Dog Days of Summer

We are loving summertime here at The Loyal Dog! The relaxed, happy, tongue-lolling dogs who greet us at their homes or visit us in the studio remind us how wonderful summer can be, even when it's "too hot". Their devoted owners -- our clients and friends -- are more cheerful these days, too.

What's not to love about this complete turnabout from the (now-distant) cloudy, chilly days of this past spring?

My own dogs Bo and Linus have been spending their time this summer divided between the yard, where the grass is cool and the nattering squirrels and neighbor dogs make for pleasant diversion, and the porch, where they stretch out under our feet, happy just to be near enough to hear us ask and answer over and over, as we scratch a doggie belly, "Who's a good dog?"

Steve's dog Bruno has his own rhythms in the summertime. He's a burly fella, a two-toned aging American bulldog with a mind of his own and some definite ideas about how to manage this heat. He will ask Steve to go out, and once on the sidewalk, take a few moments to gauge the temperature, If it is Too Hot, he will take care of his doggie business and immediately return to the door to go back inside. If instead he deems the heat reasonable, he will allow a trip to Edgewater Beach or Lakewood Park. Sometimes he miscalculates, and decides midway through the walk that it would be madness to continue in such weather, at which point he simply goes on strike -- refusing to budge, a stately old bulldog firmly planted in place until he recovers himself enough to continue.

We were lucky enough to have outdoor summer sessions with some wonderfully happy and relaxed dogs recently -- the spry and downright goofy labradoodle puppy Ori, who frolicked  around his backyard as only a puppy can do, and our more stately doggie friends, Rolf and Bruce, who posed with relaxed dignity in their urban courtyard.

What is your summer routine with your dog? Whatever it is, enjoy it thoroughly. We have only so many of these wonderful weeks left. (And you might want to book a photo session to capture it. Just sayin').

The (almost) End of the Long, Gray Winter

It's February in Cleveland. Just that phrase conjures images of gray skies and slushy streets, bone-chilling cold -- and reluctant dog walks. Looking out the window as I write this, I note that Cleveland does not disappoint: the sky could not be more gray, the powdery whiteness has given way to pale brown slush, and it's pretty stinkin' cold out there.

But it's almost spring! This is what we tell each other starting around March 1 to assure ourselves that it will indeed, despite all current evidence to the contrary, eventually be springtime, beautiful and balmy and even (for a time) sweet-smelling.

For dog lovers, it's an especially welcome vision: no more begging the dog to "hurry up" so we can rush back inside, no more worries of taking a bad fall on an icy sidewalk. We just can't wait to enjoy leisurely strolls and conditions that allow our furry friends to explore the trails (and sidewalks) freely once again.

So, as much as the Cleveland winter dreariness can be overwhelming, we know that soon the green will reappear and we will be able to go to Edgewater beach and the Metropark trails as well as the backyard patio, dogs by our sides.

And those outdoor moments of springtime are wonderfully picturesque -- be sure to let us capture your dog's antics on film this season. (And at this time next year, you could be looking at a framed photo of him or her happily frolicking in the green, green grass. It could make next February a little less dreary!)

The Sibling Shoot

I love you both the same. How many times have I had to reassure my two dogs, in doggie language, that I love them the same? At least, I love them the same amount. Certainly not in the same way, as anyone with two (or more) dogs understands. I love Linus' spunky, black-eyes-snapping alertness as much as I love Bo's Eyore-like, block-headed sweetness.

This week, Steve and I were shooting a promo for The Loyal Dog with my two dogs, Linus and Bo (I will alternate which name goes first throughout this post so as to remove any hint or semblance of favoritism). We knew we could count on them to cooperate -- at least as far as dogs can be counted on to cooperate during a photo shoot. They are, after all, creatures with their own agendas, which rarely (if ever) includes helping you get the best possible picture. There are squirrels to chase, smells to examine, suspicious passers-by to guard against, all of which rank higher on the list than posing or modeling.

So what often happened this time was, as Steve was ready to take the shot, one of my little darlings would be perfectly still, ears forward and eyes soft, the picture of photogenic perfection, and the other would choose that moment to bark at a nearby squirrel or find a sudden need to itch, or to otherwise insist that the focus shift to him. It seemed like a deliberate, if not wholly conscious, desire to get attention away from the other dog at precisely the moment when we were most focused on giving it. We would look over at the offender, who would look at us, all innocence, as if to say, "Is it my turn now?"

Eventually, as happens every time, we were able to get the shots because that's the kind of bad-ass pro photographer Steve is (and because my dogs are so unbelievably cute, of course!). And the sibling rivalry not only didn't hurt the shoot, it added an interesting element to each photo, and when we look at the pictures now, the memories of their brotherly shenanigans day never fail to bring a smile.

linus and Bo Fall.jpg

Doggie Rehab

Bo is our English Mastiff, weighing in at something like a hundred and forty pounds and standing nearly three feet at the shoulder. He's really more like a cross between a small pony and a newborn moose than a dog, and our house isn't quite big enough for him: he regularly lifts up tables simply by crossing underneath them, struggles to back out of corners he's too big to turn around in, and dominates the kitchen floor by stretching across the length of it when we are there preparing meals. Still, he's a sweet fella, with his gentle, slightly worried expression and baseball-mitt paws, and while he could easily crush most anything that might come into his path, he isn't likely to use his size in any way other than to (quite accidentally) intimidate those who come his way.

So our sweet Bo -- and may I just interject here that my husband did not want to spell the name B-e-a-u, the French (and clearly more beautiful) way, causing me to suffer the indignity of saying the initials for Body Odor every time I call for an appointment with the vet --- so our sweet B.O. is currently undergoing rehabilitation after a torn knee ligament required TPLO surgery, which is a serious kind of procedure involving metal plates and bone reconstruction. This is the first of TWO such procedures, as he is the victim of "poor knee genes", according to our vet and verified by some disconcerting x-rays; this means he will have to undergo the same surgery on the other knee six months from now. by which time I hope to have sufficiently recovered, myself, because as anyone who has nursed a dog through a medical procedure of this nature knows, it ain't easy. There is the nearly incessant tending: monitoring, medicating, lifting, protecting, and all the other -ings that make the healing happen on schedule.

For his part, Bo has been a remarkably stoic and (mostly) cooperative patient, allowing Linus, his low-slung Corgi sibling, and the neighbor dog Bucky to run circles around him out in the yard as he stays tethered in place, dolefully following their antics with his droopy Mastiff eyes. He was compliant about taking his meds -- meted out in quantities that border on the absurd, at an equally absurd price -- and wore the canine Elizabethan Collar/ Cone of Shame with good-natured resignation for a full two weeks in service of healing the stitches on his poor, genetically inferior knee.

This might be a good time to bring up the fact that our family has had some bad dog luck over the past few years, which makes me believe that we must now be due for a reversal in these fortunes, which in turn makes me perhaps unrealistically optimistic about all things Bo. After all, my reasoning goes, it wouldn't be possible for the same family to have owned a year-old dog who developed a fatal spinal disease followed by a five month old puppy who took a flying leap off of a rooftop garden followed by an innocent young bulldog stricken with cancer to have yet another dog-related heartbreak. Statistically, it seems highly unlikely, so surely Bo and -- double sets of fingers crossed here -- Linus are  destined to break this terrible streak of sadness. 

But for now we are only heading into the home stretch of the house arrest phase of his recovery,. Soon he will be able to go for (slow) walks around the block and eventually work his way up to gamboling along the river that runs alongside the nearby golf course, off-leash. My husband will be happy, as he misses the long walks more than Bo does, having been in the habit of daily dog walking for the past few decades. He's like the postman: "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night can keep him from his appointed rounds" and he's been rather lost without that routine. I think I've overheard him  letting out long, wistful sighs as he stands by the door, fingering the leash and gazing toward the sidewalk..."Soon..," I hear him muttering to himself, "Soon..."

The only upside to the emotional, physical and financial demands of this whole doggie rehab thing is that the required extra care and tenderness directed toward our Bobo has made him even more precious to us, and has reminded us that he is worth every bit of it whatever it is we have to do for his giant, gentle self. Let's just hope I can hold on to that thought next spring, when the time for surgery number two rolls around. Meantime, he is still one of our top models at The Loyal Dog, where all dogs great and small, healthy and still healing, are camera-worthy.



Go, Dog, Go

Does anyone else remember the fabulous children's picture book Go Dog Go? 

It tells this crazy story about a wild bunch of dogs who drive cars, wear hats and end up all partying together at the top of a tree. There are big dogs, little dogs, fluffy dogs and smooth dogs; smart dogs, goofy dogs.. you get the picture. It's a classic kid's picture book, and one look at the Dog Party (a 2-page spread) and you'll understand the appeal -- dogs playing tennis! having a picnic! jumping rope! taking turns being shot out of a cannonAnd they all look completely different from one another in the most charming possible way.

Well, that little book was brought to mind last week at The Loyal Dog, where we saw a parade of doggies, each so different from one another as to be ridiculously adorable in their specialness. It was like Go Dog Go, the live version: We had a photo session with a spotted mini dacshund immediately following a pair of elegant Greyhounds; a wiry, white-haired ball of puppy energy after a sweet, elderly yorkie; and a glossy black pug back-to-back with a fluffy silver poodle.

The same kind of crazy-cool variety of dogs was on display on Sunday at Woofstock (yes, you read that right). This is a fun annual event (held this year at the Chagrin Polo Field) that raises money for Rescue Village in Geauga County. Dogs and their human partners show up to donate to the cause and to admire and fuss over other dogs. Oh, and there are lots of vendors and some cool exhibitions. But to me, it was the incredible variety of dogs that made it such a good time. And standing back and squinting a little bit, it looked to me exactly like the Dog Party page from Go Dog Go....I almost expected to see a dog getting shot out of a cannon.

Donations still being accepted at Rescue Village


This Dog Business

Welcome to the launch of The Loyal Dog Photography! Here we go, kicking off the business with this first-ever blog post. I hope you will return often to read about the wonderful dogs we get the chance to photograph; we will be highlighting stories about our clients' dogs every other week. But first, an introduction to who we are and why we happen to love spending time shooting pictures of dogs...

My brother Steve Wagner -- our fabulous photographer -- and I have always loved animals, and grew up with a slew of them: gerbils, rabbits, cats, birds, and, in my case, horses. But it is dogs that have always held a special place in our lives, from our first dog, a crazy beagle named Mephistopheles ("Mephy" for short) to an elegant wolf hybrid named Virginia (get it? Virginia Wolf?) to Bruno, the goofy bulldog with the spectacular underbite (you can find photos of that jutting jaw throughout this site). Steve and I now find ourselves bringing that lifelong passion for dogs to the business of photography, where Steve has been at home for over 20 years taking wonderful portraits of humans and their human endeavors (like weddings and bar mitzvahs, sure, but also of street basketball and skateboarding, beach lounging and stage acting). He finally decided (although he still takes those pics; see link to his website, below) to give his "spare time" photographing of dogs the professional status it deserves.

Does it seem strange to have a business focused on taking pictures of dogs? Aren't they somehow not as worthy a subject of humans? Consider how much our respect for our "animal brethren" has changed over the past couple of decades: gone -- thank heaven -- are the days of dogs being kept in the garage or tied "out back", even by well-meaning owners who simply believed that dogs had their place in the well-ordered household (and it wasn't on the sofa or in the owner's bed!).

Perhaps this change is because we have evolved to understand that not only do the dogs need to be around their people (they are pack animals, after all) but also that we humans need to be around our dogs -- the joy and meaning they bring to our lives is so worth the mess and disruption (okay, chaos) they sometimes bring.

Dog lovers know that in a way, dogs are like spiritual teachers -- we become better souls because  we learn to be more devoted, more dependable; they show us what it means to be more loving and loyal; they bring out warmth and humor that is sometimes hard to find in ourselves and our troubled world. Anyone who has ever felt the terrible pain of losing a dog knows how big a hole it leaves in the heart; each one is irreplaceable, having brought out the best in us.

We hope that The Loyal Dog Photography portraits successfully capture these amazing creatures and provide reminders to all who see the images that we are so lucky to have them in our lives.

-- Jill