My Journey: About the Spokane dog photographer

maremma sheepdog on hiking path

I’m a writer by trade.

I’ve written about athletes, championship victories, devastating losses, training, broken bones and more.

I’ve written about telecommunications, bookkeeping, life coaching, restaurants and more.

I’ve always managed to write the dickens out of every subject with which I’m confronted.

Except one.


I struggle to write about me.

However, this week’s subject for Project 52: A weekly pet photography blog challenge is “About the Photographer.”

The struggle is real.

He’s my why

By now, many of us have heard about the need to find your why. Simon Sinek implored us to find it, because it’s “the purpose that drives every one of us.”

When you find it, your why becomes “the one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.”

My why is easy.

My why for pursuing dog photography in the greater Spokane area is a 110-pound hairbag named Shep, who died in 2014.

maremma sheepdog in badlands alberta

Shep at the Red Deer River near Dorothy, Alberta

Shep was my first Maremma sheepdog. He came into my life in 2004 at a time when a dog shouldn’t have been a good idea. I was a single gal, working long night shifts at a newspaper in Calgary and running off to the ball field whenever I could to play slo-pitch.

We took some time to get to know each other and trust each other. Gaining the trust of a Maremma, I’ve learned, is kind of a big deal.

It was a few years before I recognized how he could change my life. In 2007, he convinced me that corporate pencil skirts, high heels and a Ford Mustang were over-rated.

Enter hiking boots and an SUV. And a camera.

After a decade of doing journalism-type photography, I needed a break. I ditched all my film gear but in 2008, I knew I needed to start documenting our travels around Alberta and the Rocky Mountains. I picked up an entry-level Nikon DSLR and rejoined the photography world.

He changed me in other ways, too.

My patient boy

No matter what, he always paid attention to me when I came home exhausted after a long night (or day, after I switched from sports writing to marketing) at the office.

He cocked his head thoughtfully when I worked out complex issues out loud.

He put his head under my hand when I cried out frustrations.

And he knowingly avoided the trajectory path of the remote control when the Calgary Flames were playing hockey on the TV.

I’m convinced of it. Especially that last one.

There’s no way he could understand what I was saying, although research has shown dogs to have a vocabulary of around 280 words.

There’s no way he ever could have given me a solution.

But he always listened. Or seemed to.

And some days, that’s all any of us really need. Someone to listen.

By listening, by waiting for me every day, by just being there, he taught me more about love and life than I ever thought I could learn.

Shep taught me about:

  • Patience
  • Peacefulness
  • Showing our loved ones they matter
  • Peeing on everything

No wait … scratch that last one. That’s just for him.

More than anything, he taught me how to be present in the moment.

woman napping with maremma sheepdog

He guarded me always

To look over the edge of a cliff and see the beauty that lies below us.

To cock your head into the air and feel the rain on your face.

That playing in the snow isn’t just for kids.

To know that just being together is all that matters.

Please … enjoy a gallery from some of our adventures. It’s a glimpse into the days Shep spent in Western Canada, Washington and Idaho, and how far I’ve come as a dog photographer (like sooooooo far with posing, light, composition … everything).

[vc_masonry_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1567702142114-5d25701e-09b2-6″ include=”1488,1487,1486,1485,1484,1483,1482,1481,1480,1479,1478,1477,1475,1474,1472,1471,1469,1468″]

The phone call nobody wants

I remember it oh-so well.

It was August 20, 2014. Shep and I were living in Kelowna. We’d just gotten engaged to Our American and were waiting for our visa approvals to go through so we could move to Spokane, WA, and be a family.

I knew he’d been failing. He’d had torsion surgery the November prior to save his life. He recovered nicely but there’s no way it didn’t take a toll on his 12-year-old body.

He developed a rash that wouldn’t go away and I took him to one vet in Kelowna, who said ‘oh just make sure you don’t let him lick it.’

A week later, he stopped eating. He even refused steak and liver cookies. I consulted my best friend, Dana, a vet tech. She said get him to a vet. NOW.

I found another vet. He drew blood, and said he would get the results for me ASAP. He knew there was something wrong.

The call came the next day. Shep’s kidneys failed. His heart was ready to explode out of his chest.

The vet said there was no other recourse. Shep would start to have seizures. He would die of a heart attack.

I threw a few clothes into a bag, went out into the yard where he was laying in the grass and said “road trip.” He perked up and lumbered his way up the ramp into the back of our Escape.

Our American had earlier that day booked an appointment at a vet here in Spokane, and Shep and I made it just in time for us to have one last hour as a family.

white dog's feet on pavement

The healing

I was devastated.

My constant companion was gone. I felt like someone was pulling my heart out of my body and smashing it on the ground with a softball bat … every 10 minutes.

I didn’t know what to do with myself for the longest time. My grief was overwhelming.

Our American and I even rushed off to Arlington, WA, to get one of the last puppies in a Maremma sheepdog litter. We needed to fill that hole, even if it was just nine days after we lost Shep.

I didn’t give Bella the best of me for several months. In the four-and-some years since Shep left and Bella came home, I’ve learned so much more about myself and our dogs.

That each dog we love prepares us for the next one.

That each dog we love helps us grow our hearts so we can love the next one even more.

That each dog we love never leaves us.

Shep walks beside me every day. He guides me and my heart through this ridiculous journey called life, guarding me every step of the way.

His spirit implores me to be a better mama to Bella.

He is my inspiration every time I pick up the camera. Had it not been for our trips to the Rocky Mountains, I might never have thought to buy another camera and embark upon digital photography.

Had I not hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful images of him backdropped by amazing mountain scenery, I might never have realized how precious a single image of your furry best friend can be.

Had I not had Shep in my life, I might never have wanted to make sure you too have gorgeous photos of the pets that bring you as much joy as I’ve found with my dogs.

He led me here.

All around the circle

Professional dog photographers around the world blogged about themselves this week.

When morning breaks on Friday, I’ll be travelling around the circle to see what everyone else in the Project 52 wrote about. Will you?

Your first link heads to travelling furtographer, Pawparazzi Pet and Animal Photography, presented by Shae Pepper Photography. Here’s what Shae wrote.

Keep clicking on the link at the bottom of each post until you find yourself back here at home.

20 thoughts on “My Journey: About the Spokane dog photographer”

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  5. What a lovely story Angela, and an awesome tribute to Shep. You were meant for each other. I look forward to reading your future posts too.

  6. Wow, this is so beautifully written – I sit here all choked up almost ready to cry and all I want to do is hug all of my dogs – especially my senior boy who has been by my side for just over six years now. You do know how to write – you know how to write about yourself.

  7. Dammit. Now I’m crying over Lili again. But I thank you for being in my life. Shep and Lili brought us to where we needed to be, now Mama to Bella and Zoe. I so wish we were closer…

  8. Beautifully written… thank you for sharing your story! They do make our world. You will always cherish those memories with Shep – what wonderful adventures you shared!

  9. Oh the adventures you had with Shep, I so enjoyed learning more about you and your heart dog. Scratch not being able to write about yourself off your “to do” list, this brought a tear to my eye.

    1. It was a tough one to put words to. I’ve never been able to put our images together in a coffee table book. I finally feel like I can.

  10. Beautifully written. Made my eyes sting and my heart go out to you. Here’s to the ones we’ve lost and the others who will lead (or follow) us forward into adventure.

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