Meet Charlotte … another entry in the special Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series that pays tribute to those dogs we have loved in life and continue to love beyond, the dogs who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and through the very important photos we create of them. You can see other entries in the Dogs We’ve Loved series here.
This lovely Sharpei girl was just as sweet as they come during her session back in July 2015. And what’s more she was already 10 yrs old when her guardians adopted her. In guardian Kaitlyn’s words:
“We rescued Charlotte at the ripe old age at 10+ on New year’s Eve 2013. She was a companion for our other Shar Pei Herbie who was 8 at the time and dealing with separation anxiety.
To be honest we did not think Charlotte would be around more than 6 months because of her health. She had arthirtis, was deaf and not in the best physical conditions. We wanted to give her a home to live out her days. In the fall of 2014 we bought a house and a female shar pei pup joined the family. Charlotte continued to keep up with everyone.”
“In July 2015 we got Charlotte’s photos done. We didn’t know how long she was going to be around because she had started slowing down and her arthritis worsened. It was important to us to have her personality captured on camera so we would always have memories of her.
Charlotte passed away March 9th 2016 at 13+ years old. Her health just kept getting worse and she was having a very hard time doing much of anything besides sleeping.
We are just so grateful to have had this photo session. It meant that even when we had to say our goodbyes to Charlotte we would always have wonderful shots of her which would help us remember how incredibly beautiful she was, inside and out.”
“Having those photos of Charlotte from our session meant the world to us. We miss her terribly but Illona did an INCREDIBLE job at capturing her on camera. Charlotte had the best smile. She was a bit of a nervous dog so very rarely she would relax and we would see it. We saw it that day during her session. She was relaxed and comfortable. Looking back on them now we remember what an amazing dog she was and how blessed we were to have her a part of our family. Thank you Illona for giving us this gift.”
I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with Kaitlyn and Justin’s other two Sharpei, Herbie and Stella, and two more loving, attentive guardians you will never find. I know that Charlotte is deeply missed, and will forever be a part of their hearts.
This blog post is a long time coming … two years to be exact … as it’s been that long since I lost both Matea and Merrick. For those of you who have lost a beloved dog or cat, or if you know this time is coming, and especially for those of you who have lost too many times already, it’s hard to know what to do to honor those who are now gone. There are many options from burial to cremation, spreading of ashes to having some of their ashes incorporated into a piece of jewelry or art, even having carbon extracted from those cremated remains to make a diamond. I guess, in a sense, the possibilities are endless.
For me, I’m not a diamond gal, nor do I wear excessive of jewellery … although there is one piece you will never find me without, and that is the silver nose print of Merrick.But besides these nose prints, over the years I have collected the ashes of those whom I’ve lost. However, those satchels of remains were tucked away in crematory-issued spruce boxes with names engraved on the top and admittedly ugly ceramic urns, sitting on shelves around the house. I wanted something better … something special … a place where the remains of ALL of my beloved scruffies could be kept.
So I turned to friend and potter-extraordinaire – my favorite clay person in the world – Steve Irvine. Steve doesn’t typically take commissions, so when he responded to my pleading email and description of what I was after and agreed to make a large ‘group’ urn for me, I was beyond thrilled.
I had given Steve my approximate size requirements (having already lost five animals), as well as a colour preference … “turquoise”, I told Steve … partly because of the colours in my bedroom where I knew I’d want to keep this incredible piece, but also to represent the colours of Big Bay, the lake I grew up on … a lake – along with its colours – that Steve knows all too well. “… and with several, short, peg-like protrusions,” I wrote him, “on which to hang a couple of collars or tags…” I had also requested some treatment that would suggest the rolling ridges of the old farm where I grew up next door to Steve and his family.
Of course, being an artist and having a background in clay myself, including a Fine Arts degree focused on clay sculpture, I knew I was going to be hard to please … and no doubt, knowing me, Steve understood the challenge at hand. And yet, the finished piece could not have been more perfect.
This group urn stands 17″ tall and almost 8″ at its widest … and sits on the top of my dresser next to my bed so that at night we can be all together … Murph, Mirren, Morley, Matea, Merrick, along with those living, Matlin, Mirabelle and Mowat.
And here are some details of this fabulous piece … the lake colours and the rolling ridges that Murph loved so much.
And even though Murph – my first scruffy and the very reason behind scruffy dog photography – was buried on the family farm which had since been sold, he has finally joined my pack. Two summers ago a dear friend and I made the trip up north, and along with some help from the new property owner at the time – Annie, a lovely and brilliant artist herself – the three of us toiled through a significant cairn of rocks and 15 years of washed-in soil to recover my sweet boy. I am so grateful to Gateway Pet Memorial who had already agreed to handle the 15-year-old remains … and after many years, Murph had finally come home.
Of course, placing everyone in the urn was a deeply moving experience for me … especially Matea’s remains. Her ashes sit in the fleece ‘snood’ she’d often have to wear around the house to stop her from flapping her ears … and as such, I can still touch her hairs as they are woven into the fleece.
It is such a comfort to be able to have all of my passed animals together, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for Steve’s incredible work and creativity on this group urn. There isn’t a single piece in my house that means more to me.
I hope I have inspired you to do something special when it comes time to honor those scruffies you’ve lost. And for those of you who have already lost, please feel free to share in the comments what you’ve done to honor your lost 4-leggers. In the meantime, hold them tight … the ones we love and who are still with us.
Most of my loyal blog and Facebook followers will already be very familiar with Matlin, the amazing scruffy who joined my pack back in the summer of 2016. She was adopted from Dogs Etc of Texas, involving a very long drive to Dallas and back, and I was fortunate to have her meet Matea and Merrick and be with them for the two short months before their passing.
Not a week goes by when I’m not stopped at least a half dozen times by people asking: “What breed of dog is that?” … and online I am asked even more often than that! I sometimes respond with: “Disney Dropout”, but typically my response is: “no idea!” and then I let them try to make some educated guesses while we stand around and talk dogs.
I’ll admit, from the moment I had Matlin, during the long journey back to Canada from Dallas, I couldn’t get over how stunning this dog’s conformation is. When she stands at attention, she truly does look like she should be a purebred ‘something’ … her conformation is balanced and strong, with lean muscle and great proportions … so it doesn’t surprise me that most people believe she’s a purebred of some sort.
Of course, I’m the first to suggest Wheaten terrier, Skye terrier (I mean, those ears!), Berger Picard (the breed of my dreams) … but we could sit and guess all day long. So … in early 2017 I decided that it would be super fun to do a DNA test on this girl of mine. It could also be educational; I mean, to know some of her ancestry would help to better note her drives and characteristics, and, as a result, respond to them accordingly, no?
Don’t get me wrong … I have never held much faith in these tests; with a background and knowledge of police procedures and forensics, I find the $100+ pricetag on such tests to be somewhat suspect. Having said that, I do know – through researching and writing my second last psychological thriller – that A&M University in Texas has the ability to genotype dog hairs to determine breed or at least breed-type …
… so maybe I was being too skeptical on these DNA companies. And besides, my intention was to run a fun contest on the scruffy dog facebook page … awarding a prize of a session to the person who came the closest to guessing the breed. I mean, how hard could it be?
And yet, when the results started to roll in, I was flabbergasted. There was no WAY that anyone would ever come close to guessing the vast and ridiculous mix of breeds that this girl’s saliva conjured up! Still, I figured it was high time to share the results from not just one, not two, but FOUR DNA-testing companies so that you can decide for yourself
First off … just so we’re clear … here are some general traits of Matlin McWhackyears that can’t necessarily be seen from her photos:
she is a medium-boned, lean-muscled 40 lbs … 22″ at the shoulder … and is extremely tucked under all of that hair
everyone notes that she is SUPER fast
she has personality quirks that definitely suggest a herding breed, as well as terrier
the shorter-length tail which sits high would clearly suggest a Wheaten (if you’ve ever seen an uncropped Wheaten tail)
her coat doesn’t grow, and she is a low-shedder … she also doesn’t have the typical oils that a dog would have, which makes her hypo-allergenic for this dog-allergy sufferer (yeah, yeah, yeah, a pet photographer allergic to animals … take a moment and laugh)
she has an underbite
she is lacking certain premolars which was suggested to me is a poodle thing
she is loving and trusting of people she knows, and there is no – and I mean NO – squashing her joy
she is smarter than any dog I’ve had in the past, and I’ve shared my life with some pretty smart dogs
she is extremely soft and gentle with other animals in the house and out
and those ears!!!
The companies I used were easily the top dog-DNA testing companies out there and came highly recommended by people across facebook and beyond.
So first off … Wisdom Panel. Well, these good folks are quite steadfast in their belief I share my life with a Chihowwug.
Yup, 25% Chow, 25% Chihuahua, 12.5% Pug, with 37.5% from mixed breeds of the herding, terrier and hound (?!) groups.
The next company I used was Viaguard – Accu-metrics. Wow, what a surprise … not a single Chow, Chihuahua or Pug in the mix!
And yes, you’re reading that correctly: 37-74% Rat Terrier. According to ViaGuard, this percentage “usually means that one of the parents was a purebred.” Okay? Next up is 20-36% Border Collie & Labrador Retriever … then 10-20% Cocker Spaniel & Whippet (well, she IS pretty fast) … and finally 5% or less, GSD, Greyhound and Poodle. Ah, my first non-shedding breed!
I obviously had to try Embark next since everyone seems to love their results SO much. Hmmm…
The thing that confuses me about Embark is that they put great emphasis on their ability to predict health issues based on genetic traits. And the health results are the first you receive.
Embark found that Matlin was at risk of 0 genetic diseases … yay! … however she came back as a carrier of one disease: Von Willebrand Disease Type II (not I or III). The funny thing is, on Embark’s own site they state that Type II is found in German Shorthaired Pointers “and related breeders”. With a little online digging I discovered that the only breeds affected by Type II of this disease is GSPs, Rough Collie, and – oh! – German Wirehaired pointer.
Still, I was excited. That beard of hers … it had to be GWP! I mean, Embark goes on about how particular genomes will dictate coat color, coat type, and traits like uppy ears vs. down ears, and even ‘facial furnishings’ … the kind that Matlin has, but which none of the previous test breeds would have!
Alas, when the results came in, not a single beard in the bunch … what’s more, even though Embark talks about VW Disease Type II being in GSPs, there wasn’t GSP in the results … or any of the other breeds that medical sites suggest might carry the Type II gene.
… but hey, at least we’re seeing the Chow and Pug again that are SO Matlin!
Oh, and also according to Embark, Matin is VERY “wolfy” compared to the average dog. 2.3% Sigh … if you could only meet this blonde of mine!
And finally, the fourth purchased test was from DNA My Dogbecause so many SDP followers on Facebook were telling me it was the most accurate. Um … ?
To be clear, with none of the previous tests did I submit a photo of Matlin, nor did I respond to the “suspected breed(s)” question that some of these companies ask for. However, with DNA My Dog – out of sheer frustration – I DID send a photo, and under suspected breeds I entered Wheaten and Berger Picard. Alas, my Bichon Fritriever Spaniel-Tzu doesn’t have even a trace of those.
At this point, seriously? Should we believe any of this nonsense? More to the point, does it matter?
So yes, while I’ve always been highly suspect of these tests and have heard ALL of the stories – the good to the downright ridiculous – I had considered this to be a fun venture, with perhaps some believable results which could used in the course of a contest. Alas, I’m quite certain that NO one would have guessed anything remotely close to these results. And my final takeaway is that the science is still VERY much out on actually determining the ancestry of the scruffies who share our lives. So let’s just love our mutts and send any $s itching to go to DNA-testing to the amazing rescue organizations we got ‘em from.
Meet Masi … another entry in the special Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series that pays tribute to those dogs we have loved in life and continue to love beyond, the dogs who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and through the very important photos we create of them. You can see other entries in the Dogs We’ve Loved series here.
Masi, the King Charles Cavalier spaniel, had his Honor Session with me on a chilly February afternoon in 2015.
Like a lot of Honor Sessions, Masi’s session was booked with a degree of urgency. Having been diagnosed with aggressive congestive heart failure. With little relief from the meds and every breath a struggle, the devastating decision had been made to end Masi’s battle. Our session took place in the late afternoon hours of his final day on this earth.
Even though I didn’t know Masi beyond these couple of hours, I felt as though I knew his spirit. He was a proud boy, but also, fun-loving and joyful.
While I crouched in the snow, with the last few rays of warm sun touching the snowy forest around us, it was difficult to escape the fact that this happy boy would be gone in the morning.
Like me, mom Denise remembers the session vividly. In her words:
“It was freezing that afternoon, but the sky was so blue and the snow looked like a blanket of diamonds. We went for a walk in the woods, Masi’s favourite place. We had friends who had a cottage in Haliburton on a wooded property. Masi LOVED it there. During our autumn visits he would walk like a dog on a mission through the fallen leaves. He was so excited. And so very happy. As ill as he was, he ran through the snowy woods during our session wagging his whole body, I’m so glad we gave him that…
“… The session gave me one last really joyful time with my beloved happy dog. We never would have got that shot in a studio. The photos captured his essence. He was JOY.”
In regards to the artwork of Masi that Denise now has from our session:
“I treasure the artwork. I am reminded of him the way I had always known him every day, and I can smile………… And I can make other people smile too, because I have given some of the photos to very dear friends who love him too.
I AM SOOOOOOOOO glad we did it. I had very few photos of Masi. I would encourage people to have photo sessions with their dogs, at various stages in their lives, not just the end.”
I love hearing from clients what their artwork means to them, as this is the very reason I started photographing animals exclusively fifteen years ago and started scruffy dog over a decade ago. These photographic memories are so vital, and sometimes they are all we have left of our beloved 4-leggers once they are gone … and it is the reason why I take every SDP session very seriously, knowing how important these images ultimately are to each guardian.
Thank you, Denise, for sharing your wonderful Masi with me, and entrusting me to capture his spirit with my photos. I am so grateful you have a new little man in your life to honour your incredible Masi.
Meet Skye … another entry in the special Dogs We’ve Loved series. This is a special photo series that pays tribute to those dogs whom we’ve loved in life and continue to love beyond, who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and through the very important photos we create of them. You can see other entries in the Dogs We’ve Loved series here.
Skye’s Honor Session was booked by her mom, Anita, who – like most scruffy dog clients – chose to bring her girl here to the Land of Scruffy for an adventurous and fun afternoon … and evening, as the case was for Skye’s session.
Like a surprising number of clients who book with me, Anita informed me that Skye could be a little camera shy. But as I tell all clients who worry about this: “Nada problem!” As you can see from the photos from our session, Skye and I ironed things out pretty quickly on that front!
This girl was so happy, and the bond with her mom was undeniable.
And like many clients of mine, Anita didn’t want to be in the photos … yet, this photo of Skye in the crown vetch with Anita smiling in the background is probably one of my favorites from their session.
It shouldn’t surprise you that I hear from Anita occasionally. She misses her girl, and I am much too familiar with that loss. Anita writes:
“I am missing Skye so much these days, I often hear her collar jingle in the house and I look up and turn my head and I swear I see her standing there and looking at me, smiling. This happens often. And, I also sometimes doze off on the couch and automatically wake up about the time I would always take her for her last late night walk, I go as far as grabbing her leash, only to realize she’s not here. It has been very difficult as I know you know all too well.”
“Skye was 14 years old at the time of our session in June 2016. At that time, she was starting to show signs of slowing down with arthritis but still managed to have some pep in her step. Since I first saw your work, 4-5 years prior to the shoot, I decided right there and then that it was something I was going to do that with Skye. It had been what I had been searching for — a photographer that could capture the essence of my beloved dog’s personality so that when the time came I would have her close with me always. Although my intentions never changed in that time, for one reason or another, I just couldn’t make it happen until last year.”
“I was grateful to finally have the session because only 8 months after her session and a couple of weeks after her 15th birthday on Valentine’s Day, Skye was diagnosed with kidney disease. Not only that, her kidney values changed so drastically from her most recent test from last fall, that she was diagnosed with going into renal failure. I was told by two vets that she was not going to be with me much longer. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I spent the next 5 weeks doing anything in my power to help her. It was clear she was declining and when I knew I couldn’t do anything more for my beautiful girl, on March 23rd, I said goodbye. It very easily was the most difficult goodbye in my life. She was my first dog and the stories, memories, and adventures we shared over those 13 years she was by my side (I adopted her at age 2, my first dog while I had a broken ankle), were endless and honestly, the best ones of my life.”
“The session was everything I hoped for and much more. That day was an experience that Peter and I will both always keep as a treasured memory. In our session, I always believed Skye was camera-shy. True or not, during the session, she quickly managed to get her nickname you gave her, Illona, McBobblehead, which I thought was very appropriate and I continued to use along with several other terms of endearment including Stinkypants, Hairytoes, Sunshine and of course Skye-girl. Waiting in the truck for dusk and the right lighting for that last shot on the hill was fun as we shared some stories and a few laughs. That time of day is my favourite and shot is still one of my favourites.”
“Having my collection means that every single day, the visions and memories of my girl that are always in my head, come to life, with a glance to the wall or a reach over to my memory box where I can go through all the shots and re-live my endless memories of my Skye as often as I like. It makes me feel like she truly is still around me. The photo shoot was the best thing I ever did, not only for myself to keep Skye’s memory alive but to honour her, pay tribute to her, to know how much she meant to me and how much happiness, joy, comfort, love and companionship she brought to my life. She was a perfect friend and seeing the photos each day reminds me what an impact she made.”
Thank you, Anita … thank you SO much for sharing your lovely Skye with me, for trusting me to do her proud, for opening up and connecting. My greatest hope is that one day you find room in your heart to show your Skye-girl the greatest honour, and that is to give your heart to another in her memory.
Oh yes, you read that correctly: “complimentary puppy photo sessions” from scruffy dog … as in ‘no cost’. Yes, seriously!
Do you have a puppy or are planning on adding a new 4-legged family member 5 months of age or under? If so, here is your opportunity to have professional, unique and artistic images captured of them in all of their adorableness by a veteran animal photographer! … no matter what the season!
This is a limited time offer, so don’t hesitate to contact Illona today to find out all of the details and get your puppy on board!
NOTE: all qualifying puppies must be UNDER 5 months of age at the time of their session.
I am super stoked to be able to open up the scruffy dog schedule to another round of Mutt Shots sessions. This is only the second time I have offered these fabulous, fantastical, magical, wonderful pet photography sessions, and this may be the last. And like the last time, spots are limited! So if you are interested in a scruffy dog Mutt Shots session you need to book now. Like, today!
Over the years I often receive inquiries from people asking for “just one great shot.” Now, I’ll admit, I don’t believe in just “one-great-shot”, and I approach every session and every animal with the goal of MANY great shots … even epic shots.
HOWEVER, I can’t ignore these inquiries. As a result, the Mutt Shots are a limited, special short session … essentially “head-shots” for dogs … or, as I like to call it: “mutt shots”!
Of course – as with any SDP session – I will shoot more than just a head-shot. Instead, you will receive a rich variety even within this short portrait session. Check out the sample galleries below to see what is possible!
MUTT SHOTS SESSION DETAILS
The Mutt-Shots Session … provides a small but mighty gallery of unique, professional images capturing your 4-legger’s essence through a series of shots in one setting. This session is for the client who is after a solid selection for that “one great shot” (and a few others) … for canvas, print, and/or a creative storyboard. It can also be a great addition for the SDP client who is looking to add more images to their portfolio.
– $50 print credit towards your choice of prints, canvas or other fine art product
– one pet ($50 for second pet from the same household; two-pet maximum for Mutt Shots sessions)
– 15 to 20 minutes of shooting time (per pet)
– toys and nutritional treats
– 8 to 12 edited proofs in your private online gallery
– 15% discount off all custom prints and products!
– social media image gifted of every print / product ordered
There will be 3 Mutt-Shots sessions held on 3 separate dates, in 3 different locations in Kitchener.
And for those who simply can’t decide which ‘set’ they prefer, clients are welcome to book two or all three of these Mutt-Shots dates for increased savings!
To book:send me an email. Any questions you have will be answered and you will be sent the booking form.
SPOTS ARE LIMITED!
NOTE: your session fee (+ HST) will be required as a retainer to hold your spot.
(NOTE: the dates and locations noted below are the ONLY dates and locations that will be used for the Mutt Shots sessions)
MUTT SHOTS DATES AND LOCATIONS
Saturday 17 March – STUDIO – Here are two sample galleries from our fabulous natural-light studio.
For the studio sessions we have two pieces of furniture.
Small dogs (under 20 lbs) and cats, too! – white modern leather chair
And for large dogs (over 20 lbs) – super comfy couch
For those of you with a cat who is up for the travel, here is your chance for some lovely in-studio photos. And since we use only natural light, there are no harsh strobes or flashes to upset your cat.
Saturday 28 April – URBAN – downtown Kitchener alley (rain date Sunday 29 April) – shooting from 10 a.m. – 2’ish
Here are two sample galleries for our alley location.
Saturday 2 June – NATURAL – the forest path (rain date Sunday 3 June) – shooting approximately 4-8:00 p.m.
Here are two sample galleries of the forest path session.
And, of course, if one Mutt Shots session isn’t enough, the savings abound! When you book two Mutt Shots sessions, you receive a $75 print credit on your second session (instead of $50) … for a total of $125 in print credits! And if two aren’t enough and you simply must have all three Mutt Shots sessions then your third print credit increases to $100 … for a total of $225 in print credits for your three sessions! And always: 15% discount on prints and products!
And just an added note … what a Mutt-Shots Session is not …
Because this is a short, concentrated session focused on great head/body/environment shots, and because of the locations/settings offered, this is not a session in which to capture action images (running, catching, jumping, etc.). If you are after these types of images along with portrait-type images, please look at the other scruffy dog sessions.
Again, spots are limited for each session, so please book soon! Contact Illona today for more information and the booking form.
NOTE: Because this is a special promotion, no additional discounts (i.e. repeat client discounts) may be applied.
It has been about a year since the BLOW photo project went viral, both online and editorially globally. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this very popular pet photography series, I introduced the much-awaited BLOW project in this very first blog entry, and it has become a big hit on sites like Bored Panda and across the globe in the UK, France, Estonia, and even Japan among other countries. You can also see more of BLOW across different online publications like Dog Milk, Dogster and This Dog’s Life (sometimes called Dogs vs Fans) as well as real publications globally. It is still such a thrill to hear from viewers around the world who continue to enjoy the series. And yet, in all of this time, I haven’t shared a this blog entry of my own two scruffies — Merrick and Matea — in front of the now-infamous antique fan.
Sadly, Matea and Merrick are no longer with me. As some of you already know, they were both lost in October 2016. Over a year later, I still feel their loss more deeply than I have felt the loss of any other dog or animal in my past, and I weep just looking at their photos.
My ever-sweet boy Merrick was the very first dog to step in front of the scruffy dog fan and was the inspiration behind this special BLOW series. Sadly, because I then focused on the other participants in the project, I really didn’t shoot big variety of Merrick with the fan.
And for those who don’t already know her, this is my amazing girl Matea … she was already stone deaf when we shot these images with the fan for the special pet photography series BLOW, but she was always willing to try new things and work with me. And she had just enough fringes for the blowing wind to play with.
I lost my steadfast girl of 14 years only eight days after losing Merrick, but I am so grateful to have her images as part of this special project.
And if you don’t want to miss a single scruffy dog blog entry, consider ‘subscribing’ for the notifications by email whenever a new blog entry has been posted. You’ll receive a simple email alerting you to each new blog entry — easy peasy … you’ll never miss another! Subscription signup can be done through the slide-out menu on the left … yup, right over there … or rather ‘left’ over there. You got it. See you soon!
What can I say about Bosco and Murfy — two of my favorite repeat scruffy dog clients. These two Brussels Griffon have had a couple of custom photography sessions with me already, and while they were here for a session in the natural light studio, I figured we’d give them a ‘go’ with the fan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this very popular pet photography project, I introduced the BLOW series in this very first blog entry, and it has become a big hit on sites like Bored Panda and across the globe in the UK, France, Estonia, and even Japan among other countries.I absolutely adore Bosco. In fact, I think Bosco is my spirit animal … grumpy little fart.
And Murfy is such a priceless, tolerant little girl.
Thank you, Bosco and Murfy, for being a part of this project!
And if you don’t want to miss a single blog entry and BLOW model, consider ‘subscribing’ for the notifications by email whenever a new blog entry has been posted. You’ll receive a simple email alerting you to each new blog entry — easy peasy … you’ll never miss another! Subscription signup can be done through the slide-out menu on the left … yup, right over there … or rather ‘left’ over there. You got it. See you soon!