TEN for TEN – 7. Rafferty the lurcher

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…

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TEN for TEN – 4. Luka the Borzoi

Norfolk dog photoshoot

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.

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TEN for TEN – 3. Joseph the whippet

Profession dog photographer Surrey

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.

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TEN for TEN – 2. Ariel the greyhound

Surrey Dog Photographer Madaboutgreys

Continuing my Ten for Ten project to celebrate my tenth year as a dog photographer…  And next up is Ariel the greyhound.  I first photographed her for the 2012 Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare calendar, which was to be a celebration of black dogs, which are often the last ones to get adopted.  Ariel herself bucked that trend and quickly found a home – unsurprising as she is as full of character as she is beautiful.  But before she went off to her happily-ever-after future, I grabbed a quick photo shoot with her and she featured as a 1920s flapper in the calendar. 

I think she is even more beautiful with the passing years.  She now sports a stunning silver mask in the shape of a heart, so fitting for a girl who conquers the hearts of everyone she meets.  After the nutty Flapper picture, I wanted to do something equally daft, but just slightly more dignified, for the second time round.  So, I give you … Ariel Queen of Hearts!

You can check out the story of the Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare All Blacks calendar here.

And if you want to see the original picture of Ariel the Flapper, check out  my website gallery here.  Did you find her yet?

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KATIE THE GREYHOUND | London Photoshoot for a Tripod hound

This is a story about cancer in dogs. But it is also a story about love, about hope and about life after cancer.

About a year ago, beautiful greyhound girl Katie was diagnosed with cancer. She is not that old, the diagnosis came while she was under sedation for tests to investigate, and the vet advised her owners to let her go without reviving her from the anaesthetic. But Katie and her owners were made of sterner stuff. A second opinion was sought, it wasn’t possible to save her leg but saving her life was another matter entirely. She made an excellent recovery after the life-saving surgery, she manages perfectly well on three legs, and after further treatment she was pronounced cancer-free.

Katie’s owners had followed my work for years (well, it’s a small world among Surrey greyhound owners), and they had always meant to ask me to photograph Katie but never quite got round to it. But they decided to celebrate Katie’s recovery with a very special combined studio and outdoor photo shoot with me.

Katie is now fit as a fiddle with, hopefully, many more happy years ahead. And I am so touched that on our afternoon together she honoured me with some of the most precious action shots I ever made.

ODIN & MANA – Norfolk Photoshoot for a famous Galgo and Podenco

This is just an old-fashioned love story… Odin (galgo cross) and Maña (podenco) have been together almost all their lives.  They have been loved and they love each other very dearly.  But things have not always run smooth for them.  At the age of eleven they lost their home and almost everything they held dear when their owner died, and they found themselves in the care of Galgos del Sol (GdS) in Murcia in southern Spain.  At least they still had each other, and that must have been a solace.  

It’s always harder to home aging dogs. Odin and Maña joined Galgos del Sol’s “Retirement, Sickly and Crazies” gang.  What’s that?  As Tina Solera of GdS said “The saddest part of rescue for me is when a dog is going to die in the center. Basically dogs come to our home that are at risk of dying in the kennels. The chances of (Maña and Odin) getting a new home together are slim so they are living with us under the Retirement qualification”  But Galgos del Sol never gave up hope that Odin and Maña would be homed and moreover, be homed together.  

Pause a moment…  Anyone who thinks this story is going to have a sad ending has never fallen under the spell of a senior sighthound or experienced their powerful charms.  

Odin and Maña became firm favourites with the volunteers who come from all over the world to help at Galgos del Sol.  Word about them spread, and the pair developed a huge fan club on Facebook and Twitter.  Among their followers was the wonderful Carmel of Greys Eleven Plus, which helps older greyhounds who find themselves homeless.

Let Carmel take up the story from here.  She writes “I am thrilled and honoured to be allowed to offer Maña and Odin a place here at Greys Eleven Plus. Their story touched me deeply when they first came to GdS – this next and last step in their journey through life will be a happy one. I will keep everyone updated on their progress.”

So they all lived happily after.  Odin and Maña travelled all the way from Spain to Norfolk in September.  They are now living happily with Carmel and the other senior sighthounds to whom she has offered a sanctuary and a last, loving home. And they trying to bring service up to Spanish standards (Odin grumbles that breakfast is always late even before the clocks went back and Maña is still trying to share Carmel’s bed instead of the sofa). And because they are now just up the road from me (well, a Norfolk country mile or two), we got together and took some pictures.

Norfolk dog photoshoot

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TILDA | Richmond Studio Photoshoot for a famous Galga

The moment the beautiful Tilda walked into my Richmond studio I knew I was in for a treat:  beautiful, charming, friendly, very well-trained and attentive, she was going to be the perfect subject.

But I didn’t know the half of it.  As her owners started to chat and shared with me Tilda’s extraordinary story, I began to realise I was in the presence of the most heroic creature I have ever photographed.  Like many galgos or Spanish greyhounds, Tilda – or Vera as she was then – was a stray, probably abandoned by her previous hunting owners when she was no longer of use to them.  She was found wandering the marketplace of a little town in southern Spain in search of food, struggling with a severely broken leg.  Her kind rescuer took her to the vets where her broken leg was treated and placed in a cast.

But the vet also realised she was lactating and had likely given birth very recently.  So the search was on for the pups and their mother was the only one who knew where they were. With her rescuers, Tilda was taken back to the place where she had been found, and on a long lead she promptly led them nearly two miles to an abandoned car, and in the back were ten fat healthy pups.

I broke my toe last week.  It is just a little break and all strapped up now, but it is as much as I can do to walk our dogs the length of our local dog park.  I am overcome with respect and emotion for this dear little dog who walked determinedly for two miles through streets, over rough ground and across fields, sometimes limping, sometimes dragging her cast, to bring her offspring to safety.

All that is behind her now.  Her photoshoot with me was a celebration to mark the one year anniversary of her adoption.  She now lives with a lovely, sighthound-savvy family and enjoys a life of luxury and love.  Thanks to her courage and bravery, all of her pups survived and have grown up to be beautiful, strong, healthy young dogs, just like their mum. And all have now found loving homes, all except one.  A stunning black pup called Jackson was returned to the rescue recently because his homing didn’t work out.  If anyone can offer Jackson a home please get in touch direct with Ibizan Hound Rescue or via the Facebook page Vera and Pups. With the genes he’s inherited from his wonderful mother he is bound to be one very special little lad.

Oh and Tilda’s amazing story even made the national press, see here.

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