross to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue and Catamount Outdoor Center is now in the books. Dogs of all shapes and sizes came with their people to participate. A local youth cheerleading squad was even on site for encouragement. Special thanks to Long Trail Veterinary Center’s Dr. Ericka Canales for organizing and sponsoring this event.
If you are interested in ordering any prints, please go to my photo website, Rebecca Silbernagel Photo on SmugMug. As I didn’t set up the photo booth, any money I make from the sale of CaniCross prints or products I will donate to Golden Huggs. A 4×6 inch print costs .21¢ and ordering is easy through my site. I’ll leave the sale open for a couple of months. (I don’t usually sell my photos this way.)
We adopted all three of my dogs through Golden Huggs Rescue. I can’t say thank you enough!
Simple design using head shots I took then created this composite image with Adobe Spark Post
Fayston, Vermont. The Halloween candy is in the stores, so that means it’s time to prepare your end of the year holiday cards. You’ve had a lot of practice since my last how-to photograph dogs blog post, so hopefully you have saved a few favorites. If not, don’t worry! Here are a few tips for taking a “studio” head shot in your own home with your cell phone that you can use for your card. No snow required.
What you’ll need, in addition to your fully charged smart phone:
A clothes hanging rack. Not a sweater drying rack, but a tall, adjustable rack on which you normally hang pants and dresses.
Pant hangers – the kind with clips. Or drapery clips. I used pant/skirt hangers.
A festive and clean backdrop. A tablecloth or large throw/blanket works well. I used a plaid fleece throw, but if you choose a solid color you don’t have to worry as much about hanging the backdrop super straight. If you live near a fabric store (I don’t), buy a few yards (3-5, depending on the size of your dog and if you want some floor coverage) of velvet – try a dark red or blue or black. A roll of craft paper works, too. Use a seasonal color for whatever holiday you celebrate. Maybe you want to make a Halloween card AND a holiday card!
A tripod for your mobile device is also recommended, especially if you want to be in the photo, too. Mine is a Joby GorillaPod, purchased a few years ago for around $25. Search Amazon or B&H Photo for a similar gadget.
A room with lots of natural light that’s big enough to set up the clothes hanging rack and space to take a photo. I used my palatial master bath/laundry room because it has large windows and a lot of floor space. The garage with the door open also works for this project. Or, if it’s a nice day, find a flat spot in your yard without direct sunlight.
Treats, squeakers, or whatever you need to get your dog to look at the camera. Lucy responds to my Donald Duck voice. If you are feeling ambitious, gather other seasonal props, such as costumes, scarves, hats, lights, etc.
Your dog, after you’ve set up your studio.
Rack and hanger set up
My iPhone tripod, with an old phone
Clip the long end of your fabric to the hangers and hang on the rack. Take care to hang the fabric straight if you are using patterned fabric. The clips should hold multiple pieces of fabric so you can flip one over for a new look. (See image, below.) Perhaps you’ve seen a “photo booth” at a party or fundraising event – this is a down-and-dirty simple version.
Tip: If you want the whole dog in your picture, puddle the fabric on the floor so that the floor doesn’t show in your photo. Have doggo sit or stand on the fabric puddle. You can also use a second piece of matching fabric for the floor.
Set up a test shot to make sure you know where to sit to take the photo and where your dog will sit. Use a stuffed animal or a backpack as a stand-in and take a test shot. You’ll need to be about four feet from your subject. (My phone camera warns me when I’m too close or too far. Apple thinks of everything…) If you don’t have enough room, pick up the rack, fabric and all, and find a new location.
Adjust the backdrop to the light source, if necessary. I changed the angle of my backdrop slightly after my initial test.
Test shot for lighting with Charlie Brown
Take your shot
Now it’s show time. After you’ve exercised your dog, it’s time to take photos. I had to wake up Linus and motivate him to leave the couch.
Bring doggo into your “studio” and have him sit in front of the backdrop. Set up any props or costumes.
Use the “Stay” command while encouraging ear perk with a squeaker or small treat held near the camera lens.
Select the Portrait setting if you have it.
Hold the smartphone camera level with your dog’s eyes. On the screen, tap on your dog’s eyes.
Then snap! For best results, use the tripod to prevent camera shake.
This will likely take a few tries, but your dog will love the attention. Stay positive and task focused. Reward and praise your dog! If you’re not seeing the image you like after a few takes, try again later.
Plan B: If your pooch is used to being held (and has trouble with “stay”), consider being in the photo with her. Figure out where you are going to sit and do a test shot or two. Now the tripod is mandatory. With your phone in the tripod, set the timer on your smartphone camera for three seconds. Gather your dog and sit on your mark, looking at the camera (or kissing, laughing and of course smiling) until the shutter clicks. If three seconds is too short for you to find your mark, try 10 seconds on the timer.
Caveat: My dogs are NOT used to being held. After setting the timer on my smartphone, I crawled over to sit next to test subject Lucy. She saw this as playtime and began enthusiastically licking my face. (I should have known this was going to happen – it’s why my dogs are banned from the room when I need to stretch.) My photos were a hot mess of blonde blur. Bonding, 10; quality photograph, 0.
Plan C: Consider asking a family member or friend to help by hitting the shutter button. Bribery (um – reward) works for people, too. Coffee is a fine offering for my help, but you might try wine. Invite your helper to use your studio, too! Swap out the fabric for a new background and a different look.
Edit time (or, fun with apps)
One you have taken the photo you like, it’s time to let doggo finish his nap while you edit. Simply using iPhoto’s magic wand (or whatever photo app you use) and a bit of cropping will improve your image, but with a few more clicks, you will create more professional looking results.
Tip: Browse through the printed photo card choices online and pick out a few favorites before you crop. Knowing what aspect ratio you’ll need will save you from re-editing if you choose a card that calls for a 3:2 image but you’ve made yours 1:1. Wait a minute – what? 1:1 aspect ratio is square – the top and sides are the same. 3:2 is the size that will yield a 6 x 4 inch print – a rectangle. Your phone is 4:3. Aspect ratio is the width to height comparison of a photo.
For printed photo cards, you have a lot of online options, including Snapfish, Shutterfly, mpix, and Nation’s Photo Lab, to name a few. Many companies offer dog specific cards. If you don’t have a favorite printer already, ask a few friends who send great cards for recommendations. Once you browse the cards and make your choice, simply upload your photo and choose quantity.
For a complete and easy-to-use photo editor, one of my favorites is Snapseed. Snapseed is a Google product found for free on the App Store and also available for Android. It has editing “tools” and filters, called “looks.” Sometimes I need to lighten my image before I apply a filter, so I go to the “tools” section before going to the “looks” section (filters). Snapseed lets you save a copy or modify the original, and it lets you undo edits even after you’ve saved them.
Magic wand and cropping in iPhoto
Image brightened and Snapseed portrait filter applied
Another editing app I use is PicsArt. PicsArt has many fun filters and easy-to-use editing tools, plus it has a cut-out feature. If you want to remove the background on your headshot, tap the scissors icon, then swipe your finger over the areas of the image you want to keep. Fine tune the cut-out with the eraser tool. Apply the filter and you’ve just created a sticker that you can add to another image. Or, you can change the background to a solid color or a pattern. I used PicsArt to create the image of Linus, below right. Even though the background of my original image was simple, the plain black gives the image more punch.
Before PicsArt sticker
After, with a solid black background
If you have some down time and really want to play with photo editing, try Enlight Photofox. I have the older, paid version of Enlight; Enlight Photofox is free but has subscription-based add-ons. Either Enlight or Enlight Photofox will let you layer images to create something completely new. Don’t be afraid to play! I had a long wait at the doctor’s office, so I followed one of the tutorials to create this stylized portrait of Linus (below).
To make a funky digital card for social media, try Photo Lab – you pick a frame, then add animated effects and type to your headshot. (See Linus image at the bottom of this post.)
For a more sophisticated look, take a look at Adobe Spark Post. It’s another graphic design and collage app I like for graphic layouts such a digital holiday message for social media. I used Spark Post for the title image.
PicsArt collage of Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy
Tip: If you are using more than one headshot, make all the heads the same size. I need to resize Lucy in the above collage.
Design note: Many of the card designs are so colorful that your photo in black and white makes an elegant finished card. (See image at the top of the article.) Duplicate your image and make it black and white by using your photo editing app. Upload the black and white version to see which way you like it. Some of the card makers will let you edit your photos, but I feel that I have more control (and better results) if I make a second version to upload.
P. s. Why am I writing this post in September? This home studio set-up also works great for showing off your dog’s Halloween costume!!! Plus, if you have your holiday card ready to go early, you’ll likely find a great price on printing and have one less thing to do once December comes. Because it’s all about the cookies, really.
Finally, please share your work with wagmorevt.com! I’d love to see your dogs! I’ll add your photos to a future post. Thank you.
Linus head shot in Photo Lab. Scrooge effect is all Linus…
Summer is full of indulgences, but yes, one can have too much of a good thing. Too much ice cream gives me a stomach ache. But too much swimming for a water dog? About a month ago, my golden girl Lucy came down with a case of hot spots. Although I’ve owned a series of dogs, I’d never seen it: Hot spots look like a nasty, crusty rash with open sores. They are caused by a bacterial infection.
The weather had been record-breaking hot in the beginning of July. We do not have A/C. To keep her cool, I filled a kiddie pool for Lucy to splash in, plus I took her swimming. She didn’t dry well in the humidity, and I’m sure she also had some itchy bug bites as we all did. The bacteria had their own summer party on Lucy. It was a rager.
By the time I figured out what was bothering Lucy and that she had to go to the vet, it was the weekend. The infection had spread to behind each ear, on top of her head, and she also had a patch on her left hip. She was seen right away on Monday. To clean the infection, the vet shaved the area around the sores – standard procedure. However, she looked like a Barbie that had been given a haircut by a toddler.
She was put on a course of oral antibiotics and I had to clean the sores with antibacterial pads twice a day. I felt terrible that I had helped the infection to spread when I petted her head and rubbed her ears. The part on her hip was likely spread by her scratching. Linus and Charlie were unaffected.
The rash eventually cleared up and her hair is growing back. I’ve been reluctant to take her swimming. Today she went back in the water. She looked so incredibly happy.
Maybe I can have a little ice cream.
Lucy swims for the first time after her “hot spots” cleared. If you look closely, you can see where she was shaved by her ear.