I want people to be happy with my pictures. I really do. Capturing personality with a camera is one thing I think I do solidly, and I'm honest when I don't feel I make a connection with a dog. Relationships can't be force or rushed - I'm glad to refer awesome dog people to another photographer who might be a better fit.
This is one of the reasons why I decided to work with giant dogs only. I get giants. I know how they move, I can anticipate their behavior, and I'm comfortable with the hallmark characteristics.
Sofa inspection and testing, thunderous running, barking that can be heard blocks away, leaning, slobber slobber slobber slobber.
Slobber is a way of life for me and has been for a long time. I've washed it off walls and the headliner of my vehicle. I've picked up those long strings between two tightly pinched fingers and barely held on to them long enough to flick them to more appropriate places. They're really slippery! I've washed so many drool towels. I've wiped slobber off my face, hands, pants and off my boys' faces and lips. Occasionally they smear a cat with it, too, and that cleanup isn't pretty.
I consider slobber a feature to embrace. Those strings that wrap around snouts during play are my favorite. I believe slobber tells a story. I believe that we should have pictures of our loved ones as they are and as we know and love them every day rather than idealized canine glamour shots. Most people who have seen my work pick up on this even if they don't realize it because I do not edit out slobber, dirt, rogue hair, or other cosmetic misfits.
I love them. I celebrate them. Those non-perfect features are what make some of the most endearing shots. When I look at pictures of my boys, I prefer the ones where slobber is flying ('cause that's really cool when it's frozen in mid-air for all time), an ear is turned inside-out, or something else unpretty is happening. I prefer those because that's how my boys are and were. That's how I loved them and saw them every day.
Recently I chatted with a potential client who wanted portraits of her two mastiffs. We met at a park while her dogs played and it seemed we were a good match. Then she asked me how much I charged to edit out drool. Because, you know, mastiffs.
I really wanted to be the photographer, storyteller, and artist she wanted me to be because her dogs were so much fun and I thought we would all get on famously together. I had to tell her that I don't do that sort of thing and explained my take on it. I recommended a photographer in Seattle and wished her well.
So if you are after pretty and ideal, that's not my thing. I shoot what I see, and what I see is all kinds of love and adventure and excitement about being alive today and smelling this ooooh what's going on over here hey there is someone in the yard! That's what I do.
You know how hard it is to find practical, well-fitting coats for your friend that don't break the bank. There is hardly anything commercially available that will wrap around a mastiff or is long enough for a Dane. Fall is upon us and if your friend is older or simply likes to be snuggly warm, it's time to think about a coat.
Lisa at Sewing Ventures is your answer. She's made insulated, waterproof coats for Angus, Conan, and Rhys and we couldn't be happier with them. Each coat has been worn over many seasons and during rough play and still looks fantastic.
Lisa offers standard sizes for dogs up to 34" long, and beyond that she's willing to do custom sewing. The Boys have loved wearing their coats and receive so many compliments on them. Because each side is also lined with a wide band of reflective tape, these coats provide more visibility during dark and rainy walks.
I have two retired coats packed away. A blue one with Angus' name and a green one with Conan's name. I'm not a person who likes to keep things I don't need and I don't need these coats. I have so many memories of my fellas in these coats, however, and their hair remains scattered on the fleece linings. These coats smell like my boys. So I'm keepin' 'em. In addition to the years of service they provided they also are a part of my museum of Daneish history.
I hope you find a coat for your adventures together, and I wish you the best memories.
Many years ago I threw away several pairs of shoes that had been the objects of a gleefully unsupervised chewing session. I came home to an open closet and a footwear massacre – my beloved puppy had his way with my beloved shoes. At that time I was attached to my possessions and notably upset. I acted as though I valued the shoes more than the relationship I had with Vaughn, the puppy.
As the years have passed I have often wished that I kept at least one of those mangled shoes. I would look at it much differently today than I did 15 years ago. I realize that is still an attachment to an object and I have the memory, but there is something about touch that resonates.
While I was tidying recently, I noticed that a small section of the dining room table was pitted and collecting more damage by the day. It happens to be where my son, The Boy, used to sit and bang anything he could grab during meals. The table is a Duncan Phyfe and would be worth a good amount if fully restored. It is more valuable to me with the beautiful damage that comes with our lives. Our home is far from a showroom and I wouldn’t want it to be. The adventures we have usually translate into some tangible memory that someone else would dismiss as gross or unsightly. As much as I enjoy seeing those things on a daily basis, I admit that there is a point at which moving on is most productive.
I recently painted the living room, including the window trim and sills. In the process I cleaned and gently sanded the wood before priming it. The sill of the largest window has hosted two drops of dried blood since 2007 from the last nosebleed Vaughn had. Until now I haven’t been ready to remove them. I am pleased to report that the blood drops were scrubbed away. I shed a few tears in the process, but for my love of Vaughn rather than the loss of the dirty window sill. I don’t need crusty blood to remind me of how incredibly wonderful he was and how much I miss him every day.
It's on days like this I am most thankful we have our family's art on display. I know when I need, I can look up on the wall and see Vaughn patiently waiting for our next conversation. I feel more connected to him.
Thank you, Vaughn, for so many things. In this case, thank you for providing me the opportunity to learn the value of relationships and memories is far greater than the value of stuff.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.