Foster Dog Goodbyes…Happy New Beginnings

For over three months, I had possession of a year-old American Black and Tan Coonhound or coonhound-mix whom I called Maebe. I absolutely loved that dog, and cried when I dropped her off for transport to her new home. AND I’m thrilled and tearful – in a good way – that she found a great new home. That’s the bittersweet experience of fostering.

American Black and Tan Coonhound

As a frequent foster person for my local shelter, I had originally pulled her as a prospect for my sister-in-law and her six-year-old daughter. She is one of the sweetest, most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met, loves cuddling on the couch or petting anytime, and is super inquisitive about anything humans are doing. But within days of bringing her home, I could see that she had far too much energy for my sister-in-law’s home and schedule. She needs regular running, or she finds creative/destructive ways to amuse herself in a house. I knew my sister-in-law, a working mom without a partner (her husband, my brother, passed away last year), didn’t have time in her schedule to add in hour-long walks.

Even though I had pulled her with a specific home in mind, once I realized Maebe wouldn’t work out for that home, I couldn’t take her back to my shelter. Once I’ve pulled a dog and have gotten interested in him or her, I just can’t take them back to the loud, concrete row of barking dogs. Instead, I figured I’d advance her training and life experience, and find her another home, while keeping an eye peeled for a different dog for my sister-in-law and niece.

I started work on her house manners, sit, down, wait for the food bowl, not jumping up, and especially, not darting out the door. She was a champion door-darter. She flew out of the car from the backseat over my shoulder once, before I started using a harness and seat belt, even if we were just driving the two blocks from my home to my office. We worked on leash manners, and a recall off-leash. She learned everything really fast. We also worked to reduce her mild separation anxiety, with lots of short, drama-free exits and entrances.

She caused a certain amount of trouble in my home and at my office. She dug up some garden beds. At first, she wailed when left alone for any length of time, even just the few minutes it took me to walk to the post office on the next block and back. She chewed through my Macbook power cord. She ate an entire cake that my sister baked for me one day, a cube of butter another day; she is an experienced and crafty counter-surfer. But she is also the most playful mischievous, likable dog! And she played and played with the litter of puppies I was fostering, and then the one in the litter I decided to keep. She served as a full-time companion and playmate to the puppy, Woody, keeping him from having to get reprimanded sternly by my older dogs, Otto and Tito, every two minutes. She and Woody slept together, switched bowls back and forth when eating meals, chewed opposite ends of the same toys, and romped together all day long.

I marketed her initially to my son’s friends and teammates. He plays a sport that involves a lot of running (Ultimate, better but less accurately known as Ultimate Frisbee), and almost all of his friends are athletes. I’ve found dogs for several of his friends, teammates, and work associates before – three dogs in his office are my former fosters! – but nobody was currently in the market for a canine running partner.

So I reached out to the American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue, an organization I’ve talked about before. It’s one of the best breed rescues I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They have a very large and dedicated group of volunteers who foster and transport hounds from areas where they are very much in danger of being euthanized in shelters, and finding them homes with people who can handle and appreciate their unique characteristics. Like many breed rescues, they often take on hounds other than the one the group is named after, and even hound-mixes. And they take on dogs who have health and/or behavioral challenges, and find just the right type and amount of help they need to be appropriately placed.

Within a week or two, the rescue had passed along a couple of inquiries about Maebe to me. I corresponded with both potential adopters, and one lost interest fairly quickly, based on the amount of exercise I suggested that Maebe needed to behave herself. But the other potential adopter wasn’t daunted by that OR the news about Maebe’s other various mischief (door-darting, separation anxiety, and all); she had adopted another coonhound from ABTCR a few years ago, and was well acquainted with coonhound ways. The only catch: she lives in Arizona, almost a thousand miles away.

And then, just a week or so later, the ABTCR came through with transportation, largely provided by volunteers from another amazing organization: Pilots n Paws, a group of aircraft owners and enthusiasts who volunteer to help move dogs from places where they are in danger to new homes or rescue groups, especially across distances that are too far for a simple bucket-brigade of volunteer drivers.

American Black and Tan Coonhound

photo by Stacy Gonzalez

I drove Maebe to the ABTCR’s Western region coordinator’s base, a dog daycare in Jackson, California, about two hours away. I wept and sniffled during the whole drive, seeing Maebe’s goofy countenance in my rear-view mirror the whole way. It kills me every time I take one of my foster dogs to a new home, even when I’m certain it’s going to work out perfectly. THEY don’t know where they/we are going. When I hand the leash over to someone they don’t know, they don’t know they won’t see me again, or where they are going to sleep that night. They just know they are in the wind again. Those facts just stab me in the heart. Just as the sight of Maebe’s confused expression did when I last saw her, among a group of dogs at the daycare. “Where are you going? Why are you leaving me here?” I could barely say goodbye to the rescue coordinator, and sobbed once back in my car.

But a day later, I got to see pictures of inquisitive Maebe in a small airplane, flying over California, and being greeted at a small airport a thousand miles away by her new owner. And within another day, pictures of her chewing toys with her new coonhound “brother” in her new home, and snuggling on the couch with her new owner. And I’ve been getting reports from the owner, about how funny and mischievous she is, and how Maebe has already become the exception to the adopter’s mother’s lifelong rules about “no dogs on the couch,” and “no big dogs on laps.” And those things cause an outbreak of happy tears!

I’m completely immersed in puppy-training Woody now, and have a new litter of nine foster puppies to care for, for at least a few more weeks. So I don’t think I will be fostering any adult or young-adult dogs for a while.  It’s time-consuming and draining… but eventually, I forget about all that, and with the help of a continuing flow of happy pictures from my former foster dogs’ new owners, I just remember the best news: another dog saved from the shelter, and beloved in a home. And so I bring home another one to foster.

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10 DIY tips for sculpting custom character parts with ModiBot

ModiBot has become a critical starting point for many people's creative projects, including stopmotion animation, scene photography, custom action figures, and both digital and hands-on character design.

More and more, creators want to design and sculpt their own ModiBot-compatible parts. This is the best place to start.

 

1. Match the correct ModiBot kit to your sculpting material

Not all ModiBots work with certain materials. Once you have determined what material you'd like to sculpt with, it's best to choose the ModiBot kit that supports sculpting that those materials. **Its possible that there is no ModiBot kit to support the material you are most familiar with.

CAUTION: Avoid using oil or plastic-based clays with the classic MO kit because these will make the plastic (especially the joints) brittle and prone to breakage.

ModiBot Mo, the original ModiBot kit, is made of PETG plastic like water and soda bottles. Its a tough durable plastic, but it doesn't react well to the chemicals or solvents in some sculpting materials.

Original Mo kit works best with- 2-part epoxy, Masking or washi tape, 3Doodler or other handheld 3d filament extruders.

ModiBot Mo+ (plus) kit is made of durable polypropylene plastic and is more durable when used with some paints and solvents. This toughness, especially when heated, allows Mo+ kits to be used with polyclay and a wider variety of materials.

Mo+ works best with- Polyclay compounds (like Fimo or Sculpey), 2-part epoxy, masking or washi tape, 3Doodler

      2. Assemble and test all your joints before starting

      Ball joints create a lot of pressure on their first assembly. Make sure you assemble the figure and test the movement of all the joints prior to sculpting. This will prevent you from starting a sculpt on a part that is already broken or weak.

      BONUS TIP: If a part cracks or breaks during assembly, no worries, we will replace them. Contact us at mo@modibot.com with a picture of your broken part (so we know exactly which part and color you need) and your shipping address. We'll get a replacement out in the mail to you asap!

         3. Try a test part to get a feel for your materials and process

        ModiBot Mo and Mo+ kits both come with extra ball and socket parts so you can try your hand before committing to a single body part. This is especially smart for working on epoxy and polyclay projects due to the amount of time you will commit to the project. T

        BONUS TIP: These extra ball and socket parts can also be used to create your own designs for heads, hands, feet or even large elements like extra arms or wings!

        4. Consider the size and weight of your pieces

        ModiBot joints are strong and durable when assembled, but they have a limit to their ability. Creating excessively long or heavy parts can reduce the effectiveness of each joint. A general rule of thumb is- the longer the part, the more you should reduce its weight.

        If your are considering large, dynamic parts like long arms or wings, do some testing with materials to make the part weight more manageable. Aluminum foil or wire can be a simple way to create structure or mass without creating a lot of weight.

        BONUS TIP: Large hands/feet or hand-held accessories can put the most stress on your ModiBot joints. Consider fabricating large accessories with balsa wood or styrene 

        5. Work each sculpted part as a separate element

        Most sculpting is worked as a single integral piece. If you are wanting to maintain the movement of the joints, it's best to work each part as a singular element. This approach makes it a bit tougher to see how the entire sculpt will look, but it will prevent you from destroying a bunch of work as you try to unsnap connected parts.

        6. Work in layers

        Developing a process is important, and one of the most important ways to manage the work is to take small steps, this will allow you to make improvements and modifications as you go vs. trying to get each part right on the first try.

        Working slowly allows you to work the entire design more as a whole than by finishing each part and then moving on to the next.

        BONUS TIP: One additional benefit of working in layers is that you can start with a rough sculpt of each part to get a feel for the proportion of the piece. Roughing out your design in bunched up aluminum foil can help you get a feel for each part's size and proportion.

        7. Allow clearance for sockets to flex

        Its best to leave room around the sockets so they can flex as you assemble the joints. When you bury the sockets in dense material it can prevent you from assembling all your work. Its best to leave at least 1-3 mm of socket material showing surrounding each joint.

        BONUS TIP: Be careful of making your sculpt too thin surrounding your sockets. Some materials may not be as flexible as the socket material, causing thin layers of material to crack and flake-off during part assembly.

        8. Do Not bake parts while assembled

         If you are using polyclay and heating your parts, the most important thing to remember is- DO NOT BAKE YOUR PARTS WHILE THEY ARE ASSEMBLED. This WILL stretch your joints and prevent them from maintaining a tight grip. No one wants floppy joints (unless you are trying to make a marionette that is. ;)

        BONUS TIP: If you are sculpting figures WITHOUT joints, ModiBot Mo+ works great as a full-figure sculpting armature. This approach allows you to define a great pose using the Mo figure and then burying Mo inside of a full-body sculpt. If you choose to work this way, it can be best to define your pose and then use some glue to 'lock' the joints in place before adding your sculpting medium.

        9. Always bake parts at the recommended temperature

        The ModiBot Mo+ kit has been tested to around 280 degrees F. When sculpting in polyclay, follow the recommended baking instructions for your material type. Using a heat gun or baking the parts at higher temperatures could damage the look and/or function of the parts. For best results, avoid over-heating the parts. 

        WARNING!: Use extreme caution when using an oven. Handling hot parts can cause burns. Use tongs or an oven mitt when handling hot parts.

        10. Whooops! Salvaging a part

        Accidents happen. Parts may get dropped and crack, joints may get over-stretched or we may just find out that the part we made is too heavy to allow the joints to remain posable. When those accidents happen, you should try to save the work you have done.

        It's possible to cut a ModiBot part out of the original sculpt by carefully using plastic snips. Cutting off one end of the part (socket or ball) can allow you too free the sculpted piece from the ModiBot armature. In some cases you may be able to cut the part in half using a small modeling or coping saw. Its best to use a vise and hand protection when separating a sculpt from its armature.

        Once you have freed the sculpted portion you can make modifications and reattach to another ModiBot part.

        Thanks for tuning-in. Watch this space for more creative project tips and best of luck on your next project!

        New 3d printable, ModiBot 'Character Creator' parts released at Tinkercad.com

        Just in time for the New Year, ModiBot has released a variety of new 3D printable action accessories, storytelling props and rigging fixtures for stopmotion animation.

        Each image has a 3d viewer that will allow you to orbit around the items and zoom in to see the details. Just click the title to 'Copy and Tinker' them or just download the 3d print files from our profile at Tinkercad.com or stop by and check out our Thingiverse designs for even more printable ModiBot files.

        Martial Arsenal- A slew of Japanese, printable weapons for your next training video or streetfight, including new wrapped staff accessory.

         

        Arm/Leg sleeve set- Add some bulk to your 'bots, or just a bit of color with these snap-on arm and leg covers.

         

        Tutu- Yes, a tutu! How many weapons and male-themed accessories have we made? It's time we started to introduce some accessories for animating a wider variety of diverse and spectacular feats of human physicality.

         

        Buccaneer theme accessory set- Shiver me timbers! Need some pirate-themed props and costuming for your Mo. Here's a bit to get you started.

         

        Screw-mount base for stopmotion- Now you can print your own secure surface mount for creating an external animation rig. It has a ball attachment for using extra arm and leg parts for capturing action cycles and acrobatics.

         

        Umbrella kit- Last, but not least, we've had a surprising amount of requests for an umbrella. Maybe we'll get to some amazing 'Singin' in the Rain' shorts? Who knows?

        Vote to help decide the future of ModiBot!

        ModiBot is in full evolution mode! Click the link below for a quick survey to help decide the types of ideas we'll pursue in the future.

        Its important that we get as much feedback as possible, so once you have completed the survey, please share with any friends who you think may be interested.

        Click to VOTE NOW!

        How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

        The fun part about ModiBot is that it can be anything you want it to be. With just a few pieces of colored cloth you can outfit your 'Bot and send him off on any number of adventures.

        This kit was designed to enable character creation across a variety of known pop-culture characters, traditional hero archetypes, or to use as a jumping-off point for designing your own hero.

        Its quick to make with some materials you might have around the house and really easy to modify to add your own personal touches. It can also be used as a fun design exercise for groups of kids (or kids at heart) for school or birthday parties. We also have premade kits in variety of colors available in our shop.

        Let's get started.

        Heres a quick list of materials-
        • Scissors (or rotary cutter)
        • one 9x12 in. sheet of felt
        • one 4 in. zip tie
        • one paper lollipop stick

           

          Step 1: Ideate and plan your design-

          Depending on the color of your bot, you might go in a variety of directions, but, as an example, let's say you have a bright green ModiBot you want to outfit.

          There are a lot of known characters that are green and could be easy to design with this kit, like Peter Pan or Robin Hood.

          There are also character archetypes that could be fun to build by starting with green, like an elven sorcerer or jungle-camoflaged ninja.

          Think for a few seconds and let your mind wander as you think of ideas. You might even do a quick drawing of your design using our downloadable  Character Design Template.

          Step 2: Cut your felt pieces-

          Depending on whether you are going to match the existing pattern or make a design of your own, you can start by creating the strips that will be used for the tunic and sash.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Cut a 1/2 inch strip down the long side of the 9x12 inch felt sheet. This will give you a strip 1/2 inch by 12 inches.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Starting at one end of the strip, measure 4 1/2 inches and cut straight across the strip using the scissors. Now, do the same thing again, measure 4 1/2 inches down the strip and cut.

          This should leave you with 2 pieces measuring 4 1/2 inches and a leftover piece measuring 3 inches.

          Step 3: Attach your pieces to the figure

          This part can be a bit tricky, so it’s best to start by sliding the end of the zip tie into the slot until you hear or feel the first few clicks.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Then take the two longer strips and fold them over the top of the figure’s shoulders and cross-cross them. It’s easy to use your finger and thumb to hold the strips into place.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Now, point your figure’s toes and slide the zip tie up the legs to the waist.
          Now, you can slip the smaller strip underneath the zip tie belt and wrap it around the figure’s waist.

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

          Next, slowly tighten the zip tie while holding every thing in place. It’s best to leave some slack in the belt to allow you move things around to get them just right before tightening completely.
          Lastly, trim off the extra bit of the zip tie.

           

          Step 4: Decorate your stick

          I chose here to make mine into a sword with a metal blade and black handle, but you are free to make the stick into anything you want.

          Step 5: Complete the design and start posing!

          How to make your own DIY ModiBot hero

           

          Making female figures with the Moli Modifier upgrade kit

          We are constantly being asked for some parts that more 'female' to complement to Mo. During our Kickstarter campaign, we came up with the idea to make a small set of female parts that you could mix with Mo to get a whole new female figure and we called her Moli.

          Originally, the only way to get Moli was as made-to-order kit from our ModiBot Custom shop. We have been selling the Basic Moli upgrade (which consists of a hip and torso) for several years, but, for the first time, we're now selling the Deluxe Moli Modifier kit here in our shop.

          The kit, available in white, is 3d printed in Polyamide, which is a form of polyester and comes on a single frame to make it easy to process and ship. In addition to the torso and hip parts found in the Basic set, the Deluxe Modifier set includes hands, feet, and ponytail, 7 parts in all.

          When you receive the kit, it is best to trim the parts off the frame using small wire snips, cuticle scissors, or, if you are careful, an exacto knife. (See the green lines on the image below to know where to cut).

          Moli Modifier Frame

          Once you've trimmed them off the frame, these 3d printed parts (shown in white) can then be added to various parts from the Mo figure (shown above in pink) to complete your Moli.

          As with Mo, Moli can be used for any number of creative projects, from drawing practice, to DIY character crafts, to stopmotion animation. Where she goes is driven by your imagination.

          ModiBot returns to Bay Area Maker Faire 2018

          We're ramping up for an appearance at the Bay Area Maker Faire, May 18-20.

          As many of you know, we launched at the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth in 2013, with some prelim samples of our molded figs and limited run of Maker Myke figures printed specifically for the show, all just prior to our launching our Kickstarter. We love the energy, optimism and curiosity it brings out in people. 

           

           

          We'll be exhibiting all sorts of new kits and accessories available for the first time in-person. We'll have the SpyBorg, Mechanoid Zero and Meta upgrade frame, ModiRaptor, Moli Modifier Frame, Human ExoSkin, and a variety of assorted weapons, accessories and figure upgrades.

          We'll also be featuring the MoBility Stopmotion torso and have a new Stopmotion Starter Kit on-hand for aspiring filmmakers and effects gurus who are looking for a way to take their first steps in visual storytelling. It was a hit at the East Bay Maker Faire last fall, so we'll have more on-hand

          We'll also have an activity/customization station for kids to come by and create some DIY activities like creating your own ModiBot characters with the character design template, making and detailing swords, hands-on ModiBot costuming and drawing Coats-of-Arms for their DIY shields.

          And, lastly, the MakerBot Rep 2 will be there churning out a selection of the free ModiBot models available on Thingiverse

          The show starts Friday, May 18 (afternoon only) and then goes all weekend. We're looking forward to it and we hope to see you there!