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
So this is super cool... a student film crew flew across the country to do their thesis documentary on my sled dog advocacy project!
It was a few months ago that I received an email from a student filmmaker in Ontario who had happened upon my website after doing research about the sled dog industry. She wanted to know if she could do her film school documentary on I Was A Sled Dog.
It was one of those moments where a million things raced through my mind - not only am I uncomfortable in front of a camera, I was surprised someone was going to fly out here to use me and this subject for a film. Ultimately I decided to do it because more important than my anxiety about talking on film is helping bring awareness to the plight of sled dogs... and now the filming is done.
The filming took place over three days last week. Interviews and filming of photo sessions, capped off with a walk with ten sleddies. The crew made it so easy for me and they were so gentle around the dogs and so respectful with each other... it was all pretty painless.
One of the coolest things about the experience was sharing it with people who didn't know anything about what was going on and with open minds they worked to gather footage to help tell a story that will hopefully resonate with even more people. To see them meet the sleddies and go for the group walk - it was obvious that they fell under the sleddie spell. You don't have to be a crazy animal lover to understand the cruelty that happens in the commercial and sport sled dog industry and want to do something to help spread awareness. And for an artist and filmmaker, it's beautiful to find that connection with a subject. It was really a powerful and emotional three days.
After a few days of decompressing it's given me a new hope about advocating for sled dogs - there are people outside of my little circle here that care and want to do something to help.
I'm still in awe that they travelled all the way out to the west coast to film me, my sleddie stories and cover this project, but I'm so very grateful they did. I can't wait to see how Meagan, the director puts it all together.
Here are some photos from our forest adventure walk featuring sleddies: Arwen, Cane, ChiChi, Copper, Echo, Jasper, Lion, Nordique, Penny, Sassy + Stuart... and sleddie sibling, Piper.
For any of you not familiar with sled dogs, I'd be interested in knowing who you think Piper, the non-sleddie is.. because that's what this is all about. Sled dogs are dogs, first and foremost.
None of the sleddies who came on this walk are any different than the dog who was never a sleddie. #iwasasleddog #getsleducated #sleddogsaredogs
Big brother Ben and his new little brother Ollie came to the studio for fun, frolics and a photo session!
Once the session was over, I had the pleasure of working with the client to create a custom photo book of their session!
Not only are photo books more fun to look through than just the images viewed on a computer, they provides a real tactile element. The book can sit on your coffee table and you can share with company when they come to visit and they turn a collection of digital images into art. Or you can order multiple copies to give as gifts!
Contact me for more info on book sessions!
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!
greygrey was one of the first retired sled dogs i met back in 2012. she was a survivor of the whistler sleddog cull of 2010... but that's not who she was.
she was GreyGrey, originally knows as Grey, but we all knew her by her nickname GreyGrey
she was adopted in 2012 and lived the last six years being showered with love, affection and had a comfy couch to snuggle on with whoever was closest
she was welcomed into her home by the resident dog and then paid it forward by welcoming other dogs - both fosters and adoptees - into her home
at reunions and gatherings, she could always be found by the treat person - GreyGrey loved her treats and was a superstar at catching them!
Sweet GreyGrey passed away surrounded by peace and love on Wednesday.
i was fortunate to go on lots of adventures with her over the years... here are some photos....
thank you to her family and extended retired sleddie family for showering her with a retirement so richly deserved. xo
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)