A few years ago, my wife came to me and told me that she wanted a dog. I have never had an actual live in dog before so I wasn’t sure what to think. All I could think about was the vet bills, having to be home to feed it, let it outside and take it for walks. Our lifestyle at the time was very fluid. If we wanted to go somewhere at the drop of a hat, we would go. After much deliberation and arm twisting (read nagging) I told her that I was willing to give it a try. However, there was one condition, I wanted to have input in the breed of dog. We pondered a limited number of breeds such as a sheltie, lab and dachshunds. None of the breeds that we had come up with really grabbed my attention.

Later, I was going through some old photos and I came across a photo of my grandparents. I used to fly north every year the day after school let out to spend the summer with them. They were the best. Like all grandparents, they probably let me get away with more than I should have. More importantly, they taught me a lot about life and people. I learned to build things and drive at the grand age of seven (I hope my Mother is not reading this). I dreaded coming home, as Florida was not exactly my idea of “home”. To this day I still miss them every day.

We heard a car one night slowing down but never stopped. We didn’t think much of it until a few minutes later we heard some barking. We all got up and looked out in the darkness that was semi lit by the moonlight and we saw her standing there. Someone has just abandoned her. My grandparents called to her and she immediately came running over and wanted to be petted. She was a Golden Retriever and this dog didn’t have a vicious hair on her body. Why would anyone want to abandon such a precious animal? They took her to the vet to get examined and any necessary vaccinations. They called her Sparky and she was now part of the family. Sparky was a free spirit, as she had access to the vast open fields of dairy country in Pennsylvania. We would let her out and she would be gone for a couple of hours and she would bark when she wanted back in. There were times when she would bring back “presents” for us such as dead skunks, squirrels and other items that weren’t identifiable. There were also those times when you could tell that she had been in creek as she had mud up to the middle of her body. It looked as if she had ran thorough a tar pit. She went with us everywhere and was a true companion, for the summer any way.

The circle of life had come around many years later as Sparky was getting slower and to the point where she wouldn’t eat. We all knew that “Rainbow Bridge” was close by. I watched as my grandfather made her a casket so they could properly bury her on the property when the time came. In the end, I thought it was cancer. They never had it checked, they just let her be as comfortable as she could be and she died in her sleep one night.

Back to my wife’s and my quest to find a breed. After looking at this old photograph, it was clear. We were going to have a Golden to honor my grandparents and Sparky, and to keep their spirit alive everyday. We looked at some shelters with no luck. We talked with quite a few people and they told us that it’s hard to find Goldens in shelters as they are “America’s Dog” and everyone wants them. Before we knew about other avenues, we contacted someone a few hours north of us that had a few puppies and was willing to part with one of them. We made the trip and came home with our new family member. Her official AKC name is “Hot Paws In Paradise”. To make life easier, her name is Emily, which is my grandmother’s middle name, however most of the time we call her Emme as it’s faster to say. Confused yet? I am.

Since we are kidless, Emme is now our child. Anyone who has had a Golden knows what I’m talking about. I think she brings out the kid in me and keep the stresses of everyday life down. I always say that if we all had the “Golden Attitude” that the world would be a better place. All we would have to do is stick those “Hello my name is” stickers on our butts when we go to meetings!

Having some new photography equipment and a very patient dog, I always like taking photos of her. She was destined for AKC, however like Sparky, there was something this that they didn’t like about Emme and left her. Everywhere we go, everyone says that we have a beautiful dog. I think that this might be like having a child where even if the kid is ugly as sin, it’s the right thing to say.

One night, Emme was sitting on our bed facing the foot end. We had some lamps on the night stands and I noticed this really nice light that was on her. I went and got the camera and fitted it with the 50mm f/1.4. Since this was an ambient light situation, I cranked up my ISO and set the camera to f/1.4. I rattled off a couple of frames, and with my wife’s help with the cookies, we were able to get her into some different poses. There is a magazine that goes to vet’s offices and their clients in our area called “Pet Quarterly”. As I read through the magazine, they had a snippet that they were looking for pet photos. I submitted some from the shoot that I had just completed and one of them ran. Now I call Emme our “published pup”.

If you have a family pet, whether it be a dog, cat, bird or whatever, you have a great subject waiting to be photographed. Emme at this point is used to a flash, however if you pet has never been photographed, you may want to skip the flash when starting out so they won’t have a stroke when they see a ball of light headed their way. Here are the photos, please click on the thumbnails to see a bigger version. I know from this experience, that I will never be without a Golden Retriever or the Golden Spirit in my life.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


This is the photo that was published in the magazine.

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