Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Xmas and more.

I have been waiting until this day to post my latest painting. It was an Xmas present for my sister of her Border Collie Monty and she looks in here so I couldn't post it before now. I completed it a couple of weeks ago. Monty does flyball so my sister decided on a head shot and two smaller flyballing studies.
I went through to her house today and took the painting with me and she had a present ready for me in return. Also being the creative type, she had made me a lovely lead/harness hanger and had painted small images of Sleet and Wren on it, one at each end and there are 4 hooks which is great because I'm sick of there being about 12 leads and harnesses all being on one hook and am always needing the one at the back. Just need to find a spot to put the hanger now.
I took some photos of me holding my hanger and my sister with her painting but I took them on my phone so quality isn't very good. You get the idea. I have posted a proper photo of the Monty painting too. I got a little snap of the dogs all waiting in their kitchen along with me at our house with one of our cats next to the tree. I took my two scallies over to her house with me to see Monty and Storm and took them for a quick run on the park over the road. Sleet and Wren had a go on my sisters skateboard. She's been teaching Monty and Storm to get on it but, after I saw two kids with one out in the street and mentioned that I wanted to get one for my two, she said she'd got one and so we let them have a go. They both got on with it really well, climbing on and trying things to get a click and treat. They didn't seem phased if the skateboard moved or anything and a few times were even pushing it forward, without meaning to mind, but doing it nonetheless. I'm now going to try and get hold of a skateboard for them, they seemed to really enjoy messing about with it.
First thing, I gave sleet and wren their first stocking to rip open. Sleet could feel that there was a ball in it and tried to rip it open but was finding it awkward so she started to throw the whole stocking at see if I'd do it for her. I agreed to hold the stocking whilst she continued to tug at it. Eventually, she ripped a little hole and manipulated the ball through it, realised it was a SQUEAKY toy...then we never heard the end of it until I took them out for a walk.
When I took them out, I decided to take the nyladisc I have thats been sitting there collecting dust. My last two BCs loved chasing and catching that but I never introduced Sleet and Wren to it before today. Of course they loved it. Sleet started to get the idea that she needs to catch it before it hits the ground and managed a few good catches..Wren just wanted to get in the way..then grab it to play tug of war when sleet was trying to bring it back to me. She needs to be on her own to take this type of thing seriously. Sorry, no photos of that.
I'm working on preperations for a new painting and I also got an airbrush for xmas that I'll be able to use once I learnt HOW to use it and I'll be posting regular updates on the paintings here so keep an eye out for those among other news.

The dogs all waiting in my sisters kitchen:

Me with my lead/harness hanger

Kath with her painting
Me with Gizmo

Monty portrait.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Whilst I am still preparing for my next painting, I have been taking the opportunity to do a little loose sketching. I decided to sketch the dogs..mainly sleet because she's the one who always sports the most interesting poses in photos. I did do one of wren for good measure but I'm not too pleased with it. It's a 5 minute job. The ones of sleet are all action ones.
I enjoy sketching like this from time to time. I should do it more often though to keep my freehand drawing more polished. There is always room for improvement no matter what.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The problems of xmas and how creativity rather than consumerism can save the day!!

Well, this year, I've had a real problem finding out what people want for Xmas and my mum has been one of the worst. She says she doesn't want anything and when you do finally "Make", her think of something, it's always something daft that she'll not really want or need just to shut you up. Anyway, the other day, I thought maybe a couple of nice pictures of our two cats would do it. We don't have any pictures up of them but, at 15.5 years old, they are both part of the furniture in our house so I thought they deserved a portrait each on the wall and, being my mums cats and all, she'd appreciate it. Photographing cats is trickier than photographing dogs because they are notorious for not playing ball. Also, I had the issue of my mum NOT being around when I got some photos and making use of the sparse winter light...I HATE flash. I was going to get some in the porch today when I got home from walking the dogs but my mum went and turned up from shopping the minute I brought the camera downstairs so had to rush it back upstairs again. I decided I'd have to photograph them in my room out of the way but they were both fast out in the living room downstairs. They both love chicken so I stole some from in the fridge. When my mum wasn't looking, I stole both cats and shut them in my room then went for the chicken. I draped a pale yellow blanket over a chair and sat Gizmo on it. She's the tortie. Using the chicken, I got her to pose and kept feeding her bits. I got some quite nice photos of her and she sat still often enough to get some sharp ones. The lighting wasn't the best and I had the ISO bumped up to 800 which wasn't ideal.
Gino was next. She's easier to focus on because of her white markings but she was more fidgety so a little more tricky than Gizmo. They were both very unimpressed when I first took them upstairs but they were soon enjoying themselves when being indulged with chicken. Gizmo purred LOUDLY throughout the session and I got some lovely impressions from her in the photos. She has such a cute little an owl. I got loads of shots of each to be more sure of getting some good ones. A lot came out blurry because the cat moved I knew would happen. I checked through them on the computer to be sure I'd gotten some decent ones before releasing the cats from their hostage state...after letting them finish off the chicken. They aren't perfection but they'll suffice for what I want them for. I have printed one photo each off and will get them framed up for my mum for xmas. One more present finally sorted. Phew!!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Team flyball training.

I was able to attend the team training this week as I'd managed this Sunday off. Itb was a nice dry day but very cold and the ground was a little muddy and sticky as it always is when it's been frozen and thawed out. We managed to train fine though other than half the field wanting to stick to our boots.
Sleet started a bit of loose change over work. She veers to the side a little after the last hurdle when she sees another dog running at her but doesn't seem to be overly bothered so, hopefully, that will gradually disappear as she gets used to it.
My sister tried running her dog storm before her but sleet was more interested in her when she was running back with storm than going down to the box so we put sleet first and then she ran fine. Just needs to build up her speed although she isn't too bad. We moved onto a lane where there was only netting around the area between the box and the hurdle closest to it then just wings on either side of the other hurdles. She tried to run out a couple of times but soon realised there would be no ball as usual if she did and she didn't try again.
Wren only had one period of runs today but she did really well and looks like she'll be really fast. She comes down fast from the box for her tuggy...just have to watch to make sure she doesn't spit the ball before she's meant to but she only did that first time and, as long as I keep the tuggy hidden until she's well past the start gate, it doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. She's also going down to the box much faster to get the ball in the first place and her catching skills are definitely improving.
We wanted to get videos of all our 4 dogs running a leg but, as sleet and storm were running together, my sister wasn't able to get a vid of Sleet or me of Storm so Wren was the only one to get a couple of legs captured today. As you can see, she's coming along really well and her enthusiasm is getting ever stronger.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Happy 1st birthday Sleet.

She was 1 year old yesterday actually but I was working a 9-8 shift so didn't have chance to post or take photos. Fortunately, I made the most of the nice day before to get some photographs.

Today, I did a little more flyball training with them both. They're both doing great now with Wren still just having the minor issue of not grabbing the ball fast enough off the box and having to fumble for it. When my sister raised the hurdle just in front of the box to make her turn, it seemed to cure that problem mind. Otherwise, her enthusiasm is 100% with her making funny noises and yapping as I release her at the start point and rushing down to the box at good speed.
We trained them on the garden path and there was no netting but, on there, it's easier and quicker for them to go over the hurdles than round which they do and will, no doubt, give them good practise for running out of netting.
Lets now hope the weather is ok on Sunday for team training.
Tricks wise, both Sleet and Wren are learning to circle me backwards and are doing well. Wren has learnt the putting her paws on my feet and me walking along and also to back through my legs and the figure 8. Sleet has learnt those and has been learning more upright type stuff such as jumping up at my back and walking along with me in this position, doing a circle round me in "jumped up", position and letting me do a swirl whilst she stays in position. She hardly needed any training for any of these and seems to be a natural at that type of stuff. She's doing more steps on the limp and also on her front legs with hind legs up.
On the art front, I am still currently working on my sisters xmas present. It's a montage of her older dog Monty with a head study and two smaller flyballing studies. I can't post it in here because she looks in on this. It'll have to wait until after xmas. I have done the head and am currently working on the first of the two smaller studies.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Some flyball training today and general trick training..

Today, my sister and I arranged to do some flyball training whilst she had a box loaned from our flyball club. I'm often made to work on Sundays so I can have trouble attending the club training and when I do have sunday free, the weather decides it's going to be atrocious so training gets cancelled. The forecast for this weekend isn't good either.
Today, it was dry, if a little windy, and we got some decent training done. Sleet is coming along well. She was a little fairy like on the box at first but after she was shown how to really treat a box, she's well away and developing a nice swimmers turn.
Wren has a few little issues to iron out. At our club training, she has the problem of not actually going down to the box for the ball straight away and just turning to look at me. If my sister box loads, she doesn't seem to do that so maybe she just needs somebody she knows to boxload until she gets more into it. We didn't have any of that today as my sister was boxloading.
I used a tuggy to encourage her back quicker and it sister mentioned that she was the only dog she knew that went back ten times faster than she went down but she has the issue of spitting the ball sometimes on her way back or not bringing it back at all. Of course, no ball, no tuggy and she goes back to get the ball when told. As Sleet never allowed her to get a ball that was thrown for them, she hasn't developed quite the ball drive that sleet has. It took some clicker training and encouragement just to get her to want to pick a ball up after chasing it and then bring it back and she's come along quite well considering.
She now has some drive but it just needs developing that bit she needs to improve her catching skills. She jumps onto the box and always misses the ball which falls to the ground and she has to fumble about trying to grab it before she can come back.
She's still only young though at 8.5 months so there's plenty of time before she can even compete in starters, nevermind sanctioned tournaments.
She's enthusiastic about the whole experience which is the most important thing.

On the trick training front, I've generally been teaching them in the evening using their suppers as the food rewards. The sessions last as long as their supper does.
They've both learnt quite a lot already and have been learning several new things at a time.
They are both currently learning the quite difficult trick of walking on their front legs. Sleet is coming along well with this and took her first few steps forward on her front legs last night. Being light and skinny, she doesn't find it as hard holding herself upright like this. Wren being that bit bigger and heavier needs a little more practise keeping her back end off the floor a little bit longer but she knows how to lift it up fine and do a quick handstand.
Sleet has also been learning the limp the last couple of nights and took her first steps last night with one leg lifted and without physical aid from me so I was dead pleased with that.

Ok, So I decided to start one too.

Everyone seems to be starting a blog these days so I thought I'd follow suit.
I'll be talking about everything in this blog, not just dogs. I'll also talk about my art (pet portraits and animal art), photography, cacti and any other interests and pastimes I get up to.
There's just too many things I do to create a seperate blog for each...would take forever keeping them all up to date...