It seems like yesterday, but it's been years since I completed a special project; earning myself a Certificate in Photography from the University of Washington. Then life went on, Clooney and I got busy, and I never shared it publicly, beyond my graduation show.
I've been thinking about this project a lot lately, as I've had a lot of time to think (more on that later), and I've been exploring why I left my former career; walking away from a very comfortable salary and intellectually stimulating work to become a pet photographer.
OK…truth be told…
I left my former job before becoming a pet photographer. I don't exactly know why. I was possibly burned out and I definitely wanted more meaning. So, I floundered for several years until I found my purpose in the form of a dog named, Clooney.
Clooney changed everything for me. He's made me more aware. More courageous. And more accepting of who I am. How exactly he changed my life, is a blog post for another day; but, as with most of my photography, Clooney was the inspiration behind this project.
My goal at the time was to meet and photograph people whose dogs have touched their lives as profoundly as Clooney has mine, and I’m forever grateful to those who volunteered and shared their stories…
ABOUT THIS WORK: Discovery Dogs
Time and time again, I meet people whose lives have been touched, enhanced and even saved by inviting an animal into their hearts.
For this project, I tried to capture the special relationship between people and their dogs. These aren't just ordinary dogs. These are dogs who have changed the lives of their people in some profound way. They helped their people discover a new world; a new way of being; a new way of loving. These are photographs of the people who have been touched by these "Discovery Dogs". Each relationship is unique. Each relationship is moving. Each demonstrates and unconditional and mutual love.
Love, Patience, and Pride
“Houdini is a very sensitive soul…She was found as a stray and we adopted her through the Seattle Animal Shelter at 7-10 months of age. She had severe separation anxiety that lead to her escaping the house via a small, raised, screened (but opened) window. Her escape artistry earned her the name, Houdini… BUT also provoked me to study dog-specific behavior. Eventually I became Certified in Canine Studies, started helping other owners with problem canine behaviors, and opened the K9 Fun Zone, an indoor agility playground that allows owners to exercise their dog in a safe, private, indoor space without worry. Houdini defined my career path.”
-Lindy, Houdini’s person
To Love and Be Loved
“I didn’t choose Tahoe…she chose me. The breeder actually had another dog picked out for me but as soon as our eyes locked, we had to be with one another. She has really taught me what patience is about, what it means to have a responsibility for another life, and most of all, how to love/be loved.”
-Jason, Tahoe’s person
Love Has No Prejudice
“They always say dogs love their owners unconditionally but this little furry being loves everyone. Cimon is not aware of any difference between the executive or the homeless man sitting on the bus. If they are willing to scratch a warm belly or speak to her directly … then they are good in her book. What she has taught me most about life is the love of people like no other. It truly would be great if people were more like our canine friends.”
- Diane, Cimon’s person
Pure and Perfect
“Billie has changed my life in profound ways. I have a deeper satisfaction with life and feel a bigger purpose, if that makes any sense. My life is so much better, so much happier and much more meaningful with my sweet Billie in it. She has shown me an unconditional love that only a dog can show; pure and perfect. Our brains and hearts seem to be on a single track… it is no wonder Dog is God spelled backwards.”
-Lisa, Billie’s person
“Sophie is first and foremost a loving, loyal companion. She’s taught me to live in the moment, she’s taught me to forgive and she’s taught me to slow down and smell the flowers. (And everything else!) We went to an adoption event … I saw Sophie, just wandering around. She was dangerously underweight but she came over to me, put her head on my shoe and fell asleep. I was smitten”.
-Ray, Sophie’s person
Rain or Shine
“Over eleven years ago, we met at Seattle Animal Shelter. Previously, Carmen’s time was up at a different shelter (literally, that day), but SAS had space and took in some of the dogs. It kills me to think how her life could have ended and all she/we would have missed. She’s reinforced the importance of taking a critical look at how humans “use” animals, whether for friendship, entertainment, labor, food, research, etc. She’s extremely sensitive, but I suspect many animals are, we just need to learn to listen. On a lighter note, she gets me up off the couch and into the outdoors, rain or shine.”
-Deb, Carmen’s person