Thursday, May 22, 2008

At Swim, Four Dogs

Today, despite the weather’s inability to promise it would behave, I took the boys up to Hopkins to meet Josh, Liz, Rexie, and Rudie for a little romp and a walk around the lake.

The two Labby Catahoulas know how to romp, growl, and bite each other like pros, and even though they’re not so old, they took the whole walk at full tilt.
When we got to the lake, Gus and Comet jumped in (naturally), and their enthusiasm eventually persuaded Rudie to take the plunge. While her swimming wasn’t entirely elegant, she didn’t do badly for a first try.
Comet has decided that the most fun thing to do in the water, since he still splashes his front paws in and out of the water most of the time, is to bite at the spray, which in turn causes more splashing.
...and more splashing. Comet will fetch a stick or a ball if you throw it (and Gus doesn’t get to it first), but he also just jumps in for the sheer pleasure of being wet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Branching Out and Zooming In

This morning, since I found myself with ten extra minutes before I needed to leave for school, I opened the window, clicked in the telephoto, and snapped away. Practically the first thing I saw was a Baltimore Oriole in a treetop level with the second floor.

I’ve been photographing the dogs and writing about them for a while, but that’s hardly my only interest and hardly the only thing in my life I might want to take a picture of and share with other folks. The telephoto lens brings a few more subjects in range.

Back in the winter, we put up a little bird feeder on the second floor porch, and I pulled the screen out of the biggest window in the front of the house so I could take pictures of birds at the feeder. I also cleaned both the inside and the outside of the window. I had the window wide open for these pictures, though, since even clean glass will take the crispness off a feather.

This female Downy Woodpecker has taken a shine to the black oil sunflower seeds we serve up on our porch and she can be pugnacious about pushing off the finches and titmice. She certainly isn’t skittish about the shutter clicking wildly only a few feet away from her.

The House Finches are also exceedingly fond of the Sunflower seeds, and are equally happy perched on the feeder or running cleanup duty on the railing.

What would a New England feeder be without a Tufted Titmouse to visit it from time to time?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Synchronized Swimming

I got a new camera over the weekend. My Mom decided to upgrade her Canon EOS Rebel XTi to the new, 12MP version, and I inherited her old (8 months old) 10MP camera, along with a 75-300mm telephoto (she got a 100-400mm).

I’m still getting the hang of it, but it’s a vastly better machine than my 2006 3x point-and-shoot.

Comet’s a good target either way. I held a stick over the camera and snapped shot after shot. This was the best one.
This time around the lake, Comet jumped in after Gus, with no need for urging (or shoving) from me. He got a chance last week to swim at Jeremy and Naomi’s and even fetched a few tennis ball tosses, and apparently he decided that the swimming itself was fun too.

He also swam much more smoothly than last time.

OK, OK, so it’s synchronized shaking off, not swimming, but it’s adorable anyway.
In some ways, snapping a photo as a dog is running toward you is a bit more challenging with the new camera. It has a great “sports” setting that reduces motion, but getting the focus right and zooming on the fly isn’t so easy.
One key feature is the exceedingly short lag time between shots. You can snap almost continuously as you try to get just the right expression.

Since I’m now in possession of the camera that took the picture on the left, I thought it might be a nice moment to compare Comet on 1/6 (his first day with us) and Comet today. Just over four months have passed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weezie's Birthday

Weezie turned five today. She and Gus have been the best of friends ever since he was small and she was smaller, and they’ve played up at school periodically their whole lives.

So, partially in honor of her birthday, and partially because the weather was nice and Comet and Gus have been woefully under-exercised these past couple of weeks, we went up to school to play.

Last week, Josh and Liz adopted two dogs of their own: Rexie and Rudie, two Catahoula Leopard Dog/Lab mix pups. I hadn’t heard of the Catahoula Leopard Dog before these two, but it’s apparently the Louisiana State Dog and possibly one of the oldest American breeds. Catahoula enthusiast groups and websites claim that it descends from ancient Native hunting dogs and the early war dogs of European explorers and conquerors. As is true for most older breeds, the real origins are clouded by history, and the most interesting story is often the accepted version.

These days they’re most often used as herding dogs for cattle or pigs (hence one of their appellations: Catahoula Hog Dog).

Either way, Josh and Liz now have a very cute brother-sister duo romping around their house.

Of course, the dogs became acquainted quickly and got along famously. Rudy seemed more interested in chasing Comet than in taking the ball, so there was a rather amusing disconnect in the rules she was playing by (catch Comet) and the rules he was (keep the ball from Rudie).
Rudie has the more typical Catahoula look—light eyes, merle (leopard-patterned) coat, and a trim frame. She’s also bigger and more confident than her littler brother.
Rexie was a little hard to photograph, as he was more interested in romping than in posing.
Gus, of course, was dedicated to his joyous yet ascetic pursuit of fetching to the exclusion of all else.
Josh takes childlike delight in running around with the pack, and his two herding pups couldn’t be happier.