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You know how some people make these smart, cute, beautiful Christmas cards with their family pets in them with pithy captions and all? I spent a few hours last week trying to do a Christmas card photo with the dogs in it. I had a few ideas and I was pretty sure one of them would work. I got everything ready and grabbed my camera.

"Smitty, Simone," I yelled at them. They were wrestling on the third floor, making a racket. As soon as they heard their names, the noise stopped and they scurried over to the stairs to come down to me. They turned the corner, then saw the camera and froze.

"Picture time," I said in my happy voice but they weren't buying it. I'm pretty sure they were wondering how long they could last up in the attic without food and water as long as they could avoid being photographed ever again.

I finally tempted them downstairs with their new favorite snack which is crunchy Christmas chicken feet. The best thing about crunchy Christmas chicken feet is they are chicken feet and they crunch and it's Christmas.

Also, I made them myself. Stole the idea from seeing dehydrated chicken feet sold in local pet stores as an alternative doggie snack to those potentially toxic chicken strips from China. I'd bought a bag of that stuff and the dogs went beserkers over them but it was pricey. So, after that bag was demolished, I bought some fresh chicken feet (they are every bit as gross as the name implies) by the pound at the chicken store, stuck them in the oven and a few hours later, voilà, crack for dogs.

My first photo idea was to just have the dogs posed in front of the leaf naked but adorned magnolia tree in the front yard. We got a big plastic bucket of a hundred Christmas baubles this year and they took an hour to hang and looked nice sparkling in the sunshine of the afternoon. The dogs, however, weren't impressed, especially Smitty who just wanted more chicken feet. It was at this point that I realized how very untrained and undisciplined my dogs were. I couldn't even get them to sit still for ten seconds. If they weren't such pathetically needy creatures, I'd definitely trade them in for gerbils.

Anyway, I took some shots and the pictures sucked. The shiny baubles were lost against the brick and branches and I couldn't get the dogs to not move and look into the camera at the same time. The ingrates didn't even pretend to care about their Christmas photo.

I moved on to idea two which was not only a Christmas photo idea but also a way to get rich. Everyone's buying those reindeer antlers to put on their dogs' heads right? Well, my idea was going to be just as popular. I was going to make bauble holders out of wire coat hangers and attach them to the dogs' collars. The idea was to have a Christmas bauble dangling by string over each of the dogs' heads. It would be hilarious.

I got the coat hangers, straightened them out then bent them into a shape I thought would work. I masking taped them to the dogs' collars and tried them on the dogs. With me holding everything in place, the contraptions looked good, looked like they might work.

I got the dogs into the backyard. I put the contraption on Simone. She wasn't very happy with it and started shaking her head trying to get rid of the dangling bauble but it only kept hitting her on the head and freaked her out more. With one hand, I tried calming her down while with the other I tried to get the collar on Smitten but Smitten could see what I had done to Simone and wasn't very impressed.

I managed to get the collar on Smitten but as soon as I let her go, she ran around the backyard like a lunatic and smashed the bauble along the fence and it went flying (luckily the baubles were all plastic so nothing sharp broke off) and then got the coat hanger contraption caught in some vines growing along the fence, pulled all the vines down and then the masking tape ripped and the coat hanger came off the collar.

Smitty is smiling in the photo below because she is very happy with herself and lording over the fact she isn't suffering the same indignities as Simone.

My final idea was to just put winter hats on the dogs and photograph them. Stella and Rocky were always fine with winter hats so I figured it would be the same with Simone and Smitten.


Simone's head was too small for the hat I had so I had to stuff newspaper into it to give it some shape and it made Simone look somewhat like Marge Simpson.

Smitten by this point had enough and wasn't even going to entertain the idea of letting anyone put a hat on her. She went from loving pet to hissy fit two year old toddler who had just been denied the ice cream she wanted and instead had to eat boiled cabbage.

I did get this shot of Simone and played around with it in Photoshop to have it look like an ancient hand coloured photo of an impoverished babushka from some thatched roof village ruled by a descendant of Count Vlad the Impaler but it wasn't very Christmasy.

So, after taking a couple of hundred photos - thank God for digital cameras - I ended up with two possibly usable images. There's this one with Simone and hanging bauble which is close to the way I envisioned it (umm, it's funnier live) but in the background Smitten is shaking her bauble holder coat hanger and then trying to stamp it into the ground.

The second choice, the one I ended up using, was perhaps only slightly better and it was still kind of like the Charlie Brown's Christmas tree of Christmas cards with its sad, single bauble poking awkwardly into frame ... but I figured it was still better than Photoshopping Santa Clause beards onto Simone and Smitten's faces which was my genius fourth idea.

Well, the good news is there's plenty of room, and time, for improvement for next year.

7 Comments to “Three attempts at a Christmas photo”

  1. Certainly explains the look you're getting from Smitten in the photo you did use. All I got was several unusable views of my dawgs doing various dawg things involving each other's butts, so you are still wwwaaaayyyy ahead in the seasonal photo sweepstakes.

  2. Jane says:

    I really enjoy your blog. You are a great writer as well as a great photographer! Merry Christmas.

  3. BWAAHAAA!!!! Love the descriptions...especially Simone as Marg Simpson and the peasant in Vlad's village, actually laughed out loud in public reading those. Simone in the last pic looks like she has a car antenna stuck to her collar with one of those parking lot locators on the top.
    Chicken feet are gross but dogs sure love 'em.

  4. SA MVH says:

    What a wonderful Christmas story...............

  5. The adventures of Smitten and Simone. Best. Xmas. Picture. Ever. Better patent your dog ornament hanger. Simone looks like a Rastafarian with dredlocks in the hat photos. Merry merry to you all.

  6. LOVE the "Marge Simpson" hat! The outtakes were the best, Fred! Thanks for sharing the imperfections. :)


  7. Anonymous says:

    Hmm I love it...good fun to post the outtakes. I took 300+ in my attempts. I have one compliant senior and the new dog....yeah. new. untrained. ants in her pants-won't sit still one. great entertainment and great ideas. so now you just have 300 days to practice until next year!

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.