If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.


For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.


If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.



The Great Blue Heron is basically a black-and-white bird, making him something of an ideal subject for monochrome studies. The only problem I encountered was making him “pop” out of the background.


I also got into making it look a bit like an old-fashioned wildlife study. Not sure how well I succeeded, but here’s my Blue Heron, in living black-and-white.


Next, we have Bishop. He is not sleeping. He is faking it, hoping that I will go away and take my camera with me.


Nan is next. She enjoys photographic attention more than any other of our dogs. She is the only one who will sit for her portrait without trying to run for the hills.

Nan in BW monochrome

Thank you Cee, for being the ever-perfect hostess.


I have a lot of good pictures of Nan. I have great pictures of Bishop. Both Nan and Bishop were show dogs and when they see a camera, they sit and give you their good side. If you try to take a picture of another dog, they will bomb the picture.

nan almost christmas

Then there are Bonnie and Amber. Amber runs for the hills. Maybe you’ll get a shot of her butt as she disappears down the hall. Bonnie, on the other hand, is a tease and her timing is impeccable. She sits perfectly still. Waits. As my finger approaches the shutter, she springs into action.

For example, here is Bishop this morning:


Elegant. A proud, handsome dog. Dignified, yet always ready for a bit of pizza crust … or watermelon. Next, we see my best picture of Bonnie. Same camera. Same light. Same five-minute period in the same room.


What does she have against me and my cameras? I’m sure she does it on purpose. Want to see another one? The white streaks are snow in her beard.


Obviously a far superior shot since you can tell it’s a dog. Probably.

You should see the ones I deleted.


72-Bishop_01It didn’t snow a lot today — at least not compared to a lot of other days — but it snowed and is still snowing. I keep hoping it’s the last one. That the winds will change and spring will begin to inch into the world.


Not everyone is tired of winter.

Today, after the new snow, Bishop didn't want to come in ... until he heard the sound of biscuits being offered ...

Today, after the new snow, Bishop didn’t want to come in … until he heard the sound of biscuits being offered …

Bishop, our big Australian Shepherd, of all our dogs, loves winter. His coat is so thick, so weather-proof, he will — by choice — sleep in a snow drift and let the little dogs use his body as a mattress. They have their own flap door, so this is their choice. They come and go as they please.


To each his or her own. I prefer my recliner and a hot cup of coffee. Or tea.



We have four dogs, one of whom has a drinking problem. It’s not medical. We’ve checked it out with any number of veterinarians and there is nothing physically wrong with Bishop. He merely drinks a lot of water. Actually, he probably drinks a normal amount of water, but he drinks it all at once. When he begins drinking, he goes on for what seems forever.

Three amigos

Three amigos looking down on “owner”

Not surprisingly, when he has to pee, he releases an ocean. It’s absolutely tidal.

Now, the mystery.

Bishop Almost Christmas

With four dogs, we have two water bowls. A big blue-green plastic one that’s bigger than some dogs, and a somewhat smaller stainless steel bowl. They sit side by side on the floor in the kitchen. The stainless bowl used to be on the left, the plastic bowl on the right. For reasons of convenience (mine), I switched them a while ago, so now the big plastic bowl is on the left, and the stainless steel bowl on the right. No big deal, right?


Bishop used to drink entirely from the stainless steel bowl. We assumed he preferred the taste of water from the steel bowl, but when I switched the position of the bowls, Bishop began drinking exclusively from the plastic bowl. Apparently he will only drink from the left-hand bowl.

I was just in the kitchen and Bishop was standing over the empty plastic bowl, obviously sad because there was no water. Directly next to it, the stainless bowl was full. But he wouldn’t drink from it. He will only drink from the bowl on the left.

All the other dogs will drink from either bowl, apparently without preference.

Ideas anyone?


A Photo a Week Challenge: Humor

This picture comes with a back story.

We have four dogs. Technically, Garry and I have two and the other two belong to my son. Ours are the two terriers, Bonnie, the Scottie, and Nan, the Norwich. Owen has the big Australian Hairball — I mean, Shepherd — and Amber, the odd-eyed Miniature Dachshund. Amber is a Velcro dog and only puts in an upstairs appearance if there’s a biscuit in it or when dinner is served.

Bishop, on the other hand, is upstairs more than he is downstairs. He’s big, hairy, and friendly. The only dog in a houseful of bitches. (Well, they are bitches. Dogs are male, bitches are female. Get used to it.)

On this day, the two terriers had just come home from the groomer. Looking good. Time to get a few pictures before they went outside to roll in the dirt, or dig a tunnel to Australia. I had cajoled Garry into putting on a nice pair of jeans, and posing with The Girls.

Neither terrier will let me take a picture unless they are physically restrained … or sleeping. Why not? No idea. I don’t even use a flash. Nonetheless, the moment I take a camera out of the bag, they head for the doggy door and all I get is a picture of their furry butts as they make their escape.

I had them lined up. Garry was smiling. I think the girls were smiling, but it can be hard to tell. And suddenly, Bishop decided he was not going to be left out.

dogs with bishop and gar

I could have shot around him, but he clearly felt he was being unreasonably excluded. Even though Bishop is usually no more eager to be a photo subject than the other canines. This time, though, he was going to participate. One way or the other.