Our first family road trip was a success! After a week of building Henry’s tolerance around my leaving the house without him, I was able to pack the car with the help of a bully stick and the pups’ usual maze bowl breakfast. Hen and Tildy rested easy during the three hours between Belmont and Windham, while I enjoyed three consecutive episodes of Radio Lab. (Aaaaah.)
We rolled into town, up big old Hickory Hill Road and rounded the corner onto Thunderbird Terrace. Henry perked up as if he knew where we were headed, but couldn’t possibly– it was his first visit! Maybe it was the potent smell of Thyme in the lawns, or the scent of deer in the nearby thickets that were familiar. Either way, he seemed glad to arrive, and was very ready to nose his way around the yard as soon as his paws hit the ground.
There was less than an hour of new place nervousness that I could detect. Hen sniffed the place inside and out, and then seemed content to stand on the deck watching the mountain with his snoot in the air to catch all the good smells. He ate, drank and rested easily as long as Tild and I were nearby. We took two long family walks among the wildflowers in between naps.
(I chose to walk Hen on the long line so that we could continue our beginner recall lessons. Recall is going slowly, but Hen is a six year-old scent hound who, based on my experience of him thus far, had little structure in his previous life. So I keep my expectations low, my patience level high, and my enthusiasm handy. He definitely responds most quickly to the happiest requests for a check in. In general, he is such a good boy and a very fast and eager learner.)
We were in bed early last night, though folks in the neighborhood were shooting off fireworks. Hen seemed restless, and I also forgot to bring his night time dog bed, and wondered if the blanket pile I made for him wasn’t cutting it. So, gently, I guided him up onto the bed for the first time. It was awkward and adorable, and he immediate curled up. We three slept comfortably until about 3 AM, when Hen went for a very clumsy dismount from the bed to his usual spot on the floor. I’ll definitely bring his favorite bed next trip.
This morning has been a quiet one in front of the fire. Hen wasn’t so sure about all that crackling and the heat, until he suddenly was. And that’s my boy, a little uncertain at first, and then on board for good…
Some things are meant to be, and this handsome fella joining our family is one of them! As the clock ticked down on his meet and greet with an out of town adopter, I felt more and more like I couldn’t possibly let him go. He fits perfectly with our little family, and Tildy even lets him touch her! His new name is Henry Hoover, named for one of my most favorite places. We just call him “Hen”. Welcome home, sweet boy!
Jake is my first foster dog. I’ve wanted to foster for ages, and also wanted to advance Tildy as far as possible in her training before inviting another dog into our home for a potentially extended visit. Having a fearful, reactive resident dog helped my thought process around which might be the right dog to foster. Also, volunteering with a rescue for ten months offered me the chance to meet dozens of dogs with different personalities, in a variety of sizes, with the full spectrum of energies. What felt best was a middle aged male Bluetick, like my pup Hugo, who crossed over last September from lymphoma. Hugo was the type of dog that Tildy knew best, and I think I made a good call–things are going well so far!
Jake’s first week was about getting him settled in and used to indoor life, so house training, crate training and some impulse control were top priorities. There were also lots of firsts for this sweet guy. Stairs. (He panicked and then pancaked flat to the stairs from fear. We had to Youtube “teach dog to walk up stairs” and then patiently show Jake in real time. Otherwise, he would have been camped out inside my front door!) TV (startling and then VERY interesting!) Blankets and dog beds. (Oh, sweet heaven!)
We’re taking it easy on other basic skills, because Jake was a little checked out after his epic journey through the shelter/rescue system. Sweet guy just needed to land. We’ve done some work on recall inside the house, and I’ve been encouraging him to try “sit”. It took eight days of shaping, but Jake finally sat. Once! And we celebrated like crazy!!
PS: The word “shaping” is scientific slang for building a particular behavior by using a series of small steps to achieve it. Shaping allows you to create behavior from scratch without physical control or corrections, but rather by drawing on your animal’s natural ability to learn. Thanks for this perfect definition, Karen Pryor!
Nick, renamed Leo, was the first dog that I saw from start to finish as an adoption coordinator. Meaghan and Kevin had applied for adoption of an earlier puppy, but another equally qualified applicant was in front of them.
Nick was one of the “Christmas” puppies, a litter that came to us with holiday names. We had as many applications as puppies, with Meaghan and Kevin being the last meet and greet appointment for the litter– in other words, we all hoped that . When we let Nick into the meeting area, he skipped right over me and pranced confidently over to his new mama. When he put his little paws up on her and offered kisses, then hopped down and did the same with his new dad, we all knew that this adoption was happening.
Having done their phone interview, home visit, and meet and greet, I was able to feel really confident about the placement. Seeing the adoption process from start to finish deepened my understanding of how important the matching piece of the puzzle is. I was more emotionally invested and had all the information I needed to support good decisions on the part of the rescue and the adopters.
Fast forward two months to Leo, Meaghan and Kevin showing up for the basic skills class that I assistant teach at Riverdog in Somerville on Tuesday nights. They had no idea I would be there, and I didn’t know they had registered. It was the best surprise! Needless to say there was hugging!!
Domino was the very first dog I met through the Northeast Coonhound Rescue (NECR). When I walked through the doors of our Woburn quarantine facility, he was in the reception area with our director, Ann, and Judy, the woman who had fallen in love with his photo and come for a meet and greet. I shook Ann’s hand (it was our first time meeting) and introduced myself to Judy who assured me that she hadn’t yet decided to adopt Domino. (Insert winky face here.)
Judy talked to me about her dog who had recently crossed over, her surviving dog, and how Domino would be the biggest dog she’d ever brought home. She wondered what her husband would think, and wished he was not away for the weekend. I listened and offered support as her moved through her concerns. I acknowledged Domino’s quiet, easy energy, and we both praised him for remaining calm when a feisty puppy jumped up on him several times. She was falling for him.
Ann suggested that Judy take Domino home for a trial. She was an adopter we knew and trusted, and this way Domino would spend his first night in New England on a soft bed in a loving home– but Domino was filthy from life as a yard dog, the transport, and two days in quarantine. So we made a plan to get him cleaned up at our local vet partner.
My first day volunteering with NECR was listening to Judy, helping her lift frightened Domino into her car, and leading our two-car caravan thirty minutes to the spot where Domino would have his first bath. These photos were taken after Domino was brought back to us clean. Both Judy and I were moved by how different this sweet dog appeared after his first experience with a bit of luxurious care.
Judy and her husband adopted Domino (of course!) and renamed him Mr. Lovejoy. She sent Ann and me this thank you note– an all-time favorite of mine. I’ve heard that Mr. Lovejoy is enjoying the happily ever after that he deserves.
The Rock Stop in Philo, CA was an especially meaningful hour on my drive up to Mendocino. Owners Samuel and Heron introduced me to the idea of working with multiple pendulums. (Oh, you’re not swinging a pendulum? Highly recommend! It’s especially helpful for those of us who suffer indecision.) They talked me through the origins of the Buddhas in the shop, and which sculpture “factories” in China and Bali are kindest to their workers, all while dropping in fun facts about how David Crosby or some other iconic performer had shopped with them back in the day. (A Crosby, Stills & Nash acoustic set played over the speakers in the shop while I was there.) I bought Buddhas in Jade, Tiger’ Eye and Lapis, a jade Kwan Yin, and a green aventurine pendulum.
This is a feel good, positive energy, kind people sort of a place. So, the next time you’re in Anderson Valley and find yourself on the 128 in Philo, keep an eye out. Buy yourself a pendulum, enjoy the stories, and take in the vibe– it’s there in a very big California way…
Now that the real estate market has slowed just a touch, I’m beginning to reclaim parts of our routine. Hugo is so grateful when those parts include time for just he and I at his favorite places (read: places that Tildy can’t go because they overwhelm her). As a solopreneur working from home, it was easy to spend two hours at the dog park watching the sunset every night with our canine and human friends from the neighborhood. Though two hours isn’t as doable as it once was, we can still walk over to catch the sunset and few minutes in the cool summer grass.
This wasn’t a formal photog-for-hire kind of a shoot, but rather a meet-up in The Boston Public Garden with a dear friend and her miraculous kiddo during their weekend visit to Boston. THE SUN WAS OUT, and my realtor work day ended at exactly the right time to capture Ben in “the good light”.
Molly and Paul’s Spring Solstice party was…photo booth, twister, celebrity, and a whole lotta great conversation. (I’ve never discussed buckwheat pancakes at such great length.)
365 days ago i rescued a tiny hound who lacked confidence, trust, discipline, and a place to call home. we’ve worked together every day since to boost her confidence, build her trust, shape her discipline, and pile the softest, warmest blankets we can find around our girl tildy. she’s worked hard at defining her place in our family and the world, and i consider her progress remarkable.
here’s to many more years together, sweet matilda. more trails, more beaches, more learning, more growing, more gorgeous life. you are so very loved!
PS: below is a post from my old texturejunkie blog that i wrote around the two month mark. what a year it’s been together…
on march 31 hugo and i drove to connecticut to pick up our new rescue dog family member. her petfinder profile described exactly the dog i was looking for. small, easy going, confident and healthy. she was five years old and had been through a surrender, an overcrowded brooklyn shelter, a rescue facility, and one (TOTALLY BOTCHED) adoption before mine, so i had some perspective. i didn’t expect a blissed out dog, but i felt certain that i could help her transition into a solid forever life.
when we met her at the rescue facility in connecticut, tildy (then dora) was friendly and calm, but i immediately noticed that she’d had at least one litter, and that her (ahem) lady bits were in bad shape. also, she had a break at the top of her tail near her back, which suggested possible physical abuse. these things seemed superficial and cosmetic, and i couldn’t process their potential significance in real time.
once we were home, tildy started exhibiting strange behaviors that had me so confused, i pulled out the paperwork from the brooklyn shelter, the vets who had assessed and treated/spayed her, and the foster group. i spread the paperwork over my coffee table where i studied it for clues in between watching youtube dog training videos and searching for websites that would explain how tildy was acting.
in the first 24 hours i received three fear bites from touching her in the wrong places too soon or from resource guarding. i observed tildy barking at other dogs, lunging at cars and trucks, and her fear of humans in general. she was peeing inside, and i caught her biting her hind feet and tail until she cried out. she did the same with her tush. it was all so sad and confusing to watch.
i had a giant HOLY CRAP moment when it occurred to me that tildy had been a breeding dog, which meant that she was taken away from her mama and litter mates too early to get properly socialized, received minimal love and training, and probably had her own litters taken away prematurely. (read: human hands= NO BUENO.)
we started working together on average two hours a day, with hugo enthusiastically following along. desensitization, obedience, socialization– all types of training. i read a couple dozen articles about reactivity in dogs, rehabing breeding dogs, socializing abused dogs, and how to make this experience okay for me and hugo if we were to go forward. i hired brilliant local trainer janet vera, and the gang at active paws. i also joined a facebook group for sensitive dogs “parents”, which helped emotionally.
(are you thinking– isn’t this is all just a BIT TOO MUCH? why didn’t i just RETURN her? it’s okay. these are valid questions. very.)
i cried every day during those early weeks, convinced i’d ruined the perfect existence hugo and i had built together, helpless in the midst of this hurt and damaged dog. i was angry toward the foster group that either gave me falsified paperwork or deliberately chose to omit certain facts– no matter how many times i spoke or e-mailed my questions.
but in the seven weeks since tildy joined our family, i’ve seen all three of us grow– and not just be stronger, but FEEL STRONGER, which in my opinion is more important.
as homework for tildy’s first training appointment (week five), i was asked to write down the issues i felt the most urgency about. that list had three big ticket items on it, but being a balance seeker in all things, i decided to make a companion list of what tildy had learned and areas she had improved.
in week one tildy learned sit, stay, down, wait, let’s go, come, check-in (eye contact), trade’ya (drop it), shhh (my signal for being quiet). she had stopped resource guarding with food and was much better at resource guarding with toys. tildy had improved at walking on a leash. most significant for me was how quickly she began trusting my touch.
by week two tildy could hold her position (sit, for example) while hugo did something different (down or come). peeing inside became less frequent. tildy showed that she could be an excellent listener. her eye contact improved, and she let me take her photo without growling at the camera.
during week three, tildy had her first off leash experience and was a natural. she followed hugo around, sniffed other dogs, and even a greeted a few people without growling or barking. tildy started showing confidence in her meet and greets at the dog park, and i learned to tell EVERYONE we encountered that tildy does not like to be pet by strangers, and not to try. (at all. seriously. DON’T.) this dialed tildy’s fear way down, and gave people a chance to appreciate her needs instead writing her off . there was a positive energetic shift in our time at the park and on the trails.
each week tildy improves, and each week there are setbacks. but isn’t that true for us all? do any of us experience life and learning in a straight line? aren’t we each in the midst of managing our triggers, our physical and emotional hurts, our lack of trust in people, and the hard lessons life is teaching us?
tildy and hugo and i have decided to take the long road together. we are committed, and have given ourselves full permission to love each other one tiny, meaningful day at a time however that day manifests itself. our road is the take it slow/no timeline/no expectations/hope and patience kind of long, and we’re so grateful to have you walking it with us…
A gorgeous space complete with lovely shop owner, Nicole Rueda-Watts, and an adorable dog named Ray. The decor made my eyes instantly happy. The jewels (and let’s face it, Ray) will keep me coming back. Go, visit, buy. (Rinse, repeat.) I picked out a vintage piece this time around, but look forward to going home with one of Nicole’s original designs next time.
It was 19 degrees fahrenheit during our walk through the woods this afternoon. That’s COLD. But tiny temps don’t much matter to my guy.
Tildy had a setback. Setbacks happen, but this one cost us a beloved dog walker. Thankfully it happened just three days before Tildy’s first training session with Fran at Masterpeace Dog Training Center in Franklin, MA.
Regardless, Wednesday January 15 will go down as the day Tildy attacked boots. A first for my wee rescue. (I have my theories why she did it.) Luckily, her setbacks are fewer and farther between, and I continue to learn– dare I say MASTER– her list of triggers.
Here’s to session #2 with wise and loving Fran!
Some favorite moments from what will go down as a top ten Christmas.
Hope you all had a magical holiday season!
Every year I look forward to pulling out all of my holiday treasures and finding the perfect spots for them around the house. (I fell DEEPLY in love with bottle brush trees this year. You?)
Feeling GRATEFUL for all of the big things 2013 brought, but also for the countless little things that shaped this terrific year. We hope that you had a terrific year, too!
Enjoy the cozy holiday season, dear friends. We are so glad to have you with us, and send lots of love out to you and yours!
We celebrated by bringing a little holiday decor to our client’s door.
I haven’t finished designing my holiday card for this year, but while I was hunting around for inspiration (read: pouring over hundreds of A D O R A B L E Hugo and Tildy pics in my archive), I found a few really darling design moments from previous years. THIS is hands down my favorite Hugo graphic mashup. (Aw buddy, you make such an excellent reindeer.)
Thank you, friends. Thank you for sharing your stories and memories, your wine and whiskey, your hugs and openness. That Friday night among you in the soft lamplight of a Hoboken loft did my heart good, and I hope it did the same for yours.
Michael would have loved it all…
I will always remember…
Christmas Eves at 844 Dorain and pastries from Hoboken.
Your giant laugh.
How much khaki you could manage in one outfit.
The funny (khaki) canvas hat you wore to keep the sun out of your eyes.
That you kept film, not food, in your fridge.
The lovingly parental presence you offered me when Parkinson’s took hold of Dad.
Your giant magnifying glass for reading the papers (every single morning).
How dedicated you were to your daily walks through the neighborhood.
The way that every waitress and hostess knew your name in each restaurant you took me to.
How much you loved The West Wing. (And how many times we laughed about wanting Jed Bartlet to be REAL.)
Your profoundly, indescribably beautiful photography.
How protective your were of your work. (And how many times I would have to nudge you to give up one single print. I still only have three, you stinker.)
Your passion for flying off to photographic adventures.
Your passion for flying small planes.
Your love of harpsichords and that giant organ you shipped from Holland.
Your perfectly unique command of the English language.
That you once called a sneeze “kaleidoscopic”.
That you didn’t use heat or air conditioning in your car unless I begged.
How much you admired the mountains, but how terrified you were driving through them.
The enormous satisfaction a plain old Hershey bar brought you.
Debating digital versus analog photography.
Bullying you into trying “selfies” with me, and you saying “Not bad, love, NOT BAD” upon seeing one.
Your simple needs.
Our shared love of Cambodia and its people.
The heart stopping generosity you showed people who needed you.
That you (secretly) loved when people took photos of you.
Your knack for capturing people through the lens, especially women.
How you met the love of your life in your seventies, and the beautiful life you two built together even when an ocean separated you most of the time.
Your unapologetic, dry wit.
The honesty with which you delivered constructive criticism (of my boyfriends).
How each of your voicemails was an audio event worth saving. (My phone is chock full.)
Your stubborn sense of independence.
That time you let me set up your cell phone. (A device so far removed from the comfort of your push button landline.)
The time I called you from Brooklyn to ask you to recall your (and Dad’s) childhood address in Prospect Park, and you told me, and I drove there and someone let me inside and I got to take photos of where you grew up.
Those times we wore white gloves and carefully, delicately explored your boxes of prints. (Much to your chagrin.)
How you believed that no image was ever final. (You had no fewer than nine versions of each print, you obsessive artist, you.)
That you always ordered something unhealthy from the menu, but enjoyed EVERY SINGLE BITE.
How clearly you lived on your own terms, and died on them, too.
Though you will be missed, I don’t think that anyone who really knew you could feel regret for how you lived, and that is really something…
Love you oh so much, Uncle Michael. Oh so much.
A certain tiny somebody may or may not have decided to start hiding her treats from the big hound brother who likes to steal them the second she turns her spotted, little back.
Twenty years ago I adopted my first rescue dog from Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston. She was a tiny black fur ball I named Dinah. At some point she was nicknamed Ducky, which suited her pluck.
She was with me nearly sixteen years. She, Hugo, and our Julia cat lived together in mischievous splendor for five years before I brought Ducky back to Angell Memorial to cross The Rainbow Bridge.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Ducky. And each time Hugo goes to Angell for an appointment, we walk past this sign and I remind him of the sweet old girl who helped raise him. Then I give Hugo a hug, and send love and light out to that black fur ball we loved so very much.
(You really outdid yourself tonight.)
The International Institute of New England hired me to capture Isabel and Ruben Toledo during their recent Stitch by Stitch event. These two incredible artists can best be described as GRACIOUS, APPROACHABLE, BEAUTIFUL, OPEN, LAYERED, LOVING, and PROFOUNDLY MAGICAL.
Oh, and in case you didn’t recognize her name, Isabel Toledo was the designer behind the lemongrass suit Michelle Obama wore to the 2009 inauguration. Michelle is a long-time client, but the inauguration, well, that was an EXTRA BIG DEAL.
PS: The Boston Globe mentioned Isabel and Ruben’s appearance at Boston fashion week, and chose one of my photos to run with the story. (WOOT WOOT!)
This is one EXTRAORDINARY girl. Her sense of self, her openness to ideas, her willingness to trust me to get it “right” all contributed to a beautiful outcome. Calling this shoot a “senior yearbook portrait session” is like calling the Taj Mahal a nice place to visit.
Keep an eye on this girl. She’s going places.
There was a beautiful blanked of fog over Belmont when Tildy and I set out for our drive to the woods this morning. Saturday wasn’t so good, but the romantic cloak of this morning has me feeling optimistic about Sunday.
Friday night indulgence: reworking beloved Instagram images in PicMonkey and Lightroom. (This is what happens when I leave my drive at the office, and can’t edit actual “work” images.)
I’ll just take it as a sign that the Universe wants me to spend a little quality time remixing fun fonts and gorgeous memories. Happy Friday, all!
Abby turns 13 today. My most favorite girl in the world is now a teenager! She is also an artist, musician, singer, athlete, and the best big sister.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Abba. You are treasured and oh so LOVED by your doting auntie and everyone who has ever had the great privilege of meeting you.
Two generations of Flanagan photographers and a day of remembrance.
Our friend Leigh is expecting twins ANY SECOND NOW, so before she and Coach welcome their sweet babies, we showered her with love, gifts, a beautiful table of fancy drinks and some of her favorite treats, and all the creative personal touches we could think of. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon together, and we’re all so excited to meet those darlings Dibabies!
This was the day at Lone Tree Hill when Tildy was too busy being a ham for the camera to notice the half a dozen deer grazing 100 feet behind her. It was an especially nice visit, because my sweet girl was in the middle of a confidence growth spurt. Watching her lead on the trail, run off ahead of me, and pose for photos with a giant hound smile were all evidence of how far Tildy had come and how happy she felt in this new state of being.
Happy FIVE MONTHS HOME to my sweet Matilda. It feels like she’s always been here, and I’m so grateful to have her!
Truth be told, I don’t like to mow lawns or weed things. I’m relieved when I find a home near parks that OTHER people have to mow, so that the pups can run and bask and play and I can spend my time Instagramming them running and basking and playing. It’s the perfect arrangement, really.
But our most recent space came with a modest semi-fenced side yard that I don’t have to mow or weed, so we happily indulge in carefree lounging out there from time to time when I’m working from home and there’s some good sunshine to take in. Five minutes on the grass, and we’re at full blown hound smiles.
Walking past this house always makes me happy. They have aqua doors and excellent chalk drawings on the sidewalk. The kiddos say hi from their porch, and I say hi back waving as I go.
Today there was an “I PLAY FOR CANDY” sign taped to the porch, so I made sure to come back with my camera for a song and some photos. (Don’t worry, I also delivered a big box of TicTacs. He was tickled.)
The red house on Dorian Road has been our family home for an incredible forty-two years. Very unusual these days when people move around so much. What is even more unusual is that the Shanowsky’s have been our next door neighbors that entire time, with the McLane’s across the street, the Boyle’s next to them, and the MacQuaid’s on the other side. Not to leave out the Isoldi’s half a block down. Forty plus years of neighborhood friendship. Extraordinary.
This is one of many moment’s I’ve captured during our forty-two years on Dorian Road. Not my house, but my friend, Kara’s, where I used to watch M*A*S*H and have sleepovers and listen to her brothers play Beatles songs on their guitars. Memories that do very good things for my heart.
I like this article (and the blog in general) about life with a reactive dog. I struggle with the conflict of choosing environments for Tildy that suit her needs right now and will help us build a successful life together in the long term, while feeling that I’ve compromised Hugo’s routine or his desire to be more social. The result is a lot of off-peak trail time, and one-on-one walks that meet Hugo’s needs when he expresses them.
In truth, there is inconvenience involved. In fact, I am getting great exercise and feel fit and happy. Very much still in transition, this little family of mine has more bending and shifting ahead. Or maybe we’ll always be bending and shifting. That’s really the case in the best of relationships, isn’t it? Either way, we’re doing the work, as I like to say. And I count myself lucky to have two hound dogs who are as dedicated to our family as I am.
Tildy is an early riser, so we’re always out the door for the day’s first walk by 7am. Even on Saturday.
This morning felt a lot like early Autumn with cool air and breezes that smell like camping, so we hopped in the car and took our first walk at Lone Tree Hill, a new favorite spot. The light in the woods was incredible, and the shadows were AMAZING.
Tildy came from an overcrowded shelter in a tough part of Brooklyn. I don’t know if that was her original hood, but she didn’t understand ponds or streams or woods when she first came to us, so my hunch is hardcore city dog.
A couple weeks into her new forever life, she started dropping and rolling the second she hit grass. First it was the yard, then the park, then patches on the trails. The safer she felt, the more often she rolled.
I was confused at first, thinking there was always something stinky as incentive, but I was wrong. It was bliss. It was grassy, sunshiny, “this feels GREAT on my back” BLISS.
I have dozens of shots of Tildy pulling a drop and roll right at the very moment I was about to capture her and Hugo being magnificently still and photogenic. I love these shots. I love how Hugo watches her perplexed, and a little envious of her nimble shape. I love how her tiny round belly smiles up at the world. And I love that afterward she runs right over to me showing off her silly hound grin.
I’ve been thinking about what my drop and roll is. Where I find bliss so undeniable, I don’t much care whose around to watch me roll around in it. What’s YOURS? Have you found it yet?