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NOTE: the images in this feed have been downsized or removed for copyright reasons. To see them in their unmodified state, please view the original post by clicking here.

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.

Matea’s noseprint … Morley’s collar …

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.

The post Honoring those lost ~ Ontario pet photographer appeared first on scruffy dog photography | award-winning professional pet photographer serving Toronto and Ontario.

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NOTE: the images in this feed have been downsized or removed for copyright reasons. To see them in their unmodified state, please view the original post by clicking here.

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.

You can read more about Matlin on her scruffy dog bio page, and even more about her in her first blog entry.

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, but 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 … 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 Dog because 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? Do we believe any of this nonsense?

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 exercise, 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 that 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.

The post DNA for your dog, and why you shouldn’t bother ~ commercial pet photographer appeared first on scruffy dog photography | award-winning professional pet photographer serving Toronto and Ontario.

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Oh yes, you read that correctly: “complimentary puppy photo sessions” from scruffy dog … as in ‘no cost’ … as in ‘free’.   Yes, seriously!

Do you have a puppy or are planning on adding a new 4-legged family member under the age of 5 months?  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.

The post complimentary puppy photo sessions! ~ Ontario pet photographer appeared first on scruffy dog photography | award-winning professional pet photographer serving Toronto and Ontario.

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Meet Max … another entry in the very special Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series that pays tribute to those dogs whom we’ve loved in life and continue to love beyond.  These are the beloved creatures 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.

I will always remember Max for his incredible love for his humans and the love they had for him, his patience with his crazy sister, his calm, easygoing nature, the fact that he looked like an Ewok … and, of course, for those impossibly long lashes of his.

Max’s first session was back in 2010 with his older sister Lucy who was lost a couple of years after the session.  Max was only 4 yrs old when we forged out for their November session under spectacular skies. Max’s second session was when he was 7, shortly after little sister Sophie joined the family. Unfortunately Julie and Dru lost Max three years later after he was diagnosed with Cushings.  The greatest toll was on this amazing boy’s heart, and Julie and Dru had to make the difficult decision to let him go.

In their words:

“Max was something special. From the day we brought him home he was loving, funny, loyal and lazy I have never seen a dog get so excited to go for a walk only to want to turn right around to go home 4 houses in.

And he was our sweet, sweet boy who we miss every single day.  Noone can ever replace him – not even close. But, because he was such a great little man and such a joy to be around, we have been able to share our home with a new little man, Simon. Sophie was just too lost without Max not to get her a brother and in the end, it’s been good for Dru and I as well.

Both of our sessions were SO much fun – they are our family photos – and they capture Max and his personality perfectly. Both the loving, funny side and the one that rolled his eyes and huffed when he didn’t get his way.

For the first few days after we lost him having the photos was hard, but I have to say it’s so nice to look up and see him throughout our house and we know he’s still with us. The artwork and album continue to remind us both of how wonderful he was and what a pleasure it was to have him as part of our family, even if it was only for a short time. He made us both better people.”

I look forward to meeting Julie and Dru’s newest member, Simon, and creating photographic memories of him and Sophie as well.  And I know all too well that as much love as they will ultimately have for this new boy, as much as he will eventually fill their hearts, a part of their hearts and souls will always feel just a wee bit emptier without Max in their lives.

Thank you, Dru and Julie, for being such a long-standing part of the scruffy dog family, and for letting me play a small role in yours.

The post Max ~ DOGS WE’VE LOVED ~ Waterloo pet photographer appeared first on scruffy dog photography | award-winning professional pet photographer serving Toronto and Ontario.

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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 a little smile from my best boy ever.

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.

I hope you enjoyed the BLOW photo project.  You can see more blog entries of this fun and unique project right here.

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!

The post Merrick & Matea ~ BLOW project ~ Ontario commercial pet photographer appeared first on scruffy dog photography | award-winning professional pet photographer serving Toronto and Ontario.

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