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Category Archives: Dogs
Introducing SIT Happens Training Center and new owner, Sarah Spencer Hall. Sarah was the head trainer for the GoFetch facility and purchased the business just last month. She’s excited to continue to bring top quality training and agility classes to Missoula’s dogs and their people. After all, it’s usually we people who need the real training, right?
I’ll be checking in with SIT Happens Puppy Playground classes soon and sharing some adorable photos of the little guys in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about an important Trap Release workshop being presented at SIT Happens by Footloose Montana. Join them this Saturday, March 23 from 1-3pm, to learn important and life-saving techniques and hands on practice for releasing a pet from a trap. There will also be tips from a veterinarian on providing emergency first aid to a trapped pet. There is no cost for the workshop, but donations to Footloose Montana, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization are accepted. If you plan to attend, do not bring your dog, but do bring a chair if possible.
SIT Happens is located at 3800 Russell Square, at 39th and Russell, in the same complex as Alberstons.
If you’re like me, the very thought of any animal – especially a pet – getting caught in a trap is horrifying. It makes my stomach turn. I’d really like to just bury my head and pretend the possibility doesn’t exist. But that would be stupid. Because, the reality is that there are more and more tragic stories of pet owners throughout Montana whose pets have encountered traps. Preparing and educating yourself about how to deal with the possibility could mean the difference between life and death for your pet. Consider this workshop as important as brushing up on your CPR training. You never know when your knowledge will help save a life.
I’ve attended a similar workshop in the past and I’ve got to tell you, it is seriously difficult to get those traps open, even when you do know how and it’s not an emergency. I’ll be there and I’ll be trying to get one of those things open. Race ya.
It was a dark and stormy night. Early evening, actually. I had just driven all the way to the Bitterroot for a photo shoot that had been scheduled for months, but got cancelled at the last moment due to the brewing storm.
Now I had to drive all the way back through town in 5-o’clock traffic. Grrrr. My mood was as dark as the thunderclouds rolling in. This whole cancellation thing blew a huge hole in my Sunday afternoon. When I hold a day open for a photo shoot, I say no to all other things to make space for the creativity. No to invitations to meet up with friends, no to baking bread, no to starting projects. So now here was this hollow afternoon that could have been so productive.
Traffic was slow. Headlights glared on the wet streets and taillights pulsed in front of me. Thunder cracked and rolled across the valley. The sky turned green. Hail was on its way.
At the corner of Madison and Broadway, I saw a big yellow dog weaving between lanes of traffic. Oh no! No. No. No. No. I sent thoughts of heightened vision and quick reactions to all drivers around me. See him! Stop for him!
Wait a minute. Sending thoughts? Right.
So I did what any rational person would do. I pulled the parking brake and jumped out of the car leaving the door wide open. I put up my “stop!” hand the way traffic cops do and managed to slow the traffic in my lane.
I walked towards the old dog. Would he trust me? Or would he run? I always consider that I might be doing a disservice to approach a dog like this. I might chase him into more danger. But, I had such a deliberate intention to save him that I think he must have known.
I approached slowly, and beckoned. He came towards me. “Do you want to go for a ride?” All dogs have magic words that make them happy. Being a Missoula dog, I guessed he might know this phrase. He did. And yes, he’d like to go for a ride. I gently grabbed his collar and guided him to his waiting carriage.
His 110-lb wet bulky body filled my back seat. His thankful eyes filled my heart. I shot of photo with my phone and sent it to my husband. “Meet Ben! :D.” A few minutes later, I texted, “Don’t worry. I’m taking him home to his house. Not ours. 😉 ”
When I arrive at a dog’s home for a photo session, I’m greeted with lots of energy. Many dogs are so excited about me being there, they wag and wiggle, show me their favorite toys, peak inside my camera lens, check their food bowl, ask nicely for a belly rub or suggest a good scratch right above the tail. I’m happy to oblige, of course. All of this rigorous greeting and getting to know each other leads to a lot of panting. And pictures of panting dogs are fine, but a few of these go a long way. What I really want to get are shots that show more facets of a dog’s personality.
So, how to get a dog to close her mouth? Say some magic words. Usually anything that starts with “do you want…” and ends with a noun or verb will get her to slurp in her tongue if only for a quick second. And this is just enough time to snap the shot.
I’ll ask a dog’s person what her magic words are before the shoot begins so I have my secret arsenal ready if I should need it. Invariably, Missoula dogs will snap to attention when asked if they want to go to their favorite off-leash area, like Bark Park? Water Works Hill? Jumbo? Saddle? Blue Mountain? River?
Missoula dogs are also ready to say yes! to any of their favorite activities like Hike? Swim? Fishing? They also love any suggestion they’ll get to ride in a Truck? or Boat?
Kamukin visited me from out of town so she didn’t know Missoula dogs’ magic words. She came with one of her own….Frisbee?
Around our house, just the word “do” would get an immediate yes! But, that’s the price a dog pays for living with a dog-loving photographer.
What’s your dog’s magic word? Next time you are snapping a photo of them, try this simple trick and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.
Sundays are fun days if you’re a pug living in Missoula. That’s the day when your people converge in the Bark Park on Jacob’s Island and turn you loose to mill around with your own kind.
Ever since reading about the Mountain Pugs in the Missoulian, I’ve been meaning to get out the door at 1pm on a Sunday and check out Pug Club for myself. But the stars didn’t align until a couple of weeks ago when I needed a break from the dreadful ordeal of working on taxes. I couldn’t think of a better antidote than wading shin deep through a passel of pugs. Just the thought of their wrinkled brows, googly eyes, curly tails and snorty noses lightened my mood. I started dancing the cabbage patch through the house and jamming to my own “pugs in ‘da powder” ditty as I pulled on my snow boots and gathered my camera gear.
“I bet they’ll all be wearing sweaters,” I said to my husband as I skipped out of the house.
“Pugs on ice” would have been a more accurate lyric for the scene I found under the trees at Bark Park. Eight-times-four sets of hard little toenails skittered across the ice to greet me. I crouched down. It seemed more polite to meet them mug-to-mug. A young black pug named Zoula welcomed me to the club with a big kiss that she managed to plant on my cheek only by standing on her very tippy tiptoes. Then off she went to continue mingling and milling with the others.
“Mingling and milling are pugs’ specialties,” one pug’s person told me. “They really don’t exercise. Show them a ball and they have no idea what to do with it.” Running and scampering require a tad too much energy… and might sully their duds.
Indeed, as I had suspected, each pug was adorned in a warm, smartly styled sweater. Jennie, the brainchild behind Mountain Pugs, introduced me to each club member according to their fashion choice. Her sweet Chloe looked sporty in bold, nautical orange. There was Polly in a Southwest blanket fleece number. Trixie’s pink cable knit sweater was accented with a contrasting mocha zigzag motif. Frankie was also in pink, but her frock featured faux sheepskin trim and the glamorous pronouncement ‘Diva’ in glittery letters. Buddha was dashing (but not literally) in royal blue. Winston’s lime green hoodie gave him the air of a regular at Missoula’s MoBash Skatepark. Zoula layered an olive vest over her black coat. Ms. Kizzie, the senior-most pug in the park, was a knockout in fire engine red.
I asked Jennie how late into the season pugs would be wearing their clothes. I guessed perhaps they liked bundling up in the winter, but would happily shed the thermal layers when Spring arrived. I was wrong. Jennie said that for some, it’s more of a year-round fashion statement. Some pugs really do prefer getting dressed up to go out. And a Sunday afternoon in Missoula is a perfect excuse to spend an hour reconnecting with friends while looking fabulous.
Dogs know that sometimes when you are looking for something specific, like that tennis ball that just rolled under the couch, you often find something else even more wonderful and marvelous, like a Cheeto.
I had a Cheeto moment recently.
A West Coast advertising agency gave me the assignment to photograph some dogs for a national dog food brand. Their client wanted three specific types of dogs for the ad:
1) A medium-size adult “working dog” with “healthy mobility” like a Border Collie, Australian shepherd, Cattle Dog, etc.
2) Any other medium-sized adult dog who is fit and has a good activity level
3) A small toy breed dog like a Chihuahua, Dachshund, Short-haired Terrier, etc.
My first thought was how lucky it was for the ad agency (and for me) that I live in Missoula. I would have no trouble finding just the right cast of characters for their ad. I emailed a casting call to about 30 friends inviting their dogs to consider the fame and fortune that would come from starring in a dog food ad, not to mention the fringe benefit of getting to chow down while on the job.
The replies started immediately. Hundreds of them filled my inbox. My email had been forwarded again and again to friends of friends, all of them proud parents of dogs who would be perfect, or almost perfect, for the job.
The emails extolled the virtues of dogs all over town. I was introduced to photogenic dogs who were mostly well-behaved but had a few lingering bad habits like eating the cat food, bolting after squirrels and taking up too much room on the bed. Someone mentioned their very fit Great Dane would like to be considered for the medium-sized part. One person offered up her boyfriend’s dog if the agency changed their mind and needed an old, cantankerous dog full of character and bushy good looks.
Phone photos poured in. Every few minutes, I got a photo of a dog visiting Santa, dressed for trick-or-treating, or just being their wonderful self. One photo that really made me giggle was captioned “here she is chewing on my sock” (which is still on my foot).
My favorite veterinarian posed the question that the casting call was perhaps discriminating against large breeds, disabled and older dogs. Personally, I think she was secretly campaigning for one of her pack to get a part in the ad.
What really came through in all the emails was the true love and adoration people have for their dogs. When I go back to re-read them, it always makes me smile. I wish I could make them all famous. The next time I need a big dog, little dog, funny looking dog, trickster, shedder, licker, shaker, jumper, or tail chaser, I’ll know where to find them.
When the ad agency told me the project fell through, it was hard to be sad. What I had found during my search was so much more than I could have imagined. A giant Cheeto, so to speak.
The first time I met Missoula was exactly 3 weeks before I moved here permanently. My plan was just an out-and-back. Just attend the International Wildlife Film Festival and head right back to San Francisco to continue on with life. But Missoula won me over. Quickly.
It was Springtime in the year 2000. All the old maples on Brooks stretched their leafy branches across the street creating that magical tunnel-like canopy that brought out the kid in me as I drove through. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
People I passed on the sidewalk made eye contact and gave me a friendly nod. I found myself looking behind me to see if maybe they were howdying someone else, someone they actually knew! Every time, it seemed that I was the intended recipient of strangers’ good tidings. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
My first dinner in Missoula was on an early Sunday evening at the Iron Horse. The place was pretty empty. As I settled in to enjoy my Athena salad, I looked around and noticed a sleepy golden retriever sacked out under the stools at the end of the bar. No leash. No person. Once in a while, he would lift his head to sniff the waft of something delicious as a server walked by. But he didn’t budge. I was struck by how comfortable he was just occupying his own place in the bar. Just hanging out. No one was fussing over him, tying him up, or worried that he would run out the open door. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I liked it.
I could get used to this. And, since I had just quit my corporate marketing job in San Francisco, I could choose this.
So, on a sunny May afternoon when the lilacs were in their full blooming glory, my dog, Suki, and I pulled into Missoula in the biggest U-Haul I could rent. It took three days to drive here from the Coast with my Jeep in tow. When we pulled up to the pet-friendly apartment I had subleased for us, there were two (two!) open parking spaces right in front waiting to welcome us home. That just doesn’t happen in big cities. I like it.
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