In London last week we were honoured to stay with gorgeous G and her adorable chocolate labrador, Alfie, who has been immortalised on canvas.
Art can freeze and capture beauty, especially where animals are concerned. Point-and-shoot cameras, on the other hand, are often found wanting. Picasa needs to invent a 'blue eye' feature in their editing package to cover fido refraction.
Most mornings, I set the alarm to join G and Alfie on their walk alongside the Thames. G is the sort of gregarious, go-getter gal who knows the entire suburb of Teddington* either through her dog, her work or social life, and within minutes we'd invariably meet up with several other people passionate for pooches and with a healthy penchant for puddles.
Yet again, the point-and-shoot camera's shortcomings were not heeded or appreciated by the furry friends I met. "Turn around, Alfie, come on..." "Smudge, you ugg boot lining with a tongue, what are you barking at?"
Baz the blood hound was a magnificent creature but more intent on plunging himself into the water than stopping to pose.
Colin the Schnauzer (yes, that's his real name) might be an easier portrait, I thought. Mistakenly. Instead he harrumphed at my efforts and scooted off the second he'd left - erm, a warm 'part of himself' - by the walking trail.
This little Jack Russell wasn't going anywhere near me - or any other dog owner for that matter.
We counted six dogs being walked by this woman. The legal limit for professionals operating in the UK apparently.
Steelo sat down in front of me, smiling and panting after chasing Alfie and looking utterly beguiling. I surreptitiously opened my camera case, gingerly pressed the 'on' button and ------- "Dammit!"
The caretaker of Teddington Loch's dog was also taking the role quite seriously, keeping his eye on our ever-growing collection of canines. Right after 'click' he gave his ears a thorough flapping, flinging the just visible dangle of drool onto my left arm.
Bunty was beautiful but shy, never daring to meet my eye.
She endured a brief butt sniff from Bella but didn't return the greeting, preferring instead to join her elderly owner making her way through the cornflowers.
Teddy was the best shot of the day, giving me a small grin before joining Baz for a splash in the river.
Smudge again, seemingly missing his front right leg as he mistakenly assumed that I too had some crunchies in my pocket. His need to investigate was keen. I would have patted his head in consolation but he'd rolled in horse manure a few minutes earlier so a "Sorry old fella," and a hasty step backwards was all that was offered.
The perfect side eye. "Look Kath, I'm abluting here. Isn't there something else you could focus your attention on?"
Alfie again, near the home stretch. Tired, muddy and distinctly smelly. But smiling.
You can learn a lot from dogs, but not photography tips.
* Teddington. Cutest suburb name ever.