The People Behind Rescue Dogs

While peeling through Facebook the other day, I noticed an article posted by a friend about the old vs. new ways that dog rescues/shelters can best market their dogs and services to those that are searching for a future family member(s).   It started with getting rid of the “poor dog”stories and not dwelling on the past life of the dog.  You’ve probably seen those heart wrenching photos like these below, of our new dog, Helen Jane, when she initially came into a shelter in Indiana.  (These were from a 2 year series of photos from her initial rescue to adoption.  I’m just using these for illustrative purposes.)

Be Delicate with Me!

Be Delicate with Me!

Too Thin

Too Thin

Now fast-forward 2 years!  She’s made a spectacular recovery and was nursed back to good health with the help of Illinois Bird Dog Rescue and their system of dedicated foster homes and volunteers.  (Kudos to all of you because you saw her through the tough days and we benefited from that!)  The gist of the article was rather than dwell on the rescued dog‘s past and pull at the heartstrings with sob stories, it’s better to highlight the dog’s best behaviors, personality traits, and why the dog would be a good companion and family member.  In other words, show them in their best light!  Well here you go . . .

Catchiing Air!

Catchiing Air!

On the Scent

On the Scent

Cool Down Time!

Cool Down Time!

While we know nothing about her life before rescue (nor do we need to know), we celebrate the joy, companionship, humor and energy she brings to our everyday lives!  She’s also become my “never too cold, hot or rainy” exercise partner and has me running again, after a multi-year ‘resting period.’  Now, if I could only keep up with her!

Shortly after adopting her, I signed up for a dog obedience training class (1 & 2) with Holly Lewis (Cold Nose Canine) at the east side Zoom Room and in spite of her being an adult, 4-6 yrs old, our “bonding through obedience training” has blossomed.  Yes, you can teach older dogs (and humans) new tricks!   This skilled network of positive reinforcement dog trainers is vital in completing the circle of successful adoptions.

As I read the brief FB post from Beyond Breed, I thought of all the people that work tirelessly to rescue, shelter,transport, foster, treat and ready dogs for adoptions.  From executive directors to volunteers, there’s an army of people to celebrate and acknowledge.  Like Lisa, below, with her own dog, Buckwheat, who’s been rescuing English Pointers and English Setters for 12 years.

He's the best and he's all mine!

He’s the best and he’s all mine!

With that understanding, it’s time to start another personal photography project!  Spread the word because I need to photograph and blog about the people that are behind the scenes of every big and little dog adoption.   From home based rescues to large shelters, help me share the stories of their everyday successes and joys of working in the emotionally charged area of dog rescue/adoption.   It’s the successes that keep this “army” going and that’s what I intend to highlight.  To start things off, I’d like to travel to northwest Indiana, with Hellie, and photograph the people there that helped get her to me.  I think they’d love to see what’s become of her and I expect the joyful memory of our meeting would fuel them forward during some tougher times.

This project would also include the adopters and their new canine family members.  Then I can help supply the rescues with images such as the one below that illustrate that rescued/adopted dogs can be wonderful companions to children and families!  If you’d like to be part of this yet to be named project or know of someone, or a shelter/rescue that might be interested in participating, please contact me at or 414.550.5340.  Sites in the Midwest are encouraged but I’ll also consider other states if they line up with travel plans such as Alaska, western New York, or the driving route to Florida.  Thanks for helping this project move forward!

"I've got your eeaarr!"

“I’ve got your eeaarr!”

Ahh, the Fall!

When you’re photographing people outside in the Fall, you’re always at the mercy of the weather.  Will it be cold, windy, hot, or rainy?  Fall is a time of vast change and if I’m working with little ones, weather can make all the difference in the mood of the images.  So last week, when the weather didn’t cooperate for an active 18 month old, named William, I told Amy, the mother, “the weather’s surely going to get warm again.”

So with the temps in the mid 60’s this morning, I headed out to Cedarburg and had lots of fun with William and his apples!

I’m sooo big and strong!

He was so enthusiastic and enjoyed playing with his parents as we maneuvered quickly through 3 clothing changes and some time with his beloved Sammy.  The warm, morning light was pouring through the white birch leaves, while a steady breeze kept him cool in his warm outfits.  Even Sammy, the family pooch, gave me a spontaneous moment that they will cherish long after William’s buddy is gone.

It was a exhilarating morning with William and his family and we all were blessed with the wonderful, soft kisses of warmth that Fall can bring.  A great joy accompanied me all day as I thought of the fun I had in the company of William and his apples.  I hope you can find time to go outside and breath it in over the next few days in the Midwest.  Be sure to eat an apple while you’re out there!

I’m ready for frost now.


You are my very best friend in the whole, wide world!

On top of the world on dad’s shoulders.


Got my weight-lifting over for the day!




Sniffing Down The Scent

You know how it is when you catch the slightest scent of something new?  Something you’ve never smelled before?  A slight waft of new possibilities brushes by your whiskers and moves towards your nose.  Millions of olfactory neurons fire in machine-gun like fashion and soon you’re nose is inches from the ground. Your legs start pumping with new intensity while your long, floppy ears move more scent up towards your nose.  Coonhounds get it!  It’s only a microseconds later that a good bawl comes pouring out from the lungs. The hunt is on!

This hunt started years ago.  I was at the Rocky Mountain School of Photograhy in Missoula, MT for their Summer Intensive class.  A a dog owner, my coonhound mix, Ellie, was with me for the three months that I was in MT.  We loved hiking trails, splashing through mountain creeks and smelling the sage brush.  The bond we created in those 3 months is forever strong!

For a long time, I’ve understood the relationship that happens between dogs and their people and have wanted to make that happen for others through the medium of photography.  You know – “a picture is worth a thousand words” kind of thing.  See those big ole’ dog eyes or a relaxed hand draped across a dog and your heart melts.

What the eyes can tell us

If you’ve seen an old black and white image of a dog and their family, spread out on the front porch steps of a worn, clapboard, ranch house, you know what I mean.  That dog was every bit of “family.”

It’s taken me a decade to sniff the scent down, even though I’ve been photographing dogs – pets and their people, all along the way.   But something’s been eating away at me – calling me (actually BARKING at me is more like it!). In 2011, my book Dogs and Their Women was completed and the scent has grown even stronger.  I can no longer ignore it or get called away by another master.  I think that the drive to the prize is so strong, that like a German Shorthair Pointer wearing a training collar, a good shock might not even be enough to call me back now!

A Woo, Woo, Woo, to all of you!  This year The Alpha Dog (me) is creating a new brand, a new website, a new blog, soley dedicated to all things canine.  It’s a work in progress right now but every single cell in my body is shaking with excitment as I get closer and the scent gets stronger.  I’m looking for your help, however.  A good coonhound needs a pack, you know.  As a fellow dog owner, you have insight into the dog world and the relationships with your own 4-pawed companion.

Tell me what you’d like to see, hear, sniff. Have some ideas for me?  Send them my way, as I’m in the process of designing from the bones – up.  I really want to hear from you as I feel like a new-born puppy right now – a little blind and a little deaf – just beginning to paw my way through.

I’m so excited about this and am looking forward to talking more about this with lots of folks that come by my booth at the Great Lakes PET EXPOon Saturday, Feb 4th at State Fair Park!  See you there!

The Drive to the Prize!

One Image Speaks Volumes

Fall is definitely here in the Milwaukee area as hat and mittens were donned for the dog walk this morning.  My dog Ellie, a coonhound-lab mix, LOVES these cool, crisp mornings and gets a little skip in her 13 year old step as we approach the frosty days to come!  This time of year also finds me busy as a Christmas elf as I photograph numerous families, kids and dogs in the fall scenery.  This weekend was no exception!  Today I share with you some images that touched me in some way.  I think you’ll see why.

Is spite of 35-40 mph winds whipping the area on Saturday, I headed out with a favorite family to Hubbard Park.  Hoping for some natural wind block down by the river, we knew the wind was still going to get us so we decided to ‘go with it.’  Dad tossed his daughter into the air and the very essence of that father/daughter relationship was captured.   Sophia seems to fly as she laughs at the feeling of  zero gravity.  Here’s to all the dad’s that instill that sense of adventure into their daughters lives, teaching them that taking a risk can be fun.  Taking a risk is always fun when you have the hands of your father to fall back into!  I’m thankful for that gift from my own father, who told me that I could do anything I wanted to.

I Can Fly!

One of the other things that touches my heart is dogs and how they fill a special place in the lives of those who live with them.  This family has an older Border Collie and recently got a new, younger model of the same breed.  At 4 months, Finn is full of energy, but the 4 kids in his life have a way of dissipating that in him.  As I attempted to get a shot of the 2 boys with Finn, I really wanted them to kiss the side of his face, simultaneously.  A ‘canine take’ on an old theme.  Instead, what I got would probably have been an edit-out to some photographers.  Instead, I love how Finn’s timely blink gives the appearance of being in absolute heaven with his newfound brothers.  Tell me  – what  do you think Finn would be thinking at this moment

"Oooh, I love my forever brothers!"

Yesterday I moved onto Naga Waukee Park with another dog family.   The one image mom was hoping for was her labs busting through the water after their ball.  After coaching dad, the ball thrower, we took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pant legs and headed into the cold water of Lake Nagawaukee.  (was so glad to only have my legs in the water!)  Dad got the ball toss down quickly and Triton, the ball-driven black lab, played right into my script.

Target locked-on!


Earlier, I had been photographing Triton’s brother, Zeus.  On land, Zeus was all over the ball – sprinting after it and leaping into the air to grab it before Triton could get close.  In the water, however, the opposite happened.  Zeus lagged behind and seemed like a totally different dog.  It made me think about how we all have aspects of our lives that we’re good at.   While we have to work or practice to be better in certain areas or subjects, everyone has a strong point – an ace in their hand.  Triton and Zeus remind me that even if I don’t readily see in other their strong assets, those assets are still there.  Perhaps the right ball has not yet been tossed their way.  Don’t forget to wait for it.

Airborne catch

(Images of dogs in water made with Nikon D3S camera settings on Continuous High, Center-Weighted metering, and 11 frames per second at ISO 400, f 4, 1/2000.)

Everyone Needs Acceptance

While it’s really busy around here in the midst of the Fall portrait season, I wanted to take the time to tell you about an important community project that’s been launched in Milwaukee.  “Acceptance Journeys” started because Gary Hollander, and his motivated staff at Diverse and Resilient, wanted to make an impact on the overall health of the LGBT  (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community.   Studies show that when gays, lesbians and transgendered people find love and acceptance in their lives, it translates into positive, healthy behaviors.  In light of the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS in the African-American Community, “Acceptance Journeys” seeks to improve the health of everyone in the LGBT  community.

Those of us that identify with one of these groups, are healthier spiritually, physically, and mentally when our loved ones, and those we interact with on a regular basis, accept us for who we are.  This love and acceptance builds self-esteem and translates into a feeling of worthiness, leads to a sense of purpose, and a provides a positive sense of self.  Who wouldn’t want to work, play and interact with people like that?

Love: give it, accept it!

When I was asked to participate in this project, I readily accepted.  It started with photographing groups of people that are LGBT and their straight allies.  I met a variety of people:  direct-line family members like parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles & nieces.  Then it was co-workers, pastors, and friends of the LGBT participants.  As a photographer, I knew that each group would be photographed first and then they’d be interviewed by Kofi Short, at Diverse and Resilient.  It was challenging to quickly come up with new ideas and coax out their relationship to one another, as literally, one group after another, reported to my studio.  You know, not everyone likes to be photographed!!  One of the things that made my work easier was that everyone involved was glad to be involved in the project and committed to its mission.  I thank all of you for opening up yourselves for the benefit of others who don’t have love and acceptance in their lives.  It was an honor to be a part of such a positive project!

On a related note, Chely Wright is the first country music performer to come out as a lesbian.  A documentary film about her coming out process, “Wish Me Away” recently played at the Milwaukee Film Festival and it was wonderful to see how she unloosened the noose of a Bible-belt Christian upbringing and pushed through to her own self-acceptance while keeping God in her life and heart.  In her book, Like Me, Chely describes the negative, downward spiral of her life as she hid her personal life away from even her closest friends, and compartmentalized her life as an award-winning, top female, country music performer.  This path of self-loathing and believing that her music career was more important than self-acceptance of her sexual orientation, almost ended her life via suicide.  Unfortunately, we read about other young LGBT people who are bullied and lack the acceptance that Chely and others in this “Acceptance Journeys” have found.  I think Chely would applaud the “Acceptance Journeys” project.

I thank all of you for opening up yourselves for the benefit of others, who don’t have love and acceptance in their lives.  It was an honor to be a part of such a positive project and work with my ‘tribe.’  For all you straight allies out there, connect and talk to the LGBT person in your life.  Get to know them and show them that ‘you’ve got their back.’  We’ll enrich your life!

(for more images and the stories that will move you, visit “Acceptance Journeys”.  Look for more of the project in both print and billboards.  For Chely’s related album, head to iTunes for “lifted off the ground”)

The Baby and the Bike

Imagine that you’re pregnant with your first child and you’re excited to mark your progress with your regular visits to the doctor.  When you’re in the exam room, you notice that your husband can’t take his eyes off the beautiful, canvas wrap of Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service team in the 2005 Tour de France. If you’re really into cycling, you would know that 2005 was the SEVENTH and last Tour de France that Lance Armstrong won!  Well, dad, otherwise known as Travis, knew that and a lot more about Lance Armstrong.   His wife, Amy, knew she had a gift for Father’s Day and it wasn’t just the new baby to be!

Cycling: It's a family affair!

You see Travis races as a Cat 3 cyclist for Team Extreme Cycling and will be racing in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, that begins tonight (June 16) in Shorewood, WI.  This 11 day racing series, presented by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board,  travels through 11 communities from June 16 – 26, 2011, and he’ll be coming to my neighborhood on June 25th for the Downer Ave. race – neighborhood favorite summer event!  It’s full of family fun activities, live entertainment and of course, food and drink.  As a Risk Manager for Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), Travis is working to earn the honor of becoming a Cat 2 rider by earning points in these races.  His supportive sponsors include:  Extreme Ski and Cycling, Houseman & Feind, Hollrith Realty, Juniper61, LuLu Cafe’ and Cocktails, Cycling Form & Fitness, Centec Security, Port-a-John, and OS Nutrition.

After William was born and she returned to her doctor for ‘well-baby’ check-ups, Amy saw that canvas wrap again and called me about purchasing it for Travis as a surprise for Father’s Day.  She couldn’t wait until Father’s Day, however, and this week I returned to their home to photograph them with the canvas wrap and explain to Travis how I came to make this photo of Lance Armstrong and his 2005.  I had scouted the location the day before and decided where I wanted to be.  My location would allow my two views per lap around the Champs – Elysees and Arc de Triomphe.  I settled in at 9:30 a.m., expecting the racers to arrive by 4:30.  It was a primo spot!

People started to fill in and find their spots when a man came by and told me that I had to move.  I was in a VIP section.  OH NO!  All the next best spots were now filled in and this race was high on my list to photograph!  In a desperate, fast-paced attempt to find an good location, I could only find an spot on a tight, inside corner.   A very tough place to photograph world-class cyclists!!  More people filled in and a rain shower ensued.  To top it off, Paris is not known for it’s volume of public toilets so I rationed my drinking water to a half-cup for the whole day.

As the cyclists arrived, I pre-set my aperture, shutter speed, and fill-flash while also pre-focusing where the cyclists would be.  I raised the camera up over my head, and the heads of others, and panned/shot the cyclists as they past by in a burst of noise and wind.  Finding Lance in the crowd and then photographing was a disaster.  They came too quickly so I didn’t think I had any images of him.  After standing out there for 9 hours with little water or food, I cried because as I quickly flipped through my LCD, I didn’t think I had any images of Lance.

7th Victory of Tour de France

Later, back at the apartment we had rented, I loaded the images into my laptop.  I shouted with joy when I saw that I had 2 images of Lance.  This one was the best and it occurred one of the last two laps, when the other cyclists let the winner ride in front.  Glorious!  Now a new mother that supports her husband’s passion for cycling, has given her husband and new father a meaningful Father’s Day gift.  Ride Strong, Travis.  Ride Strong!

Summer’s Here Kids!

Yesterday was a gorgeous day here.  Windy, but sunny and definitely shorts weather!  It was my first session of the outdoor season in Lake Park and I got to spend it with two of my favorite kids – Katie and Sam!

Katie was all decked out in her girly-girl dress and fun white hat.  She couldn’t have looked any better!

Looking absolutely lovely, Katie!

Sam, the ever-helpful, big brother, even helped Katie get her wardrobe right.  He LOVES his sister and it showed when he pulled himself away from the playground to be Katie’s escort on the sidewalk.

"You'll look better with this on, Katie"

Sam helps to steady the newly walking Katie

Katie enjoyed her time chasing dandelions and Sam found some ‘alone time’ with his trucks and colorful sunglasses.  Having photographed Sam since he was 2 months old, I’ve come to appreciate his ‘let’s try it’ sense of adventure.  If I suggest something, he usually cooperates with great gusto.  Glad you like the sunglasses Sam!

I'm heading for that dandelion!

Look at my trucks!

So school’s just starting to wind down and soon kids and families will be outdoors enjoying the Wisconsin summer.  Don’t let time go by this summer without booking a Summer Mini-Session ($85) in the great outdoors.  Your kids grow up too fast to not record the fun they have!  Ask me to photograph your children doing the things they love and capture the relationship they enjoy with each other.   You’ll be glad you did!

Call or email me today and we’ll book a date and a Rain Date to work around the weather.  These sessions are limited, as is the time with your children.

Unsung Heroes

There are lots of people that we don’t hear about that donate countless hours towards making a difference in the world.  Most quietly go about their passions with very little recognition.  CNN honors some of them every year in the “HEROES” special, but today I wanted to bring your attention to one woman that has rescued and adopted hundreds of dogs.  She lives in Milwaukee and German Shorthair and English Pointers are the breeds that capture her attention.  I’d like you to meet Lisa Rossman – Executive Director of Wisconsin German Shorthair Pointer Rescue (WGSPR).

Lisa, Miracle & Jim

There are lots of stories that Lisa can share with you about running a dog rescue.  Some would make your heart soar and some would have you asking her, ‘how do you keep doing this?’   It takes a big heart to recognize the dogs you can save and move on from the ones you can’t.  The Humane Society of the United States estimates that an equal number of dogs & cats are rescued and euthanized each year – 3-4 million.  Lisa, along with a dedicated group of volunteers and foster moms & dads, keep the wheels of WGSPR going.  You can see some of the dogs they have available here.  Incidentally, Pointers are wonderful dogs for active, caring families.  (Disclaimer:  I’ve had one for 10 years)

To honor Lisa and the work she does, I invited her into the studio today to help kick off the WINE & PAWs event happening at the studio this weekend.  She brought in Jim, all freshly bathed, and Miracle, her ‘miracle’ dog that she rescued from Arkansas.  You can read about and see the living conditions that Miracle came from here.  Here’s some of the photographs I was able to capture for her.  Miracle’s more anxious, but Jim is one relaxed Pointer!

Lisa and Jim

Life is Sooo Good When You're Rescued!

This Photo Shoot is Tiring Me Out!

I'm Pointing The Way To WINE & PAWs!

If you want to help WGSPR and WI Humane Society, call me at 414.550.5340 to book a 30″ appointment for  $30 and a 30# bag of dog food for Sunday, April 10, 2011.  Saturday is nearly full but limited openings are available for Sunday.  You’ll receive a complimentary 8×10 and a Facebook image.  Can’t make either day?  Just call and I’ll find a time to fit you in.  It’s all for the dogs!

It Takes Someone Special

When you adopt a dog, especially a young dog, you can expect to deal with half-eaten shoes, some cushioning torn out of the couch, or even a little woodwork that seemed like a nice thing to chew on.  Then there are those one of kind dogs that seem to take them a LONG time to grow out of that puppy/adolescent stage.  Enter Hudson!

I first met Hudson this past summer at the Runway Dog Park.  He was one of the dogs in my Dogs and Their Women book project, to be published this Fall.  Hudson seems to have the traits of a Pointer and a Coonhound.  So he has NUCLEAR energy!  One of the images is of Hudson clearing a snow fence in a single bound.

Doggie Limbo

Today, Hudson is about 3 years old and after his owner, Rebecca, took him to Runway Dog Park for 2 hours of running and then fed him extra dog food to make him a little sleepy, he arrived at the studio to be my first dog for the 2nd Annual WINE & PAWs event.  It is officially  being held April 9 & 10 so there’s still time to call for your 30″ session (414.550.5340)

A Deep Understanding Between Friends!

Hudson was wonderful!  While I was prepared for a super, energetic dog, I could see he was maturing.  What I really want to tell you is that Rebecca is a VERY SPECIAL companion for Hudson.  She sees to it that his day is filled with exercise, doggie day care, medication trials – anything it takes to keep him happy and out of trouble.  When many would have turned Hudson back to a shelter for unruly behavior, Rebecca’s always found it in her to keep trying and now it’s paying off.  Hudson could have easily been euthanized for his unruly behavior that only needed an outlet – one that Rebecca’s provided for him.

Thanks for Hanging In There With Me!

So today was a wonderful day!  Hudson could still clear the back of my couch with one leap off the Pergo floor but he’s turning the corner towards maturity.  Never would have I thought it possible to use a neck tie and hat with him this summer.  And now, we’ll you get the picture!

Hey, where's my biscuit?

My internal voice kicked in and I received the idea to try.  It was risky, however.  Since Hudson loves to give kisses, this could turn into a problem for my lens, but what the heck.  Let’s give it a try!

Hey Peggy, high is dominate!

While the ceiling and light is obvious, I like this image.  I see his calmness and perhaps curiosity about my position below him.  He reminds me, in his moment of peace, to enjoy the moment we’re given.  I’ll remember to do that tonight when say goodnight to my two senior dogs.

WINE & PAWs will benefit WI German Shorthair Pointer Rescue AND Wisconsin Humane Society.                       (All images made with Nikon D3s, 24-70mm f28, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm 1.8 lenses)

Beachin’ It

Spending time with my extended family is always a great way to relax, laugh, recharge and, of course, record family memories through photography.  Since I have a 3 year old nephew and 4 other great nieces and nephews under 3.5 years, there was lots of action to go after!   Enjoy the images made at New Smyrna Beach, FL.  First my mom,  then it’s Ryan, George, Peyton, Kylie and Maura.

Enjoy the beach scenes and if you live up north, feel the warmth I send!

My Mom at 83

Ryan after exciting the pool

Warm-up time

George playing football (He's a Brit!)

Peyton - a natural runner

Mia Familia

Kylie - "I own this beach!"

Ryan - dodging the waves

Peyton - the water bearer

Maura - modeling her 'beach tutu'

Kylie and her charming smile

George - waiting for a wave

Maura - beautiful eyes that don't like the wind

All images made with Nikon D3s and Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens.