Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just one jump ...

Brody has pulled exactly 2 rails in his life - one in a standard run at CPE Nationals in 2008 in very deep footing.  

Brody turns 12 TODAY and the last 2 days confirmed something I have been noticing for a good while. His vision is going, going, not quite gone. We stayed at a new to him house and he was particularly cautious if the lighting wasn't perfect. I ran him on one course at the Webb Anderson clinic yesterday and the evening light was very difficult for him to read. He ran fast, we had fun but he took down that second rail in that run. He also looked for me which he had long gotten over. 

I may show him in AAC again - a master's jumpers or snookers might happen in perfect lighting or on a day he's hanging with me being bored - he LOVED playing yesterday but pretty much he's AAC/outdoor trials retired. 

CPE indoors was working fine for him in the spring - I suspect the more even lighting indoors helps him out a great deal so I may continue to run him there as long as he's having fun. 

happy birthday buddy ....  I hope you like your present!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shooting Sally - Q and A ...

How old is Sally and what kind of dog is she?

Sally , or so we've been told, is a  border collie lab mix  ... there are times her scenting ability suggests she must have some hound in there somewhere. We didn't get to meet her parents or even see pictures so we really have no idea. She was born in June of 2006 making her 6 years old through the filming of Saving Dinah. 

Has Sally had any formal acting training? Does she have any special experience to prepare her for the role of Dinah?

Sally has only had  two media interviews to date in her role of  Spokesdog for Spay/Neuter for Project Jessie -her rescue group. That said, much of her life has prepared her for her role. She has been well socialized since she came into rescue. Her first foster family did a great job loving her and letting her  grow up, her adoptive home (even tho it didn't last long) loved her to bits and since she's come into our lives she's been exposed to many new things and had lots of chances to keep her brain active and engaged!

How was Sally cast in the role of "Dinah"?

A dear friend Shelly, also Sally's first foster home, was speaking to the executive producer about trying to fill Dinah's paws. The script was originally written with a border collie in mind but the director was apparently open to ideas. Shelly thought of Sally and I was asked to speak to the director.  We had a nice chat and I cobbled together a little video of Sally being Sally so he could see her before he met her. I have a little bit of experience animal wrangling ... for a stage production of Annie, and two different TV shows;Sally is a bright, talented, hard working soul. The rest, as they say, is history!

What did Sally like best about her acting experience?

I think the the number one thing was getting such steady work. She has an amazing, and enviable, work ethic. Sally is full of joy and nothing makes her happier than working. She loves learning new things so every day in every scene she had to learn the way the director wanted something done. She gave it full attention and focus. She also totally enjoyed her fans within the cast and crew and got to the point where she was pretty excited pulling into work! 

What was the hardest scene for Sally?

The hardest day physically for her by far was the beach day. The red ants were biting (me mostly - not her as I was brushing them off her), it was hot and because of continuity she couldn't swim til we were done. (Imagine a hot dog working her heart out on a beach when they love swimming? That's what Sally gave us.) 

The toughest for her to do was probably one that would usually have been quite easy. She had to listen to a sonnet. Easy enough right? Well, somehow our timing got a little out of sync and Sally became sure there was much much more to it than just listening!

Is Saving Dinah a real movie?

Saving Dinah is a very real movie. It's a full length feature film that will be opening in LA and various cities in Canada in the fall of 2012. 

Is Sally romantically linked to any other famous actor dogs?

HAHA - good one - nope! She is spayed and very happy hanging out with her doggy friends and helping take care of the foster baby animals that come through our house!

How long does it take Sally to learn a new trick?

Not long at all. Once I figure out what I want it to look like and how to "capture" it it's usually a matter of three or four repetitions before it can go on a cue. Sally has been wholly positively trained and the vast majority of what she has learned has been through shaping. She learned how to weave through my legs in less than a week. One day on set I realized she wouldn't be able to see the hand signal for down (usually my hand goes behind my back) so I had to teach her a new one (I just put my hand  on my head). It took one verbal cue linked to the hand on head for her to 'get' it. Have I mentioned she's a smart girl?

What is Sally's next project?

I'm on leave from my job for the next year so we will do agility and learn some new things together and hopefully have fun promoting the film. 
TTL Photo

Have Sally's trainers done this before?

As I mentioned above I had the chance to work on 2 TV shows with a wide variety of animals (dogs, cats, bottle fed tiger and calves come to mind!) and a stage production at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto with my senior dog, Brody. 

What was the experience like for Sally, do you think she enjoyed it, and
if so, in what way?

I know she enjoyed it. She was always happy on locations and she showed it by happily relaxing with us and by working hard when given the chance. If she hadn't been happy we would have been getting a lackluster performance from her. She snuggled with everybody she could and was always bouncing when she arrived at a shoot. 

I imagine that being on the set could be stressful for Sally. Did you do anything to help Sally cope?

Sally is one of the happiest souls I have had the pleasure of knowing.  Our relationship is built on fun and trust she rarely gets stressed, that said I had lots of ways to help her enjoy the experience. I realized quite quickly that she liked to say hi to the cast and crew when we arrived so made sure to give her time to do that before she was asked to work. Red Ball came with us quite often and when there was space we'd have a session of  fetch, if there was no room for that we'd play a game we call Tug and Release. She had yak cheese chews and sweet potato chews to keep her energy up. I kept the Rollover for the cast who needed her attention in a scene and that worked well. I am very grateful to the cast and  crew who heeded my warnings about not feeding Sally without asking as we made it through the five weeks without any flare up of her allergies! Sally and I enjoyed hanging out together. I considered my sole job keeping her comfortable and happy (and the other animals when they were present too), sometimes that meant being uncomfortable myself (amazing how small a space I could squish into) but Sally's love of the game of life and filming made it worth it. 

It was extremely hot during much of the shoot, was there anything you did
to help her handle the heat?

The heat was probably my single biggest concern overall for Sally. We traveled with  her collapsing crate (aka her tent), a solar and a battery fan, gallons of water, lots of towels and a reflective cover. We don't have ac in the truck and we don't use it at home so she is quite well acclimated to the heat but dogs suffer heat exhaustion much more easily than humans. I was a total shade hog when I needed to be (sorry crew!) and kept cool water nearby at all times. Sally didn't have any compunction about leaving a scene to grab a drink if she needed it. I covered her in wet towels between takes if it was really awful. 

One day we had a black lab in the sun for a shoot and one of our amazing cameramen, Micheal, grabbed a white board to fan Tristan to keep him comfy. We were all aware of the heat and worked together to make sure all the animals were comfortable at all times. 

What was it like for you being on set with Sally?

It was really interesting, I thought my regular work in TV land would prepare me for the experience but I was wrong.  This director was quite willing to have many many takes from a wide variety of perspectives for his editing process. Spending five weeks to get 90 minutes of finished film turns out to be much more painstaking than 1 or 2 days for an episode of TV.  Having Sally with me was a nice icebreaker for lots of people. Until we knew each other we could always talk about her! 

How do you think Sally perceived what was going on? 

I really think she thought of the movie shoot as one great game. What were we going to ask her to do next? Her face when I asked her to open the crate door for one scene was hilarious. "You cannot really mean that? Turn your back and I'll do it!" Some things that people presumed she might not like (loud cheering, being moved in a crate, the smoke machine, the automatic clapboard, being handled by strangers) all meant good things to her so she was happy to give it her all. She knew that at the end of many takes there would be a walk, a snuggle, a tug, a ball and/or a treat for her. 

What is it about her that made her able to be Dinah, take direction, let others handle her?

Sally has a great sense of fun. As long as people were willing to embrace her sense of fun she was happy to play with them. I suspect her agility work helped a fair bit too as we have always worked on on what is known as distance skills. Once I realized she was more confident working away from me with some motion I would send her to work ... that seemed to help her realize that whatever was her job and I'd be there as soon as I could. I  communicated with her throughout the process; asking her to participate rather than demanding she do anything. Of course it didn't take her long to know  Dinah's family on set - in fact in one scene I removed her from the set as she was not happy about the way Caroline was being treated (great human acting obviously!). Sometimes I'm sure I took a little longer than people wanted to create the feeling the director seemed to want but I hope in the long run it paid off.  I was a bit of a fuss pot about making sure the animals were safe and comfortable even as they were in "horrible"conditions  - I hope all the humans involved understand that I was never trying to be difficult - just protective!

Did you have any reservations about allowing Sally to play Dinah in the film?

Great question. When I signed up I thought it might be four half days of work. Whoops! My biggest reservation going into it was Sally's allergies. I was very clear about my concerns and was thrilled that she never had a flare up. In hindsight, knowing how much work it was I would have had more concerns about the sheer  volume of work (I now see why so many purebred dogs get used for films - easier to have doubles or triples!) but Sally was more than up for it. I have a great deal of respect for one of the major film sponsors and knew they would understand if I insisted on a break for Sally. Luckily I only had to call for a 15 minute break once for her. I didn't know the director well so had a few reservations about that at first but quickly realized that he understood the best way to get the shots he wanted was to work with us. 

Was this a good experience for Sally? 

It was a great experience for Sally. She loves being with me - and on set she often had me all to herself. It built even more strength into an already solid relationship we have based on trust and mutual respect. I'm not sure that many people on the film realized how amazing the work she gave the film was ... she ignored water on a hot day, worked with confidence and relaxation around a smoke machine, ignored joggers, loose dogs,  squirrels,  bikes, and all sorts of other distractions while on and off leash often 30 feet or more away from me. She lay still, she moved quickly, she barked and was quiet (mostly!) when needed and she gave darn good loving when required. The director could have asked much more of her than he did and she would have given him more. There was no need though. She was, and always will be, a Super Star.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And that's a wrap.

Sally had nine days of shooting for the making of Saving Dinah. We worked on fifteen different sets/locations over those days. Ranging from bedroom to street to burning barn Sally worked off leash, on leash, from flat out running to crated and had some horrific moments too (Huge shout out to all the actors who didn't want to hurt her .. luckily for us all she thought it was all part of her game!)  She loved every minute of the work - and she was perfect. As I've said before the errors made were not hers they were mine so she never ever knew there were any glitches at all!

Yak cheese chews to relax between scenes

On interior shoots there is an automatic clapboard that counts down the take number. It makes a very specific noise that some dogs find strange. After the second time it counted down Diva Sally would hear it and perk up hoping she was going to work, even on the last long day curled up in her crate -she checked the action every time she heard the slate. The actors and crew worked hard to help Sally. If she needed quiet she got it (rarely needed it but it was nice to know it was a possibility). They all built relationships with her off camera which meant she was happy to "go" with her family and friends anytime. She picked up on the moods of the scenes generally. Sometimes her perceptions were astounding. She could be nearly dead on camera then bouncing around hollering for a game of tug as soon as "cut" was heard.

listening to the director

 Amazing stuff with Thea on the last day too. She was cast as a bait dog for a dog fight ring (nickname "Snack" - yah turns out film people, at least for this film, have a sense of humour as dark as mine!). Held up, she was shown to the people watching the fight then slowly lowered down.  She thought it was great. Wanted to do more in fact. Lots more. But she and the actor, and the extras, nailed it right off! Her only day on set and she had everybody wrapped around her paw at first Wooooooo.

I actually couldn't tell you how many scenes Dinah is seen in ...over 30 were shot - my guess is lots will wind up on the cutting room floor but there are some moments I really want to see .. she's a pretty photogenic girl our Sally. She runs, she plays, she curls up with people and a puppy, she gives good loving to stressed out people, she hops in and out of cars, she goes for a jog, she saves people and is saved by people and so much more.

hard at work 

She was never tied in place or coerced into doing any of her scenes. We were fully compliant with the AHA guidelines for filming although there was no rep on site. She willingly and happily bounced into position take after take, after take after take. She took long breaks some days while shots were being discussed and lighting was being arranged. She blocked scenes with the actors so they'd  know what to do and was very happy hanging out around the cast and crew. She offered her favourite people her famous somersaults.

Very few people on the film truly understood how well cast Sally was, how good she was and how hard she worked, but nearly everybody loved her. One person who did understand what a super star she was, the FX   man Mark, was very complimentary about her again on the last day ... there was tons of smoke generated for the fire and Sally worked through it all in her calm and steady fashion. 

who but Sally can look so beautiful in a cone?

As I left the set the coop students did a little exit interview for what I'm guessing is their last Saving Dinah video blog. They asked me to reflect on my experience. It was unique and special and something to add to my media list. I had the chance to work with WONDERFUL people who I will  miss a great deal but if I had to pick one thing to be grateful for it would be the chance I got to truly understand and appreciate the relationship Sally and I have and what a phenomenal dog she is.

For you? I'll do it...

What a neat, hard working, learning experience! What a good, great, awesome dog!

Friday, July 20, 2012

oh the glamour!!

Another day in movie land last night with a break at one of my favourite places (Sally got to do THREE aframes!).

The scenes were shot in the opposite order to what have worked best for Sally. The first was a gentle scene between her and the grandfather in the house. He was reciting a sonnet to her. 
This sonnet in fact:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

It would have been lovely, to my mind, if they could have been quietly walking along a path as Sally could have easily given him full focus for 2 minutes. Instead they tried a few versions ... her lying looking at him, and him teasing her around a tree. Both were cute but the actor fed Sally the first time she barked at him. Sally is a little opinionated at the best of times. Being fed for barking was AMAZING to her. She was quite sure barking was what was wanted from that point on. Oh my. 

This actor is lovely, and very experienced. His timing for acting is fantastic. His ability to listen to and do what a director asks is amazing. His dog timing and ability to listen to non directorial instruction is non existent. This became even more apparent in the second  block of work. 

Sally has a very very strong GO. If I mark and reward her once she will GO to whatever spot again and again and build enthusiasm in her outrun every time. For the scenes here she had to run to the actor then move down the street with him pushing him along. Easy peesy ... in fact she could have circled him and brought him him but the director wanted a simpler shot. So I sent Sally in and she happily bounced along with the actor. He simply could NOT stop feeding her. He was dropping food on the street then surprised that Sally stopped to eat it and didn't rejoin him when done.  It worked but it could have been so much nicer. I was SO frustrated I couldn't speak. Sally thought it was great but she would have enjoyed the work anyhow. Good thing we only have one day of filming left I suspect. 

Even though this was my most frustrating day by a long shot I was so pleased with Sally, again! We were at the red ant location from the beach day and while the ants were better they were still present and biting. All the work was off leash and during the first shot we had joggers, electric and non electric wheelchairs, people patrolling with walkie talkies, bikes whipping by, the lure of the beach, birds, dogs playing in the distance and two saucy squirrels teasing us. Sally checked in with me a couple of times and worked through it all with such aplomb I am quite sure I was the only person who noticed the distractions.  The later shot was on a street with a loose dog, people getting in and out of their cars and all the normal street action ... only once did she lose her focus and that was to race over to visit with her favourite sound guys! 

She astounds me. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the power of positive

Wyn is darling

Funny, active, clean and healthy (tho he gave us a scare last week with some three legged lameness luckily it turned out to be a passing thing!)

A saucy boy he could really use a litter to wrestle with and sleep on but we are filling the gaps as well as we can - Cotton plays with him, Sally is very tolerant of him and we humans do what we can to enrich his life

It is AMAZING to watch Sally with Wyn ... without being nasty or threatening she hardly has to whisper "enough" to Wyn for him to bite more gently or head off to find another adventure ..

Sally has the art of positive down to a fine art. Essentially if he is playing nicely he gets to play, if he gets rough the game ends - not with terror, often not even with a show of power, it just simply stops. Brody is a little more punitive in nature; Wyn often faces growls and ugly faces if he gets too close to Brody. Interestingly enough Wyn enjoys pushing Brody's buttons to almost the point of a big reaction but he simply lounges with Sally chewing gently on her ears or face.

Wyn had a couple of strong adversives this weekend while we were away. He was gently scruffed a couple of times, something he has always hated. He was told "No" - a  word with no meaning to him. He came home with this notation: "Wow, he sure can throw temper tantrums". Honestly I wasn't surprised on one hand, what baby doesn't have the capacity to express outrage? But we hadn't seen a full blown out tantrum though. Tthe vigour he used to demonstrate one that night was amazing. That temper tantrum was the last he's had (though I won't be shocked if there are others -positive is not permissive as the brat well knows)

He's five weeks old now -he will not potty in his playpen if he has any choice at all. He sits when he wants to come out of his pen, quietly talking to us so we know he's up. He plays and when he gets too rough we use Sally's example and deflect his attention elsewhere or get up and leave ourselves.

He's a good good puppy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

a hard day's work ...

We had the movie shoot with Wyn for 6.5 hours Wednesday night - flew across the continent Thursday, flew back Saturday (arriving at 11 pm) and were back on location yesterday for 11 hours.  Brody and Sampson as well as 2 of our cats were extras in yesterday's scenes along with 4 good humoured Sheltland Sheepdogs, 2 Cocker Spaniels and a darling Jack Russell.  All the animal cast were amazing. They barked when required and were largely quiet when required. Brody got a little whiny in the last shot - I presumed he was bored and tired when in fact he was just telling me he needed to pee! He was a good boy and waited to be sprung but I felt badly making him wait.

These fine fellows were watching the filming 

While I bet a great deal of the action ends up on the cutting room floor I was, again, astounded by Sally. She barked angrily when needed, came up to the front of her kennel when needed, was fine with Wyn being put in her crate take after take after take, stayed in her crate after being cuddled in a long shot that meant I couldn't ask her to stay formally, worked on opening her crate without actually opening it (she did demonstrate her latch opening skill more than once though!).She did everything asked of her and a little more. Wyn (he plays 2 roles in the film) was perfect too,  dozily wandering around on cue, being very sad and pathetic as required. This was Sampson's acting debut and he was simply super too.

Sir Wyn is happy to be hanging at home today!

 I asked Big T to work with me (thinking it was a half day shoot) and he was a super trooper too - keeping Sam stress free and happy is not always an easy task but Big T did a masterful job. I had other much valued sets of hand around to help too. I cannot emphasize the importance of an awesome support team for big complicated animal scenes; Big T, Shelly, Liz, and Kathryn all made sure the animals and the animal support teams were comfortable and looked after.  Rick, Jean, Devon, Sue, Deb and family were just amazing to work with - they trusted us to take good care of their family - we did our best!

Darling Dinah, exhausted!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whoops ... forgot Wyn's shoot

Wyn was wonderful ... he had to sleep beside his "mother" for a shoot that might be 20 seconds in the movie. He was brilliant. I also had Tegan and  The Mrs with me to provide an 'animal feeling' for the rescue office in the film. They were also brilliant.

We were on set from 3-9:30 ... movie sets are so not glamorous it's hard to believe!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Super Sta' ... learning from film

Sally  is a Super Sta' in so many ways. Cracks me up when other people call her that tho. This Wild Child, Whole Lot of Dog, Always has Something to Say girl was well cast in the film Saving Dinah there seems to be no doubt of that. Her work ethic alone makes her a treat to work with. 

The training conversations are often quite interesting. A fair few of the cast and crew for Saving Dinah like animals but aren't particularly comfortable or used to them, especially working dogs. So they have lots of questions; some of which they articulate!  Sally has been wholly positively, force free, without compulsion, whatever you want to call it, trained. My assumption is for many of the people on a shoot this is quite new. In movie land there are times  an adversive might be helpful ie a strong  "no" might get evoke a look we want but figuring out a positive way to get the behaviour/look/mood is fun too!

Working on the movie is driving home some critical key concepts I value when interacting with Sally.
I suspect she might value them too.

Timing ... timing is everything .. and lord timing is hard to teach to humans! The cast is just amazing about listening to ways to help Sally block correctly but silly things get in the way sometimes, a cord gets moved at the last minute or a  pillow gets put where Sally was supposed to jump or whatever... we don't rehearse much with Sally at all as sometimes the first shot is the best but there are times we simply have to let her figure out her blocking (usually shots that involve her running into the shot and then doing one or more behaviours.)

Acknowledgement of work well done ...it's tough to watch Sally nail something, hear the "cut" and everybody congratulates one another for a great job but Sally has to return to me (or I try to zip in to her to tell her what a super sta' she is). There have been scenes where I can literally see Sally staring at somebody wondering if she did her job right.  In the scenes where she is supposed to be a family dog I try to lay very low as I don't want her working to me at all. In scenes where she can run off scene it's easier - she does her thing then boots it either to me or to her kennel and we have a party there!

Consideration for the hard work Sally is doing. All the time in dog land I see disengagement after a hard job is done, I've talked about it before but it bears mention in film land context too. People look at me sideways sometimes when I bring out Red Ball to toss before or after a take; somebody asked me if Sally was going to get too full with "all" the treats she gets (her food pay is usually 5-6 treats the size of my my finger nail bed and often it is only used to help her understand who her relationship in a given scene is supposed to be with); one day we had a ton of fun with stick in the water ...  for Sally all of these things provide with a stress free way to wind down and take a break and know she's doing the right thing. Hearing the word "Cut" does not let her turn off her amazing work ethic. (Although she is a quick study - she is now looking for me when she hears "cut".)

Recognizing her as a living sentient being. I always am aware of where she is and what she's doing. Crew are learning that too but sometimes we work in very tight spaces. Stepping over her, blocking her line to her marker, nearly stepping on her tail happens every day on set. She could care less about any of it and loves to have a chance to do her somersaults into people's laps for loving. Not sure most people realize just how unique she is working through all that. People seem surprised I bring her collapsing crate, her own water, towels to soak for her, a fan, meals, toys - I know if I was working half as hard as her I'd want to be pampered in the down moments.

Understanding that errors are my errors not her errors. If she is asked to do something not in her repertoire  I have to work with the director to figure out how to make it happen. People on set ask cute questions about her training, through them I have realized that to Joe Public Sally is 'missing' some classic tricks. She doesn't play dead, she doesn't shake a paw. Imagine? I truly laughed out loud when I realized that. What kind of trainer doesn't think of training those tricks? (Perhaps proving my stated point I am not a trainer) If Sally misunderstood a cue and went to the wrong place that would be my error. It hasn't happened yet her but it would entirely be me to blame. The director has been very patient with Sally to date. He has a very biting dry sense of humour so is a little intimidating to some, luckily I think he's hilarious. Sally has no clue how important he is so she is always pleased to get a scratch from him.

Advocating for the animals is my number one job. Advocating for and protecting Sally, and all her four legged cast mates has been accentuated through the filming of Saving Dinah,  I spent hours on the beach day being bitten by red ants as I kept them off Sally. I chose to do the film. Sally didn't. Advocacy is something I have striven to do well for many years; the film has made me recognize how active a job that is at times.  

Great links with more good stuff to read about training in a positive way

Life as a Human

Biscuits not Rolls (even tho I don't use markers much!)

Reactive Champions Thoughts

Monday, July 09, 2012

We had a lovely day off

then back to work we went.

Walked at the farm, chased sticks, herded bunnies, fetched more stick, had a nice 2 km road walk ... Sally had a good day - she came back on set today energized and raring to go!

Which was good really - today's shoots suited her skill sets to a T. She had to lie peacefully on an ottoman and listen to poetry then she had to run into a room, jump on a bed and comfort the youth getting scolded. Quite seriously lying around looking beautiful is Sally's thing.

She has a nice block off now before some very difficult shoots.

I am on set again with Wyn on Wednesday.

It really is quite a fascinating process.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Day I couldn't tell you ...

Days have starting sliding around ... day 7? day 9? of filming for us done yesterday ...

Superstar Sally continues ...

First scene she runs into a kitchen goes to a stranger, catches a tossed cookie, turns around pays attention to the daughter in the house and then exits with daughter ... 4 takes and she was perfect for three - the one that didn't work as well I sent her on a verbal Go and she spent her time in the kitchen checking back with me .... silly girl! (Me not her!)

from the beach day

Director Stephen Best on top of the cliff

Then a lot of waiting for some tough scenes for her ...hard to have her look naturally scared and uncomfortable but she did a great job ... then we did some extreme closeups of her listening to poetry. On the tiny little play back screen it's amazing ... can't even imagine her on the big screen. It was an 11 hour day on set.

little Wyn continues to be great - on this location i don't have room for his playpen so he snoozes in the bathtub 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Another day wrapped

And it was a doozy! Shot on a beach location in the blistering heat it was a little torturous as Sally couldn't get wet due to continuity. The attention to continuity is amazing (& essential!) the other major challenge was red ants. Biting hoards of reds ants were everywhere. They were all over Sally and the cast and crew. No fun for any of us. I got eaten by them as eventually I just sat and brushed them off as fast as I could. Sally got really hot, the sand was hot, the shade was ant infested and despite the many stressors she worked through it. Fetching her ball and taking it to Caroline, playing tug with a stick. Running to her ball, stopping then taking off down the beach. Circling an actor at the top of the cliff, racing away from Caroline up the rocky cliff. Then finally she got a swim. Well deserved indeed. The director complimented Sally which made me feel quite emotional as I know what a dog she is and how hard she is working but he is busy doing his thing so I really didn't think he was aware of just how fortunate his casting was. Super highlight of my day was being a LOT spoiled myself and having a dear friend bring me lunch and treats. So thoughtful! So fun! Great training ideas too. Little Wyn slept in a nice cool bathtub for the day. Lucky duck! Another day of filming tomorrow then a day off!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Confession Time

Another long long day on location for Saving Dinah yesterday.
Long, like 9.5 hours actually there. So far we've worked 28.5 hours over five days (as I was wrapping up   my full time job)
Keeping Sir Wyn and Sally cool was my main job yesterday - I was a total shade hog. They actually did well - though Wyn was wide awake from 11-1:30 after we were home.

We even worked a couple of red ball sessions into the day much to Sally's delight!

Sally had to work with a smoke machine today and I was pretty impressed with her calmness around it. It is a hissy scary thing that reeks of sugar to me so must smell very strong to her. I simply conditioned her to stand beside it and that was it. No big fussy praise, no luring. A hiss, a treat - repeat twice and she was quite happy to go back into position beside the machine. She was being picked up by strangers and carried as they staggered around. She was quite ok with it all. Many dogs I know would have allowed it once and been done with it. Sally did rehearsal and then 4 takes without batting an eye. The FX man was very complimentary about how easy Sally was to work with - he's done other animal films and had some issues it seems.

All made up - blood and dirt - poor Sally. No cone this time tho!

Much much later in the day we were needed for another scene ... Sally had to happily run along the street with an actor. I didn't want her racing but bouncing along so I stayed behind her so she wouldn't pull. It worked well once I demonstrated a happy run with Sally. (Two scenes today with people who were not dog savvy - luckily they were very sweet and happy to take some pointers to look more comfortable with Sally).

Sally is zonked today - the heat, the stress, the newness ... I'm very glad to have some down time today too.

Some interesting questions came up on location.

Somebody wanted to know if Sally understands that she is working on the film. My response was, "Gosh I hope not".  All of our training has been play and fun for Sally. A moment or two (the tailgate slamming for example) I can deal with but if filming isn't a great big fun game for her I will opt out. Negating 5.5  years of fun won't be happening!

Loving Sir Wyn 

Someone asked if I owned Sally. My (confusing) response was "No, but I love living with her". One of the sharp interns heard that and came to ask me who owned Sally if it wasn't me. It took awhile to explain that we are partners, friends and family. I am  responsible for Sally but I don't own her any more than Big T owns me!

The number one question I am getting to date is "Did you train her?" I usually smile and say "Yes". What I'd really like to say is "Sally and I have worked very hard to establish a relationship of joy. This means that our work together is one without force and as clear as possible. I don't punish Sally if she doesn't understand what I'm asking her to do, nor do I take it personally when she expresses her doggy self. We work together to find a routine to minimize disruptions and maximize the opportunities for accomplishment. I celebrate Sally,  and the fun we have together and take great pleasure in our games!" But people wouldn't get that. Not at all.

Still seeing lots of correction based training by wonderful people who just don't get that there is another, to my mind better, way to get things done. (Actually during filming the run scene yesterday there was a woman working with her dog on the other side of the street just gently circling every time her dog pulled on her so we were all kind of moving at the same speed. She was being so good with her timing and so patient I actually complimented her on taking her dogs training seriously and nicely. Her grin went ear to ear as I'm sure her neighbours think she's crazy.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Sick of the baby yet?

I hope not ... y'all know I go a little crazy when a puppy arrives ...(Phenomal, Quiz, Theorique etc) 
Sir Wyn is not even their age at arrival yet ... and we've lived together 3 weeks ...

He's still a lot of work but I get 4-6 hours of sleep at once now and just in the last 2 days he's starting peeing and pooping by himself. (Oh the things that make you proud with babies.Sometimes a burp is a major cause for celebration!)
He  has a page of his own under Brody's and Sally's on the left hand side of the blog so I can document the little steps and not bore you all to tears.

He has been a super trooper - in a perfect world he would have stayed snuggled with his mom and his litter in one secure place - sadly with me he has been packed to work, the dentist, parties, film sets, agility lessons and practice, between our two homes and more. He's pretty chill with it all - he'll either be the best or worst socialized puppy ever!! Amazing to think that with many breeders he would only really start to be handled this week. 

He does not handle heat well - nor Puddles Kitten chewing the ends off his bottle nipples (yes it's happened twice!! arrghhh) and when he's crying it's amazing how distressed we all get . Mostly though he's a pretty relaxed and happy little soul!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Finally ...

A day off - this is the first day off we've had in months! I actually think it may be the first day I've felt I had a day off since March Break ... that's crazy!
(Well I did a short stint finishing up thank yous to Regionals volunteers - an easy and pleasurable task!)

I spent four whole hours doing NOTHING ... we went to Lake House and threw sticks, sat in the shade and  just relaxed. It was lovely.