To titer or not to titer

I’m always cautious when it comes to ingesting harmful foods or chemicals in my body. I try to eat as healthy as I can, one of many reasons why I am a vegetarian, and keep any and all unnecessary chemicals out of my home and body. It’s not that I won’t take a pain killer if I’m experiencing pain. It’s just that I only take as little as I need to help me cope with it. I believe our bodies are fantastic healers, if we let it do it’s job.

As a dog mom, I also apply the same care toward my dogs and their well being. I feed them a high quality dog food and healthy treats. When I share people food, I only give them healthy snacks like carrots and blueberries, if I share anything at all. I am a true believer that our health reflects our diets. Thus, a poor diet, leads to poor health.

So what about vaccinations? My terrier mix, Kita, is due for her rabies shot this month. According to her veterinarian, she is also due for her other vaccinations - canine distemper and Parvovirus. Because I never board my dogs, I don’t give them bordatella.

Years ago, it was recommended that we vaccinate our dogs every year. Then Colorado State University did a study and concluded that we were over vaccinating out pets. So they changed the recommendations to vaccinating every three years. It took a while to catch on, but eventually vets all over the country changed their protocols. But there was always that lingering question, was this still too much?

When I had my first golden retriever, I vaccinated her as a puppy and got a booster shot a year later. After that I titered her. What are titers? They are blood tests that measure the level of antibodies your pet has against a certain disease, like distemper and Parvo. Mika’s levels were high every year I had the test done. Which theoretically indicated she had immunity from these diseases. Thus, I never re-vaccinated her (except for rabies which all pets are required to have by law).

I had my golden retriever, Izzy titered when she was 6. Both her tests came back low, so I chose to re-vaccinate her. Again, I have always kept my pets rabies vaccination up to date in accordance with local laws, so she gets the rabies shot when she is due. My hope is by vaccinating her, she will have immunity from distemper and Parvo for the rest of her life.

Now that my terrier mix, Kita, is due for her rabies vaccination. I am revisiting this question - should I or should I not titer? In an age when research in health care issues is advancing rapidly, we are constantly learning something new all the time. Lyme disease comes to mind for example. What was recommended just a mere 10 years ago, is no longer the protocol for treatment of a positive diagnosis in a dog that is asymptomatic. But, I digress. One concern about titering is the question of whether the results are a good measure of immunity. Thus, while more and more pet owners are getting titers done, it still remains controversial.

I know that I am leaning toward titering Kita as I have my goldens. Having been a pet sitter for over 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand how vaccines can negatively affect the health of our pets, most often resulting in skin reactions. I am not, however a veterinarian, so I do encourage you to do your own research and make the choice that works best for you and your pet.

Thanks for reading!

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terrier mix on Florida beach

A look back at 2017

Januarys mean new beginnings. But it's also a great time to reflect on the past year and take note of all my accomplishments and failures. The year began with a bang when I took an extended trip to Florida. It was good for my soul (all that sun!) and my business as I was able to focus on tasks that needed to get done, but could never find the time. This included overhauling my website, getting back into blogging and shooting more that winter than ever before.

My return to Happy Valley brought in more clients than in 2016. And stretching myself out of my comfort zone I shot studio portraits in my clients home. Something I had shied away from for so many reasons, but ended up being more doable than I ever imagined.

I met and photographed several puppies (and had way too much fun!), consistently blogged twice a week and posted on social media on a regular basis, something that previously I had only done sporadically and with little intention behind what content I was sharing.

I made decisions that in 2018 I hope will move me toward focusing even more on my photography. Letting go of some things took time (years actually), but I'm excited to make some changes in my life and get closer to making my dreams come true.


While I achieved many of my goals for 2017, I fell short on some of them too. I only published one newsletter edition all year, didn't book as many clients as I had set in my goals and completely failed at some marketing plans I had started to put together, but never acted on. Some goals I achieved, like entering Professional Photographer's of America (PPA) International Print Competition, attending a PPA Certified Professional Photographer class and expanding on my photoshop skills, which were not part of my plan when the year began. So I'm proud of myself of taking advantage of opportunities I hadn't expected. 


One thing is clear though, how much I've been enjoying my journey as a photographer. Reflecting on all of this has been part of the process as I work on setting goals for 2018. And let me tell you, I've got some pretty ambitious ones this year! It's always fun to look back and see how far I've come in just 12 months. And a great reminder that this journey isn't about getting there, where ever "there" is, but the experiences along the way. So whether something was an accomplishment or a failure, I'm grateful for all of it!

Now that the holidays are officially over, I'm ready to jump in and get 2018 started! 


Beach Week 2017

It’s been fifteen years since we began this tradition. And it’s become my favorite week of the entire year. Even more than Christmas or my birthday. It’s beach week in Ocean City with my entire family. When we started, we were a family of seven, now we are thirteen strong. The youngest grandchild was just a baby that first year, this year the oldest just graduated from high school.  With busy schedules especially during the holidays, this is the only time my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews all get together. We look at it as our Christmas (in July!).

I know it sounds trite, but the kids really grow up fast! I love comparing photos from one year to the next as you can really see how much they have grown.

For months we all countdown the days to vacation only to have it end in the blink of an eye. In so many ways, some things never change. In so many other ways, time changes everything. You can see it in our faces, in our memories, in our experiences. I'm so grateful for this time to reconnect, to make new memories, to be one family under one roof. It goes by too fast, but it gives me something to look forward to year in and year out. Here are our some of my favorite memories from beach week 2017.

Every year I always take family photos. In the last few years, I've gotten better about being in some of the photos with the kids. It feels awkward since I'm not used to being in front of the camera, but I'm always grateful for these images.

Wilson - how this blue eye pup made a huge impact on me

I don't write many blog posts about my sessions, instead I prefer to share those images on my social media sites like Facebook and instagram. There's only so many ways you can write this was the best session ever (because it was!), or isn't this dog the cutest thing you've ever seen? But Wilson's story is one I can't help but share. Not only because of all that he has been through, but also because of how this session really affected me.


Before I tell you about this adorable blue eyed pup, let me share with you a little bit of behind the scenes in my life as a photographer. While I love being a photographer, having a photography business is a lot of work! It's not as simple as sharing adorable photos of dogs and cats and hanging out a shingle saying "open" for business. It's a slow process building up a following and getting clients. There's the business side of things like insurance, taxes, and contracts. And marketing side like determining who my clientele is, where to find and how to advertise to them. Of course, I need to decide what products I am going to offer and how to price them. And answer questions like what services will I provide and how will my business operate? 


At the same time, I am growing as an artist developing my style and brand. I'm constantly learning by attending workshops, taking classes and working with a mentor. And while it's been a fun journey, sometimes I get impatient. I want more clients, I want to earn more money so I can invest in more equipment, more classes, more marketing. I want to grow faster technically and artistically. Some days it feels like I'm spinning my wheels. And I start to wonder why bother? 


I know better than anyone, it takes time to build a business. Most businesses don't start making a profit until they've been open for 3, 4 or 5 years. I'm only in my second year. And working a full-time job as well. At another business I started  25 years ago. I think it's harder to create a successful business now than it was then. So much competition. Navigating social media and a world that's changing so rapidly, it's hard to keep up. Sometimes I think about giving up. Or putting this dream on the back burner and trying again sometime in the future. But then I met Wilson.


Wilson's owner responded to a model call ad I ran while I was in Florida this winter. She had just adopted him days earlier. He had been surrendered by his breeder to a pet store because he had knee issues. Wilson's mom wasn't looking for a puppy, but an older dog, one that had been potty trained, knew basic obedience and was no longer teething. But something about this blue eye little bundle of fur drew her to him. She had a story too. Her husband unexpectedly passed away a couple of years earlier. She didn't know what to do, so she packed up her car and with her dog and they drove south. And drove. Until she arrived in Venice FL. She stayed for a few months before her dog passed away too. Not knowing what to do next, she headed back home to Canada. But she couldn't stop thinking about FL.

So this winter, she came back. She was ready to open her heart to a new companion. And Wilson came into her life. She didn't care about his health issues. He was the calmest puppy she or I had ever met. The vet thought he would outgrow his knee problems since he was still so young. They took walks daily. And within a week, he was much stronger. 


I met Wilson and his mom at Brohard Paw Park, a dog friendly beach on the gulf coast side of Florida. It was a very windy evening, but there were still several dogs with their owners hanging out on the water. We watched while a few folks packed up and called it a day before letting Wilson run off leash. Having taken my girls Izzy and Kita to this dog park, I've been impressed at how well all the dogs get along. Wilson made a few canine friends who came over to check out the newcomer. I photographed him exploring everything - the sand, the water, the dunes, and so on. He ran, he played with the other dogs, he dug holes in the sand, he watched the waves come and go. We had a blast watching this little pup learn about our world, through the eyes of a dog. Time flew by so quickly. And I had never had so much fun during a session as I did with Wilson. I didn't want it to end, but red tide was in the area and it was getting harder to breathe.

It was during this session that I knew this is what I am meant to do. I found a sense of happiness out there on the beach with this puppy and my camera, that I had never experienced before. I never felt so focused as I was during that hour and a half crawling on the sand, not wanting to miss a single precious moment. I was so excited to see my images and show them to Wilson's mom. And perhaps for the first time ever, I wasn't concerned with whether she was going to be happy with the images and approve of my work. I just knew I had captured something so wonderful, so special, so unforgettable.

As it turns out, Wilson's mom was just as excited about the images as I was! She couldn't make up her mind which ones she wanted, changing her order 2 and 3 times before placing it! Meeting and photographing Wilson was a turning point for me. I'm a little more patient with myself and my business knowing all good things take time. It's just enough to know I'm doing what I love and what makes me happy. Whatever the destination is, I'm going to enjoy the journey that gets me there!


Delaware Shore beach sessions!

I couldn't get enough of the sun, surf and sand of Florida beaches this winter. So I'm super excited to announce that I am booking beach sessions at the Delaware Shore this summer! Perfect for families, children and seniors, a limited number of sessions are available from July 10 - 14, 2017. Contact me to get more information and to book your session. See you at the beach!