Michelle, Dahlia, and Ben

Dahlia and I in our favourite park

Meet Me: Hello to anyone stopping by this page!  While I grew up with dogs around me, I didn’t get my first dog until 2008.  Prior to that I had been living in apartments where I wasn’t allowed to have one (the horror!).  I got bit by the “must have a dog” bug late in 2007 and so started doing volunteer transports for rescues.  I figured that would help me satisfy my need for canine companionship.  This idea backfired.  Instead, it made me desperate to have one of my own.  And when I did a transport in April 2008, I met the perfect dog for my partner and I: Dahlia, a dog who was billed as a Lab/Chow mix but is much more likely to be a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix.

Dahlia coming into my life launched my interest in learning all I can about dog behavior, training, and body language and to that end I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and articles and studying dogs’ body language as they interact with the world around them.  I’m always reading new research and trying to broaden my understanding of the canine mind (as best we humans can at least!).

Little lost dog on her very first walk with us

Meet Dahlia: Dahlia, whose name is technically Dahlia CTL1, CTL2-H, NTD, CGC (and who is also known to the AKC as Spanley’s One of the Seven), originally came from southern Ohio, where she was dumped out onto the street and picked up by animal control.  No one claimed her.  No one wanted to adopt her.  And so she was put on the euthanasia list.  She was supposed to be put down April 15.  Lucky for her (and for me!) a rescue in Vermont stepped in and agreed to take her in.  She was spayed and sent off to Vermont via transport (which is ultimately how I met her).

When she came into our lives she was a calm, sweet, somewhat unassuming dog who easily faded into the background.  She wasn’t shy, but lacked confidence to try new things herself.  She tended to check in with us before doing anything, including getting up on the couch or bed.  She was inhibited in the way she interacted with the world.  She wasn’t abused, that much was obvious.  But it was also clear that her world had been a very controlled one.

I always had an interest in agility, but was hesitant to get involved with my calm and inhibited dog.  But the more I read about its increasing confidence levels with a dog, the more I thought maybe it might help add some more joy to Dahlia’s life.

Leaping for joy!
Photo by CJB Photography

I found a lovely place to train that was all about positive reinforcement (something that is very important to me) and with an amazing instructor who knew how to work with both high and low drive dogs.  We started training there in June 2010.  In the years we’ve been there I’ve seen a new dog emerge right in front of my eyes.  Dahlia is more joyful.  Her face looks more open and her eyes are brighter.  She’s more confident and is willing to try new things without shutting down if she doesn’t get it right the first time.  She simply enjoys life more and for that alone, agility training is wonderful.

Besides agility, Dahlia’s favourite pastimes are stealing butter, playing at being a canine supermodel, and getting belly rubs, not always in that order.

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Ben having fun in our backyard, December 2015

Meet Ben: In April 2015, my husband and I moved into a house with a fenced in yard and after settling in, it looked like a good time to adopt a second dog. We put in an application to Glen Highland Farm and 5 days later came home with Ben. Ben (now also known to the AKC as Spanley’s Greatest Adventure), like Dahlia, is an unknown mix . We’re sure he has Border Collie in him, but as to what else? It could be Australian Shepherd (my current favorite of the guesses) or some sort of retriever or spaniel. He has far more energy, confidence, and toy drive than Dahlia. He is just starting his agility training and I’m looking forward to many adventures with my new little man!

Am I really that much harder to photograph?

Am I really that much harder to photograph?

My photography: Getting Dahlia also set off an interest in canine photography.  Part of this interest was because she’s black and black dogs are known to be harder to photograph and I wanted to get great photos of my girl!  I currently use a Sony A580 with various lenses (mostly older lenses by Minolta).  I’m constantly working on my craft and learning new things about photography and I’m sure I’ll detail some of the journey here on this blog.  My ultimate goal is to someday be able to be a semi-professional photographer taking portraits as well as agility trial photos.

Positive reinforcement training makes a happy dog!

Positive reinforcement training makes a happy dog!

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