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!
Had a fantastic time photographing this family on their farm in rural Saskatchewan!
From their play zone to horse time to a couple portraits and then back on the horses all topped off by a wiggly tooth that finally came out at the end of the day!
Once the session was done, I had the pleasure of creating a custom photobook of their day! For me, it's fun to relive the sessions because I'm often immersed in details and focussing so much on the shots that I don't have the time to take a breath to enjoy the little moments that I'm capturing!
Thanks Thorson family!
When the groomer comes, she brings her dogs Lily + Dave and it's quite a family affair.
Each of the three dogs who gets groomed has unique needs during their time on the table, and over the years we've come up with all sorts of ways to help the dogs get through their sessions with as little stress as possible. This includes lots of breaks.
After grooming each dog (there are currently 3, including Bella pictured above getting groomed), they all the dogs get to go outside for a break. This day, while the dogs were sniffing about and playing 'pee wars', Dave caught the scent of our resident racoon. This girl is on wheels and she can MOVE! With her zooming up and down the side of the yard and sticking her nose outside the fence, she was determined to find them, but alas, breaktime was over and back inside we all came for our ever-patient groomer to continue work.
Dave went back to sleep, I imagine dreaming about finding that rascally racoon family.
You can follow Dave + Lily's adventures:
Facebook: Dave Does Canada
today marks the start of something new... the trading in of the known for the unknown...
i have always done photography 'on the side' - something that i fit in when not working my day job... but that ended today and i will be focussing ALL MY TIME on photography!
i'm pretty stoked!
i will be doing more advocacy, more commercial, more documentary, more art...
i will be trying out all the things that have piqued my interest over the years so be prepared to see things you may not have seen from me before - and please let me know what you think!
i will be hosting photo workshops, and [insert shameless plug here] i'll be available for hire! portraits (pets, animals, humans, collections), day-in-the-life, commercial, social media content and events...
i want to try all sorts of genres while i 'get my sea legs' so services will be priced accordingly!
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!