Saturday, December 20, 2008

Living In The City

November 1, 2008
Athens, GA

Although it may not look like it from most photos I post, we actually live in the city, without a fenced yard at that. It is a strange concept to have a bird dog in the city, but with a lot of commitment and some creativity, it can be done. I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of the University of Georgia campus which has several green spaces and a park with an off-leash dog area, for our daily routine outings. In addition, there are several other parks within a 6-mile radius, and I make sure Tessa gets to do what bird dogs do daily.

Sunday By The Lake

October 26, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

What started as a very cold and foggy morning, turned into the most beautiful Indian Summer kind of day. As often on Sundays, we went to the park twice. The morning walk was quite cold, but in the afternoon, the sun warmed things up nicely and we spent a few nice hours by the shore watching sailboats go by.

Vaccine Reaction

October 18, 2008

Tessa went for her last big round of shots today which included distemper, parvo, leptospirosis, kennel cough and rabies. Plus a microchip. And some ear cleaning solution. And one heartworm pill.

The vet said she'd be a little sleepy today, then looking at her walking around the office on two legs, corrected himself saying, laughing, "well, she probably won't". But sure enough, about two hours later she started acting strange - confused, restless, sleepy, trembling. Two huge lumps developed at the injection sites, one of which was quite painful. I called the vet's office just as they were leaving for the weekend, and per doctor's order, gave her a benadryl, kept her warm and under keen observation.

By 6 pm she started perking up a little, but to my dismay I noticed blood in her urine. I was not too terribly worried, as I had seen this with my dogs before, and by now know that although it looks very alarming, it usually is only a UTI. But given the vaccine reaction earlier in the day, I kept an even closer eye on her. By 8 pm she started shaking again, so I gave her another benadryl. Shortly thereafter, Tessa started throwing up and off to the emergency clinic we went, and in a hurry. In 20 years of dog ownership, this was our first reaction to a vaccine and the first trip to an emergency clinic for any reason. And, as luck would have it, on the way to clinic we ran into a huge police road block, my second one in 20 years. There were five cars ahead of me. As the officer came over, I hoped that he would check my license and wave me through given the circumstances, but when I explained that I am on the way to emergency vet and he shone his light on goofy little Tessa in her travel crate, it sounded like the lamest excuse and I thought it was wiser to keep my mouth shut. Luckily, we didn't have to wait too long.

By the time we reached the clinic Tessa was her old lively self, and most definitely not critical. She was diagnosed with a UTI unrelated to the vaccinations, and vomiting either due to the vaccine reaction or to the benadryl she had received on an empty stomach. They gave her a benadryl injection and a shot for nausea and some antibiotics and sent us home.

I want to wake up tomorrow morning to my wild & crazy dog...

Urban Bird Dog

October 13, 2008
Southeast Clarke Park, Athens, GA

It is amazing how many places there are in and around Athens that can make a bird dog happy. Almost everywhere I take her on campus or in parks I find pockets of grass, weeds, shrubs with lots of scents and quite a few birds, migrating and resident. And over the past few weeks, Tessa has taught me that right at sunset, places like this one is where the birds go.

Southeast Clarke Park is located on the outskirts of town right off U.S. 78 near the Super Wal-Mart. It has soccer and softball fields, tennis courts, a skate park and some walking trails. All is fairly manicured except for this good-sized unkempt field of high grass and autumn weeds; I attached the check cord and turned her loose and watched her loving it.

The Fabric Of My Life

October 12, 2008
Cotton field, Oconee County [GA]

The first off-leash sit-stay, in a cotton field somewhere in drought stricken Oconee County.


October 12, 2008
Somewhere in Oconee County

We drove to the country today to take a few photos and stopped for a potty break when I noticed some birds in this sorghum field. Bird-ignorant as I am, I am not sure what they were, but I assume quail or doves. I had no idea how Tessa would react to them once she saw them, so while slowly leading her up to where they had gathered, I made sure the camera was set right and kept a keen eye on my pup. All of a sudden, both birds AND dog flew up in great excitement. I would love to say this was her first flush, but more likely, Tessa was as much flushed by the birds as the birds were flushed by Tessa.

Crate Training

October 11, 2008

Tessa is taking to crate training quite well. She was never much of a screecher, just a little bit of a whiner, and occasionally, if she really wants out, she rolls around in it like a rabid racoon. No matter, all my dogs are crate trained, and I often wonder what life was like before these crates. I remember the first crate I bought in 1991, to keep my dog confined after her spay. Back then, crating was a revolutionary idea, but today, crates are commonly used to protect the house from the pup and the pup from the house. Eventually, I hope, Tessa will have the run of the house even in my absence, but until then, this is where she is whenever I can't watch her.


October 11, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Today, we did our first track. With Tessa out of sight, I laid a 30-ft track and placed cheese every few feet. It was supposed to be straight but ended up somewhat curved and cross wind. I then brought her to the start of the track, pointed to it, and watched her get serious. Even a novice like myself could see that was a different kind of sniffing - very intent and focused. She took her time, weaving to the left and right, backtracking, but nose to the ground, thoroughly working every inch of it. She got all the cheese, and the cheese jackpot and lots of praise at the end.

This photo was taken shortly after; as I was moving on, Tessa kept going back to track. No interest in the tennis ball I had just tossed. Eventually, we went for our walk and when we returned about 30 minutes later, she looked for and found the track and worked it backwards...

The following day we tried again on a different field and although she followed the scent she was much less focused. Weather, wind, inexperience of both dog and handler?

Tessa & The Birds

October 9, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

While I try to take Tessa to as many different settings as possible, we spend a lot of time at Sandy Creek Park, because it has so much to offer. We typically cross six open fields, spent some time near the beach, walk by the boggy shoreline, and hike through the woods. This particular field is huge - the photo only shows half of it - and I love the openess of it. It's a good place to start and end our outings.

The day before this photo was taken we were here in the pouring rain which was fun for only about 10 minutes. The weather had since cleared but there were still many puddles in the grass which attracted a lot of birds - you can see some of them in the form of four black dots in the distance. Tessa spotted them right away and pointed a couple of times but unfortunately, I was not quick enough with the camera.

This is my first bird dog and I am totally clueless as to what they are supposed to do as puppies. Right now, I am just trying to expose her to different terrains and fields on a long check cord and watch her do her thing. She usually sees and hears birds and shows interest, however, with her nose either on the ground or up sniffing the air pretty much all the time she seems to get distracted by whatever scent she follows - or does she? Who knows!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Puppy Shots 101

October 4, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

People often comment on the nice portraits I take of my dogs. I attribute the results I achieve to Nikon Inc., a little bit of planning, lots of practice and a healthy dose of luck. My Nikon D80, equipped with a polarizing filter, delivers the rich colors. Knowing how to get the most out of your camera helps, and that comes with lots of practice, but in addition to knowing how to work the camera, you need to know how to work the model ... and when the model is a dog, it is imperative that the dog has a pretty solid sit-stay, so you have a few moments to compose a nice image. Some dogs take to it faster than others, and sitting, much less staying, is not Tessa's forte; we would soon realize that "whoa" came much more naturally and as you will see in later posts I used that to my advantage ad nausea!

The photo on the left shows that taking photos of a puppy with no formal training is not without challenge. At the time of this series there was no such thing as a sit-stay. The sequence, again and again, was sit-jump, often not even giving me the chance to click the shutter, much less compose an image. The result was plenty of photos like this one, but in the end, with some patience and lots of bribing the model, I got a few shots that were acceptable, and Tessa received some training in the process.

A word of caution though: As you can see here, Tessa is wearing her leash. We were in a park setting, but as long as I can not fully trust her to stay put, the leash remains attached. Even later on there will be situations when I can not take my chance with an off-leash sit-stay because the dog is simply not focused enough and/or we are in a location where an off-leash breakaway would jeopardize my dog's life. So while leashes and check cords clutter up an otherwise perfect image, I use my best judgement as to when and where to shoot these portraits and whether or not to unclip that leash. Because my dog's safety always come first, a lot of these photos have leashes running through them.
What a nose!

Loch Tess

October 4, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

Sans mots.

The Pointer Trap

October 2, 2008
Somewhere in Morgan County. GA

As I said at the start of this blog, my dogs are required to travel well. Whining, pacing, barking, and vomiting, or otherwise distracting the driver, is not permitted in the car. Thankfully, Tessa takes to the road very well. My wagon has a cargo barrier, but the cargo area is still too large to guarantee a safe ride for a pup that small, so for now, Tessa gets to ride in the crate, until she outgrows it, I guess. The "Pointer Trap" as I call it is furnished with a soft pillow, a towel, and an assortment of chew toys.

Houston, We Have A Water Dog!

October 1, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

None of my previous dogs has objected the water too much, but neither were any of them particularly enthusiastic about it, so I am delighted to report that Tessa loves water.

On her first day by the lake, she was a little cautious, the waves may have thrown her off, but she did not hesitate much once she got a taste of it.

The next time we returned to the lake, the weather had turned pretty cold and it was a raw day. I had Tessa on her 30-ft check cord, not anticipating her urge to play in the water, and before I knew it she was in the lake. Now, it is recommended that you introduce these pups to the water slowly, on warm days, so as to not make the experience a traumatic one, but oh well, there she went. I pulled her out, knowing it was entirely too cold for her, and ended up having to drive her home with the heat running full blast.

I expected a more apprehensive pup on our next visit but she has been pulling towards the water ever since. Can't wait for spring!

Good Golly!

September 28, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

What can I say ... she's a bird dog and it shows at a very early age. In fields like this one, she just lights up, and the wild-eyed look on her face makes for a pretty good Little Richard impersonation.


Jubilee's Absolute Autumn Punch
September 28, 2008
Sandy Creek Park, GA

On September 20, 2008, I drove from Athens to Columbus to pick up my new canine friend, a beautiful and energetic 11-week-old German Shorthaired Pointer pup named Anna, now known as Tessa.

I am new to this breed, coming from 20 years of owning American Bulldogs, and I am not sure where we are headed - field trials, agility and therapy work are some of our goals. For now, we spend our time with lots of play, some travel, basic obedience and conditioning for possible future field work.

My photography takes me across Georgia quite frequently, dog in tow, so one prerequisite for all my dogs is they have to travel well. So far, this has been no problem for Tessa who spent the 4-hour ride home from Columbus quietly asleep in her travel crate.