Happy Friday and beginning of December everyone. How in the world is this year almost over already? Yikes! This week I'm cheating on my new photo and using one from a week ago. It isn't because I wasn't taking pictures this week; in fact, just the opposite. But I can't share those with the world, yet. I will when I can. So the picture I'm going to share with you is my greatest passion--photographing animals. My dog Rufus and I took advantage of a bizarre 70 degree day in November and played a little hooky in the park. This picture is from our romp through the woods. I took this one with my Tamron 17-50mm lens with an aperture of 2.8, a shutter speed of 1/320 and an ISO of 100. I like the texture in Ru's fur. He tends to blend in with the fall browns and reds, but his pose was fun and every chance I get to practice with animals, I'm thrilled. This weekend we're headed to a dog walk sponsored by the local metro parks. It's in the evening, but if I can get some good pictures of that there may be more dogs next week for New Photo Friday as well. In the mean time, if you're a photography enthusiast, you may want to check out this free ebook. I'm not sure how much longer it's going to be free, so I'd go quickly. But working effectively with reflectors is one of my goals for the near future, so I want to check this one out.
Rufus and my 2016 dog camp trip to Camp Unleashed has come and gone now. *sob* Like last year, it was a deliriously wonderful weekend. There was one tiny blip where I almost let a not-so-nice woman and her not-so-social dog ruin the weekend, but after a little pouting and venting I got it together and decided she wouldn't prevent us from enjoying our favorite weekend of the year! It also helped tremendously that the instructors and behaviorist and camp staff are just so fabulous. So here's a little rundown on what we did this year. Yappy Hour continues to be a favorite of Rufus', so I make sure I drag my bones out of the bunk each morning and take him to the field to romp with the other dogs. And he earned the nickname of "Yappy Hour Ambassador" because he would run over to greet each new arrival and then speed back to continue playing. This year there were sessions on scent-type activities: indoor and outdoor, tracking, finding personal belongings--anyone need to train their dogs to find their car keys? We attended a lecture session on how your dog smells the world, but most of the other classes were 2 activity sessions long, so we opted to go with other classes. One of those other classes was Parkour for Dogs. Have you seen Parkour for humans? It's similar. The dogs are trained to jump on, bounce off of, go through or under all kinds of obstacles that occur in the everyday environment. Rufus had no trouble with the jumping ON obstacles. Going through and under took much more enticement. We also learned...or rather started learning...flyball. This is a relay race with dogs. If you've never seen it, the dogs run over four hurdles, pop on a box that discharges a ball. They have to grab the ball and run back over the hurdles. Rufus has the hurdles down from agilities, but we have to work on his interest in the ball. He didn't want to pick it up and take it back with him. Our instructor, Kathy Nieves show us some ways we can practice and hopefully get Rufus more interested in the ball. The turn on the box is a process too, but he was starting off pretty well. We'll definitely try more with that in the future. Another new class we tried this year was Tricks. Rufus does a lot of obedience type things, but I haven't worked with him much on tricks. So we really enjoyed this class. He learned (or rather relearned) to bow. And we started working on sit pretty. So we'll practice more with both of these now that we have some idea of how to approach them. Our must-do-again events included Freestyle for Dogs, of course! Here we started learning to march and "backup." We'll be working on those more. We also took several of the regular moves that we already know and combined them, which looked great. I also discovered that before I had only asked Rufus to do weaves when I was walking forward, so when I wanted him to do more of a figure eight weave, he was unsure how to do the back half. We have to practice that some more, too. This really is the highlight of my camp. I've so enjoyed learning this. I don't dance except with my dog. Jenn Michaelis can work miracles! We couldn't miss out on the mindfulness hike. I just love walking through the woods with Rufus, and him being off leash, allowed to explore, sniff, run and just be a dog. All his happy signals are on full power during these walks. And for me, I had to partake in the photography class again. This year we had a fun dress-up activity coordinated by Chelly Campbell. I thought it was great fun; Rufus might tell you a different story. But the class was in the last session of the day, so Ru was pretty tired and didn't fight the dress-up too much, and we got some cool pictures. Rufus spent time each day in the lake, of course. We still didn't manage to do a canoe ride, though. We had a chance to attend a fascinating session called "Doglish" on how your dog communicates. Plus, this was a very nice addition this year: my roomies, Kat and Pippa, and I spent time at our cabin chatting, playing a cool domino game called Mexican Train and watching Arrested Development. They had some episodes on the iPad and insisted I had to be introduced to the show. My introverted self appreciated this time very much. Once again we left exhausted and wonderfully happy! As I've said before, I can't recommend dog camp enough. We save to go; it's not a cheap getaway, but it's worth every penny.
Those who know me in person or follow me on social media know what a big animal lover I am. And I'm the crazy pet lady, I guess. My two dogs and three cats are my world. Camp Unleashed in the Berkshires. And it was the highlight of my year--I think Rufus' too, but I really can't speak for him. We spent Labor Day weekend living in a cabin at the Becket YMCA camp. We went hiking and swimming, learned to dance (Freestyle) and Rufus to dive (dock diving). We ran agilities and learned canine massage. Well, I learned the massage, Rufus benefited from it. I attended a session on pet photography, one on caring for senior pets (my Nestlé is almost 13), one on pet psychology. And through it all, we met like-minded folks--people who love their dogs the way I do mine. And of course, my social little guy made tons of friends as well. Each morning we started at Yappy Hour where the dogs could run and romp with each other in a big open field. And as the camp name indicates, the dogs are off leash virtually the entire weekend. So they get to be natural dogs. By the end of each day, Rufus was crashed, happily exhausted from all of his learning and play. And so was I! There were many other activities that we didn't get to enjoy, simply because there wasn't time to do everything: canoeing with your dog, barks and crafts, tricks classes, grooming classes, the list of options seemed endless. It was an amazing and wonderful bonding experience for us both, too. Needless to say, that first experience hooked us. In about two weeks, Rufus and I are headed back to Camp Unleashed for more fun. We can't wait. Of course, Camp Unleashed isn't for everyone. Dogs have to be able to get along with other dogs (obviously) and have good recall since they're off leash. For example, I can't take my Nestlé because she's unpredictable with other dogs. We stay in a cabin with no electricity and you have to use a washhouse for showers and bathrooms. But they do have a hall with electricity and indoor plumbing if you don't want to "rough it" quite as much. The cabins are quite cool, though--and that's coming from someone who doesn't like camping! Even though we were busy all weekend, there was also a sense of serenity at camp and I'm looking so forward to going back. I can't recommend it highly enough. We attend the camp in the Berkshires and we go during Labor Day Weekend. They offer camp at that same location around Memorial Day weekend, and they also offer camp in October in Georgia at Camp Blueridge (new this year, it use to be in Asheville, NC). I'll be taking pictures at camp this year again, so I'll definitely have updates when we return. But I also make sure that my focus during camp is on Rufus. This is our weekend together--something I save for and anticipate all year long--and I want him to have all the fun he possibly can. So stay tuned and I'll share our fun when we return. If you're someone with a dog that's a good fit for camp, think about coming. I can almost guarantee you'll have a blast. I figure if a non-camping person like me loves camp this much, just imagine what true camping lovers experience!