Rescued dogs

This past weekend we visited our son and his family.  They had adopted a German shepherd puppy a few months back and it was time for us to visit Axl.  His mother is a white shepherd and his father most likely a black and tan.  White shepherds have especially large ears as you can see with Axl.  If he were running into a headwind, it would be a good idea to trim his sails; he’d probably pick up three or four miles an hour.

Axl was one of nine puppies that Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue had taken in.  Well that’s not quite accurate;  they took in his mom who was pregnant. Axl and his brothers and sisters came along shortly after that.

We had lost our dog in the mid ’90’s and were dogless for a long time.  But then our friend Joyce, president of Echo Dogs, visited us with Powder, a white GS who had been rescued from a puppy mill and who was down to 43 pounds before she was saved.  Powder made quite an impression on that and many later visits, some at our house and some at Joyce’s in Downers Grove, IL.  At Joyce’s, Joyce would sleep in her bedroom with Powder and another dog, Jazz; my wife Ellie slept in the guest bedroom and I slept on the couch in the living room (it is rumored that I snore).  All these rooms are close together.  When Joyce would get up in the middle of the night, Powder would visit her good friend Barry on the couch.  This would be around 3:00 AM.  I would wake up with a very earnest nose about two inches from mine and Powder would be telling me that we needed a dog too, preferably a white shepherd, and more preferably, one that was up for adoption.

For one reason or another, we ended up getting Prince from a breeder but he was bored after a year or so and we got him a brother who was a white GS rescue.  This is Prince (on the ground) meeting Tuck for the first time.

So we have followed Powder’s recommendations in two generations of our family.  Ellie and I have Prince and Tuck while our son and his family have Axl.  And we still have our friend Powder.

If you are looking for a dog, please consider your local rescue organizations.  They have some great companions for you.


A simple spirituality: Part 3

In my last post I introduced the basis for my own spirituality as I understand it.  I would like to say this is what that spirituality is, but I’m still discovering new aspects of it.  Here are the basic tenets:

  • God is the original creator and continues to create.
  • Everything is part of God, God is in everything, everything in the Universe is therefore connected.
  • We humans, as part of God, participate in creating.
  • The consequences of our actions are far broader than we can see.

I’ll develop these ideas over future posts and today I will start with the last, concerning consequences of our actions.  It begins with this: we were on our way to Maine for the wedding of the daughter of friends of over 40 years.

These friends were originally from Tennessee but have lived in Maine ever since we have known them.  Tennessee is still in their voices.  We stopped for dinner on the way up and my wife Ellie wanted to get a small gift for Mary Lee.  She saw a t-shirt with the inscription ‘GRITS  Girls Raised In The South’ and bought it.  Mary Lee liked the shirt but with all the activity around the wedding, it was quickly forgotten.

Our friends go back to Tennessee every year and we make it a point to get together for a couple of days.  Some years after the wedding we were together and Mary Lee asked if we had any favorite Southern women writers.  We mentioned Bailey White but didn’t come up with others.  Then Mary Lee said ‘Oh, let me tell you what this is about.’  She had been walking down the street in Brunswick ME wearing the GRITS t-shirt.  A woman came up to her and said that she was raised in the South too.  Well, one thing led to another, and out of this came a kind of support group of several women raised in the South.  They have lunches, a book group, etc.  All of this out of the choice of a simple gift.  Who would have known?

On another occasion, Ellie, our friend Joyce and I were coming back from a trip and stopped in Berea, KY, a community strong in arts and crafts.  We were wandering around a gift shop and since we were the only customers in the store, the clerk wasn’t busy and there was an appealing dog there, I asked the clerk if she minded if I photographed the dog.  She said sure, go ahead.

I offered to send her pictures via email but she said while her husband did email, she didn’t.  The way she said that suggested that she didn’t want to ask her husband to bring the pictures up for her.  I asked if I could send her prints and she gave me her address.  I sent off a couple of 5 X 7s and forgot about it.  Several weeks later I got a thank you note in which she said that she and her husband were now divorced and that Aris, the dog, was one of her few friends.  Who would have known?

Our dogs

I’ve mentioned our dogs on a couple of occasions and I thought it would be good to introduce them.

That’s Prince in the foreground.  Tuck is in back.  I know, everybody names their dog Prince, but he comes by it honestly.  Growing up, we had a white collie/border collie mix  by the name of Prince who got his name from the white collie my great grandfather had on his farm.  My great grandfather’s name was George King and he had a pair of draft horses he named King and Queen so when a dog came along what choice was there but to name him Prince?

The current Prince, Prince III I guess, is a White German Shepherd.  He is rather large and rangy and his favorite past time is chasing tennis balls and Frisbees.  A trip to the bark park for him is a trip to Heaven.

We had never heard of the White German Shepherd breed until a friend of ours introduced us to Powder, a magnificent member of that breed. 

Powder spent her first three years in a puppy mill giving birth to at least one litter of puppies and probably more.  The puppy mill was closed down and Powder was rescued by Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue. She weighed about 45 pounds and it wasn’t even clear that she would live to make it to the vet.  She did and now she is a poster child for dog rescue work.  She lives with our friend Joyce.  When we visited Joyce, Powder would sleep in the same room as Joyce, my wife Ellie would be in the guest bedroom and I would be on the couch in the living room.  Joyce would get up in the middle of the night and Powder would go in search of her great good friend Barry.  I would wake up at 3:00 AM with a very earnest nose in my face.  Powder was there to tell me how important it was for us to adopt a White Shepherd.

We got Prince from a breeder but after awhile it was clear that he was bored living with just two humans so we took Powder’s advice and adopted Tuck.  His original name was Turk but Ellie didn’t like that and renamed him Tuck.  The story goes that Tuck was rescued from an owner who had no further use for him and was going to shoot him.  Fortunately he was rescued.  Here he is, meeting Prince for the first time.  Emmy, another rescued dog is sticking

close to Tuck.

Tuck has been with us two years now and neither he nor Prince are bored.  Tuck also likes to go to the bark park.

Thanks, Powder, you have good ideas.

Just a good day to shoot

Some days are a gift.  It was nicely cloudy this morning when I had the dogs at the bark park.  In between throwing tennis balls for Prince and Tuck I was able to get in a few shots.BP_7436

The clouds largely disappeared and later in the morning I was on the Fall Creek Trail at Fort Harrison State Park.  It’s hard to beat an autumn day, a good day for smelling the leaves and kicking through them.  Inside every six year old boy there is a six year old boy.  Inside every 70 year old man, there is a six year old boy. We were having a warm spell and a lot of people were enjoying it.

It being toward the middle of the day, lighting was more harsh than it was in the morning but shooting high dynamic range eased that.  The camera was on the tripod and shots were bracketed plus and minus two stops.  I later combined the resulting three images in Photomatix Pro and was quite pleased with the result.  There are times when I want some of what has come to be called the ‘HDR effect’, an effect that can push colors to the cartoonish side while the range of illumination is taken from, say, 13 stops down to eight or nine stops.  That cartoonish effect can be effective in some situations but not here.  All I wanted to do was compress the range of captured light into the range that can be displayed and keep the colors pretty much as they were.   Here is the result:Fall_Creek_7523_4_5Enhancer

One effect of compressing a wide dynamic range into a narrower dynamic range is that tonal transitions become more smooth and gradual.  Compare the above with this image, the one the camera recommended and was included as part of the HDR work:


This is very nice too but the brightness on the right side of the tree to the right of the path suggests why it isn’t a good idea to shoot at this time of day if it can be avoided.  All in all, a good result with new technology and better yet, a good day to be outside.

Sticking with it

One more time into the walnut plantation.

Gold among the walnuts

Gold among the walnuts

It was wet and a little drizzly yesterday morning when I went out to shoot.  I was there because Alain Briot’s column on landscape blurs reminded me that that was a good time to get saturated colors.  As indeed it was.

It was windy and dark which spells disaster for some kinds of photography but for landscape blurring – which consists of moving the camera while the shutter is open – it is very promising.  As usual the number of images retained after the shoot was much smaller than the number taken, a great argument for digital cameras.  I got the shot above early on.  (For those interested in such things, most of the effect in the image above was created in the camera.  Adobe Camera Raw added some contrast and a little vividness while Photoshop permitted selective darkening and bringing up the orange a little bit in the leaves.)

The story continues.  There was a red poison ivy vine decorating a tree trunk several yards into the brush and without thinking I just went in to get a shot of it, looking for poison ivy along the way but forgetting about the burrs that are so common this season.  I was immediately attacked by a lurking burr factory.  I was born in 1939 so I grew up watching horror movies where some otherwise more or less mildly obnoxious pest was irradiated in an accident and grew to gigantic size and set out to take over the world.  I don’t remember any giant burr movies but it would have been a good subject.

You have probably encountered burrs.  Once they are stuck to your pants, they are as tenacious as a politician working to stay in office.  I was wearing sweats so conditions were ideal for them.  I tried brushing them off and that didn’t work very well so I put an old towel on the driver’s seat and sat on that on the way home where surely there would be a good solution.  I tried lots of things and they all failed.  I’ll talk about just one of the methods.  We have a brush which we use to brush our two White German Shepherds.   Note that the brush was full of white dog hair, something I noticed but didn’t think about.  The brush didn’t work as intended.  In fact it achieved the opposite result, which was that the burrs did not come off but the dog hair left the brush to join the burrs.  Now many of them have little white beards.

Burrs with dog hair

Burrs and dog hair among the threads

Michael Pollan, in his ‘The Botany of Desire’, says with tongue in cheek that members of the vegetable kingdom rule the world and use us to carry their seeds from one place to another.  I’m coming to believe that.  Maybe those old horror movies were speaking the truth.  Burrs just didn’t need to be irradiated and they don’t need to be big to take over the world.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.