I saw a dramatic sky developing and quickly rounded up my camera and gear from the office and headed downstairs to get the dogs ready. Thank goodness the rain finally stopped, I thought, as I finished putting their collars on and headed out the door.
It was much colder than I thought when I reached the access gate. I released Buddy and he scrambled under and through the barbed wire like an elite athlete as if it weren’t there. I’ve never understood how he gets his body low enough to sprint under the lowest wire at 6”. If I try to make him wait while I open the gate, he jumps into multiple wire strands like a WWI soldier on the battlefields of Somme. After witnessing this several times I concluded it was safer (for him and I) to let him go under. I reached for my beanie as I watched Olive chase after Buddy, who had a 5 second lead. When she caught up to him and chomped his neck I chuckled at the thought that I used to be the target of her biting bitchiness.
When I reached the halfway point up the hill I noticed the wind had picked up quite a bit and was thankful I brought the small umbrella with me. The gigantic one I used last week would be destroyed in 3 seconds, I thought to myself. I made my way to the top and began unpacking the gear at my favorite spot, excited at how great these shots would be with the dramatic skies. I hooked up the lighting gear and as is often the case when I focus on something else for 30 seconds, Buddy was gone.
He disappeared for the first time a month after we adopted him. When I called him back using his e-collar he back-tracked to our starting point, underneath the barbed wire, and to our house. Our neighbor picked him up and called me to let me know he was safe. (I’ve since learned that Buddy has a terrible sense of direction and may be the reason he’s a failed hunting dog).
I jumped up, beeped the collar, and started looking for him. Almost immediately I saw him only a few yards away and was relieved he hadn’t gone back to the gate. I’d never seen him roll in the grass like that, but I instantaneously knew why.
Dogs roll in shit for a number of reasons. One of the most popular theories is that it masks the dog’s scent for hunting purposes. They all do it, it’s universal and natural, but a muscular, energetic hound dog fully covered in fresh cow shit makes most humans irrational and angry, even if only for a few seconds.
Fuuuuuuuuuu…I screamed from the hilltop (literally) and scolded Buddy like a third grader who has torn his pants before class on picture day. Lots of “I can’t believe…….what are you doing……why…..get over here now……sit down” nonsense came out of my mouth. For 5-7 seconds I was my mother until I regained composure and realized I was talking to a dog. I walked back to my gear and disgustedly ordered Mr. shitty pants and Olive to sit on the rock.
I picked up my gear and lowered the light into place at the same moment a gust of wind caught the umbrella and blew it 90 degrees to the right. Olive promptly jumped down and ran to my pocket for a treat. Every shutter click means a reward and she’s a genius at starting her forward motion a nanosecond before the shutter clicks. Her movement caused Mr. Fecal Fur to amble over as well, his manure covered collar coming within inches of my face, causing me to stifle a gag. I got them set again and got into position so we could continue.
|Moving Just Before the Shutter Clicks|
At this point, I think It’s appropriate to step back and take a snapshot of what being “in position” and ready means.
Whereas there are three distinct roles in this endeavor, there is only one of me in these hills and I must dutifully cover all three in order for a photo to be taken. In no particular order these duties include photographer, lighting assistant, and dog wrangler.
In this scenario my left arm is the lighting assistant, holding a 5’ light stand at a downward angle with a 5 lb weight and windsock attached to the top. Despite Lefty’s best efforts, he’s failing at keeping the windsock directed into the wind at the dogs. My right hand and legs are the photographer. This gaggle of limbs is holding the camera with one hand, while doing deep knee bends for 30 seconds at a time to get the correct angle. Lefty is screaming in the photographer’s ear like a distressed boat captain that he can’t take much more and we’re about to have a catastrophic light failure. Meanwhile, my dog wrangling consists solely of my voice and I can vaguely hear it screaming at Olive and Mr. Dung Diver to please “Just sit the f&ck down and stay”!! (Not approved by the National Association of Dog Trainers).
|I think we lost the light, Captain|
Suddenly I hear Lefty Scream “She’s coming down!”
A gust of wind had caught the umbrella and it swung to the right, striking my face.
“Are you OK?” he screamed again.
“Yes, a small flesh wound, but we have a severely wounded soldier”, I replied.
The light stand had fallen and the umbrella took the brunt of the impact, the spines bent and splayed like an octopus gasping for air out of water. I must have clicked the shutter because Olive and Mr. Manure man came running over for a treat. Another gag.
|Time for a treat, right?|
“What did I tell you guys about sitting and staying?” I said, channeling my mother one more time.
I did a quick assessment and decided it was time to leave. I packed up the camera gear and realized there was no chance the umbrella could be sheathed in its mangled condition, making it impossible to carry out. I gave a quick invocation and then abandoned it like a dead hiker on Mt. Everest.
As I made my way down the hill and the rage began to dissipate, I had a chuckle about the whole experience. There was Buddy gleefully running about, sniffing the drainage inlets. There was Olive, nudging my pockets for treats, stopping for a quick bite of shit, then making her way towards the gate. Seeing their joy quickly brought things back into focus and reminded me of why I go into the hills in the first place. It would have been nice if they’d sat on that rock for a photo, though.