'Twas a big day yesterday.
I had the privilege to be a pinch hitter for my sister Jill -- who's a very talented photog up in Tofino, BC -- and help out with a palliative session for her friend. One of her two beautiful rescue doggos isn't well and has been going through tests and treatments at a local vet clinic, but there's not much more medicine can do so it's now about enjoying what's left.
Of course I accepted... how could I not?
It was very last minute, but that's how these are sometimes. So much unknown can make planning hard, but when it needs to work out, it does. We met at a local beach, but with strong winds and pouring rain, it just wasn't going to work. So we took a little drive to find some shelter and hoped that the weather would give us a break... and it did. Two dogs, two humans and one photog (me) found a window of space and time amidst a rain and windstorm where sun shone through the trees onto a magical rock covered with moss under trees covered with lichen.
Thank you L, P, K + J.
UPDATE: December 14/21: I just found out lovely, little Lily passed away. Much love to her humans for rescuing her and giving her a life of unconditional love.
A few hours later I was off to photograph 3 dogs. These would be former sled dogs coming into care of a local rescue. Three more dogs who were now going to be covered until animal protection laws. Bamboo, Meso and Saturn are #s 206, 207 + 208 in my decade-long project advocating for the adoption of former sled dogs. But numbers aside, they were beautiful beings, understandably nervous of all the newness in one day, but whose lives are going to change for the better with the love, care and support of a huge community.
I'm no stranger to photographing dogs who aren't feeling well - both mentally and physically. I think most of my work follows that commonality. I try to branch out, but I'm always drawn back to them. "Them" being those who've been discarded, left behind... utterly in need of help. And this year, well I just realized that the bookends of my work this year have been palliative pup sessions - as well as one in the middle too. So when I think back over the year, along with the last 10+ too, it becomes more clear, that this is me. My place. I want to be that person who can be there with a camera, capturing moments that may be otherwise unseen. Being a part of that sadness while being able to see some joy in the memories that are created. To take that pause and hold that space in time. It may take a bit to understand it all, but having lost one of our dogs this summer - not unexpected, but more quickly than expected - I wished I'd had someone there near the end, capturing our little Bella Boo surrounded by us and our love for her.
This magical being is Pumpkin. 🎃
He was a sled dog who worked in Whistler, BC up until recently.
If I didn’t tell you he was a former sled dog, would you have believed me?
That slim build, that short coat.
Pumpkin is one of 192 former sled dogs I’ve photographed over the past decade.
Head on over to www.iwasasleddog.com for more pics and stories.
Thanks to @victoriahumanesociety for taking him in and ensuring he gets the care he needs.
Photographing the same subject for so many years - adventure walks with my sleddie friends - has made me want to try different ways to share my experiences. I usually pick my favourite photos in the hopes that you will get the same feelings I did while I was on the excursions. So this time I've decided to share a few successions of photos so you can hopefully get more of a sense of not just one moment in time, but a few moments. To give you a sense of the movements of the dogs bodies - their ears, tails, legs, eyes - taking treats and the gong show that is the self-timered group photo.
The last photo is a photobomb featuring ChiChi. I was crouched down readying to get a shot of Tica zooming back to the group and Chich appeared... to know her is to know this is very like her. She will appear seemingly out of nowhere with those expectant big eyes, convincing me to give her all the treats in my pocket. If I had any this day, I would've.
Sleddie roll call: ChiChi, Jasper, MaryKate, Niv, Roo along with their buddies, Tica and Saru.
The commercial and sport dog sledding industries are alive and well in Canada. And as long as they exist, their cast offs - dogs like ChiChi, Jasper, MaryKate, Niv and Roo - will need homes. Please visit I Was A Sled Dog to learn more about dogs leftover from this industry.
If you're looking to adopt a sleddie, both MaryKate and Roo are awaiting their perfect match through the Victoria Humane Society!
For more information and to get involved:
Sled Dogs film
The annual new year's day sleddie walk ~ January 1 at Francis King Park.
It's sort of like a changing of the guard... while the dogs from Whistler who started me on this journey are getting older and are passing on, new dogs are coming into care. The survivors of the 2010 Whistler 'cull' though are leaving a strong legacy. One of caring, of remembrance, and of love.
And as this remarkable community continues to grow, new faces come on board to show they care about the lives of sled dogs. People who will speak up for them, adopt them, foster them, and ensure they get the mental and physical care they need. Who will do the work to help these deserving dogs transition into family life. Who will love them for who they are. It's pretty cool to witness.
Thanks to everyone who came out to this walk and did their best to stand still for the group photo! There are many shared below because to get all the humans and dogs to stand still and look towards me and my camera (no matter how many silly noises I tried) in the woods near the start of a forest adventure walk is pretty near impossible... fun, but pretty difficult!
Sorry to the humans of the doggos that I missed photographing on this adventure... next time!
Sleddie roll call: Apex, Arwen, Calli, Daisy, Fiddle, Flash, Jasper, KC, MaryKate, Niv, Pluto, Roo, Santana + Sassy
Last weekend, Kismet, his human Nikki, and I crashed a greyhound gathering at a local park.
Actually, we didn't really crash it, but we did invite ourselves on the walk. It was a great opportunity to meet and compare similarities between Kismet and the greyhounds. Kismet comes from sled dog lineage - his parents are a mix of (but not limited to) greyhound, husky, pointer and maybe saluki. Modern sled dogs are built for speed and endurance so greyhound can be in the 'mix'.
I sometimes find myself comparing the world of rescued/retired greyhounds to the world of sleddies. I know rescued greyhounds have been on the public's radars for longer but I've noticed for years that these two sets of dogs - both who have spent careers running - seem to be viewed differently. So, being the curious person I am, it begs me to wonder why? Is it mostly visual? Is it preconceptions of their breeds - and what they were 'bred to do' and how/where they live during their working lives? If sleddogs are thought of as high-energy, huskies with big fluffy coats, do greyhounds, with their short coats and graceful demeanour, seem more adoptable? One look through the images in I Was A Sled Dog will show visually just how diverse sled dogs can look, but is there more to it?
So... then I have to ask... how can those of us advocating for sleddies, more effectively work to change the perception of sled dogs, whether working, retired or rescued?
Phew. A lot of questions and a lot to think about.
So for now, I will continue to share the stories of the sleddies I’ve met and photographed.
And to share that sled dogs are really just dogs. As remarkable and honest as any other dog you’ll meet.
Thanks to the Northwest Canadian Greyhound League's local group for letting us crash your walkie and sharing some of your stories and knowledge about greyhounds. And thanks to everyone for standing for a few more minutes in the rain for a group photo! You're GREYT!
Please click here for more sleddie stories + photos!
i'm currently working on a NEW photo project of retired sleddogs titled "i was a sled dog" ~ to date I've photographed 35 sleddies at my studio so I wanted to share their "class photo"... the candids from their sessions.
The photos I'm taking specific to the project will be displayed at a later date so be sure to check back!
Each of these dog was different when they came for their session (I call them "sessions" as opposed to "shoots" because some of these dogs have survived an actual shoot... with a gun. As well, it's a common way for mushers to thin out the old, sick and dogs who don't want to pull so I like to keep that word out of this project)
Some of the dogs were totally comfortable, some were petrified. Some loved mugging for the camera, some I had to just had to sit and wait until they walked in front of my lens, click the shutter and hope for the best.
Sled dogs, like all dogs, have their own unique personalities and needs. They don't all love and hate the same things as some lead us to believe... and they are all deserving of the specific care, love and attention they require.
I'm still looking for more retired sleddies to participate, so email me if you're interested!
Want more retired sleddie stories? Click no further!