Day of the Galgo | Dia del Galgo 2020
Today the hunting season in Spain ends, and thousands of galgos face abandonment, torture and death, because they are no longer “useful”. Be their voice!
This article is published in memory of the late Jenny Symmons, who founded and led Southern Lurcher Rescue. The rescue brought hundreds of abandoned sighthounds to safety and found them loving new homes
This is a Christmas tale of a mother about to give birth, in desperate need of help and shelter, and the kindness of strangers. Flossie was the mother, a young lurcher heavily pregnant and abandoned, needing somewhere safe to have her babies, due to arrive just before or after Christmas.
Thankfully a remarkable woman heard about Flossie and offered her a rescue place. Jenny Symmons, the founder of Southern Lurcher Rescue (SLR), was her saviour. Flossie needed to be found a safe foster home for her confinement, someone who would help her deliver her pups, and give them all somewhere safe to live till the pups were ready to leave. So Jenny asked her team for help and another remarkable woman stepped up to the plate. SLR volunteer Laylah Wallis looked at her freshly-finished new dining extension, all ready for the Christmas festivities, and said yes. So Flossie went into foster with Laylah, who helped her deliver and wean the pups, and whose beautiful new extension was not so new or pristine by the time the pups left for their new homes.
I was lucky enough to photograph all the pups before they went on to their forever homes – you can see them all as pups here. And I recently invited a couple of them back for a photoshoot as grown up dogs – what gorgeous creatures they have all grown to be!
Laylah decided to adopt one of the pups she had fostered and now owns beautiful Ava. Her extraordinarily kind deed brought its own reward.
After 11 years as a rescue and rehoming organisation, SLR has now evolved into Southern Lurcher Lifeline, a fundraising and sponsorship charity with the aim of supporting lurchers with medical needs throughout southern England.
Next up in my Ten for Ten project is BJ. Hold on to your hats, folks, because you’re in for a big surprise… BJ is not a sighthound but a poodle! I actually photograph loads of other breeds besides sighthounds, but I guess I do wear my (sighthound-shaped) heart on my sleeve a bit.
I first met BJ at Discover Dogs years ago and his mum commissioned me to do some photographs of him in his prime as a show dog. Poodles in show cut are about as different from a greyhound as you can get. They need different lighting to find the eyes beneath that huge top knot. And (so unlike the rescues and the family pets I normally work with, who fidget and don’t pose in any conventional sense) BJ was the dream subject standing stock still in the perfect pose for as long as it took! Then again, there are many similarities – the beauty of line and shape, and the way studio lighting shows off those features.
BJ finished his career as a show dog some years ago and abandoned his lion show cut in favour of a practical short style. Nowadays he mostly works as chief canine treat-tester and beach-scout at his owner’s stunning (and immensely dog friendly) barn in Norfolk (available for holiday rentals through East Ruston Cottages. Check out the link to see BJ hard at work checking out possible goodies for the Rooster Barn Welcome Pack. But he still keeps his paw in with the show world, coaching his young housemate Snugs, who is currently taking the show ring by storm.
It’s ten years since I began as a professional dog photographer. To celebrate I’m inviting ten of the dogs I’ve photographed over the years back for another photo shoot and I’ll be sharing the results here. Ten for Ten.
Next up is Rafferty, companion to the wonderful lurcher Lexi, equally lovely but as different as chalk and cheese. This was one of my very first photoshots as a professional photographer and such a lovely one. You know how it is sometimes, when you take a photograph, sneak a peep at the back of the camera when you think no-one’s looking (because that’s so unprofessional, right?!) and the image literally takes your breath away? That’s what happened at that shoot all those years ago, and that photograph of Rafferty in particular helped define my style and my brand. It’s still tucked away on my website, somewhere here. Actually it’s almost impossible to take a bad photograph of a scruffy lurcher, they are God’s gift to dog photographers…
Rafferty himself is quite extraordinary. In all these years he hasn’t aged one little bit. I mean, we always say that of people and of dogs but in Rafferty’s case it is exactly true. Yet another reason to add a scruffy lurcher to the list of dogs I hope I’ll own one day…
And today I’m back in Hitchin in Hertfordshire, revisiting one of the gorgeous hounds I worked with for the famous Hunks and Hounds calendar. A few years back I worked with Nicki Feltham and the Hound Lounge team to produce a charity calendar raising funds for sighthound rescue. The calendar turned out to be so popular it went into a second round of printing, and then another. Perhaps it was because the dogs were so gorgeous?!
Thank you for your visit.
Continuing my celebration of ten dogs from my ten years as a professional dog photographer, Ten for Ten.
Luka is a borzoi, a beautiful soul, happy, carefree and greatly loved. It wasn’t always so. He had a very tough start in life, not all of his littermates survived those first challenging months, but Luka was one of the lucky ones. He was homed through a sighthound rescue to an experienced borzoi home with other hounds for company, and life turned good for Luka.
I first met him at Crufts a few years back, not in the show ring but upstairs on one of the charity stands promoting sighthound rescue and adoption. Crufts is a fantastic dog show, but the halls are huge, the crowds can be thick and the noise can be quite wearing. And there in the middle of all that chaos was Luka, shining like a good deed in a weary world, smiling his wonderful smile and working the crowds like a pro. I knew at that moment I wanted to do some studio portraits of him. He took a bit of tracking down but I did indeed do just that, and one of those images was shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society’s international Print Exhibition. I am so honoured to have achieved that against such distinguished competition and so grateful to Luka for helping me create that image. You can still see it here – did you find him?
When I photographed him again for his return photoshoot, he was in his usual mood, smiling, larking about, refusing to take any of it seriously. In fact I think that’s the Luka I love best.
I’ve been a professional dog photographer for ten years now, and I’m doing a special project to celebrate. Ten of the dogs I’ve photographed over the past ten years are coming to my Richmond studio or meeting up out and about for another photoshoot. Ten for Ten, in fact.
This post is a celebration of Joseph the whippet who has been a friend, a model, and a muse for much of the last ten years. We met when I was shooting photographs for a calendar in aid of Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. It was to be a set of photographs of “active greyhounds” – I soon realised that was an oxymoron! There are very few greyhounds who are active, mostly their capacity for doing anything more active than shifting from one bed to the next disappears from the day they are adopted. It turned out that very few people had greyhounds young enough or foolish enough to be active, even fewer of these went off lead, and the exercise paddocks at Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare were still waterlogged after the winter rains so not useable as a safe enclosed area. I was desperate! Someone told me about Joseph, who was owned by sighthound/greyhound people, he was young, he was active, he was beautiful, he went off lead and, though he was actually a whippet, he might just pass as a greyhound. What do you think?
I can’t remember whether we ever used a whippet photograph in a greyhound calendar but Joseph and his family became firm friends and I never miss any opportunity to photograph him, because he is gorgeous!
He has modelled for me on numerous commercial shoots. Anyone who has ever bought a coat or a sweater from Greyt Sweaters will have seen Joseph modelling their excellent designs. I think he has been the face of just about every whippet coat they’ve made. He’s also modelled various sighthound collars, modelled bandanas, modelled silly hats for a book, basically if a dog can wear it, he has obliged with the modelling.
I also love taking more personal photographs of Joseph for his family and sometimes one of these images turns out better than I could ever have hoped. My photograph of Joseph beside a huge Great Dane was exhibited by the Royal Photographic Society. It’s such a silly picture, but it still makes me laugh.
I have so much to thank this little man for. Almost every time I photograph him he brings something new and different to the images. I am so glad I took a chance, pretending he was a greyhound all those years ago.