Turnbull Wildlife Refuge: A #bellaapproved spot for dog photos

big white dog standing on a rock

Bella is an adventurer.

On the one hand, that fills my heart with my joy. I love nothing more than throwing my camera bag into the car and hitting the open road destined for nowhere in Eastern Washington or North Idaho.

She takes her perch in the backseat, moving between dangling her tongue out the open window or dutifully watching over my shoulder, her grinning face taking over anything I should be seeing in the rearview mirror.

On the other hand, I always end up with a filthy dog at the end of an adventure. While she’s game for a day on the trails, scouting locations with me or just going for a hike, one her favorite things to do is find some poo left behind by a wild animal or a dog owner who just couldn’t care, throw her left shoulder into the ground and rub around to her heart’s content.

I suppose she’s trying to mask her own scent to hide from predators but can we all just screw up our faces right now and yell GROSS?

Here she is proudly sporting a patch of poo on her neck ruff.

maremma sheepdog in tall grass

Sigh … I guess it’s the price I pay for the adventure.

(In the other images of her from our day at Turnbull, I’ve done my best to clean up the poo in Photoshop.)

No one but us

illustration of a sleeping dogWe packed the camera bag a few weeks ago and jumped into Eddie the Edge for a day at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge is about six miles south of Cheney, just west of Spokane, and encompasses more than 18,000 acres of the Channeled Scablands.

Our first stop was the Pine Lake Loop. It’s a gentle stroll with no inclines, taking us along Windslow Pool and around Pine Lakes. It was pretty quiet at the Refuge on the day we were out.

We spied no wildlife but for some ducks and swans toodling around Pine Lake.

We found lots of great spots to stop and get some images of Bella. We’re moving it onto the #bellaapproved list, for sure! I’m stoked to put it on my list of locations for your dog photography sessions!

Posing places at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

According to the Refuge’s website, the ecosystem is unique to the National Wildlife Refuge System, which also protects arctic land in Alaska, the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, and the Red Rock Lakes in Montana.

As a hobby landscape photographer, I spied lots of great backdrops for family portraits and dog photography. And the good folks at Friends of Turnbull NWR tell me portrait sessions at the refuge are cool “as long as you stay on marked trails and don’t disturb the wildlife or habitat.”

Cool beans! I’m a big fan of the “take only pictures, leave only footprints” philosophy.

Check out some of the spots:

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For some reason, I just love taking pictures of Bella above me, looking all majestic, even though it goes against all the “rules” of dog photography.

This kind of rule? I like breaking it. I feel like it shows off her natural instinct as a Maremma sheepdog, as my guardian keeping watch over me and all our surroundings.

It’s also why I get so excited about the rocky nature of the landscapes around Spokane and North Idaho. It gives me lots of opportunity to feature you and your dog in a rugged, outdoors-y way.

One stubborn girl

I should mention, though, Bella does not like posing.

When I get her to sit, she sits and stays for a very minimal period of time. It isn’t that she’s not trained to sit and stay, she’d just rather be walking and exploring.

And I have to respect that! When it’s just her and me, I’d rather be doing that, too.

So she seldom looks at the camera, which is always a goal in dog photography. Alack and alas, she stays true to the protective instincts of a livestock guardian dog by always being on watch.

Here’s one more of her enjoying the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. The tall grass in autumn colors was fantastic!

Around the loop

After we finished our walk on the Pine Lake Loop, we embarked on the 5.5-mile driving route. Short hikes pop out along the way, taking you into open grasslands and pine groves.

Here’s one of the lakes we stopped at:

lake at turnbull wildlife refuge

I’m antsy to take a drive out there again in the spring when the wildflowers start popping.

Always on leash

I do want to assure you that Bella is always on leash.

This is the kind of rule we do follow when we go out hiking. She’s always attached to my hip with a running leash.


I couldn’t bear the thought of putting her in danger by having her run off to greet or confront wildlife and encountering something she might not handle.

In the images you see, I’ve deftly removed in Photoshop any trace of leash, harness or collar for the sake of making her look as beautiful as she can be.

The safety of your dog, you, me and anyone nearby is paramount during one of my sessions. Your dog should always be on leash since it’s easily gotten rid of in my post-processing.

Most locations in the greater Spokane area require dogs to be on a leash so, hey, why not be a good citizen and follow the rules?

dog on leash at turnbull wildlife refuge

Winter freedom at the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

There’s no charge to visit the Refuge during the winter months.

Between March and October, there’s a $3 charge for each car. Not that that’s a lot of money but still, free is always best, right?

If you’re interested in a pet portrait session at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, get in contact with me and we’ll get you booked on the calendar to create lifelong memories of you and your furkid.

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