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Smiles and wags at the end of the tale

All photos in this post are © Dog on Camera, used with permission.

As a dog photographer, I have plenty of pictures of my own dogs, as you might imagine, but very few of my dogs with me and my husband, John. Even with self timers and remote triggers, it’s not easy to get relaxed-looking natural shots with the tack-sharp focus that I crave.

So, what’s a dog photographer to do? Exactly what any other person should do when they want photos of their furry family: hire a dog photographer!!

This is precisely what I did recently when I realised how much I would regret not having family photos with Ginny when she eventually passes. She may have only been in our care for a handful of years, but she has had a huge impact on our lives and our hearts. There's no doubt that we will always carry with us the love for our bat-eared ginger tripawd.

Elderly three-legged dog with her family on a photo shoot in Barcelona, Spain.
Bat ears and three wobbly legs, but our Ginny still has oodles of character.

This right here is my raison d’être. To create memories that you can hold in your hands for years to come. To look back on the years of laughter and love that you shared with your precious dog. To capture and celebrate that unique bond that you have. To see again those little things that make your soul sing: the head tilt, the squiffy smile, the bonkers ears. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that, when you see that thing, you see your dog, not just a dog. Of course, all these things are stored in our memories, but to have something tangible to touch while we reminisce can make those memories so much more vivid. To lay our fingers on the face of our most precious ones, or to kiss that snoot one more time: nothing beats having that picture to hold in our hands.

I don’t recommend waiting until the very end of your dog’s life to capture these memories. Having photos from all stages, from puppyhood, through adolescence and on into maturity is important, so that we can see the progression of their developing bodies and personalities. And then, yes, a shoot with the grey muzzle and white beard, too. All of these stages are important to celebrate. As bittersweet as it is, it really is a true gift to be able to share our lives, sofas, and hearts with an elderly dog, and we can enjoy this stage as much as the others, for the tenderness and quiet times, for the extra care they may need, and for the knowledge that each moment is precious.

How to choose your photographer

Where I live, there aren’t many specialist pet photographers, and that’s very important for me. People often ask me if I can take photos of their baby, or wedding, or something else. Can I do that? Well, sure, I know how to use a camera, to set correct exposure and compose the shot. But every genre of photography has its own nuances. I don’t know babies, so I don’t have the experience needed to get their best expressions and poses. But a specialist dog photographer knows dogs, knows how to work with them to get the absolute best expressions and to make them look like them. It’s about understanding canine body language and having a repertoire of tricks to get them to look at the camera. And working with the people in the relationship to put them at ease and to stop worrying that their dog isn’t perfectly trained!

Elderly podenco mix dog looking up at the camera on a photo session in Barcelona.
It can be uncomfortable for a dog to have an unknown person looming over them, but a specialist dog photographer will take the time and know the signals to ensure your dog is comfortable.

I chose to work with Zuzanna from Dog on Camera to capture these moments with our Miss Juniper Berry (Ginny to her friends). I knew of her from an online community we are both a part of, I love her style and knew she would be able to capture the sort of image I had in mind: natural shots of us hanging out together in a park. Ginny isn’t able to walk far these days, or even sit or stand for more than a couple of minutes, plus she’s not particularly interested in noises or other people, so Zuzanna had her work cut out trying to capture engaging portraits. But, understanding how different dogs are, and how you can’t work to a set script when it comes to animals, meant that she just relaxed into her job, giving Ginny the space and time she needed to look her best.

White-faced happy dog being carried in a park in Spain.
Documenting even these more difficult parts of life with an elderly dog is so valuable for your memory box. Ginny may not be able to walk far these days, but she is happy to be carried place to place, as long as she still gets to go on adventures!

It was SO WEIRD being in front of the camera instead of behind it! I had to force myself to let Zuzanna be the photographer and guide us to the best spots. This was her domain, and her session to lead. Of course, we had talked in a pre-session consultation about what I was after, and at the start of the session, we revisited that with regards to how Ginny was doing, the light available, and anything else that came to mind. It’s necessary to have a plan in mind, but to have the flexibility to be able to deviate from it according to what happens on the day, and a good photographer is someone who is very experienced at that. I can’t say whether Zuzanna was nervous to be working with another dog photographer - I know I would have been a bit! - but she did a great job!

Elderly three-legged dog playing with her family in a park.
Ginny was a bit bemused by the new environment, so we took a few minutes to play our "BLAAAAAAAAH!" game with her (only she and I understand the rules, so don't ask), and Zuzanna caught some sweet candids of the interaction.

I wasn't sure whether I would find the session emotional or not, but as it turned out, that wasn't the case. Sure, we know that our time together has an expiry date, but that's not today or tomorrow, so we just enjoyed the experience and time together as a family - and without the more boisterous monsters getting in the middle of everything.

I’m delighted with the images I chose to purchase, and know I will cherish them for many, many years. Thanks to Zuzanna, I have the most precious of gifts: a collection of photos of my cherished, funny girl, to love, cry, and laugh over forever. When I'm old and in a nursing home, I will be lovingly showing these pictures to anyone who will listen, and telling the story of our quirky girl. It makes me appreciate all over again what a valuable service we offer, and how much it means to our clients.

A family portrait with an elderly dog on a photo shoot in Spain.
Living with a dog with a grey muzzle, and giving them the love they deserve in their dotage is a truly enriching experience. So much love for this lady.

Dog on Camera is based in Barcelona, Spain. You can find out more here.

Next week, normal service will be resumed, and I'll be back to entertaining you (I hope!) with my own photography on the topic of "walk the dog".


Back in the madhouse

After a break of a few weeks, the twins went back to agility practice this week. That break has done wonders for Willow's confidence with the teeter (seesaw), which has been a slow progression to date, getting her used to the movement and the noise it makes. A little latent learning from our time off, and she was flying over it without hesitation! What a clever, brave girl! Ginny is still doing as well as we can hope for. She had a slow day yesterday, but we ended it snuggled up on the sofa playing "bite your nose off", and you've never seen a bigger smile.


All around the blogosphere!

This week's topic in our blog circle is the "Rainbow Bridge", and your next stop is with Terri Jankelow. Learn more about what to expect at an end-of-life pet photography session with Toronto based Terri J Photography.

Once you've finished her blog, click the link at the bottom to continue on in the circle, until you find yourself back here, where you belong.

Until next time, take a moment to appreciate the stage of life your dog it at, because every stage is perfect, from the cute crocopup to the obnoxious adolescent and on to the mature and elderly. From the puddles on the floor, to the grey muzzle in your lap, every moment is a gift, and so I wish you the purest of joys that is the love of a dog.

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