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This post is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, a research-driven pharmaceutical company standing for innovative healthcare products for people and animals for more than 130 years. All opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.
Oh, I am so excited to be bringing you round 2 of some of my very best secrets to taking gorgeous images of your dog!
This blog is part of a series that can be seen in full on the It’s a Dog! website. Visit ItsADog.com for details on how to enter for your chance to score up to $500 towards your pet gift registry and a coupon for six doses of NexGard® (afoxolaner) with a prescription from a veterinarian.
If you haven’t gotten the chance to read Part 1, you can find that here.
But just to recap, here are the four tips I’ve already let out of the bag:
1. Make it a Positive Experience
2. Be Prepared and Bring Lots of Goodies!
3. Time of Day
4. Look for Dog-Sized Scenery
Over the past six years of photographing dogs professionally, I’ve uncovered all kinds of little tricks that have come to be part of my ‘secret sauce’ in capturing the perfect dog image. To pick up where I left off in Part 1, here are four more for you to try!
5. Get Low
We see dogs everyday, right? Unless you live on a remote farm somewhere in the middle of the desolate Canadian Yukon, it’s likely that you have experienced the joy of a dog walking by you at least once or twice per day, every day of your life. (And if you’re in the Yukon, you probably have bears…so…that’s awesome…) Dogs aren’t a terribly uncommon thing. (And thank goodness for that! Am I right?!) So, on those regular days, when we see dogs pass us by on the street, or even look down at our own dogs at our feet – how do we see them? You guessed it. From standing level. Not only do you see dogs from an average height of say, about 5 feet 6 inches, but you actually see pretty much everything in the world around you from that height. Photography is about seeing an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way. Take something commonplace and turn it into something unexpected – something brilliant.
When you take a photo of your dog from standing height, looking down on him, you are recording an ordinary scene – something your brain has become very used to viewing and processing. But get down on his level, and all of a sudden you have magic. You have impact. You are in his world now. You have immersed yourself in the size of his entire existence, and suddenly you have a power in your images, a connection that truly can’t be made until you are seeing directly into the glittering iris of a canine. And sometimes – sometimes I push it even further than eye to eye, sometimes I get even lower than that. Photography is about telling a story, and for me, that story is all about the dog. It’s about turning my pup models into royalty. They are the Kings and Queens of their dominions. They are the superheroes watching over cities. So much of the impact of my imagery has to do with the angle at which I am shooting it.
And yes, folks, this sure does mean that you’ll spend 90% of your time laying in the dirt on your stomach and rolling around in the grass to get the perfect shot. (And if you’re lucky, a wild puppy might just land right on your bum!)
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Crazy Sounds
Yup, you heard me. You might just have to throw your humility and pride to the wind and get a little wacky while you’re photographing your pup. Don’t underestimate a dog’s sense of hearing. The average dog can hear at a rate 4 times greater than the average human. Above this, they have 18 unique muscles in their ears which allow them to hear sounds and detect the exact direction of a sound’s source. Ever see your dog cock his ears up and tilt his head just a bit? That’s most likely because he just heard something interesting. So, the thing is, you’re going to want to use your pup’s incredible sense of hearing to your advantage. Sounds will help direct your dog’s gaze in a given direction to attain an image with impactful eye contact. They will also help tremendously with expression while getting nice alert, confident body language. So, if you don’t mind appearing just a little bit like a crazy person, you’ll be amazed at the expression you can get if you look at your dog and give him a little bark. 😛 (As a note, it’s important not to overuse sounds. Use them sparingly and exactly at the right moments! Too many sounds, especially loud ones, can overstimulate your dog and stress him out quickly. So, just be sure to space those babies out and use them when they really count!)
In addition to using my own vocal chords to make crazy sounds that will keep dogs’ attention on me while I’m photographing them, here are some other tools that I’ve found hugely successful at shoots:
- Duck / Rabbit / Deer Calls
- Whistles (not too high pitched, use sounds that are comfortable for your dog!)
- iPhone Apps (I have a great one with farm animal sounds built in)
- Squeaky Toys
7. Put Dogs Up on Things
I know, this one sounds a little crazy. But hear me out.
This trick works especially well with smaller dogs, but in the right environment, can work on dogs of all shapes and sizes. When you have your pup model down on the ground, he’s going to do what he does best. He’s going to sniff, dig, bark at the squirrels, bounce about and play. This is not to say that you can’t get great shots of your dog standing just there before you in the grass – but I will say that putting dogs up on things and essentially separating them from a lot of those interesting distractions, proves hugely valuable with it comes to nailing a gorgeous pet portrait. (Now, of course, execute this tip at your next dog photoshoot with caution. Use your best judgement. Be aware of height – don’t put jumpy, clumsy dogs up on high walls or benches in which you think there’s a risk of them defying all laws of gravity and physics while hurling their cute bodies over the edge and hurting themselves.) Putting your dog up on something enables you to step back and gain both distance and time to get your camera into position for the perfect shot. This also helps with putting some space between you and very friendly, velcro sort of dogs who aren’t happy unless they’re essentially on top of you. 🙂 Not only that, but raising your dog up off the ground oftentimes gives you an advantage of a better background and the ability to get right on their eye level without excessive amounts of pretzel-ey yoga gymnastics on your part. 😛
Some great things to put dogs up on are:
- Tree Stumps
- Low, wide walls
After I wrote this tip, I thought, I better go through my Lightroom library in search of some examples of this technique in my work to share. At first, I worried that I’d have to search for a while to find something good, and then I realized… holy moly… I do this all the time. At least two or three times per photo shoot! Quite a bit more than I realized, actually. I did it here, with Knox, Harper and Bear:
And here, with Pogi, in front of the Boston city skyline:
And here, with Bailey, on a rock in Lake Tahoe:
And here, with Zaena, Zander and Zailey:
(I could go on like this…) 🙂
8. Use a Stake to Keep your Pup Tethered in Place
A lot of times, when I’m at my shoots and I say to my assistant, ‘Can you get the stake,’ my clients’ eyes will get wide and they say ‘Wait, you brought STEAK? Really?!’ I always have to crack up, because actually, bringing literal steak would probably be a very effective technique. If I gave out a survey to all the dogs that I’ve photographed in the past, I imagine they’d unanimously tick the box: ‘Yes, for steak.’
But, what I’m referencing here is actually the kind of stake you can spin into the ground and tether your dog to. I have a couple of these in my bag and I bring them to every shoot. This stake tip actually has a similar effect to the previous ’Put Dogs Up on Things’ tip, but can be executed in situations where there simply isn’t anything good to put the dog model up on. Spin this baby into the ground and all of a sudden, you have a great anchor to leash your dog to that keeps him in the general area that you need him for his photo. The great thing about working with the stake is that since it’s so low profile, it’s easy to block with the dog’s body, so no one ever has to know that Fido didn’t do anything other than sit like an absolute rock star for his photo shoot. 🙂 Nobody has to know the dirty secret of what’s keeping him in place behind-the-scenes. 😛
Whew! Well that about covers it! My eight absolute favorite sneaky secrets for capturing incredible photos of your pup! I hope you think of these next time you’re on location in incredible golden light with your best friend and you’re trying to snap an image of that unforgettable smile! If anyone has found anything else that works miracles when it comes to photographing pooches, don’t hesitate to share in the comments! Let us have ‘em!
Now load those pockets with steak and get to shooting! 😛
While you’re clicking around on the net in search of all things dog-related, be sure to check out ItsADog.com!
As a new pet owner, you have plenty of first-time decisions to make. Figuring out which products your furry friend needs shouldn’t be one of them. The NexGard® (afoxolaner) team wants to help welcome new dogs – be they puppies, seniors or any age in between – into their new homes and make the transition a little easier. At ItsADog.com, new and experienced dog owners can find pet advice and register for essentials. NexGard is approved for use in dogs and puppies 8 weeks of age and older weighing 4 pounds or more.
The maker of NexGard® (afoxolaner) worked with bloggers like me for its It’s a Dog! program. This blog has been written by me on behalf of the NexGard team. I received compensation for my time.
®NexGard is a registered trademark of Merial.
©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim.
This post is sponsored by Merial, now part of Boehringer Ingelheim, a world-leading animal health company providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health and well-being of dogs, but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.
Holy moly, I am so excited to be working with the NexGard® (afoxolaner) team to bring you a two-part post brimming with eight incredibly helpful tips on how to get better photos of your dog (and no worries! No fancy cameras required! Even if you’re only trying to capture better images with an iPhone or point-and-shoot camera, we can still make magic happen!). Read on to get into the adventure!
This blog is part of a series that can be seen in full on the It’s a Dog! website. Visit ItsADog.com for details on how to enter for your chance to score up to $500 toward your pet gift registry and a coupon for a six-month supply of NexGard with a prescription from a veterinarian.
Many of you know that I live with a little sausage-shaped miracle who I was lucky enough to rescue from behind the bars of his cage at the shelter. His name is Joshua and he is the absolute love of my life. He taught me more about goodness, kindness and loyalty than any other creature on the planet ever has. Photography is what brought Joshua and I together. I went on one of my routine trips to the shelter to photograph the adoptable dogs and post their images to their adoption profiles on the shelter’s website. On my list of dogs that day, I saw a peculiar name: Joshua. ‘Huh. That’s a strange name for a dog,’ I thought. I walked into the shelter and began to hunt for him. When I saw his face, that was it. My heart dropped out through my feet and melted right there, down into the soles of my shoes. I took his photo for his adoption profile that day, but, here’s the thing…when I got home to do the editing and get the photos posted up online, I realized – selfishly – that I did not want to share Joshua’s face with the world. I was too afraid someone would come along and sweep him up out of my life just as quickly as he came in. So, I hesitated. It was with that hesitation that I realized what was happening in my heart — I wanted Joshua to be mine.
Since photography is what brought Joshua and I together, I thought it would be incredibly fitting if I did this post for new pet owners and divulged some of the best tips and tricks for taking better photos of those fleeting, precious moments throughout their lives – from puppyhood all the way until the day they find their first, distinguished gray whisker.
So, over the course of this two-part blog post, I am going to provide you with some of the absolute best, most effective tips for getting better photos of your dog. Because, let’s face it, dogs are probably the most beautiful thing in the world to photograph. (Okay, I’m biased.)
Tip #1 • Make it a Positive Experience
I truly can’t state the importance of this tip enough. I know it sounds extremely simple and straightforward, but it is often the single most overlooked concept when it comes to taking your dog’s photo. I can’t tell you how many times I hear it: “My dog hates getting his photo taken.” I can promise you from the bottom of my heart – your dog doesn’t ‘hate’ getting his photo taken. If we’re being candid here, your dog technically doesn’t hate anything. (That’s why dogs are the greatest creatures in the world, right? Their unconditional and unbelievable capacity to love literally everything and everyone…) 🙂 People who complain about their dogs disliking the process of getting their photo taken are doing so because they may have inadvertently made the whole thing a very negative and stressful experience for their dog without even realizing it.
Here’s a scenario for you. Dog owner asks her dog to sit for a photo, and pushes his butt down into the flowers. Confused dog doesn’t understand why he has to sit right there in the flowers when all the good smells he really needs to sniff are a few feet in the other direction. Confused and excited, dog gets up from his spot in the flowers to have a sniff and frustrated dog owner yells, “GAHH! FIDO!! SIT!!!!!” and pushes his butt back down. (Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.) Understand that your dog is incredibly sensitive to the environment around him and most especially – to your energy. You need to work with your dog to get great photos of him – not against him.
So how do you make it a positive experience? Here’s how!
•Keep the stress low.
•Give your dog plenty of time to settle into his environment, especially if you’re taking him outside to a location he’s never been before. Let him sniff. Let him pee. Let him do all those wonderful dog things that he’s got to do. Let him become comfortable in his environment before you go ahead and try to smash a camera in his face.
•Give him praise and be patient. Do not get frustrated. Frustration will get you nowhere, very, very quickly.
•Do not force him into any given situation, let him ease himself into it on his own accord. This is where patience comes in! Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour, depending on the dog! Just enjoy the moment with your dog and roll with it!
Tip #2 • Be Prepared and Bring Lots of Goodies!
Treats and peanut butter, guys. I’m telling you. This stuff works miracles. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Make this a super fun occasion! You know when you head toward your front door and you pick up your dog’s leash and he goes absolutely wild? That’s because he’s associating that leash with all the incredible, exciting things you get to do together once you leave that front door to go on a big adventure! Do the same thing with your camera. Make it a positive experience — a positive association for your dog, so when he sees that camera, he thinks of wonderful things! Treats provide positive reinforcement. There are very few dogs on the planet that will turn down a good, stinky treat. You ever hear the phrase ‘the best way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach’? Well holy banana sandwiches is that ever true! (For me too, as an FYI, in case you want to know how to win me over!) 😛 Bring treats to your photo shoot, and give your dog a small reward each time you click that shutter button. This process will very quickly create a positive association in your dog’s mind, and the rest is beautiful, wagging history!
Tip #3 • Time of Day
If you plan to head outdoors, consider the time of day that you are taking your dog’s photos. I very strongly suggest getting your dog out into the natural environment for his close-up! Try to avoid taking photos in the middle of the day – anywhere from 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m. (depending on the time of year) is typically the danger zone when it comes to incredibly challenging, very unflattering midday light.
When the sun is very high in the sky, it casts harsh light from directly overhead causing both bright, blown out highlights in contrast with deep, dark shadows across your image. Instead, get outside with your dog when the sun is lower in the sky, closer to the horizon line. Typically, the two hours after sunrise, or the two hours before sunset are going to be the absolute best time of day to capture a magical outdoor portrait. When the sun is lower in the sky, the light comes in sideways across the horizon and creates a phenomenon known to photographers the world over as ‘the golden hour.’ Early or late light like this is much softer, more even and warmer in color temperature, which can turn any image from flat to magical.
Tip #4 • Look for Dog-Sized Scenery
What do I mean by dog-sized scenery, you ask? It means you’ve got to start to look at the world from your dog’s point of view — you’ve got to get down on his level. Look for greenery, flowers, stoops, logs, etc., that are about the same height or size as your dog. You may think a location looks gorgeous from standing level, but when you put your dog in front of that view of the city skyline and you’ll realize when you’re only two feet tall there’s actually a big, gnarly fencepost blocking your view. Keep your eyes low as you scout out your location, and look for flowers, short bushes or details on streets that can be incorporated into the images of your dog!
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this post coming soon! I’ve got even more sneaky tips and tricks up my sleeve that will help bring your dog photos from ‘blah’ to brilliant! In the meantime, you’ve got to take a second to check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s new NexGard® (afoxolaner) It’s a Dog! program over at ItsADog.com!
As a pet owner, you have plenty of decisions to make. At ItsADog.com, new and experienced dog owners can find pet advice and register for the essentials.
The maker of NexGard worked with bloggers like me for its It’s A Dog! program. This blog has been written by me on behalf of the NexGard team. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim. I received compensation for my time.
®NexGard is a registered trademark of Merial.
©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim.
Holy banana sandwiches!
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve last posted over here on this little blog of mine! (bad, bad blogger!) Yikes! The long hiatus is mostly due to the fact that I’ve been off on all kinds of wacky, beautiful adventures, hanging out with puppies all over the world and I’ve struggled with finding the time to just take a minute to stop, breathe and reflect on it all. So, I’m grateful to be writing this post, as it’s giving me the opportunity to do just that.
Some of you might know I was just very recently in Costa Rica, exploring through the jungle of Manuel Antonio, photographing shelter dogs, and teaching a pet photography workshop. It was an unbelievable experience. I find it difficult to put it all into words, but if you know anything about me it’s that I’m sure as heck going to try. 🙂
To give you some context as to how this whole thing started, I’m going to go back about a year and a half in time. Two of my favorite people in the pet photography industry (who I am proud to call colleagues and grateful to call friends) and I put our heads together and dreamed a very big dream. We were all teaching in our respective areas – passing on knowledge to other pet photographers and helping them grow both their creative skills and their businesses. So, we put our heads together and we thought – why couldn’t we all come together? Why couldn’t we join forces to team up as one – and teach the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime kind of pet photography retreat. Those two other photographers are Charlotte Reeves of Brisbane, Australia and Nicole Begley of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
So, it was with those intentions that our ‘Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat’ series was brought to life – an experience where the most passionate and driven pet photographers from all across the world could come together in an endlessly beautiful location – always a different place on the canvas of our world – to learn and shoot alongside each other.
Our first retreat was in Olivella, Spain, just outside of Barcelona at exactly this time last year. We were struggling with what we wanted to name it when I casually ran it by my Mom in a conversation over coffee one afternoon. I said ‘Mom, what would you name a dog photography retreat that takes places in Barcelona, Spain?’. Without skipping a beat, she cracked a sly little smile and said ‘Barkelona’. I giggled until my sides hurt and at that moment, the ‘Barka’ series of pet photography retreats was born. Please note, my Mom is incredibly proud of her clever involvement and reminds me of this each time I see her. (Go Mom!)
Barkelona was more magical than I can describe (I suppose that one is for another post!) and was an enormous success. We came together with our attendees as strangers, but we left as dear friends, all on fire with a common dream. It was such a special experience that we just knew we were onto something brilliant, and had to continue our series.
Cut to this past February, when we headed down to Costa Rica’s breathtaking west coast for Barkarica, our second annual Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat!
The house we stayed in was like something out of my wildest, most colorful dreams. (and let me tell you guys, my dreams are seriously colorful so this is really saying something!) It was a 12 bedroom, 5 story tree house nestled into the jungle of Manuel Antonio, overlooking the sparkling aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean. We had our own private chef who cooked us 3 unbelievable meals per day and 3 different swimming pools to choose from. As soon as we arrived at our jungle home, I could be found running up and down the stairs screaming ‘Is this real life?!?!”
But even better than all of that?? THE MONKEYS!!!!! I kid you not, there were monkeys around every single corner. From my bathroom window every morning, as I would brush my teeth, I’d simply look out the window and watch monkeys play just feet away. Howler Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, even tiny little Squirrel Monkeys! Entire families of monkeys would just hang out, having little monkey parties, on our house’s rooftop deck every morning, barely blinking as we would walk past them to lounge in the hammock just feet away. And let’s not forget the Toucans, Scarlet Macaws, Iguanas, and Sloths that were in enormous abundance in the trees all around us as well! I think my squeals of delight could be heard all the way back here in Boston. I truly found the most perfect version of paradise there in Central America.
Oh yeah, and there was also the whole pet photography workshop thing that I mentioned above as well. 😛 That part is also pretty important..
As I was going through my images from my absolutely magical Barkarica adventures, culling and prepping all the ones I really wanted to share – I realized – holy moly – I’ve got an unreasonable number of photos here.. And then I thought.. oh what the heck! I’m going to show you them all because I can’t possibly pick my favorites and maybe sharing one bajillion photos in this blog post will make up for me not posting anything for the better part of 2 years. 😛
So, basically, what I mean to say is, prepare to go on a great big photo journey, because I’ve got all kinds of fun images – both behind-the-scenes and final finished dog shots – to share with you! These images are a look into what goes on at an ‘Out-of-this-World Pet Photography Retreat’ and all the silliness, fun, and magic that comes with it. These images were captured over the course of 2 weeks, each week with 11 pet photographer attendees from all over the world.Whew! That was a lot of photos. If you made it this far, you get a gold star. But hey, there were puppies, kittens and various monkeys so that’s pretty alright if I do say so myself. 🙂
All in all, Costa Rica was an unforgettable adventure. We laughed. We cried. We ate lots of incredible food. We toured the jungle at night. We Climbed Rocks. We Swam in Waterfalls. We ATVed through a Palm Tree Plantation as macaws flew over our heads. We screamed when we saw a scorpion but couldn’t find it in our hearts to kill it so we caught it in a cup and flung him ‘humanely’ out the window. We rode horses through rivers and across wide open fields. One of us ate a handful of termites. On purpose. (Josie, I’m looking at you.) And most importantly, we met and photographed beautiful canine souls beneath swirling sunset skies while making connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.
So Charlotte, Nicole and I – our dreams really have come true. We built a retreat – an experience – built on a common passion that is truly ‘out of this world’, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the journey we’ve found ourselves on.
This August, we’re doing it again. This time, in the South of France.
Yup, you heard it right. And of all places, we’ll be staying together in a chateau from 1156, once owned by the King of France himself. We will be in the medieval village of Saint-Maximin, just south of the French Alps, in a valley nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, about an hour outside of Marseille. We’ll be photographing French pups in some of the most magical locations of our retreat series so far – places you truly have to see to believe. And get this – Are you ready for the name? (Mom is going to be so excited about this one!): Barkjour.
Holy moly are we clever. 😛
While Week 1 is fully booked out, two spaces have just opened up in Week 2. This means, if you are reading this and were bummed to have missed your opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime French puppy-filled adventure, it’s your time to shine! (wow, that was a run-on sentence.)
Week 2 is designed for more experienced photographers already operating their own pet photography business, who are keen to receive that final skill and knowledge boost to become extraordinarily successful in their field. If you are interested to apply for one of the last remaining spaces, click on over to www.petphotographyretreats.com to discover everything you need to know!
I hope you to see you in the golden, sunlit valleys of Provence where we’ll eat lots of cheese and a baguette or two, explore through centuries-old cobblestone alleyways, and capture the unmatched spirit of canine together.
Well, Hello! : )
I have the lucky privilege of calling some of the most brilliantly talented pet photographers in this industry dear friends. And these wonderful friends / rockstar pet photographers, decided to start a monthly blog ring in which we could challenge ourselves and showcase some of our most recent work.
So, here’s the part where you’ve reached my section of the blog ring! WAHHH! How exciting! (or maybe you’ve started here, in which case, my former statement is invalid – but my previous exclamation of ‘WAHHH!’ still rings true.)
Things over here in Dog Breath land have been so off the charts crazypants busy with shooting and traveling, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in the blog ring as of yet — but finally, this month, I’ve managed to find some time to work on my entry – and I’m super excited to share with you! Our theme this month is ‘water’, and I about jumped out of my skin with happiness when I heard that one — because I have the absolute perfect project that I’ve been working on. GAHH! : )
To start, let me tell you a little bit about my water shots.
I’ve had very special plans that have been in the making for quite some time now.
All those years ago, when I started my adventure into photography, I made a promise to the creative fire inside of me – and that promise was that I was never, ever going to settle – no matter what. It’s important to me to constantly innovate and change. To keep my head and my heart pointed firmly towards the stars – to keep working and pushing my boundaries – to constantly find my way to the precipice, that scary spot that rests quite frighteningly outside of my comfort zone.
Last year, while working abroad – teaching the Zoomies Pet Photography workshop in Australia – I had the life changing opportunity to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in northern Queensland. From the moment I stuck my head underneath that crystal blue water – I felt something inside me shift. There was MAGIC under that water. A whole world that I had never seen before. Colors and light dancing all around me. Corals and fish and tiny little lifeforms in splashes of brilliant neon swaying in the soft current. I was so overwhelmed with that fairytale landscape that I held my hands out before me to make sure that it was all real, and I felt a tear form in the corner of my eye. At that moment, I realized that a whole world of magic and inspiration had always been beneath me – sharing this beautiful earth — and I had never known of it before. It was in that moment that I fell in love with water – and with the endless landscapes beneath the surface that sit so quietly waiting to be discovered.
It was that moment, and the days followed that I began to dream up ideas of mixing two of some of the most beautiful things that this earth has to offer – dogs and natural bodies of water. I researched and researched and researched underwater photography and underwater landscapes for endless hours. Finally, at the very beginning of this year – standing in that really scary spot that’s located boldly outside of my comfort zone – I had a custom underwater rig made for Dog Breath Photography.
Just a few weeks ago, I made a great big journey out to Lake Tahoe in Nevada to give it all my very first go. (Can you think of anywhere more magical to discover a freshwater, beneath-the-surface landscape? I couldn’t! Thats why I bought a plane ticket there and spent 5.5 hours sitting in a window seat and really having to pee but not being able to get up the guts to wake my sleeping neighbor.) : P
When we first arrived to our location in gorgeous Incline Village, Nevada, I was breathless. I climbed down from the path and up to the rocks that kissed the water’s edge and I squealed with delight over all that beauty. It was like nothing Id ever seen before. We had 4 1/2 straight hours of shooting scheduled in and I was over the moon with excitement. Laying my eyes upon the scene, I felt like a little kid on Christmas just before the biggest gift. : ) I snapped this shot before we started, in an attempt to remember that moment forever…
When we started our day, it was a bit overcast – with dramatic clouds swirling and dancing across the sky. Miss Morgan the Bernese Mountain dog was up first and she swam happily through that crystal clear water in search of her favorite ball.
As the day went on, the clouds started to move and change, letting little glints of sunbeams in here and there, as the sun passed behind the holes between the clouds. The color of the water reminded me of a turquoise stone – glittering, and sparkling underneath all that sunshine. As the afternoon went on – the water started to pick up a bit – small waves forming and crashing here and there against the shiny rocks. I took another snap as I reveled at the color of that crystal water.
The moving water lent itself quite well to this image of gorgeous Maverick sitting happily atop this rock. I loved watching the rhythm and sway of the lake from this newfound perspective. Maverick was such a fabulously behaved little wiggler! He wanted nothing more than to fling his body off of that rock and splash down into the water. Cause, you know…Labs… 🙂 Luckily for me, as a trained service and crisis response dog – he was meticulously well-behaved and sat patiently like a rockstar while he waited for me to click the perfect shot!
And while the day did present its own set of challenges (very, VERY cold water, moving waves tossing us about here and there, and eventually, one of the major batteries that powered our rig falling off my assistant’s shoulder and splashing into the lake) .. I am so SO thrilled with the energy and aesthetic of the resulting images, and I absolutely can’t WAIT to do it again! 🙂 (minus the battery part — $400 and a whole boatload of inconvenience later, that was a little devastating. No pity though! We happily survived!)
Above, is a sneak peek at what it looked like behind-the-scenes, while I was working with gorgeous Morgan. Holy banana sandwiches thank goodness for my ultra thick wet suit!! I’m pretty sure it saved me from Lake Tahoe induced hypothermia. 😛 (forgive the poor quality of the above shot – its a still that was grabbed from a GoPro video that I was lucky enough to have shot as behind the scenes footage of the whole adventure! Many thanks to my best bud Megan for filming this for me! Oh and for being by my side while freezing your cute little bum off!)
I hope you loved hanging out with me here in Dog Breath land! (Come back now, y’hear?!) <– is that super cheesy?? 🙂
Now it’s time to click on over to discover what kind of water-themed magic the incredibly talented Holly Montgomery of Brindleberry Pet Photography has in store for us! Enjoy your trip around the ring!
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.) 😛
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. 😛
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! 😛
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.) 😛
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! 😛
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. 😛 (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,