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

Izzy turns 8!

I almost let Izzy's birthday go by without even wishing her a happy day! I had all these intentions of having a birthday cake smash photo session for her this year. I even bought a puppy cake mix a couple of months ago in anticipation of making this happen. The next thing I knew, it was the day before Izzy's birthday and I had nothing planned nor prepared. Her party was going to have to wait a couple of days. Thank goodness she has no idea it's July, let alone her birthday!

After baking her cake one evening, the next afternoon I set up her surprise. I don't think Izzy had a clue what was going on. That is, until I got out my camera gear and set up my equipment. She's learned that when I do this, treats are involved. So she's always ready to be photographed! Baking the cake was easy - just add an egg, water and oil to the mix then cook for about 20 minutes. I chose the pumpkin flavored mix and it sure smelled good! It's suggested that you use a 6 inch cake pan, but I only had a 9 inch one. So the cake was more thin than I would have liked. There wasn't enough batter either to make a double layer cake, but in the future I would buy 2 boxes and do this. I also didn't have enough icing and wished I had some yogurt on hand that I could have put in the freezer and used.

It wasn't the prettiest cake I ever made, but I don't think Izzy would mind. I set her up at my dining room table and began snapping away. At one point I sang "Happy birthday" and she seemed to really enjoy that. Mostly though, all she wanted was for me to give her the ok to eat her tasty treat! And just as I predicted, she loved it!

Sometimes it feels like it was ages ago that we brought home this tiny little 8 week old puppy. Other times, it seems like it was just yesterday. It's true what they say, time does fly. I can't imagine our lives without her!

Happy birthday Izzy!

golden retriever birthday cake smash 1
golden retriever birthday cake smash - 2
golden retriever - birthday cake smash - 3
golden retriever birthday cake smash - 4

Lessons from the dog - keep digging until you find buried treasure

Like most golden retrievers, my girl Izzy, loves to play with tennis balls. Sometimes the ball rolls under the fence in our backyard. Just far enough out of reach, yet not too far that she can’t see it. When this happens, she starts to digging at the ground hoping to get the ball to move just a smidge closer to her. While it’s a fun game for her, we are constantly screaming in frustration lest we have holes all over our yard!t But I have to admit, her plan usually works. If she digs enough, she'll be rewarded with her coveted prize! And play one more round of toss and chase the ball with me!

Izzy isn’t the only dog I know who likes to dig. Whatever the treasure is - a tennis ball, a bone, a treat or a favorite toy - digging has it’s rewards. And this is another lesson we can learn from our dogs. 

Often, we give up too easily. Or don't dig deep enough. But if we keep on digging we might be surprised at what we'll find. Our dogs know this, because within every hole they create, there was something in there worth digging for! We should do the same. Like discovering our true selves buried deep within us. Or give up when things get tough instead of digging our way past the surface. Perhaps we just met someone and didn't hit it off. If we dig deeper and get to know them better, we might find we have a lot in common. So the next time you feel like you're not making your dreams come true, go back to your hole and dig a little deeper. If you don't end up in China first, I bet you'll find you just didn't dig far enough!

golden retriever digging



What happens when you're stuck

It happens to most if not all artists at some point in our lives. We create, expressing ourselves with our preferred medium of art, sharing our work with the world. Whether it's a small group of friends and family, or with the hundreds, or thousands of social media fans, or no one at all, we're busy churning content out week after week, trying to keep up with all the ideas in our mind. Then the ideas stop coming. Or the the work we're producing isn't all that great. We start to second guess ourselves. Did we use up all of our creativity? Were we ever really that good? Or was it luck and now it's run out?

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I've been struggling with being stuck. At first it didn't bother me. After all, losing my friend so suddenly and unexpectedly then bringing her dog home to live with us understandably set my life into a tailspin. Shortly after, my husband's uncle and partner passed away just 2 months apart of each other. Next, we said goodbye to our foster dog, Alex, after he was diagnosed with a tumor behind his heart. I've cried with pet sitting clients who've lost their pets or learned of a poor diagnosis their fur kids are now facing. That's a lot of tears to shed in just a few short months. And I know it's had a huge impact on me. 

Something within me has shifted. I don't see things, events and people the same way. Stuff that used to bother me, no longer does. When I close my eyes before falling asleep, I say a prayer of gratitude. Not for the mundane things in life - like the chocolate donut I had for breakfast. But for things like the body my spirit inhabits so I can live this life here on earth. For the gift I have to write and photograph the world as I see it. I've never considered myself a religious person, but I do believe in a higher being and that I am a spiritual being. I've felt more connected to myself and others including this higher being these past few months than I have at any other time in my life. 

I don't know where this road will lead me. I haven't felt like picking up my camera much lately, but when I do, my work is better than it was before. Writing was something I used to struggle with, but these days, words come more easily to me. I've studied a lot this year, taking a photography workshop, an online photoshop class and preparing to take my written certified professional photography exam (which I passed). It's been a lot to absorb and all of it has made me a better artist as well. 

Maybe you've heard the phrase two steps forward and one step back? I kind of feel like this is what I'm going through and the reason for being blocked. Often there is much growth following times of mis-steps and failures as though we can't figure out how to work our legs when they suddenly grew 2 inches in just a few days. I can't force myself to feel and be creative, so I'll just go along on this ride. Somehow, I think there's going to be a big reward at the end of the road - whenever and where ever that is. So for now, that means less shooting and less work to share. But look for big things to come! 

yellow lab playing in water fountain

Tips for a safe 4th of July

Like many Americans, you may be planning a festive 4th of July. Perhaps you're hosting a BBQ picnic with friends and family, spending the day poolside or boating on a lake, before heading out to watch a local fireworks show at the end of the day. Celebrating America's birthday can be a lot of fun, but not always for our furry family members.

More pets get lost on Independence Day than any other day of the year. Here are a few tips to help make your holiday enjoyable and safe for everyone.

1. Leave your pets at home. Fireworks. crowds and unfamiliar places can be more frightening to dogs causing them to break free of restraints and run away.

2. If you do take the dogs to the fireworks, make sure they are wearing current ID tags and are microchipped. If they get loose, this will help them get home safely.

3. Don't share your insect repellant and sunscreen with your pets. Most are toxic, so if you do need to apply any to your fur kids, be sure to use pet friendly products. Citronella candles and lighter fluid are also harmful, so keep them out of reach.

4. If you do have a dog that gets anxious, provide a safe place for her to go. Dogs who have been crate trained may find comfort there. Or close the blinds and turn on the TV or radio in a small room in your home. Thundershirts and calming medications can also help relax a nervous dog.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

golden retriever on 4th of July