'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.
Started 2020 off with some forest bathing, mud bath style... a walk in the woods with dog friends and human friends...
As part of my on-going advocacy work for sled dogs, the full photo set can be found on my sled dog blog!
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!
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!