How my dogs helped me cope

“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus of Ephesus

Some people adapt to change well, while others are slow to adjust. I’d like to think I cope easily, but honestly, change is very hard for me. While the idea of moving to Florida was very exciting (what’s not to love about living just a mere 2 miles from the beach?), it was also very scary for me. After all, I’ve spent virtually all of my life in State College, a small town in the middle of cow country Pennsylvania. I left my family, my home and the business I built up behind. All to chase a dream of mine. 

There’s nothing wrong with rolling hills, farm lands and lush forests. But the beach resonates with me more. The soft lapping of the waves on the shore, the endless ocean and the oh so beautiful colors of the sunset is where I find myself most at home. So when the opportunity presented itself for my husband, our dogs and I to move to the sunshine state, it was hard to say no. 

The two day drive was exhausting. When we crossed the Florida state line, it suddenly hit me - I can’t just run back home anymore. Well, I can, but it’ll take me over 24 hours to get there. I truly am stuck here now. No problem, right? I have my husband and our dogs to lean on.

Unlike me, my husband copes well with change. Well, much better than I do anyways. His family has lived in Florida off and on for decades. For him, this wasn’t exactly new territory. Sure, he may not know all the street names and restaurants, but he had a general idea where everything is. He’s spent extended periods of time growing up and even living in Florida early in his career. I’d hop on the road and couldn’t figure out how to get to the grocery store which yesterday I swore I drove by a short mile down from our home. Unless I used a GPS, I’d get lost. My husband would tell me, just head to the wawa, stay left and then turn right. I’d go to wawa another way, stay left and end up in front of a pond with an alligator staring me down, not the grocery store I intended to shop at. 

At first it wasn’t so awful. It kind of felt like being on vacation - except with my furniture. As the days went by, I started to feel discombobulated. Nothing was familiar - my house, my routine, my meals, my work. My husband got impatient with me because he couldn’t relate. I found myself in tears more than once. Wondering if perhaps I had made the worst decision of my life. 

But I kept plugging away. At least I could watch the same shows on TV, wash my hair with the same shampoo and sleep in the same bed I had for years. But even sleep began to elude me. I started to experience mini panic attacks. Tears fell easily, Suddenly, I didn’t care about my dreams. All I wanted to do was to go back home. 

My dogs picked up on my sadness and anxiety. Izzy, who has always been able to read me like a book, especially noticed. They became my shadow, sat beside me, pawed me to pet them and in general just asked for more attention. I found comfort in their fur, their pleading eyes, their hugs. The more anxious I got, the more needy they became. They helped me feel better, reminding me it’s all going to be ok. And slowly, day by day, hour by hour, I felt like myself once again. I’m sure I would have gotten there in time anyways, but I have no doubt knowing they were there for me - waiting for me to come home from work, encouraging me to take them for walks, cuddling with me before I fell asleep helped me not feel so overwhelmed with all the changes in my life. 

I’m happy to report life is good here in Florida. As I write this, I’m listening to the waves, watching the sunset, enjoying my view. After the death of my friend, I’ve felt lost for much of this year. But my heart is happy again. I have much I want to do and explore, however long I’m in the sunshine state. I look forward to what each day brings, thankful for this experience. But I’m especially grateful for my furry kids who helped me get through one of the biggest transitions in my life. 

Florida summer sunset

Florida bound!

It's been two years in the making, but finally a dream of mine is coming true! My husband, our furry kids and I are moving to Florida!!! While I am so excited to be living life in the sunshine state, I've had a lot of trepidation about leaving Happy Valley, my home of over 40 years. But so many things have fallen into place in the last few weeks, it felt as though this is what the universe has planned for us. I'm going to miss the four seasons, Penn State football games, my family and all my pet sitting clients whom I've come to know over the years in quite possibly the best job on earth. 

It's been a year full of much sadness as my husband and I have said goodbye to some dear friends and family in recent months. It's made me aware of just how precious life is and how there are no guarantees. I have so many things I want to see, explore and experience in this world and I'm afraid that if I wait, it will be too late.  

The beach is my happy place. It's where I find peace, connection and inspiration as an artist. I'm looking forward to putting my toes in the sand, feeling the ocean breeze in my hair and ending my days watching the sunset over the gulf coast. We've chosen to rent a house that's just a short bike ride away from the west coast of Florida and a mere 20 minute drive from some of the best beaches in the United States! This will be a huge change for me, but a chapter I am so ready to begin!

I'll be taking a break from my photography as we get ready for the big move. If you'd like to follow our adventures, I'll be sharing updates on Instagram. Click HERE to follow me if you aren't already. I'll be taking on new clients in September once we have settled in, serving the Sarasota, Osprey, Venice, Boca Grande and Englewood areas. 

Don't worry Happy Valley! This isn't goodbye as I will definitely be back in the area from time to time and will be scheduling sessions while I'm in town.

I appreciate all the encouragement and support I've received these last few years as I've chased my dream of becoming a professional pet photographer. As we embark on this journey, I will be expanding my photography and look forward to sharing southwest Florida as seen through my lens. 

Australian shepherd puppy on Venice beach

 

 

National Mutt Day

Today is National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed Breed day. Created in 2005, it is celebrated on July 31 and December 2 as a way to embrace and honor all the mixed breed dogs out there.  The hope is to bring awareness to all the mutts that end up in shelters due to overbreeding, and the desire for designer breeds that result in dogs who end up homeless. My husband and I adopted one such mutt, Kita, who has brighten our lives with her spunky, entertaining and adorable personality! Who says mutt breeds aren't the best?

Do you have a mixed breed dog? Share your photos in the comments below! 

terrier mix Penn State University

Featured | Daily Dog Tag

I've been following Beth Patterson at Daily Dog Tag for a while now. She has a great blog where she features all things dog related. I find great recipes, gift ideas for the pups and dog lovers in our lives, adoptables, and pet photography sessions from photographers all over the world. One of my goals this year was to get a blog post of mine featured on blogs like Beth's. I was really excited when she said she would feature my senior session of Kya who included her dog Tux in the photos. You can see it HERE! Be sure to check out the rest of her BLOG while you're there! 

Daily dog tag feature

Hazel | State College pet photography session

One of the questions I always ask my clients is why do they want photos of their fur kids? And what made them decide to call me now? I love hearing how much these special best friends mean to their pet parents. And what makes their relationship so unique. In Hazel's case, her mom told me she had been diagnosed with a heart condition recently. She was afraid Hazel was on borrowed time and wanted to make sure she got some photos before it was too late.

When I met Hazel and her mom to plan our session, I learned that Hazel had been a breeding dog for many years. Four years ago her breeder placed Hazel in the home where she currently lives. Hazel's mom is no stranger to miniature schnauzers, having owned others before. But this one was different. At 12, Hazel has never barked. Nor did she know how to play with toys. When Hazel's mom took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, worms and had to have several of her teeth pulled.

Hazel's mom wanted her to live a life of a dog doing what most dogs do - play, go for walks, and make friends with other dogs. She spent most of her life in a kennel either pregnant, nursing or waiting to be impregnated again. In spite of her lack of socialization, she gets along well with other dogs, and has several dog friends she's met at a local park where she walks daily. 

While not a lively dog, she is very calm, sweet yet a little timid. Hazel's mom told me she is scared of squeaky toys, whistles and loud cars. She thought Hazel would be hard to photograph and didn't expect a whole lot from the session. Although she was a little nervous at times, Hazel was a terrific model. In order to not scare her, I didn't use my sounds like I usually do, instead just watching her, clicking the shutter when something caught her attention and she was looking in the direction I wanted her to. In spite of all the concerns, we were able to capture a variety of images. Even though I kept the session short, she clearly became comfortable the more we worked together.

When I was finished and put my camera down for the final time, Hazel came over to me and curled up in my lap. It was as though she understood her job as well as mine was done and now it was time to really connect. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. And I can't say how happy it makes me that Hazel has the family she does now. She really hit the jackpot with a loving, patient and understanding mom. One who truly will give her a life so she deserves after all these years of breeding. 

Hazel  the mini schnauzer
Hazel mini schnauzer in summer field
miniature schnauzer in stand of trees
mini schnauzer and wildflowers