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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Four Seasons Recap

The view today. It really is snowing!

Per my post from yesterday, Scott over at the blog, "Views Infinitum", recapped his Four Seasons photographic assignment with links to all bloggers who submitted.

Click "Four Seasons Recap" and check out the beautiful submissions!

In the backyard, our Hawken is smouldering away across from the (almost) full woodshed.

Gus is happy to pass the Leader Dog baton to FLD Scout, who loves to snuggle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


By now, you'd think I'd be tuned in to "deadlines." Even though the Ogemaw County Voice only publishes twice a month, our Monday deadlines come oh-so-quickly.

Last May I came upon "Assignment: Four Seasons 2011" on the blog "Views Infinitive" by Scott Thomas Photography. Scott challenged bloggers "to show four distinct seasons from the SAME location."

I was sure that the beautiful views from the windows of our new northern Michigan home would pose no problem in accruing the appropriate shots.

I was wrong.

Not for lack of picture taking from our windows. (Andy says, "I'm glad I don't have to buy film.")

I just plain forgot the assignment.

EXCUSES: adjusting to our new life, starting a new "career" with the Voice, turning in and picking up yet another Future Leader Dog puppy.

Scott's deadline is TODAY.

What I really wanted to show is the view from our foyer window, especially after catching this scene. It reminds me of my sister Cathy's art. (Check it out--Catherine Peet.)

A winter view.

If only I had followed up in spring and summer. Alas, I took this shot in October and suddenly remembered.

A fall view.


In a scrabble to come up with a submission, I searched my photo archives (oh, why didn't I develop a better filing system?) but could never find the same location in all four seasons.

Summer is the culprit. I found a theme among my photos--the colder the better. (I sometimes joke with Andy, We didn't move far enough north!)

I almost had it with shots of the woodpile, but again, no summer view.

February 9, 2011.
February 17, 2011. What a difference in just over a week!
May 23, 2011. We have a covered woodshed that we take from first, just to the left of the tree. Didn't need to dip into this pile much until fall.

October 5, 2011. (See, summer missed!)
November 12, 2011. All the wood gone in just over a month! (That's my step-daughter's husband, Jeff, coming in from a morning hunt.)

Instead, what follows is what I unearthed from my archives. Shots of Gus, the Leader Dog puppy I raised from September 2010 to his return this past September, taken in the backyard of our new place in the woods.

A young FLD Gus "comes" with enthusiasm! Photo taken January 22, 2011.

Gypsy and FLD Gus take in the pretty view from our back porch on May 23, 2011.

FLD Gus smells the flowers on July 7, 2011.

"Forest Gus" returns to us in early November, "career-changed" from Leader Dogs for the Blind. (See my post from November 4.) He's back to his old tricks here, on November 20, 2011.

Thanks Scott, for the fun assignment!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: FOOD!

 Labs I know think everything is edible. Sticks, scraps of paper (or paper torn into scraps--see my post "My Dog Ate It"), fuzz, bits of material, just about anything below their noses or in your hand. They lick the promise of your hand and look up at you with sad brown eyes that say, "I'm STARVING here, don't you have anything for me to eat?"

Labs I know fall over themselves and anyone else in the way to their food dishes with the mere mention of "Do you want to eat?" Drool, stretching at a snail's pace to the floor answers, "Are you kidding me? You're kidding me, right? No, I don't want to eat, I'd rather just sit here and think about how deeeeliciiiooous my kibble is going to be. Is it bacon? Bacon! Bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!!" 

Labs I know need self-control at meal times, otherwise, I'd be flat on my *ss on the floor with Purina Pro Plan skittering about, a victim of Lab-over-exuberance. At our house, our Labs sit and wait for the "OKAY" before eating. (Then you'd better not be in their way!)


From day one at our house, puppy does NOT get her food dish on the floor until she is sitting. Granted, initially I'm lucky to get 1/2 second of "sit" but you need to start somewhere. (TIP: hold her collar as you set the dish down, coax her back into a "sit," THEN say "okay" and release her.) In fact, host families for Leader Dog moms and litters work on this before us raisers ever get the pups at seven weeks of age. Puppies must "sit" before being picked up, and before being fed. If you are consistent, it doesn't take long for this smart puppy to figure out what to do to get FOOD.

Gradually lengthen the "wait" and the distance to the food dish. (TIP: feed young puppies in an "x-pen" away from other dogs in the household.) If the puppy leads off before being released, lift the bowl from the floor. You'll be amazed how the action of lifting the bowl drops the rear end!

Eventually the puppy will hold her sit, even with the distraction of the other dogs in the household.  (TIP: Have someone else hold the puppy's collar, or put the puppy on a leash when first introducing feeding with others. Fill one bowl at a time.) Of course, it helps if you have an old grouch like Gypsy, who lets the new puppy know that HER food is OFF-LIMITS! I always like to feed the "home" dogs first, before the short-timer Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy. It just helps develop self-control.

Here is a short video of a morning feeding not long after cc'd (career-changed) Gus came back to stay with us. I had Gypsy and the two Labs sit. Gus and Scout sit together on the "mat." I fill Gypy's bowl and release her to eat with an "okay." The others wait until I release each of them in turn, Gus first. Gus and Scout get two helpings, in an attempt to slow their eating down. Between helpings they are expected to return to the mat for another "sit."

You can see that it will take a while for everything to settle out, because Gus is so new to being home. If I had filmed them this morning, almost two months later, you would see how Gus and Scout know just what to do.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Gyps, Gus, and FLD Scout pose in front of our Christmas tree.

From our house

to your house,


FLD Scout waits on the "mat" for breakfast. Gus lays near by and Gypsy relaxes over by the tree. We had to put up the x-pen to protect the lower ornaments (and the tree from morning "puppy-rips").

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Strategy Fails


Every evening since my "Picture This" post, I've set my camera strategically next to the couch.

And every evening the pooches decide NOT to snuggle in a "puppy-porn" pose.

Gus gazes up at me on the couch. I think HE wants to snuggle. Scout is in the background, looking for trouble.

"Come on Gus! I'm not ready to settle!" Scout seems to say, grabbing his ear. "Let's play!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Picture This...

...because if I got up to get my camera, the moment would be lost.

Evening time means relaxing with my sweetie on the couch. Gypsy commands the loveseat. Gus sometimes tries to snuggle with us above, but he's too big. He settles for the floor instead, and cozies up close to the couch.

Scout wiggles by and after a few licks and scratches, she nuzzles on the floor against Gus.

Last night, it was spooning, head-to-tail. Scout just fits the space between Gus's front and rear legs when he lies on his side.

I roll over to sneak a peak and now Gus is on his back, rear legs spread wide, front legs curled in an up-side-down leap. His jowls flap open with gravity. Scout has scooted end-to-end with him on her belly, laying her head between his back legs.

Puppy-porn, I say to Andy. He leans forward to see and the creak of the couch causes Scout to lift her head, always ready for the next thing. Gus rolls to his side.

I need to remember to grab my camera BEFORE hitting the couch!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday's TRAINING TIP (on Thursday!): "What's that?!"

Elaina and Natalie made their way into Total Soccer before I could get FLD Scout's blue working jacket on. They each had a game at the indoor arena.

Elaina, aka "Beast," shakes it up during her game.
Natalie kicks the ball toward goal for an assist!

Scout easily heeled at my left side to the entrance, but as we passed into the space between the big double glass doors, she balked.

"Wooooof!" I couldn't tell if she was startled by her own reflection in the glass, or the toddler kicking a soccer ball around just inside.

Scout, sit, I said to get her attention back on me. I had to coax her with a finger tap above her tail.

Scout, heel, I said, once she was sitting and settled down. I opened the inner door. She stepped across the threshold with me and yipped a couple more times, overtaken by the yells and whistles coming from behind the two-boarded soccer fields to the right and left of us, and groups of youngsters bouncing balls while they waited for their own games to start.

Scout, settle, I commanded, this time with a finger poke to her side. She whipped her head around to look up at me, and strained forward against the leash.

I waited. 

When the tension on the leash relaxed, we went to find the girls.

Taking FLD Scout to her first indoor soccer game gave her good exposure to kids, noise, slippery metal bleachers, ball distractions, and the always-a-temptation public arena floor. She needed some reassurance negotiating the bleachers, but after the second time moving (we inadvertently sat with the opposition) she gained confidence.

An alert FLD Scout shows interest in soccer-arena activities.


1. STAY CALM  Your reaction will travel through the leash to your puppy.

2. REDIRECT  Give your puppy a command to take her mind off whatever is scaring her. Use name recognition or a finger poke to refocus her attention to you.

3. GO SLOW  Don't overwhelm your puppy. Stay at a distance from the offending object until your puppy calms down. Turn the other way and approach again, stopping before your puppy acts nervous.

4. REWARD APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR  Don't forget to praise your puppy when she gathers her confidence!

It didn't take long for FLD Scout to settle down in the arena. She was very interested in the kids (and their soccer balls) who were waiting to play, but she was happy to hang out and observe instead of participating.

FLD Scout settles into a "down-stay" in the bleachers. She is tied to the rail while I take pictures.

Young John takes a seat next to FLD Scout...

...who can hardly contain herself to greet him! John did a remarkable job ignoring her, even though he was just as interested in her as she was of him.

Both girls' teams won their games! YAY!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookie-Bake Tired-Puppy Recipe

Cousins Sofia, Claire, and Natalie--sugared out at our annual family cookie-bake.


one puppy
one Lab
six kids + six "big" kids
powdered sugar and sprinkles galore

  • send puppy and Lab out to the fenced-in yard for a couple of hours of hard Lab-wrestling
  • bring inside to chill
  • mix six big kids with cookie-dough of various types
  • let six little kids decorate cookies with sugar and sprinkles

Russian tea-cakes get powdered.

Elaina gets powdered, too!

Logan attempts the closed-eye technique with spritzer cookies. Zoey is skeptical.

Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!!!

  • allow puppy to wander underfoot
FLD Scout gets floured and sugared!
  • bake

no need to clean floors afterwards

Sugared cookies.

Candy-cane cookies and "Belgium" waffles.

Just before my camera clicked, Scout's chin was flat on the floor between her paws, eyes slammed shut.

Tired puppy dreams of sugar-crumbs.

My cookie-bake FIB:

holiday mixings

six kids
no need to clean floors afterwards

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Dogs Do

What two tired puppies do...

FLD Scout squeezes into the dog bed with Gus.

...when I'm baking cookies.

Christmas cookies cool on a rack with the lighted Christmas tree behind. See those two silly puppies still sleep in the bed?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Winter Precursor

"The computer weather says it will clear up after 1:00," Andy announced. The morning was a dreary drizzle. "Let's take the dogs to Ogemaw Hills Pathway for a hike later."

The dogs were all for it, never mind that the sky refused to turn blue.

Gypsy is remarkably generous, allowing FLD Scout and Gus to sit with her on the way to Ogemaw Hills Pathway.

We parked off Sage Lake Road to explore the "most difficult" section of the Pathway's more than 13 rolling miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails.

We are familiar with the "easiest" and "more difficult" trails accessible off Fairview Road, most recently last February when we lost Elaina and Andy and I skied as much of the route as we could in attempts to find her. 

Natalie leads the group last winter on the "easier" trails (minus Elaina).

Anne gives a whistle.
She showed up later, oblivious to our send-Anne-and-the-girls-to-town-for-help concern (cell phones don't work well up here). Her first-time skiing and she took off ahead of us, following the trail markers and having a great time.

Elaina back at marker #1, where I eventually found her.

Lesson learned--announce "stay in contact with the group" BEFORE strapping skis on athletic teens!

Back to our Sunday afternoon hike.

The "most difficult" section proved once again that trail designations always overstate the difficulty. The "backslide" was appropriately named--a long, gradually winding downhill through 100' pines and hardwoods. Beautiful. And contrary to "what goes down must come up," the subsequent uphills were not as difficult as we imagined they might be. But. We weren't on skis!

After almost three miles of hiking down and up in the saturated forest, three dogs (and two people) were ready for a rest.

Three tired dogs on the drive home. Gypsy looks like she's thinking, "Jeez Scout, you're the littlest one and you're taking up all the room!" Gus did the smart thing and opted for the floor.

I, for one, am looking forward to snow and revisiting the "most difficult" trails at Ogemaw Hills Pathway!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Morning Sport--Two-on-One

FLD Scout and Gus wake up exuberant. Gypsy, not so much. But they all want to play with me. After breakfast, I indulge them.

Now that Gus is career-changed, I can toss him things to fetch. Or catch. He has to learn to do both.

I pick up a small red Kong and have three dogs at instant attention. Catch it, I say to Gus with a toss. He leaps into the air like a Michael Jordan about to dunk, but whiffs it--the Kong slips through his paws and rebounds crazily away, quite unlike a basketball. Somehow, he touches down and beats the other two, snatches it up, and brings it back to me.

He's got retrieval down. 

This time I toss the Kong toward the far end of our living-room court. This time Gus flies up with four paws tucked to his body and amazingly twists himself around in mid-air. He whiffs it again, but this time he forgets about the landing.

WHAMM! He shakes the court as he slams the floor. He recovers, but not fast enough this time to get to the Kong before Gypsy. 

It's a standoff. Gus, at the far end of the court, feigns a steal. Gypsy faces off with him, her growls muffled with a mouthful of Kong. Scout lingers near me, weighing her options.

Gypsy drops the Kong to heighten her threat and Gus bounces backwards into a play-bow. She snarls and barks. Gus echoes with a deeper WOOOOF. Scout has her eye on the Kong, which has taken a defensive rebound away from Gypsy. 

Scout lowers her head, crouches like a stealth-cat, and creeps forward, one sneaky paw at a time. Gypsy yowls to the ceiling and has no clue that Scout is about to steal the Kong.

Kong-in-mouth, Scout nonchalantly turns away and wanders back to the living room proper, as if nothing untoward has occurred. 

But Gus sees all. He bullets past a still-howling Gypsy and carries on the action with Scout, who is more than happy to share a grapple.

FLD Scout and Gus--best buds.