"Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull
I have a confession. I am a pet photographer, and I don't have enough photos of my own dog. They say the cobbler's kids have no shoes, and I suppose the pet photographer's kids have no photos. You see, obviously I snap photos of them all the time - an Instagram here, a Facebook there, and every once in a while, a high resolution image with the full force of Haute Dog Pet Photography's arsenal of equipment. But the stark reality is those photos are sitting in my phone, on my computer, buried among clicks of what I ate for dinner and client's pets. I don't have enough deliberate, high quality photos of my dogs, and I don't have enough of them printed.
Last Friday I took advantage of the fantastic snow storm El Niño brought the area. I gathered up my gear and loaded my snow dogs into the Suburban (the fair-weather Mastiff and Danes stayed nice and warm at home) and off we trekked to Mt. Laguna, just an hour east of San Diego. From the minute we were within eyesight of the snow, Jake, my ordinarily quiet and reserved Bernese Mountain Dog, started bouncing in the car. Hannah did her little St. Bernard wiggle dance. And I had couldn't fight the smile taking over my face. I vow once a year to take my snow dogs to their "mothership," and that is one of my most favorite of the 365 days.
While the kids were bounding around in the pure white powder, I unloaded the armfuls of equipment I'd brought. We trudged a little ways in - camera, light stand, power source, and strobe in tow - and set up shop.
And boy was it worth it. I look at this image and I see my dogs' personalities frozen in time. Jake - devilishly handsome, and proud to be home in his winter wonderland. Hannah - always stoic, with a most stately composure. This is a moment I will treasure always. This is a moment that should not be filed away on the computer or posted on Facebook for a single day's worth of likes and comments.
We spent a few magical hours in that snow, and headed home completely content. The next day, I took Jake in for his annual exam, and the vet felt a slight abnormality in his abdomen. We decided to x-ray to get a better idea of what was going on. When the vet came out and asked if I wanted to come see the x-rays I knew something was wrong. Why did I need to see nothing? There should have been nothing on those x-rays. Nothing was wrong with my heart dog. But the x-rays confirmed a small area of concern on Jake's spleen. The radiologist's report came back inconclusive. I was preparing to drain my savings accounts, and without an x-ray of my own, I could tell you my stomach was flipping upside down. I had gone from one of my happiest places to my own personal hell.
Finally on Wednesday, Jake went in for an ultrasound. Results revealed that his spleen is a little larger than normal (which is of concern for his breed, and will be monitored closely), but all of his organs are clean and firing on all cylinders. A huge thanks to B Street Vet for their incredible care and support through this nerve wracking week. It was the longest four days I could imagine waiting for that ultrasound. And the whole time I kept thinking - I am so glad I took him to the snow. I am so glad I froze that perfectly Jake face forever on film. I am so glad I printed that picture and framed it on my desk instead of just filing it away in some "Snow Day 2016" folder. I've also ordered a large acrylic print that will really show off the vibrant sky and pearlescent snow - and I know every time I walk by it I will smile and be grateful for that day.
The course of the past week reaffirmed the very vision I have for Haute Dog. Every pet parent should have that perfect piece of artwork that somehow encapsulates their dog's unique being in a single frame. A custom designed, couture photograph designed specifically around your pet and his story. An image momentous enough it begs to be displayed on a wall to elicit smile after smile. For Jake, his soul is at home in the snow. And while I will never have enough photos to make him live forever, the ones I do take will make our favorite memories more tangible. Stay tuned, you will surely be seeing more of Jake and my pack here.
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For more pet photography, head over to New Zealand to read about Tara Sutherland's vision.