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.
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.
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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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It seems mad to be mentioning Christmas in November. But the truth is that the professional printing labs I use get very busy at this time of year (so do I!) and their Christmas deadlines are now approaching fast. So, without further ado, here are my last ordering dates if you want that fabulous canvas of your dog, or a stunning acrylic wall display of that image from your horse photoshoot, or to order a Madaboutgreys Photoshoot Gift Voucher for your friends or family in time for Christmas:
4 December for wall art (canvases, acrylics etc) & display products
11 December for standard photographic prints
18 December for photoshoot gift vouchers delivered by post
23 December for photoshoot gift vouchers delivered by email
I’m now officially fully booked for photoshoots till January, but if you are enquiring about a booking for a beautiful greyhound (or a lovely lurcher, or a winsome whippet) I might just be able to fit you in.
I always love doing dog photoshoots among the bluebells at this time of year. The woods in Surrey and Hertfordshire have literally hundreds of beautiful locations if you know where to look.
The light was just perfect the other evening, the air heavy with the scent of bluebells and the sun making a surprise guest appearance from time to time. We could almost imagine that we might disturb the Fairy Queen asleep among the bluebells.
There is something particularly special about photographing whippets, their faces are so full of character, and the way they sit and lie and stand is so utterly photogenic. Little old man Ridley was a delight to work with, with his fine features and gentle face. He is now virtually totally deaf (though you’d never know it from those spectacular ears) – I think he has become adept at understanding sign language though. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital as a patient or supporting a family member, you’ll know how important it is to stay positive, despite feeling vulnerable. And when the hospital environment is a bit less clinical, a bit more homely, that can help a lot. So when the charity Paintings in Hospitals asked me to donate a photoshoot for one of their fundraisers of course I said yes.
Bichon Lottie’s family were the lucky winners. In fact she was such a gorgeous little dog to photograph, I think we were all winners…
Check out this link to learn more about Paintings in Hospitals and the work they do.