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
Bella, Candy + Jewel = beautiful, sweet gems!
I met these three lovelies through a photo session I donated to the silent auction at the Man + His Dog Fundraiser I photographed in November!
A frosty December morning was perfect to meet this crew!
What a fun night!
There were not one, not two, but THREE puppy petting stations, incredible donations for the silent auction, delectable treats and a super fun fashion show - where four-legged friends - both adoptable and those already in loving homes - escorted designer-clad fashionistas down the runway for a great cause... the Victoria Humane Society.
VHS spokesdog, Gus was in attendance sporting his new bow-tie and even got to romp with his bestie (and VHS alum), Dova and at the end of the night, Gussy helped cart some purchased auction items to the cars!
(don't worry, he didn't *really* pull it for more than a second and it wasn't heavy and he was paid in Gus-friendly snax)
This is my third time volunteering to photograph this event and it just gets more and more fun each time... thanks to everyone who helped make it such a success!
Check out the photo gallery HERE!
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!
Scrolling through your facebook feed and you come across a cute photo of a puppy. The puppy is on the page of a rescue that you follow, or maybe one of your ‘friends’ shared the photo. The puppy is wearing a cone and it looks like something is happening with one of her eyes. You take the moment to read the caption and maybe your heart breaks more than usual because there’s “something” that resonates a bit more closely than you’re used to.
This is what happened with me and the photo of Callie.
I saw Callie’s photo come up on my feed, posted by my friend Norma. I know Norma because I’ve spent a good amount of time at her and her husband's home photographing the various dogs they’ve lovingly brought in to foster. To help them heal. To help them rest. To take a breath from their journey of unknown. To get to know love, comfort and care.
I’m not sure what compelled Norma and her (talented artist of a husband) Gord to start fostering animals. For some reason that has never come up in our visits. With all the people I’ve met, the foster homes I’ve been to, I’ve never asked. Maybe I assume I know the answer… maybe the answer seems obvious to me. Maybe I’m too focussed on the dog, endeavouring to get the best photographs I can with the least amount of disruption to the animal and household. Regardless of the reasons, I’m just thankful they’re there.
So, here was Callie. A mere six weeks old wearing a cone and the tell-tale stitches holding together the lids of her left eye. An enucleation of the eye. An injured eye that could not be saved. It was almost six years ago a similar image came across my social media feed and was burned into my memory. Back then it was a little dog named Coco. He had he same purple stitches and shave pattern around the eye.
Today Coco is Mister Coco, currently sleeping under pillows on my couch. One of the fosters we brought home to heal, but he never left. Now my little shadow and one of the reasons that I find myself stopping what I’m doing to go visit an animal at its “home away from home”.
These homes are so important in the world of animal rescue. With limited spaces for the sheer volume of animals who are in need of a new life, it seems that it’s now up to caring humans to step up. And Norma and Gord have.
I first met them Jan 17, 2014, when I went to photograph Molly*. She was one of the first dogs rescued through the Victoria Humane Society (VHS). She had been found dumped, left abandoned at a remote location near Logan Lake, BC. They stepped up to foster her, and here we are over four years later and she’s never left. She’s an official member of the family. Molly may still be nervous of newcomers, but when I visit, a bit of cupboard love helps bridge the gap.
Norma + Gord have also welcomed a foster named Simon. He came in to care with VHS as one of the ‘mountain man’ dogs. He was so shut down, it was just heartbreaking. When I met Simon in February 2015 he was just shaking. So, so scared. I wouldn't even try to pet him… he barely let me, a stranger, look at him. But when I saw him this time, now that he's an official member of the family, I got to rub his belly, his chest, his face… and he wasn’t petrified. This isn't to say he was *super* relaxed (especially when the camera was out), but he let me, a stranger, in and gave me a wee bit of trust. His eyes went soft and he even subtly asked for more when I stopped. Apparently he now sits, shakes a paw, rolls over, lays down when visitors aren’t around. He takes treats, but only after he’s ‘worked’ for it, meaning only after he does sit, etc. This was not trained… this was all Simon.
And then there’s Paisley… surviving not only two bouts of heartworm, but being shot (the pellets are still in her leg) and enduring an untreated broken foot. Despite whatever has happened in the past, she’s let it go and this girl’s tail NEVER stops wagging - it's a photobomb of its own. Paisley loves above all.
All three have welcomed little Callie into their home, letting her run around, be silly, and try to play with their tails. But most of all, heal and learn. I have no doubt that when Callie is ready for adoption, she will get a great home and the chance to navigate life with the support of a loving human by her side.
So, here are some photos of what was supposed to be a ‘short visit to get a few photos’ that turned into almost two hours of chatting and marvelling at the incredible progress of some super special dogs. Thanks N+G!
If you would like to donate to the Victoria Humane Society to help pay for Callie’s surgical bills, or to the society in general to help pay for food, spaying/neutering, transportation, etc for animals in need of rescue, or already in foster care, please visit their website: www.victoriahumanesociety.com
*Click here to see Molly in January 2014 (scroll to the bottom of the page)
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!
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.