Copper Toned Basil | Dog Photography

I recently had a scrumptious morning romp with Tikka and her new friend Basil at the Derby Reach park in Langely, BC. I’ve been looking for opportunities to get my camera pointed at something other than black fur and Basil was up for the job! This guy found a wonderful home with Kristy and it was a pleasure spending the morning with them both.

Basil in the Fraser River

Basil in the Fraser River

Basil at Derby Reach Park

A healthy romp through the high grass

Basil running along the Fraser River

Serious case of the Zoomies

Kinda loving this last picture – Basil mid way through a round of wave chasing. Half of the dog park visit was spent running up and down the river chasing the mini waves coming in from the boats heading out for the day.

 

A Dog Is My Photography Teacher | Dog Photography

There are a wealth of photography tutorials online and they have been a fantastic guide as after many years break I have gotten back into photography, but there are also invaluable lessons that my  hairy 15 pound sidekick and photography teacher, Tikka, has been teaching me: Patience and Adaptability.

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My photography teacher by my side.

Patience

Working with a dog as your subject means that you are executing your photos as a team and it’s all at the pace and desires of the dog you are with. You may have taken them to the location that you want to photograph them, but that’s where it all turns over to them. Are you looking for a quiet portrait and they are chasing squirrels around a tree, or are you looking for an action shot and they have fallen asleep waiting for you to get your act together? This plays into the second lesson of being able to adapt, but with patience you can get the photos you hoped to take that day.

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Waiting patiently in the early morning forest light.

If your dog has the zoomies then take a break and have a good play session to burn off some of that energy. This also helps to perk them up – bring out the best toys and squeakers and get them interested after you have your camera settings ready to go. They key is not to rush the process, be patient and look for what you can do to help get in the ‘zone ‘ of the photograph.

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Tikka waiting in her dog bed while I play with studio lighting for the first time.

Once you are in the ‘zone’, wait it out for the photo you are searching for. Your dog might be distracted by the new surroundings, but give them a moment to settle and keep shooting and that pose you’ve been looking for will suddenly arrive and you’ll have it. It may come with the first press of your finger to shutter, but the best part of having a digital camera  is that it’s no expense to take lots of shots. This was huge for me after so many early years using film and with my new camera I was really precious with the amount of shots I took. Tikka taught me to keep shooting and try lots of settings and it won’t cost her any dog biscuits in the fails.

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Tikka at Halloween dressed as Snoopy .

Learning patience also goes two ways – building a solid ‘wait’ command is a huge help in the studio or on location, slowing the dog down and getting their attention on you for their next command. I’ve learnt not to overdo it – always stop and change spots or give the dog a break before they do and then they will always be a willing model.

Adaptability

Tikka has taught me how to adapt from human height to dog height and how this new perspective opens up a whole new quality of photos… and dog height is basically lying in the sand and mud as she is only 15 inches at the shoulder. Getting down to her eye line makes fantastic shots and people are always surprised at how small she is when they meet her in person.

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Laying in the sand to get personal with Tikka.

It also means adapting quickly to changing exposures from walking through filtered light in the forest to an open area in blinding sunlight along the river to set up a photo. Changing shutter speeds, aperture and ISO to get the right combo keeps you in your toes as you walk along with your dog looking for great places to stop. And also adapting quickly to changing cameras –  depending on what Tikka and the surroundings are calling for I regularly pull out my iPhone as it may be all I bring with me.

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Adapting to our grey cat, Perry, photobombing our shoot.

If you set out in the morning with the intention of getting the exact perfect shot in your brain and not leaving until you get it, well you know how that’s going to end. A frustrating day for both you and your dog. Instead, setting out with a goal in mind and then being able to adapt when the conditions aren’t right or the dog is more interested in joggers etc., you won’t come home pulling out your hair or driving your dog nuts in the process. That might mean you had to adapt yourself right into putting the lens cap back on and having a good walk instead. It’s never a loss as I’ll turn those days into location scouting.

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Always up for a game of fetch and having me practice ‘sports’ photography.

 

My continuing lesson in adaptability is getting out with some other dogs! I’ve compensated for having a black dog in front of my lens so there will be lots to learn when a white Samoyed fills the frame. So thank you Tikka for teaching me these wonderful tools and being patient with me while I adapt to being more comfortable with the camera.

 

 

 

 

Sock Monster or Sock Hero?

Two times a day a black mini monster streaks into the bedroom to steal socks. Or is it a wise hero, saving us from the confines of overheated feet?

Morning clues

Fresh socks disappear from gym bag and any drawer left open while getting ready. Transported to a pile of missing socks in another room.

Evening clues

Smelly socks disappear one second after removal from foot and hitting the floor. Found lying in random places around the house. Sock appears to be shaken to death.

Notes on case

Cats are indifferent to the incidents, and offer no help. Not sure if they are part of evil plan of sock domination.

The true nature of the sock stealer may never be solved, the only thing one can do is find new awesome socks to feed the monster/hero and observe further.

 

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Monster/Hero in action

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Monster/Hero at rest

 

I did just that on a recent ferry trip to Vancouver Island and found these lovelies in the gift shop – Cute as all hell doggy socks from Sock It To Me! I picked up a couple pairs and wore them that weekend, and discovered they aren’t just great designs. They are comfy, soft and they stay up after being on the beach for hours in your rubber boots. Paws up for finding our new favourite socks.

 

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When I came home, I checked out the brand online and found many more dog designs as well as a lot of great graphics for other stuff – cats, dinosaurs, bacon… dozens of fun socks for any mood. Inspiration for our very first Instagram giveaway (details at the end)…

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Sock lover Tikka enjoying her Sock It To Me socks

The knee highs are great for the rubber boots and dog walking in the rain, and there are over the knee, crew and ankle lengths as well. Reading through the Sock It To Me site, they also have a ‘Stretch-It’ sock, for extra room if you have larger calves. Women, men, toddlers and kid sizes … these guys are on top of their foot game.

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Want to win our first VanDoggo giveaway? Just follow these 2 easy steps:

Step 1. Follow us on Instagram: @vandoggo

Step 2. Post a picture of your dog with a pair of socks and the hashtag #vandoggosocklove and Tikka will pick one winner on Sunday April 10th and send you 4 pairs of new socks from Sock It To Me!

*I am in no way affiliated with this sock company, nor did they supply me with the sock prize, it’s a genuine find of something new that I love!

 

 

Once Feral Tikka | A Dog Story

From a feral pup to working in a Vancouver animation studio, this is Tikka’s story.

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Elvis – last trip to Tofino

My husband and I have always had dogs but after our senior guy ‘Elvis’ passed away we were heart broken and didn’t want to look for another companion right away. Instead we decided to wait for our ‘it was meant to be’ moment when a dog would find us. And 17 pounds of awesome surely did.

After a few months of light browsing through the local shelter adoption photos (as one often does when at a dead end resolving a broken formula in excel at work) we came across this cutie and thought, she looks just like Elvis would have as a puppy! The next day we stalked her profile, repeatedly going back to the Vancouver HomeFinders Animal Rescue  site to look into those eyes again and again and again….

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Tikka’s adoption photo by Ben Johnson

We inquired about her, fully expecting she would already be spoken for, but we were ecstatic to find out that HomeFinders was still working through the applications and they could add just one more to the pile. During the adoption process we were told her back story and the reality of what dogs go through to find their homes (the lucky ones) is always heartbreaking.

Tikka was brought to Cam Bellamy at  Northern Animal Rescue Alliance (NARA) as a pup in the back of a pickup, skinny and matted with dirt. The people that brought her in were kind enough to catch her from her feral state, and get her to a shelter. But they didn’t want to touch her (insert sad sniff) – they let her roll out of the back of the truck when they dropped the tailgate. She fell right into her rescuer’s arms and Cam held her tight, telling her she will be loved from this moment on (insert happy sniff).

It took Tikka a while to warm up to her new surroundings – this was the first note I had about her background:

 

Tikka was born feral and then mishandled which is a nice way of saying moderately abused… she has come miles and miles….
When Cam up in Terrace first got her she would scream and pee herself anytime anyone came in the room, scream when handled, terrified of household objects, noises.. couldn’t handle a collar or a leash.

 

After spending a few weeks with Cam and her foster cats, she was ready to find her forever home. Through NARA’s connections, she was flown from Terrace to Vancouver via HawkAir (this airline does amazing things for rescue animals) and was put in an amazing foster home while getting socialized and spayed. That’s how she ended up in Kristy’s care, who gave her nothing but love and confidence and a cat family to curl up with at night. And a lot of socks to steal out of the laundry basket.

My husband and I were vetted with meet and greets, home checks and email discussions. A  lot of time is spent getting the right adopters and adoptees together, as good rescue groups always have the animal’s welfare as a priority. The much awaited ‘big thumbs up’ finally came to us and we were ready to take her into our own arms!

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A happy home for Tikka right in our arms.

 

Respecting her nervousness to the world she was getting used to, we took things at her pace and kept reinforcing her with positive training and a safe environment. Tikka never wanted to do anything wrong and she had so much try in her personality, we knew her nervous behaviour was a result of her early environment and not her default nature. As she became braver through positive experiences in familiar and then new places and new people her confidence grew… And within months she was excelling in her obedience classes, flying around agility courses and learning odor detection with a police officer and a class of 100 pound dogs. Our latest adventure is search and tracking and we both love it.

 

There will always be a feral side to Tikka, even as assimilated as she appears to be and there are remnants to the abuse she suffered. There is a lot of respect for these traits and experiences she had but we treat her like the incredible, stable dog we always knew she could be.

And she would never be the dog she is today without all the amazing network of people that led her to us. A million times thank you!

Running Dog in Vancouver dog park

Dog Days of Spring | A Dog Story

Spring arrived over the weekend and the glorious display of cherry blossoms and other early blooms are underway all over Vancouver. A favourite time of year for Vancouverites as the days become a bit longer and dog walking in the the dark starts slipping away. No one said it would be drier, but rain doesn’t drag us down over here on the West Coast.

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Tikka and the first day of spring

If your dog isn’t shy around crowds and festivities there are many outdoor festivals celebrating the cherry blossoms coming up. Check out the list at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website: http://www.vcbf.ca/

And the not so fun side of Spring, the bugs are back…Not sure if they ever truly go away in this mild climate but they come out in force as it warms up. The mosquitos were on a binge this Saturday during our dog tracking class in Lynn Valley – stopping for longer than 5 seconds quickly turned into a buffet for them. Dogs were oblivious but fleas and ticks will be spiking in numbers soon enough, so keep checking your dogs.

Dog Tracking in Lynn Valley, Vancouver.

Dog Tracking in Lynn Valley, keeping ahead of the mosquitos.

The best part of this change of season is the patios start opening up on sunny days, allowing us to enjoy a tea or grab some lunch after a walk with Tikka. Although there are lots of establishments around town that allow you to have you dog either at your table or next to you, tied up to a patio fence, I’d love to see a Vancouver that opens this up even more. It’s a dog city with dog needs and having a snack with your canine friend should be more accessible. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on where you can go, I have a few favourites to share when they open up and I can take some photos.

Now spring forth with your pup and capture the start to this season!