Trusted friend to animals everywhere; a photographer of them for National Geographic and The Unleashed Studio
This gentleman is an 11-year old, Coton de Tulear, which is pronounced
Or you can just call him Jack, which is just pronounced Jack.
It’s extremely hot here today and my wife Callie is mowing the lawn, making it hard for me to concentrate with such a racket as I can hear her going back and forth from our air-conditioned house, staring at a blank screen trying to write the post you are now reading.
As I recall, Jack visited awhile back, a traveler, who came to our studio from far away, in the pursuit of fine dog photography and inspiring conversation.
When she’s not doing yard work, Callie will prepare me for such visits with briefing materials before the arrival of a dog like Jack, a packet of background information that the head of a major corporation might expect.
These reports often contain an interesting backstory or fun vignette that I will twist around in the creation of these posts or ignore completely as I’m sort of doing here.
It’s worth noting that Jack didn’t shed when he was in the studio, which is nice, as they say these dogs have hair rather than fur, which I still don’t completely understand or have any interest in, because I’m not bothered by things like dander or shedding as much as I am the noise of the damn lawn mower when I’m trying to write.
Hair or no hair, we enjoyed our time with Jack, a clever dog, who has used this whole hypoallergenic thing to his advantage in uniting a family around him that otherwise might not have been able to.
Boomer or Sir Boomer, as he likely to be known after this dispatch, frequently serves as a Knight of the Wall, perched outside a local Irish pub, as dogs, no matter their royal status or family lineage, are not permitted inside such establishments in the Kingdom of South Carolina.
Callie and I have recently signed up for HBO, trying to binge-watch 7 years of Game of Thrones before the 7 day trial period endeth.
As we are the last people in the 7 Kingdoms to partake in the series, I don’t have to tell you about the brave men of the Nights Watch, who for as far as we have gotten in Season 1, guard the “wall” separating men acting badly from other men acting badly.
As a Knight of the island where we live, Sir Boomer is as loyal and as dedicated as the Retrievers of Labrador are known to be. His yellow coat is a symbol of respect and authority in matters and disputes among the citizenry.
Callie and I saw the latest Ant-Man movie last week in which an average-sized couple, transform into tiny insect superheroes through risky science, clever writing and special effects.
The 15 year-old Dachshund you see here is Ginny and she’s a Miniature one at that. As if these dogs weren’t already proportionally unique and low enough to the ground, they had to go and make them even tinier and harder to see.
It’s difficult to accurately judge scale from an Instagram post, but depending on your device, Ginny is seen here at actual size, if viewed on an iPhone 6s held roughly at arms length.
As to whether she is superhero material or not, on the matter of size, Ginny makes up for her diminutive scale with enormous independence and questionable breath, the latter being one of her superpowers.
In the comic book world, the hero must always overcome bad in their lifelong pursuit of good.
Ginny has been conquering bad for some time now. Her back and neck not holding up their end up, eyes and ears that do not see or hear well. She suffers from dementia and is recovering from a stroke.
Yet, she would never let on unless you asked or were trying to get her attention from across the studio. She’s just happy to be here with no special effects needed. ---------------------------------------- Every time Callie and I think of moving on to the next thing, we meet a new dog, owner or simply read a comment that makes it all worth it. Your support of this feed is very humbling to us, thanks for being a part of our work.
Scout is a happy, well-adjusted 13 year-old Boykin Spaniel who might not be able to see or hear as well as she once might have. Food is often on her mind and her sense of smell hasn’t betrayed her ability to raid a trashcan in the dark of night.
I often have a lot to say about other people’s dogs. This is in itself should be worrisome but not unexpected given my family history.
My mother had a lot to say about other people’s dogs.
Usually that they looked hungry.
She was mostly Greek, had married into a large Italian family and food was always on her mind.
My mother tried to feed every living thing that came within a square-mile of our house whether it was hungry or not.
She would feed the squirrels, rabbits, lost children, and stray birds. The men who took our trash never left without sandwiches. Escaped convicts, on the run, could count on a meal at our home before the cops came.
They look hungry babe, she would say.
Beginning in the 1970’s, my brother lived next door and spent many a hard earned dollar on the healthiest dog food he could find for his prized Irish Setter puppy.
When the dog began to gain weight, he spent more on fancy food and restricted her diet, extracting pledges from my mom not to feed her while he was at work.
The more he restricted her diet, exercised her and pleaded with my mother, the more weight she gained and the more money he spent on fancy food and so on.
Despite promises, our mother simply could not be trusted.
She looked hungry, she would say as she tossed the penned-up girl table scraps, peanut butter sandwiches and leftover pasta.
My brother would come home and storm off between the two houses, broke, with his overweight dog, reluctantly dragging behind.
A gal like Scout would have gotten along well with my mother, I can hear her now, she looks hungry.
You are safely looking down the gullet of Toby, a wired 5 year-old Wire Fox Terrier with one lung and a bum leg. I didn’t ask how these particulars came to be as there was way too much going on.
For a period of time that can shamefully be measured in years, I played a pinball machine called FunHouse at a local pub within 2-way radio reach of the assignment desk of a former newspaper employer. The bonus Multiball round was achieved by skillfully flippering a pinball into the open mouth of a giant, talking, dismembered doll-head named Rudy, launching what is known as THE FRENZY in which all Hell is broken loose.
Our studio is a funhouse of sorts and we have in our inventory of tricks and gimmicks, a pathetic, faded orange rubber squeaky Pig, that when squeaked properly will elicit a curious response in most animals, a head tilt or a pause in others.
In Toby’s case it unleashed THE FRENZY.
Anyone who dared to enter the air space between Toby and the orange Pig was in danger. Callie had lost control of the beast and both looked disapprovingly at me. We had no real contingency plan and leadership was called for. Toby’s owner just paced apologetically back and forth explaining that we had made a grave mistake.
Let the record show that I did not actually perform the squeak but I did order the squeak and now take full responsibility.
The squeak stops here.
Callie, and what’s left of the orange Pig, are still not talking to me.
Today I present Lily, a loyal, outgoing and well-traveled Retriever, Golden, in both color and status, affording her early boarding privileges and a seat upgrade when offered.
Regardless of breed or background or looks, I have never found two dogs to be the same.
Each is uniquely different from my perspective, which is often gathered from eye level and sometimes explainable through photography. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective, because owners are well aware of their dog’s uniqueness and I can’t always fully picture that in the few hours that I spend with a dog.
So, while I work to capture a personality that’s expected, I’m also hopeful to portray a side that isn’t.
Lily won’t make a big deal of it, but she’s known on every Ivy League school campus, competing informally in NCAA Division I Squirrel Chasing.
She’s also a highly skilled picnic crasher with a penchant for imported Brie, developed over 8 years of selective crashing and cheese tastings.
In my time with her, I found Lily to be a curious and determined girl, with a no-nonsense sensibility reserved for photographers who meet her.
If Yoda were a breed of dog, clearly be a champion, Moose would, Yes, hmmmmm.
At 13 years old, what he lacks in mobility he makes up for in judgment and skill. You could easily see Grand Master Moose, sitting on the Jedi High Council sifting through a mountain of applications for new Padawans.
Moose is actually a Chug, which is the kind of dog you make when you add a Chihuahua and a Pug together. It’s simple math.
Here at the High Council of The Unleashed Studio, Callie spends much of her day sifting through the mountain of applications from prospective dogs. Somewhere in Moose’s paperwork was this disclaimer;
HIGHLY ANXIOUS. MAY SNAP. FEARS MEN.
Now just to be clear, this is not the kind of thing we’re looking for at #TheYearOfTheDogs but as self-proclaimed professionals we take into account all mitigating factors. We also have a soft spot for any dog that was once homeless and now isn’t.
Moose and his merry band of heartworms were found wandering the streets when he was picked up just in time for a new owner to come along and his parasites to leave.
He doesn’t do much wandering these days but he still enjoys a good walk from the comfort of a stroller. And I will say he was pretty chill, didn’t snap and we got along just fine despite my gender.
May the force always be with Moose.
I’m not one to brag, but my first extensively published work came when I was a High School yearbook photographer. It was my first book.
In my junior year, I was sent to a yearbook photographers workshop taught by the photographers who did all the formal yearbook photos for our yearbook.
A cross between long-distance runners and prison guards, these photographers excelled in the art of forcing an average of 1,500 children a day into friendly poses and acceptable smiles before moving on to the next school.
Sometimes I think if #YearOfTheDogs were actually to become a book, it could be kind of a dog’s version of a High School yearbook.
Full of inspired friendly dogs with ambitious and heartfelt quotes, they could list their altruistic plans for the future along side humorous ribbing from their dog classmates.
Sadie, Class of 2018
Future Hounds of America, Honor Roll, Quiz Bowl, Spanish Club.
Although she’s almost 7, Sadie really showed the freshman dogs a thing or two about how to jump around excitedly at the dog park this year.
After missing out on the State Championships, everyone is looking for Sadie to get back into Varsity Ball Chasing after a mid-season injury sidelined her.
She founded the Shelter Dog Club and counts Beagle, Foxhound and Labrador as her primary influences but is very well liked by her purebred classmates.
Sadie enjoys helping others and was voted “Most likely to kiss you without being asked.” #BFF Sadie
In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I met this dog, he barked like hell at me. This goes for the second and third time as well. There has not been a fourth.
I don’t blame him. He’s a fugitive.
On the lam, he’s wanted in the state of Alabama but holed up in a safe house in one of the two Carolinas. In either place, North or South, you can never be too careful, no matter how Miniature a Schnauzer you are.
And in the interest of an even fuller disclosure, Cooper is kind of related to me, as much as any dog can be considered kin with privileges. There is a nice young lady seeing this for the first time and yes it’s planned and yes it’s her birthday, not the dog’s.
So Happy Birthday to young Hartley, who in her youth, thought it would be a good idea to smuggle this bottle-fed, rescue pup into her daily routine and living quarters while a student in pursuit of a higher education.
This, as you might imagine, was frowned upon by some and acted upon by others who drew her attention to the part of the lease that said no dogs were allowed, no matter how cute they were.
Desperate times call for an equivalent response and here we are.
On the 1960’s television series The Fugitive, it took Richard Kimball an entire four seasons to prove his innocence. In the movie version, Harrison Ford in the role of Kimball, did it in a little over two hours.
Cooper asks how long will it take to prove his innocence ?
Only time will tell.
Our #yearofthedogs continues, I thank you for the warm invitations to visit your towns and hope to take you up on them some day before we are done.
Callie and I and our photographs were recently celebrated at a local gathering. Huge prints from #yearofthedogs lined the walls and there were more paws on the floor than feet.
I was asked a number of times - But what are you working on now ? I can confirm that I have not been asked to serve on the US Supreme Court.
If you can’t make that, I’ll be on stage with the legendary @williamalbertallard August 25 in Calgary at The Globe Cinema for @thecamerastore
I’ll also be at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia on October 16 for National Geographic Live.
Thank you all again for the support, I hope to meet you at one of these shows.
King is a hard name to live up to for a dog or anyone else for that matter and this 4 year-old Labrador handles it well.
If the name King is preceded by a THE, expectations are generally higher, becoming more complicated when followed by an “OF” something and any of the Roman numerals from I through IV.
Fortunately King is just King, and benevolent in his role as a King, of the people and the dogs that have pledged loyalty to him.
Titles are not important to King, balls are.
You may interpret that in any number of ways, but in this case, I am speaking about the kind used to play the game of tennis.
In retrospect, we were warned and we ignored all warnings. “Ball,” as we now know, was the Trigger Word that activated His Majesty.
What followed was 60 pounds of dog hurtling toward a loosely hung canvas backdrop in a highly sensitive and fragile environment.
Scenes like this will make you wish you had followed the directions on the label.
I can say that no animals were harmed or arrested during the making of these photographs. The same cannot be said for one @ProfotoUSA Acute2 D4 Flash formerly known as flash head #B.
Thank you for your kind words about the #YearOfTheDogs
Callie and I have many more dogs to go before we sleep, and as so many of you have encouraged us to create a book of this work, we remain hopeful that we’ll get there with your support. Thank you.
Many people envision our work in the studio as a high-energy, creative experience with me shouting “beautiful baby, beautiful” and the dogs responding with pose after pose like models before the lens of the famous fashion photographer and international spy, Austin Powers.
The reality is, I’m somewhat unable to speak when in the process of making photographs. It’s a genetic flaw or some right brain/left brain quirk realized for the first time when I was rejected from my childhood garage band for not being able to sing and play drums at the same time. Damn you Phil Collins.
When we work, this leaves me with a limited menu of grunting noises and the occasional guttural outburst, which I still find helpful in getting an animals attention. It also passes for a kind of barbaric shorthand between Callie and I, until she tires of it and gets mad at me, which she finds helpful in getting my attention.
Zorro is a 12 year-old Standard Poodle, too damn smart to get in the middle of our bickering. He tried to stay neutral but always sided with Callie. This is often the case with the nice lady holding food and I am still learning to live with rejection.
This is more frustrating because Zorro is a very special dog that lights up a room when he enters and I want a dog like that to like me.
More caregiver than therapy dog, Zorro has always been there for the people who needed him most, some at the end of their lives and some who would miss those people the most.
Our connection was fleeting and dramatic, a longer version of the moment is stored in my memory like a slow motion fight scene from the Matrix.
This photograph came together when I was finally able to vocalize a sound that engaged Zorro.
I was trying to say his name but it came out with a poor rationing of consonants to vowels;
This stopped Zorro, deeply engaged with Callie and a snack of some kind, He turned to me, tilted his head and then he gave me -The Eyes; the eyes that had comforted, the eyes that had gotten him out of trouble, the eyes that had earned him more than his fair share of mac and cheese.