Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bender's 8th Birthday and An Energetic Composition

Bender is becoming an old man. Of course I made him a cake for his birthday using the recipe I worked on for Mouse's birthday. This time I added a bit of honey, and whilst the cake tasted good to me, I don't think the dogs needed the extra sugar. It left them bouncing around a bit more than normal. 

Waiting patiently, tolerating birthday hats
I topped the cake with ricotta cheese that was a bit past it's used by date. It doesn't give as nice a surface as cream cheese but the dogs didn't mind one little bit. 

can I eat this NAOW?
They all very much enjoyed the cake and the quick rendition of 'happy birthday' that I sang to Bender. That was not his whole birthday celebration, however. I had a little weekend surprise for him. We went in to our favorite training venue, Billy's Daycare for Dogs, to take part in an art workshop where he got to create his own masterpiece.

An Energetic Composition is a series of art workshops which will in the end culminate in an exhibition, raising money for people with Lyme disease. At the workshop we worked on small piece to take home and a larger 'community piece' which many dogs contribute to. 

Bender's artwork
Some of the dogs delicately paw target the artwork, whilst others have their own 'style'. Bender didn't really want to paw target, so I got him to commando crawl and spin on the canvas. He did go at it with his face a couple of times, and took a big slurp of the blue paint. Good thing it is non-toxic. Apparently all the dogs who have tasted the paint so far have gone for the blue paint. I wonder what is with that? 

Then when I put the big community canvas down for him he bit at it and then dug as hard as he could. That canvas board is tougher than I imagined. The scratch marks looked really good and provided a 'finished' look to the big piece. The only problem was that Bender tried to pick it up and carry it away. I had to quickly get it out of his mouth before he damaged the board that everyone else had been working on! 

Bender is proud

I got him to use the same technique on his smaller board then and it added some great texture to the piece I think.

All in all it was a very enjoyable thing for Bender. He was pretty tired afterwards. When bought his piece home the girls were very interested in it, giving it a great big sniff. Next time I will take one of them to try it out.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Doggie Daycare @ Pawpals

There is a new doggie daycare near us called PawPals. At this stage they are only open two days a week but I thought it would be good for Mouse to go and play with other dogs instead of trying to get Bender and Barbie to play with her all day.

On her first day she was a bit reserved. She watched all of the play around her and didn't really push herself into the doggy games. In her second week, all that reserve dropped away and she selected her favorite playmate, Lockie the Corgi.

The place is fairly small and has ramps, a sand pit and a paddling pool. Mouse is the oldest dog there at the moment at 3 years old, and sometimes the puppies get a bit much for her. When she has had enough, she waits by the gate to the 'quiet' area to be let in for a nap. When she is ready to come back out she waits at the gate again.

She seems pretty happy and relaxed when she comes home from daycare, and the advantage is that I don't have to take her on a super long epic walk that night, like I try to every other night. Hopefully more dogs will start going so that she has more playmates, and so that they can open full time. 

They put photos on Facebook during the day so you can see what your puppy has been up to. I think Mouse is plotting something.... we will find out eventually I guess what her plan is! 

The Pawpals Facebook page is here. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Houndstooth Studio photo shoot for my Supermodels

A while back we entered a competition to win a studio session with Alex Cearns from Houndstooth Studio for two of our pets to get some professional portraits done. We decided that we would start with Bender and Barbie as they are both getting older and greyer these days. I think middle age is really the most glorious time for a dog - they have learned all the rules, but they still have energy to keep up with every day adventures and health problems are hopefully pretty superficial. It's a great time to capture with professional photographs.

Alex has two gorgeous rescued puppies of her own from Greyhound Angels of WA (the organisation I volunteer for). Pixel is a greyhound and Pip is a greyhound cross - they have a Facebook page called Black Beetle. You should check them out if you are big on Facebook, as well as the Houndstooth Studio page (which currently has a cool 88,404 likes!).

seductive Barbie number one - this photo didn't make the cut and get printed but I love it still!
Alex is incredibly popular and well known in my social circles as she does a lot of pro bono work for animal rescues. Her photography is everywhere, from every Vet clinic I've been in, to the fenced doggie area at Whiteman Park. 

The first time I met Alex was actually at Whiteman Park during a big dog focussed event they had there. I had Bender and Olive with me at the time and they both got a bit of fussing from her. She must have made a great impression on Bender because he remembered her.

Bender's happy face! We picked this one for one of the smaller prints
When we pulled up at the studio, the dogs were a bit confused. Then Alex came out to greet us. Bender recognised her right away and started bouncing up and down and doing his excited puppy squeak. He reserves his puppy squeak for his absolute favorite people. The first time we ever heard it was when he was about 8 months old and we took him to visit the lady who bottle-fed him as a rescued pup. Barbie seemed a bit embarrassed to be seen with him, but she hadn't met Alex before so she was probably wondering what the hell was going on.

Bender usually works really hard and he was very focussed during the photo session. Alex just took the reigns and he was very willing to comply with her directions. We didn't really emphasise to her how obsessive he is about toys though, and she pulled a tiny squeaky Kong ball out of the treat jar and squeaked it before we could stop her. I had a feeling of dread as he jumped around everywhere trying to get to the ball. We distracted him whilst Alex hid it, and what she did next was quite impressive. By being firm and digging deep into the Magical Treat Drawer, she managed to get him refocussed on the food treats. He forgot about the ball! I don't remember anyone else managing to break his ball fixation like that. 

Barbie was a little bit harder to motivate. She just doesn't have the drive or stamina that Bender has. She's also a bit uncertain about jumping up on to things so the couch was a bit of a challenge for her. Then when we were doing the photos of them both on the couch, Bender didn't want to jump up next to her. I think he was afraid that if he took a misstep she would tell him off. She wouldn't have, but Bender is very respectful of Barbie's space like that. We got Bender up first and I lifted Barbie on to the couch.

cute couple, this is the photo we chose for our massive print
They were both full of treaties and not that interested in their kibble at dinner time. Barbie was so tired that she slept for the rest of the day - it was a great weekend adventure for them.

Alex took thousands of photos, and she posts a preview of them on Facebook at Houndstooth Studio, before you go in for a viewing session to choose your prints. 

The Viewing Room is at a different address to the studio, and we made an after work appointment. The Room is small but adorned with a comfy couch and a projector so that you get to see the photos at their vibrant best. We started with 70 pictures and narrowed them down to 5 by trading them off against each other and choosing different poses and facial expressions. We chose a 'set' which consisted of a massive 30" x 20" print and three 5" x 7" prints, in classy black frames. We also got a 5" x 7" print as part of our prize, so I let N choose that photo so she could take it out to work with her (she chose one of Bender, surprise, surprise!) 

Due to the time of year the photo printers/framers seemed to be running behind as they were closed most of December, so we had to wait 5 weeks for the photos to be done. They are guaranteed to last for 100 years, so not only will they outlast the dogs, they will also outlast us, and probably even the house we live in!

Bender on parade! (this is the photo we picked for our unframed pic)
They are really a central feature of our lounge room now. I think I did a pretty good job of hanging them straight, though the bottom small one of Barbie has two holes behind it because the first one I drilled was a bit low!

There was a bit of a hiccup with the prints - we had organised a time for pick up, but when Alex got them they weren't perfect - there were some smudges she could not clean up. Alex knew I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to pick them up when Nic was at work so that they would be hung on the wall by the time Nic got home. She rescheduled a new pick up time, and told the lab they had to do something to make it up to us. They upgraded our unframed print to a bigger size! I was very happy with that.

Overall it was an excellent experience, and I imagine we will back with the Mouser to get her photos done some time after our mid-year holiday. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Old Bakery Gallery and Cafe - Maylands

This cafe is an old favorite of ours, and I got an e-mail on Friday that prompted me to blog about it - the Old Bakery on 8th is going up for auction! I just hope the new owners continue to run it as a cafe and keep it as dog friendly as it has been all this time. 

The Old Bakery is blessed with this beautiful leafy courtyard with established trees and plenty of shade. There is a rear entrance, near where those cars are parked in this picture, and it was very convenient for me to park the doggie trailer out the back.

Bender, Barbie and Mouse have shared breakfast with us in this lovely spot with many other friends. If anything lets the place down it is that the poached eggs are sometimes overcooked.

We took Barbie this weekend for a just-in-case final hurrah. We don't know what will happen when the place is sold. I got my usual eggs benedict and a cappuccino.

Barbie of course laid down in the corner on the cool sand under the trees. There were a bunch of pigeons flapping around in the garden nearby but they didn't really get her attention. It seemed like no one really noticed her, usually at least someone would come to say hello. I think she was secretly happy that she could laze around uninterrupted until we were ready to pass her some of our left overs.

After breakfast we took a little stroll around the surrounding suburb for Barbie to stretch her legs. Unfortunately due to the very hot weather the last month, we can't stay outside much past 10am so we had to head home after a very short wander around the block. 

I just hope that the new owners of this place continue to trade as a cafe, and continue to be dog friendly. Otherwise we will be mourning the loss of an old favorite!

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