Happy Birthday Melee!

Happy birthday to Melee and all of her siblings: Legolas, Kai, Marco, Smått Smått, Castor, LaLa and Lark.

And great thanks to Veronica for this lovely dog and to co-owner Maria for the change to have Melee to live with us!

Melee and balloons


Halloween offered a great opporturnity to write about one of Melee’s special features: balloons. All of my dogs of course have loved balls and balloons, but the lifespan of the balloons has not been very long in the hands (paws/teeth) of a Belgian shepherd. Melee was not a exception and her first balloons broke up after few seconds. But she is a quick learner, so after breaking two balloons, she knew how to handle them. She learned, that when a balloon is in the air, she can jump and poke it and nothing but fun happens. But the moment trhe balloon touches the floor, she puts the caution-gear on. This means, she needs to search the knot of the balloon and gently grab the balloon.

This balloon thing is one of the many things that prove Melee is a lot clever than average Belgian. Everybody knows that Belgians are clever dogs that learn stuff quickly, but this tender behaviour towards toys (or towards anything) is not a common word when describing a Belgian shepherd. So it is a pity that Melee’s roommate Ginga represents this group of average group of Belgians, so the lifespan of balloons in this house is not prolonged… Even Ginga has an idea, that she should be careful with balloons, she just lacks the ability to think before acting and unfortunately she also believes, that speed and power are the keys to all success.

Melee’s games with balloons is, however, super-cute to watch, as she is so miraculously tender towards them and really pays attention to how to roll the ball to correct position so she is able to grab the knot.

Our Halloween-balls had a rubber bad too, which Melee quickly learned to be an option for the knot.


Sewing a jacket for Melee

Mellu ja takki

I have always been handicraft-person, even tough my sewing hobby is not always so active as it could be. When it comes to sewing, I happen to have three main problems:

  1. My basic knowledge about sewing is from a comprehensive school, which means my last textile work class was over 10 years ago.
  2. I hate reading instructions, so I do not know correct names for sewing accessories or sewing styles or textile materials.
  3. I am sort of perfectionist, but at the same time I always want to try to make difficult or unusual things – which often causes frustration

I could actually say, that my sewing skills are a result of mixing trial and error.

Anyways, this time I made a jacket for Melee. I have done one for each of my dogs in the past, and each time I have learned something new. This time I wanted to try a new material too, so I chose that softshell would be the main material of the jacket. Other materials were cotton jersey and a basic lining. In the past, I used fleece as lining, but it tends to get really electric when it gets in touch with dog hair, so I kind of hoped that cotton jersey could solve that problem.

Dog jacket
Ready jacket

Sewing was a bit of a challenging, and I had to buy a special ball point needle for a cotton jersey, as regular needle left dropped stitches behind. For me, both needles look the same, but the difference in the result is huge! Not a single dropped stitch! A store called Ompelutalo (located in Oulu, Finland) helped me to find a correct needle and also lots of different stuff for my future projects.

For Melee’s jacket, I also decided to put a neck part that is adjustable with elastic band and eyelets. The Same solution was used when connecting front part and hem that allows the shoulders to move freely. Of course, I also added some reflectors and also wide rubber band that goes around the hind legs  and keeps the jacket in place even on windy days.

I am quite happy with the result, even tough there are some things that I would do differently now. Maybe I would add more “format” on back and groin area of the jacket, so it would sit better on the dog. But this jacket works great for its purpose and I also find it stylish – at least it matches my taste.

Reflectors of the dog jacket
Reflectors of the dog jacket

Photoshooting dogs

For years I have planned, that every dog of mine will be photo shooted in a studio once in their lives. Even tough I take lots of photos myself, most of them tend to be blurry or otherwise low of quality. They are good photos to Facebook and other social media and of course their sentimental value is high. But as I want to have stylish pictures of my dogs on my living room wall, I need quality photos as well.  Vilma almost missed her studio photo shoot, as she was photoshoot only a few days before she passed away.  With Melee and Ginga I decided to act bit earlier. I contacted the same photographer that had taken photos of Vilma, and luckily he also had moved to Oulu, so scheduling the photo shoot was pretty easy.

The photoshoot took place in a rental studio at Oulunsalo and we had about an hour to take all the photos. I knew very well what kind of images I wanted, so an hour was more than enough for the session. After all, Ginga and Melee are not the most patient dogs when it comes to “stay still” -kind of situations. Ginga thought it was ok to lay on the floor, but sitting was soooooo boring. Melees problem was the whole “don’t move” -concept, she has, after all, a soul of an adventurer.  Both dogs had 2×10 minutes sessions which were themed as “please look happy even tough this is boring”. It was easy to see, that they were bored in the end. As shepherd dogs, they will always do as told, but happy face cannot be forced.

This time it was easy for me to arrange this photoshoot, as the photographer was not new and I knew very  precisely what kind of images I wanted. When I searched photographer for Vilma, the whole process was not so easy.

Ginga, photo: Pekka Hartikainen

When I started searching a photographer, it was important to me, that he/she was used to photoshoot dogs. By this I  mean, that photographer has an idea of what a good dog photo looks like, and how to take photos of dogs of different breeds. Nobody can force the dog to look happy in a photo, so it is good that photographer understands dogs behavior: the dog needs to be able to check the room off-leash beforehand, so it can focus on looking at the owner and pose more relaxed.

Photographing is not cheap either, especially if you have certain needs. When photo shooting Vilma I knew, that these will be the last photos of her, so I wanted to have full-sized digital copies of the images. This happened to be a wish that only a few photographers wanted to fulfill. Some photographers told that they would not share any digital copies, some told that the price for a single digital copy would be 50-60 euros! It is not hard to count that if I wanted to have 10-20 copies, it would cost a small fortune. Some suggested, that I could pay 10-20 euros and have a “Facebook”-photo, which meant a small (400x500px) image with photographers watermark. No thanks. I know photographing is not cheap for anyone as the equipment is expensive, studios are expensive etc. But these prices some requested, are just too high and will definitely drive away customers.  Luckily I was able to find a photographer, that suited perfectly for all of my needs.

Melee, kuva: Pekka Hartikainen