Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue seminar training

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of photographing the Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue training seminar in Sarasota County. I’ve always admired the dog teams who are involved in finding missing, lost and even human remains to help bring families back together or to provide answers and closure. I met a few of the team members back in January at the Bark for Life event in Venice. Later, they contacted me and asked if I would be willing to photograph their HRD (human remain detection) training this spring. They are a nonprofit organization available for deployment 365 days a year. While this seminar was a 4 day event, training is non-stop. The dogs and their handlers put in hours of their time and spend thousands of dollars so they may selflessly help first responders. I was honored to be asked to document the hard work that takes place behind the scenes.

In typical Florida fashion, it was a picture perfect day - partly cloudy with temps in the mid to high 80s. Several area businesses and parks allowed the teams to use their facility and land to train on. It’s important that the dogs work in situations exactly like they will find when involved in a search and rescue operation. So they worked in open fields, near houses, in rubble, and among objects resembling what you'd find in collapsed buildings.

The teams ranged from novice to experienced and had traveled from all over the country to attend.
I saw a wide range of dog breeds, the most common one being a Labrador retriever. They ranged in age from young adults to 8 or 9 years old. The ability of dogs to be able to find a scent among so many smells is absolutely amazing. I have developed even more respect for what these dogs and their handler do after this weekend.

If you’d like to learn more about the Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue, click HERE to visit their website. I took over 1000 photos the day I was there, it’ll take some time to sort, cull and edit them down. But in the meantime, here’s a quick peak of some of the teams in action.

Thanks for reading!

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golden retriever search and rescue K9
Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue
Sarasota K9 search and rescue dog
German Shepherd K9 search and rescue
Sarasota K9 search and rescue lab

Whose home is it really?

I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, it’s usually on HGTV. I love seeing the transformation of old homes from designers like Joanna Gaines, The Property Brothers and others. I never tire of looking at home decorating magazines, or browsing Home Goods for home decor. Sometimes I think I could be happy as an interior designer.

While I love the home I own in PA, it’s not my dream home. One of the features I love most about this house is the fenced in yard. I’m partial in part because my husband rebuilt the fence a couple of years ago and it turned out fabulous. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this project. But it was well worth it.

The rental home we’re living in now does not have much of a yard, let alone a fenced in area. Which means we have to walk the dogs every time they need to go out. It’s good exercise for all of us, but it’s not exactly enjoyable when it’s raining out. Really, what we miss most is allowing the dogs to run freely, playing, chasing balls and each other. There really is truth to the saying a tired dog is a well behaved dog. I can tell they have more pent up energy because walking isn’t the same. And I feel bad that they don’t get to spend more time outdoors.

In addition to watching HGTV, I also enjoy looking at homes during open houses. It’s fun to think about what would make a home perfect for my family and I. My husband and I have been spending part of our weekends touring homes in the Venice and Sarasota area. It’s a great way for us to get to know the area better. We’ve discovered parks, shopping centers and parts of the town we never knew existed before. While we are touring the home, we always chat about what we like, what we don’t like and what we would do to make it the right home for us. This process has really made it clear that one of the most important features for us is having a fenced in yard. Because some neighborhoods have deed restrictions that don’t allow fences, we are also learning where we would not want to live.

I haven’t found my dream home yet, but I am getting closer to knowing what it must have. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the number one requirement is being led by my dogs!

Are you living in your perfect home? How much do your pets play a role in determining what makes your home the right one for you? Leave me a comment and tell me about your home!

Thanks for reading!

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Australian Shepherd on southwest FL beach

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

What to say when someone loses a pet

Last year I posted a blog about what not to say when someone loses a pet. I got great feedback and was glad to hear some of the advice I shared was helpful. If you missed it, you can read it HERE. Today I thought I’d write a follow up and share what to say when someone you know has to say goodbye to a furry friend. 

More and more people are recognizing that pets are a part of the family. While we can all agree that pets are not the same as having human children, for many people, they are like their kids. I call them our fur-kids. We care for them, love them and miss them when they are gone. Because they are a part of our daily lives, losing them can be harder than losing some of our family members, especially ones we don’t see often or feel very close to.

DO: Call and listen to your friend as she talks about her feelings. If you knew her pet, share positive memories you have. It will help your friend feel better knowing you will miss them too.

DO: Say “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Even if you don’t understand how anyone can be so sad over the loss of an animal, if it’s obvious your friend is heartbroken, don’t belittle those feelings.

DO: Say things like their pet had a great life. Or Bailey was blessed to have you as his family. While we may not all agree on the same pet parenting tactics, we wouldn’t be friends with someone who didn’t geuinely care about their pets. 

DO: Offer to host a memorial service if that’s something you feel your friend might like. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a small gathering of folks who knew the dog or cat that passed away, where memories can be shared and tears can be shed. 

DO: Remind them that if they don’t feel like talking now, or may need to talk more later, you are there for them. While your friend may not take you up on your offer, it does help knowing you do care.

DO: Make a donation to a pet charity or organization close to your friend’s heart in honor of their pet. No amount is too small and your gesture will be appreciated.

DO: Offer to plant a tree or shrub in your friend’s yard to honor the memory of their furry friend. Ask first of course, but this maybe just the perfect gift for your friend.

DO: Send a sympathy card and write a heart felt note inside. Hallmark and other greeting card companies have also learned how hard it is for us when we lose a pet. You can find all kinds of pet loss sympathy cards in any card store these days.

While it’s hard to know just the right thing to say, sometimes just offering a hug, a shoulder to cry on and most especially, lending an ear so they can talk about it really does go a long way to help someone who is grieving the loss of a beloved pet.


What to say when someone loses a pet

Briggs | State College pet photography

The first time I met Briggs's family was when they replied to a model call I was advertising. They had a pit bull mix they thought would be perfect for this. Milo was an older, very sweet fellow who indeed just what I was looking for. A patient dog, he allowed me to experiment with new techniques I had recently learned, thus giving me the opportunity to create a wide variety of images. Sadly, Milo’s family informed me that he had passed away last year. With heavy hearts and an empty home, they decided to bring home a puppy. And so the search for Briggs began. 

This little bully mix immediately cheered the family up. Knowing he’d grow up fast, and remembering Milo’s session with me, they decided they needed photos of this We scheduled the session as early as we were all available, on a beautiful summer day. Knowing the flowers were in full bloom on the Penn State campus, that’s where we decided to hold the session.

Briggs had only been with his new family for two weeks, but it was apparent he was developing a strong bond with them. Kona, their other bully mix, took a little longer to adapt to the little sptifire, he was quite the change from her older brother Milo. But it was good for her to have a playmate again, and soon they tumbled, rolled and chased one another. 

Now, you can probably guess that photographing and playing with Briggs was the highlight of my week that week. After all, who doesn’t love a puppy? Briggs was a pretty calm fellow considering he was only 11 weeks old. Usually I have all these noise makers I use to get the dog’s attention, but Briggs was so fascinated with all the sights and smells of this new location, he was too busy checking things out to pay any mind to me and my sounds. We had toys for him to chase and captured some truly hilarious action shots!

Later in the session, Briggs’ people jumped in the photos for some family shots. I’m always delighted when my clients opt to do this as I believe not enough people get photos of themselves with their furry family members. Our fur-kids come into our lives for such a short period of time, we should honor this with updated family photos often. It may feel funny or weird at the time since many of us are not used to being photographed, but it’s something you’ll look back and cherish forever.

Here are a few images from this fun session! campus