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

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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Oliver says hello…

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There’s nothing worse than wet feet…

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… so I decided to splurge and get myself a decent pair of walking shoes. Though somewhat uncomfortable on a summer morning, wet feet from walking on a dew-soaked golf course are still kind of manageable, but when the temperatures start to drop as it has done lately, and when the golf course gets a drenching like it did last week, things get way beyond uncomfortable. Avoiding the experience is not an option – my boy just loves to visit the course where he gets to run free and off the leash – so I knew I needed a good pair of boots to make those pre-dawn walks more enjoyable.

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I’m not endorsing anything in this blog post… this is just my experience. I searched high and low locally for a pair of shoes that would be a) comfortable, b) waterproof, and c) easy-on/off. I already have a pair of heavier boots that I use in the winter snow, but they aren’t as flexible in more normal conditions, and that translates into less comfort. This time I was looking for something more supple, and something I could use year round when hiking or exploring locations for landscape photography. After trying on quite a few different brands and models, I finally settled on the Chameleon 5 Mid Ventilator WTPF by Merrell.

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As I said… I’m not mentioning these shoes for any other reason than the fact that I like them and they are incredibly comfortable. The semi high-cut heel provides stable, but comfortable support, the mechanism for tightening the laces across the front of the foot creates a really snug fit, and they are just downright easy on the feet in both wet and dry conditions. The sole is sturdy yet pliable and light, and most importantly, as advertised, they are 100% waterproof. No excuses… I’m up and walking on the wet golf course with Oliver every morning, and boy does it feel good to have dry feet!

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A cairn with a view…

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This little guy surely has one of the most impressive views on the east coast. He sits on the South Ridge Trail about half a mile from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, and he looks out on both Frenchman Bay to the east, and the Blue Hill Bay and the nearby islands to the south and west.

Just me playing with a large aperture and a shallow depth of field as I used my 50mm f1.8 lens on my Canon 5D II 🙂

Acadia cairns

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If you’ve ever hiked in Acadia, you’ll probably have noticed the many small rock cairns created to help guide you along the trail. A blaze of blue paint will also keep you moving in the right direction, but if that gets too difficult to follow and you get a little wayward, you’ll see one of these little structures designed to keep you on the path. Acadia trails are a masterful, and often subtle, example of how to blend human interaction with the natural environment. Despite the high number of yearly visitors, many of the trails in this little national park appear to be withstanding the wear and tear admirably, and they appear almost as if they are “meant” to be there. Kudos to the National Park Service and the Friends of Acadia for all of the trailwork they do to make this such an amazing place to hike.

The wind in your hair (fur?)

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Does Oliver have hair or fur? I’m never sure which it is. Either way, he’s a cutie, and when walking on the South Ridge of Cadillac over the weekend, he would often pause to enjoy the blustery conditions. The gently sloping granite ridge is a perfect trail for him, and the view isn’t too bad for us either. The heat from the summer is gone for another year, and as we transition into the cooler temperatures of the fall, our hairy/furry friend seems a lot more comfortable. Here he is getting a big hug from my Lori… Oliver doesn’t seem to mind getting hugs 🙂

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Chesterfield Gap

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From a recent hiking adventure in western Massachussetts… this is the Westfield River just downstream from the impressive Chesterfield Gorge. Maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, this is a pretty spectacular stretch of river offering amazing views of a steep-sided gorge – and then further downstream – a meandering and picturesque riverbed. The gorge part of the hike is quite remarkable, with high cliffs on either side framing fast-moving water that continues to shape the land. The topography flattened out somewhat once we left the roar of the gorge, and the raging water from higher up soon gave way to a peaceful, friendly river. Oliver and I explored the trail while the kids took some time to cool off and enjoy the gently running water. This is a very pretty place that would surely look great in the fall when the leaves begin to change color.

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Portfolio photograph

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Lately I haven’t been making many landscape photographs, and certainly not many I have felt worthy of adding to my portfolio. My portfolio is a collection of photographs that I personally like… and while I enjoy sharing my favorites, I realize that not everyone will like what I like. Anyhoo… here’s the latest addition to my online portfolio. This scene is from the Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine. On this particular morning the area was socked in with heavy fog, and I can remember soaking in the cool, wet air on what was a pretty peaceful and tranquil morning. I was drawn to the jagged rocks of all shapes and sizes that had obviously been tossed and broken by the force of the Atlantic Ocean, and although you can’t hear it in this photograph, the fog-muffled sound of the incoming tide breaking just beyond these rocks was quite something.

If you haven’t had a chance to browse my full collection of images from Acadia and beyond, you can do so here: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

A walk to remember…

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Jack has been steadily gaining confidence in Oliver’s presence, and as he does so, he has become more and more attached to him. They’re forming a tight bond, and it’s been nice to see them develop a strong relationship as fast friends. Oliver is an absolute dream to walk with, and as we recently strolled along our favorite south ridge of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, it did my heart good to see two of my boys enjoying each other’s company so much.

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In addition to offering spectacularly beautiful and stunning 360 degree views of Acadia, the terrain on this trail just happens to be perfect for walking the dog. Oliver is able to negotiate the rocky granite slope with ease, and the cooler air up high can provide a welcome respite from the summer heat. Soaking in views of the Cranberry Islands while chowing down on a pb&j sandwich and then a banana for dessert… not a bad way to round out a memorable morning walk.

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My all-time favorite Acadia hike

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The south ridge of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is my all-time favorite hike. It’s about five miles one-way from the ocean at Blackwoods campground to the summit of Cadillac, and as you cover that ground laterally, you’ll also deal with about 1,528 feet of elevation – it truly does seem to rise right out of the ocean making it seem even taller. One of our favorite things to do is park at the Blue Hill Overlook just before the top of the mountain, and then walk back down the gently sloping granite ridge for a mile or so before turning around and hiking back up.

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On this particular visit, Lori and I had Oliver in tow – Jack was resting back at the house with Granny and Grandpa. We figured the openness of the granite ledge near the top would suit Oliver really well, and we knew that there wouldn’t be anything too tricky for him to handle. He was extremely nimble as he scampered along the rocky trail, though we still had to make sure he was aware of the sometimes deep and wide cracks in the ice-shaped granite slabs. As we stepped onto the trail, we could see an off-shore storm blowing our direction, and although we didn’t have any desire to get soaked, we decided to forge ahead anyway… we had been itching to get out onto this trail, and we figured what the hey… if it started raining too hard, we could easily be back at the car within a few minutes.

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As the storm blew through, it kinda brushed us off to the left, and in behind it came some wild and dramatic light. As the sun dipped lower toward the horizon, it streaked across the overhead sky, painting the breaking clouds on the edge of the storm with some amazing light… and I loved how it made the mountain landscape come alive. We experienced some turbulent atmospherics on this hike, with clouds, wind and sunshine all seemingly wrestling to prevail. Their battle played out to our advantage, providing an evening of pretty special weather, and I was especially pleased to share my all-time favorite hike in these conditions with Oliver (and Lori).

Take a walk with Oliver…

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From a few weeks back… here’s a little glimpse of the walk Oliver and I make every morning. Using the Nike app on my iPhone, I’m able to track – among other things – where and how far we walked, how long we walked for, and how many calories I burned – trust me, Oliver burns waaaaaay more calories than I do as he cavorts all across the golf course in search of good things to sniff and chew. The little red patches on our trail are where we slowed down – to leash and un-leash – and also probably where I stopped to make these photographs. We got a later than usual start on this particular morning – normally we’re out the door by 5:30am – but we still had the course all to ourselves.

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We’re only about a quarter of a mile from the golf course, and when we make a hard right turn to enter the property, we walk through what is probably one of my favorite parts. A winding path covered in tree roots and pine needles meanders through a stand of tall, majestic trees that remind me of the black oaks out west in Yosemite, and when we come out on the other side, we’re greeted by the pretty scene below. Not a bad way to start the morning…

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We’ll walk up and down the fairways, sometimes looping back around to re-explore particularly interesting areas of longer grass, and as you might imagine, like most dogs, Oliver loves to chase the tennis ball. I’ll throw it, he’ll chase it, and no matter how fast he’s traveling, he’ll always – almost comically – roll over as he snags the ball. He gets a treat, and we do it all again… and again… and again. This of course gets him soaking wet from rolling in the morning dew, though during the summer months with warmer temperatures, that isn’t such a bad thing since he gets to cool off.

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There’s a sweet little overgrown cut-through between a couple of holes on the back nine that Oliver and I like to think no-one else uses but us. It’s our secret path, and since he’s a creature of habit, he always runs ahead of me to lead the way. He’s 10 months old today, and just recently he learned how to do some things that the big dogs do. It’s been funny to watch as he experiments with lifting his back leg… as he teeters precariously on three legs, I’m surprised he hasn’t completely fallen over yet! I bet there aren’t many blogs with photographs of their dogs pee-ing, eh?

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I know I’m biased, but isn’t he a handsome dog? He seems to have lost a little bit of the puppiness to his shape, and he looks leaner now than he did maybe even a month ago. About two thirds of the way into our walk, he starts to slow down, and instead of chasing up and down and back and forth across the fairways, he sticks closer to my side, usually breathing pretty heavily. By now we’ll have been walking (running for him) for about 45 minutes, so he likes to take what I consider to be a well-deserved rest. Throughout our walk, we’ll stop off at the water coolers located at every third or fourth tee box to enjoy a drink, so he stays well hydrated. By the time we get back home and up onto the front porch, he’ll be pretty much out of gas. Gassed… but very happy.

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A Foggy Ship Harbor Trail

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Located on the quieter side of Mount Desert Island and Acadia NP, this 1.2 mile trail meanders briefly through lush forest but soon opens up offering spectacular ocean views of Great Gott and Placentia Islands out in the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful and relatively easy loop that provides opportunities to experience both ocean and forest views, and although you likely won’t have this walk all to yourself, it sure beats the crowded trails on the more popular eastern side of Mount Desert Island. Actually… if you’re on this trail at 7:00am like we were, you might just have it all to yourself! This was the first photograph I made during our recent vacation, and the foggy conditions on this particular morning were a precursor of the weather we would have for most of our time in Acadia. Foggy, relatively colorless morning… why not black and white?

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Oliver’s Ridge

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There’s a little piece of land behind the first green, and before you reach the second tee, on our local golf course that Oliver absolutely loves. We know how much he likes to visit this spot, so when out for an early morning walk, we always try and work it into our route. It’s really no more than a piece of waste ground where dirt has been piled up and left to be reclaimed by mother nature. It’s a forgotten area that becomes overgrown with long grass in the summer, but throughout this past winter, it has been like catnip to Oliver. As soon as he gets close, he charges off and runs up and over and around it like a madman with his nose on high alert. There is definitely something in the grass that sets him off, and it’s quite comical to see him react the way he does. I guess it’s the retriever in him, and boy does he enjoy chasing through the brush and longer grass. It’s a nondescript location to most everyone else, but we call this special little place Oliver’s Ridge.

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Day two: Photographing my dog

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This was the second day in a row I carried the “real” camera with me on our morning walk. The light just after sunrise was exquisite, and I wanted to use it to grab a few shots of my beautiful baby. As always, Oliver cooperated wonderfully, and I came away with some photographs of him that I really like. The cold snap we’ve been enduring of late means there’s a nice, crisp coating of frost on the ground, and more importantly, no mud to deal with!

Also, just as we were finishing our walk, we bumped into some friends who had their dog, Rudy, with them. Rudy is much bigger and older than Oliver, and it was interesting to see how more subdued Oliver was than when greeting most other dogs. Rudy quickly let Oliver know that his usual overly-effervescent self wasn’t going to be appreciated so much, but he did it in a way that was firm without being mean. Oliver is an incredibly social little thing, and he loved meeting Rudy. Here’s my baby…

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Day one: Photographing my dog

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So… I finally broke out the “real” camera and carted it with me on a couple of my early morning walks with Oliver. Most of my photographs of him are made using the iPhone, and although I love the simplicity and convenience that it offers, there’s nothing like using a longer lens to create a slightly different perspective… and I love the shallow depth of field. All of the photographs in this post were made on the same morning using my Canon 5D II and a 70-200mm f4 lens – usually zoomed out to 200mm. As Oliver and I explored the local golf course, I seized the opportunity to point the camera at him every chance I got. He would wander off maybe 30-40 yards, and when I would crouch down (or lie on my belly) and point the camera at him, he would see this as a chance to charge back to me and try and steal my woolly hat. At times it almost seemed as though he was posing for me… isn’t he a handsome young dog!

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Our time…

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It’s turning into a snowy winter here in Maine. We had yet another couple of inches overnight, and we’re expecting even more in the next few days. I never thought I’d be the one to say it, but now that I’m walking Oliver every day, I kinda like when we get a fresh covering of snow, and I know I’m going to be bummed when the spring thaw brings wet and muddy. Just the other day, I took my first ice-induced spill in maybe ten years, so my sore backside welcomes the added friction that several inches of fresh powder brings. During the work week, Oliver and I are usually out walking together on the edge of the daylight hours, either first thing in the morning, or right at the end of the day as the sun goes down. There’s a stillness to be found at these times, and it’s great to be able to share this time with Oliver. Depending on how much we meander and/or pause, we’re usually able to crank out about a mile and half in 30-40 minutes – and although the snow and ice does slow us down a bit, that’s not a bad thing, since we both enjoy the time spent together. Fun times… our time.

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I guess that’s why he’s called a Retriever!

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So, here’s the story… I’m in a familiar place on a cold but bright late afternoon. I’m walking with Oliver at the local golf course, and as is usually the case, I let him off the leash when we get deep into the property so he can run free and explore. Oliver rarely strays too far, and as he wanders, he never takes his eye off me – nor I him. As we walk, every now and again we’ll practice our recall training, and that’s also when I take the phone/camera out and shoot him as he runs toward me to get his treat. The iPhone camera doesn’t have an A1 Servo mode (Canon thing – not sure what the Nikon equivalent is) where it can focus automatically and track a fast-moving subject, but when Oliver is barreling down on me from a head-on angle, it actually does OK, even in so-so light. I can usually count on at least one or two photographs from each burst being somewhat in focus, and as per usual on this particular afternoon… I was going for that elusive “perfect” photograph of him in mid-air bounding toward me with a big smile on his face.

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Anyway… Oliver’s off about forty yards or so in a thicket of trees, totally engrossed in his latest discovery. I’m not sure what it was he found that was so fascinating, but it was probably an already half-chewed stick, some wet and stinky leaves revealed by the melting snow, or perhaps his favorite find… a poopsicle. I figured this was a great opportunity to practice our recall, so I did my standard whistle to get his attention and then hollered for him to come. Good boy that he is, he looked up to see where I was, and immediately came charging toward me. Though pleased to see him respond so well, my first thought was of course to take out the phone/camera and start shooting. After all, the light was getting good, and the background behind him was pretty clean and free from power lines etc. Oliver is getting bigger and quicker, so I usually only have a few seconds to get the phone out, swipe my finger to unlock it, open the camera app, and crouch down to compose… better hurry. I reached into my jacket pocket, and that’s when I realized my phone wasn’t where I usually kept it. I quickly searched every pocket I had, but a sick feeling had already starting growing in the pit of my stomach… there was no phone.

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Meanwhile, Oliver was charging across the snowy ground toward me, and even though I knew that losing my phone was pretty serious, I couldn’t help but think about the missed opportunity for a cool photograph of him. Then, all of a sudden, maybe halfway to where I was standing, he stopped dead in his tracks and and started digging furiously deep into the snow. I reinforced his recall command… but nothing. I tried again… still nothing. He had obviously hit pay dirt, and no amount of me yelling “Come” was going to get him back to me. Bummed about losing my phone, and bummed that Oliver wasn’t listening like he usually does, I took a couple of steps forward to go see what he was up to, and that’s when he popped back up and started running toward me again. My mind was racing, thinking about how was I ever going to find my phone, or worse still, replace it? What if I couldn’t find it? I was already doing the mental math on how much a new phone was going to cost, especially since I was only a couple of months into this contract. Instinctively, and although somewhat in a fog, I dug into my pocket for a little bit of cheese to give Oliver – one of his favorite treats – for finally following my command to come, and that’s when he gently and carefully delivered – right into my hand – what he had been doing all the digging for… it was my phone! He genuinely seemed very proud of himself, and needless to say, I was very appreciative of what my little guy had done… and I guess that’s why he’s called a Retriever!