Fayston, Vermont. Have you been out yet? Golden girl Lucy and I attended our first public event on the Fourth of July, a dog parade at Sugarbush Resort to benefit the Mad River Valley’s PAWSitive Pantry.
Before the event, I was nervous at the idea of being around a lot of people. Yes, I’m vaccinated, but still I’m wary. I worried that most people at the event would be people I don’t know from places not nearby, thus a risk of exposure to COVID. But I told myself that the dog parade would be a fitting homecoming. I worked at Sugarbush for almost ten years. Over a year had passed since I had been to the base area because I didn’t ski last season.
I was concerned for Lucy, too. I wasn’t sure how she’d react to a crowd after our confinement. Like her humans, she has been sequestered from other people – and other dogs – during the pandemic. However, Sugarbush’s New Year’s Eve dog parade was her first public outing as a puppy all those years ago. That year, my boss allowed me to leave work early to take her. He even made her a “staff” name tag.
I needn’t have worried. Lucy, true to her nature, loved every minute! Hands of all sizes reached out to pet her. Dogs sniffed their greetings and made her acquaintance without incident. She wagged enthusiastically the entire time. I loosened my grip on her leash and exhaled as small children gathered around her because Queen Lucy soaked up their adoration with gentleness and mutual affection. I swear she hugged them back. As we made our way over the parade route around the base lodge, I could feel my shoulders relax. My nervous smile became genuine.
After we came home, Lucy drank a bowl of water then fell asleep, snoring loudly.
With Lucy as my guide, I learned that it’s o.k. to come out now. It’s time to celebrate each other and our community. Hugs feel good. When I returned to one of my favorite places, surrounded by dogs and a few familiar faces, I experienced a restorative homecoming.
Fayston, Vermont. What happens when a life-long dog person adopts a kitten? The kitten fetches better than the dogs. Well, except for golden girl Lucy, who is the top fetcher in all the land.
In June, we adopted a tiny grey meowing fuzz ball from Central Valley Humane Society. From the first day, our kitten greeted us whenever we walked in the room. We kept her in a bathroom at first, but now she has the second floor to roam. She is constantly sneaking downstairs, so I am kitten proofing. The dogs wait for admission to my bedroom so they can play together.
Eventually, we settled on the name “Alice” for the kitten but we also call her “Beans” (she has extra toes), and sometimes “Stinky.” I won’t go into detail why on that last one.
I’ve enjoyed having something tiny in the house again, but it is a little work. Not that I mind. I have extra time because of COVID restrictions. Playtime entertains me as much as her. I have become “crafty.” I cut holes in a cardboard box that arrived with my new golf shoes to create the “Expensive Cat Toy.” I saved a larger box to make a cat-stle. I also crocheted a taco cat toy from my ever multiplying yarn stash. It was with the “flying” taco that Alice the kitten learned to fetch.
I’ve made several yarn tacos. The first one went with her to the vet but didn’t make it home. So I made another, only to find the original one in her carrying case after her next trip to the vet 10 days later. They kept the toy and returned it! Our thoughtful vet’s office is Valley Animal Hospital, Dr. Roy Hadden, in Waitsfield, Vermont.
To make your own magic taco, find the free pattern on Ravelry by searching the free patterns for “cat toys.” I also found a few other cat toy patterns I want to try: A doughnut and a small fish are on my list.
While the dogs are enthusiastically trying to be best friends, I am learning to speak cat. Alice follows me around (unless she’s sleeping). Of course a dog person has a FOMO kitty – and another shadow.
FAYSTON, VERMONT. The “wait” command is a struggle for Linus, my lab/hound mix. He should be named “Hoover” as he quickly sucks up any crumb that drops on the floor. At feeding time, I have him sit. We are working on the “wait” command so that I can put the bowl down before he inhales his meal.
Charlie the spanador learned “wait” almost immediately. Goldie Lucy is not as patient as Charlie, but she has learned to wait, begrudgingly. Linus continues to make slow progress.
Vermont’s “stay home” order is posing a “wait” challenge to my household. Our change to grocery shopping for the week instead of on a whim was an adjustment, and it means that sometimes we are out of bananas as we accumulate a list.
Sugarbush’s abrupt closure then ban on uphill travel grounded – like a privileged but nonetheless punished teenager kind of grounded – my husband. His metaphorical keys were taken away because he was found guilty by association. He now divides his time between restless puttering and Netflix. He and his coworkers have exchanged many texts about when they can return to work. With some restrictions on outdoor construction just lifted, his wait is over soon.
I am 110% an introvert, so the stay home order has been highly restorative. I have been going into the office a few hours each week and done some work from home, but I’ve had more free time. It’s been glorious.
Since the start of the self-confinement order about a month ago, I read several books, started and finished knitting a sweater, and took so many long walks with the dogs that my resting heartrate has dropped 9 bpm. (It was in the high 50’s; now in the high 40’s, so I’m basically dead. The dogs are happy-tired.) I also cooked enough food to feed the entire neighborhood. In our first week of confinement, hubby banned me from the kitchen for 24 hours after I cooked a huge casserole of baked ziti that we ate for days.
Despite being content at home, I’m also struggling with “wait.” I long to see color return to the landscape, to see yellow flowers and green grass and blue sky and (distant) black bear cubs and orange efts … I’m waiting for spring.
Fayston, Vermont. With all the year in review images and best of the decade stories, I admit to feeling a bit less. We all know someone who asks how your weekend was only to tell you about how awesome his or hers was. Monday is synonymous with deflated.
I have a solution: Just add “Switzerland.” So when I say that I went shopping and skiing, I add “in Switzerland.” (If you’re already in Switzerland, your dinner and dancing was a pig roast luau and your hike was “in Hawaii.”) Photo editing apps make it easy to back up your story, so all you need is your smartphone to tell your tale.
Step one: Search for a stock photo of your dream destination. Save it. Just google “free stock photo Switzerland” or wherever to find one. I found the shot I used below on Pixabay.
Step two: Take a selfie. It doesn’t have to be good. But you should smile!
Step three: Open a photo editing and collage app like PicsArt or Photoshop Mix. Upload your selfie and follow the tutorial to remove the background. In PicsArt, you’ll be making a sticker; in Photoshop Mix, you’re working on a layer. Upload your destination photo as a background and there you are!
Lucy in Switzerland via Photoshop Mix
If you’re not feeling like jet-setting this weekend, then unplug. Literally. Close your device and put it down. Do not put it in your pocket – simply leave it on the counter. Grab the leash(es) and hook up your dog(s). Open the door. And go outside. See how the snow sparkles in the sunlight? So will you.
Here’s to a new year – and a new decade – of sparkle and magic.
Ps: If you create a layered shot, please send it to me. I’ll put it in my next post.
Charlie Brown makes himself comfortable on a recent snow day.
Fayston, Vermont. Santa, please don’t bring me a weighted blanket this year. I know I’ve been good and I’m always cold, but I already have a nice heavy blanket. It sheds like crazy but it’s toasty warm.
My morning routine goes like this: Let dogs out; let dogs in; feed dogs; fill dog water bowl; make coffee; then sit on the couch to watch the weather report as I wait for coffee magic. The couch is an old Pottery Barn sectional, the kind with micro fake suede slipcovers in color “light dog.” Sometimes I have to move a dog to sit down in the corner of the “L.” Always I have snuggles, with golden girl Lucy beside me on my right, holding my hand hostage for pets. Spaniel mix Charlie is at my feet, and labby Linus is wedged between the couch and my body, with his front paws thrown across my hips.
We do a similar configuration in the evening, except that maybe I have a glass of wine, Charlie is often a pillow for my husband on the other side of the couch, and Linus goes for the full body snuggle as he curls up on top of me. Sometimes Linus snores. It tickles when he snores.
Linus weighs about 75 pounds.
I’m giving thanks for my familiar, comfortable couch and my cozy home in the mountains. I’m giving thanks for all those folks who have given me support and encouragement this year – in my work, in my photography, and with my health. I’m giving thanks for my pack-mates, both four- and two-legged, who press upon me with their love every day.
My life is heavy with blessings. I hope the same is true for you.
P.s. I will be at the Waitsfield UCC’s Merry Market once again this year. Find me in the church’s undercroft with my photo cards and some matted prints on Saturday, December 7, from 9:30 am until about 3 pm. Admission to the Merry Market is free; cards are $4 each, with a Merry Market special of 6 cards for $20. I have several new card designs this year. The church is located at 4335 Main Street (Route 100), Waitsfield, Vermont. If you’re in Vermont, I hope you can stop by!
If you can’t make it to the Merry Market, find my cards and a few canvas prints at Artisans’ Gallery in Waitsfield. My work is in the front of the shop, to your left as you walk in the door. Cards are also available at Product Think Tank, also in Waitsfield. Product Think Tank sells locally designed natural fiber clothing for men and women. I guarantee you will check a few things off your gift list at these shops.
ICYMI: My pack is on the cover of the winter issue of Best of Burlington Magazine! Inside, a lovely article about Golden Huggs Rescue (GHR), its founder Brigitte Ritchie, and her connection to Oprah’s favorite thing, Spot The Dog Vermont. (All three of my dogs were adopted through GHR.) A few of my photos accompany the article. As of this writing, the magazine drop is imminent – look for it soon at locations throughout the Burlington area.
Suze, Rumble, and Jen from Scallywags and Pawsitive Pantry
Fayston, Vermont. The only thing that snapped at my recent Howloween Photo booth was my shutter – thank you to everyone who came out for the event! Special thanks to Annemarie at Product Think Tank, and to Suze and Jen at Scallywags dog treats for their sponsorship. And, thank you to David for placing signs and trolling the Farmers Market for portrait subjects. The photo booth raised a little money for Golden Huggs Rescue and for PAWSitive Pantry.
This was my first time doing a photo booth using my cell phone, which I chose to do to speed up the process and ease of photo distribution at the sacrifice of quality. Next time, I’ll set up a “real” camera and give folks the option at a higher price point.
We held the event on a Friday afternoon, but performed an encore the next day, after the post office and Farmers’ Market closed. As we were cleaning up on Saturday, another shop owner asked if I’d return for Country Christmas, which is in December in the Mad River Valley. I’ll take that as a vote of support and my answer is maybe. I do think we’ll try this again next year, so think about costumes and practice sit-stay.
A good time was had by all, especially by a lab named Bear who enthusiastically licked my entire face and gobbled up multiple treats. I enjoyed meeting all the dogs and their people. Dog people really do mirror their dogs, if not in looks, then certainly in temperament! Scroll down for photos from the event, plus my crew.
If you missed my photo booth, check your local community calendar for dog events in your area.
Five take-aways from my photo booth experience:
Bring a towel. Call this the “Watch Out for Bear” lesson.
Relationships make great portraits. Don’t be shy – get in the picture! Most people just wanted a photo of their dog, but when the dog and the person are together, their interaction made for much more interesting and unique photos. We had so much fun when photographer Barrie Fisher stopped by with her dog and they struck a variety of poses together. Others who had been camera shy changed their mind about being in the picture when they watched Barrie. I re-snapped their portraits. Plus, having the dog owner in the picture makes it easier for the dog to slow down long enough for my shutter finger to catch up.
Dress up isn’t for every dog. I knew this going in as my Charlie doesn’t like to wear things on his head. I have been practicing with hats and glasses on him, and his tolerance is improving. It’s taking time, however. Meanwhile, I put him in a pumpkin shirt for a photo, and he seemed to like the t-shirt – it was like putting on his Spot the Dog vest. Patience and practice are the keys if you want your dog to wear a costume.
Socialization is important. A public event is challenging for most dogs because of all the new sounds, smells, and attention. Keep taking your dog on public outings!
Practice Sit-Stay. Most dogs struggled to stay still. I doubt my dogs would ace this part given all the commotion, so this is certainly not a criticism but an observation. I took a lot of photos to get one or two decent shots, but the outtakes were hilarious! This is where my real camera would have been a better tool. That said, I’ll be practicing Sit-Stay with my pack more regularly.
If you want to try this for your next event, here’s what I brought for the photo booth:
A photo backdrop stand and a large piece of black cotton velour for a backdrop
Pumpkins (I bought real ones, but fake ones work, too) and a Trick or Treat sign from the crafts store for decor and props
Assorted costumes, hats, and a felt Halloween garland that I purchased at a craft store – the garland made a fun scarf
A pumpkin bucket for donations with a sign
Candy for people
We located the photo booth outside on a covered sidewalk. We had plenty of afternoon sun for light, but I brought a light wand and a second tripod just in case. I used my phone (an iPhone 7Plus) on portrait mode. I think next time I’ll go back to a camera on a tripod for an upcharge option.
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.
Charlie and Lucy watch the world go by. Or maybe a squirrel…
Fayston, Vermont. Wagmorevt has been sharing dog stories, tips, and photos for four years. I published my first post celebrating all dogs on National Puppy Day, 2015. Along the way, I’ve shared stories of readers’ dogs and my dogs, as well as giving tips for taking great dog photos. Thank you, dear reader, for following along!
This past year, I’ve expanded my photography into a true side-hustle: I launched my greeting card line and my Etsy shop. I have been fortunate to have my cards and prints in a local shop that’s otherwise full of locally-designed natural fiber knitwear. Then, earlier this month, my work was accepted at a local art & craft gallery.
What pieces of mine excited the gallery’s jurors the most? My dog photos!
If you’re in Vermont, find my cards and a large print at Artisans’ Gallery on Bridge Street in Waitsfield. All the work in the Gallery – and there’s a wide variety – is made by Vermont artists. My greeting cards are also at Product Think Tank, located next to the Waitsfield Post Office. Product Think Tank is full of beautiful natural fiber knits for men and women in seasonal colors.
Online, please visit my Etsy shop at RSilbernagelPhoto. I sell greeting card sets and a few prints on this site.
Enough crowing. My anniversary post is supposed to be short on words and long on photos from the past year. Those images bring back memories of warmer days and happy but cold noses. I also have to share a very special shout-out of gratitude to the people of Golden Huggs Rescue, from where all three of my dogs were adopted. If you are thinking about adding to your pack, check out the available and adorable puppies and dogs on their site.
I hope you enjoy the photos, and I look forward to sharing the coming year with you. May you celebrate National Puppy Day 2019 on Saturday, March 23 with a slobbery kiss and a long walk with your forever puppy.