Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About letting your dog run loose…my story March 29, 2019

Dogwood

 

HE DEFENDED ME with dogwood against the dogs.

 

A scene shot along one of the trails in the Faribault Energy Park toward the energy facility. Trails wrap around multiple ponds where three men fished for crappies Wednesday evening. An otter glided in the same pond, keeping his distance from the fishermen.

 

It seems fitting that dogwood would provide protection from two dogs running free at Faribault Energy Park around sunset on Wednesday. A quick Google search reveals the name of the reddish-tinted bush rooted in the Middle English words dagge/dagger. The thin sticks were once used as daggers or skewers.

 

After the incident with the dogs, I photographed these geese.

 

With that language lesson for the day, I return to the story of a walk on a lovely late March evening that left me upset and frustrated with an irresponsible dog owner.

Here’s the deal. If you have dogs and choose to take them to a public place, then leash them per city ordinance and common sense. Otherwise go to the local dog park and let your dogs run free. Or stay on your property and watch your dogs run.

A dog not under the control of its owner concerns me. I don’t care how supposedly friendly and well-behaved the dog. Any canine in a strange place, among strangers has the potential to do harm.

I feel fortunate that I escaped with only muddied jeans after a large curly-haired black-and-brown dog bounded toward and then jumped onto me, slicking mud down my pant legs. That was enough to kick in the fear factor, especially when a second dog joined the first dog.

By that time I was in semi-panic mode, unsure what these dogs might do to me. Randy picked up on my fear and stepped in with a bundle of dogwood. He thrust it between me and the dogs, held it as a shield as the pair continued to circle.

 

The Faribault Energy Park wind turbine. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

We don’t typically carry around dogwood. But minutes earlier I picked up dogwood twigs broken off at the base of a bush. I’ve always wanted dogwood for outdoor flower pots and these would rot if left to the elements. Soon thereafter we encountered the dogs on the gravel road by the wind turbine.

Not only was I afraid, but I was angry. About my muddied jeans and that inconsiderate canine owner. I scanned the park grounds for the absent owner. And I yelled multiple times for that delinquent owner to retrieve his/her dogs. My voice was lost in the drone of heavy traffic from nearby Interstate 35. Randy and I kept moving, hopeful the dogs would leave us alone. Eventually they did and soon the owner rounded the gravel road in a green van, stopped, opened the side door and the dogs leapt inside.

Part of me wanted to turn around, walk to the van and lecture the dog owner. But I recognized that I was still too upset and, in today’s world, you never know how someone may react.

End of story except to say this incident ruined an otherwise lovely walk in the park.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I don’t know dog breeds well enough to identify the dogs referenced in this story. But it doesn’t matter. Dogs should not run loose in a public place.

 

Doggie out the window May 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

 

I’M ALWAYS INTRIGUED by dogs hanging their heads out vehicle windows.

 

 

Are they smelling something?

Do they delight in the wind blowing through their fur?

Or are they simply enjoying the warmth of the day, the carefree joy akin to riding with the convertible top down?

 

 

Whatever the reason, I smile whenever I spot a dog with its head hanging out the window, nose pointed, eyeing me, me him/her…

 

Photographed through the windshield of our van late Saturday afternoon along Minnesota State Highway 3 in Northfield, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Where, oh, where has my little dog gone & pet photos July 20, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Photographed recently along a busy roadway in Cannon Falls. (Yes, I blacked out the phone number.)

 

EVERY SPRING, SUMMER and fall, handcrafted photo signs pop up on street corners with the message, LOST DOG.

DO NOT YELL, APPROACH OR CHASE, the writer advises of a dog lost recently in Cannon Falls.

I often wonder if these canines are ever found or wander home or why they are running loose in the first place. I realize pets sometimes escape…but I appreciate responsible pet owners who keep their animals under control on their property and who clean up after the dogs they’re walking. I’ve stepped in stinky dog poop too often in my yard. Yuck.

A few years ago a woman even posed her dog in the middle of a corner flowerbed by my house for a photo op. In the process, the dog destroyed flowers I’d planted. I was not happy.

 

 

But I was happy to see the owner of a lost (as in deceased) pet post a public notice offering free pet portraits. I spotted the sign recently in a Waterville gift shop. The owner of Chaz the dog is a photographer specializing in pictures of people and their pets, according to the Facebook page for Chazman Photography based in Janesville.

 

 

I haven’t photographed a lot of pets. But the animal images I’ve taken are, I think, notable. I’m not your typical stand, point-and-shoot photographer. I strive to tell a story, using perspective and setting to achieve that. Here are some cat and dog photos I’ve shot, my favorite being the “NO PETS ALLOWED” image shot outside Riverfront Park in Mankato in June of 2011. The dog owner, upset his canine couldn’t enter the park, suggested the photo location, almost daring himself and his dog to cross that line.

Here are those promised pet photos pulled from my files:

 

My sister Lanae’s fat cat, Sable, now deceased. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

Ian with Zephyr in rural Bigelow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him in 2014. He was owned by the Spitzack family of rural Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I photographed this cat outside Hopefull Treasures in Hope, MN., in 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another cat photographed in 2011 in Hope, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another view of that dog outside Mankato’s Riverfront Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

 

Rudi, one friendly collie at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

My friend Mandy’s cat, Gretchen, photographed in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Taco the dog, photographed at the Faribault Farmers’ Market in Central Park in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Brianna’s cat, in her home in Hayfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Dog gone happy May 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,
Waiting at a stoplight on Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley Sunday afternoon.

Waiting at a stoplight on Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley Sunday afternoon.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT A DOG sticking its head out a vehicle window that makes me smile as in, gosh, look at that happy canine.

Still waiting...

Still waiting…

Such behavior also exhibits a carefree spirit. I wish life for humans was as simple as the rush of wind on our faces, the freeing of worries to the wind.

The light changes and, oh, the exuberance of all that rushing air.

The light changes and, oh, the exuberance of all that rushing air.

Why do dogs stick their heads out vehicle windows? I wanted a scientific answer, not just my poetic perspective.

Enjoying the ride...

Enjoying the ride…

My unscientific research (aka google the question) reveals that dogs exhibit this wind catching behavior not to observe the world around them or to cool off, but rather to take in the overload of scents rushing over them. The higher the air flow, the more they can smell. And that, apparently, makes for one happy dog.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Beauty shop portraits April 10, 2015

Portraits # 16 and 17: Charlotte and Fonzie

Charlotte Lurken

Charlotte Lurken

Typically, I would not enter a salon unless in need of a hair cut.

But it was the “gifts” part of Colleen’s Salon & Gifts on West Concord’s main drag that drew me into her shop in the summer of 2011.

Colleen Snaza's dog, Fonzie

Colleen Snaza’s dog, Fonzie

And therein I photographed Charlotte and Fonzie, whose portraits stand as favorites among the thousands of images I’ve shot through the years.

I captured a slice of small town life. A place, a woman, a dog. Ordinary. Yet extraordinary. It is the everyday that matters most to me as a photographer.

Even now, year’s after taking these portraits, I still like to study them, to focus on the details—the smile on Charlotte’s face as her eyes linger on Fonzie, whom I dubbed “The Beauty Shop Dog;” Charlotte’s polished toenails; the messy stashes of magazines and tilted hairstyling books; the puzzle of floor coverings; the woman’s tennis shoe poking into the scene on the left…

There’s so much to see, and appreciate.

Colleen may call this a “salon.” But to me, this will always be a beauty shop. For this place defines beauty, small town style.

#

This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, for cute…kitties and puppies August 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I GREW UP ON A DAIRY and crop farm where cats and dogs roamed the property.

Although they were pets, they weren’t really pets. Rather, they were there to work. The cats caught mice. The dogs alerted us to wild animals and vehicles arriving in the farm yard.

My parents never bought cat or dog food. Table scraps, of which there were few from our family of eight, and a daily hub cap of milk warm from the cow nourished the cats and dogs.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen's son, with the family cat, Zephyr.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen’s son, with the family cat, Zephyr. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo shot in July 2013.

Of course, we kids grew quite fond of dogs like Blackie, Shep, Rex and Fritz Carter Mondale Ferraro and Tommer the cat (why can’t I remember the names of more cats?), …

I recall dressing kittens in doll clothes and pushing them in a doll buggy.

There were endless attempts to teach the dogs to shake hands and fetch balls or sticks.

Spring always brought a search in the hay loft or haystack for newborn kittens.

Yes, my memories of felines and canines are mostly pleasant ones of working farm animals that sometimes allowed us to play with them.

As an adult, considering the cost and care, I’ve never wanted a pet. Plus, I’m just not the type of person who wants an animal living indoors and/or in town. I know I’m in the minority. But that’s OK. I’ll just admire and pet other people’s pets.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

The other night I met Titan, an adorable seven-week-old puppy, at the Spitzack farm outside Faribault. Puppies are so darned cute. Titan reminded me of the story my mom shared awhile ago. One recent afternoon a man from a nearby town arrived at the senior complex where she lives with nearly a dozen puppies for residents to pet and cuddle. He’d engaged the litter in active play so they’d be worn out. His strategy worked. Mom was so excited about a sweet, cuddly puppy falling asleep in her lap that you’d have thought she won the lottery.

Pets possess the power to comfort and heal and lift spirits.

Lots of dogs and that 1939 date on the right side of the mural.

This image shows a portion of the Pet Parade mural gracing the side of the historic bandshell in Faribault’s Central Park.

This evening, my community of Faribault holds its 78th annual Pet Parade beginning at 7 p.m. I can’t attend. But be assured, if you’re there, you’ll view plenty of cuddly cuteness.

DO YOU OWN A PET or have a favorite pet memory? Feel free to share.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mistaken identity April 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,
dog

One of the dogs spotted in a truck at the alpaca expo. Photo edited to make the dog more visible through the side passenger window.

EXITING OUR VAN at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna recently to attend the Minnesota Alpaca Expo, my husband and I did a double take.

An alpaca appeared to be seated in a Ford Excursion hitched to a livestock trailer.

But, no, that couldn’t possibly be.

And it wasn’t. Upon closer inspection, we discovered two shaggy dogs (sorry, I don’t know breeds) inside the SUV.

 

Eyes buried in fleece.

An alpaca.

From a distance, though, they look remarkably similar to alpacas.

Now lest you are concerned that these canines were in danger and we should have phoned animal control, not to worry. Windows were open and temps were in the low sixties.

They did not appear to be in any distress. Just confusing folks like us with their shaggy locks…

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling