Last week a my good friend Annelies contacted me to photograph her dogs before I leave Belgium to head back to Colorado. She said she could wait for my return but that she was not sure her old dog Duraz would still be here when I got back. Duraz is 15 years old and starting to slow down quite a bit.
I love photographing dogs and especially in a natural environment. I have come to realize that that my style of photography is all natural. I don't ask people to groom their dogs, or dress themselves up with make-up and the latest fashion. I like to photograph people and animals as they are in their everyday lives. So this photo shoot was going to be just that. Her dogs doing what they love to do...be a dog.
We decided to go to a pond near the castle in our town. Duraz is a mix breed dog, which my guess is between a Golden Retriever and a Black Labrador so he loves the water. I thought that getting some images of him in water would be a great way to remember him doing what he loves most.
The story behind this dog is also worth telling. My friend Annelies and her family are true dog lovers and usually have several dogs sharing their lives. They lived next door to a small sandwich shop at the time they came across Duraz. The owner apparently thought that after a separation from his wife that he could get his kids to visit him more if there was a dog around. But this did not work as he seemed to have a bit of a drinking problem. So poor Duraz was just a pawn to the man and it wasn't working. So he locked him up in a small shed and basically ignored the poor dog.
Annelies recalls hearing the dog barking and howling but never really seeing the dog much at first but occasionally he would escape and manage to get into their yard to be with their dogs. They would then return the dog to the neighbor only to witness him getting mad and scolding the dog and then locking back up into the shed. After that it broke their hearts thinking about the life this dog would have to lead.
Then on one of Duraz'es escapes to their yard they decided to go to the neighbor and ask if he would like to give the dog to them. The owner did not hesitate as he obviously could care less about this poor dog.
So Duraz found his happy new home with them and their friendly pack. He is such a nice easy going dog who just loves everybody and now he would have the home he deserved.
I have taken his photo before and I knew he is quite camera shy as many dogs are including my own. But there is a way to work around it and not force the dog to always be looking at the camera by just letting them be who they are.
In this image Duraz saw some ducks swimming and not knowing his advanced age dove in anyway. He swam out about half way and realized he just was not the dog he use to be and came back. I could really relate to what he was experiencing in that moment as getting older starts to put limits on doing some of the things you could do so easily before.
We got some great images of Duraz and his fellow companions. I think it is important to have nice images of your dogs for after they leave us. It is a way of honoring the joy they brought into your life. So I hope I will see Duraz when I return but if not I know his story had a very happy ending.
Here are some of the images I captured of them enjoying an afternoon.