Tag Archives: dogs

Tips for Photographing Your Pets

by Shannon Esposito

Today is the official release day of FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery no. 4)!

Because the victim in this mystery is a wedding photographer–who also takes photos of shelter animals to help them get adopted–I thought I’d celebrate the book’s release by sharing some basic tips on how to get great shots of your own pets.  

1)      Background: Be aware of your background. Is there something behind your pet that’s distracting? If you want your pet to be the sole focus, you can use a neutral background like a plain wall, grass or window. 

Tip: Use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field (like the example above). To do this, set your camera on “aperture priority” and set the aperture to the lowest f-stop number (ex: 1.4 or 2.8) This will blur the stuff in the background, so your pet will still be the focus of the shot with minimal noise. Just make sure your camera is focused on your pet’s eyes.

2)    Perspective: Get down on your pet’s level. Shooting from a standing position aiming down doesn’t make as nice a photo as shooting them at eye level. Don’t be afraid to lay on the floor with them, get in their world and get a more intimate shot.

3)   Lighting: This one is more complicated. The easiest way to have great lighting is to utilize natural light. Shoot outdoors in either early morning or late evening sun. (Midday sunlight is too harsh.) If you’re shooting indoors, use the natural light coming through a window and have your back to the window.

 If you must use a flash, never use the on-camera flash pointed directly at your pet, as it will cause ugly shadows and harsh lighting. Fill-flash is fine. It’s just a little burst of flash that will fill in the shadows and give your pet’s a little “catch light” gleam in their eye. (Example above)

4)      Shutter speed: Pets can be hard to photograph if they’re active. The best way to combat this is with a fast shutter speed. You can set your camera to “shutter priority” mode. Keep in mind that the faster the shutter speed, the more light you will need. Or if your camera has a “sports mode” this will also automatically set a high shutter speed for you. I also recommend shooting in continuous focus mode instead of single shot.

That’s the basics. Have any other tips or tricks to share?

FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 4):

A picture perfect wedding in paradise…what could possibly go wrong?

Pet boutique owner and reluctant pet psychic, Darwin Winters, is looking forward to watching her best friend and business partner, Sylvia, say “I do” to the man of her dreams. But when their wedding photographer turns up dead on the big day—and Sylvia’s superstitious mother believes his heart attack is a sign their marriage will be cursed—Sylvia’s dream wedding quickly becomes a nightmare.

Darwin only has a week to help her detective boyfriend prove the photographer’s death was not from natural causes before Sylvia’s family jets back home to Portugal, and the wedding is off for good.

As more than a few suspects come into focus—including Peter’s model clients, a rival photographer and the director of an animal shelter being investigated for fraud—time is running out. With just one clue from the photographer’s orphaned Yorkie pup to go on, can Darwin help save Sylvia’s wedding and capture a killer? Or will both justice and Sylvia’s wedding cake go unserved?

Get your copy here!     AMAZON      BARNES & NOBLE      iBOOKS

Posted by Shannon Esposito. Shannon lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. She is the author of the Pet Psychic Mystery series set in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Paws & Pose Mysteries set on the ritzy, fictional island of Moon Key and featuring doga instructor Elle Pressley and her canine sidekick, Buddha.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Service Dogs for PTSD (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

PTSD was my specialty when I was a practicing therapist, and yet I realized recently that I’ve never blogged about it to any great extent. Well, now I have a really good reason for doing so.

Lately I’ve become fascinated by the use of service dogs to help people suffering from this disorder. So much so that I’ve started a new mystery series about a woman who trains these service dogs for combat veterans, and her experiences with a variety of clients. (More on the first release in this series in a bit.)

service dog with his veteran handler

A service dog with his veteran handler (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the diagnosis given when a person suffers symptoms as a result of exposure to a severe trauma. In the general population, the life-time prevalence rate is 8%, which is pretty high. Only phobias, depression and drug abuse are more common.

The list of symptoms is extensive, so I’m just going to hit on the most common ones, and how service dogs can help manage them.

But first let’s define trauma. This is a word that tends to be overused in our society for anything that makes us feel bad. The best definition I’ve ever heard for trauma comes from Lenore Terr, MD in her book, Unchained Memories (I’m paraphrasing her a little here):

A traumatic event is so emotionally overwhelming that the person experiencing it cannot process it cognitively nor emotionally at the time that it happens.

Such events are often sudden and unexpected. They might be a bad car accident, a natural disaster, a criminal assault, being in combat, etc.

PTSD was first identified in combat veterans. It was once called shell shock or battle fatigue. And this group still has one of the highest rates of PTSD, ranging from 12% (Gulf War vets) to 30% (Vietnam-era vets). The rate of PTSD currently in veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts is 13.8%.

The most common and debilitating of the symptoms are anxiety attacks (triggered by reminders of the trauma), nightmares and flashbacks. Service dogs are trained to pick up on the early stages of these symptoms and interrupt them.

If you have a dog, you know how sensitive they can be to their owner’s moods. When you’re depressed or anxious, they tend to sense it and often try to offer comfort. In service dogs, this natural tendency is enhanced through training and then the dog is taught to do something about it.

I’m still learning about all this myself for my new mystery series, but I know that for nightmares, this may mean waking their handlers by barking or nudging him/her with their noses. The service dogs also provide grounding and a calming effect. Again, if you have a dog (or a cat), you know how soothing it can be to stroke their coat and their silky ears.

hand petting dog

Both human and dog benefit from pets and ear scratches. 🙂 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(Research has been done on this aspect of therapy/service dogs in general. Petting and interacting with them lowers heart rate and blood pressure and improves mood.)

With anxiety attacks, the dog often can alert their human that the attack is starting before the person has become consciously aware of the building anxiety. Then s/he can implement strategies (taught by his/her counselor) to nip the attack in the bud.

Service dogs also make it easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to go out in public. Two other PTSD symptoms are hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response. Scary things have taken this person by surprise before, so now their nervous system is constantly on the alert, which is not good for their mental nor physical health.

There are two things the service dogs are trained to do to help with this hypervigilance. One is called the cover command. Whenever their human stops moving, the dog turns around and faces the way they came. The dog literally has the person’s back. S/he signals the handler if someone is approaching from behind, usually with a perking of their ears or a tail wag.

The dogs are also trained to step between their handler and anyone approaching them. These may sound like small things to most of us, but for those who suffer from PTSD, they can allow the person to relax a good bit more when out and about in the world.

service dog with his handler

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This and also the strong sense of connection with the dog are particularly helpful for overcoming one of the most subtle and potentially destructive of the symptoms, a sense of isolation from others. People who have experienced extreme events sometimes are left feeling like they are different from others in some irrevocable way; they may even feel like they are “damaged goods.”

Being more comfortable in public and experiencing the unconditional love of a canine companion can go a long way toward overcoming this feeling of otherness, and help the veteran become more integrated into his/her community.

Combat veterans should only feel set apart in a proud way, that they have served their country well and are respected for their sacrifices. Service dogs can help them hold their heads high and get on with their lives.

(Stay tuned for more about this wonderful boon for veterans as I learn more myself.)

And today is the cover reveal for my new series. Another masterpiece by Melinda VanLone. Ta-da!! (Psst! The book is available for pre-order for just $1.99; it goes up after the release.)

ToKillALabrador FINALTo Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer.

Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

AMAZON US  AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS   APPLE   KOBO

AND, I’m having a Facebook party next week to celebrate the new series. Click here to check it out and sign up. There’ll be lots of prizes and fun!!

FB party banner

Are you a combat veteran or do you know one personally? What obstacles have you/they encountered in the reentry-into-civilian-life process?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Doggy Drama

by Kassandra Lamb

I haven’t been on social media much lately. I haven’t gotten much writing done either. We’ve had quite a bit of drama at our house the last few weeks, related to dogs.

First, our totally lovable, ten-year-old Alaskan Husky/Shepherd mix died. Rather suddenly–she was only sick for three days. I’ve never had a dog go that quickly. It was a shock, as well as very sad.

Amelia, last spring

Amelia, last spring — Note the high, solid fence and big yard; they will be significant later.

And the timing couldn’t have been worse. My husband was leaving the next day for Paris–just five days after the terrorist attacks there–to present at a conference.

I’m thinking, “Oh goody, I get to stay home, all alone, and grieve and worry.”

So even though I knew it was too soon, I went to the animal shelter to check out the adoptable dogs. It was definitely too soon. I was too heart-sore to feel anything for even the cutest of them.

The adoption coordinator suggested I foster a young dog who was waiting for heartworm treatment. Perfect solution! I’d have a dog companion while hubs was away, but I hadn’t committed to loving the little guy until death do us part.

Where hubs was hanging out while I was chasing a rambunctious puppy.

Where hubs was hanging out while I was chasing a rambunctious puppy.

Well, he turned out to be a handful and a half. He definitely kept me too busy to worry for the two weeks hubs was overseas.

Wednesday I took him back to the shelter for his treatment to begin, and while I was there I made the mistake of popping over to the kennels to see the new arrivals. Guess what, not too heart-sore anymore! (Although I’m still grieving my sweet Amelia).

This guy seemed perfect. He was two years old–so not such a rambunctious puppy–and absolutely gorgeous, with a shiny, copper-colored coat. The right size (medium), with short hair (not so many hair balls gathering in the corners–Yay!), and a calm, friendly disposition.

DSC02322

Our new Redbone Coon Hound/Retriever mix–too bright for his own good!

He’s got just one teensy, weensy flaw.

He’s an escape artist!

We now have two pet gates, one above the other, blocking him from going into the rooms with the antiques (until we’re sure he won’t chew or pee on them). The first gate we put up, just one layer deep, he jumped repeatedly.

The newest in dog lover decor!

The latest in dog lover decor!

 

 

But he didn’t quite clear it, so things would go flying on the other side as he landed all skiddleywampus.

The first morning after we brought him home, hubs put him out to do his business in our big backyard, with its six-foot high, solid wood privacy fence. When hubs went out ten minutes later to bring him back in, the dog was gone!

The mutt was two doors down, checking out a neighbor’s garage. Turns out he’d dug a hole under the fence, in less than ten minutes!!

So now he’s on a tether to do his business, while I strive to make the fence dig-proof. I have now spent three days of my life and several hundred dollars on this effort, and I’m not done yet. I had to cut all our bushes back away from the fence first, so I could work in there to lay down wire mesh two feet out from the bottom of the fence, then cover it with heavy, paving stones. As an added deterrent, I’m sprinkling everything with cayenne pepper.

My vet suggested I just try the cayenne pepper around the fence line first. Ha! She does not know this dog.

While I was outside working today, I had him on his tether so he could watch me. He has separation anxiety from being abandoned, so he’s not happy unless I’m in sight. (What he doesn’t get is that his owners didn’t abandon him. I suspect they just stopped tracking him down when he got out of their fence for the umpteenth time and ran off!)

So while we’re out there, he figured out how to get out of his harness. He goes to the end of the tether, faces the post it’s tied to, ducks his head and pulls back as hard as he can. The strap around his middle (that hooks snugly BEHIND his legs) pulls forward over his head, and he steps out of it.

I watched him do it–TWICE, with two different harnesses.

I came in tonight, when it was finally too dark to work any longer, and hubs said, “Why are you doing this? Is it worth it?”

My immediate answer was “Good question!” (BTW, hubs would be helping, but he’s in the end of semester crunch with his classes.)

But then my inquisitive little psychologist’s brain got to chewing on that question. Why was I going to such great lengths for this dog?

The answer, for me at least, is that dogs are the world’s best companions. They will hang out with you, offering total unconditional love, asking only that you feed them, pet them and play with them occasionally. They are the definition of “loyal friend.” (They’re actually pretty loyal even if you don’t pet or play that often, say when you are in the throes of a writing jag because your muse has gone into overdrive. 😀 )

The bottom line is if I send this loving, otherwise great dog back to the shelter, he will end up dead. If we can’t contain him with a six-foot fence (did I mention he’s also a jumper?) then who can? He’ll either end up euthanized as unadoptable or he’ll be road kill.

Doesn't he look innocent?

Doesn’t he look innocent? You notice he’s always lying down when inside; that’s his fiendish plot to fool you into thinking he’s a sedate dog.

Not acceptable for such a wonderful fur baby.

So say a little prayer that wire plus stones plus cayenne pepper keeps him contained. I’ll keep you posted.

BTW, I had named him Cody, but he really doesn’t answer to it yet. I’m considering changing his name to Houdini.

How about you?

Are you an animal person? Do you have fur babies you’d go out of the way to keep safe?

Oh, one of our authors, Vinnie Hansen, has a giveaway going on for her book, Death with Dessert, that is about to be re-released under the misterio press imprint. I’ve read this book and it is GREAT!! So hop on over to Goodreads and check it out. Hope you win a copy!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )