'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.
It was almost a year ago when I reached out to Mel and the Victoria Bulldog Society (VBS) to see if they'd be interested in participating in a piece for Wunderdog Magazine. They said yes, so we met up a couple times (in December 2020 & January 2021) for some photos and chats. I've known Mel for years, but this gave me the chance to really hear what her day-to-days are like running a rescue from her home. The piece made it into Issue #5 and is keeping company with the likes of Nowzad Rescue, Wuhan Rescue and sooooo many other like-minded people around the world who are doing their best to help dogs.
Thanks to Tonic for being the star of the piece and to Gerty and Tanker (RIP) for letting me photograph them for this piece.
VBS going global!
You can get a copy of the magazine through Wunderdog Magazine's website as well as Barnes & Noble stores (in the US only).
Since this piece, VBS has taken in so many more bulldogs and they could really use your help! To see what they're up to and to donate, visit them on social media (their website is under construction):
Here are some photos that didn't make it into the piece.
Daphne is the companion of my friend Maggie. Recently adopted after a being part of a cruelty investigation, Daphne has finally put on some weight and is building up muscle through lots of activity and hikes.
Daphne, like all Great Danes, is a gaggle of legs. She's also silly and funny and sensitive. She can be a bit shy, but she's learning to trust herself and others and the bond these two have formed is magical. I just love that they've found each other and will get to share some fun years together.
For the photo session, we met at a local park that Daphne knew and was comfortable at. Plus, it had tall grass. The kind of tall grass that a Great Dane can hide in. It would also obscure parts of her, just like she hides some of her personality.
It'd been a hot day, but the magic hour found us so I was able to create images like I'd imagined. I'm a sucker for back-lit grasses, so Daphne got to play, meet some dog friends and show off some skills, but also just toodle along for a summer evening walk.
I've included a few photos from a recent session along with some words Maggie agreed to share about how she and Daphne met.
Thanks for visiting,
Moro + Saru on film
Thetis Lake, 2014.
After many years, I’ve finally confirmed who this dog is and who his human is (thanks M!) and sent it to them outta the blue because I know I’d wanna see other people’s of my dogs. Moro’s mom said it made her day, so yay!
So just to clarify, if anyone has of my dogs, I wanna see them!
More from this outing HERE!
A few weeks ago I got to meet Pow Pow.
The opportunity came from an old friend, who wanted to gift his humans with something to celebrate him, as Pow Pow wasn't well.
For dogs like Pow Pow that have been through the shelter system, re-homed, given away, discarded - I want to make sure they get to take up space in this world. I want to share their stories, their names and some photographs that give a glimpse into a moment of their life. If they were forgotten about at one time, I want to do my part to make sure they won't be again. And part of that storytelling is providing the photos in a digital monograph format so families can scroll through images in a way that helps tell the story of their pet, as I saw them.
For Pow Pow, this was him on April 15, 2021. Whatever health issues he was fighting, he had this evening to show me a part of him. He shared with me his silly, fun, inquisitive side. How he loves rolling on his back in the grass - sometimes with his frisbee in his mouth. Sniffing the ocean air. Chasing sticks into the water - and not bringing them back. Barking for treats. And moments of quiet and rest in the shade from the sun of the warm spring day.
Here are some of those moments... of how I saw Pow Pow and his family.
Thanks to his friends (M+L) for providing me with the chance to meet this special guy, and to his family (L + P) for taking such amazing care, catering to all his whims and fancies and showing him true love, during this difficult time.
Meet Massa, the bulldog with two perfect bottom teeth.
Apparently they're the only thing that won’t need vet intervention at this time. Actually, her teeth and her weight. Massa has a great body shape and is a comfortable 69lbs.
Sweet Massa had been living tied up outside until recently and if you know my advocacy work for sled dogs, you’ll know how I feel about this. (if you don’t, I invite you to visit www.iwasasleddog.com)
Massa is now in the care of the Victoria Bulldog Society (VBS) and being treated for ear and skin infections. She's also getting much-needed cartrophen injections and will be getting some big work soon - entropion surgery for both eyes as well as two surgeries for two torn knees.
This gal has a bit of a road ahead over her.
When I met her today, I can tell you is that she is an absolute doll! She came right up to get a sniff, taking no issue with meeting me as a stranger. She also gave me some some bum wiggles because she was loving the bum scratches I was giving her. Our visit was short, but sweet and she had no fear of my camera (good thing because she's very photogenic!) and she showed off her adorable little ears by perking them up when I said her name - which is new to her - she's learning fast!
Thank you VBS for taking her in and helping her on her road to recovery. Once her medical issues are under control she’ll be available for adoption and no doubt, will find her spot on the couch of her new home... and never leave it.
VBS is currently fundraising to help with her medical care so if you have a moment, check out more about this girl as well updates on the great work of VBS at: www.facebook.com/VictoriaBulldogSociety
For the group photo below, the dogs sorted themselves out smallest to largest - Gerty, Tonic, Massa - or for you coffee drinkers “tall, grande, venti” .
Tonic is also featured in posts from December 12, 2020, and both Tonic and Gerty in January 2021 as well as the video "goobers, never-ending goobers" that I posted in February 2021.
And if you’re thinking ‘one of these dogs is not like the others’, that’s Harley. He and Gerty are permanent family members.
Please click on each photo to see its full size.
Marlo --- though his physical ailments were getting the better of him, this ol' chap showed me the teeniest glimpse of the fun-time fella he used to be.
He still loved his orange ball.
He still loved treats.
He still loved his mom and his family.
Rest in peace and love sir, I'm grateful to have met you.
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.
Back in December I met and photographed a lovely English Bulldog named Tonic. She was in the care of the Victoria Bulldog Society (VBS) and awaiting dental surgery. She needed it badly. So many of her teeth were just rotten and the inside of her mouth looked incredibly painful with inflammation.
Last week, the old sweetie got her dental surgery and while under anesthetic she got her ears cleaned and some lumps and bumps removed. She's doing amazing - her stitches come out this week and although her ears are still giving her problems (currently under investigation), she's living it up by trundling around her neighbourhood, meeting new friends, looking as cute as ever... and napping.
I met up with her again and finally got to meet her foster brother Tanker and Gertie, the permanent fixture with VBS.
When I arrived, all three dogs came up to me to investigate and the first photo below is the result. Catching dogs in that moment of investigation and interest in a new person can work to my advantage. And although I caught a couple more of the three of them together - a little more posed with a bit more help from Mel - this was completely unposed and it gave the dogs the chance to show their true, interested selves.
A couple visitors came to the park while we were there - Rio and Casper - so Tonic and Gertie greeted in their bulldog-y way. All snorts and snuffles and awkward play.
We finished off with a group photo, showing Mel, the founder of VBS who does it all.
These photo sessions are part of a larger project coming up (which I'm so excited about), so can only share a few photos at the moment. I hope you enjoy!
If you’d like to support the Victoria Bulldog Society, learn about them and see more of what they do, please visit them on social media:
Thanks Mel, Tonic, Gertie + Tanker