Costa Rica is a land of magic.
Lighthouse Animal Rescue
It was such a delight to meet and photograph the full cast of adoptable pups at Lighthouse Rescue. There were abundant wags and smiles for my lens every which way that I turned!:
My dear friend Ken, who was one of the few irreplaceable allies by my side on this incredible adventure, got some good head scratchin’ in with one of the resident dogs.
and some more behind the scenes type shots of what it looked like on the grounds of Lighthouse Rescue. Fuzzy, waggly butts every which way you would look!
And here she is, the face of Lighthouse Rescue – an earth angel, and a hero in my eyes: Frances Jones.
I cant describe how amazing and strong this woman is. Her passion on the inside just made her sparkle on the outside. I was attracted to that strength and spirit like a magnet.
I’m so grateful to live in a world where people as kind and selfless as Frances still exist – no matter how rare.
Those dogs love her so much. Their eyes would gleam and their tails would whip wildly – back and forth, back and forth, each time she was near.
To have earned the love of a dog is, in my opinion, one of the most telling characteristics of a pure and beautiful soul.
Frances gave me a tour of her office and a sign taped up on the cabinet caught my eye. This perfectly sums up the battle she fights everyday.
It’s significance is so poignant, that it made my heart skip a beat when I laid eyes on it.
For this is the cause that she’s dedicated her life to.
Frances was so lovely to allow me to pose for a shot with some of the sweet wiggly dogs at the rescue, to commemorate my time atop of that perfect mountain in Atenas.
Lot of squishing, kissing and cuddling!
And it was at just about this time that reality set in and I might have freaked out…..just a little.
KISSING PUPPIES ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN IN A MAGICAL, FAIRYTALE LAND??!
HOLY BANANAS! MY DREAM COME TRUE!!!!
(i seriously thought i was going to burst from happiness. i think my squeals of ‘is this real life?!?!’ echoed all the way down that mountain…)
and a last look down at the gorgeous faces that were stuck like glue to our side for the whole afternoon….
as twilight fell upon us during our last evening hour at Lighthouse Rescue – we said goodnight to the sun with this breathtaking scene.
Then we packed up all of our gear and headed back down the mountain, towards those orange glowing lights that would guide us home.
and a face of one of the few lucky ones that we encountered – loved and well-cared for, greeting us with a smiley hello from his fenced in backyard.
I spotted this sweet, sweet face from the car as we passed by a bar on a busy street.
He was crossing the road in a quiet, tired sort of way and as I watched, I felt my heart physically shattering inside of my body.
My eyes welled up with the type of tears that I just couldn’t help, and my amazing partner Sam and I exited the car to meet him. He was not afraid to come and say hello to us. And for this, I was wildly grateful. We wanted to meet him – to brush the dirt from his face and to translate the energy of what its really like to feel a bit of love and kindness. If even just for a moment.
When I got close to this sweet boy, I noticed something remarkable. His body was thin, beaten down and worn from the years of a life of abandonment. His mangy, unkempt fur was falling out in small chunks, and his body was riddled with ticks and parasites. I looked at Sam, and he looked back, and we both mouthed ‘oh my god’ in each other’s general direction. There must have been two, maybe three hundred ticks covering this sick and tired boy. But despite it all – despite all of that physical devastation and sadness that this dog must carry everyday – there was a sparkle in his eye. I looked at him and I was blown away. There was something there. A soul. A soul that I could see. A glimpse into the heart of this brave little dog. I looked into those big, wet eyes and I got lost in there – I fell in love over and over and over again. To me, this dog became the face of my mission. The face of my purpose there in Costa Rica. To bring to light the struggle of millions of abandoned animals all around the world. He was the face of the forgotten. He was the face of the ones who have been left behind. I thank my lucky stars every day that our paths crossed – because this dog, single handedly made my mission and my purpose in this life clear. I am here to find the ones like him – to tell their stories. To give a voice to the voiceless. As he scampered away from me, into the brush behind the broken down bar – I felt a stinging in my throat, knowing Id likely never see him again, and knowing that those eyes just changed my whole world forever.
Frances’ quote – the one adhered to the wall with scotch tape in her office – stuck with me. And it seemed perfect to describe how I feel about this dog. The everydog. The one who represents all of the rest. The weathered. The worn. The abandoned and lonely. Those are the dogs that keep me awake at night.
Sunset came just as he scampered away from me forever.
Our Adventure to Dogland
Through Frances of Lighthouse Rescue, I learned of another Costa Rican rescue way up in the mountains of San Ramon that might be able to use my help. It was about a 2 hours drive from where we were staying in Atenas. Once I did some research on Dogland – I just knew that I absolutely had to go and meet it’s founder – Helene Wirt. Our drive from Atenas to San Ramon de Alajuela was nothing short of an epic adventure. We wound up and down mountain roads, passed over bridges and by gushing waterfalls and adventured through cloud forests. Our little Toyota Yaris rental car buzzed and hummed and clunked across the terrain – my disbelief that we were actually making it across the unrelenting landscape growing with every mile. Once we arrived in the village that Dogland was supposed to be located in – we realized we were lost. We didnt know which way to go and our barely functional GPS put us at the top of a very steep hill that was made of mostly small boulders and dirt. (As a side note, there are no physical addresses in Costa Rica. Only general directions, villages and landmarks to go by to find a spot on the map. Don’t ask me how they get mail delivered to them – I’m not sure if that’s a thing that happens in Costa Rica.) :P
We turned into the big, long driveway that wound up towards the shelter – and Helene’s smiling face appeared promptly. She greeted us with such warmth – a big smile and hugs for everyone. I knew immediately that we were in the right place. We were in my paradise. Dogs everywhere. Big dogs. Little dogs. Fat dogs. Happy dogs. barking dogs. Wagging dogs. Playing dogs. Running dogs. Over 200 of them, all in big beautiful enclosures with endless amounts of room for running and exercise. I was beside myself. Looking around at this facility – I couldnt believe that it was run by this one woman. This one miracle woman who put everything else in her life aside to save these dogs. She feeds, bathes, loves and cares for over 200 homeless dogs that wait so patiently for their new families to one day come and find them. I couldn’t imagine anything more selfless.
At once, Helene began to show us around the property on an excited tour!:
(you see, this was the best kind of tour because it included lots of unsolicited puppy kisses for all of us.)
Here’s a glimpse at part of the beautiful facility at Dogland where pups are kept, snuggled into the mountainside.
At this point – Helene gave me the incredible privilege of choosing as many dogs as I wanted to meet one on one and photograph:
I was lucky enough to get a good cuddle in with this sweet, sweet old girl. Her grey face had my heart in a puddle.
Eyes like these ones stay with me forever. It’s the little images that I can never let go of. the dogs that wait so patiently. so quietly.
and some behind-the-scenes shots from my friend Ken (thanks Ken!) :)
below: the realities of shooting while surrounded by a gaggle of enthusiastic puppies. :)
sweet baby Phinneaus. (Helene let me name him!) A brand new little Miniature Pinscher puppy with his Mom watching from close behind.
And here is the lovely Helene – a woman so full of love, passion and fire, it’s hard to believe she’s real. Helene is the heart and soul behind Dogland. A woman who made the journey across oceans from a very successful life that she built for herself in native Austria, to make a new one in Costa Rica – and to selflessly devote that life, and everything she ever worked for, to the innocent and abandoned. She speaks three languages and has a heart made of pure gold. I’ve never met anyone quite like her – and she is certainly someone who I will never forget. Her spirit, energy and joy is infectious – and the love that she has for those less fortunate than her is a gift of a magnitude that humbled me beyond words. Her laugh is big, bold and completely contagious. It’s impossible not to smile when she is around – impossible not to feel like everything in this world might just end up being okay. Helene has more passion and purpose in her little finger than I’ve seen before in entire societies of people.
She’s a real life superhero.
Women like Helene and Frances are pure inspiration to me. These are my idols. You can have your Kim Kardashians, your Lady Gagas and your Miley Cyruses all day long.
THESE are the women who I believe in.
They are the champions of animal rescue – unbreakable souls that fight endlessly for a cause they believe in. Their passion inspires me to be a better person – to always fight for a better tomorrow. To never give up, ever – not even when things get tougher than you imagine. These women are heroes. Pure and Simple. And I am more blessed that I can say to have had the absolute privilege of meeting them both and having them touch my life.
And I can’t forget to introduce you to Juan Carlos – Helene’s trusty assistant and right hand man when it comes to caring for all 200+ dogs on her property at Dogland. Juan Carlos has a great big heart, and a great big smile! (even if I couldn’t effectively communicate that to him in person. You know, what with the language barrier and all.) :)
Next, we decided to find a location for some extra special portraits. Here we are carrying precious cargo while adventuring across a dirt road that cut through the mountains of the village, on our way to make some photo magic! I’m lucky that my friends understand and support that there are no lengths to which I would not go to communicate a message effectively.
As we slowly proceeded down the rocky road, I glanced to my left, and this is what I saw. I blinked my eyes once, then twice. ‘yup, it’s real.’
The gorgeous boy that you see in this photo below is Colin. Colin resides at Dogland and waits patiently among the 200+ other dogs for a new forever home — somewhere he can be loved, somewhere he can grow, somewhere he can proudly be the dog he was always meant to be. Colin stands in this image as the perfect representation of all Costa Rican shelter dogs just like him. He is the face of the masses – of the ones who have been left behind. And while Colin has no family of his own to love him, despite it all – I look at his eyes, and all I can see is hope. Hope for a new day. Hope for a brighter tomorrow. Hope that someday, us humans will get it right and find all of the love that we’ve misplaced. The love that we need to give back, to pour upon all these sweet abandoned dogs that we forgot about so long ago.
Maybe, if we see enough pairs of golden, dreaming eyes just like the ones on Colin – maybe then we’ll stand up together and make a difference.
After our time in the road, we climbed up to a high point on the mountainside to find the perfect spot for Camilo to shine.
Beautiful, adoptable Camilo – showing off those sparkling golden eyes.
and a little sneaky, silliness in the grass. :)
Baby Phinnaeus was ready for his close up too! We found a safe, flat rock on the steep mountainside for him to climb onto and the photoshoot commenced!
a tiny little rawwwwr!
And here I am. Standing on a Costa Rican mountainside with this precious little pup – chasing down a dream. In the moment, we were scurrying to get down off the steep mountainside and I was carrying baby Phinnaeus in my arms, trying to keep him as safe as possible – I didnt think to stop for a photo – but I felt very lucky that Sam took a split second to snap this shot. Looking back on it – I cant begin to describe the gratitude that I feel. It’s moments like that one right there that I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s all real. Ever since I was a tiny, tiny little girl – I knew that I was put here to bend down to help the ones who can’t otherwise help themselves. And having that journey bring me to a place as beautiful as Costa Rica is nothing short of a real life dream come true.
To say that my trip to Costa Rica was life-changing would be an understatement. The country was absolutely everything I dreamed it would be – it’s beauty so enchanting and endless that it knocked the breath right out of my chest. Every corner I turned threatened to leave me stuck in place, weak in the knees with awe, amazement and an unprecedented sense of gratitude.The land was vibrant and rich – the mountains rolled on and on around us until they touched the Pacific. Waterfalls danced down to rushing rivers, as we passed through cloud forests and by volcanoes on every drive. The soil was warm and wet, plants bursting forward from each crack with a brilliance and vitality beyond compare. The scent of sweet honeysuckle and guaria morada orchids danced around our heads on the warm breeze. Hummingbirds fluttered across every scene – tiny and pulsing with color and life.
The tiny towns and mountain villages with rocky dirt roads cutting through them were like scenes out of a movie — fences were built with large branches, sourced naturally from the rainforests all around. Cows and horses grazed on mountainsides and I stood still amidst it all, pinching my skin to check if it were all a perfect dream.
By the end of my trip, I had the opportunity to meet hundreds and hundreds of dogs. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds, ages, colors and stories. Some dogs with owners and families. Some dogs in shelters. Some dogs wandering the streets, but most dogs – lost and forgotten.It’s hard to describe the feeling of what its like to be immersed in Costa Rica’s dream-like natural beauty all around me — a land that looks like a fairytale come to life – starkly juxtaposed with the state of the homeless and street dog epidemic. There is so much beauty, and yet somehow, within the beauty, there’s also so much pain. Standing there in that mountaintop village, dirt under my feet and the most perfect shade of sky blue above my head, it was hard to make sense of it all.
Helene Wirt – Dogland (200+ dogs – Also known in Spanish as Asociación Elena)
Frances Jones – Lighthouse Rescue (link to PayPal donation in the upper left corner)
Should you be interested in making a trip to the lush mountainscapes of Costa Rica to provide some first hand help, don’t hesitate to reach out to Helene – as she is always grateful for help from anyone interested in volunteering at Dogland.
Please keep in mind that both Helene and Frances do consider international adoptions – so know that they would be happy to chat with you, might you consider rescuing a dog from Costa Rica.
‘Saving one dog may not change the world.
But surely, for that one dog, the world will change forever.’
**Special thanks to my absolutely amazing friends who support me to the end of the world. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. Emily, Sam, Ken and Doug – without your love and support, I would be nothing. You climbed mountains with me, traversed clackety old wooden bridges, kissed puppies, and followed the light across impossible terrain. You are my team, my heart, my family. You are gift to which there is no end. I am wildly grateful to have had you all by my side on this adventure. Your love will lift me up until my very last breath. I’ll never forget the sacrifices you made for me and the kindness that you endlessly doled out to each and every dog along the way. Love isnt a strong enough word to communicate how I feel about you all. Thank you for the perfect memories. Thank you for being on my side of this battle.
Here I am.
Can you believe it?! Oh my gosh. It’s effectively been almost six months since Ive last updated this blog. SIX MONTHS! I think that means I’m basically the worst blogger on the planet. That, and super duper outrageously mega-crazy busy! I am currently shooting 4, sometimes 5 days a week and am booked solid through until 2015. (never fear! If we have already been in talks about booking a late 2014 date or if you are a reschedule from earlier this year – then no worries! You’re in before then!;) ) I cant even begin to express how humbled and grateful I am for it all. My days have been so wonderful that my face hurts from smiling. Its a whirlwind of joy, waggly butts, happiness and dog drool and I wouldn’t have it any other way! But of course, all of the adventuring, traveling and shooting both locally and nationally has left me with only little tiny intermittent moments to focus on the other things that I love – one of them being blogging! I always promise myself that I am going to try and update more and become super duper fancy bloggin’ jones, and then I fail horribly. So, this is me, extending my sincerest apologies for my disappearing act as of late – Im thinkin’ hopefully I can make it up to you with some seriously cute squishy puppy mugs that will have you squeein’ all the way to the stars and back.
Since Im so far behind on blogging sessions – this one comes to you from this past November, at the very tail end of New England’s gorgeous Fall season. It’s a shoot that is quite close to my heart — I have such amazing memories from my afternoon with these two goobers. I think I spent about 75% of it laying on my stomach and laughing uncontrollably. The light was so warm and golden and the patterns in the sky that day were so cinematic. I remember the whole day like it was a vibrant oil painting – streaks of gold and yellow dripping across an eager canvas with two impossibly cute four legged creatures bouncing with a beautiful sort of chaos across it all. Bailey and Sheldon – two outrageously good looking Boxers (complete with trademark Boxer sideways butt wiggles) are basically a wrecking ball of cute. Their session was a gift from their Dad to their Mom for her birthday – and oh man, what a gift it turned out to be! I was so excited when I heard that there were going to be not one, but two goobery faces for me to photograph at our session on the gorgeous grounds of Winnekenni Castle in Haverhill, MA. Sheldon (who shares his first name with my late grandfather!) is the younger brother in the duo – and is basically a walking comedy act. He was quite thrilled to play endless games of fetch and very proudly smoosh that happy yellow ball right into my general person so that he could get another throw.
Sheldon also functioned quite well as a pogo stick during our afternoon together. He would look at the sky and leap like a superhero, showing off his cute little butt on the way up. Yup, he sure does know the way into a girl’s heart. :P
Bailey – Sheldon’s big sister – is actually not big at all. In fact, she is quite little. In comparison to her towering brother she’s super petite. And she’s got the most fabulous distinguished patches of grey across her gorgeous little muzzle.
That grey, my dear, is earned through years of life and wisdom. (and it simultaneously makes my heart melt down into my shoes.)
But as soon as the attention shifted over to Bailey – Sheldon pops in to say ‘HEY! REMEMBER ME?!?! LOOK AT THIS BALL!!’
Sheldon succeeds quite well in his job as annoying little brother. Again, as the camera turned to Bailey, Sheldon would give me the ‘OH! Is this about me?!?’ look and proceed to pose on top of her…
(please note the part above where I mentioned spending most of the session laughing. Case in point.)
Bailey and Sheldon’s are quite proud of their little family. And they certainly should be — their mom and dad are all kinds of wonderful so we thought it was quite appropriate to snap a few images to capture that special bond that the four of them have together.
Capturing Bailey’s sweet face awash in that golden, fairytale was one of my favorite parts of our afternoon together. She just looked so breathtaking amidst all of those warm crunchy leaves with that aura of softness and peace surrounding her.
And more time for family! Here I give you Tyler, Amanda, Bailey and Sheldon! :) I especially love how Sheldon styled his ears for this particular group photo.
Also – if Im not mistaken – this image became last year’s Christmas card for this gorgeous little family!
Please refer to my pogo stick comment above. It was almost impossible to keep Sheldon from defying gravity at any moment. I adore how Bailey just watches from her safe spot on the ground.
Endless love for her sweet old girl.. :)
Sheldon’s trying out the ‘one ear flip’ for this shot.. very nice, if I do say so myself, Sheldon. +10 points for you, you style icon.
And the face that had my heart on the edge of bursting the whole afternoon. i. cant. defeat. the. powers. of. cute. ….
While we found more absolutely stunning locations in the Fall forest, Sheldon was busy licking snacks off his face..
While Bailey posed like a proper lady..
And more snacks.. .:)
After the first part of our afternoon together – I figured things really couldnt get much better. The colors of Fall, the sparkling yellow-orange light, the texture of the golden fallen leaves all around us. But then – all of a sudden – mother nature decided that she would give us one more gift – a gorgeous sunset.
Pinks, purples and oranges threw themselves across the sky like a dance. The clouds were painted like something out of a storybook — pulsing with electric blues and periwinkles. I think Sheldon felt just as much excitement as I did about the whole thing. He broke out into a little two-legged dance. :)
And, the last image of the night – which also happens to be my absolute favorite photo of the entire session.
A ha! I knew it! You didnt fool me with the whole brother/sister rivalry front. You two silly goobers are head over heels in love with each other! Kisses for everyone! :)
I hope you love Bailey and Sheldon’s images just as much as I do! If any of my readers are talent agents and are on the prowl for a new comedy act – do let me know and I can send over Sheldon’s casting information. His rates aren’t cheap, but he’s worth the investment! :P
Thanks so much for stopping by to check in on what’s going on in Dog Breath land! I have about a gazillion other incredible sessions from the past year that I plan on sharing soon – so stay tuned! (‘a gazillion’ — thats the technical figure.) :P
Every year, the MSPCA puts out a Pro-Pit Bull themed t-shirt to be sold at all three of their physical shelter locations, as well as in their online store. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these shirts go to an absolutely amazing program called ‘Pit Pals’. The ‘Pit Pals’ program provides very low cost spay and neuter services to low income Pit Bull owners. It reaches thousands of people and their Pit Bulls every year and has measurably reduced the number of homeless puppies entering into the shelter systems in Massachusetts. And since Pit Bulls are the number 1 breed of dog most commonly found in shelters in the New England area – thats a huge, huge feat.
Well, do I have an announcement for you! It is with a happy, wiggly little dance and a very proud smile that I tell you – my own sweet boy Joshua is the spokesdog starring on the front of the t-shirt in this year’s new design!! The director of the MSPCA’s Nevins Farm location – Mike Keiley – approached me asking if I might have any images of very happy Pit Bulls that I would be willing to share for a possible new t shirt design. I was very flattered that he asked, and the answer to his question was – OF COURSE I DO! :) (I mean, what Pit Bull on the planet isn’t consistently happy, waggling and smiling? If they’re out there, I haven’t met one yet…) So, I sent in some of my favorite joyful Pit Bull photographs that Ive had the privilege to capture over the years – and this one of Joshua was chosen as the new 2014 T-Shirt design! Wahhhh!!!
(In case you were wondering, here is the original image that this was taken from. This was the very first day that we took Joshua home after he spent 6 months in the shelter, and I think he was quite happy…):
So, I thought – what better way to showcase this fabulous garment to you than by having the star himself model it for us…?
Joshua is quite proud of himself to say the least. The snaggletooth above says it all….
So, I asked Joshua to please model both the front and the back of the tshirt design for us. He happily obliged. Although, in between the shot on the left and the shot on the right, he did let out quite a smelly fart….
(i wonder if they could add ‘aromatic’ into the description on the shirt? …)
I have to tell you – its a little bit surreal for me to be out and about on the town, or walking through the streets or a park at a session and see a stranger walk by wearing my fuzzy boy on their shirt! It makes my heart dance with joy to see my stubby little sweetheart as an icon for such positive Pit Bull promotion. I guess Im totally a stage Mom at heart, because I just beam with pride thinking of how far he has come since his days of abandonment and life at the shelter.
and the sentiment of this shirt is of course, my favorite part. Because really – the best advice that I could ever give to someone is to search beyond the surface and the stereotype – the dig a little bit deeper and get to the happy, wagging soulful part of this wildly misunderstood breed. It could just change your life…
If you are as head over heels in love with this shirt as I am, and you’d like to get your hands on one – follow this link to the MSPCA’s website where they are being sold for $15: https://secure2.convio.net/mspca/site/Ecommerce/246249104?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&product_id=4581&store_id=3241
And remember, not only are you communicating your love of this amazing breed to the rest of the world, you are also supporting a very worthy cause. AND the best part is that you get to keep Joshua’s outrageously goofy face in your closet. :P
2013 has been a blessing in every way. Things have grown and changed so much over here in Dog Breath land, and watching dreams take wing has been the most humbling and life changing experience that I have ever had the absolute privilege to endure. This past year, I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of gorgeous four leggers and their incredible people. I have made connections with people who started as clients and ended as some of my closest friends. I have crossed paths with other passionate, hardworking people who have forever changed me. I spilled my heart for a cause that means more to me than anything else in this endlessly spinning world. I’ve watched shelter dogs find homes after waiting months, sometimes years. I had the lucky privilege to spend a weekend with and click my shutter alongside 6 other incredible women in my industry who are arguably some of the best pet photographers in the world. I shot my very first full editorial assignment and created images for major brands. I’ve worked on projects bigger than I ever thought possible and created memories that are emblazoned onto my heart like a black ink tattoo. The gratitude is leaking out of my pores and its color is like golden-yellow sunlight.
This year, I’m going to make even better. I’ve made a pact to reach out and change the lives of more helpless animals. To dedicate even more time to saving the lives of shelters dogs across the US. I’ll be traveling and meeting people and dogs from across the nation. And even bigger plans are in the works for the end of the year, and I promise to announce them as soon as they fully develop! Currently, I am fully booked with sessions through until August 2014, and I am beside myself with excitement to meet all of the new, wiggly fuzzy friends that will make their way into my lens and my heart over the course of the next 8 months. :)
Here’s to a year of new dreams, new opportunities, and new accomplishments for every one of us!
Oh, and as a side note – this afternoon, we had quite the New Year’s celebration over here! Since snapping this photograph during our confetti party in the living room, Joshua has been running around the house with hundreds of sparkles stuck to his butt! :P
We are wishing you the warmest, most wonderful New Year. Its a new opportunity to find your dreams and follow them wherever they might take you. A new opportunity to pour out your heart, share your passion and make your mark on the world.
Let this year be the year of boundless, beautiful successes and unprecedented love stories.
We adore each and every one of you and couldn’t be more grateful to ring in the New Year with so many friends in our hearts.
I want to tell you a story about a dog.
a lonely dog. an abandoned dog. an underdog.
It’s a story about love and second chances. A story about a hero.
In fact, its truly a story about more than one.
At the tail end of this past summer, just as the last stray drops of warm golden sunlight were fading away for the year – I opened up my inbox and found the most wonderful thing. In it, was an invitation to the Indian River Inlet United States Coast Guard base in Delaware asking me to chronicle the life of Mr. Beefy – a 6 year old Shelter Pit Bull mix with an incredible story. Needless to say – I graciously accepted the invitation – and scheduled the 7 hour road trip down to the Delaware Coast as soon as I possibly could. It would be an understatement to say that spending the day with the Officers of the Indian River Inlet USCG base was amazing – It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And one that I wont soon forget.
So, without further ado – I am proud to share with you a remarkable story about a remarkable dog.
Mr. Beefy spent the first part of his life in loneliness and confusion, without any semblance of love or stability. For the most part, the first years of Mr. Beefy’s life are unknown. Although if he could talk, I imagine the tale would be heartbreaking.
Mr. Beefy was found one very hot summer afternoon chained to a tree behind an abandoned house. No food, no water, no relief from the sweltering heat. Just tied to a tree, left for dead.
This is where the story starts to take a turn. The amazing team of passionate, dedicated animal rescuers at the SPCA of Delaware’s Georgetown Shelter received an anonymous call, alerting them to this scared, abandoned dog’s situation, and they immediately stepped in to save his life. Moving slowly and deliberately, the SPCA team unchained a frightened and devastated Mr. Beefy from the horrible backyard prison where he was stuck, and proceeded to take him to their facility – where they could check his health, give him a warm bed and a belly full of food, and start the long journey of finding Mr. Beefy his perfect, forever family.
Mr. Beefy’s rescue proved to be a bit of challenge as Volunteer and Development Coordinator Joanne Bradley Murphy recalls – ‘When we got him to the shelter, he was so terrified that after 2 hours of trying to get him IN the building, it was decided he would spend the night in an outside run (we never do that, but had no choice). We believe that he had never actually been inside a building ever in his entire life. The next day we were able to move him inside the building. He was terrified of everything and would make this little “dolphin chirping” sound. He was afraid of men, squeaky toys and not so fond of other dogs. He hated to be outside by himself – one time he escaped from a yard and was throwing himself against the door to get back IN the shelter.’
The scared, sad dog that Mr. Beefy used to be, slowly started to fade and disappear into the past as he slowly earned his confidence back while learning and growing at the shelter. Hours turned into days, days turned into months, and months turned into years. All along, Mr. Beefy sat waiting patiently for his new family to come and change his story forever. As each person passed by his cage, he hoped. He peered out with big, glassy eyes, dreaming of finding his destiny on the other side of those metal bars. All he wanted in the whole world was one thing: to be loved. Mr. Beefy watched as his friends around him all found their forever homes. He stayed through the cycles, as cages were filled and emptied again all around him. Day in and day out, he watched warm, loving arms meet the other dogs with excitement as they were whisked off to their new homes. He was so patient, sitting quietly all along, watching the world spin and move around him, knowing in his heart of hearts, that one day, his time would come. He was a good dog too, wasn’t he? …
Well, here’s where it really starts to get good.
On a day just like any other, as the wind whipped through the trees outdoors like it usually did, and as Beefy napped and dreamed inside the shelter – everything that he ever knew changed forever. Michael Kristiansen, the United States Coast Guard Officer in Charge of the Indian River Inlet US Coast Guard base of Rehoboth Beach, DE, walked into the building. He and a fellow officer – BM2 Josh Talys – were there in search of a morale dog and they wanted to meet Mr. Beefy. Joanne Bradley recalls that unbelievable moment, “We were so excited, that I think all of the volunteers and everyone working that day went out with Beefy while he met the guys for the first time. He was scared at first, but they wanted him anyway.”
And through the happiest tears, she remembers the next moment: “He left the shelter that day for good, after waiting over a year for a home.”
And where is that home, you ask?
Mr. Beefy has found his perfect place in forever at the Indian River USCG Station in gorgeous Rehoboth Beach, DE. Mr. Beefy is now a ranked military officer with his official title being ‘Seamen Apprentice’ for the United States Coast Guard. He serves on an indefinite enlistment and tour length. Seaman Apprentice Beefy serves as unit morale booster and is authorized to conduct public outreach to promote U.S. Coast Guard recruiting and missions. Mr. Beefy can be advanced for exemplary performance and behavior. He lives, full time at the beautiful Indian River Inlet Coast Guard Station, keeping watch with a wag and a smile over the stretch of waterfront land that he calls home. As he is a documented Military Mascot, Mr. Beefy is afforded the same rights, privileges , support services and health surveillance as other as other government owned working animals. Beefy receives all of his medical treatment via Dover Air Force Base.
Mr. Beefy was adopted into the ranks of an amazing team. He is very proud to hold his spot in the lineup.
Mr. Beefy has snuggled so gratefully in to his remarkable new home. The loneliness of yesterday has faded into tiny reflections in Mr. Beefy’s eyes. He’ll never forget where he started — as a frightened, abandoned dog, thrown out with the garbage and left for dead. Without his past, he could never appreciate where he is today – a ranked United States Coast Guard Officer surrounded by all of the love in the world.
When Mr. Beefy used to fall asleep on the cold hard floor in his cage at the shelter, he would dream up brilliant dreams of his forever home and a new family to call his own. But never did he ever imagine how incredible that dream would actually turn out to be. Mr. Beefy learned the most remarkable thing — that sometimes, reality is better than even the wildest imagination. Mr. Beefy now has more than just a place to call home. After waiting 1 year and 3 months, Mr. Beefy has more than just a family. Mr. Beefy, the canine officer of the Indian River US Coast Guard Base, now has 32 family members to watch over him. 32 sets of arms to keep him warm. And 32 hearts to love him completely.
For Mr. Beefy, this is heaven.
This is Mr. Beefy’s new family. This is where he belongs:
I had such an incredible time capturing the tiny details that are all a part of ‘Seamen Apprentice’ Beefy’s daily life at his new home on the base with his fellow officers.
From a lonely, scared shelter dog to a proud, ranked military officer for the United States Coast Guard. So, the next time you think that all shelters dogs are ‘broken’, and that they cant be taught how to love again – think of Mr. Beefy. Think of the brave men and women that have devoted their lives to protecting this great country, and how they opened their hearts to an underdog. They saw a sparkle in the eyes of an abandoned shelter pit bull when nobody else did.
And when you give love a chance, the most incredible things can happen. Would you just look at the miracle that love can perform? ….
And those heroes that I spoke of? Well here’s one. This is Joanne Bradley Murphy, the volunteer coordinator for the SPCA’s Georgetown Shelter. She and her team of rescuers dedicated endless time and energy to keeping watch over Mr. Beefy while he was in the shelter’s care. Their team kept him close and safe during the hardest parts, standing right beside him every step of the way through his incredible journey. Joanne helped to see him through to the very end. She came along on the day of our shoot to check in with her sweet boy, and to see how life on the waterfront has been treating him. Seeing these two together brought me so much joy – their intense connection and love was tangible. And would you just look at that smile on Mr. Beefy? Its safe to say that he’ll never forget the love that Joanne so selflessly poured out to him when he needed it most.
And speaking of heroes – after spending an afternoon with the USCG Officers – I cant continue without mentioning the men and women who have chosen to devote their lives to protecting this great country. I cant begin to express my gratitude for their service. Because of them, I have the freedom to live my dreams.Their sacrifice is a precious gift to all Americans. To the Officers of the USCG Indian River Inlet Base – Thank You. Not only did you step up and selflessly save the life of an abandoned shelter dog, but you live every day in the spirit of protecting my freedom in a country that I am proud to call home.
As far as heroes go – here are two more. This whole excursion wouldn’t have even been possible without these next two people. Tom and Renè – unwavering animal rescue advocates and bully breed supporters – are two of the most selfless, and endlessly giving people that I have ever had the privilege to meet. Their kindnesses are unprecedented and I am proud to fight feverishly alongside them to help save homeless animals in need. They are solely responsible for connecting me with the SPCA of Delaware and for arranging my travel and photo shoot with Mr. Beefy and the Coast Guard Officers.
Their passion is what made this whole adventure happen. I think Mr. Beefy was quite grateful to meet them.
Even I got a chance to be photographed with Mr. Beefy! I couldn’t help myself but to give this guy a good snuggle! That hug made the 7-hour trip worth every minute. :P (Thanks to my assistant Sam for snapping this shot of me with our photo star!)
Mr. Beefy had me cracking up for the better part of our session together. His kryptonite? Peanut Butter!!
While this post is about celebrating Mr. Beefy and his journey, there is also a much bigger picture that he stands for. Everyday, over 2,800 Pit Bulls die in shelters. That’s over 1 million Pit Bulls every year. Dogs just like Mr. Beefy – who were born to a world that let them down – a world in which, even just existing is a crime. Each and every dog with their own individual stories and personalities. Each with red beating hearts inside their chests and warm glowing lights of hope behind their eyes. Each with one simple wish, one common dream: to be understood, and to know love. They watch the world through the bars of their cages, hoping for families who never come. And after dreaming endless dreams of love, their lives are taken from them by a cold needle before they ever have a chance to fly.
Here’s to hoping that Mr. Beefy can be a reminder of all of these dogs – that he can stand up for their legacy. He is one of the rare ones – one of the ones who made it out. Let his story serve the memories of all of the ones who were left behind. Let the kindnesses of the men and women of the Indian River Coast Guard Station of this great country be a valuable lesson – you can find love in the most unexpected places if you’re just brave enough to look.
And, I know one fuzzy little guy who is very, very grateful that they did:
Until there are none, rescue one.
Save a life.
We love you Mr. Beefy!
This post is about Pit Bulls and the people who love them.
It is the last day of Pit Bull Awareness month and I cant think of a better time to take a step back and remember all of the incredible Pit Bulls that I have had the lucky privilege of meeting and photographing over the course of this past year.
This blog post is dedicated to everyone who gave a second chance to an underdog. Everyone who was brave enough to take a stand and rise above the ignorance and stereotypes. And most importantly, this is for everyone who was heroic enough to save the life of a homeless abandoned shelter Pit Bull.
These are all of the Pit Bull faces that I have had the incredible opportunity to photograph this past year. While each one is unique and a character all their own, they all share those same goofy, trademark Pit Bull traits that make this breed so dear to my heart — outrageously big doofy smiles, waggly tails and wiggly bums that never stop, and the ability to cuddle and love like no other breed on the planet.
And the best part of all of these gorgeous dogs that you’re about to see? Each and every individual one has been rescued. Rescued from a lesser fate. Reclaimed from a cold cage and welcomed into a warm home. There is no greater love story on the planet… :)
First up is sweet Carlin. Carlin was rescued from a high-kill animal control facility in Orlando, Florida. Each dog’s cage is labeled with the number of days that they have left before a hard cold needle comes and takes their life away from them — Carlin’s cage had a big, fat number 1 on it when his Dad found him. Carlin was swept out of that cage and into warm, loving arms with less than 24 hours to spare. Now Carlin lives each day beneath the sunshine, bathed in endless joy and love. Here is Carlin’s fancy trick that he was very proud to show off to me on the white sand beach at our shoot on Honeymoon Island in Florida. “Roll Half.” Thats right. Not ‘Roll Over’ — ‘Roll Half’ . What a talented little man you are Carlin! :)
Gorgeous Olivia is a foster failure (the best kind of failure!). She was being fostered by her family through the fabulous Pittie Love Rescue and they just couldn’t stand the thought of letting her go… (I mean, how could you with a face like that..?)
Pumpkin is a gorgeous, gentle young man who was rescued by his Mom from someone who no longer wanted him. He is now the happiest, wiggliest, most joyful little thing – and is stuck to his Mom’s side like glue. (he’s also pretty fond of sticks!)
I was lucky enough to meet and photograph Rocky while on a cross country Dog Breath ‘photo tour’. Rocky lives in Maryland with his family and was so excited to show me around his neck of the woods! …
I met Hampton’s parents while at a benefit for Pit Bulls in Boston. They showed me his photo on their phone and I just melted into my shoes. We quickly scheduled a shoot for this handsome young man at the gorgeous Paul Revere Park in Charlestown, MA. Hampton is very much a city boy, and is so grateful to have been rescued by his parents from a shelter in the south.
Anna is a gorgeous girl who was dropped off at the shelter where her Mom works. She was found loose on their grounds, running amuck with the goats and pigs who are kept in a big pen in the front of the property. Someone had abandoned her, left her to live life all alone – but her parents swept in and took her home. Anna is now a certified couch potato and revels in the endless love that her parents shower her in everyday!
Trixie is a gorgeous little high-flyin Pittie with spunk! Here she is with her sister Middie – giving her the old ‘one-two-paw to the face’ move. We had so much fun at our session in the snow!
Oh, and this next guy.. I cant say enough about him. Talk about personality. Turkey was an adoptable pup at the shelter where I volunteer each week. I knew him while he was lonely and homeless, and now I have the pleasure to know him as a happy, proud, so outrageously loved member of an amazing family. We had our photo session on the beach by Turkey’s new home. Clearly, he was in his ‘happy place’ here….
Sweet Zooey is a rescue from Tennessee. She was sent up to be a part of her parents family before they ever even met her — they just knew from her photos that she was the girl for them. We had our session at the gorgeous Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plan while the pink flowers blooming in the trees were at their brightest.
The gorgeous Miss Ellie is another southern rescue girl! Her Mom never knew she wanted a Pit Bull. In fact, she was at the shelter specifically looking for another breed — but when she saw Ellie Mae’s big, soulful eyes through the bars of her cage – she just knew that they were meant to be. This photo was taken in a fantastic old bus tunnel in gorgeous Providence, RI. Ellie and her Mom were so fun and up for adventure that I just knew we had to do something different! …
This next girl was rescued from one of my very favorite shelters — the MSPCA! Esme’s Mom works at the shelter as one of their obedience trainers .. so needless to say – Esme was a perfectly behaved young lady at her session. (hence, being able to get to her to balance on things for her photos.) :)
Hurley, another rescued guy, had his photo session alongside his Boxer sister Riley. We had an absolute blast at our shoot at the beautiful Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI , and I still cant believe it – but we were lucky enough to capture a RAINBOW!
Josie was an absolute riot at her Dog Breath photo session. She bounced and wiggled her way through 2 hrs like it was absolutely nothing. Here is a rare moment of stillness for her — very proud to show off her new squeaky toy for the camera…
Yogi is easily one of the most stunning Pit Bulls that I have ever had the privilege to photograph. I still cant get over that gorgeous white coat and golden yellow eyes. Would you just look at him!? ….
and Yogi’s sister Molly is no slouch in the ‘good looks’ department! Here is the gorgeous girl herself, enjoying the beautiful setting of our shoot at Biddeford Pool, Maine.
I just recently had the privilege of meeting and photographing this handsome young man! Raider splished and splashed his way through our session at Winnekenni Castle in Haverhill, MA
While his friend, baby Audo was a little less excited about actually get in the water….
I had an absolute blast at Julius’ session in downtown Boston! This guy literally had me cracking up for well over 2 hours as we adventured around the city. He’s a brilliant comedian….
Sweet Sam was a rock star for his photo session. His smile has got to be one of my favorite Pittie smiles Ive ever had the privilege to witness. Sam crossed over to the rainbow bridge not long after this shot was taken. He is so dearly missed by his incredible family — but wow – were they ever lucky to know him and let his change their hearts. We love you, sweet Sam.
Gorgeous Lady Lexi starred in her Dog Breath photo session right alongside her Boxer brother Moose. Lexi’s Mom is an incredible advocate for rescues, and she is doing so much good in this world for the plight of Pit Bulls and shelter dogs alike. We spent the second half of Lexi’s session on the beautiful beaches of Narragansett, Rhode Island. I just adore this shot of her ‘one ear up, one ear down’ look just as twilight was falling down around us. (Oh and please note Lexi’s painted pink toenails!!) :P
I had the time of my life at my photo session with these three gorgeous troublemakers. Hailey, Madison and Tyson were perfect stars for their Dog Breath shoot in Boston. Here they are, enjoying the warm summer air on the esplanade overlooking the Charles River just as the sun was dipping behind the horizon behind them. :)
Next up is the hilarious Miss Lola. Lola was very proud to show off her ‘teeth ball’ at her recent photo session. I almost couldnt snap this photo I was laughing so hard..
Lola was rescued from a barn, in which she was living in the cold – she was thin and sick and had given birth to multiple litters. Her parents took her in and changed her life.
Havana is Lola’s daughter. She was rescued by the same family, from the same barn. Havana is quite the athlete, and spent the better part of her session flying through the air!
This next guy is incredibly special to me. I had the extreme privilege of meeting and photographing this gorgeous little angel just days before he left this world behind. Orion was rescued from my very favorite shelter on the planet – the MSPCA at Nevins Farm. Orion’s Mom was aware that he had cancer at the time that she rescued him, but her heart was so full of love that she didn’t mind. She took him in and filled up his life with joy until his very last minute. Orion was only 6 years old when he made the trip away from this world. We miss him so much. He was so loved. May the fields be green and endless and the treats and love be plentiful in your perfect heaven, Orion.
And would you just look at this little butterfly? Is there anything more adorable on the whole planet? Scarlett paraded her way through her very recent Dog Breath photo session as a beautiful pink butterfly. I think thats a great look for you, Scarlett… :)
And no Pit Bull blog post would be complete without my very own squishy man. This boy has brought more light and love to my life that I ever thought possible. From a lonely, cold and dark basement where he used to be locked, to cuddles on the couch, warm food in his belly and endless kisses on his little round head. (okay, okay… big, round head!!)
HAPPY PIT BULL AWARENESS MONTH EVERYONE!!! :)
Petunia has been a very patient girl.
Sometimes there is a dog who just pours her heart out to you. She doesn’t speak in words – but through her eyes. With one look, she lets you see into her soul. And you know what that soul is saying?
Petunia is one of the most special, whimsical little creatures I have ever come across. She was found as a lonely little stray – left to battle the harshness of the world all alone on the streets. She is mostly blind and has trouble when navigating on her own. When I think of her sweet face, my eyes well up with tears of hope. Hope for a new life. Hope for love. Hope for a family that might someday come and call Petunia their own.
Rewind 7 months to a chilly January afternoon, just a few days after Christmas. I walked through the doors of the adoption center at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm where I volunteer each week taking photographs of the adoptable dogs. On this particular winter day, I had no idea the kind of head-over-heels love that I was in for. As I walked through the adoption room with a pen and pad, checking sweet faces that needed photos for their adoption profiles off of my list, I landed at Petunia’s cage. I peered over the edge and down to the most gorgeous yellow-golden eyes I’ve ever seen, perfectly paired with a smile colored with boundless sunshine and happiness. That face was attached to an endlessly wiggly little body that was swaying from side to side at about a million miles per minute, and a stumpy little tail that looked as though it could fly right off that adorable bum with its wagging vengeance . Within seconds, I was smitten. I took Petunia out of her cage to in preparation for a photo adventure. But before I could get back on my feet after clipping Petunia to her leash, I was assaulted by goobery, wet kisses and little intermittent piglet snorts of excitement. Needless to say, I fell hard and fast for this squishy little ball of endless joy.
It has been more than 7 months since that winter afternoon that I lost my heart to that sweet little girl. And each and every time that I have entered those adoption room doors since that day, I cross my fingers and hold my breath, hoping that I might find a cage empty of Petunia, with a sign that so many other dogs that come through these doors have proudly earned. A sign that reads ‘I’ve been adopted!’. Seven long months and each week, I still walk by and peer over to that same smiling face. And while I adore seeing, kissing and cuddling her – my heart sinks for yet another week that she’s been overlooked. Petunia has been so patient.
I told Petunia to close her eyes and wish very hard for the perfect family to come and fill up her life with love…
We sat there together for hours on that hill, dreaming dreams and making wishes.
And every night when Petunia drifts off to sleep in her cage at the adoption center, she dreams fairytale dreams of arms to snuggle her, hearts to love her, and all the affection of a family that she can call her very own. I can only pray that the long and lonely wait will be over soon, and that one day, when Petunia wakes up from her dream, she’ll find that is has become a reality. :)
Dreams do come true, sweet girl. And we wont ever give up hope.
Until next time,
Well, I certainly have been quite the disappearing act lately!
Hello! :) I figured it was finally time to peek my blogging head out from the rock I’ve been hiding under for the past few months and give you the inside scoop on what I’ve been up to!
This past Spring and Summer have been record-breakingly busy for Dog Breath Photography! I do realize that ‘record-breakingly’ is not a word, but sometimes you’ve gotta make up your own terms for the most accurate story-telling description. :) I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting and photographing more dogs (and cats! and bunnies!) that I can count over the past few months. The Spring weather here in New England this past season was an absolute gift, allowing me to capture the most gorgeous kind of subjects (four-legged ones!) in the midst of brilliant colors and warm, yellow sunlight. The Spring weather then gracefully trickled over into the Summer months, and aside from the intense heat wave we had here in Boston last week, the light, temperature and colors have been a photographer’s dream. Thus, making me the busiest person on the planet. :P
All of that being said, with all of the endless shoots and events of these past few months, I have fallen sorely behind on updating this little blog here, and re-telling the stories of my gorgeous, four-legged clients and their photo adventures. So, I am on a mission to do my darndest to get lots of recent session features up on the blog for you to enjoy!
Minnie’s session took place back in November (I know, I know! I wasn’t kidding when I said I was behind on blogging!) On the day of our session, we were blessed with the most gorgeous yellow, autumn sunlight to romp and play in! Minnie was an absolute star for her session – oh, she didn’t hold back! She pulled out all her best looks, including the tragic ‘give me treats!’ face.
Minnie’s Mom, Kim, contacted me for once in a lifetime portraits of her sweet girl shortly after Minnie was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The moment that I met Minnie, I knew exactly why these portraits were going to be so important to her Mom. Minnie is has got the most incredible soul, the kindest eyes – and above all else – one of the most intense and loving connections with her human that I’ve ever seen. Her spirit was unprecedented, her wiggly little body was bursting with the purest kind of joy as she bounced about through our session together.
Oh, and Minnie was a sucker for a good joke! We rattled off about 25 knock knock jokes before we had to put a stop to it due to uncontrollable laughter…
When I told Minnie that this blog post was going up – she wanted me to be clear and remind you all that the camera adds 15 pounds. :P
And how ‘bout Minnie’s array of endless expressions? … It was all I could do not to crack up while shooting.
When Minnie’s Mom, Kim, mentioned she’d like to capture some images of Minnie in her ‘room’ at home, I excitedly obliged – thinking this just might be the coolest dog Mom ever! Minnie has her own room!? Never did I realize that Minnie’s room was going to be so completely fabulous! She’s got her own bed for snoozing, lots of pillows for relaxing, collections of treats on the floor, Beagle themed art all over the walls, and even her name written in sparkles! Yes, this truly is a rags to riches story. From a scared, broken shelter dog – to an endlessly happy, limitlessly loved, joyful little nugget who likes to nap with her door closed! ha! Minnie was so proud to show off her supercool digs!
Looking so fabulous is a tiring job! Minnie settled in for a nap just as we were wrapping up…
Photographing Minnie was truly a treasure of an experience. I am so grateful to have met and spent such a perfect afternoon this sweet little girl. The joy that she infected me with is impossibly sticky and I imagine will never rub off. :)
When I delivered Minnie’s images (including her gigantic 30×40 canvas!) to Kim, we both spent a few moments in happy tears, hugging in her kitchen – both knowing that these images are one day going to be the closest connection that Kim will have to her sweet, joyful little girl. I hope they serve to preserve her smile, warmth and spirit for endless years to come.
Thank you for choosing me to be the one to capture your perfect, sunshiney little girl, Kim! I couldn’t have asked for more perfection inside one wiggly, fuzzy little body!
As many of you know, I volunteer quite avidly at my local shelter photographing their adoptable pups in an attempt to give them the best chance possible of escaping a life of lonely cages and metal bars. Every week, I meet new and incredible pups – all unique and wonderful in their own way. All equally innocent and deserving of a warm home to call their own. But, every once in a while, I meet a dog that just turns me upside down with love – a dog that is truly special in his ability to somehow give me more than I can give him. These dogs happen every once in a while. And I’ll know they’ve got me when I’m thinking of them on my drive home – Or waking up in the middle of the night to worry if they’re cold or scared or hungry or lonely. Ill think about them for weeks. Always checking it to see if maybe – just maybe – they found their forever home that day. Turkey was one of those dogs for me.
When I read the name on the tag on his cage, I giggled. When I peered over the edge to see the fuzzy, wagging gift inside who so proudly held the title of ‘Turkey’ I somehow giggled louder. ‘What a goobery, comical, relentlessly lovable little character’, I thought to myself. Turkey was on my list of pups who needed photos that day and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about it. (If you know anything about me, you know that I am outrageously partial to Pitties. Their overgrown hearts are the purest shades of red, and their trademark smiles bring me the kind of joy that I have trouble expressing in words. Needless to say – their endless character translates like magic to photographs.) So, I took Turkey out of his cage for some playtime and a photo shoot within the gorgeous grounds of the MSPCA at Nevins Farm. He thanked me with about 150 little wags and a good, solid lick to the cheek. Turkey and I had the most incredible afternoon together playing in the pen up on the grassy green hill next to the adoption center. He painted joy of every different color into my day. (my week. my month, really.) I admit it, I spent almost my entire afternoon with just Turkey. I was smitten.
At the end of our day together I told him that he wouldn’t have to wait much longer – that his forever family would come for him. That he would finally find a home and somebody would be there to kiss his snout Goodnight. ‘No more lonely nights’, I promised. I kept a close eye on Turkey – always throwing a few extra treats his way – until my promise came through later that month. Turkey had been adopted! My heart swelled with joy when I heard the news! He was a wonderful, joyful little boy with so much love to give his lucky someone. I missed seeing him. But, selflessly, I knew it was just the best thing he could have ever asked for.
Well what do you know, a few months later I got an email from the kindest, most wonderful girl named Emily. She told me she loved my work and that she would be thrilled if I could photograph her pup in his favorite spot on the beach. She explained how this pup had changed everything for her – that he was the love of her life. Then she went on to say that she and her boyfriend had adopted him from the MSPCA at Nevins Farm and that I might know him. ‘His name is Turkey’.
I just about exploded with joy. Turkey! THE Turkey! The one who I had kissed on the head that day under the late afternoon sun and made a promise to. A promise about love. A love that he had so clearly found in an amazing new family. A love that had been given to him in the purest form by incredible, open minded people who didnt judge him for his breed. People who didnt consider him to be a ‘broken’ shelter dog. People who opened up their hearts and gave him a second chance.
Needless to say – we booked a date immediately and I was reunited with this incredible, joyful little man for one more perfect afternoon…
Turkey was just as goobery and playful as I day I met him. We soaked up the afternoon sun together and played and played and played until our hearts were filled to the brim with yellow happiness.
In between the maniacally joyful mad man sprints across the beach, Turk would sometimes stop for a breather and put on his regal face.
And then – right back to it!
Turkey’s whole head disappeared just like this beneath the water quite often throughout our shoot. He may have been digging for gold.
I just adored watching Turk and his Mom interact. His love for her was just about oozing out of his golden eyes. And vice versa. Such a perfect, lucky pair.
Oh, those gorgeous golden eyes in the late afternoon sun, just exactly as I had remembered them. :)
Are you flippin’ kidding me with that tongue?! :P
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect afternoon. The light was pure magic. It was slanting over the horizon in chunky, golden streaks lighting Turkey up like a constellation as he moved across the beach.
My very favorite part of the day was watching these two together. Love comes in many forms. And it’s always, always, always miraculous. I just love happy endings.
Shake, Shake, Shake!
Turkey kept finding all kinds of treasures. He carried his sticks around like a King, wiggling his bum proudly from side to side with his newest find..
Emily and Justin, thank you for giving me the chance to spend one more, incredible afternoon with your furry guy and soak in some of his limitless joy. And more importantly, thank you so much for giving a lonely shelter dog the second chance he deserved. I am so grateful for people like you. Together, we can all change the perception of this misunderstood breed and the plight of shelter dogs as a massive, beautiful whole.
Until Next Time!
This is a story that I shared a few months back on the Dog Breath Photography Facebook Page. It was such a special moment in my life – one that I hold so close to my heart – that I thought it was important that I have it up here on my blog as well. I hope the sweet, canine subject in this story brings you as much joy, happiness and overwhelming love as she did to me…
The other day, the most wonderful thing happened.
It was Halloween, so I brought costumes up to the MSPCA and spent the day dressing up the adoptables and photographing them for their PetFinder profiles. On the way home from the shelter, I had to stop at PetSmart to get Joshua a bag of food. As I was walking in the door, I noticed a woman making her way towards the checkout with her arms full and fumbling with the dog on the other end of the leash she was holding. On the other end of that leash was the world’s sweetest looking, old and grey Pointer mix. My heart just about melted when I saw her.
Just as they were passing by me, that sweet old pup must have decided she couldn’t hold it any longer and stopped short to have an accident. The woman who was holding the dog looked so frazzled and upset that I offered to help. I told her not to worry about the pee, that I noticed she had her arms full and that I would take care of the cleanup for her, as I knew right where the paper towels were kept. I smiled and said ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go!’. The woman thanked me profusely and stayed with the puddle until I arrived with some paper towels. As I was cleaning up the pee, the woman began to apologize and explain ‘She has been having trouble holding her bladder, and lately there has been blood in it.’ I could hear the profound and solemn sadness in her voice when she said ‘She is my best friend and she is 18 years old.’
At that moment, I looked up at the woman and saw the tears begin to form in her eyes. She continued, ‘I live with my son, and today we decided together that it’s finally time to let her go.’ She went on ‘I am picking her up from being groomed right now because we wanted her last week with us to be special and for her to feel comfortable.’
It was at this point that I began to cry too. Right in the middle of PetSmart. With a stranger that I had only met 60 seconds before. We talked about the way that dog’s touch our lives, and how some come into our world and when they leave – we’re never ever the same. We talked about the purity of the love of a canine, their endless selflessness, their unwavering loyalty and joy. And that’s when I had a thought. I said ‘This is sort of a strange question – but do you have any beautiful photos of Coco? I mean really nice ones that you will remember her by?’ Her eyes closed for a moment, and she said ‘No, I suppose not.’ And that’s when I told her who I am – what I do. I said ‘I am a professional pet photographer, and I just happen to have all of my camera gear loaded up in the back of my car right now because I’m on my way home from a shoot at the shelter. Do you and Coco have 10 minutes to spend with me outside?’
So we went outside together, and just within the confines of the modest little median in the PetSmart parking lot, we made some memories of Coco. When I showed her one of the images on the back of my camera’s LCD, she lost herself to tears. And then, so did I. She hugged me with an intense gratitude that I have never felt before. I gave her my card and told her to expect an email with Coco’s images very soon. I looked down at Coco with a meaningful gaze and ended our interaction with a kiss to her graying snout.
It’s moments like those that make me grateful to have the privilege of doing what I do. If I am able to take the joy in one tiny moment, and freeze it in time so that somebody can keep it by their heart forever – then I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world. I think serendipity played a thoughtful hand in my meeting Coco and her Mom that day, and I am so grateful that I could give her a part of her sweet girl to hold on to forever.
Here is the beautiful Miss Coco, enjoying the breeze on a very special autumn evening, surrounded by all the love in the world…
*Since posting up this story back in October – sweet Coco has left this world behind. But not without first leaving her powerful & unmistakable mark of limitless love, joy and brilliance. I sent her Mom some big, beautiful prints of these images a few weeks later and I can only hope that she will cherish them forever. The world is an infinitely better place for having had you in it, beautiful girl. May Angels Lead You In.