Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year. If I ran the world, November 1st would be a national holiday so everyone could recover from Halloween. Seriously. Why is that not a thing?
Anyway, this year for the second year in a row, I was honored to photograph the fun at this year's Dogtoberfest in the EAV (East Atlanta Village). It's a totally groovy part of town where the artsy, fun, hipster, retro people live. Lots of renovations, lots of growth and, of course, lots of puppies whose parents are TOTALLY AWESOME about dressing up their dogs!!! The best of both worlds. Halloween and Dogs.
Big Daddy Biscuits was our fearless leader again- along with more sponsors and retail tents and rescue organizations chomping at the bit to join in. It was packed! And nothing makes me happier than a dog mom and dad take the costumes their pooch will be wearing seriously. Just look at the winner of the costume contest.
I mean, can you stand it?
Now, thankfully, I was not a judge because I had my favorites and could never choose which one was the best. Also, I may have told all of them that they were my favorites while I was taking their pictures so that would have been bad.
I'll stop talking and let you just see how the day looked and hopefully will inspire you to dress up your pups for Halloween.
Some other sweet images from the day:
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY!!
Well, obviously I couldn't have a puppies photo session and then NOT have a kittens session, right??
These two precious babies are Gus (above) and Ruth (below).
They belong to my Aunt Amy and Uncle Ernie, although I am not allowed to call them that as when I do they call my Niece Karen and that's just silly.
Amy has had the heartbeat of a cat in her home since 1970. I distinctly remember a beautiful gray striped kitten named Mouse who found her way into her home shortly before (?) my cousins were born. I had never been owned by a cat before and I always thought my aunt was so cool because, to me, cats were cool. I'm not sure how old Mouse was before she left us, but I do know that she lived a good long life. As did most cats in the care of Amy. Just recently she lost her cat, Jack. He was 18! Bless his little heart. After hearing about Jack's death, my mom told me that Amy was not going to get another cat. Recently retired, they were going to travel, etc.
Uh, huh. Riigghhtt. I'm not even sure it was 2 weeks. And thank goodness for that.
Welcome to our family Gus Gus and RBG!!
This weekend I had the great pleasure of photographing my favorite things... puppies! I'm not going to spend too much time talking as I know that the only reason you are stopping by is because of said puppies. I'll just say that being away from my camera for as long as I have really annoyed me. And shooting fast moving puppies is hard when you are out of practice. But, overall, I'm pretty darned happy with how these turned out. Not technically perfect but, puppies. Most of you aren't going to judge me when you look at these faces. I hope.
With me on this journey is the worst assistant ever and "second shooter", my daughter, Emily.
I wanted her to take pictures of ME taking pictures of dogs. As you can see, that didn't work out all that well.
Let me start this section of very imperfect images with a new found respect for the photographers who do this type of animal portraiture for a living. How you keep all those puppies in one place for more than a second is really impressive.
This was far too advanced for me. I moved on.
Again, technically, not so good. But look at the "Box of Chocolates"!
Ok. Now, let's get to the cute stuff!!
You should stop for now. Too many chocolates could hurt your belly.
Ok. Just a few more. But don't let it spoil your dinner!
Ok, Ok. Enough of that.
To express my gratitude to my friends, the McCurley's, I will quote my favorite author, Charles M. Schulz, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
Thank you so much for giving Emily and me a perfectly wonderful day.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Emily DID get one picture of me... it's my favorite.
It has been one year since the family moved back to Atlanta. What a year it has been. One of the best things that happened was that our daughter was accepted into her first choice school. She loves it. She has a super group of friends and is accepted for being the smart, geeky, hilarious fangirl that she is. Her life is what her dad and I had imagined it would be. I'm so proud of her willingness to be uprooted as a teenager. She is brave and strong and I hope to be just like her when I grow up.
For me and my husband, well, our lives didn't work out as planned. We have decided to separate. We are good. Honestly. He is my best friend. That "for better or worse" stuff they talk about in those vows we took almost 20 years ago is real. We have been through some serious shit together. Some people are questioning how we can be "good". And my response is, how could anyone think that we would turn our backs on each other now? I love him deeply and he feels the same towards me. But, sometimes, life really does get in the way. I'm not going to lie, it's weird and certainly not easy, but it's something we have to face and figure out. I know we will. We've been through tougher.
I am a plethora of emotions. Terrified because I am suddenly on my own for the first time in 21 years. Energized because I can start anew and the possibilities seem endless. Profoundly sad because I can't imagine growing old without this man holding my hand into the sunset. And then anxious and nauseous because, well, let's face it. I'm not getting any younger. 50 is not too far in my future. I've been a stay-at-home-mom for 14 years. I'm not sure many people will be banging on the door of a retired actor with no college education. But, I am willing to "step into the arena" as Brené Brown (and Roosevelt) tells me. I'm willing to fail and to get up again.
Our daughter, as I said, is doing great. Our non-drama has laid the foundation for her no drama. With a teenager, that is important. Well, my teenager, anyway.
So, with that news, I have updated my website and have recently decided to add humans to the mix. So, you need a new headshot? I am the perfect person to do that for you! Need a senior or teen shot? I am your photographer! LinkedIn picture or something similar? Let me know. New puppy? Old puppy? You know I am your woman. Do you just want a great picture of your true self? I'd be honored.
I'd love to share a few hours with you.
I'm with you. In the arena. And when we fail, we'll fail together, while daring greatly."
~ Brené Brown
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Atlanta Beagle Rescue. I reached out to them when I moved back to Atlanta last summer. They welcomed me with open arms. I shot an event for them at Sweetwater Brewery several months back and it was a HUGE turnout. (Well, there was really good beer involved so... but, still! People did bring their dogs and they raised a lot of money!)
Since being back in Atlanta, I must admit, I haven't been as active as I should. (That is literal and metaphoric, BTW.) Some changes are happening in my life and, I think, grabbing my camera will be just what I need to get my creative juices flowing again.
Fast forward to yesterday. I saw that there was a meet and greet at a local Pet Supplies/Grooming place, so I thought I would get off my tush and offer to shoot some pictures. They happily let me and what a day it was! Three, THREE of the Beagles were adopted! Out of the 4 that were there! I feel like that is some sort of record but the ABR ladies seem total chill about it. (Although, I did spy a few high fives before I left.)
So, without further ado, here are the adopted pups. And the one still looking for her forever home. She's a total sweetheart!
Above is Munchkin. Beagle/Doxie mix. She is a lover. You could fit her in your pocket! And a lovely young family did just that.
Rosie, as you can see, is a tripod. Not that she knows that. After having her leg removed two months ago, she has been front wheel drive ever since. A pure Beagle with a hound dog nose to boot. Her new family was patient and kind and so happy to welcome her into their home. Her foster dad was sad to see her go so, Boone (seen below) tried to make him feel better.
He may have succeeded.
Boone (above) is one of the most beautiful Beagles I have seen. (Excluding my Zuzu, of course.) I did not get the chance to meet her new family but the images of them this morning on ABR's Facebook page looked like everyone was very happy.
Now let's get to the senior girl who wasn't adopted. Lottie (below). She has been with her foster dad for 9 months now. She came to ABR severely overweight but has lost a lot of it so far. She is such a sweet girl! If you need someone to lay with you on the couch, this is your Beagle.
Seriously, how can you resist that face?
I'll close with a few more pictures of Beagles that stopped by to say hello and just some fun random images of the 2 hours spent with them.
I look forward to spending more time here. Stay tuned!
Twenty-six years ago, my cat, Gucci and I hitched a ride in a U-Haul with an old boyfriend and moved from Atlanta to NYC. On my own for the first time, I learned a lot. Experienced even more. I've been broke, unemployed, eaten enough boxes of mac and cheese for a lifetime and lived off the kindness of strangers. I've also had a dream job, had money and hopefully have returned some of that kindness that was so generously shared with me. I've met wonderful people along the way. I've loved and been loved by some good men and some not so good men. In the end, though, I found a real good man. He ain't perfect, don't get me wrong, but he tolerates my "quirks" so it's only fair that I tolerate his. It's called balance. Together we had a perfect child. Well, a perfectly not-so-perfect child. A perfect combination of two not-so-perfect parents. We like her.
Just about thirteen years ago, we started a new adventure to the west coast. Husband had a job at a big network and our lives were good. Great schools, friends, a new business and career for me. No complaints. When the recession hit, our lives, along with millions of others, became not so good. It took many years for us to get out from under the rubble; to see that tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel, but we made it through. Stronger and wiser now, we have decided to make a change.
Twenty-six years later, the U-Haul is headed back to Atlanta. This time with a different boy, a kid and two dogs. We're going home. Our karma has been real good since this decision was made last summer. We sold our house in less than 24 hours. Our daughter got into her top choice school. We found a great place to live. Greatest of all, I get to be with most of my family. We've been very secretive about our plan. Some knew, others surmised. But the rest of you are now hearing it from the horses mouth. Yesterday a neighbor told me that we were "the only thing the neighbors were talking about" because we sold our house to a developer. It definitely wasn't our goal to sell to a developer, but when you go through a rough flight, you want a smooth landing. And this landing was a well deserved one for us.
I will miss many things about Los Angeles. My brother and his family who live here in L.A.. Friends (duh). McConnell's ice cream (sniff). A grid system (seriously, it makes life so much easier). The weather (although, I'm so excited to actually have weather and humidity) . And last, but certainly NOT least, my Beagle Freedom family and my Labs and Friends family. You have given me something I can't quite explain. A part of me that I didn't even know was missing. Hope for our animals. Hope for our children. Like I said, it's so hard to say thank you for all you've given me and my daughter.
SO, L.A. FRIENDS, If you are interested in a session with LittleLif Photography before May 25th, let me know. I might have some specials going on. You won't know until you ask. You can go to my Facebook page and private message me for info.
Now, ATL FRIENDS, I will be available to you starting in July. I'd love to meet you, get reacquainted with you, have coffee with you (because it is very important that I find a good cup of coffee immediately), etc. I'll be seeking advice, too. Best restaurants, best brunches, best hiking, how to get to this "Beltline" thing and, most importantly, BEST RESCUES! I'll be needing a place to volunteer. Beagles and Labs are obviously my favorites but, every animal deserves love and a home.
It's been a crazy ride so far but I'm looking forward to this next journey.
Last week I received the call from Monique at ARME about the arrival of Chi Chi, The Golden Retriever. The internet had been overflowing with stories of this sweet girls horrific, terrifying and courageous journey. (Read the full story here at ARME's website: http://armeteam.org/ditd2/ )
In brief, Chi Chi was found in a trash bag with her legs bound and rotting. Forgotten, discarded, and seemingly worthless to the humans (and I use that term VERY loosely) who had no more use for her, Chi Chi surprised everyone with her indomitable spirit and will to survive. The only way to save her life was to amputate all four of her legs from the elbows down. Chi Chi (meaning "loving" in Korean) being the brave and dogmatic soul that she is, not only survived, but was up wagging her tail and playing with a tennis ball the next day!
I met the ARME team at LAX a few days later and, as usual, was giddy with excitement to meet this hero. Chi Chi would be accompanied by Juyun (ARME's liaison in South Korea and all around amazing human being) and the honorable Dr. Lee (Chi Chi's vet). Shannon Keith (fearless leader) is there and is already emotional. She has put (as always) her heart and soul into this rescue. ARME wants to put a stop to the meat trade not only in Korea and China but everywhere. That even includes, if you can believe such a thing, the United States.
The ARME crew and I spent the next 2 hours in LA rainy traffic but upon arrival at the house, karma was with us as the sky cleared and the sun, plus lots of loving people, welcomed Chi Chi to America.
But, before the fun can begin, we need a quick rewrap of a paw.
Now, on with the fun!
The hardest part of this rescue was below:
Chi Chi, who had become connected to Dr. Lee, found her savior quietly weeping behind the van. Bittersweet tears. Happiness that Chi Chi has found a loving home and family and sadness that Dr. Lee will miss Chi Chi so much.
We can't thank Dr. Lee enough. A true gift.
Boots, from the last #dogsinthedark rescue stopped by to say hello, too!
As always, I am grateful to ARME, Shannon and Monique for including me in this rescue. It never ceases to amaze me that ARME/BFP are unstoppable in their efforts to rescue all animals. Rescuing animals isn't an easy job. It can seem never ending, disheartening and depressing. It's not for the faint of heart. But, for those of you who do it and are still able to remain secure in your constant fight, my admiration for you is infinite.
Just look at the joy you bring to canines and "humines" alike.
“When we can love through the darkest of dark places, we have truly transcended humanity and become omnipotent. Chi Chi is teaching me this every day.”
– Shannon Keith, President & Founder, ARME
I haven't been behind my lens for a while. It was a crazy start to the new year and, well, the camera took a backseat, I'm afraid. Although frazzled (and more on that in a future blog post), I could not miss out on the opportunity to photograph a bee rescue!
I first posted this image on Facebook and the rescue idea was given to me by the amazing pet photographer, Grace Chon, among others.
Los Angeles is having an unseasonably warm February. I'm talking 90 degrees. Totally sucks, but I digress. The dead, hollow Black Walnut trees on our 100 year old neighbors property (yes, I said 100) seem to move like psychedelic hallucinations (not that I would know what that was like). Over the past week, we've noticed that the swarm was very low to the ground. I walked across the street to see where the hive could be and discovered the image above. A bunch of bees huddled on the bottom of a bush that surrounds her yard. From far away, I thought it was a thick bark. Until I saw it moving. Gross and groovy all at the same time. I had to get my camera!
Now, normally I would've just let this go. Let nature do it's thing. But, with the bees so low to the ground and close to the street and with kids playing and dogs peeing and gardeners working...well, I had to do something.
After posting this image, as I said earlier, Grace Chon recommended a website called Honeylove.org. They subcontract bee removal companies who then relocate them to beekeepers, orchards and farms. The people I called ( I'll pass that information on later because they are awesome) are opening a bee sanctuary! I mean, how cool is that??
Today the swarm had moved to a new bush. More camouflaged, if you will.
Enter Sean Medina, Operations Manager at Bee Catchers. As he gets out of his truck, you can see and feel the love this man has for his job. I learned so much from him today. For instance, the big hive is in the 80+ year old walnut tree. He suspects the entire hollowed out tree is infested all the way down to the root. Honeycomb and all. When I asked him why was this group of bees out here on the bushes, he said that it is a battle of two queens (insert your own joke here). Also, most bees are female! I did not know that. The males are used for reproduction and then the queen sends them on their "drunken goofy" way. Sean also told me that the hives work so well because there are no men to screw it up. Women make things work smoothly. Maybe we should remember that come election time. Just sayin'.
With no fear, Sean suits up and begin the tedious task of "vacuuming" the bees into your standard Home Depot bucket. Tree branches are placed inside so the bees have someplace to land. Sean is patient, with excellent energy and the bees barely swarm. I mean, I was less than 15 yards from him and the bees were not bothering me at all! (I was given specific safety instructions should they swarm me, though.)
Once the queen was in the bucket, the rest of the hive went looking for her. Guess where they settled?
Would you be brave enough? Not me. I'm gonna leave this one to the experts. I respect the bee (as we all should!) but I want to respect her from as far away as possible. Let her be free to pollinate and keep our food supply safe. I will not disturb her.
Oh, and in case you missed seeing an image of a pup, here is Sarah. She lives down the street from me. A 3 year old American Bulldog whose smile and spirit are almost as beautiful as that smile on her face.
This is Marc Ching. In a nutshell, he saves animals (over 200 rescues) from the worst slaughterhouses in China and Korea. With no real plan, he gets on a plane and just goes searching for them: these souls whose only fault is being born in a country that allows the barbaric torture and slaughter of dogs.
Marc is a holistic nutritionist here in Los Angeles. He is also the owner of Petstaurant and founder of Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation. This is where the story begins.
On December 3rd, my favorite hero, Shannon Keith from Beagle Freedom Project and ARME, texted me to meet them at Air France Cargo to photograph 3 of the 11 dogs arriving from China. Marc is Shannon's nutritionist and a conversation between these two ended up turning into one of the most expensive and worthwhile rescues ever.
So, I headed down to LAX, having no idea what I was about to see or hear. I only knew that these were puppies. Yes, puppies. No more than 6 months old. Purebreds.
During the wait, I spoke to Marc. Of course, the first question is why? A husband, a father of two, a business owner, why do you do this? He told me that he had seen videos about the slaughterhouses and wanted to see for himself how bad it was. When he arrived, however, he discovered it was much worse.
In what should be a Dateline Special, Marc went in undercover and bought his way in by pretending to be a meat buyer. He pays thousands of dollars to take them and on a few occasions has even kidnapped a few. This very peaceful man, this man who writes emotional prose about these animals, even he has moments of anger. He tells me that he has knocked a couple of men out of his way to rescue a dying dog from torture. A dogs last moments in life should be of a kind soul telling him that he's safe now and that he is loved, even for a moment.
DISCLAIMER: LION'S STORY IS TOUGH TO READ.
This is Lion. She is from Bejing. Lion, a purebred Chow, was rescued from a Chinese gang run slaughter operation. Lion was kidnapped from her loving family to suffer extreme abuse and misery. When Marc found her, Lion and several other dogs were being hung. Their feet were bound. Lion had been burned with some sort of electrocution device and had nine pellets shot into her body. One is close to her lung, the other very near her heart. After releasing her from her bonds, Marc whispered into her still beautiful mane, "There is a lion inside your heart."
Marc tries not to have favorites but it's hard with an angel like Lion.
16 German Shepherds were rescued. Only 5 survived. From Tianjin, China, these handsome Shepherds were freed just minutes before their feet were to be severed and sold as good luck charms.
Above is Clyde. Well, I, too, try not to have favorites but this little guy stole my heart the moment he bravely walked out of his crate. Thankfully, he already had a home waiting for him. A perfect end to this little guys horrific beginning. Clyde is from one of the worst torture chambers in Tangshan, China. I have decided not to tell you what happened to his siblings. It's best you don't have that image in your mind. In your darkest place, you would never imagine this heinous, despicable murder. Just know that Clyde, sweet baby Clyde, is a survivor.
Above is Faith. As Charlie Brown would say, "Love is that little girl with red hair."
Marc found Faith in a plastic bag with four other poodles. She was the only survivor.
The backstories of these puppies don't get much better. Marc, right now, can only save the worst cases. And, he says, it's hard not to take them all. The emotion he shows when talking about each one is real and heartbreaking.
The other hero of our story is Shannon Keith, founder and president of ARME. After weeks of paperwork, phone calls, dealing with a government that is completely different than the one she is used to dealing with, finding and raising money to make this rescue happen, she reaps the rewards with some love from Scotty.
ARME's mission (from their website) is to educate the public about animal abuse and to end animal suffering. They rescue unwanted, homeless animals and Shannon, as an animal rights attorney and an award winning filmmaker, defends animal activists, dogs on death row and goes after animal abusers. In short, she's a bad ass.
Once off the plane, the dogs head back to The ROC. ARME and Beagle Freedom Project's new home, The Rescue and Outreach Center. Here, Faith, Clyde and Scotty play for the first time. My camera can't even catch them they're moving so fast! The puppies also go around and introduce themselves to the other 8 new arrivals from the day before.
Now, this may sound silly to the untrained dog mind, but I think these dogs know what's happening. I think they know that they have just been rescued from a hell we can't imagine. Like the Beagles and animals from the laboratories across the world, these dogs know that we are there to help them. They definitely know the difference between love and cruelty. As Shannon said in an interview she was doing with a Chinese news station, "People might think that these dogs are angry for how humans have treated them, but that's a myth. These animals are grateful."
What do you think?
So, my friends, what is a girl with a photography blog to do? Well, sell you on donating whatever you can, of course! And if you can't donate monetarily, how about your time? Bring toys, towels, blankets, to a local shelter. I just spent most of last Friday following these same wonderful people all around SoCal, delivering love and necessities to the animals at some of our highest kill shelters. You can adopt! You can foster! Go to your local shelters or rescue organization and look on their websites for Volunteers and help out when you can.
This rescue was an emotional one for me. I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty much nauseous after hearing the stories of their excruciating torture. The first dog I held was Clyde (the Schnauzer) and I wept like a big ol' baby. I didn't want to let him go so he pretty much sat on my shoulder while I took pictures in the parking lot. See, I just take pictures. That's how I help. I donate my time doing something I love. I do not do any heavy lifting. But, I'm proud to be there when they need me. It's easy to say yes to showing an animal in it's best light.
Now, in case you can help out with money, here are some links to the three great organizations I shared with you today.
Beagle Freedom Project. (You can also buy some SUPER cute items in the SHOP section. All benefiting BFP and ARME)
Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation
As always, thank you to the divas of rescue, Shannon Keith, Monique Hanson, Kevin Chase (Vice President of BFP and honorary diva), Lorna Campbell among many others and of course, the man himself, Marc Ching.
"That's the lesson of the dogs, that it's important to both live in the moment and then go on to the next wonderful thing."
W. Bruce Cameron
April 13th, I received a text from Shannon Keith (fearless leader of Beagle Freedom Project) asking if I would photograph the incoming rescue. Five Beagles from South Korea better known as, The Korean 5. For those who read my blogs or know me personally, I, of course, said YES!! And then I did a dance around my house...
So, April 14th, I was at Shannon's home awaiting this arrival with my daughter, whom, as luck would have it, was out of school that day. I wish I could express to you how beautiful these days are. I mean, besides the obvious excitement and anticipation of the Beagles arriving, the people you meet at the rescues are just amazing. They are warm, kind and friendly beyond what I can possibly put into words. They see my kid and embrace her as one of their own.
These photographers pictured below were anticipating the celebs that were coming (Whitney Cumming, Chelsea Handler, etc.) but I (and a KCAL 9 videographer who was following my lead for some reason) placed myself on the grass knowing that this was primo real estate for capturing those precious faces taking their first steps on to grass. (Sidenote: I do have to learn to stand my ground against bully photographers. They are pushy. Heaven forbid you want to change your position!)
So, as you may know, BFP doesn't give much detail as to the rescues. It's part of the rescue deal. It is something I deeply admire about this organization. I mean, no one can keep secrets these days. As I continuously say, these people are my hero's. I admire everything they do to rescue these animals. What we do know for sure is that this rescue was one of the most expensive to date. So, I'm asking you to donate whatever you can. I know it's hard to donate to every wonderful organization these days but, if you want to help, every dollar counts. Give whatever you can.
Now, I will shut up and just share my day with you. Enjoy.