Happy Graduation

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A quick post here about a recent event we are especially proud of. Sam graduated from Bowdoin College on Memorial Day weekend, and we could not be any more proud of him. The rain stayed away and despite some cool temperatures, the outdoor graduation went off without a hitch. Bowdoin College has been an exceptional four-year experience for Sam, and we are proud to be able to call him a Polar Bear.

It really does seem like only yesterday when we were dropping him off as a freshman, but it’s already been four years, and a lot has happened since. Ignore the cancery old man on the right, and admire the happy and gorgeous rest of the family to the left.

Can you guess which one is Sam? None of us know where he gets the tall genes, but he’s always been a big (and kind, and smart, and athletic, and genuinely nice) boy. Jack (10) is growing up too, and if he follows in Sam’s footsteps even slightly (and he has already started), then we’ll all be thrilled. The two of them are exceptionally tight as siblings, and we love to see them interact. Sam’s going to be home for the summer before heading off to work in NYC, so we’ll all have some time together – that’ll be good.

My lovely, lovely Lori… what can I say? She is the most caring and loving mother and wife that one could ever imagine. She is so strong in times of adversity, and she always knows what to do and say at the right moment to make you feel safe and loved. Obviously the boys benefit tremendously from this, but so do I.

Happy Graduation!

Bigshot Camera

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Trying to come up with creative gifts for Jack at Christmas time, I stumbled on the Bigshot camera – billed as ‘the camera for education”, it is a really cool concept and I jumped at it immediately. For any educator interested in combining science, math, engineering and, most importantly, the arts – this one’s for you!

The enormous appeal of the camera can be used to turn it into a compelling tool for learning. We believe that a camera designed for education must have three features. First, it should be designed as a kit for assembly – putting the kit together should expose the user to a wide range of science concepts. Second, it should include features that cannot be found in other cameras, allowing the user to explore new creative dimensions. Finally, it should be low-cost, making it accessible to the less privileged. Bigshot has been designed with these goals in mind. There is another important feature that sets Bigshot apart from virtually all educational kits – once you have built it, it is a fully functioning digital camera that you can use everyday!

Basically, you purchase a kit for making your very own fully functioning digital camera, and along the way as you assemble the camera, you explore and learn about a variety of technical and creative processes that go into the ultimate expression of making a photograph.

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It was on one of my short stays in the hospital getting hydrated that Jack and Sam took on the task of assembling the camera…. needless to say, it was the most amazing surprise and the perfect moment when I learned about their little adventure together. I love that they spent the time together to make the camera so that it would finally get done – Jack and I had been meaning to get to it but as you can tell, time got away from us a little bit! Great little camera that you crank to generate your own power, and has a lens wheel that allows all sorts of creative possibilities like panoramic, 3D, wide angle… so much fun, and when you roll in the level of ownership applied to the entire process, then we have an absolute winner.

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The accompanying web site resources are excellent, and they really aid in the educational aspect of this project. I hesitate to call it a project – makes it sound a little sterile and maybe too much like school – but I know that both Jack and Sam had a blast putting the camera together, and I’m very proud of my little scientist/engineer/photographers. Well worth the investment if you have a little one interested in learning more about science, digital photography and creative expression. Bigshot Camera.

 

Home safe and sound….

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Here he is morning after. Perky and looking more like his old self. Just have to keep him settled and quiet now.

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Here he is… home safe and sound – minus a couple of important bits. As you can imagine, Oliver’s not quite himself right about now, but the doc assures us that everything went well and that he’ll be back to his old self within about a week. The vet-recommended boxers are to try and keep him away from the stitches and the incision, and although it pains me to see him this way, when we take into account everything going on in our lives right now… I just know we did the right thing. Welcome home sweet Oliver, and I just know he appreciates all of your good wishes.

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The day has come…

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3-16-13 Oliver7I knew this day would come, and I knew it was going to be difficult. Oliver just turned 18 months, and what with everything swirling around here of late, we kind of dropped the ball when it comes to getting him “fixed”. A few months back, I discussed the pros and cons – according to a layman like me – to having this operation completed, so if it’s all right with you my loyal readers, this time around I’d rather not re-visit why it’s a barbaric and unnecessary procedure. Let’s just accept that it’s going to happen and move on – thanks for understanding.

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We’re getting Oliver fixed on Wednesday morning. Though sad about actually doing it – I don’t want to put my baby through any unnecessary discomfort – we’re doing it for the following reasons… it is convenient, and besides, when we purchased him from the breeder we signed a contract saying that we would. There are a similar amount of health-related concerns on either side of getting this procedure completed at an early or later stage, but most importantly, I believe that by giving Oliver the 18 months that we did to grow into his body he was able to take full advantage of the natural hormonal development over that time… he has derived more benefit from NOT being snipped at an early age and denied of so many natural body chemicals – he has grown into a healthy, happy and incredibly stable young dog. He’ll also get micro-chipped in case he hates us for it and decides to run away 😉

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I don’t want Oliver to breed unnecessarily, and although in all likelihood he would never get the chance to roam free and do anything unexpected… you just never know. Better safe than sorry in that regard, and as a family we’re all for responsible pet owning.

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Here’s the convenience piece… we’re realizing that over the next few weeks and months we are going to need to temporarily house our little friend for a day or two here and there… maybe even an overnight stay. Doctor visits and other commitments are starting to fill the calendar, and although to date we have been able to work around every circumstance, the day is coming when an extended event will definitely mean needing to board Oliver.

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We have an awesome boarding kennel lined up, but they are understandably reluctant to have dogs – even if all males – co-habitate if some are fixed, while others aren’t. There’s a significant chance that our little currently un-fixed guy will be the one trying to “hump” other dogs – and while that’s perfectly natural behavior – apparently it can make for a more heightened and less tranquil atmosphere within the group, and we wouldn’t want that to happen.

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And besides, one of the things we’re especially hoping to get from the boarding experience is a positive social interaction for Oliver. His demeanor is such that he just wants to play… with anyone, anytime, anywhere. He’s a happy dog who will get along with all others… perfectly. However, if he’s humping (and there’s no guarantee fixing will prevent that), then the possibility of a mellow co-existence within his fellow boarders might become a little unbalanced, and if the alternative is some form of isolation for the humper… well, then that’s not what we want.

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Anyhoo… Wednesday is the big day. We’ve cleared the decks so that we’ll be here to care for him after the event and give all the love he needs. We’ll make sure he gets as much peace and quiet, medicine, and of course, love, so that he can make as full a recovery as soon as possible. I have no doubt that Oliver will once again amaze and be the model patient, but it still makes me sad that we have to put him through this process. Wish him luck 😉

Leave of absence…

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So… I don’t think I’m necessarily interested in publicly chronicling what’s going on in my life right now, but I will be taking a leave of absence from the blog. Rather than just disappearing though, here’s the scoop.

Wednesday, February 19: I’d been dealing with a persistent cough that I just couldn’t seem to shake – cough medicine and a scheduled two-week follow up appointment. Concerned that I might be dealing with pneumonia, I went back to the doctor. Antibiotics were prescribed and an X-ray scheduled.

Thursday, February 20: X-Ray and home.

Monday, February 24: Met with Doctor to talk about X-ray and potential for pneumonia. Was referred to Pulmonary specialist for meeting on Wednesday, February 26.

Wednesday, February 26: The X-ray showed something in my lung that shouldn’t have been there. CT Scan and meeting with the pulmonary specialist revealed that I did indeed have pneumonia and… lung cancer. Brain MRI was immediately scheduled to see if it had spread that far : (

Friday, February 28: PET SCAN showed some not so good activity in lymph nodes in lung, just outside the lung near the diaphragm, in the area of the abdomen, and then also in the lower neck. Next step is a biopsy on Monday afternoon, and after that the doctors will be better able to develop a plan of attack. Good news: Brain MRI showed that it hadn’t spread there yet.

Monday, March 1: Woke up feeling pretty bad. Pain management team hadn’t yet been consulted, and my body was wracked with pain. I couldn’t stand up and nor could I lie down- everything in-between wasn’t so good either. And that familiar tickle turned into a wraspy cough that brought with it wicked headaches. I was scheduled for some more blood work for a Bronchoscopy where doctor sees inside of lungs and takes sample of tissue.

Tuesday, March 2: Not feeling good at all so checked into my local hospital. Stayed overnight.

Thursday, March 3: Checked into local bigger hospital which has greater capacity to handle Cancer.

Friday, March 3: Needed to have fluid removed from lung so I could lie still enough (without coughing) for Body Scan (to see progress – or lack of – spread of cancer). 20oz fluid removed from lungs – immediate relief felt. Pain management team went to work and have performed miracles. Can’t say enough about their work and the performance of my doctor/nurse caring teams – superb people I am forever indebted to.

Saturday, March 8: First dose of Chemotherapy

Sunday, March 9: Second dose of Chemotherapy

Early on I did a lot of thinking about how this could have happened. I never smoked a cigarette in my life, though both my parents smoked and I was exposed to significant second-hand smoke as a kid. I soon realized it would do me little good to dwell on the past, and since then, we’ve been moving forward trying to figure out what our next steps are.

Lori, Sam, Jack and I are facing this head on (what other way is there?). The good news is I’m looking thin and trim-ish, but the bad news is I’m paying somewhat for that look.

So that’s my story. I won’t be back on the blog for a little while until we get things squared away. I thought about turning comments off for this post – it’s not that I won’t appreciate your thoughts – but I’m just not so sure I will be able to respond to everyone. I’m leaving comments turned on but probably won’t get to them for a while… hope you understand. When I have more news, I’ll back in touch.

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Oliver sharing some love: funny how he seems to know something’s up

Want some cuteness?

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Oliver, about a week after he came into our lives

Up until just over a year ago, I never considered myself a dog person. In fact, for most of my life, I would literally cross to the other side of the street to avoid interacting with dogs. It just wasn’t my thing, and I never understood why dog “owners” made the fuss they did. It was just a dog, right? That all changed though when Oliver came into our lives. Pre-Oliver, I’d only ever really known three dogs… Prince, Sheeba and an evil little black Scottie who lived three doors down from where I grew up. It’s no secret that I’m now kinda partial to my cute baby boy. Speaking of cuteness, if you’d like to see adorable, check out The Sundog Drift… there’s an extra 9 doses of golden cuteness over there right now, and over at Tamarack Goldens there are 7 more 🙂

Enough of the landscape stuff…

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Heeeeeere’s Oliver! It was so cold when we walked the golf course on Sunday, the shutter button on my camera literally froze. Seriously. Before it did though, I managed a few snaps of my baby boy. He’s already 16 months old, though in these photographs I can still see glimpses of the cute little puppy we brought home just over a year ago. He amazes me every single day with the amount of joy and affection he has to offer, and I wonder just what we did to deserve such unconditional love. The least I can do in return is take him to the golf course and let him run off his leash. Like most dogs, he loves tennis balls and sticks… give him either, and he’s one happy boy!

For those interested in the semi-technical stuff… Canon 5D II in A1 Servo mode with a 70-200mm f4 lens mostly at 200mm. The camera finds dealing with the snow quite challenging – it usually tries to tone the brightness down and leaves a darker than normal image – so I intentionally set the camera to overexpose by half a stop to ensure a more accurate exposure. I bumped the iso to 200, and chose a shutter speed of at least 1/500th second (fast enough to freeze even the quickest Golden Retriever). Then it’s just a matter of throwing the stick or tennis ball, and when he fetches and eagerly runs back toward me so I can repeat the process, I position myself down on one knee at his eye level and snap away.

Every now and then I get a good one 😉

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Ghosts…

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On our regular walk to the golf course, Oliver and I always pass a large stand of pine trees located opposite a graveyard. Depending on the time of day, the light, and the current season, these trees present a variety of interesting opportunities for photographic compositions. The sun had already set when I took the camera out one last time on this particular walk – I set the shutter speed to half a second, and started moving the camera up and down through the scene. I knew that the strong lines of the trees would contrast well with the cool carpet of snow that covered the ground, and it only took me a couple of tries to get something I liked. As twilight washed over the scene, I feel as though the low level of light combined with the dark tree trunks made for a ghostly impression.

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Voldemort!

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I was trawling through some of my oldest portable hard drives in search of original RAW files from a long-ago trip to Utah when I came across this. Made on April Fool’s Day, this was the moment Jack Robert Patterson arrived in our lives. Due to its graphic nature – that’s literally Jack’s first breath after a C-section – some people might find this photograph a little off-putting. Me, I absolutely love it!

When I stumbled on it again the other day, I couldn’t wait to show it to the now tween Jack. I figured he’d get a kick out of seeing himself right at the beginning, and after all, I doubt if there are many kids with portraits like this! When I unveiled the image to him, he got very serious in tone and expression, and then he uttered one word that made me chuckle… Voldemort!

A foot of new snow…

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…so away we went to the local golf course. Oliver loves the snow, and he also loves being off leash. We recently spent a few days visiting Granny and Grandpa in Northampton, MA, and although I’m sure there are places we could have let him run, we aren’t too familiar with the area just yet, so it had been about a week since he ran free like this. A foot of fresh powder overnight meant some serious digging out this morning, but it also made for a perfect winter playground – and needless to say, Oliver made the best of his opportunity. I like to think he’s genuinely smiling in the photograph above, and even if he’s not, I KNOW he had himself a blast! Happy New Year!

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It’s that time of year again…

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Someone likes the snow!

…where we reflect on the year that was, and choose our favorite images from the past twelve months. Our family welcomed a new puppy this year, and although Oliver has consumed much of my recreational time, I still managed to spend some time in Acadia with the camera. I enjoy the process of reflection. I also enjoy taking a moment to reminisce about places I’ve been, and sights I’ve seen. I never tire of spending time in my favorite national park, and along the way throughout the year, I made a photograph or two to remind me of what were often personal and intimate experiences. Not as prolific as in past years, I didn’t make the quantity of images I usually do. Maybe there’s a New Year’s resolution to be made which might ensure a more productive 2014? Though there aren’t many iconic and instantly recognizable picture postcard views this year, hopefully my favorite 13 images from 2013 are still distinctively Acadia? Oh yeah, and other than the golden-colored Oliver, my favorites from this year are all in black and white. If interested in seeing some high-quality landscape photography, check out the annual Jim Goldstein curation of imagery – here’s a link to the 2012 edition where you’ll be able to browse some seriously awesome work. Happy holidays!

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Wonderland granite sculpted by the Atlantic

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Withstanding the elements at Ship Harbor

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Cairn on Cadillac

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View from Adams Bridge

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Incoming tide at Schoodic

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A glimpse of Old Soaker

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Mitchell Cove – the quiet side

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The Ledges along the Loop Road

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No way… fog on the coast of Maine?

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Last light on Otter Point

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Shelter from the wind

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Two of my boys enjoying Sand Beach

I swear he’s the smartest dog…

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So… these were my exact words:

“Oliver… I know you haven’t been in your crate for ages, and I know you really don’t want to go in there, but I’d like to get a photograph of you in it so we can post it on Craigslist and sell it. Would you do me a big favor and go into your crate… just for a minute, I promise.”

As you can see… despite the fact Oliver hadn’t been in his crate for probably 8 months, he politely listened to my request and then eagerly obliged. When he was little, we used the crate for house-training, though we soon realized that it wasn’t going to be necessary. Feeling slightly guilty about confining him so much, we bought a couple of baby gates to instead cordon off the living room and the stairs, and he now has free run of the whole downstairs when we’re gone.

As you might expect, he’s incredibly well behaved – that’s if you don’t count the sticks of butter he swiped from the kitchen counter on two separate occasions! As soon as I snapped the photograph below, he trotted back out again, gave me a big hug, and appeared to be rather pleased with himself. It never ceases to amaze me how, in the short time we have known Oliver, he always seems to know what it is we say to him. Despite enjoying his own personal space, I remember a while back feeling a little tired and asking him to sit on the floor and keep me company – of course he immediately lay down and laid his chin on my lap. So… like I said, I swear he’s the smartest dog!

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A Boy and his Dog

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Jack doesn’t always come with us when we go for a walk with Oliver, but when he does, he usually has a blast. In fact, the two of them usually have a grand time chasing each other all over the place! It’s as if Oliver knows that Jack is a kid, and that as such, he’s supposed to play with him! Jack doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to join in the fun.

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Heeeeeeere’s Oliver!

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For all you Oliver lovers out there… you know who you are! Here are a few quick pics of my boy enjoying a late fall family walk. He’s such a good boy, and isn’t he handsome? He’ll charge around in the long grass like a crazy dog, and when we pull the tennis ball out for a game of fetch… well, he’s all in. He’s a solid 75 lbs now, and since he’s quite stocky, sometimes in these photographs he looks a bit chubby – though he’s not really. Lots of fur he has. Our baby boy… enjoy!

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Fall in the forest…

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It had been a while since we last visited the Bangor Forest, so just recently we scratched an itch to return there, and boy are we glad we did. The fall foliage colors, though just slightly past their peak, were still pretty amazing, and the peace and tranquility we found along the trail made this an awesome family hike. Oliver was invited, and as usual, he was a champ as we eagerly explored our wooded surroundings. Staying on the outskirts of the forest – we hopped onto the West Loop Trail – meant that we saw very few people, so even though we were relatively close to the bustling mall area of town, the solitude experienced made it feel as if we were deep in the woods on an adventure. There were pockets of fall color still to be found, and although I brought the camera with me, I was quite content to keep it slung over my shoulder most of the time while I enjoyed the company of my peeps. Here are a couple more from our fall walk in the forest…

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Beautiful Day(s)

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As summer has slowly made the transition to autumn, here in Maine, the temperatures during the day have been mild and the weather in general has been quite spectacular. Early morning walks with Oliver have revealed some impressive sunrise colors… I think it’s something to do with the temperature changes this time of year. Just about every morning I’m clicking away with my iPhone camera, and since most of the photographs I make never see the light of day, I figured I’d share a few here on the blog so that you could get a glimpse of how we begin our day together. All of these are from the past couple of weeks, and even Oliver stopped in his tracks to enjoy that last one…

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A pic and a crop

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Here’s a photograph of Oliver doing his thing… he has become more and more comfortable hopping up onto the sofa and chilling. He won’t usually stay up there for long – he’s more of a cool, wood floor kind of guy – but he does seem to enjoy the comfort while he’s up there. Another iPhone camera photograph, and one that I experimented with as my wallpaper background on the phone. As I was “moving and scaling” it, I stumbled on the second “crop” with a tighter view of the same photograph. As much as we try to compose a photograph through the viewfinder and get it “right” in camera, my guess is that there are often lots of photographs within photographs… and that’s why there’s a crop tool . And then a bonus 🙂

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In the absence of Acadia

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Normally at this time of year I’m spending time down in Acadia National Park in search of fall foliage colors. Not this year though… the powers that be in Washington have seen to that by shutting down the federal government (and the national park system). Not wishing to go off on a political rant, I’m just going to say that I find it incredibly hard to believe that those effing idiots would play political games with the livelihoods of so many working people. Just when you think partisan politics can’t get any worse, they do.

Want to find some good ideas on how to explore the park even though it is officially closed? Check out these resources:

Friends of Acadia
Nate Parker (my favorite Mount Desert-based landscape photographer)
Lynn Fantom

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Cadillac Mountain – and much of Acadia – takes on a completely different look in the fall. Not really a high color fall foliage destination like western Maine might be, Acadia’s fall colors are more subtle, and the variations in changing temperatures can make for some interesting atmospherics. I love how the ground-cover turns red this time of year, and I’m happiest when exploring one of the granite ridges of Acadia in search of an interesting scene. Each of the photographs in this post was made on Cadillac Mountain – maybe not the typical view of Bar Harbor and the Porcupine islands, but definitely one of my favorite places.

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Part of me is happy that the parks are closed – maybe they could use the rest. I know that the crowds in Acadia this summer seemed larger than normal, and I’m sure all of the critters on Mount Desert Island are enjoying the unexpected respite. However, I also know how much the local economy depends on the parks being open and available, so maybe if the clowns in Washington can get their act together, there’ll still be time to explore Acadia in all of her fall color glory.

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Oliver says hello…

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Sleep-over

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We have puppy-proofed the whole of the downstairs, and we use a baby gate to keep him from wandering where he’s not supposed to go. Oliver isn’t allowed upstairs yet, but lately he’s been more and more curious about where it is that we go when we close the gate behind us at night. Our biggest concern with allowing him upstairs is all of Jack’s toys, especially the piles of Lego, strewn all over his bedroom floor. Probably like most dogs his age, Oliver hasn’t met a sock, sneaker, or stray piece of clothing that he doesn’t want to chew, so that’s another reason to corral him downstairs.

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Though we did the whole crate-training thing, he doesn’t sleep in his crate at night any more… we let him have the run of the downstairs (except for the living room), and to date we haven’t had any problems… he’s a good sleeper. Still, we sometimes feel bad about leaving him downstairs on his own at night, so we have a family sleepover in the living room every other weekend. I think he truly appreciates us being close to him, he sleeps through the night like a champ, and he is incredibly well-behaved as he cuddles in beside us in our sleeping bags.

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