Author Archives: kayleegreer
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. (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!!)
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.
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.
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?!
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.
This is a blog post that I have been meaning to write for a long, long time. Between of all the shooting, editing, designing and ordering for private clients lately – it’s been hard to find a moment to do any personal work. (No complaints whatsoever, I feel so privileged to be doing what I am busy doing everyday, and am so grateful for each individual person that I get to meet along the way! :)) But, that being said, blogging has been put on the back burner – and that really bums me out because I love sharing the adventures that I find myself on on a daily basis with all of you. So, I hope you can lend me your ear, and let me tell you a story about a little boy who changed my life forever..
Just about three months ago – on September 19th, 2012 – my life was affected in the most beautiful way. A humble, grateful and generally squishy little shelter dog wiggled his way right into my life. I knew from the moment I saw his sparkling little eyes peering through the metal bars of his cage that we would be perfect for each other. He had a smile that was selfless, bright and infinite. A smile that was big enough to fill up all of the little holes in my heart – the ones that come as an aside to the general pains that life can sometimes bring. And I had a heart with the door wide open, and with plenty of room for him to come inside. Over the course of the past 90 days, Joshua has done exactly that. He’s wandered into my heart and made himself home here. He adds color to my laughter and purpose to each and every day. If you have been following Dog Breath Photography for the past few months, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen him make an appearance at least once or twice, but I think it’s high time that I formally introduce you to him: Meet Joshua – the wiggliest, gooberiest, happiest little man on four legs…
Don’t get me wrong. Joshua wasn’t always this loved and lucky. Joshua was 1 year and 3 months old on the day that I adopted him. So, I didn’t get to experience Joshua’s puppyhood. Somebody else did. And that somebody else was Joshua’s dark, terrifying past.
Joshua came into the MSPCA at Nevins Farms shelter on an animal abuse case. He spent the first year of his life locked in a dark basement. He lived a life of neglect and abandonment. Joshua was starved for countless months. The only thing that I know for certain about his previous people is that they were (and I quote) ‘going to throw his body in the Merrimack River’ once he finally died of starvation. A good samaritan who knew of Joshua’s severe, tragic situation is the one who ultimately saved his life. As soon as she became aware of Joshua’s condition, she stood up in the face of evil and made contact with animal control. Animal Control’s private records make it impossible for me to know who this guardian angel is – but if I ever got the opportunity to meet her – she might never get free of my grateful embrace. I hope she knows how much brilliance and joy she inadvertently brought into my life when she found it in her heart to save a helpless animal.
When Joshua came into Nevins Farm – his paws were stained yellow from months of living in his own urine and excrement. He had small nicks and scars on his face. And, most glaringly, he was emaciated - just a little pile of bones – ribs and hips poking out every which way.
This is when I fell in love with Joshua.
Since I volunteer at Nevins Farm, I had the opportunity to see Joshua very early on – while he was still a far cry from the adoption floor. He was under extremely close veterinary supervision and on a strict, regimented diet for the first part of his stay at the shelter. I was in one summer afternoon, taking photos of all of the adoptable dogs for their Petfinder profiles when I first saw him. I looked over my list and my eye got caught on the name -’Joshua’. ‘Well that’s a strange name for a dog’, I thought and wandered over to the very quiet cage where he lay. This moment, the next one that I am about to tell you about, is a major turning point in this story. This is when everything changed.
I peered over the edge of the cage, down through the metal bars to the little mass of skin and bones on the floor. His eyes gleamed like little stars, even despite the rest of his depleted and famished body. He was weak, but he was aware. I could not mistake the sparkle of vitality and joy in his eyes. And just at that moment, after brief consideration of my face peering in on him – he wagged. His little tail slapped against the floor in a rage. Slap! Slap! Slap! All of the strength that he had left in his mangled little body, went straight into that tail.
All of that betrayal. All of that evil, and hate. Locked inside that dark basement, Joshua had experienced the very worst that my species had to offer. And yet, he forgave. He was showing me love despite only knowing terror and betrayal from my kind. I started to cry then. Right there, standing outside of his cage looking in on him. Other volunteers and staff members bustling all around me. Tears were running down my cheeks for him, for his pain. I knew from that very moment that I wanted to make it my personal duty to show him the truth about my kind. I wanted to win him back. I wanted to show him love. The love he deserved all along.
I wasn’t able to take Joshua’s photo that day because he was still too weak, confused and new for volunteers to handle him. He was had a sign on his cage that said ‘Staff Only’ – as is typical for dogs when they are newly admitted to Nevins Farm. So, instead, I just sat outside of his cage -talking to him and telling him stories until I had to go. I knew he liked the company. After all, he had been locked away, mostly alone for a year before that.
When I left the shelter that day – Joshua was the only thing on my mind. I worried about him all night; Would he get back up to weight and become healthy again someday? Would he pass his temperament tests? Was he cold? Did he need extra blankets? Would he make it to the adoption floor? I told everyone I could about him – my mother, my boyfriend, my brother, my best friend. Talking about him was all I could do.
When I was in the next week, I was finally able to take his photo. With the help of a staff member, we got Joshua outside and asked him to sit for his photos. He was such a good boy. This is the first photo I ever took of Joshua:
This would be for when he was ready for adoption. It would be up to me to upload to his Petfinder profile when he finally made it to ‘adoptable’ status. Way deep down inside, I was torn. I knew that of course, I wanted nothing but beautiful things for Joshua. But, I had the hardest time posting this photo up to his Petfinder profile when the time came. Selfishly, I was afraid that when people saw his perfect little face in their search for adoptable dogs online- that he would go home and be ripped from my life as quickly as he came in. (which, of course is the point of taking nice photos of shelter animals! haha) This is when I realized that I wanted Joshua. I had, after all, made a pact that day that I saw him, that I was going to show him the truth about love.
All kinds of different variables played a part in preventing me from adopting Joshua immediately. But, the biggest obstacle was the fact that I was in the process of looking for a new place to live and run my business. The place I was living in at the time didn’t allow for a dog of Joshua’s size, breed or energy level. Over the course of the next months that I spent searching for a new place, I continued my wonderful, weekly interactions with Joshua at the shelter. I would be so excited to go in and see him each week. About a month after the first time I met Joshua – I was asked to photograph a special campaign for the MSPCA’s annual Walk For Animals fundraiser. You can see the end result of my work on that here. The goal of the campaign was to communicate what the animals at Nevins Farm might say about their individual stories, if only they had their own voice to say it. It was about trying to make people understand why they should participate in the walk – and what types of miracles for animals the raised funds from the Walk would go towards. I knew immediately that I wanted to feature Joshua in this campaign. He was, after all, a brave little survivor – and a living embodiment of the miracles that the incredible staff at the MSPCA can work for homeless animals. His sign made direct reference to his condition when he came in:
The Walk for Animals fundraiser was held in September, and ended up being a huge success! I can’t help but think that Joshua’s starring role in the photo campaign had at least a tiny something to do with it.
Finally, three months after meeting Joshua – I found a perfect new place to live and work. An old renovated textile mill building from 1807 just outside of Providence, Rhode Island. The grounds were gorgeous, green and expansive – and the town was safe and quiet. I knew that it would be the perfect place for Joshua and I to call home. I contacted the shelter director immediately to let him know of my interest in bringing Joshua home with me – and much to my chagrin – he informed me that Joshua had been adopted earlier that same week.
My heart sunk.
Of course, I was so thrilled for Joshua – he had finally found his forever home and no longer had to wait behind cold bars for love. But, I was simultaneously devastated inside – I had taken too long.
My move in date to my new home was Saturday, September 15th. Well, wouldn’t you know – that on Friday, September 14th – I got a call from the shelter saying that Joshua had come back. The people who had adopted him had another dog at home. And while the two had gotten along perfectly outside of the home, when they got back to it – their existing dog became a bit territorial and began aggressively resource guarding. The family knew that the right thing to do would be to return Joshua to the shelter – to give him a home that might be better suited for him.
I’ve honestly never been a big believer in serendipity – but — at that moment, all I could think was ‘it was meant to be.’
Needless to say – I hastily drove up the shelter the next available moment that I had, eyes filled with happy tears, to whisk my fuzzy little man away into his new, loving life. When I got up to the shelter and approached his cage with sweaty palms (it was really happening!!) I found this note attached to it:
My heart just about melted all over the ground.
So, it goes without saying that this story has a happy ending. Joshua fell asleep in my car, head in my lap, on the way home that night. It was like he finally found peace. Like he knew, that he was finally headed off to the place where he would belong for the rest of his life.
The rest of this post is filled up with images from our past 3 months together. It’s such a short time compared to the amount that we have left – and yet we have had so many happy, wonderful adventures.
Here’s to a brilliant future, Mister Joshua. … (oh, and a relentless camera in your face for the next 12 years or so. You are the dog of a pet photographer after all.)
He provides me with comic relief on a daily basis. On an every minute basis, really.
He’s joyful. He’s whimsical. He’s goofy. And, it’s a funny thing, but I can tell that he is grateful.
He exudes it from his smile and his little butt wiggle as he rolls around the room on his back. We call it the ‘happy dance’.
After our adventures at the dog park, we take Joshua to a fancy dog wash for bath time! He doesn’t seem to mind one bit..
He’s picked out his very favorite warm spot on the couch at home.
He loves the dog park! (Covered in mud. Hence the bath time photos above. Check out that filthy bandana! haha)
We like to take walks through the gorgeous forest trails behind the Mill that we live in.
Joshua is a superhero!
Even during sleep, he manages to crack me up. He is typically on his back just like this, snoring away. His human-like qualities make me giggle – he particularly enjoys blankets and pillows.
The second night Joshua was at home with us, he decided to dump all of his new toys out of their basket and eat the basket.
YUM! The basket is better than any boring ol’ squeaky toy, Mom!
We just wrapped up an incredible Christmas season together. Joshua was such a good boy for his Holiday photo shoot in front of the tree!
When I shared Joshua’s Christmas images over on the Dog Breath Facebook page, I had a few things to say about being grateful:
‘The Christmas season has always been a time for me to take a moment, step back and count my blessings. This year, I have so much to be grateful for. But, the brightest beacon of light and luck that shines so brilliantly into my life is this gorgeous, fuzzy little four-legged man. Just six months ago as Joshua sat chained in a cold, dark basement with no friends or food to speak of – I bet he wondered why love skipped over him, why it forgot him to long days of neglect and pain. He was worthy, wasn’t he? Well, the answer, my sweet little boy, is Yes. Yes, you are. And thanks to the team of heroes at the MSPCA who rescued you, I am now here to show you the meaning of love. I will keep you safe from harm, stay close by your side, and love you everyday – just the way you always deserved – for the rest of your existence. From abandonment and starvation within four forgotten concrete walls, to this; a warm bed, a full belly and love so endless we could build a castle around you. Our hearts are so filled with gratitude.
Be grateful for something this Christmas.
Happy Holidays everyone.’
And here it is. The culmination of everything this blog post is based upon.
There is a difference between love and neglect. Love is valiant. Love can heal. It has the power to mend broken bones and broken hearts…
A canine’s ability to forgive will never cease to astound me.
And now that Joshua is with me, I will never ever let him forget what love feels like. Every minute of everyday for the rest of his life. Now that we are by each other’s sides, this is where we’ll stay – him with a full belly and a smile that could save the world, and me with a full heart.
I love you my little wagging sunshine. Here’s to second chances.
I am so glad I finally got to introduce you to the happiest thing in my life. I hope you love that smile as much as I do.
Another Friday, Another Project 52! This is a very strong argument for why Friday is the best day of the week.
This week’s theme for Project 52 made me giggle the moment I saw it. Why, you ask? Because this past weekend, I happened to have a photo session with the most perfect, most ridiculously charismatic little girl who fit perfectly for this theme. Minnie was a total firecracker during her session. We visited not one, but two different parks where she championed rock walls, steep bridges and did her fair share of puddle jumping. She rocked the session with her big expressive eyes and her glowing ‘can’t deny me treats’ smirk. Little Miss Minnie was kicking butt and taking names – that is until we reached the third location. That’s right – Her bedroom.
And when I say her bedroom, I mean her bedroom. Minnie is the world’s luckiest, most loved little pup. Her parents are some of the nicest people in the world, and not only decided to rescue her from a lesser fate – but also so selflessly gave up a room in their home for her to call her own. (And it’s gorgeous by the way! The little girl inside me was super jealous!)
When Minnie found her bed after her long, tireless day of modeling and looking beautiful, she swiftly punched her timecard and clocked out for the evening. Just moments later, Minnie showed no shame as she snored triumphantly away, with my lens still stuck to her face.
I just love Minnie’s ‘bedtime’ face ….
Honk Shoo. Honk Shoo. Honk Shoo…
Zzzzzzz Zzzzzzzz Zzzzzzz
Oh, and don’t you worry – this won’t be the last you see of gorgeous Minnie! There will be a full blog post featuring Minnie’s awesome session in the not so distant future. Keep your eyes on the blog!
Now, don’t forget this is a blog ring! Continue your adventure by clicking on over to Unleashed! Pet Portraits in Victoria, British Columbia to see what bedtime looks like there! Follow the links all the way around the ring and end up right back here – with sleepy Minnie and me!
Until Next Time!
I can’t believe it’s already Friday again! ahhh! (that’s part ‘Yay for Friday!’ and part ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe how time flies!’) ha. Anyway – Another Friday means another installment of the Project 52 blog ring!
This week’s theme is ‘Motivation’.
I absolutely love this theme – because as a pet photographer, ‘motivation’ is an important word. So much more goes into creating an image than you can see from the final photograph. It usually takes quite a bit more effort than you would ever guess to get that ‘perfect shot’. On my shoots, I bring quite the arsenal of goodies along with me: squeaky toys, hot dogs, rubber ducks, tennis balls, cookies, cheese, various sound effects apps, treats, etc. All of this stuff is motivation. When I’m out and about in some gorgeous, expansive park with all kinds of new sights, sounds and smells, the last thing my four-legged models typically want to do it sit and stay still. BO-RING! They want to run amuck and express their joy with crazy little zoomie dances, sniff all kinds of new butts and pee on the world. So having a few tricks up my sleeve to keep them at least a little bit interested in me and my camera is crucial. (of course, I have nothing against zoomie dances, those are wonderful too.)
In order to demonstrate my point, this fuzzy little guy I know named Joshua is back this week with a starring role.
‘What is Joshua’s motivation’ you ask? Cookies, of course.
In the end, all of Joshua’s patience paid off! His little piece of ‘motivation’ turned into an afternoon snack.
Joshua also wanted to take this opportunity to say a big huge thank you to my wonderful, outrageously thoughtful client who gifted him with those beautiful & tasty gourmet cookies! (Thank You Kristin!!)
Now, the best part of Project 52 is that it is a blog ring! To continue your adventure, Click on over to NCS Pet Photography in Windsor Ontario to see what kind of motivation you can find there! Follow the links all the way around the circle and end up right back here where you started – with me and a stumpy, hungry little Joshua monster!
Until next time!
Oh my gosh, I’m finally back.
It’s been many, many, many weeks since I’ve participated in the Project 52 blog ring. (okay, okay – months.) This past summer and into the current Fall season have been the busiest ever for Dog Breath Photography. Each day has been a dream. I’ve had the privilege of photographing more four-leggers than I ever thought possible while meeting some of the world’s most amazing new people (who are just as crazy about dogs as I am!). That being said – in the midst of the wonderful whirlwind – I hadn’t been able to find a spare second of time to devote to blogging, or to Project 52. Just recently, I decided to take a step back and breathe. I finally put my camera down for a day, took a walk with my pup, and did a lot of thinking. This is what I came up with: when you are passionate about something that way I am about photography - it’s crucial to never stop pushing your boundaries and challenging yourself to be the best you can be. Project 52 is so important to me because it does exactly that. Every week, a group of outrageously talented pet photographers from all over the world come together to photograph and blog about a common, pre-chosen theme. The experience of being a part of Project 52 for the better part of the past year has been invaluable and incredibly fulfilling. (Not only to my technique and work – but also to my heart.) At times, it has pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone. It has kept the wheels constantly spinning in my brain, thinking of new inventive ways to see through my lens. I am privileged to be a part of such a wonderful thing, and I am so thrilled to be back.
I have made a promise to myself to find the time do a lot more blogging and reflecting than ever before. And, what a great way to come back to it.
So – without further ado, here’s the scoop on this week’s theme! I couldn’t have come back at a more perfect time – because this week’s theme is ‘Fall’. I am lucky enough to have the privilege of living in gorgeous New England – where the fall season is just like you’ve read in every storybook – quintessential, colorful, and well – perfect. Autumn in New England is a photographer’s dream. It’s the time of year when warm, golden light leaks in sideways through the trees and little leaves dance as they float down from the treetops.
In honor of this theme, I spent some time with sweet Joshua in the forest yesterday afternoon. He’s the goofiest, happiest, most limitlessly joyful little man I’ve ever met. (more to come on Joshua’s story later – I promise!) We tromped down the paths that wound through the trees, played in the leaves and traded lots of kisses…
Look at that smile. Can you say ‘contagious’?! Oh, and those eyes just melt my heart all over the ground…
Ha! Here he is – showing off. Catching the leaves as they fall from the treetops…
All in all, our day was pure perfection. And when we got home, we hit the couch for a snooze. That’s when you know your adventure was a success.
Now don’t forget, this is a blog ring! Click on over to the wonderfully talented Stephanie Madeline at Chase & Snap Pet Photography in New Jersey to see the season through her lens. Click all the way around the circle and end up right back here with me and Mr. Joshua – the fuzzy and impossibly cute leaf-eating monster!
Until next time!