The People Behind Rescue Dogs

While peeling through Facebook the other day, I noticed an article posted by a friend about the old vs. new ways that dog rescues/shelters can best market their dogs and services to those that are searching for a future family member(s).   It started with getting rid of the “poor dog”stories and not dwelling on the past life of the dog.  You’ve probably seen those heart wrenching photos like these below, of our new dog, Helen Jane, when she initially came into a shelter in Indiana.  (These were from a 2 year series of photos from her initial rescue to adoption.  I’m just using these for illustrative purposes.)

Be Delicate with Me!

Be Delicate with Me!

Too Thin

Too Thin

Now fast-forward 2 years!  She’s made a spectacular recovery and was nursed back to good health with the help of Illinois Bird Dog Rescue and their system of dedicated foster homes and volunteers.  (Kudos to all of you because you saw her through the tough days and we benefited from that!)  The gist of the article was rather than dwell on the rescued dog‘s past and pull at the heartstrings with sob stories, it’s better to highlight the dog’s best behaviors, personality traits, and why the dog would be a good companion and family member.  In other words, show them in their best light!  Well here you go . . .

Catchiing Air!

Catchiing Air!

On the Scent

On the Scent

Cool Down Time!

Cool Down Time!

While we know nothing about her life before rescue (nor do we need to know), we celebrate the joy, companionship, humor and energy she brings to our everyday lives!  She’s also become my “never too cold, hot or rainy” exercise partner and has me running again, after a multi-year ‘resting period.’  Now, if I could only keep up with her!

Shortly after adopting her, I signed up for a dog obedience training class (1 & 2) with Holly Lewis (Cold Nose Canine) at the east side Zoom Room and in spite of her being an adult, 4-6 yrs old, our “bonding through obedience training” has blossomed.  Yes, you can teach older dogs (and humans) new tricks!   This skilled network of positive reinforcement dog trainers is vital in completing the circle of successful adoptions.

As I read the brief FB post from Beyond Breed, I thought of all the people that work tirelessly to rescue, shelter,transport, foster, treat and ready dogs for adoptions.  From executive directors to volunteers, there’s an army of people to celebrate and acknowledge.  Like Lisa, below, with her own dog, Buckwheat, who’s been rescuing English Pointers and English Setters for 12 years.

He's the best and he's all mine!

He’s the best and he’s all mine!

With that understanding, it’s time to start another personal photography project!  Spread the word because I need to photograph and blog about the people that are behind the scenes of every big and little dog adoption.   From home based rescues to large shelters, help me share the stories of their everyday successes and joys of working in the emotionally charged area of dog rescue/adoption.   It’s the successes that keep this “army” going and that’s what I intend to highlight.  To start things off, I’d like to travel to northwest Indiana, with Hellie, and photograph the people there that helped get her to me.  I think they’d love to see what’s become of her and I expect the joyful memory of our meeting would fuel them forward during some tougher times.

This project would also include the adopters and their new canine family members.  Then I can help supply the rescues with images such as the one below that illustrate that rescued/adopted dogs can be wonderful companions to children and families!  If you’d like to be part of this yet to be named project or know of someone, or a shelter/rescue that might be interested in participating, please contact me at peggy@peggymorsch.com or 414.550.5340.  Sites in the Midwest are encouraged but I’ll also consider other states if they line up with travel plans such as Alaska, western New York, or the driving route to Florida.  Thanks for helping this project move forward!

"I've got your eeaarr!"

“I’ve got your eeaarr!”

4th Annual WINE & PAWs event

Winter’s losing it’s tenacious grip on the Upper Midwest and as I walk/run with our dog, Helen Jane in the early mornings, I can feel the soothing warmth of the sun again against my face and clothing and see the melting of the ice and snow.  Ooh, it feels so good!  Besides the coming of Spring, the weather changes signal the preparations for the upcoming WINE and PAWs 2013 event at my studio.  It’s an event that I always look forward to as many different dogs and their owners come to be photographed for a good cause – a dog rescue or humane society.   It’s fun to meet and photograph all the various breeds that attend!

4th Annual WINE & PAWs !

4th Annual WINE & PAWs !

This fun event is an opportunity to have memorable, artistic images made of your dog, with maybe a few images of the two, or three of you together.   (c’mon, you can do it for your dog!)  After losing our two dogs in three months last year, we’re grateful for the photographs we have to remember them by.  They were such great dogs and members of our family!  Your dogs are no different.

Besides some distinguishing photos, another reason the participants like about WINE and PAWs is the chance to make a donation to a 501(c)3 dog rescue.  It’s their way of giving back to the rescuers/volunteers that work tirelessly everyday to make the lives of stray and abandoned dogs better.  Many participants own dogs that have come from rescues or humane societies and love to show their ‘thanks.’   The tax deduction is just a bonus.

We adopted our new rescue dog, Helen Jane (aka Hellie) from such a place – the Illinois Bird Dog Rescue (IBR).  We wanted another English Pointer and we’ve been rewarded with a wonderful, youthful specimen who had phenomenal veterinary care and loving foster homes.  Initially rescued as an emaciated, tick-infested dog in Indiana in June of 2011, she has recovered from Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever and Erlichia – 2 tick-borne diseases – and continues to thrive while keeping her chronic Lyme’s disease at bay.  Her care was costly and WINE and PAWs is my way of giving back to IBR, who brought her back to good health and behavior.

Helen Jane showing off her point 'stuff'.

Helen Jane showing off her point ‘stuff’.

Now it’s your turn to step up and call me (414-550-5340) or email me (peggy@peggymorsch.com) to arrange a session time for you and your dog.  I’ll give you some hints about how we can make the session go smoothly and what you can expect to happen.  Tell me your if you prefer ‘red vs. white vs. rose’ and we’ll be all set.  While we don’t  consume the wine during the event, the wine exchange has become a fun way to try other wines when you get home.  Let’s reach my goal to raise $1000 for IBR!

Helen Jane catches some air as she romps at Runway Dog Park - Milwaukee.

Helen Jane catches some air as she romps at Runway Dog Park – Milwaukee.

What I’ve Learned From A Sikh

 There’s an old saying that I’ve always loved.  I first heard it in my 20’s and it’s echoed again and again as the decades have morphed into my 50’s.  “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”  It’s a simple saying packed with deep meaning.

     Today, it came me to again after talking to my neighbor, Swarnjit, as he walked home from the local university, where he’s a professor of Economics.  Swarnjit and his wife, Nimmi, are Sikhs and it’s a little more than 48 hours since 6 of their fellow Sikhs were gunned down inside the holy confines of their temple on a beautiful Sunday morning in Oak Creek, WI.   In this whirl of time, their lives have simultaneously been filled with acting as spokespeople for the Sikh religion as well as helping their faith community plan for funerals, grieve, and hold community-wide prayer services to honor the dead and praise the first-responders, who prevented further carnage.

     Earlier in the day, I had listened to Swarnjit speak on Wisconsin Public Radio about his religion (click here for the audio archive) – how it started and what the main principles of Sikhism were.  He spoke of how his religion began because there were people who didn’t believe in the caste system of India.  They felt that all people were equal under the eyes of god.  In my sidewalk conversations with Swarnjit, he’s talked about how they believe in the goodness of everyone and how they pray for everyone.  In the interview, you will hear him say that they embrace the beliefs of equality, tolerance and patience, and in spite of the atrocities that befell them recently, they still believe in the goodness of all people.  I think you’ll be moved at his humility and dignity. 

     It takes a strong, spiritual person to be able to push away anger and accept the recent shootings as part of god’s plan and pray for his soul.  As the student, I watched the Sikh’s talk to the local/national news media as Sunday’s horror unfolded.  Most were calm and their beliefs were fully integrated in watching them offer the news people food or water, as they bright sun of the day poured down on them.  Who among us non-Sikhs, in our grieving, would find the grace to care for others while our heart breaks for those who are gone?

     Tonight, some neighbors and I listened, huddled closely around Swarnjit on the sidewalk, as he reconfirmed his belief that all are good – that environments people are raised in can make them do horrendous things.  I saw a young 13 year old boy, that had recently done a school report on Swarnjit’s life, tear up as he watched him speak about forgiveness.  I felt as if instead of us comforting him, he was comforting us!   His melodic speech and warming eye contact attracted our attention to his every word.

     At that moment, everyone’s god was present in our midst and I felt as if god speaking directly through Swarnjit.  Standing there, we were all students, listening to our neighbor, the teacher.   He was teaching us that in spite of all he’s been through, his inner peace was strong enough to blanket us with a peace that tolerance and understanding can bring – even if we’ve been wronged. 

     It futile for me to understand why someone targeted such a peace-loving, faith community.  Swarnjit told us tonight to love everyone, everyday.  To accept everyone, everyday.  To pray for everyone, everyday.   This student is thankful for my neighbor, the spiritual teacher.

     Your comments are welcomed.

 

The Best Dog on Summit Ave.

     Ten years ago this month we were expecting new neighbors.  Word was that they had 3 girls and a dog, so we were excited to greet them.  But first, we had to erect a fence between the lots because their youngest child was 2 and we didn’t want any unattended meetings between their daughter and our two rambunctious dogs.  Little did I know that their dog would be known as “the best dog of Summit Ave.”

     After meeting the family, we were introduced to Skippy, their beagle-mix dog.  He was a calm-assertive type and I could see that he was a one-of-a-kind dog.  You can’t help but absorb his calmness if you’re around him.  He only barked when he wanted to get inside the house, or in his later years, when he was playing with or commandeering his other canine siblings.  That’s pretty good for a hound!  

     At our annual block party, Skippy was the only dog on the block that could be kept off leash and he’d hang around – lying on the apron of grass between the sidewalk and the road.  Darn, he put all the other dogs to shame!  I do remember that after they first moved in, Skippy decided to explore the new territory, and or perhaps he missed his old Indiana neighborhood, and got an introduction to Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commisssion.  Everyone was relieved when he was found.  Seemed he got that wandering thing out of his system because he never tried it again.

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     As we all celebrated our country’s independence and endured the heat of the past week, Skippy’s time to go home arrived.  Knowing I would be out of town, I asked one of the twins, who knows her way around a camera, to take one of my cameras and help me.  She with the 50mm and I with the 70-200mm, together we made Skip’s last images on a cloudy morning while he meandered around their back yard.  As I put the images together into a slideshow for the family, I saw that ever-present calmness in his eyes.  Yoda dog – even at the end of his life!  Just look at that peaceful jaw and alert, but relaxed ears.  If you feel like giving him a hug right now, you no doubt understand what I mean.

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    Yesterday I spoke with Skippy’s ‘mom,’ Colleen, and she showed me a photo made of Skippy when he was 6 months old.  There he was, sitting proudly in between his twin, human sisters, with that same look in his eye.  It was the “Yoda” look and you might spy it in the photos posted here.  Skippy – the Jedi Master!  The puppy photo reflected his supreme confidence.  It was as if he knew his role in the life of his family and he appeared serene – at peace.  Life was good with his human family.  

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     Even at 15 years, Skippy’s base personality never wavered.  Always calm and open; ever the leader in his family of humans and fellow canines.  But over the last year it was his body that was letting go of his beautiful soul.  As I gazed at the 6 month old photo of Skippy, I thought of all the moments he shared with his family and how they all could look back at their lives and think, “Skippy was there with me.”  The twins were 3 when Skippy arrived in their lives so imagine the steadiness he provided to them as they grew.  The cuddling up next to his soft, furry body, the car trips to Maine every summer, daily walks in Lake Park’s curvy ravines, playing dress-up with the girls, . . .   So glad I knew the best dog on Summit Ave.  Excuse me while I cry a little.  Gonna miss him!

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BARKS at St. Mark’s

     Every once in a while, someone enters my life and brings into it much more meaning than I would have every thought possible.  That’s how it was with Fr. John.  From my initial greeting with Fr. John Allen, I knew that he was a unique, spiritual guide and man.  There was a twinkle in his eye, a sincerity in his voice and his Irish Wolfhound puppy was sporting a different kind of collar – that of a priest!  You see, Flynn works the spiritual side of life with Fr. John.  They’re a team and Fr. John understands the talents that his spiritual partner brings to the table.

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     As I conversed with Fr. John, he asked me to photograph them together, and then wondered if I’d be interested in helping them out at their upcoming Barks at St. Mark’s  (2011) at his church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (1314 E. Rawson Ave.  South Milwaukee).  Click HERE for directions.

     Remember I said he had a twinkle in his eye?  Barks at St. Mark’s is a Sunday church service, held outside, under a large tent, and it’s EXPECTED that you bring your dog/cat/pet.  In fact, Fr. John tells me that pets are welcomed on any Sunday during the year – inside or out – not just to celebrate St. Francis of Assisi of the Barks event.  Fr. John knows and lives inside the healing, nurturing world of pets, year round!

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     Last year the weather was beautiful and people/pets of all shapes and sizes (cats were there too) came forward during the service for a communion (dog/cat biscuits) and a personal blessing from Fr. John.  I loved what I saw that day and I teared up a bit when some of the older dogs stepped forward for his blessing, knowing they were one step closer to meeting their maker.

     This year’s event is next Sunday, June 10th and I’ll be there at 8:30 in the morning to photograph your and your dog, inside, BEFORE the mass starts at 9:00 a.m.  I’ll be photographing again AFTER the mass until 11:00 a.m.  Due to the number of people/pets wanting to be photographed, these will be “quick takes” of about 5 minutes.  You may want to brush up on your sit/stay, or down/stays prior the event.  Images will be available online for ordering/delivery.  Parking is available in the back but you may find street parking more convenient.  Be careful exiting your pet from your vehicle, as it can be a busy street!

     Following the blessing, there will be a complimentary picnic provided by the members of St. Mark’s parish, and you can browse some of the pet-friendly businesses that will also be there.  If you were  a participant of Barks at St. Mark’s 2011, post a comment and tell others about your experience!

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     For those who are photographed, a $15 donation is required.  This donation goes to helping St. Mark’s provide assistance to those in their community who have pets but have trouble meeting the financial responsibilities of veterinary care, medications, food, etc.  You can make your check out to St. Mark’s Church.  Cash is also accepted.  You will be notified via email when your images are ready to viewed online.

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     As there will be a number of dogs there, it’s requested that dogs be leashed and up to date on their vaccinations.   

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See you on June 12th!!

Mad Hot Ballroom 2012

For just a few minutes I ask you to step into a pair of tap shoes and transport yourself to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.  For those of you out of town, it’s our home to the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team and other indoor professional sports teams.  Allow me set the scene which you are about to enter.

Over the last 6 weeks, you’ve been attending tap dance lessons as part of the Danceworks, Inc. program with Milwaukee Public Schools.  Your gangly, growing body has been learning swing, latin and funky styles of tap once a week.  Any other practice is on your own.  After some final coaching tips, it’s time for the taps to hit the floor in a large inter-school competition.

You’ve got your best dancing clothes on – dresses for girls and ties on the guys.  You go over your steps one more time, mouthing the count under your breath, and then you step out onto the floor with the huge Jumbotron showing your every move overhead as the roaring crowd of parents, teachers, volunteers and judges ready for your performance.

As the quarterfinals became the semi-finals and the semi-finals became the finals, I can see the energy and the seriousness of the teams start to show.  Here I capture just one little series of a young couple who seemed to enjoy what they were seeing – on the Jumbotron!   As I edited the images today, I knew you’d enjoy this little glimpse into a big day for these young tap dancers.  Check out these faces and feel their joy, amazement and sense of accomplishment!

I like how they both see themselves and then separately take their turns peaking at themselves.

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Group Behaviors and Cameras

Observation is one of the keys of making good images.  It’s staying open to what’s happening around you, above you and yes, behind you.  If you’re photographing wildlife, you can often discern patterns of behavior and position yourself for the best place to set up at a certain time of day.  If you watch people, especially people with cameras, they’ll display patterns of behavior that will also be predictable.

This past weekend I rose before dawn to photograph the hot air balloons lifting off at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon and Air Show.  It was pre-dawn when I arrived and a large number of people wearing heavy, black “necklaces”, who like me, were milling around in anticipation of some action to photograph.  Balloonists were laying out their balloons and reading their equipment.  As soon as the engine to one of the giant fans that blow air into the balloons was started, my fellow photographers swarmed it it like vultures to a carcass.  ImageI took a look at what they were photographing, and I noted that there was a lack of sweet light and decided that THEY were the shot.  In the center of this photo is a young girl that I spied who caught my attention. She stood out to me because of her size and she had two, count them, two cameras around her neck.  Now we’re talking serious amateur here!  I made sure she got in for some good shots.

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As the sun rose and the light changed, I started to have fun.  The crowd started to disperse and I found myself photographing people.  (Figure that one out!)  One of the balloonists reminded me of “the great and wonderful Oz” character, who worked the machinations of the fictitious OZ.

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Because of the wind speed, the balloonists couldn’t untether so this was it for ‘flight’.  Image

Events like this can’t take place without volunteers so here’s an image of one of the volunteers doing “keep it on the ground” duty as the wind picked up.

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Tomorrow – some images from the Air Show at night.

Nikon 17-35mm lens, 70-200mm lens used.

2013 Dog Calendar Models

At the recent Great Lakes Pet Expo I announced the “call for Dog Models” for the 2013 Dog Calendar.  The sale of the calendar will benefit dog rescues.  Marielle & Ryan stopped by my booth and talked with me about their Long-haired German Sheperd puppy, Kaya.   I took one look at the photo of her on their smartphone and she was gorgeous!  I knew how I could light her to show off that fluffy, long hair around her ears and so Kaya became the first model for the Calendar.

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Kaya is a puppy.  She was 9 months old when I photographed her in the studio and she did everything we asked of her!  It showed that Marielle and Ryan had put in the work to train her through her first 9 months.  That long walk she had prior to arriving helped to settle her and I was impressed with the length of her “stay.”  In this photo above, can you see what I mean about that fluffy fur around her ears?  It reminds me of the old, Hollywood images of actresses – like Lauren Becall.

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While we were laughing and having fun with Kaya, Marielle asked if I wanted to see her “say her prayers.”  Of course I did!  When she did this, I don’t know how I kept the camera steady because I was laughing out loud.  How sweet she looks here!  I love her little pink tongue!  Praying or begging?  What do you think?

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Then it was time to accessorize Kaya so we choose the feminine, pink bandana.  We taught her how to perch over the back of the couch, which took a few tries.   When I saw the pink tongue/bandana combo, I knew we had the image.

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Even though it was February, we headed outside for a few clicks and you can still appreciate those furry ears and the gleam in her eye!  Once the “green up” happens, we’ll head outside and get some more images to pick for the 2013 Dog Calendar.  

If you’d like to find out how your dog can be part of the 2013 Calendar, please contact me at:  pmorsch@att.net

Equipment used:  Profoto mono-lights, Larson Softboxes, Nikon D3s body, 24-70mm f2.8 lens, 70-200mm f2.8 lens

Birding in Orlando Wetlands Park

While in Florida, I always make some time to go out birding with a friend and wonderful, local bird expert – Don Chalfont.  I met Don through my mom, who spends 4 months at New Smyrna Beach, FL each winter.  Of course, I have to come and visit and after the first time of birding with Don, I wanted to come back for more.

Yesterday Elza, another fine birder, joined us as we visited the Orlando Wetlands Park.  It’s a vast area of managed wetlands where treated sewage (cleaner than the water in the St. John’s River!) is pumped into the wetlands.  Around 25-35 million gallons a day is pumped 17 miles to this location and the natural process of water settling through the wetlands removes excess nutrients from the water and provides an amazing habitat for raptors, wading birds, ducks, warblers and sparrows.  Besides birding, you can enjoy walking and bicycling on flat, dike roads and hiking through woods.

Don & Elza looking for a King Rail

One of the first birds we spotted with a fine Carl Zeiss spotting scope, far out in the distance, was a Crested Caracara.  A while later it came closer to us and I was able to capture it with my measly 70-200mm lens with NO tele-extender.  I sure wished I had a 500mm with me!

Crested Caracara

Another fine bird Don and Elza spotted was a Purple Gallinule.  It moves around in the reeds and didn’t give us a nice open shot.  However, my determination kicked in and I waited and was rewarded with a somewhat plausible image in flight.

Purple Gallinule coming in for a landing

If you’re a Limpkin fan, Orlando Wetlands Park offers numerous opportunities for not only viewing them, but listening to them.  Being a newbie birder, Elza shared a story that the Native Americans said the Limpkin sounds like a crying boy.  I heard a lot of crying!  This one let me get pretty close and stuck it’s ‘tongue’ out at me.

Limpkin

While many of you back home are also enjoying record, warm weather and seeing robins and other birds returning, I got excited to hear/see the Red-Winged blackbird – usually the first bird of spring for us.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, we pulled out some picnic lunches and decided to head back in for the King Rail.  Alas, it wasn’t to be today but while they were searching for it, I’m always looking around for another image.  I noted a small raindrop on my arm and I looked up behind me to see ominous clouds mixing with fresh, wildfire smoke.  The scent and scene took me back to the summer of 2000 when I lived in MT and the whole state was on fire from wildfires.  I’ll NEVER forget the acrid smoke smell and to this day, I’m very sensitive to detecting it.  This fire was likely a controlled burn and it was fun to see that it caused local rain drops to form.

Wildland fire darkens the sky

Thanks to Don and Elza, I saw some ‘life birds’ on this trip.  Now to save for that 500mm lens!!

Fun at New Smyrna Beach!

Time with my extended family is always fun but it’s so much better on the New Smyrna Beach in FL!  Siblings, nephews, their kids, my mom, Kathy – we’re all here now and it’s fun to visit, and be a kid again.

One of the things I love to do is get beach shots of the kids every year.  Their parents get a nice, visual history of their kids as they grew up and I know the kids will have a blast remembering the fun they had with their cousins when they grow up and look back at the images.

One of the things that’s fun about photographing on the beach is the natural reflector of the sand.  If you get out there early morning or later afternoon, the angle of the sun is better to reflect up the light under hats that little kids wear these days to prevent sunburn.  If your camera comes with a little pop-up flash, then you’re all set for adding a little flash even if you’re out there in mid-day.  Don’t be afraid to try your flash when it’s bright sun and someone’s got a hat on.  It’s better yet if you can read your owner’s manual and see how you can control the light coming from your flash.  (Yes, I’m big on reading the owner’s manual!)

So here are some fun images, often made from my hip, while running along the kids.  Camera is set to Continuous High vs. Single shot and I put my focus point where I anticipate they will be.  Lens:  24-70mm f2.8  

One word of wisdom here:  Put your lens cap back on your lens in between shots as the salt air and spray can wreck havoc with your glass.  A UV filter is a must if you’re forgetful about the lens cap!

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Peyton:  the natural runner

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Maura:  simultaneously recovering from burns and a broken arm (fill flash would have worked better here but I didn’t have my flash.)

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Ryan:  Bubble squirt guns are really cool!

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Kylie:  demonstrating her “I LOVE THE BEACH” routine

 

More from the beach coming soon as it’s the last day for me to be out there with them before 3 of the kids head home.   See you on the beach!