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Paxton

About 2 years ago we had to say goodbye to our dog Paxton. The whole situation rocked me in a variety of ways. I wrote a piece about him as I have about many of our dogs after losing them. However, I could not bring myself to go back and edit this piece to make sure it conveyed the message I intended. I was too emotional to even re read the words I had wrote. It sat in the abyss waiting to see the light of day. A year after we lost Paxton I wanted to publish the piece I had wrote as a remembrance of him on his anniversary but I could not find the post anywhere. I couldn’t remember where I had stored the writing. It’s part of my curse. Complete lack of organization. I was devastated to not have that writing anymore. As his 2 year anniversary approached I once again began to search for my writing about him and some how I was able to find it. So now around his 2 year remembrance I am posting this unedited piece that I wrote after the incident that preceded us saying goodbye to Paxton.

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One of my first photos of Paxton

I love dogs. Dogs pretty much run my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sure, having as many as 7 dogs (The number of dogs we have right now and the most we’ve ever had at one time.) all in one house, some ours and some fosters, can be challenging at times. It can be stressful and frustrating but it also has tremendous rewards.

It’s been a long time since my wife and I actually sat down and decided that we wanted to get another dog. Dogs just seem to find us. If you are a dog lover I bet you can relate. Dogs just spontaneously show up in your life and become family.

When you commit to having dogs its a lot like deciding to have children. You make changes to your lifestyle to make sure you can provide for your dogs and give them the life they deserve. This is the case each time you decide to add another dog. You evaluate what you will need to do differently to accommodate this new family member and you do it.

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Sometimes a new family member may have some special needs. They may have some sort of physical impairment or some sort of psychological condition that requires more than just the normal amount of consideration in ones daily routine. We seem to have been “blessed” with many such dogs in our family.

Sometimes you don’t know you have a special needs dog on your hands when you first bring them into your home (Mojo our husky who we can’t really pet) but at other times you are fully aware of the issues you are taking on (Caspian who had behavior issues).

When we decided to go meet Paxton at the shelter I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another dog, but he seemed to be a model citizen with us and our dog we brought along so we brought him home. Once we were home with Paxton we set about learning who he was.

We learned quickly that Paxton had some degree of separation anxiety as he broke out of multiple kennels and had some mild destructive tendencies while we were away. He was very tolerant with our dogs even our two that barked at him incessantly when we had him around. He became best friends with our dog Brynn. All Paxton wanted to do was love us and be loved by us.

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We tried as hard as we could to show him how much we loved him and he was never short on affection for us. He was never short of kisses and snuggles. He slept with us every night we had him even on a camping trip.

As we worked with Paxton we learned more about his anxieties. He did not like small children, so we made sure to avoid them. He was OK being around large groups of people durring community events but he ddid not like having one or a few people suddenly approaching on a hiking path. Keeping him moving with a “Let’s go.” cue worked wonders for him.

We learned that putting collars on Paxton was something he did not enjoy. Using treats we could lure him into putting his head through a wide open collar and then let go. Then we could tighten it after it was on him. You could see in his body posture that he did not really like to have a person reach over his head or even reach out to his head to be petted. He has a momentary hesitation and tension displayed in his body. His tail stops it constant wriggle and he tenses and cowers down ever so slightly. So approaching him in other ways is always preferable. Occasionally something would spook Paxton and he would become very barky and defensive towards one of us, but he could always be called off and settled down in a short period of time.

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It can be challenging to learn to treat one dog differnetly than all the other dogs in your home.

Being a dog lover is difficult. You want to help every dog. You try to help every dog you can. And sometimes that leads to mistakes.

We recently brought a new foster dog into our home and we adore her. However, she is an 8 month old puppy and has not yet learned to sleep quietly in her kennel throughout the night. This has resulted in some nights with less than ideal sleep. Our morning routine changed.

This combination of change and sleep deprivation probably contributed to me making a mistake. I fed Paxton as I always do. He knows to go to his kennel to eat and I give him a “wait” cue and he waits while I place his food dish and eats when I release him from his “wait”. He is a pretty fast eater so sometimes I am still in the room with him when he finishes eating and I will give him a quick scratch and pet before I leave the room and go on about the rest of my dog care and work prep morning routine.

For some reason this morning I did something different. I did something I have never done with Paxton. I pretty much broke all the rules of human to dog interaction, especially when interacting with an anxious dog.

Paxton finished eating and jumped up on the bed and sat, waiting to be petted. I walked over to him and stood directly in front of him, towering over him. I placed both my hands on his shoulders. I then proceeded to lean over him to try to give him a kiss on the head. And that last part was too much for Paxton to bear. I invaded his space too much. I put too much pressure on Paxton with my behavior. Paxton responded to `my intrusion into his personal space by biting me in the face.

It happened in a flash. Luckily my wife was right there in bed and responded immediately to put Paxton into his crate and then we left the room.

My wounds required me to see a plastic surgeon to stitch my lip back together in two places, as well as a few other wounds requireing sutures. Thankfully I was not critically injured.

My thoughts turned immediately to Paxton. Once I knew I would be OK Paxton was the only thing I could think about. I do not blame Paxton for what happened. The blame lies solely with the human. I still love Paxton. I did not know where to go from here.

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With my stitches I could not allow Paxton to continue to sleep in our bed because he is pretty active and loves to like faces and I couldn’t risk the stitches being compromised or risk infection. Paxton had to be penned up in the furnished basement.

My wife and I debated what to do.

There seemed to be no good option.

Paxton’s behavior seemed normal after the incident. He wanted to interact with me and my wife the same as always. Paxton still trusted me despite there terrible situation I put him in.

Unfortuantely, my interactions with Paxton changed. I saw every tension in him. Every time he hesitated I hesitated. I couldn’t trust him. At least not right now.

The options for Paxton are limited:

1.) Surrender him to a shelter: At a shelter with his bite history and his size and unfortunately his breed, he would not likely be made available for adoption and would probably be euthanized. And maybe that would be the most responsible thing for a shelter to do. And I will not pass off my responsibility to make that decision to the shelter, which will do their job. It is my responsibility to make this decision and my responsibility to be there with Paxton when the time comes.

2.) Surrender him to a sanctuary: The biggest concern if this were an option would be what kind of quality of life would he have there. I am not willing to drop him someplace that I don’t know what their reputation is and how they interact with animals that are there for the long term. I don’t have the resources or contacts to know of any reliable sanctuaries that would be willing to take a dog knowing he is not going to be adopted and care for him for the next 10 years. I am only really familiar with one true sanctuary and that one is literally thousands of miles away.

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3.) Keep Paxton and continue to manage his behaviors: While I am not completely opposed to this option it does not seem like the most responsible thing to do. If it were just me I would possibly do it and I am sure my wife would say the same thing, but considering we need to look out for each other’s safety and well being this doesn’t seem realistic. We also have to think about those around us. We do not have a fenced in yard. And while Paxton has never shown any indication that he would run off or run up to people it is always a possibility and people getting hurt trying to retrieve him would be my responsibility.

4.)  Euthanize Paxton: I hate this option. I do not want to do this. It breaks my to even think about this. However, I think this may be the most responsible option. It protects the safety of my wife and the others in our community. It would ensure that Paxton does not end up somewhere that he may spend his life suffering.

Paxton biting me is like letting the genie out of the bottle and you just can’t put it back in.

Do I think Paxton is a danger to bite someone in general, No. Do I think he would bite me again if I did the exact same thing, yes.

Prior to this incident I was never worried about the possibility that Paxton might bite me or anyone for that matter. Now everything has changed. I don’t know if that is fair to me or fair to him but that is the reality.

This one incident just colors everything else that can possibly happen now. The specter of another bite will always be lingering in the back of my mind.

I can’t risk having that happen to someone else. If my dog bit my wife or someone else the way he did me I could never forgive myself.

I just don’t know that there is any other option that makes sense. There are no good options here. There is no happy ending.

Life can be so unfair. I am angry and distraught. The cost of loving a dog is that your heart can be ripped out of you and that can happen in the most unexpected ways.

I love this dog and I know he loves me. I made a stupid mistake and now it will cost him his life.

I know that no mater what we decide to do there will be people out there who see other options and have other opinions about what we should do and that is fine. This is a situation that has no clear cut answer. You just have to consider all the variables and do what you personally judge to be best. Then you have to live with it.

I think this is a decision one has to make with their head and not with their heart. I think that the only responsible thing to do for all involved is to euthanize Paxton. It tears my up inside to say that. It is NOT what I want for him. It is not what he deserves. The main factors that are leading me to make this decision are his general anxieties and anxiety with being handled in certain ways and his occasional defensive barking episodes directed at us. Perhaps the most influential aspect is how the bite itself happened. While I am sure there was postural body language indications that I should have noticed preceding the bite to indicate that I should stop, there was no obvious warning sign that a human no matter how inexperienced would recognize as a clear warning not to proceed with the behavior. There was no growl or bark preceding the bite to warn me. The bite itself was not just a quick defensive nip to stop me so he could escape either. It was something more serious than that which eludes description by me at this time. I think these circumstances are what must guide my decision.

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I think to do anything else under these circumstances is to invite disaster.

Perhaps people in different circumstances with different resources, different connections, and different skills might come to a different decision but this is the only one that I can come to in my circumstances.

I will never know if this was the right decision, but it is the decision that I have made and it may haunt me for the rest of my life. My actions that caused this situation will serve as a lesson that I will carry with me forever.

It might be easy for some people reading this account to conclude euthanasia is the obvious answer, but when it is your dog that ends up in this situation it changes everything. You love your dog and your dog loves you and I feel like I have betrayed my dog by creating this situation where this now has to happen.

Paxton has been such a happy, exited, playful, and loving dog. When I think of dogs being euthanized because of a dog bite I think of aggressive, uncontrollable, and unmanageable dogs that pose an obvious and immediate danger to people. I do not see Paxton.

The wounds to my face caused by the bite were serious but they are already healed. They are not the most serious wounds I will carry with me from this. My heart has been wounded and I fear it will never heal.

If anyone else has had to wrestle with a terrible situation like this please feel free to share your story in the comments. I would appreciate the  support and community of others.

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Photography Flow

I have talked in the past about how my photography has a tendency to flow with other passions in my life. There are many things I am passionate about and they have all become part of my photography. However, the subject that becomes most prominent in a given time frame often has to do with what I am experiencing in my life. Nothing ever fall completely out of my photography repertoire but there are definitely times when some things fall to the background and new things arise.

As running has become a more prominent part of my life I find myself photographing more running. I have been trying to find new ways to photograph my adventures in running. As running has become a prominent influence in my photography I want to find more ways to showcase that influence.

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Next year I will be having a gallery exhibit and I think this might be a good time to try to showcase some of my running photography. I have been wanting to create some new work for exhibits and a lot of my new work has focused on running. It makes sense that my next exhibit should also center around this new passion in my life. So, now I am constantly thinking about ideas of how I want to create a gallery show to show of some of the best things I have seen in running.

For me one of the most important things about running are the things you see while running that you may never otherwise see. Running has lead me to go places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone and do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done. I think one of the goals of my 2018 exhibit will be to show off some of these experiences I have had.

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I have really been working hard on incorporating my photography into my running to get the true feeling of what my experiences are like and photograph as much of my journey as possible. I haven’t officially started to review my work to make sure I have enough images that are of high enough quality that I would want to share them in an exhibit yet, but I feel like I do. If I don’t then there is even more incentive to get out there and run and photograph over the next few months.

I look forward to having an opportunity to share my work and my passion with people again in another gallery exhibit and I hope to see you all out there. If you have any ideas on how I could further incorporate my photography into my running experiences I would love to hear it. I would also love to hear any ideas you have about my exhibit. Please comment here or find me on Facebook and Twitter and connect.

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Supporting The Arts

Art makes up a huge swath of our lives. Art is present in ways that we may not even think about. The TV  shows and the movies we watch involve untold numbers of artists working in a variety of ways so that we can enjoy those products. Writers, actors, directors, photography, and digital artists just to name a few work together to bring these things to us. The books we read are works of art. That giant billboard with the cool text and photography that is also art.

Then there are the more traditional works of art we think of: Painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, poetry. These are the kinds of things most people think of when we talk about art and there are many more items that can be included in that list. Many of us enjoy art in its various forums from museums, to art galleries, to public performances. Most of the people who support art also want to support art and the artists that create it.

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One of the most challenging thing in these times is figuring out how exactly to best do that. How do we support the arts that we love? Many artists offer their works for sale, but that can be problematic for many reasons. The price of artwork varies from reasonably affordable to something most people could never afford. I am not criticizing anyone’s pricing of artwork. It is just a complication in the art world. You may really love a piece of art but there may be no way you could ever afford to buy the piece you love and enjoy, so how do you show your support to the artist and show your appreciation for their work? Another challenge that arises with works of art is that they take up space. Some of them a lot of space. Perhaps there is a piece of art you love and could afford but were in your house would you put it? Thi can be quite a challnge. If you love art or perhaps are an artist yourself you probably already have a great deal of art in your home. So, if you can’t buy a piece because you have no place to put it how do you support the artist and show your appreciation for what they do?

There is clearly no easy answer to the conundrum of how to best support artists directly. However, for me there is one process that I have found that I really like and that is the website Patreon. This is a great site for creators. People who enjoy creative endeavors can go here and support artists and other creatives directly. People can interact with the creators and enjoy becoming part of the process and even earn rewards for supporting the creators. My goal is to become increasingly involved here and support the people whose work I enjoy through this site.

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I believe this website solves some of the biggest problems I raised above regarding supporting artists through buying their work as I mentioned above. You can contribute as little as $1 up to any amount you want on a monthly basis to help support what the creator is bringing into the world. Thus helping to ensure that the creator is able to keep on working. If you want to support an artist but can’t or don’t want to plunk down the whole amount of the price for a piece of artwork all at one time perhaps consider spreading that amount out over monthly payments to support that artist.

I have been becoming increasing active on Patreon. I really think this is the future of art. I try to share more and more about what I have been doing there so that people who might wish to support me can learn about what I do. I recently began to receive support from my first patrons on the website and it is a great feeling to know that people believe in you and want to contribute directly to the work you are doing. I appreciate the support so much. If you enjoy what you see on this blog or elsewhere on the website or my social media please consider supporting me here: KRNaturalPhoto/Patreon

 

Woof and Wine Fest

For me there is not a whole lot better than an event with dogs. The only thing that can make that better is if it is an environment where I can take photographs of all the dogs. Last year we went to this event for rescue and shelter organizations at a local winery. It is so much fun to see all the shelter/rescue dogs out int he public getting attention.

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The event is not designed for photography so it takes some creativity to capture the nice images that these shelter dogs deserve. Shelter dogs are such amazing animals. They deserve to get the best I can offer them. So I really strive to capture great images of them. It makes me so sad that I didn’t get around to sharing these photos until now.

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I am sure that by now all these fine dogs have found warm loving forever homes. They were all at the event with great organizations that were taking great care of them. Getting to play with dogs and photograph them is pretty much a day in my own personal heaven. The only downside is when you meat adorable friendly dogs but you already have so many dogs at home that you can’t take one of these adorable shelter dogs home with you.

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That is one reason I try to photograph the dogs and share their photographs. I would love to take them all home but we have already done our fair share of rescuing and adopting dogs so there is no room with us despite what our hearts might want. So I need to share their photos and help them find great new homes. This is something I have collaborated in with our local shelter and the more I think about it the more I need to find a way to get back to the shelter and photograph more dogs and share their stories so they can find a way home. If you want to help support me in that mission you can support me on Patreon so that I can spend more time working with the shelter pets. https://www.patreon.com/KRNaturalPhoto

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If you are anything like me just seeing cute and friendly dogs out and about melts your heart and I just love the opportunity to capture nice images of dogs in general. But then there is a chance to help a shelter/rescue dog find a home it might not otherwise find I think my heart grows three sizes like the Grinch and I strive even harder to capture images that really capture the personality of these dogs and presents the best they have to offer so that potential adopters will get the best look at them that they can and maybe be persuaded in part by my photography to look into one of these dogs and maybe go meet them. And sometimes just one meeting with a shelter dogs is all it takes for them to steal your heart. Then off they go to a new home. I love the idea that I could be a part of making that happen in any small way. But it is really about the dedicated staff at the rescues and shelters. They make it happen.

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I really need to focus on this part of my photography more and post photos in a timely manner so that they can have the most impact. If nothing else I hope that my photos help to give shelter/rescue dogs a better reputation. They are too often portrayed as broken scared dogs. Anyone who has been loved by a shelter dog knows that in most cases this is the furthest thing from the truth and if one person sees my photos and decides to check out their local shelter and falls in love with any dog then I have played my small part.

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But also, cute puppies. I mean come on. How do you not love that. Look at that face. That tiny nose and those cute eyes. That is all it takes to get my attention.

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After a long day at an event it is time for a puppy nap.

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Even the older dogs need their beauty sleep. So if you ever hear that there is a rescue event going on nearby do check it out. You might just meet your next best friend.

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Ideas to Execution

I am an idea person. I have lots of ideas. Ideas and thoughts of all kinds constantly spring to mind. Ideas that excite me and motivate me and make me want to take action and do things. But that is where the problem is, I am an idea person.

I am not great at executing my ideas. If an idea energizes me enough I will often start working on it and even make some significant progress. But eventually the energy and the motivation fades as I lack the motivation and determination to see the idea through to completion. There are so many notes and half written projects stored on my computer. So many ideas that just haven’t gotten off the ground because I lose steam.

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Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. I am not a good planner. I am not good at the details. I am not good at all the concrete actual things that need to happen to transform an idea from a thought into something tangible in the real world. It is one of my biggest human failings.

Sometimes ideas never emerge in a completed fashion because another idea comes along and crowds out other ideas with the energy that comes with the excitement of something new. Sometimes an idea never materializes because I simply forget to follow through.

Other times ideas never go anywhere because I am afraid. That most terrible and unstoppable of human emotions. That one emotion that can stop us in our tracks and completely undo us. The one emoton above all others that most of the time is completely unfounded. The fear and anxiety that comes along with trying to do something great. Trying to do something real that you believe in personally is the scariest most anxiety producing thing a person can do. What if you fail at this dream you’ve had. What does that say about you.

This has been one of my biggest struggles. The constant fight against the fear and anxiety that emerges every time I take on a new idea and try to make it real. I am desperately trying to overcome this hurdle. This website with everything that is on it is part of overcoming that hurdle. I try to regularly add new content. I try to write new posts and share new photos. When you see long stretches of time where that has not happened, that is when the fear and anxiety has gripped me. That is where I wanted so badly to share something but just couldn’t find the strength to actually type the words.

Sometimes it takes something big happening in your life to give you the fortitude to do the things you have always wanted to do. It might not even be a good thing that has happened, but you might be able to draw purpose from it. That purpose will fuel you and give you the strength and determination to work on the things that you are passionate about. Accomplishments come most naturally when they involve the things that matter most to you.

For me the things that are most important to me are dogs and running, especially in the past few years. So when you look at my website you will find that most of my content has to do with dogs or running. I include e a lot of photographs in my content. I love photography but photography is not what I love to talk about. My content is not about photography. My love of photography allows me to communicate about the things that are most important to me. I am probably a better communicator through my photography than through my writing but hopefully they complement each other well and people appreciate the work.

Find the things that make you tick and find the energy to create something from that.

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Winter Hike

Its been too long since I have gotten out for a good hike, and this winter has been too long. With this last snowstorm that blew through New York it feels like winter will never end despite spring being just around the corner. The only thing that makes it any better is that after this snow storm I was able to get out to one of my favorite places and experience what the storm left us.

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Tangelwood Nature Center is one of my favorite places to go to just be out in nature. It provides some of the most beautiful scenery in our area. I never seem to find my way there frequently enough. Today I went there to hike through the snow and enjoy being alive and being outside. Being that I am both a nature lover and a photographer I brought cameras.

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I wanted to not only hike around and breath the fresh are and experience the wonders of nature I wanted to try to capture some images that I could share with everyone. There are so many different reasons I love Tanglewood and that means in order for me to capture everything I want in one trip I need a variety of equipment. To capture the full scenic view that is Tanglewood I brought my Nikon 1 J5 mirror-less camera with the wide angle zoom 10-30 mm lens. I also like to try and isolate certain elements of the scene from others. For that purpose I brought my Nikon 50 mm f1.8 lens on my Nikon D300 DSLR camera body. Then perhaps my favorite aspect of Tanglewood is the wildlife, particularly birds. For that I used my Nikon 300 mm f4 lens with the 1.4 teleconverter on my Nikon D500 DSLR camera body. With that gear I set off.

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The snow was deeper than I expected and it was warmer than I was expecting. I was fine while I was standing still photographing some bluebirds. But with the sun out and shining I quickly heated up as I trudged through the deep snow. The deep snow and recent cold weather had me thinking I needed to bundled up. Turns out I was overdressed. But, too warm is better than too cold I guess.

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There had been people there prior to my visit cross country skiing. I started off staying on their tracks. It made the hiking a little bit easier. Eventually as the ski tracks became more frozen and hard it was just easier to hike through the fresh snow. I don’t care who you are but it is one of the coolest feelings to be the first one to put tracks into virgin snow. The snow had drifted and was quite deep in places. it was up to my knee as I sunk in at times, but the varying depth was another challenge because you never knew what the next step was going to be lie. I went from sections of deep snow over my knee to a patch where I could see grass in just a short series of steps. When I was in areas of open field I couldn’t even tell where the actual trail was supposed to be, so I just did my best.

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I just hiked around on some of the more open trails closer to the main complex. I didn’t get down into the woods. I was so happy to just get out and enjoy the day. No real plan, just be outside, do something, and enjoy.

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