Maltby Lake

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.

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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.

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A digital camera is a beautiful thing. You can snap picture after picture, guilt-free, as a dog bounds toward you, time after time, walk after walk, and then weed it down to only the best. I’ve probably taken a hundred pictures of Gus running toward me, and even a one percent success rate results in pictures like this.

Today was a big day for Comet. After Gus bounded right into the lake, Comet spent a few minutes exploring that magical border between the known world of air and light and the intriguing wet world of splashing and floating.
Then, splashdown! This was Comet's first time in water deep enough that he couldn't touch the bottom. At first, he pounded the surface with his front paws, splashing himself in the face and necessitating an inefficient posture. But he started to make sense of things a bit as he moved back to shore.

Being soaked to the skin for the first time necessitated his first-ever full-body shake.
“What a great time for a picture of wet, happy dogs,” I thought innocently, not realizing that the unfamiliar feeling of wet fur would compel Comet to roll. Ordinarily a good listener, he ignored me entirely as he flopped around on the rocks like a hairy fish.

Gus not only listened to the command to stay, he even tolerated Comet’s flailing limbs as the young pup tried to scratch that pesky wet itch.

I did, finally, get the two of them arranged properly for a picture, though Comet’s expression betrays a certain distraction.

It’s a lot of fun to snap a picture right as you say “OK” and release the dogs from their stay.
This wasn’t just Comet’s first swim; it was also his first long (>5 mile) walk, so as our walk wore on, so did the daylight. As the sun angled down, Gus was lit up by shafts of light through the trees. He was kind enough to pause in a nice spot and let me snap a couple of photos.

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Poses and Rolls

Today was quite the day for dog portraiture. Maybe it was the fact that Gus got to jump in the lake and Comet got to splash in the shallows. Maybe it was the temperature. Maybe it's because Andy came. The lighting certainly cooperated. Whatever the reasons, both dogs were looking their best.

The singular focus of Gus's expression is, of course, due to the tennis ball that's on the ground just off camera. Even though he's panting, the focus brings his lower jaw up, and he becomes perfectly motionless, dedicated to his moment. I wonder what it is about that dedication that looks like wisdom. Maybe he's completely at peace with himself and his desire. Or maybe he's a sweet, sweet, silly dog.

Maybe it's the same thing.

Of course, since Comet is growing so fast, he does have his awkward, discombobulated moments just as frequently as he gives those beautiful looks into the far-off ether. Though less flattering, these goofy, loose-faced expressions are perhaps the more accurate portraits.

He's crossed the line in my mind from being a big puppy into being a small dog. His face and build have more of the long, adult proportions, and he's starting to move and act more like he will when he's truly full size.

That doesn't mean he can't be completely adorable when the opportunity presents itself.

Gus will jump into the water these days just for the sheer pleasure of it (though, to me, the pleasure of a March dip in a New England lake on a sub-forty day is dubious to say the last). And when he gets out, he'll stare at you with great hopes that you'll magically produce a tennis ball for him to fetch. Nobody's holding a ball or a stick off camera here. This is just Golden hope.

As you dry out, it's important to get a roll in. A nicely-clipped field is one of Gus's favorite places to scratch his back as he dries. His total abandoment to the process is a joy to watch.

Of course, what would time on the field be without a little fetching? Gus turned up an old baseball and insisted we let him run around a little bit. Comet is still enthusiastic about joining in the chase, though he tends to give up once Gus gets ahead of him. The ball is out of Gus's mouth in this picture because he's tossing it back to us for another throw.

I'm trying to make sure that Comet doesn't lose interest in fetching balls during the period that Gus has such an advantage. Gus has a tendency to run out before you've thrown so he can get a head start, which provides a great opportunity to give Comet a short throw he can get to and retrieve before Gus has a chance to notice and steal the precious ball.

Comet, as you'd expect, likes to get a good roll in too. For some reason, he decided to tear at the dry grass with his teeth as he rolled around, all the while eyeballing Andy as if to say, "Why aren't you joining in? This is one of life's great, guiltless plesasures."

Gus, of course, is hoarding the ball for himself now that he has it back.

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A Walk With the Boys

The picture of the dogs came out so nicely that I just had to take another photo from the same spot, this time with Andy in the mix. The day was a bit cool, but it wasn't too bad for a nice walk and a photo-op.

At least it's easy to get Andy to stand still and look great.

Comet will still carry sticks with great dedication on a walk. And if you get the camera focused before you call his name, sometimes you can take a lucky shot before he starts flying back to you with it.

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