Grey skies: How to deal with blah days in winter

newfoundland dog at priest lake, idaho

Dammit, gray. No, grey.

Ah, nuts. Canadian or U.S. spelling, it doesn’t matter. Grey skies can really bring out the blah in a girl’s world.

As I’m writing this, I look at my picture window, a cup of tea steaming on the coffee table, and the morning sky is more white than grey. My weather app says fog, but in Spokane Valley, it’s more of a hovering mist.

For most people, it’s probably pretty depressing.

What do I see? People! That’s a giant softbox in the sky.

The light is soft and even, most days minimizing the need for additive lighting, like a strobe. The sky still poses a problem, because it’s has little impact on any image.

Think about the drama you find in images with big blue skies or fluffy clouds.

Days like that are few and far between during winters in Spokane and North Idaho, so the key with great dog photos is eliminating the sky altogether.

I have to find backgrounds that don’t need the sky.

Like great stands of ponderosa pine, an incredible backdrop for stunning photos of dogs in action.

That’s right. I dug out my old sports shooting skills and put them to work. And because I like to give back to the community that is helping me build my business, I sponsored the 50th anniversary Priest Lake Sled Dog Races, put on by the Inland Empire Sled Dog Association.

Not only did I get some incredible action shots — many of which were included with my story on the races in the Spokesman-Review — but I also got some great portraits of dogs watching the races.

sled dog racing at priest lake idaho

Mikki Douglass of Cle Elum races down the finish line.

It’s a small, small world

Last week, I wrote a bit about my connection to Newfoundland and how it remains a big part of who I am today.

When I spied this Newfoundland dog at the races, I started asking questions. Who is he? Who is his human? Because I love all dogs but the bigger and floofier, the more drawn I am to them.

Notably, any breed of the livestock guardian line (i.e. Maremma, Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Cuvac, Akbash, etc.), Bernese Mountain Dogs like Sully, Leonbergers or Newfies … oh, the list goes on.

I snapped a few images and then found his mama, Shawn Gibson, who turned out to be IESDA president.

I asked his name, and she replied, “Gander. Gander the Newfoundland.”

newfoundland dog named after canadian war hero , Gander

Gander the Newfoundland

I was surprised. My brain started reeling with confusion over how a dog in North Idaho could be named after the little town where my sports writing career began. It’s 4,000 miles away (6,000 km for my Canadian friends), including a day or more of flights and stopovers, eight hours on a ferry, and another six hours of driving.

Yet there sat Gander the Newfoundland.

He is named after another Newfoundland dog, who was named after the town where he was raised, Shawn explained.

But there’s so much more to the story, one I was surprised to learn of just a few days ago, one I had never heard in my four years of living in Gander, Newfoundland.

Gander, the original Newf, was a Canadian war hero.

Gander’s first name was Pal, according to a Canadian history blog, and he belonged to the Hayden family of Gander. (Hey, I knew Haydens!) He was 130 lbs. and loved to play with the neighborhood kids.

One day, though, Pal accidentally scratched the face of a six-year-old girl and the Haydens had to either give Pal up or put him down. They gave him to the air base, RCAF Station Gander and he became the regimental mascot for the 1st Battalion of the Royal Rifles of Canada.

He joined the Battalion on its mission to Hong Kong in 1941 during the Second World War. Gander “charged at any Japanese soldier who made the mistake of  getting too close to the Canadians troops and tackled them.”

But then …

On December 19th just after midnight, the Battle of Lye Mun broke out. Gander fought off the Japanese as he always did, until a grenade was thrown near a group of injured Canadians. Knowing what was about to happen, Gander picked up the grenade with his mouth and tore off with it. The grenade exploded and Gander was killed, but in doing so he had saved the lives of the seven soldiers.

Crying yet? Dogs give us so much more than we realize or appreciate sometimes.

Along with the 1,977 Canadians who died in that battle, Gander’s name is listed on the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall in Ottawa. The Town of Gander erected a memorial statue of him in 2015.

No doubt, Shawn and the rest of her pack, including two senior Newfies, rest easy day and night with their Gander protecting them.

Gander the Newfoundland dog sits in the snow at Priest Lake, Idaho

Gander, sitting at attention

Calendar girl

Sitting in the snow, next to Gander, was his pack mate, September.

Shawn said the husky is named September because she likes to show off her netheryeya while demanding belly rubs.

“No, not really,” she said with a laugh.

husky with two different colored eyes

September the husky

She didn’t show me any of her bits as I trained my lens on her.

portrait of a husky in the snow in north idaho

Instead, she started doing what huskies do.

She sang.

white husky howling in north idaho

Sing me a song, sweet September

Don’t you wish I did video?

Snow day in Spokane

We didn’t just have grey skies in Spokane this week. It was full on snowing again, after a couple of weeks of mild, out-of-season temperatures.

And grey skies.

Bella, having suffered through six days of me not being able to do anything other than work, was treated to an afternoon at the Mirabeau trailhead for Centennial trail, one of our favorite spots to go walking.

Of course, I took my camera.

Bella against a woodsy background without grey skies of Spokane winter

#dogsonrocks … no really, there are rocks under that snow

Bella the Maremma sheepdog oses for dog photos in the woods near the Mirabeau trailhead in Spokane Valley

You coming, Mama?

See? All trees for the background. In your face with your grey skies, Mama Nature!

All around the circle

I’m amazed sometimes by how small this world is.

Imagine, purely by happenstance, running into someone who brings me back to Newfoundland … in Priest Lake, Idaho.

The encounter left me smiling in my heart all day long.

Now fill your heart with images and stories from dog photographers all around the world. The theme for this week’s blog circle was shades of grey.

Start with Cahlean Klenke of About a Dog Photography in St. Cloud, Minnesota. When you get to the bottom of her post, click through to the next link and on you go, travelling around our world of dog photography.

And when you find yourself back here, you’re home.

Right where you belong.

If you’re ready to book a portrait session, click this button that takes you to my contact page.

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18 thoughts on “Grey skies: How to deal with blah days in winter”

  1. Pingback: Sled dogs: He was mad he didn't get to run farther | Noses & Toes Pet Photography

  2. Sweet Purrfections

    Beautiful photos! I experience SAD during the winter months and I live in the South. I hate cold weather and dark/dreary days./

  3. Your photos are simply beautiful! I loved reading about Gander the war hero, but was also sad that he had such an untimely demise.

  4. I love the pictures, the singing husky is gorgeous and Gander is phenomenal. That picture of the happy running snow dogs show how much they are loving the snow. Personally I’m more a curl up by the fire type.

  5. Wow. I love the story of Gander! I wonder if the dog really knew it was a grenade or thought it was a toy. But giving his life to save others, what a hero!
    Great photos. I love how you blurred the backgrounds to focus on the dogs!

  6. The gray skies of WA winters – remember them so well! You’ve a lot of helpful things to do – particularly love that you covered the Spokane sled dog races, writing about it for the paper. We love the Mazama area – just post the North Cascades, and we watch the dogs run with their humans while they ski. The history in your story is so amazing – and Newfies are pure delights!

  7. Ah, that stuff doesn’t slow us down. The only thing I hate about Winters as they had been recently and all the mess. Temperatures wa..y down, temperatures way up, bunch of snow, freezing rain . The result is a deep, hard mess that doesn’t carry your (or your dog’s weight) so you break through but it does grab a foot like a vice …Just this week Cookie hurt her left shoulder again over that.

  8. The Dash Kitten Crew

    I am not a winter person and use a lamp to balance out the lack of light. Here in our prt of NZ we don’t get this kind of heavy snow though, I am honestly not sure how the cats would cope!

  9. Kelly Middlebrooks

    Your images are wonderful, but that one of the singing husky stole my heart. I love the story of Gander and I’m jealous of the sledding you have there. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

  10. Great post and thank you for sharing the story and history about the name Gander, dogs are such heroes and we are all blessed to have them in our lives. In Israel there is an old age home for dogs from the army where they can retire to to live the rest of their lives in peace and I think that is such an amazing idea.

  11. Michelle & The Paw Pack

    People often seem to think I’m crazy, but I love the grey winter days. We recently moved 7 hours north, where the winters are much harsher then where we lived previously, and I’ve been loving every second of it. My mini snow dog, Fenrir, totally agrees with me, and we’ve been loving all our winter adventures. I adore the grey, moody, photos that come with this time of year too! Lovely photos, and what a cool story about Gander!

  12. I LOVE the image of the Husky howling….perfect…and Gander is one handsome dude. I enjoyed learning a bit of history about the original!

    1. History is cool! At least that’s what I keep telling myself. 🙂 I forgot to mention that Gander was a gentle giant, but we all know that to be true about Newfies, right?

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