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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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Park, Photo Session

Yep, you read that right, Pawdacious Portraits has officially gone international!  Earlier this year I had the chance to work with the cutest dachshund in Verona, Italy.  Little P and his family are stationed on an American base in Italy so this adorable dog is exploring Europe for a few years, lucky pup!  And lucky pet photographer to get to work with him on location in the historic center of Verona!

I explored the town before the session, looking for areas that would make good backdrops and showcase some of the Italian history and culture, in addition to Little P.  It was important that the images didn’t look like they could have been taken in Michigan, I really wanted some of that Italian flair. I also wanted Little P’s pawrents to have amazing memories of their European adventures when they finally head back to the states.  This wasn’t just a portrait session, I wanted to document a slice of their lifestyle while they were living in Italy.  Luckily the city is filled with great locations. The hardest part of the day was trying to find a parking spot but once that was secured we were off!


Brown dachshund dog in Italian fountain

Little P posed like a champ….except when he spotted the ducks in the Madonna fountain, then it was time to work!  And he did an excellent job of chasing those ducks away and entertaining the crowd at the same time. We spent two hours wandering around a small city park, the Piazza delle Erbe, some of the small streets surrounding the piazza, and our rental apartment (with balcony).  I love the variety of images that we were able to take- from action shots to portraits. 



We topped off Little P’s photoshoot with a new squeaky toy, brought all the way from the US, and gelato (at least for his mom). A great day for everyone!  



See more images from Little P’s international dog portrait session on the Pawdacious Portraits IG account.  And follow him on his European adventures via the Outside This Small Town IG account and travel blog.

A brown dachshund dog on a vintage couch in an elegant home

 

The Pawdacious Portraits 2019 travel schedule is still being set but feel free to contact me if you’re interested in an on location dog portrait session.

 



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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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Photo Session

You might want to grab the tissues for this one, though I promise it has a story book ending. Athena is your typical pibble – affectionate, playful, a little bit silly and, ahem, not the most graceful dog. Okay, she’s a bit of an exuberant klutz. But I only say that because I feel like she’s a bit of my spirit animal in that sense, and her mom described her as being like Phoebe from “Friends”.

If you could see Athena running in her yard or watching over the neighborhood from her perch on the couch, you would never guess that this poor girl spent an entire year at a Michigan animal shelter. A whole year in a cage. And she almost didn’t get out. Due to shelter restrictions Athena was only going to be released to an animal rescue group, the general public could not go into the shelter and adopt her. But she was one of the lucky ones in the end, she stole the heart of a dog rescue volunteer and now she is living happily ever after. And her mom is making up for all of that lost time with trips to the dog park, lots of squeaky toys, treats, and affection.

Since Athena loves to hang out on the couch that’s where we spent the most time. It took her a little while to warm up to the camera and start showing off her toy chewing skills, but I expect that and gave her time to relax.   My goal with this session was to capture Athena being her silly self. It’s hard to believe that this sweet pup has gone through so much, and I wanted to create images that showcase how happy she is now, without a shadow of the past. I love knowing that anyone who sees these images of Athena are only going to see the joy that she has found in her new home.  This is her story and I’m thrilled to share it.

Does your dog have a Cinderella story?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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