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!
Back in June of this year I shared the story of Dave the Girl Dog.
My friend (and super dooper groomer to our little dogs) Kelsey brought her back after volunteering at Baan Unrak Thai Animal Sanctuary.
Dave has since had her back legs amputated and after some healing, she's starting to feel better - both physically and mentally.
Kelsey still has to help her express her bladder (photo 3) and change her diapers (no photos of that one), and Dave wears a onesie to help limit chafing on her undercarriage, but she can zoom around our yard - her back end coming off the ground - and looks like she's actually having fun and taking time to smell the air, the flowers, the pee from my dogs. ;)
It's so cool to see her continual transformation - she's more relaxed, she can read the cues of my dogs and she's even content to go snooze by her backpack.
This is truly a labour of love - Dave is a foster dog and Kelsey knows that the perfect home is out there for her - and it would open up Kelsey's home to another foster dog. Good thing lovely little Lily (last photo) is such a superstar and takes it all in stride.
For more on Dave's journey, please visit Dave Does Canada! on facebook.
Victoria Humane Society spokesdog Gus, a puppy "parade", some stylish clothes, a gaggle of adoptable dogs and some real 4-legged (and a super special 3-legged) superstars!
Thanks to Jaxx for giving me such a fantastic final shot... with his eyes closed. If you know me, you know how much I love photos of dogs with their eyes closed (I've made two books on it!).
Thanks to Outlooks for Men for such an incredibly fun event benefitting the important and tireless work of the Victoria Humane Society!
Super cool to have a photo session with these two... Bill met Brennan last year they met while both modelling at the 2016 Man and His Dog Fashion Show Fundraiser that was raising money for the Victoria Humane Society.
This year, they're the poster boys!
I got to photograph them for their ad... and Brennan, who's now Jax, was such a chill guy we had to wake him up from his afternoon nap (amidst the hustle and bustle of Outlooks For Men on a Saturday afternoon) to get 'ready for his close up'... here's some of the fun we had...
Can't wait to see these two strut their stuff this year!
This year's show takes place on November 9 at the Atrium, 800 Yates Street beginning at 6pm. Admission is $55 and includes one drink and nibbles. Tickets are available now at Outlooks, 534 Yates Street and online at outlooksformen.com
See ya there!
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!
There are some pretty kind, caring, cool people in this town. And my friend Kelsey is definitely one of them.
Not only is she a super talented, patient groomer to my dogs, she recently went to Thailand to volunteer for a month at Thai Animal Sanctuary. She saw some incredibly difficult things, but she also had some rewarding times. One of those rewarding experiences was the opportunity to bring Dave home. To bring her home and help give her another chance. She's only been here two weeks but she's settling in incredibly well. It's unclear if she was born with her physical issues or if it's the result of an untreated injury, but nevertheless this gal (yes, a girl named Dave) has an adventurous spirt. With no feeling in her back end she wears diapers a lot of the time and she's got two completely uneven, unusable back legs, but man can she run!
She came and hung out while her mom groomed my dogs and afterwards we spent time in the backyard - and she chased the ball and ran around the yard and sniffed and then just relaxed. She's also ball crazy.
She's almost ready for adoption through the Thai Animal Sanctuary via Kelsey, but she's gotta get her new wheels as her old ones aren't working so well anymore. In the meantime - and to enable her to be both more mobile and able to lay down when she's tired - she wears a shopping bag to help prevent chaffing and scratching on her underside.. but she wears it well.
She's amazing to watch.
Today she let give her pets and treats and and rub her ears, which she really loves because she can't do it herself.
She doesn't feel sorry for herself at all so it's easy to just admire her and the bright light that shines from her insides.
Yes - there are a lot of photos included with this post, but I just couldn't whittle them down any further... between Dave, her foster sister Lily and the lovely Kelsey... and the sunshine... gah.
Please also check out Dave by following her adventures on facebook: Dave Does Canada!
I can't wait to see the shenanigans she's going to get up to!
Their story, although shocking, is not new.
Fifteen dogs found abandoned on one foot chains. Three were dead and the others were close behind.
Tethered by a trapper’s hut in the Long Lac Greenstone area of Ontario. There was no food. No water. It was February 2017.
The OSPCA agents along with Thunder Bay & District Humane Society and Greenstone Want a Pet Rescue worked to bring the dogs into care.
“When the 12 dogs entered the shelter, they were unable to walk, were barely breathing, and were extremely emaciated. These 12 are emotionally, physically, and mentally bruised.”
These were sled dogs. And if you know me at all or follow my advocacy work, you’ll know my love for sled dogs. I’ve met and photographed hundreds of retired sled dogs since 2012. And although the horrific events in Whistler in 2010 brought to light the plight of dogs used in both the commercial and sport racing industries, the abuse continues and the myths about these dogs prevail. ”They’re working dogs, they’re different”, “They love what they do”. “I love my dogs, I treat them like family” are all statements still claimed by those in the industry. But here’s the problem… sled dogs are actually just dogs. Mixed breeds built for speed and endurance and to make money for the humans who are supposed to take care of them. And like all dogs, they are entitled to a certain level of care. But when the money dries up or is spent elsewhere, the dogs lose. Abandoned, turned loose, sold, given away, or killed. I say this not to be dramatic, but because more often than not, it's the truth.
These twelve dogs, along with another 17 found on the property survived and are now getting a second chance at life, as pets.
Tuesday night I accompanied my fellow Victoria Humane Society volunteers to the Victoria International Airport to welcome and meet the first two of eight of those very special “sleddies” who will be retiring to the west coast. With the remarkable community that has grown because of the sleddies here out west, the staff and volunteers at the Thunder Bay and District Humane Society agreed to entrust us with some of their special crew.
Mary Kate and Ashley were to arrive at 8:59, but their flight from Vancouver was delayed once… then twice. At 9:24 they arrived.
They were the first "baggage" to arrive at the claim area - Ashley in the lead, then Mary Kate.
The kennels were off loaded and moved to the side. Opened carefully so the dogs could be double-leashed for safety. First out was Ashley. She came out willingly and her GPS unit was attached right away. When Mary Kate came out of her crate [leashed and GPS'd], she spied Ashley, tucked in right behind her, and rested her head on Ashley’s back.
The production, along with the neon welcome signs had created a stir, and a crowd had gathered to watch. People were wondering what the fuss was all about - why was everyone hugging, laughing, smiling and wiping away tears? And how cute were these dogs!? When we told them they were sled dogs, people were amazed at their size. “They’re so small”, “They’re sled dogs?”. So after a short educational moment with those who were interested, we finished our q + a, gave huge thanks to the wonderful women who helped make their escort to us possible (thank you Debra and Joanne!) and then it was time for the girls to walk on the west coast. A chance for a potty break first and then off to the van where the girls jumped in without hesitation. Once secured inside, off they went.
Mary Kate and Ashley will be in foster with the Victoria Humane Society and once they are spayed, they will be ready for adoption.
There are so many people who made this possible - I can't name them all and I don't know them all - from the people who first saw them in distress and spoke up for them to those who brought them to safety, to the people who co-ordinated flights and transportation, to those who have cheered them on along the way, to the gem of a woman, Debbie, who will be fostering them. A second chapter is beginning for these girls and if it's turns out like the gaggle of sleddies I know already in retirement, it's going to be pretty fantastic.
Donations to help pay for their spay surgeries, food while in foster and flights for the remaining sleddies coming our way are greatly appreciated and can be done through the VHS website with a click of the big orange button on the homepage HERE!
To follow more of their story and the remaining sleddies coming into care, please visit the Victoria Humane Society facebook page.
If you or someone you know will be travelling from Thunder Bay or Toronto, Ontario, and are interested in being a pet escort to help bring a couple remaining sleddies to Victoria, please contact the Victoria Humane Society. It's super easy and won't cost you a thing!
More links about their rescue:
Thunder Bay Newswatch
Thunder Bay & District Humane Society facebook page
Let the love begin!