Sunday, April 26, 2009


I’m a bit delayed in posting these pictures, taken not long after my last post (hence the date), but posted almost a month later. As the end of the school year winds down, sorting through pictures and ruminating take a bit of a back seat to grading papers.

Ajax went from a hesitant swimmer, to an enthusiastic one, to an absolute water addict. A couple of our favorite walks circle lakes, and he’ll now break from the trail at every glint of water for the opportunity to splash in at new places.

His obedience is coming along well too, as he demonstrates with a “stay” in this picture so I can back up and snap a few headshots with the telephoto. He’s a heavy-lidded guy in all lighting, but he puts on an adorable squint when he has to look into the sun.

He doesn’t quite have the speed Comet does in the water (yet), so he hasn’t been winning the chase for the stick. Still, he’s been inching closer and closer as time goes on, so Comet may soon find himself on the short end of that particular...sorry. I caught myself before I finished that atrocious pun.

Ajax focuses on any possibility of gaining the advantage in a game of fetch. He’s almost explosive in the water sometimes. As high energy as Comet is, and as dedicated to working and fetching as he is, I think Ajax may turn out to be a more intense competitor.

I appreciate both boys for their own natures. Comet’s more laid-back, fun-loving joie de vivre is infectious, and Jax’s developing intensity is impressive and enviable.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stop or Sprint

While Comet’s best teaching is often that reminder to lighten your spirit, kick up your heels, and foam at the mouth a little, there are moments where he is an arrestingly beautiful dog, and you need to just stop and appreciate it.

We were up at the trails behind the quarry, and I had parked Comet away from the edge so I could focus on Ajax. Usually I just let the guys run loose and trust in their instincts for self preservation, but the drop at the quarry is very sudden and surprising, so we take extra care there.

The late afternoon light at the old quarry lit him right up, so I just had to snap a few pictures.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled, sprinting, frothy, young dog in flight. This picture is from a day later on a walk that begins with a quick dip in the river.

Ajax took a dip in the river too, and he managed to become rather filthy over the course of the next few minutes. No matter how muddy Comet gets, he seems to shed most of the dirt once he dries.

Hopefully it’s just Ajax’s puppy coat that’s holding onto the mud, and he’ll be as dirt resistant as his brother before too long. Dirty or otherwise, he’s done some wonderful posing recently.

He has wonderful motion in addition to his poses. His trot is floaty and airy, and he carries himself with wonderful attention. Comet seems to be a more nose-oriented dog, so he runs with his head down much of the time.

Jax is more like Gus in the sense that he devotes more time to running with his head up, looking at as much as he smells. It makes for adorable adolescent puppy pictures.

“You coming?” Sometimes I wish I had four legs too. Then maybe I’d do a little less strolling and philosophizing and a little more throwing myself into every body of water I walked by. I’d scamper up trails at a sprint and take frequent breaks to lay back and enjoy the weather.

Still, having arms and opposable thumbs means I can scratch my own back when it itches, rather than having to roll around in the grit and dirt trying to get that pesky spot.

So if I were a Golden Retriever, I’d keep a human around to scratch those itchy spots for me when I needed him. I’d convince him he was in charge by acting super cute all the time, but I’d develop skills at manipulating him into scratching me in just the right spots whenever I wanted. Wait a sec...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Swimmer Is Born

Ajax is in a period of spectacular growth and maturation. We have him on large breed puppy food so he doesn’t grow too fast, since there are plenty of physical problems that could crop up if he grows unchecked. We also keep him nice and lean in order to limit potential health problems and to keep him in top-top athletic shape.

Still, he’s growing like a weed, and the mask of adult fur that ringed his face and nose the day we got him has begun to travel further down toward his neck. That white spot is as bright as ever.

The beautiful weather today gave us another chance to play in the shallows of the lake, and Ajax lost no time in challenging Comet for possession of a prime stick. Comet loves to be chased and to play tug with toys and sticks, but he’s still giving Ajax the hairy eyeball here.

As Comet fetched sticks in the deep water, Jax splashed around, daring himself right to the edge of the drop-off in the lake’s bottom.

As soon as Comet brought a stick close enough to shore, Ajax exploded into action, challenging him with great froth for the precious woody treasure.

Comet, ever the patient, generous fellow, obligingly brought sticks close enough for Ajax to grab at, but he kept teasing him to go just a little further than he was comfortable.

Finally, Jax got fed up of being consigned to the world of the shore and struck out with great splashing ado toward Comet.

Thus was a swimmer born. Jax now has no hesitation about going deep enough that his paws no longer touch the bottom, and he went from apprehensive splasher to confident swimmer in just a few seconds. It is now, by the way, rather difficult to keep him out of any body of water he happens across.

It’s even more difficult to keep him from shaking those bodies of water onto his unsuspecting owners once he’s all wet.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dogs Swim; Birds Fly

Another trip to another woods gave Ajax another opportunity to take his chances in the water. This time it was a calm stretch of a small river, and once again he watched Comet enjoy himself a bit and spent some time at the water’s edge.

It didn’t take long, though, for him to try to really go in after Comet. Once again, though, he was a little unnerved about the idea of not having his paws touch the bottom. His look over after he realizes his mistake and has backed up just a bit to solid ground is simply priceless.

After the dogs had a swim and we had walked for about an hour, we got back in the car and went down to the shoreline marshes. We were rewarded with the sight of four osprey circling, fishing, and engaging in freewheeling aerial battles of intimidation as they competed for the best soaring space.
Unfortunately, the best action pictures weren’t the crispest, best focused, or best framed. Shooting Osprey battling on the wing isn’t the easiest thing, and I simply don’t have the experience and practice yet to do it truly well. But for twenty minutes of shooting, these aren’t that bad.
The pictures don’t quite tell the whole story of the piping calls they screamed at one another as they sought the advantage of height over one another and swooped and bombed together. There didn’t seem to be any actual contact; rather, they seemed to be posturing in order to avoid an all out aerial fight that could injure both birds.
I even got a picture of one of them fishing. I’m guessing by the size and the lighter chest band that it’s a male. He dropped this fish off on a nest, which leads me to think they must have chicks, though we couldn’t see anything in the nest from where we were.
It’s an amazing thing to see a bird that big in flight with wings like planks and those dramatic yellow eyes. I’m not quite sure what it is that kept us watching them so intently for so long. The dogs certainly thought we were crazy, though they did enjoy basking in the sun with us, since they were a bit tired from their hi-jinx earlier.

But there was something just amazing about those big birds soaring, wheeling, and piping their high calls in the cool air.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That New (Wet) Dog Smell

Ajax has been taking beautifully to walks in the woods. He still has some apprehension about driving in the car, but he’s not having any substantial anxiety or carsickness, so these short drives to fun places should make him a car-loving convert like his buddy Comet. He starts puppy class on April 13th, so that should bring him to around four super-fun car excursions a week.

We’ve been trying to take him out for exercise as much as possible, since it tuckers him out and makes him a significantly better student for training sessions. Not to mention the fact that it’s also simply fun and soul-healing to have two dogs in the woods again.

You may have noticed that the two running dogs in the last picture were more than a little damp.

Well, Ajax also got his first swim today. Comet went charging in the lake just to float and lap at the water, and Jax decided to follow him in. He was a little carelessly brave, though, and leapt right past his depth and suddenly found himself swimming. He was a little nonplussed and splashed his way back to shore with a fresh resolve to treat lakes a little more cautiously in the future.

A little caution, of course, didn’t prevent him from rather intensely watching Comet fetch a stick, and he ran in and out of the shallows just like a dog who was only a few more tries away from learning to swim like a pro.

Of course, once Comet came out of the water, he was fair game for a good chase. They were whipping water around pretty fiercely during their game, so it was a good thing I had the telephoto on the camera and could snap pictures from a safe distance.

Of course, once swimming time was over, they ran through the woods, rolling in pine needles and sniffing out the most intriguing smells they could find. I love the smell of pine needles baking, dusty in the sun, and I can smell leaf mold as a warm, dark brown undertone to it. But to be able to separate out each individual thread of scent to be considered and savored separately, as a dog can and so happily does, would be a powerful thing, I think.

I imagine it’s similar to my experience listening to a big band. I can sit back and enjoy the whole wash of sound at once, or I can train my ears to pick the alto saxophone out of the mix so I can consider it separately and in contrast to the rest. I can even try to pick out that one trumpeter who’s a little more brassy than the others.

Imagine being able to do that with even a square foot of a forest.

Even a whole walk around the lake after they swam in it wasn’t quite enough to dry them out. I don’t think I have the heart to clipper the dogs anymore, so we’ll have to just deal with long drying times.

I’ve heard that cutting the coat too short can interfere with heat regulation, but the real reason I may forgo it this year is that Comet has developed such a beautiful, shiny copper coat. It feels like a crime to take too much of it off. Jax won’t have enough to matter for a few more months, but he seems likely to darken significantly and to develop a wavy, lower maintenance coat anyway.

I haven’t ruled out a trip to a proper groomer to clean them up a little, but with such gorgeous boys, you can’t fault me for a little vanity about their haircuts. If it means wet dog smell in the house for a little longer after a swim, well I just can’t bring myself to mind.