Sunday, January 30, 2011


"Just so I understand Stella, you can eat horse manure -
but you're grossed out by the thought of stepping in your own pee?"

I hate to say this but Miss Sweetness and Light, was a real bully the day before yesterday at the dog park. I'm not sure why unless it was the abundance of big dogs or maybe that she hasn't had the same level of exercise since the weather's been so bad lately. There were probably fifteen or twenty dogs there and one puppy. All of them were big romping stomping dogs too. I say she was a bully but really the thing is, she's taken to growling when she plays with other dogs. Not every dog responds well to it and their people certainly don't. Most of the dogs just went the other direction and didn't pay her much mind but a couple of them held their ground. Fortunately, she did find one dog Layla, I think her name was, who agreed to wrestle with her full out until both of them were exhausted. Then of course Stella went off to challenge all the others, to steal their toys, pee on their frisbees before they could retrieve them, square off with their children and generally cause an uproar. I finally just put the leash on her and we left. She came home and collapsed in her chair for a couple of hours and (just to drive home a point) I got her up and made her walk about two miles at the ball park. After that, she was a little more laid back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mo' free stuff

Calendar giveaway #2

First off thanks to those of you who joined us on the Carny Dog Facebook page. I really appreciate it. I hadn't planned on making such a page until recently when I realized that it would be a great way for some of the show people who drop by to painlessly add photos of their own midway dogs. I'm not sure if anyone will do it but we'll give it a go. Congratulations again to Tonya for winning the first giveaway. We put all the fan names in a hat, drew them out and numbered each one, then used a random number generator to choose the number. We'll do the same this time only now we'll draw from the comments below. Leave as many as you like. Contest ends at 7:30 pm, February 3, 2011.

While we're on the subject of giveaways, since you people are all animal lovers and I assume art lovers as well, Janet Nelson (who inspired this giveaway and the rules) is having a giveaway too. If you all will go over and leave a comment (be specific re: which painting you're interested in) on this post you may end up winning an original painting which I can testify is well worth your effort. Check out her other stuff too while you're over there. It's major-league creative, and as fun as Friday night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

United road dogs of America

This one is an old shot of Lucky and James taken in 2005. Lucky isn't with us anymore but James is (last I heard anyway).

One of my very own New Year's resolutions (this time around) is to locate and photograph as many carny dogs as possible over the next year. In years past I haven't made the dogs a priority, focusing instead on the owners and their lifestyles but it's always fun to change it up a little and the fact is, for a lot of carnival workers/showmen, just like the rest of us, their dog is family. In many cases, maybe more so because on a carnival lot, you can't just let your dog out in the back yard and forget about it. You have to be engaged and thinking of the dog's welfare twenty-four hours a day or things can go downhill fast. I've known a few guys that backed over their own dogs with a truck or left them tied up too close to one of those oh-so-delectable power lines. Talk about having your day ruined..

Many of you already know, there are all variety of dogs that travel with the carnival. Owners too. Some are spoiled rotten and some fend for themselves. They can be overfed, underfed, silly, angry, bored, and happy; happy to be bored, neurotic, athletic, entertainers. There are thoroughbreds and mutts and everything in between. As I've said before though, they're generally the most social dogs you'll ever meet. They have friends galore.

Having said that, I'm off to make them their very own Facebook Page. Please go over for a visit and "Like" it (them) and pass the link along to anyone you think might also like to see some magnificent road dogs from time to time. If you are one of those special people who actually owns a carny dog, we'd love to have you post a photo on the page as well and tell us in the caption a little bit about your dog. You never know, Stella and I might very well show up and photograph your best friend for next year's Carny Dog calendar!

Note: The calendars arrived last night and they are brilliant. My arm is cramping from patting myself on the back over it. In case anyone wonders, they start with February and go through next January. That way when you forget to get a new one next year, you'll still have an extra month of knowing what day it is ;-) Giveaway rules are forthcoming.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catnip Junkie

Stella has a friend, a cat I call Domino. Domino has been squatting at our house for the last few weeks. Her owner apparently decided she was going to be an "outside" cat from now on and Domino had a different idea. The only problem with this arrangement and it really isn't that much of a problem, is that Domino is a catnip junkie. She's laid claim to a sock filled with catnip and she carries it around the house with her and stays high most of the time. She places it lovingly on the floor and then proceeds to roll around on it like cats do, presumably coating her fur with it's magnificent, opiate perfume. The funny thing is, she's got Stella doing it too. Now, obviously it doesn't have the same effect on Stella and I'd venture a guess that Stella wonders if she isn't missing something. Occasionally I'll walk into a room and Stella will have carried off the sock herself and is now lying with it between her feet studying it. She'll look at it for a long time and then bite it. just once, and study it some more. So far, nothing. Good thing too. I'd hate to have to send them both to rehab.

*Note: Anyone who managed to make it through that last post deserves a calendar ;-)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bomb dog serenade

I hadn't planned on going to the inauguration of Tennessee's new Governor. I had wanted to shoot it but having not been asked, I figured I needed to get Stella out for a long walk after the snowy week we had. I knew there was a parade planned downtown after the inauguration so we headed down to the Bicentennial Mall for the walk and later, once the inauguration was underway, we headed up the hill to the Capitol. Although several roads were blocked off things were strangely quiet. I don't know why but I expected hordes of people all around town on the order of say- a hockey game. I told myself that it was because they were all listening attentively, as our new Governor was being sworn in, a couple of blocks away.

When Stella and I came around the back side of the Capitol, there were two Highway Patrolmen standing on the corner. One of them said, "Nice dog." I smiled and thanked him. I could see something that looked like a big partition there in front of the building with people sitting on risers, facing the public library and I asked him if the new Governor was being inaugurated. He said "Yes," and pointing toward the red, white and blue wall, added that he had just walked up onto the stage moments ago. The fact that there were risers positioned there with people on them completely threw me as far as how the crowd (which I still couldn't see) was oriented. The street was empty except for security people and I then asked the State Trooper if it was alright for me to pass through. Looking back on it, I don't know what possessed him to say yes. All I can say is that he must have been blinded by the dog that was now standing there batting her eyelashes at him.

I've worked (photographing) hundreds of such events and am pretty clear on exactly how little stimulus it sometimes takes to divert the attention of an entire crowd. We moved forward with caution. Just about fifteen yards in I noticed the motorcade and realized that though the crowd itself couldn't see me, I was now officially backstage at the Governor's Inauguration; with a pit bull in my left hand and a bag of dog poop in my right. My feet kind of started sticking to the pavement then. Stella and I were suddenly being eyeballed by all manner of armed state and Homeland Security personnel (naturally, on red alert) when someone walked up to the microphone and started to pray. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I told Stella to sit.

I did not pray for all of America or for the state of Tennessee. I did not pray for democracy or bipartisan politics or low taxes. I did not (sadly) pray for the troops or for people who are needy or grief-stricken, sick or homeless. I rather selfishly prayed for a job; a very specific job that I applied for in November, interviewed for six weeks ago and have done my best to procure ever since.

This my friends, is where things began to get weird.

When I opened my eyes and looked up, the actual person who interviewed me for the job - was standing ten feet away. Our eyes locked for one bone-crushing second and he was gone. I felt like I'd been catapulted into outer space on a bungee cord and now the Earth, in all of its glory was racing back at me like a bullet train. Convinced that this man might never hire me now, might never know that I was there purely by accident, might think that I had intentionally orchestrated our meeting at this very crucial moment, I somehow managed to suppress the scream from Psycho long enough to collect myself and find a trash can. I held onto the side of it with one hand and considered throwing up. "Stella", I said quietly, "Watch this. It's a perfect metaphor for your mama's career." We both watched as the bag dropped down into the bottom of the empty can. "Now" I said, "we're going to walk through here, this time without stopping and I don't want to see any big tears rolling down those cheeks of yours, you understand me?"

My thin hope was that despite the camera around my neck, this man whom I had come to admire and respect, hadn't actually recognized me. I was after all, wearing sunglasses and hiking boots. And really bad hair. I wasn't sure things could get any worse but determined to make the best of it, we moved on. We made it all the way across the back side of the stage this time and thankfully, our soon-to-be Governor was still waiting to be introduced. We came to the opposite corner where I could finally see the crowd that painted Legislative Plaza. It was a good sized crowd, though maybe not as large as I'd expected. We were directly behind the Army Band as they struck the first notes of some beautiful tune, probably the Tennessee Waltz, and just the moment, the very moment, I started to relax - the bomb dog spotted Stella and launched a serenade of his own. Neither of us looked back at them or at the crowd who could now see us from the front rows, but those who were already lined up on Sixth Ave. for the parade, were thoroughly entertained by the moment. I covered my eyes. Two people clapped.

I wish I could tell you that I did not sacrifice our future that day. The fact is it's too soon to tell. As for our new Governor and the people of Tennessee, it was a pretty spectacular day for an inauguration. The temperature was mild compared to a week ago when there was four inches of snow on the ground. We ended up sitting on the front lawn of the capitol to watch what turned out to be one of the best parades I've seen in a long time. Stella isn't that keen on marching bands or cannon fire but I have to give her credit. When it really counts, when the big guns are aimed in her direction, she always appears graceful and dignified whether her best friend does or not.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ramblin' man

Well my father was a pitbull down in Tampa
He wound up on the wrong end of a gun
And I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus
Rollin' down highway 41      The Allman Brothers Band (kinda')
I had occasion to sift through a ton of carnival pictures the other day and happily ran across a picture of Stella's daddy (above) along with her little brother (below, left). When these pictures were taken you understand, I didn't realize that I'd leave there with a dog or I might've made some effort to snag some family photos before we headed out. You know, posterity and all. I don't know his name or anything but I'm reasonably sure that it's him seeing as he was described to me by his owner Julian (the gentleman in the green shirt), also seen below holding the puppy that looks like a mini-version of the dog above.

I was moved to dig into the carnival pictures after (somewhat impulsively) deciding to make a Carny Dog calendar. It was loads of fun to make and it's filled with shots of some of the coolest dogs on America's midways. It should arrive sometime this week and I ordered an extra one to give away to some one of our regular readers which will no doubt be more fun than actually making the thing :) Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Here's a link to the coat(s) for those of you who may be interested. They're simple to order, fit beautifully and arrive within minutes (it seems).

Dog story of the day involves the Chuckit! ball launcher wherein we're on the baseball field (featured a couple of posts back) and Stella is fetching her brains out. She comes tearing back to me drops the ball, snatches the BAll LAUNCHER out of my hand and takes off. By the time she got back around to me I was laughing so hard she started high-stepping with it like some canine majorette. I didn't get a picture this time but they have a monthly photo contest over there. Not positive but I think we can win it.

I have to mention a couple of good blogs here that I've been (unsuccessfully) trying to comment on for weeks now. I've contacted a number of people but there are two that I haven't been able to reach and I'm hoping they'll check-in via the e-mail address in my profile. One is Janet at My Semi-Charmed Life and the other is Carey at One Laguna Life. I'm not typically a very prolific commenter but cut me off and I'll come up with all sorts of things to say. One of these women is looking for some new inspirational blogs to check out. My number one pick would have to be Switched at Birth. For more, I'd just set about pilfering her link list if it were me, not that I've ever done that...enjoy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Years Revelation

We see you resolutionaries out walking/biking/running in celebration of the new year. We admire your pluck and sincerely hope you are successful this time, whether your priority is losing weight, toning up or lapping us on the turn. It is with that thought in mind that I am moved to offer the tiniest slivers of wisdom to a select few of you who are so clearly annoyed by the presence of someone walking a dog; a dog by the way, who would totally love to tag you on the heel as you trot by us but who chooses not to.
Here goes:

1. We were here first and we will be here long after you have given up.

2. We regularly collect your empty water bottles & your power bar wrappers and place them in the trash bins much like your mother must have done for you far into your twenties.

3. When you slam past us at top speed on your new $2000. bicycle, it scares the crap out of both of us. The first time, it's fine, I understand, perhaps you didn't know. The third time you do it - you should understand that I'm fantasizing about beating you senseless with your own bicycle pump. I'm not sure what Stella has in mind but I assume it's some action of equal or greater value.

4. My dog is not on Valium. When your child charges us on a Big Wheel you should expect a reaction that doesn't include fairy dust or butterflies.

5. Finally, I understand that you are on a mission. Your aim is to reduce stress, not create it. Therefore, I respectfully submit that you not spend your time making open fun of Stella's winter coat lest I remind you that your new walking/biking/running ensemble makes you an athlete in much the same way my cowboy boots make me a cowboy.

To the rest of you: It's great to have a little company in these long winter months. Hang in there, we wish you all the best!