Main street closes to traffic at 4:00. For once, this year, it is not cold and rainy. Until 7:00 PM, there is a rollicking parade of fairy princesses, ghouls, bats and devils, skeletons and ghosts. There's a family of bumblebees and another of Orcas (otherwise known as killer whales). People go all out on Vashon and sometimes the creativity is pretty amazing. But true confessions: I was out to photograph my favorite costume characters: the dogs. I caught four good ones before it got too dark for your basic IPhone picture. I don't haul around a big camera these days, just prefer the candid wherever I come across it. Oh, and couldn't resist one sweet lineup of dogs' best friends. Enjoy!
In 1995, I met a woman named April Frost at a workshop about dowsing. I was attempting to launch a writing career. April was attempting to expand her work as a dog trainer, teaching how to communicate with dogs on a different level of awareness, working with how they register human intention.
To make a long story short, at the end of the year I had acquired a literary agent (who was a big dog lover). And one day, she called me to tell me she was having problems with one of her Salukis. I told her about April's work, we went to meet with April at her training center, and within six months, she and I had a book contract with Harmony Books, which is a division of Random House. "Beyond Obedience" was published in 1998. And sixteen years later, it is still in print; you can find it on amazon.com.
Here's an excerpt:
"Visualization helps you clarify what you are going to ask of your dog. If you can imagine . . . how you want your dog to respond, you will create the kind of energy that will support your training. When you consciously visualize your expectations to your dog, he can read your energy and your body language even better than when you give only a verbal direction, or pull on his body for a response."
There are lots of amazing stories about April's approach in the book. The following one is from the introduction:
"Several months ago, I was teaching a weekend workshop on Awareness Training, an inspiring way to establish a bond of mutual respect and communication with your dog. People were sitting in chairs while I lectured, and a number of the dogs were resting in their crates until we practiced the next exercise--all except for a Borzoi named Shamir, who was having a hard time relaxing in the strange new environment. He whined and complained and kept turning around and around in his crate. Shamir was making so much noise that it was difficult for people to hear, and I finally realized that I needed to do something.
We had already spent a number of hours exploring the concept that the energy within our thoughts and feelings has a powerful influence on those around us and , further more, that we can learn to project these thoughts and feelings in supportive ways while communicating and developing a relationship with a dog. Because dogs are extremely perceptive, they easily understand when a projection is clear and focused. Shamir was providing a perfect opportunity to apply this knowledge in a practice situation.
I said to the group, 'Now I want everyone to focus for a minute on Shamir and visualize him becoming calm.' Silence fell, as all eyes turned to the dog and people created their own mental picture, as I had asked.
In less than thirty seconds, Shamir had stopped pacing, stopped whining, and now stood peering out of the crate in our direction.
I went on: 'Now see him lying down. See him being calm, quiet, and lying down.' Again, the room was stilled by the presence of one clear thought projected at the dog.
Shamir fidgeted for a moment, peered out at us again, then slowly lowered himself to the floor of the crate and lay there quietly while a video camera recorded the entire sequence for posterity.
As soon as Shamir proved the power of our silent intent by doing as we had asked, everyone began to exclaim in amazement, the concentration was broken, and he popped up again.
It didn't matter, my point was made. Communicating and bonding with any living being is multidimensional, with different degrees of sensory perception. The more the energy of intent is put into created a bond, the less need there is for words or other physical tools for communication."
Our local supermarket parking lot is a good place to photograph dogs in cars, and recently I discovered that twilight is especially fine for one particular breed: the magical Weimaraner. Actually, this image above is one of two dogs, who were both sitting in the front of a VW bus. I would have loved to get that shot, but one hightailed it to the back of the bus and would not pose. This is either Leo or Rogue, according to their human. Just beautiful!
Weimaraners were originally bred for hunting in the early 19th century, according to the American Kennel Club. Often referred to as a "grey ghost," they were used by royalty for hunting game like boar, bear, and deer, although over the years they were adapted more for hunting birds. But what kind of genes led to such an unusual dog? The information I have is not clear, but surprisingly, it is believed the bloodhound is one ancestor. See any resemblance?
One of my all-time favorite videos--anyone who doubts the connection between people and their beloved animals, watch and be amazed!
Author/biologist Rupert Sheldrake asked people all over England to contact him if they felt that their dog seemed to always know when they were coming home. Then he did an experiment with one of the best subjects, a woman named Pam Smart who lived with her parents. They reported that the dog slept all day, but always got up and went to the window just before Pam came home, no matter what method of transportation she used.
They put a camera on the dog for the day and on Pam as well. Then took her off to town without telling her when they would be bringing her back or by what means.
I always get emotional when I see what happens at the end
The final day for my fundraiser on my website (lightmarkpress.com) for Vashon Island Pet Protectors.
Today's share is another pet bereavement card which, like yesterday's, was taken at the 1908 Burton Store (more properly known as The Harbor Mercantile), the oldest continuously operating store on Vashon. When I offered to photograph proprietress Sandy's dog Teddy, she sent me upstairs to spend time with him. An elderly rescued miniature poodle, he was rather camera-shy, as many dogs can be, since a camera focus can feel like a predator/prey relationship.
After hanging out a while to see if he would become more comfortable with me, I eventually saw that all he was really doing was waiting for Sandy to come up those old wooden stairs at the end of the day. Such an eloquent posture--and thus, the caption.
Fundraising Blitz! September 3 - 10 for Vashon Island Pet Protectors, 50% off all retail sales on this website.Read More
A poignant story about taking a photo of a dog just days before he died.Read More
In memoriam: to Jimmy the "Pit Bunny," aka "Mr. Velvet."Read More