Today I got to meet Pretty Girl - a lovely Bernese Mountain Dog who's recently given birth to nine fluffy pups.
She's also made headlines recently.
Shortly after she came into care of the Victoria Humane Society, Pretty Girl helped nurse 11 orphaned puppies whose mom passed away after giving birth... in addition to her own 9. She is a super dog. For real.
You may question whether a dog should nurse 20 puppies. I would agree with 'no'. However, it was only for a few hours. When the 11 orphaned pups were taken away, Pretty Girl was sad. She followed out the rubber bin they were being transported in and watched as the bin was taken away.
Once out of sight, she headed back inside her foster mom's home and saw her own 9 puppies were still there, she gave them each a sniff, and all was ok again.
When I came to her home today she was a tail-waggin, smiley ball of fluff.... until I took that first photo.
Click, went the shutter.
Right away she skulked over to her foster mom for comfort. When I noted how frightened she was to Dianne (her lovely foster mom) she said that someone (no names mentioned) had recently used a flash to take her photo and it scared her to bits and has seemed to make her nervous of big cameras ever since.
So I gave her pups a snuggle and then worked on helping her get used to the sound of my camera. Who knows if she was afraid of big cameras before she came into care, but she knew the word treats, and some cupboard love definitely helped. By the end of the hour I'd say she didn't love my camera, but she and I did manage to get some photos of her not looking terrified - including some of her with the cute way she tucks her front paws under her when laying next to her pups, and even a head tilt. And with a little help she'll hopefully not be as afraid of it in the future because she's so adorable, people are going to wanna take her photo wherever she goes. Plus it'll be a good excuse to go back and visit her!
I've photographed over 500 dogs in the care of rescues and shelters as well as gaggles of newborn puppies, but the moms get me every. single. time. It's easy to get lost in puppy breath, but to give love to the momma dog - the one who's done the work - is something that gets me right in the heart bone.
In about 7 weeks or so Pretty Girl's litter of 'colour-named' pups will be weaned and then she and her gang will all be available for adoption through the Victoria Humane Society.
I can't wait to visit them again and watch them grow up.
This lovely girl definitely lives up to her name, in looks and personality. xo
p.s. the cute 'one of these things doesn't look like the other' is Missy, Pretty Girl's 13-year-old foster sister - gah!
When the groomer comes, she brings her dogs Lily + Dave and it's quite a family affair.
Each of the three dogs who gets groomed has unique needs during their time on the table, and over the years we've come up with all sorts of ways to help the dogs get through their sessions with as little stress as possible. This includes lots of breaks.
After grooming each dog (there are currently 3, including Bella pictured above getting groomed), they all the dogs get to go outside for a break. This day, while the dogs were sniffing about and playing 'pee wars', Dave caught the scent of our resident racoon. This girl is on wheels and she can MOVE! With her zooming up and down the side of the yard and sticking her nose outside the fence, she was determined to find them, but alas, breaktime was over and back inside we all came for our ever-patient groomer to continue work.
Dave went back to sleep, I imagine dreaming about finding that rascally racoon family.
You can follow Dave + Lily's adventures:
Facebook: Dave Does Canada
today marks the start of something new... the trading in of the known for the unknown...
i have always done photography 'on the side' - something that i fit in when not working my day job... but that ended today and i will be focussing ALL MY TIME on photography!
i'm pretty stoked!
i will be doing more advocacy, more commercial, more documentary, more art...
i will be trying out all the things that have piqued my interest over the years so be prepared to see things you may not have seen from me before - and please let me know what you think!
i will be hosting photo workshops, and [insert shameless plug here] i'll be available for hire! portraits (pets, animals, humans, collections), day-in-the-life, commercial, social media content and events...
i want to try all sorts of genres while i 'get my sea legs' so services will be priced accordingly!
It was June 2014 when I got the message through my website:
We adopted our Whistler sleddie Jeff (previously Joffre) in Victoria in December. He's still terribly shy and skittish around people and dogs, but we did run into some of his sleddie friends on the trails in Whistler and for the first time he seemed pleased to see other dogs. How can we be included in future reunions?
I got goosebumps and shivers and was super excited. I had met Jeff in September 2013 while I was up at the Whistler Sled Dog Co kennels. He was Joffre back then - named not after the Game of Thrones character, but the lake. He was curious, but nervous. He hung around me with the other dogs and took treats occasionally, but he seemed uncomfortable in his skin.
A short while later I'd learned that he was at the Victoria SPCA and he would have visits at his biological sister, ChiChi's place. I got to see him in November 2013 at Sledder Day Out (back when they were "sledders", not "sleddies") and then I didn't hear much again - it was ok though - he had been adopted.
Then I got that note.
Plans were made to meet up on July 1 for a Canadog Day gathering with a few of his old Whistler mates, including his sister ChiChi.
Jeff was still nervous but he seemed to know the gang.
For almost 4 more years I got to follow Jeff's adventures. His human mom would send me photos of him with his eyes closed - something Jeff and his sister ChiChi excel at - and it always made me smile and laugh. Every single time, no matter where I was. He made me laugh as I watched him sniff bums and follow his doggy girlfriends around - Jeff loved his lady dogs... and even one special boy dog. I watched him snooze in front of his fireplace and saw him play - like really play - with his dog brother, Ben so I know that whatever was plaguing him in his mind - whatever made him so nervous - had left some room for him to have moments of just being a dog.
Jeff's had a few medical issues over the years, all which were treatable. His human mom even took him swimming to an indoor pool to help with his mobility and he did really well and swam around on his own, seemingly quite content. He came to my studio to participate in i was a sled dog and he had a good time hanging out with fellow sleddie, Santana.
But last week Jeff took a turn and it wasn't good.
His humans made the decision to let him go.
I know sleddies are not immortal. But they're superheroes to me. Superheroes who've had their own cheering squad who've helped them experience care, love and compassion. But damn, if it doesn't take a little piece of my heart each time.
Thank you to Jeff's humans and brother Ben for allowing Jeff to be Jeff.
Here's a few of my favourite Jeffy photographs.
More can be found at:
Rest in peace and love Jeffy.
Some sleddies got together for a little gathering at Candy's new home today so I hit the road and tagged along so I could photograph Candy for my I was a sled dog project - her humans even let me put the tape on their walls and everything!
I managed to sneak a few more sleddies into the project and after their 'work' was done, it was time to zoom around outside and let the humans stand around and admire them and talk sleddie stuff.
There are fewer and fewer of the Whistler dogs left, and the group is evolving, but it's staying strong and new sleddies are coming into care and there always seems to be something to learn.
These adopters are something special... just like their dogs.
Sleddie roll call:
Candy, Bella, Weasley + Kirika... sadly I had to leave before the other sleddies arrived.
down memory lane....
As I was editing Candy's photos from today I wondered how many photos I got of her when I was in Whistler in 2013 - turns out more than I thought... and it would seems she's kinda notorious for jumping up for treats! She's the dog responsible for the pawprint on Penny's white pants!
Today started with a walk in the woods with some sleddies and a pyrenees... then I put on my volunteer hat and went to get some more photos and videos of some 4-week-old puppies at their foster home.
Introducing the walk crew: Spirit the Pyr (and head goofball), sleddies GreyGrey, Daisy, Jasper, Mary Kate and Roo!
p.s. Mary Kate and Roo are adoptable through Victoria Humane Society! Two super smart sleddies who love adventure!
Second set of photos is Rosemary, the pittie in foster with the Victoria Humane Society who had 11 puppies 4 weeks and 3 days ago (according to her foster mom, but who's counting!). I met her a couple weeks ago so am sharing some of those photos as well. You may not see a difference in Rosie, but you will in her puppies! Today her puppies got to be outside for the first time! (see video at end)
Rosie's puppies will be adopted fast - they're so stinking cute - but it's the moms who take a little longer sometimes to get adopted. Rosie LOVES to meet new people and dogs but she gets a bit overexcited and jumpy so she's learning new ways and is very smart!
Plus, she has one of THE BEST head tilts going, gives great face washes and is full of love now that she's getting some.
Let the love begin!
Spring is on its way, and the dogs are feelin' full of beans!
With sleddie Kismet in town from the interior, visiting with his mom to participate in my project, I Was a Sled Dog, we met up with the gang at Francis King park for some forest bathing... only Santana didn't get the 'forest part' - she just bathed... and some other silly dogs followed suit.
Here's Niv + Cedar, Knik, Boomer + Jinx (the low rider), Saru (the Shiba), Santana, Jasper, Daisy, Mary Kate + Roo and Kismet!
p.s. Mary Kate and Roo are available for adoption through the Victoria Humane Society!
My ol' pal Galute passed away the other day.
His mom sent me an email to share the news and included a lovely little slideshow of photos of him. He looks so handsome in all of them. His coat gleaming while he just soaks up his surroundings in the sunshine. It wasn't wholly unexpected. He was an old fella (even though it said 5 years when he was up for adoption). But when I hear of my sleddie buddies passing on, it still brings on a sadness like no other, and I have to honour them.
I met Galute (Galoot) in March 2012. In the gymnasium of the local SPCA - he and another dog named Vixen were just hanging out. Galute posed for photos and sat next to Penny and let her talk gently into his ear and get kisses. He lay down on the ground and let me give him love after love after love. He let a camera crew film him and paid no mind to them at all.
Galute (Galoot) was one of the first group of sled dogs from Whistler to come to Victoria to find a retirement home.
There had been talk that the sled dogs were feral. They would never be happy living in a house. They couldn't be happy not running.
But that wasn't the case with this guy.
Galute was a big, gentle, stoic bear.
He was adopted by a friend so he came to all the reunions he could - from the first retired sleddie reunion in November 2013, to the most recent one in April 2016. He got so many hugs and loves everywhere he went... and he seemed to just soak it all in.
When I started a new advocacy project focussing on sled dogs, I reached out to his mom and she was eager to have him join in. He came to my studio in May 2017 and had a hard time getting up the three steps at the front door. He only had one eye that didn't work so well (the other one was lost during his time as a sleddog), he was basically deaf and walking seemed to be a bit tough. He was really uncomfortable during the session so we put down a mat to help him stand in one spot, but even that was tough - his humans had to keep him harnessed otherwise he'd lay down. Needless to say we made it a quick session. But damn if didn't look absolutely beautiful. And seeing him seek comfort from his humans, and eating wieners was a lovely thing.
Having his life spared in the Whistler cull of 2010, led him to his humans S & A. For almost 6 years he lived a life getting whatever he needed to be comfortable. He got love, and soft beds and a dog buddy to go for walks with. And for that I am beyond grateful.
Rest in peace and love ol' pal, Galute.
Please enjoy the photos below...
Need more sleddies? Click here for more photos of retired sleddogs!
A new sleddie has come to the west coast!
Leaving Thunder Bay early this morning Bella had a small army of super sleddie volunteers escort her on the journey to Victoria while her plane stopped along the way.
She arrived sporting her ThunderShirt (in case of anxiety) and was pretty relaxed, yet stunned, when she came out of her crate. Once her Tractive GPS was attached to her collar and her harness attached (safety first!) and leashed up, it was time to head out. But not before a nice lady stopped to say hi and was share her surprise at how small she was for a sled dog. After the humans explained a bit about sleddies, it was time to head out for some sniffing... and then the last leg of her journey to her new home.
As a retired sled dog from Thunder Bay, ON via the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society, Bella has come to live a life. A great life in fact. One where she'll have warmth, care, love and companionship for the rest of her days.
A sled dog in a commercial or sport industry doesn't live - it exists. Dogs like Bella here - who have slim builds and single coats - live outside 24/7. Their existence is tethered to a post on a 6-foot-chain. If they're "lucky", they get to run and pull - but with that can come a whole host of physical issues such as fused spines and arthritis. When not running it's back on the chain where they eat, sleep, urinate and defecate all in the circumference of that 6 feet.
It's not a life, it's an existence and as humans we can do better.
We have the capacity to evolve, look with fresh eyes, learn.
Just because something has always been done a certain way is not an excuse.
For commercialized sled dogs, the change has to happen now.
Please visit Humane Mushing or Sled Dogs film for ways on how you can help, today.
WELCOME to the west coast Bella and congratulations to your new family! xo