Acts of Love

animal rescue, dogs, Joy, Valentines Day
Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus at sunrise.

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus at sunrise

To my dear pack-mates Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown on Valentines Day,

I love:

  • That you are ecstatic when I come home
  • That you are so happy to see me that you like to rub your blondeness against my black pant legs
  • That you use me for a pillow and keep me warm when you snuggle
  • That you use my pillow when I’m not home
  • That you are excited to see me each morning
  • That you are so excited to see me each morning that you begin to chirp at 4:30 a.m.
  • That you are up for any adventure
  • That you think when I have to go to the bathroom is an adventure
  • That you are always by my side
  • That you lie down in obstacle course formation on the kitchen floor when I am cooking
  • That you help with the dishes and vacuuming
  • That occasionally you leave a mess for me to clean
  • That you love me, always

I love my Lucy

I love my Linus

I love my Charlie Brown

Happy Valentines Day!





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.


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 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.


RS_CB_Foggy forest

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.
RS_B&W_sleeping linus

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!


Love Notes

Lucy brings a big gift. Size matters...

Lucy brings a big gift. Size matters…

Fayston, Vermont.  Pretty much every day is Valentine’s Day when you have a dog. Here are seven ways they celebrate their love for you all year long:

  1.  They are always happy to see you. Even if you’ve only been gone two minutes, they are there, wagging. They greet you with a kiss. Many wet, sloppy kisses.

2. They want to be with you. Even if the bank didn’t give out treats, they want to go for a ride with you. Also, they want to make sure you are o.k. when you go to the bathroom.

3. They protect you by sounding the bark alarm. Squirrels and other rodents who wander too close receive a thorough scolding. Sometimes they even alert you when it’s windy outside.

Charlie Brown is a happy runner.

Charlie Brown runs happy.

4. They make sure you get some exercise. Every day. They remind you when it’s time to take a walk, and become really, really excited when you put on your BIG boots.

5. They make sure you take time for play. They interrupt computer time by bringing a ball. They grab a stick from the woodpile and make you chase them to take it away.

6. They bring you gifts. Sometimes it’s a stick (or several) for the wood stove, other times it’s something they’ve fetched from the trash. (They don’t have a problem with regifting.) Some dogs even bring you socks to make sure you go outside. (See number 4.)

7. They keep you close. They use you for a pillow. The larger the dog, the more lap they need. Even if you’re not all that big. If you leave the house, they hop the doggy gate to sleep on your bed. On your pillow, so you can share dreams. They leave traces of their love on all your clothing, especially your favorite black sweater – it’s their favorite, too!

I hope you celebrate your dog’s love by making sure you take a nice, long walk and spend time with them. Every day. That’s all they want. Well, some cookies would be nice, too.




P.s. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @skimor for daily photo posts!

I’d love to hear from you! If you want to leave me a love note;), or have any comments or questions, please use the form, below.

A Better Travel Companion


Waitsfield, Vermont. With the very affectionate Lily, and her people, Tom and Susanne Byrne at Better Travel in the Mad River Green Shopping Center.

Tom: Lily is a three and a half-year-old Goldendoodle.  She came from a breeder in East Montpelier.  We picked her up there, but her breeder’s actually in Pennsylvania.

Tom, Lily, and Susanne at Better Travel in Waitsfield.

Lily helps us in the office every day. She loves being the greeter.  And, she knows when I’m going to the bank: She hears me stamping checks and comes to my desk. She gets a treat when we go to the bank.

On Fridays, she comes with me to buy the Valley Reporter at their office. Roxie [another Goldendoodle, who has has been featured in] ignores her, but that Corgi puppy and Lily, they run all over the place, having a grand time!

This is a travel agency. Where are you going to spend the holidays?
At home! We are looking forward to being together at home, just the three of us.

Editor’s note: Visitors are welcome at Better Travel. Stop by to say “hi” to the Byrnes and especially Lily – she will definitely brighten your day with an enthusiastic greeting. Also, if you have any training to tips to help stop a dog from jumping up on people, please leave them in a comment, below.  My Charlie was a jumper.  I would make him sit, then reward him.  It took some time, but he is (mostly) a reformed jumper now. “Sit” first doesn’t seem to be working very well with Lily – they have asked me to pass along their query to my readers. Lily is super friendly and energetic.  I will share your tips in a future post as well as with Tom and Susanne. Thank you!


Piling On The Thanks

Linus on a hike at Mt. Ellen

Linus on a hike at Mt. Ellen

Fayston, Vermont.  I am thankful for Canadian television. Hockey is such a civilized alternative to American politics. Wish Wayne Gretzky had been born in the United States…

Evening couch-nesting – to watch hockey or Law & Order re-runs after an afternoon hike – is a choreographed event with my dogs. I take my place in the corner of the “L” sectional, once the domain of my son who’s away at college. Then Linus puts his head and shoulders on my lap. At about 75 pounds, he’s a big guy who likes hugs and cuddles. Lucy, who weighs a couple of pounds less than Linus, snuggles up against my lower body, her legs entwined with mine and her head on my knees. Charlie Brown, smallest of the pack at 45 pounds, takes up the spot by my feet, or on the cushion next to (and up against) Linus. I feel so lucky, every evening.

I think the dogs are thankful, too.

Take A Hike

Charlie Brown on the trail.

Charlie Brown on the trail.

Fayston, Vermont. Hiking with dogs is something that happens daily at wagmorevt. If you go, here are a few practical tips to make a jaunt into the woods enjoyable and safe:

  1. Bring a trail map. Paper won’t give a low battery warning, but at the very least download a map on your phone. Service can be sketchy in the mountains. Read the map and plan your route before you go. Remember to sign in & out at the trail head, if asked. Always a good idea to let someone know where you’re going.
  2. Don’t head out into a storm. Check the weather. Know what to expect. Plan for the unexpected.
  3. Don’t go hungry. Pack water and a snack. Or two. Don’t feed the bears – don’t litter your snack wrappers. (If you are lucky to see a large creature in the woods, give them plenty of space.)
  4. Chuck T’s are not the best footwear choice. Wear supportive and waterproof shoes or boots and wool socks. The tougher the trail and the more stuff you are carrying (See #1 & 3), the more boot you will need.
  5. Make activity-appropriate wardrobe choices. Cotton t-shirts are best for channel surfing. A techy shirt will be a wicking layer on the way up so you won’t be a hot cold mess at the summit. Bring layers for changes in temperature and weather. Wear bright colors so you can be seen – by hunters and, well, if stuff happens, by rescue teams.
  6. Know the neighborhood. Check to see if hunting is permitted on your route. Avoid times of day when the hunted and hunters are most active, usually dawn and dusk.

    Creamsicle Lucy

    Creamsicle Lucy

  7. Orange is the new black. Put hi-viz colors on your dogs so you can see them and others can, too. (See #6.) Mudd+Wyeth’s Spot-the-Dog products are not only bright but have reflective strips or dots on them, too. (Unpaid endorsement – we use their products.)
  8. Sh*t happens. Pick up after your dog. No one wants to smell that on their shoes. Also, dogs love to roll in all sorts of yucky things. (Charlie Brown is particularly fond of spontaneous mud baths.) Have a towel handy at trail’s end. If the hike involves a drive, bring wet hand wipes for a quick clean-up before hopping in the car.
  9. Obey leash laws. Please. Use a collar and tags with identification and current contact information and/or microchip. This tip is from Captain Obvious, but someone will write me if I leave it off the list.

    Daedalea quercina, I think. If you know what this is, please contact me!

    Daedalea quercina, I think. If you know what this is, please contact me!

  10. Watch where you are going. Listen to the birds, not your headphones. Watch the sun’s position for direction and time clues. Notice the changes in vegetation and rock as you climb. Mind trail markers and enjoy the small details along the way: funky mushrooms and cool moss, hopping toads and crawling orange efts, and the variety of critter tracks. Enjoy the journey, not just reach a destination.

About #10. Last week, I took Lucy and Charlie Brown on our neighborhood loop hike that takes us down a dirt road, through a hayfield, then winds back around and up the hill on a trail in the woods before ending on a gravel drive that connects back to the dirt road and home. It’s about a 3.5-mile trek that is generally pretty easy, but the last half of the wooded trail is probably only used by us and the deer as it’s overgrown in many places. The trail doesn’t have any markers.

Near the end of the wooded trail section, I spotted a new path cut through the underbrush. Curious, I called back Charlie to follow this trail, thinking it linked up with other familiar trails further ahead. Lucy charged ahead to join Charlie as he darted back and forth, flushing grouse from the underbrush. They will sleep well tonight.

The new path turned then headed down a steep hill. Blue square steep. From the sun’s position, I knew I was moving away from home, but I kept descending on the trail. I was enjoying the quiet of the forest and a bit of an adventure. Finally, the path flattened out. A few yards through the trees, I saw a shed and a yard. I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I looked back at the path I just came down. I had to turn around. And climb back up that hill.

“Caw, Caw, Caw, HaHaHa,” laughed a crow, interrupting the quiet. “Very funny,” I replied wryly. I started back up the hill, and Charlie charged ahead once again.

Up, up, up I trudged. Sweating, I stopped to remove two layers down to my short-sleeved golf shirt. I checked my phone: No service. So no directional help. I wasn’t lost, though. I didn’t feel afraid. I knew I simply needed to retrace my steps to where I jumped from my original route, and I had plenty of daylight left. Near the hill’s top, the path went to the left, but Charlie started down an overgrown trail that split to the right. Toward home.

On the trail with Lucy and Charlie Brown.

On the trail with Lucy and Charlie Brown.

The trail was nearly covered by thorny underbrush, but the slender branches gently bent away as I walked through unscratched. Ahead, the sun broke through the canopy, illuminating a patch of bright green ferns on the forest floor. A signal to “go”, I walked to them. The ferns were thigh-high and soft. I ran my fingertips across the tops, like a lazy hand touching the water’s surface from a canoe adrift. The sun felt warm on my face. As I reached the end of the fern patch, I noticed a familiar hand-painted sign nailed to a tree. I will be on the gravel soon, then home.

I have seemingly endless time to hike as I lost my job a few weeks ago. This change in circumstance made me feel a little hurt and naturally angry, but mostly I didn’t know what to do with myself. I began a job search, cleaned my closet then my house, and baked cookies, but I was still feeling anxious and restless. I was lost.

Somewhere in the ferns, I found my way.

Howdy, stranger!



Fayston, Vermont. Last week, my son and I visited some friends who live on the Peconic Bay on the East End of Long Island. We used to have a summer house there, and it is truly my happy place. We hadn’t been back in a few years. Walter decided to stay home and work as he spent the previous week mountain biking with his sister, et al. He kept Charlie and Linus. I took Lucy, who is the only real swimmer of our pack and doesn’t bark much, either – a great trait when neighbors are close by.

We left Vermont with just enough time to take a brief breakfast stop in Randolph, then a pit stop in Connecticut before queuing up for our ferry reservation.  Lucy soaked up the sun on the ferry deck and made many, many friends. Upon arrival at the house, she ran straight into the water, swimming in circles and lapping at the waves she created. Then she pooped. In the water. A GIANT healthy log.

Good thing the tide’s going out, said our host.

As we unpacked, I put out a bowl of fresh water for Lucy. She drank. And drank. I had given her water along the way, but she drained the bowl.

Then she threw up. Mostly water, and some seaweed. (How’d she manage that?) Our host quickly grabbed the mop. Tile floor, thankfully.

Lucy didn’t eat much at all after that. Our host said she was too embarrassed.

Special thanks to our hosts for their good-natured hospitality.

A neighbor comes to call


Fayston, Vermont. Barking woke me up. Linus and Charlie were sounding the alarm downstairs, loudly. I looked at my bedside clock: 11:30. Probably a mouse or maybe a raccoon on the deck. I’m not going downstairs. Charlie spooks easily and Linus barks at the t.v. The visitor will move on, then the dogs will quiet, I told myself as I pulled the pillow over my ears.

The barking became even more frenzied, joined by a third voice. A low, deep, measured bark under the alarm bells. Lucy. Golden retriever who’s never met a stranger Lucy. Hers was not an alarm, but a call for back-up.

I made my way in the dark, down the stairs as fast as my arthritic joints would allow, switched on the outside light, and shrieked with surprise. I was standing a few feet away from A BEAR.

We looked at each other through the window, the bear blinking at me in the sudden light. I took in its beautiful, thick, glossy coat and healthy, bright eyes. It was full-grown but young. Probably the same one who left prints on the driveway recently. A leaf was dangling from its mouth like salad interrupted. I wanted to reach through the glass to touch its head and brush away the food from its face.

“What is it?” my husband finally called down from upstairs.

“A bear,” I softly replied, not wanting it to run away just yet.

“Big or little?”

That’s a ridiculous question, I thought. Instead, I answered “In-between?”

Footsteps down the bedroom stairs broke the spell. The bear plodded around our emerging herb garden and ran into the trees at the back of our yard. (The dogs are not as polite – they run straight through the garden.) We could still see the bear in the shadows cast by the outside light.

My husband returned to bed. I waited a long while before I went on the deck to close the gate. I brought inside the Brussel sprouts awaiting transplant. One of the plants had definitely been nibbled, but the others were untouched.

I guess bears don’t like Brussel sprouts.

bearEd. note: Our house borders on state land. When we bought the house about six years ago, the sellers told us we’d have a moose and bears. We were not concerned as we were coming from New Jersey, where the bears are big, sometimes aggressive, and love throwing pool parties. Since we moved in, I’ve seen a bear on the road a few times, but not close to the house. In the yard, I’ve seen an ermine, an eight-point buck, and all sorts of rodents and birds. Plus a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Linus met a porcupine once, but that’s another story. Where the driveway meets the road, I’ve seen a family of fishers, a doe and twin fawns, turkeys, and a coyote. Still waiting to see a moose.

On a walk a few days after the visit, I smiled as I followed familiar bear tracks down the middle of the road. The footprints made wilderness-styled street markings drawn in the dirt, a message left by my neighbor.