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