Lens-Artists Challenge #135 A Glimpse into Your World

Over the past year, I followed many photographers as they shared amazing images. I decided that for me to grow I would need to open myself up to this experience. So this week I accepted Sheetal’s challenge to, “Show us the things you love that make your world spin or things about your world that make you delirious with joy.”

Charlie has captured my heart. My Australian Labradoodle just celebrated his first birthday. My life has revolved around this boy, and the bond is strong. The day starts when he says it does. He quietly calls out to me that he is awake. With his collar on, we head to his round bed where we snuggle for a time. Then out for our short walk in our court. Six houses and I take in the changes from day to day. Occasionally, we greet a neighbor or see a jogger. Then home to have breakfast. With no plans for the day, we settle on the couch, catch up on emails and take a morning nap together. I am the person who trains and cares for Charlie’s needs. We take a walk and play fetch. We have one training session a day, one game of “Find It!”, and one grooming session after dinner. Some indoor fetch and he settles while my husband and I watch television. Charlie has found a place in my husband’s heart. When I am away, Charlie keeps him company. Charlie is a people magnet. I just hope that he soon becomes more relaxed being out and about with me and my camera.

Charlie has us wrapped around his paws. Discovering each other, training together, and becoming part of the family.

This litter of 10 adorable Australian Labradoodles is 1 year old (put together by Jo)

Camera in hand, looking out at the world makes me happy. What I capture in the frame just depends on what catches my eye at the time. Small objects, funny signs, colors or shapes, patterns, contradictory images, animal and people expressions, and the people busy doing things. I don’t see myself stuck on one subject. My only limits are what kind of lens I can carry, and I usually only carry two. My camera has an added value in my life by connecting me to wonderful photo friends.

Amusing signs

The pandemic has slowed down life, and I try and appreciate this new pace of life. One day, one goal. Thinking back over the decades I now wonder how I kept up that frenetic pace. I am home with my husband that I have known now for 54 years. We take turns arguing with the television over the news coverage. We share opinions on how to fix the world, if only they would listen. We read the newspaper and find books to read on our iPads. We play Scrabble, and figure out what we want to eat for dinner. It is a serene existence. We talk about what we want to do after “the pandemic”, and when will life return to normal. Actually, we also discuss what that normal will look like. Hopefully, eating out, traveling both near and far, and feeling less restricted to be around people. I look forward to new adventures with my husband and my Charlie.

I am taking the first step in sharing with the Lens-Artists. This is my new challenge, and I hope that I will be able to meet it!

Undersocialized Charlie and my efforts to have a companion dog!

Among the many problems created by the pandemic is the under socialization of my puppy. My nine-month wait coincided with CoVid 19. Born on February 7th he arrived home just after society was shutting down. Governor Newsom declared a stay at home order in mid-March. We picked up Charlie at 7 weeks rather than chance not being about to make the 2-hour drive to Orland, Ca, and Serenity Springs Labradoodles.

So instead of allowing Charlie to have many social interactions during this critical puppy period, we were busy having our groceries picked up through e-cart, and sanitizing them before bringing them into the home. No one knew what we were up against. Social interactions consisted of listening to Amy teach us on Zoom. Charlie would sit next to my computer and together we learned. Amy’s voice and treats were our first classroom at Baxter & Bella online training. As more was known about CoVid 19 I reached out to my friend Carly and a few months ago we went to our first in-person training with other under-socialized puppies.

Nearing one year of age, Charlie now attends class with the “gifted” pups training to be CCI (Canine Companions for Independence) dogs. Sometimes this works, and sometimes not so much. Skateboarders, cyclists, and motorcycles are triggers (Puppy training language). He was so alert last week, that when I asked for a paw he followed the instruction with his eyes on the road. It was funny to watch but frustrating to teach. In this new 6 feet separation society when you take dogs in public you may not want to let anyone pet your dog. So to be polite, you can say, “Please don’t pet my dog, but if you want he can wave to you.” Giving a paw is the first step in teaching dogs to wave. Good adaptation for the pandemic. Right?

Being anxious is detrimental to learning. To desensitize Charlie I decided to park in front of a store and let him watch the world around him. He feels safe in the car. I give him treats when he is calm. I listened to an NPR interview with Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist. Her research specialty is dog cognition. I have since downloaded one of her audiobooks to take with us. A perfect soundtrack for people watching from the car. While we watch I capture some images with my Fuji x100f. I like this camera for street shooting.

Next time I will park right in front of entrance!
Looking in to the store.
Reading while walking.
Charlie, the ghost dog!

Last weekend my friends planned to walk the Johnny Cash Trail outside of Folsom Prison. Since my focus has been on Charlie I decided to take him with me. I brought my Fuji x100f to simplify the photo walk. This was a real test. I met the group in a shopping mall parking lot next to very busy, fast-moving street traffic. He was doing well considering the noise.

Right outside the razor-wired fence of Folsom Prison.

Group planning doesn’t always work out, so I decided to pass on the trail, and went in search of a nature trail. The Miner’s Ravine Nature Preserve parking lot was 1 1/2 miles down the road.

Came across this interesting tree. Such an expression What does it say to you?
Gave Charlie the command, “Wait!” He allowed me to take my photograph.
Raised manhole cover ahead. My friend Anne sees something else.
Charlie walks around the manhole cover.
I took this photo after our walk. I think the nature preserve was on the side that we did not visit. Or else Charlie did not pay attention to the sign. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

Charlie relaxed, and when I asked him to wait, he allowed me to capture some images. This was a win-win situation.

He always recognizes our car, and is happy to jump in!

I plan to make a point to take Charlie out with me daily. After all, someday we all will not be homebound. I hope!

How to train Charlie?

Charlie finished his 6-week Baxter & Bella Online Puppy Training. After a brief break we are enrolled in Intermediate Training. When in training mode, he is right there. After 1 hour he is tuckered out. He becomes a wild pup, and need a time out before he takes his afternoon nap. I feel so bad when he looks at me and barks. I know he is saying something. They are not just random barks. I think he is saying now make my time with you exciting or I’ll zoom around, jump in the air, and make trouble. Funny, how a cute puppy can make you feel like you’re just boring. After more time with Charlie I now think I am experiencing a puppy version of an overtired toddler having a tantrum. So maybe I am not boring.

When I say “Settle” he gives me his smooch-face!

Group classes are still not widely available. Not being sure I was able to change some of Charlie’s less than desirable habits I searched out help. Albree Dog Training and Alan Miller was recommended by a friend. After spending over an hour I am more confused. All my reading, training, and practice were discounted by this trainer. We were not a good fit. I guess I’m not ready to go the chokehold route. So this week I am returning to my Baxter & Bella zoom Intermediate class and I’ll keep on practicing.

Like a growing toddler, my Charlie grew out of his small plastic crate. I thought I would take him out to Petco and pick up a larger crate. I am trying to expand his world. Well, with all the smells, other dogs, and friendly employees I thought this would be a positive experience. Nope. A loud noise in the parking lot changed his mind, and he wanted to get back in the car. Not to be deterred I encouraged Charlie to enter the store. His mind would not be changed, and when we were in the middle of the store he pulled his leash out of my hand and took off for the front of the store. I followed and saw that the automatic doors were wide open. Out he went, and ran right over to my car, and sat down and waited for me to catch up. My heart was pounding, Charlie jumped right into the car, and that was the end of our shopping trip. Now I know he is smart, but I didn’t think he would be able to recognize my Subaru Outback from other cars in a parking lot. Go figure.

We just got past a double whammy. Ten days of record-breaking heatwave (110+ degrees) and fires breaking out all over California. Not much outdoor time, and certainly no long, leisurely walks. When the asphalt gets hot, I have to remember that my Charlie is walking along in his bare paws. This is the west coast version of being snowed in. So I have to be patient with my training and Charlie’s lack of socialization. It will happen, just a bit slower than I would have liked.

Charlie is always ready to fetch a ball!

Trying to stay focused on positive experiences!

The Psychology of Selecting Toys

Puppies have a lot of energy. Well, much more than I have. They play hard and then fall asleep. My foot serves as Charlie’s pillow. This way I am required to stay in place while he naps. Did I say he is so smart?

Charlie is 6 months old. Sometimes I feel like I am getting better at being able to read his mind. Other times, I know that he knows how to manipulate me to his whims. So how do I keep my Charlie amused, tired, and out of trouble? A game of Fetch is a good start. We look for a ball, I throw, he retrieves, and gives it back. Repeat. This works for both the outside and inside. Food is a good motivator and a frozen Kong in his “room” can occupy about 15 minutes, tops. Then … off to look for something to chew.

He just loves to chew, and chew, and chew. Given Charlie’s determination to chew I have to watch him with his toys. He sleeps with his Snuggle Puppy, but the other day he proudly took his puppy out of his room (crate). Then proceeded to shake it wildly. Ok, not a problem. Then he settled down, and quickly eliminated the tail. In short order, I looked and his puppy was tailless and missing an ear. I felt bad taking the toy away, but now I worried if this toy would create a health issue. Carefully watching his behavior, and reading his poop. Yup, my new pup has put me in charge of poop patrol. Given a stuffed toy he picks an appendage and works at it until it just disappears. Swallowed up. I am so nervous that he will hurt himself with his compulsive eviscerating of stuffed toys. Even called my vet, and asked if I should be worried. The advice given was if he eats, plays, and poops without a problem then he is probably ok. The fibers are probably concealed.

So now I am searching for that toy that will satisfy the urge to chew that lasts more than 10 minutes. I look online, read reviews from other pet owners, and visit my local Petco.

I skip past all the cute stuffed chew toys. Even the ones that say “Tuff”. I brought home a toy made from the same material as a fire hose. No problem for Charlie. Then I enter the aisle with hard stuff for chewing. I have one blue dog bone that I had for Libby. She never cared for it. I liked the fact that it was actually made here in the USA. Well, Charlie is not a fan either. I guess that is why it looks perfectly new. No teeth marks. I look at some softer rubber toys in a variety of shapes.

What appeals to a puppy? Does your puppy have a favorite toy?

This looks like a long stick, and the material has some give to it.

As you can see, not destroyed, but not a winner either.

Again, Charlie pretty much ignores it. I looked in the bargain bin. Figuring if it gets destroyed my pocket won’t feel too bad. Here is a squeaky bright green figure of a character doing a yoga pose. I start up a conversation with another pet owner. I tell her that there is another larger “Yoga Hero” in the bin for $4.00, but she says her retriever would attack the foot in a matter of minutes. I can’t tell if it will be too big for Charlie’s mouth but I decide to take a chance. It is a hit with Charlie. He likes to make it squeak. When thrown Yoga bounces randomly. It took a while but the yoga foot has been crippled.

Charlie will search for his Yoga toy on command

Luckily, I found the missing piece, so there will be no ongoing poop search.

Charlie loves food. He perks up when he hears the word Kong. I freeze his kibble and top it off with peanut butter.

Charlie is about to consume his frozen Kong

But the search to find the best chew toy continues. I just have to learn to think like a puppy!