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Dog, Photo Session, Travel

I’ve traveled the world to see blue ice up close.  In Iceland I’ve kayaked between icebergs in a glacial lagoon and watched the blue icebergs float by through the rain at the Jökulsárlón lagoon in Iceland.  In New Zealand we took a tour on a zodiac boat through the glacial lagoon near Mount Cook.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get too close, since icebergs can be so unpredictable.


So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that blue ice occasionally appears along the shores of the Great Lakes.  Yep, right here in Michigan!  It doesn’t happen all the time, the last time was in 2018.  And since this was the first time I experienced the blue ice I can’t tell you if it’s always this amazing.  But I can tell you that it exceeded any of my expectations. 


And the bonus of having the blue ice in Michigan?  We could take our dogs, which means a dog photoshoot on the blue ice!!!


So rather than keep trying to explain what the blue ice was like, take a look for yourself.  Bernie and Violet thoroughly enjoyed their photoshoots.  I went back three times over two days since we were only an hour and a half away at the time.  

An english shepherd dog standing on blocks of blue iceA black newfoundland dog walking on blue iceAn English shepherd posing on the blue ice of Mackinaw City

I would have scheduled clients and gone back more except that the weather has alternated between 8” of snow (can’t see the blue ice at all) or temperatures in the high 30’s and open water near the blue ice since then.  As of late February it’s not safe to go on the ice anymore.  




FAQ:


Why does the ice look blue?

Blue ice occurs when there are few air bubbles, affecting how the light is reflected back.


Where is the blue ice in Michigan?

Along the lakeshore of Mackinaw City, at the south end of the Mackinac Bridge.

A black newfoundland dog poses on the blue ice near the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan

Is there still blue ice in Mackinaw City?
 
You may still be able to see it from the shoreline, but as of the end of February I don’t believe it’s safe to walk out to the blue ice.  A lot of people will say that it’s never safe to walk out to the blue ice.  I felt comfortable the two days I went, but the next day it had warmed up too much and the risk of open water is much higher.  At this point I wouldn’t risk it.  But if there is a week where the temperature doesn’t get above freezing I would reevaluate (if the blue ice is still there at all by then).  Update:  as of early March some of the blue ice has shifted over to Mackinac Island and there is a lot of open water around the ice so I definitely would not risk going to it.


Want better photos of your own pets?  Join the free Facebook group, Pet Photography Tips for pet parents, and learn how to not only get better images of your pets, but how to make it more fun for them, too.  Pet Photo Bingo starts at the end of March, you won’t want to miss out on the fun (and prizes)!  Sign up to get your bingo card by clicking here.

A shepherd dog lies down on the blue ice near Mackinaw City

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Dog, Photography

It’s that time of year again, a review of some the most “award-worthy” images from last year.  And I think we can all agree that last year was quite the doozy.  All the more reason for some photos to make you smile, right?  

As you might have guessed, these awards are created for images that stood out to me for various reasons, though they may not be the traditional portraits.  But I’m not overly traditional so that’s okay 🙂  Regardless, make sure you read through to the bottom of this post where I announce the 2020 Pet of the Year contest – that’s where you get to vote (and possibly win a prize).

So let’s jump right in to the awards with “The Funniest Silhouette” because I think this one sums up how most people felt about 2020:


You know I like to swear and I love to laugh so I had several different award names for this image but I’ll keep it clean with “funniest silhouette”.  


Next up is the award for “Best Shake”:


Taken just outside Queenstown, New Zealand, last January…before the pandemic restricted everyone’s travels.  It was a dream come true to photograph pups in the glorious New Zealand countryside.  I think Layla enjoyed it, too :). Now to get the Taylor Swift sound out of my head….on to the next award.


The 2020 “Best Peek-a-boo”:


Buddy is just a tiny bit, well actually, completely 100% ball-obsessed.    You know the kind.  So I thought it was appropriate to include an unusual perspective.  Don’t worry, of course I threw the ball for him immediately after.  And another 50 times after that 🙂


Fun fact – Spinone Italianos are so cool they can defy gravity.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s proof with 2020’s “Best Levitation”


A glorious sunny morning capturing the antics of these two mud puppies = heaven.  The amount of mud on my clothes and camera bag = insane.  This is why my camera bag always has lens wipes!  But totally worth it to see these guys in their element.

And the reason why I have insurance on all my gear….the 2020 “Most Exuberant” award goes to Angel:


Actually Angel is so light on her feet that she didn’t actually run into me.  But I love her enthusiasm!  I consider myself more exuberant than graceful so I feel like Angel and I are a good pair.

Sticking with the action theme – here’s the “Best Pounce” of 2020:


Part cat, part fox?  Definitely 100% adorable.  Alaskan Klee Kai are generally beautiful dogs, but I think Cash has got that extra spark.  

Is that Taylor Swift song still stuck in your head?  Well good, because you’ll need it for this next award, “Best interpretive dance”:


Do you miss going out and dancing?  I have the solution!  Adopt Lizzy and you have a dance party in your own home!  Lizzy is available for adoption through Waggin’ Tails Dog Rescue and I can vouch for what an absolute sweetheart she is!  This dance is easy to interpret, it means adopt me!!  Learn more about Lizzy here.  

From the dance floor to the runway, these ladies make a striking team.  Here is the “Best Runway”:


I was almost going to call this best “cat walk” but my cats were not impressed so I left it as best runway.  Make way for this duo!


Speaking of models….this is definitely 2020’s “Best Accessories”:


Vinnie and Sarah nailed the buffalo plaid look, don’t you agree?  Totally adorable, and this pair are as sweet as they seem.

Cuteness overload with the 2020 “Best boop”:


I don’t think this one needs any explanation.  Except that I love how humans are usually doing the “boop” and in this case Leo is giving his best “boop” to his mom.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am also obsessed with flowers and gardening.  In fact I’ve signed up for the Master Gardener program this spring.  Margaux also enjoys flowers, I give you the 2020 Best Stop and Smell the Flowers:


I think we could all learn something from Margaux! 

For the last two awards I have two ties!  I know, but since I get to make the rules I decided that was okay!  It was hard enough to narrow it down to these two, but I give you “Best Sugar Face”:






I don’t know how I missed hearing the term “sugar face” before this year, but now it’s one of my favorite phrases.  Senior dogs have a special place in my heart.  I have two senior dogs of my own and at this point every day is a gift.  I love their soulful expression and how dignified their white faces make them look.  So congrats to Sanford and Murphy.  


Last, one of my favorite awards……the 2020 “Derpy Dog”(s)!  Again, I just couldn’t choose between two contenders so you get double derp this year!



Please understand that I say derpy dog from the heart.  As a Newfoundland (and former St. Bernard) dog mom I LOVE the derpy dogs.  And big dogs tend to offer more derp, even pound for pound.  I’d say that I’m not laughing at them but we all know that’s not true, I just can’t help it.  Enjoy the derp 🙂

I hope you’ve been entertained with the 2020 Pawdacious awards, but now I need your help!  It’s time to crown the Pet of the Year for 2020 and you get to vote. 


Not only that, but by voting you’ll be entered to win your own pet portrait session and be up for the 2021 Pet of the Year contest!  The winner also gets a cool prize – $700 to spend on new artwork from their previous session or a brand new photoshoot.  Giddy up!!

So vote for your favorite entry here and spread the word!  Click here to vote



Shelter in Home 
 
A hard-copy fundraising coffee table style book featuring photos and stories of rescue pets during the pandemic. 
 
Available for pre-sale now!  Order a copy for yourself….and they make great gifts for those animal lovers in your life.
 
New!  A memorial section has been added for the beloved pets that are no longer with us.   Pay tribute to them with a photo and a story in the book.  Also available as a memorial & book combination.

Click here to buy now!



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Dog, Photography, Uncategorized

Does anyone else see a tree or shrub in bloom while driving around and think “a dog would look so good in those flowers I want to take photos there”?  No?  Just me then.  Well, I do this all the time.  Sometimes I turn around and see if the tree is on public property and if it would be possible to get a dog there safely.  I’m obsessed with cute dogs in flowers photos!

A black and white newfoundland dog in front of white crabapple flowers

Spring is my second favorite season behind the fall.  But the spring flowers tend to fade more quickly than fall leaves drop so I feel like the season is so fleeting.  As an avid gardener I’ve tried to fill my yard with plants that will bloom in waves so I always have something to photograph.

A black newfoundland puppy sitting in purple flowers

I know what you’re thinking, “but Jennifer, I have a suburban backyard and the garden isn’t perfect”.  Don’t worry, that will still work and in the checklist below I’ll give you lots of tips!   You just need to see the possibilities with whatever is on hand.  Even a small garden can offer beautiful backdrops.

Black lab dog in front of yellow forsythia flowers in spring

Take this image above, for instance.  This was on a scouting adventure at a local tree farm (Sloan Tree Farm, Howell, MI).  The owner and I have talked about having dog portrait sessions there (it’s an option if you’re interested).  They have 40 acres through the woods and with all of the nursery plants there is always something of interest.  I spotted this yellow forsythia shrub and knew I wanted to use it as a backdrop.

A pet photographer taking pictures of a black lab

My friend was kind enough to take a photo of me working so you can see a bit of the set up.  As you can see, the glowing forsythia bush was right next to a pile of dirt/mulch. And on the other side was a hole where another forsythia bush had been (sold the day before).  So I had one good-sized shrub to work with and it was all we needed.

A small yorkie dog wearing a harness in front of green garden foliage in Troy, Michigan

Here are a few tips if you have a beautiful shrub, tree, or plant in your yard and you want to use it to get cute dogs in flowers photos.  

  1. Clean around it if you can and remove any distractions.
  2. Shrubs/trees with lower branches work best.
  3. Have a helper.
  4. Make sure your dog is ready for photos – slightly tired and hungry for treats.
  5. Place your dog a few feet away from the shrub at first and take some photos.  Zoom in if you can.  This will compress the background and give you a bit of blur.
  6. Get your dog to sit closer to or even within the branches of the shrub and take some additional images. Blurred flowers in front of your dog can look really cool.
  7. Get down low, especially if you want to feature the flowers of a tree that are higher up.
  8. Try from a few different angles. One step to the right and our cars in the driveway were too visible and ruined the image below.
  9. If the background is way too busy you may be able to hold up or clamp a black sheet in the background to hide the distractions.
  10. As always, make this fun for your pet.  Keep it short and filled with yummy treats.  

You may need to try over a few days to get exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Just be patient and have lots of treats on hand!

A tri-colored shepherd dog in front of pink apple blossoms in spring

Want to print these tips out and try them?  Download them here and then post your results in the Pawdacious Pet Parents of Michigan Facebook group (free).

If you want more tips like these to help you create drool-worthy  images of your pets (no matter what kind of camera you have) sign up for the free 5 day to better photos of your pets challenge.   Sign up here to be notified when the challenge starts on July 13th.

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Dog, Park, Photo Session, What to expect

To leash or not to leash, that is the question.  Actually, it’s not really a question in my mind. It’s a pretty simple answer…..yes!    I have a lot of experience with dogs on leash photography, as you can see from the examples below.

A dachshund dog on the beach of Lake Michigan with a leash
A happy dachshund on the beach of Old Mission Lighthouse park in Traverse City

One of the concerns that many people have before booking a pet portrait session is that their dog needs to stay on a leash at all times.  They are afraid that all the images will have the leash in them or that they can’t get the type of images that they see on pet photography websites.

A golden doodle sitting on the path in Maybury State Park in winter
A beautiful doodle dog sitting on the path in a snowy forest

I have good news for you.  Your dog absolutely does not need to be off leash to get amazing images.  In fact, I would prefer that your pup stays on a leash unless we are in a fenced-in area.  

A sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel looks at the camera while posing on a stony landscape
A red and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy sitting on a stony landscape

I know some people are very comfortable with their dogs being off leash.  But some other considerations are other dogs or wildlife that may be in the area, even well-trained dogs are not perfect, and the fact that it is a state law to have your dog on leash.  So you can actually get a ticket/fine for not having your dog on leash.   

A black newfie puppy covered in sand on the beach with a red leash
A black newfoundland puppy covered in sand on the beach

My preference is always better safe than sorry, but especially when it comes to our pets.

Here’s how it works.  I can give you some simple instructions on how to hold the leash to minimize its appearance in an image.  I even have some special leashes that we can use. Then I do some photoshop magic to remove the leash in my editing process.  Viola, safe dog and happy pet parents 🙂

A golden doodle on leash on the beach at Fisherman's State Park in Michigan
A golden doodle on a stony beach along Lake Michigan with it's mouth open in summer

So, please don’t let the fact that your dog needs to be on a leash prevent you from having gorgeous images of you and your pet.  As part of our pre-session call we will discuss locations and behaviors so that we get exactly what you want without any risk.

Book your no-obligation call today by answering a few questions here.

An adorable Klee Kai dog on a snowy bridge in wearing a leash
A Klee Kai dog on the bridge in Lake St. Clair metropark in winter

As always, feel free to contact me at mail@PawdaciousPortraits.com if you have any questions regarding a pet portrait session.

So to conclude, yes, your dog can be on a leash during our pet photoshoot and you’ll still get gorgeous images to display in your home for years. 

A dachshund dog on a leash splashes through shallow water
A dachshund dog splashed through the shallow water of a lake
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Dog, Events, What to expect

What to expect at the dog-friendly Tigers baseball games

Bark at the Park is a series of Tigers baseball games that allow dogs. This was the first year that I attended, although they’ve done this for a few years now. And to be honest, it was my first Tigers game ever.  Now I can’t imagine watching a game any other way! And the best part is that it supports the Michigan Humane Society. So you enjoy a game with your bestie and help other dogs as well. Bark at the Park is sponsored by Pet Supplies Plus.

I had a lot of questions about the event so I thought I’d share our experiences to help you decide if this is the right event for your pup, what vaccines are required, and how to get the most out of your evening.

A man and a newfie puppy posing under the Comerica Park sign and Tiger statue before Bark at the Park

Tickets

Only 4 games this year are eligible for the Bark at the Park tickets – the last two games still have seats available at the time of publication.  Those games are Monday, Sept 16, against the Baltimore Orioles and Tuesday, Sept 24, against the Minnesota Twins.

Before you can purchase tickets you must agree to a liability waiver.  This includes the rights for your images to be taken and used by Detroit Tigers, Inc, and you are assuring them that your dog is well behaved, up to date on annual shots, and will be kept on a leash during the entire event.

A tri-colored Corgi dog wearing a custom Tigers baseball helmet and bandana

After agreeing to the waiver (you’ll also be asked to print it out, sign it, and bring it with you to the game) you can access the tickets.  Dog access is limited to the mezzanine seats. You won’t have the ability to choose your seats but at the last game people shuffled around a bit as there were some empty areas in the mezzanine.  

You must buy a separate ticket for your dog.  One dog per 18+ person is allowed. Even though we have two dogs that would love to go we only bring one so that we can have more control, and honestly, so I can go take photos of all the dogs at the event.

A small dog wearing a replica Tigers batting cap and sunglasses

Each ticket costs $14-$19 (plus any handling fees, ours had a $3.50 per ticket fee with electronic delivery).  Right now the MN Twins tickets cost $14 and the Baltimore Orioles tickets are $19. I think it costs less the earlier you buy.

Tickets are delivered electronically, you must download the MLB Ballpark app to access them (unless you’ve requested to pick up at will call which is also an option).  Download the app and make sure your ticket account is linked (via the email you used when purchasing the tickets) before you go to the game. It took me a few minutes to get it all set up and you don’t want to try doing this while in line with a lot of people waiting behind you!  If you run into any issues with the app you can call 313-471-2200.

A senior black lab wearing a Tiger's baseball themed tutu dress and hair bow

All tickets must be purchased in advance, there are no tickets available at the gates.  And these events do sell out pretty quickly so if you want to go, get your tickets now!

Link to buy tickets  

A Bernese mountain dog wearing a Tigers baseball bandana at Comerica Park

Dog Requirements

To attend a Bark at the Park event your dog must have a valid rabies vaccination and you will need to show proof before you can enter the game.  I found it a little confusing as some of the original communication from the event mentioned several other vaccination requirements but I think they’ve cleared it up now and I can confirm that it is only the rabies vaccination that they require.

A black newfie puppy in the seats at Comerica Park, Detroit

We wanted to take our puppy to the first game but we wanted to wait as long as possible to give her the rabies vaccination.  We ended up getting the vaccination the morning of the game and were able to enter the park with no problems but I would recommend getting the vaccination at least a few days in advance. Especially since any vaccination can make your dog tired or have a rare reaction that you wouldn’t want to discover while at a baseball game.

All dogs must be on a leash and no retractable leashes are allowed. Again, you cannot use a retractable leash within the ballpark. Amen!

Dogs do not have to be spayed or neutured but please use common sense and do not bring a dog that could be going into heat.  The future Bark in the Park games depend on keeping everyone safe.

A happy Leonberger dog sporting a Tigers bandana at Bark at the Park

Every dog must be wearing a collar with an identification tag with a name and contact information.  Again, pretty common sense and side note – your dog should also be microchipped. As a volunteer with a dog rescue group we have sometimes gotten a dog home before the owner knew it was missing because the dog was chipped.  It’s a very inexpensive insurance policy.

A smiling cream lab wearing a Detroit Tigers bandana while at Comerica Park

What can/can’t you bring to the game?

Backpacks and large bags are not allowed.  Your bag must be smaller than 16” x 16” x 8”.  You can view the standard prohibited/allowed items on the Tigers website, here:  https://www.mlb.com/tigers/ballpark/information/security


Remember – no retractable leashes!

A happy goldendoodle wearing a Detroit Tigers jersey at Comerica Park

What should you bring to the game?

Bring doggie bags with you.  There is an outdoor grass carpet area for the dogs to relieve themselves on but not all dogs will like that so please make sure that your dog has been walked/had a chance to go to the bathroom before the game.

English bulldog enjoying pets from it's owner in the stadium sets at the Tigers baseball game

There were plenty of dog water dishes set out around the park. If you don’t want your dog to drink from them bring your own. You are allowed to bring in factory sealed bottles of water (the clear kind like you buy at a grocery store).

I brought a shoulder bag with a blanket (for me, it was a May game), slober towel (we have a newfoundland), an unopened bottle of water, a collapsible dog water bowl, doggie bags, and some dog treats.  And of course I brought my camera!!!!! Check the lens restrictions at the link above.

Parking

Want to arrange your parking before the game? Follow this link to see locations and pricing of available parking. Or use the ParkWhiz website, it appears that both have the same pricing.

How to enter the park

The gates open at 5:30pm.  All dogs must enter via Gate B.  This is the southwest entrance at the corner of Witherell Street and E Adams Ave.  The dog check in area closes at 8pm, but you’ll want to get there much earlier to get the most out of your adventure.

Tigers fans, both dog and human, are lined up waiting to enter Comerica Stadium for Bark at the Park

There is a four step process to enter the park. I recommend that if you have at least two people in your group have one person wait in the security line while the other person checks off the other steps.  

The line of people and dogs waiting to enter Tigers Stadium for Bark at the Park

Check in at a table with your name and hand over your printed and signed waiver.  

Take your vet records with proof of valid rabies vaccination to the table where the vets are located.  You do not need the actual rabies vaccine certificate, just proof from the vet that it has been done on their records.  They will check your name off the list. You will receive a slip of paper once you’ve completed these two steps and you will need this paper to complete step 3.

Join your group in the security line, make friends as you wait, and then hand over your paper as you approach the metal detectors.  You’ll need to open your bags and go through the detectors.

Open the MLB Ballpark app on your phone so they can scan your tickets.  Paper/printed out tickets are not accepted unless you picked them up from will call.

A young golden retriever dog at Comerica Park

And you’re in!!!  The whole process was very smooth and easy.

At the game

Once you’re in you’ll go up the two flights of stairs to the Mezzanine area.  This is where all the action is.

The Fox News Crew filming at Bark at the Park at Comerica Park.

Immediately at the top of the stairs you’ll go down the somewhat narrow walkway.  This area can get a little crazy at the beginning of the event so if it’s a bit overwhelming for your dog keep walking through until the space opens up.  The Tigers mascot will be there so you can get some photos.

On your left will be a one-way area to check out the vendor booths and official photography station.  There are several pet food companies handing out samples and a photo station with a Tigers/Michigan Humane Society backdrop. The line was pretty long at the beginning of the game so you can either wait and watch everyone walk by or come back later.

A small dog wearing a bowtie enters Comerica Park for Bark at the Park baseball game


Tip – there is a second group area across from the food court where you can also get the food samples and a dog play area.  This is where the outdoor “bathroom” carpet is located, along with some dog pools if your dog needs to cool off.

Two small dogs greeting each other over the stadium seats at Bark at the Park

Once you’ve taken in all the festivities you can grab your food and find your seat.  Or you can hang out in the dog areas and meet all kinds of dogs and admire their outfits.

A Newfoundland dog sits on it's owners lap in the seat of Comerica Park, Detroit, during a dog-friendly baseball game

 

Conclusion

Bark at the Park Tiger’s games can be fun for your whole family, including your favorite family member – your dog!

A french bulldog and a hound sniff noses over a row of seats at Comerica Park, Detroit

Have you been to any of the Bark at the Park Tiger’s games?  What did you think? And let me know if I’ve missed anything.  And don’t forget to show some love to the sponsor of Bark at the Park, Pet Supplies Plus.

An English bulldog licks a man in the stadium seats at Comerica Park, Detroit

Keep an eye out for me if you’ll be attending the next games and I’ll take some photos of your dogs at the event.

A woman pets a dog wearing a Detroit Tigers jersey at a Bark at the Park baseball game

Sign up for Pawdacious Portraits updates, including fun events for you and your dogs like Bark at the Park.

A black Newfoundland puppy dog sits in an empty row of seats at Comerica Park


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Dog, Park

Welcome to mud season… Mother Nature’s April Fools joke

For anyone living in Michigan, or the upper Midwest in general, the beginning of spring is an exciting time.  The snow is retreating, the temperature is getting to tolerable levels, and both people and dogs are coming out of hibernation.  

We’re excited to see the sun again and spend time outside.  And then Mother Nature says, April Fools! The joke is on us….because the melting snow and warmer temps means mud season!  

As a dog mom to four dogs, I can honestly say that mud season is my least favorite season.  And as a pet photographer, I can honestly say that most people agree with me and don’t want to have their pet portrait sessions done in early spring.  Besides the mud it just really isn’t a visually appealing season until the spring flowers start to bloom and the grass greens up.

But what if you don’t have the luxury of waiting until summer?  If you have a senior dog and you’re worried that you don’t have much more time?  Or the flip side, you have a new puppy and want to capture that short window of pudgy puppy belly?  Maybe you just have spring fever and can’t wait to get out and get some photos of your dog?

My three favorite locations for early spring dog photos in the Novi/Northville area:

Maybury State Park, Northville:

I love the wide paved paths of Maybury State Park!  You can keep your pup mud free and still get some beautiful images.  At this time of year cloud cover is usually still pretty heavy, which is actually great for forested areas. It keeps the lighting even without the dappled light that can be so distracting in photos.  A bonus are the big fallen trees along the paths, a perfect perch for a dog that likes to explore a bit. You do need to have the recreation passport but it’s worth it.

Some images shot at Maybury park in late March:

A tri colored English shepherd sits on a forest path
An alert English shepherd dog laying in the dead grass at Maybury State Park, Michigan

Pavilion Shore Park, Novi:

My friend Adrienne introduced me to Pavilion Shore park. I was actually a little worried when I first pulled up to the parking lot.  I like a good challenge but this flat, open area seemed like it might be difficult to find a variety of backgrounds. But once I walked around a bit I realized how fantastic the park is in early spring.  The stone boulders and piers overlooking Walled Lake create so many options to get good photos without dealing with the mud or dead grass. I’m sure it’s a great spot in late spring and summer as well, but so far it’s my favorite spring photography spot.

Some images from Pavilion Shore Park on Walled Lake:

The boulder wall at Pavilion Shore Park near Lakeshore Park in Novi makes a great place for this small cream dog to play
A little cream dog sits in front of stone columns in Lakeshore Park in Novi, Michigan, licking his lips and waiting for the next treat!

Downtown Northville:

There are so many cute storefronts in downtown Northville that you’ll be sure to find some great backgrounds.  Be sure to pop into Celebrity Pets Co on Main Street to get a treat or a new toy while you’re out. And a bonus is stopping at Browndog Barlor. Get a dog-friendly ice cream sundae, complete with dog biscuit on top.  Talk about a good photo opp! P.S. They have artisan ice cream, sometimes with alcohol, for humans. Win win.

Black newfoundland puppy in front of Northville, Michigan, downtown store fronts

So those are my 3 favorite locations to get some great photos of dogs in early spring.  Do you have any good spots that you want to share?

Special April shout out to our friends at Furry Kids Pet Photography:

Jill Piper of Furry Kids Pet Photography is a pet-loving photographer located in Minot, Maine, USA. Check out her post, “The Best of Both Worlds? The Cat/Dog Hybrid” as you follow the next link in this blog chain. http://furrykidspetphotography.com/…/best-of-both…

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Dog, Photo Session, Travel

Impromptu dog photoshoot on the highest peak in Germany

I’m standing on the observation deck of the Zugsptize, over 9,700 feet up in Germany, looking out over the snow covered peaks.  It took a nerve-wracking ride on the record breaking Seilbahn Zugspitze cable car (currently closed as of 2018 due to a maintenance accident, yikes!) to get here, but the views are worth it.  You can see the alps across three countries from this vantage point, or you can walk over to the Austrian platform to check out the view from that perspective. No matter country you choose to stand in, you will not be disappointed.  If you’re crazy enough you can even climb the last little bit to the summit (I am not that crazy). And as always, there is a restaurant (best pretzels of our trip and I tasted many just to be sure) with the prerequisite beer while you’re enjoying those views.

I gaze around at the scenery in all directions and suddenly catch my breath.  I turn to my husband and whisper, “Oh my god!” He twists around toward where I am staring, trying to see what has me so excited.  “There’s a dog up here”, I say with glee. He sees the dog, then looks back at me. He grabs his backpack, pulls out his book, and says, “I’ll go get a beer and read, have fun”.  This is one of the many reasons why I love him, he just gets me. No matter where I go, I’ll always be a dog photographer first!

An Australian Shepherd looking in the distance on top of Zugspitze in Germany

I approach the woman with the dog, a gorgeous Australian Shepherd, and hope that she speaks english.  She does and only looks somewhat confused when I explain that I’m a professional pet photographer and would she like me to take some images of her dog. But she agrees.  I lead them over to the best spot on the observation deck near the stairs. It’s the only part where there isn’t any fencing to obstruct the view of the mountains in the background and I start posing her dog, Danny. He’s very well trained, which is not normal in most of my experience (is it me or are dogs in Europe generally better trained?).  People are walking up and down the stairs and I’m working the background to make them as unobtrusive as possible but it’s a busy day on Zugspitze. Luckily I have my dog squeaker in my camera bag (always), so I’m able to keep Danny’s attention despite all of the distractions.

Australian Shepherd on platform on top of Zugspitze mountain in Germany

Pretty soon I am laying on my stomach to get the shot, and other tourists are taking photos of me taking photos of the dog.  Another tourist wants his photo with the pup. I hardly notice them or the puddles of melted snow that I’m laying in. I’m working fast, the platform is filling up with more people and I don’t want to disrupt this woman’s whole day, but I am in heaven.  Seriously, I’m in a gorgeous location halfway around the world from Michigan, taking photos of a dog. It doesn’t get much better than this. I exchange email addresses with Anne and promise to send her gallery when I get back from our trip.

Eventually I join my husband for a beer and pretzel in front of the view.  But now he’s into it, pointing out other dogs and encouraging me to take more photos.  What was supposed to be an hour long adventure to see the tallest point in Germany has turned into half a day but we’re both having a fabulous time.  

A beautiful husky dog with the alps of Germany and Austria in the background

We were having so much fun that after our descent back down to Eibsee we decide to walk around the lake one more time.  I had met some huskies along the edge of the alpine lake on our hike the day before and had managed to grab a few papparazzi images of them. And we ran into them on top of Zugspitze, too, it’s such a small world!  I hoped to see more dogs in the same location and I was not disappointed. We were entertained by a happy little Jack Russell terrier named Henry (you might recognize him from my top 2018 derpy dog moments). Eventually though, we had to move on.

A happy husky dog at the edge of Lake Eibsee in Germany
Husky dog almost camouflaged at the edge of an alpine lake in Germany

Not long after I sent Danny’s images to Anne I learn that he tragically passed away in an accident.  I’m incredibly sorry for her loss, I know all too well how difficult that is. But I’m so glad that I approached a woman halfway around the world about an impromptu dog photo shoot on top of the tallest mountain in Germany.  At least she has the images of her boy, on top of the mountain in the sunshine. We’ll both have those happy memories.

A small Jack Russell terrier catching a tennis ball next to Lake Eibsee in Germany

I hope you enjoyed the images from our trip to Germany.  It was a fun challenge to make the best possible results within a limited time frame in a new area, sometimes with a language barrier.  Imagine the kind of images I could take of your pet, with more time and your input for pre-planning. While I am based in southeastern Michigan I do love to travel. So don’t let location stop you from setting up a portrait session for your pet.  Destination weddings are a thing, why not destination pet portraits? Because pets are family, too!

A Jack Russell terrier on the shore of Lake Eibsee in Germany
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Dog, Photography

My favorite outtakes and derpy dogs

Over the course of the year I took a lot of photographs of pets.  Expressions can change in an instant – from facial expressions to body language (if you’ve got a dog with big ears you know exactly what I mean!) so I take a ton of images to make sure that I get those perfect moments that you want framed and hanging above your fireplace.  And sometimes I get pure gold in the form of funny shots. These aren’t the images that will be blown up on a huge canvas print. That would be too embarrassing for our pets, otherwise I would totally do it. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy them! I don’t always show these kinds of images to my clients, but these made me laugh and I thought you might appreciate them, too.  We’re all friends here, right? So for your viewing pleasure here are my 2018 pet portrait outtakes, aka the derpy dog awards….

Craziest running face:

Newfie parents everywhere will appreciate this face.  I’ve never seen a Newfoundland that loves to run so much, to my delight.  There were several images to choose from and since I couldn’t narrow it down myself I put it to a poll on my Instagram page (thanks to everyone who voted!) and this was the clear “winner”:

A black and white newfoundland dog running through the snow with a crazy look on his face

Best bad hair day:

This award goes to a little cutie called Mello.  Freshly groomed, her hair was no match for the wind.  Thank goodness for photoshop and luckily Mello looks good no matter what!

A small cream dog having a bad hair day

Best pout:

How can anyone resist this face?  Nestled between his parents, Piper did his best to convince me that he has a rough life.  I know better, but I’ll give him full marks and appreciate his efforts and flair for drama!  

Small mixed breed looks sad while sitting between it's parents

Best kangaroo impression:

Earl loves his tennis balls so much that he actually falls asleep with them in his mouth.  But the action shots are where the derpy moments are at the highest. Something about this one just makes me think of a kangaroo.  Do you see it?

Dog leaping into the air to catch a tennis ball

Best Future meme:

Someone help me caption this!  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.  Jax was pretty excited to see that he received a new squeaky toy for his modeling efforts, or horrified to learn that he does not also get his brother’s new toy.  Either way, this one cracks me up!

A boston terrier dog with a funny surprised look on his face

Best shake it off:

Usually my dogs wait until they’re standing right next to me to shake off all the water, but this guy was busy chasing his tennis ball in a gorgeous alpine lake in Germany.  It’s always a challenge to keep the dog’s eye in focus while they’re twisting around but when it works you can get some great results.

A small terrier mix dog shakes off water next to a lake

Best looks fake but is totally real:

Nothing to see here folks, just a T Rex taking it’s Newfoundland dog for a walk around Michigan.  No photoshop magic applied, this actually happened.

A newfoundland dog being walked by a TRex dinosaur in a neighborhood

Most regal slurp:

Little P was a perfect model all day (read about our dog portrait session in Italy here), but I managed to snap right when he was licking his lips from getting a treat.  My models are well paid. I think I also make that face when I’m tasting a delicious red wine, especially if I’m in Italy.

A brown dachshund dog licking his lips while seated on a stone staircase in Italy

Best “Phoebe” moment:

Before our photoshoot Athena’s mom told me that Athena most resembles Phoebe from the TV show, Friends.  Exuberant, sweet as can be, but a bit klutzy (don’t worry Athena, I can totally relate!). Athena lived up to her character assessment with a slight slip on the couch, which she immediately played off, cool as can be….but I caught it on film….well video.  And turned it into my first gif. You can see more poised images from her portrait session here.

A gif loop of a happy grey pitbull slipping on the back of the couch

Drumroll please…..the title of Derpiest Dog of 2018 goes to…….

Klark!!  With a name like Klark you know this is going to be good.  Klark is a darling doberman who more than slightly resembles Dobby from Harry Potter.  Klark wins the official title for both dog portrait image and action shot video. I think you’ll understand why Klark takes the prize when you view these masterpieces.

Derpiest Dog of 2018 Image: What now Klark

A goofy doberman dog surrounded by yellow coneflowers

Derpiest Dog of 2018 Video:  The ultimate doggy paddle

That sums it up!

I hope you enjoyed my review of my favorite cutting room floor images, I’m looking forward to creating more this year.  

Don’t forget to give me some caption ideas for Jax’s surprised look.  

And if you’re a pet parent join the pack and get a monthly newsletter filled with photo tips and upcoming pet related activities in southeastern Michigan. As a vegetarian I can guarantee no Spam!

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Dog, Photo Session, Rescued
I have a confession to make and it might surprise you. While I adore puppies I think that they’re cute for a reason, otherwise people would never put up with the puppy stage. I’m also a bit selfish – I like my sleep and given all my activities and obligations I just don’t have the time to invest in raising a puppy properly. This is an ongoing friction point in my marriage as my husband dreams of getting a Bernese Mountain dog or Newfoundland puppy in the future and I am happy to rescue a mature dog that needs a good home. In fact I like to tell the story of the time my husband mentioned getting a new puppy while we still had our newf Sadie, so that she could train the new puppy. My response was that it isn’t Sadie’s job to train a puppy, it would be his job. And at that time Sadie was slowing down, I felt that she had earned the right to enjoy her senior years without a puppy driving her crazy. Not five minutes later my husband also joked that he was getting older, almost 50 and was practically dead (yes, we both have a quirky sense of humor). I quickly shot back that “maybe I should get a hot young boyfriend now, so you can train him for me”. We both laughed and so far we don’t have a puppy (or boyfriend just to be clear!).


A senior golden retriever lays on a rug in the doorway of the Silver Muzzle Cottage in Michigan

The reason why I bring this up is November is officially adopt a senior pet month, woo hoo! And I also had the absolute pleasure of visiting Silver Muzzle Cottage a few weeks ago to photograph some of their adoptable dogs. Whenever I travel I love to set up dog photoshoots.  Not only do I like exploring new areas from a pet photographer’s perspective, but I also like meeting new dog people.  On our recent trip “Up North” in Michigan I decided to do something a little different. Instead of booking a traditional pet portrait session I reached out to Silver Muzzle Cottage to see if I could offer my dog photography services.


I could have stayed all day hanging out with the dogs there, it took an effort to stop petting them all and actually take photos (you can see the Facebook photo album here).  It was also hard not to take them all home with me.


A senior basset hound walks through the grass at a Michigan senior dog hospice
Silver Muzzle Cottage is an amazing rescue organization based in a Rapid City, Michigan.  About 40 minutes east of Traverse City, this organization specializes in senior dogs that need a new home.  


SMC is run by Kim Skarritt. You know how people always write in rescue posts that “I wish I could help these animals”, or “somebody needs to do something to help”?  Well, Kim is the person who is doing something.  She has been written about in People magazine, the Detroit Free Press, and many other local Michigan news outlets. She not only takes in and cares for the senior dogs, but she gives back to the community by offering a program called Seniors for Seniors.  Silver Muzzle Cottage volunteers can take a resident dog to nursing care facilities where everyone benefits from hanging out with the dogs for a while.


A senior beagle wearing a red harness plays in a plastic playground at a dog rescue

There are a lot of reasons why senior dogs end up needing homes.  Sometimes owners are also seniors and can no longer take care of their pets, or have sadly passed away and don’t have family members that can take their pets.  Some get lost and wander away. Others are discarded when the cute new puppy comes along (don’t get me started!). Whatever the reason, there are a lot of senior pets that need homes.  So here are some reasons why you should consider rescuing one.

A close up of a senior dogs' face as he gets ear rubs from a man at the Silver Muzzle Cottage in MI

7 reasons why senior dogs are the best:



1.  No crazy puppy chewing phase -puppies learn about the world by putting it in their mouths.  And it can take some time for them to figure out what is chewable and what is not. Your shoes, furniture, and fingers will thank you.  

2.  Housetraining will probably be done for you.  While every new pet needs some time to adapt to the new routines, the learning curve should be shorter for older dogs who are just making minor tweaks vs. puppies learning first hand…on your carpeting.


3.  Sleep!  All those jokes about having “mommy brain”?  Sleep deprivation is a thing. Older dogs are usually pretty good snoozers.  This includes through the night, most of the day, and bingeing on Netflix with you.  If I haven’t started walking towards the bedroom by 9 pm my dogs will go without me
.

A smiling black and white collie mix enjoys the sunny day in the grass


4.  Socialization and training – puppies need to be exposed to other dogs and new situations to learn how to deal with them in positive ways.  Do you have the time to invest in this? Remember that you’ll also be spending time cleaning up and will already be tired from lack of sleep.


5.  What you see is what you get.  You know how big the dog is going to get, it’s already full grown!  And personality will be on display, making it easier for you to match your own family needs to those of the dog.  This is especially important with energy levels.

A senior mixed breed dog scratches it's back on the grass


6.  Companionship – older dogs just get it.  Instead of chasing around a puppy and trying to stay one step ahead of what might possibly get chewed up, you can relax and enjoy the company of your new pet.  Especially if that involves napping on the couch.



7.  Adopting a senior dog is saving it’s life, literally!  I know, adopting any dog is technically saving it’s life but puppies tend to get adopted more quickly than older dogs.  Shelters are always over crowded so they’ll make the difficult decision of euthanizing “less adoptable” dogs first. And don’t think a senior dog doesn’t know that, I completely believe that they understand and are incredibly grateful for it…just look into those eyes.



A man kneels down to get kisses from two senior dogs

So there you have it, some things to keep in mind when you considering adding a dog (or any pet) to your household.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all dogs. I just know myself and senior dogs definitely suit my lifestyle. Yes, they leave us all too soon.  But I’ll still take whatever time I have with them and enjoy it to the fullest.

 A senior shepherd dog mix suns himself on the deck at Silver Muzzle Cottage in MI

If you think that a senior dog would be the right fit for your household you can check out these resources:

 

Silver Muzzle Cottage   follow them on Facebook 

Butch Cassidy’s Hang Out on Facebook – featuring senior dogs from various animal shelters and rescues, focusing on southeastern Michigan.

 

Petfindersearch rescues and shelters for pets that are up for adoption.  Just select “Senior” from the Age drop down menu option and find senior dogs needing homes near you.

 

An old black lab mix dog looks happy next to a fence at the Silver Muzzle Cottage rescue in Michigan
Want to help senior dogs but can’t adopt or foster one yourself?  Here are a few ideas:

 

Volunteer – If you’re near the Rapid City, MI, area you can volunteer with Silver Muzzle Cottage.  Help feed, walk, and love on the dogs. Or join the Senior for Seniors program and share the joy of the dogs with seniors.

 

Spread the word – comment, like and forward messages on Facebook and Instagram that will help senior dogs.  Those social media algorithms are based on engagement. Engage with the posts and more people will see them, maybe you’ll help spark a connection that helps save a dog.

 

Donate – most animal shelters have a wishlist, many are on Amazon to make it easy to order and ship (don’t forget to use Smile.Amazon to also donate a percentage of all your purchases to the charity of your choice).

A happy senior golden retriever gets a butt scratch outdoors

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