Bark for Life of Venice FL


Bark for Life has always been a cause close to my heart. My first dog, Mika, was diagnosed with cancer when she was 9 years old. In spite of a hard fight, she lost her battle to hemangiosarcoma 7 months after she collapsed from a ruptured spleen. She was one of the lucky ones. The prognosis is usually pretty grim with a lifespan of 2 - 6 weeks from a diagnosis. We were fortunate to have found a wonderful oncology team at the University of Pennsylvania. I have no doubt it was because of them we had more time together before saying goodbye.

I was one of the vendors at Bark for Life in Venice Florida on Saturday January 12. As always, I had a blast meeting the dogs and networking with other pet businesses in the area. Here are a few of the pooches I met.

Sarasota K-9 Search & Rescue did a short demonstration. I learned quite a bit about this group and how the dogs work to find both live and dead bodies in missions all around southwest Florida and beyond.

Aries, the 14 month old Rottweiler was a huge hit with everyone. With a face like that, how could you not fall in love?!

There was a pet costume contest and this pup was a huge favorite among the crowd!

Daisy Mae had the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on a dog! Swoon!

Bella is one of the Sarasota K-9 Search dogs specializing in locating deceased bodies. She even has her own card to introduce herself to folks like me. How about that?

Simply adorable, right?

My tent and display of my work. It’s always a work in progress, but at least it gets better each time I attend an event.

Dogs and their owners lined up to be judged for best in show and which owner/dog team looks most alike. I don’t remember who won. I’m just glad I wasn’t asked to judge - it would have been hard to pick just one winner!

Bark for Life-10.jpg

Earning my CPP

Certified Professional Photographer

Twenty eighteen ended with a bang when I earned my Certified Professional Photographer designation from Professional Photographers of America. I received the news via an email but wouldn’t believe it until Christmas Eve morning when I opened the front door of my house and found a tube with my certificate inside. This was truly the best gift I received this holiday season!

So what does it mean to be a CPP? Photographers must complete an intensive program that measures her artistic and technical competence. This includes passing a 100 question written exam and submitting a 15 image portfolio to be judged by a panel of judges on technical proficiency . Of these images, 6 are compulsory and 9 are from client work photographed within the last 2 years. Professional Photographers of America currently recognizes fewer than 2,500 CPPs. I am honored to join a prestigious group of photographers.

For me, earning my CPP was more than just the opportunity to add 3 letters to my name. I’m always striving to to learn and grow as a photographer. Going through this process helped me understand what I needed to do to take my work to a new and higher level. Not only has my work improved, but it also boosted confidence in myself as an artist. I began this journey almost 2 years ago when I signed up to take a CPP prep class. And I’m so grateful I did.

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