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.
Who can believe that it's already 2015? Not me, that's for sure.
This year I was able to continue my Freedom and Beyond series with blessings from Beagle Freedom Project. Freagles Rizzo, Derric, Baxter and Rousseau and getting to know their families were some of my favorite moments, along with being a part of the Fox's Cause for Paws on Thanksgiving night. I also fell in love with several pups, kitties, horses, birds, pigs, etc., along the way. And, what kind of mother would I be if I didn't share some images of my beautiful children. They are my muses and every time I take a new photography class, they are eager to be my guinea pigs (I took a few pictures of those, too).
My wish for all of you this year is this:
Here are a some of my favorite moments from 2014:
May you and yours have a Happy New Year!
On Thanksgiving night, Fox will be airing a television special called Fox's Cause For Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular at 8PM. We were there representing, you guessed it, Beagle Freedom Project and as we sat there oohing and aahhing over Every. Single. Dog. that came out, I was happy to see that this show wasn't only about the dogs. It was a celebration of the rescuers, as well. Those men and women who VOLUNTEER their time to rescue, transport, foster, and countless other amazing things, really got a well deserved shout out during the show.
How did we get there? I received an email from Rizzo's mom telling me that the show wanted a picture of him and then asked if I would sign a release form. WOULD I?? And then I received another email from Spanky's mom asking the same thing! Very exciting to say the least. My daughter and I had FRONT ROW seats and we made the most of it! My images didn't end up making it on air (at least during the taping) but, that's alright. I do think we made it on camera, though. I'm afraid, if I did, y'all are probably going to see me crying like a big baby when our Freagles make their way down the runway. So, beforehand, I apologize for "ugly crying" on national TV. They are all just so darn beautiful and so deserving of all this attention.
Thank you, Michael Levitt and Hilary Swank (executive producers), for including them and all the other beautiful dogs in this broadcast.
Here are a few images of four of the Freagles that were there. Scarlett and Zoe were also there.
Please, Please, PLEASE watch Fox's Cause For Paws tomorrow night at 8PM. You won't be disappointed. There are so many wonderful organizations out there! Adopt, Adopt, Adopt!
I hope you and your families have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
I've been keeping a secret. An adorable, heart warming, wonderful secret. Another Beagle Freedom Rescue. And, let me tell you, it was tough! How can anyone possibly be expected to not tell everyone that my daughter and I were allowed to witness such an amazing event? How could we not blab about witnessing those beautiful creatures walking on the grass or learning how to trust the hands of a human for the very first time? But, as our fearless leader, Shannon Keith, explained, if we want to continue to rescue and save animals, it's just the way it has to be. So, we respect it and we keep our big mouths shut.
At least until we see it on their website!
Now, I'm not giving any details (not that I know any because that is how secretive these rescues are and quite frankly, who do I think I am? Ha! ), so I am just going to share a few more pictures. I thought you might like to see them.
I hope that you will SHARE this blog. Hashtag it with #animaltesting and #beaglefreedomproject to get it out there that THIS ABUSE MUST STOP! We are better than this.
Freedom and Beyond Series
This was a fun one. I got 3 for the price of 1!
I met Baxter's mom, Caroline on the day of the Midwest 10 Rescue. Turns out she's a Georgia girl just like me and we hit it off right away.
Gail and Neil are the parents of Rousseau and Sally (rescued from ARME) and they couldn't have been more loving and wonderful the day of our meeting.
The story goes that Baxter and Rousseau were the "troublemakers" of the Midwest 10. Baxter had to take some time inside the guest house and Rousseau was in the middle holding pen outside.
I'm not 100% sure but that could be Rousseau in the pen pictured above. These pups were so overwhelmed with the chaos all around them that sometimes they needed a time out . It wasn't just 10 dogs coming out of their cages for the first time. That in itself is a lot to deal with. But now add dozens of volunteers and media in a small backyard with camera's and all kinds of different energy. You'd need a break too!
Below are two of my favorite images from that rescue. It's Baxter finally figuring out that these humans might be okay after all.
THIS is Baxter today.
Baxter is the first Beagle Freedom Dog I've met that is a single dog. Usually, they have companions. A canine friend to teach them the ways of the world and the rules of their new homes. In this case, however, Baxter had 3 different fosters and had a hard time getting along with the other animals in those homes. But in Caroline, he found his match. His love. His heart and soul. The dog I met was gentle, friendly, sensitive and inquisitive (read: true Beagle). And there was just something about those whiskers of his.
Rousseau was a supermodel! I didn't need to give him any direction whatsoever! (It also could've been because it was 95 degrees outside but… whatever) He and Baxter (and Sally, too) were so happy to see each other! They were like old friends who'd made it through the war and lived to tell the tale.
Both families told me that these guys still have pretty bad nightmares. I can't even imagine the hell of what they've gone through. The only comforting thing I can say is that at least they wake up now. Their lives are one million times better! Today they live.
I'll leave you with just a few more images of these beautiful creatures living the lives of happy, free dogs.
The first time I laid eyes on Rizzo, he was being carried by actor, Corey Feldman. Nervous and scared, Rizzo wrapped his body around Mr. Feldman, unsure of anything that was about to happen to him.
Once on the ground and feeling grass on his paws for the first time in his life, he looked around at all the curious, weepy, happy eyes on him and all the camera's that were clicking away at his beautiful face and just stood still. Tail down but his head was high. I'm not one for understanding too much of a dog's body language but I'd like to think that Rizzo was being brave at that moment. Could he feel the positive energy in the air? Could he feel the love that was undeniable at that moment? Did he know he was safe?
Well, if he didn't know then, he definitely knows now.
When I walked into Rizzo's new home a year later, I found him completely stretched out on the windowsill. He was totally chillaxin' (yes, I just used that word). I received a healthy tail wag but Rizzo wasn't quite ready to say hi yet. And that was okay. I had other Beagles to meet!
This is Bonnie. Bonnie was the greeter of the house. She is also the maternal one. She is the caretaker of all who enter. I thought about sticking her in my backpack when I left but I'm pretty sure they would have noticed she was missing.
This is Ashby. Ashby was a bit more hesitant of me. It wasn't until the treats came out that she decided that I was okay. This image is a Before Treats shot.
After some play (treat) time, Rizzo decided that I must be okay if the other dogs were hanging around me so, he joined in the fun for a bit. As I was passing out treats, Mom (Natalie) told me that Rizzo has ever changing allergies. Just when they think they have found the right food for him, he gets a rash or has a reaction and they have to start all over again. However, his body is always ready for some rotisserie chicken! Watching all three of the dogs try and get some chicken was a pretty funny moment and one that I could not, unfortunately, capture on film. They moved too fast!
Rizzo could not have found a better home than with this young family. They are beautiful, happy, and full of life and just what Rizzo needs to stay active.
The two human kids (and Beagle Freedom Kids members) told me that Rizzo is a mama's boy. They told me that he doesn't like to be too far from her. Getting all that love, who could blame him??
But, I think he looks pretty comfortable on his human brother's lap.
Rizzo was one of the most composed and peaceful animals I've met. Which leads me back to the first time I laid eyes on him. Maybe he was brave. Maybe he was feeling the love and positive energy that cool night in February of last year. Or maybe he's just one cool cat…uh, dog. He's accepted his past, moved on and is living the good life by the beach with some really cool humines and canines. Sounds good to me.
Looking forward to BeagleMania! Come say hi!!
Freedom and Beyond Series
Doing these photo sessions, I meet amazing animals and even more amazing humans. They're all special in their own unique way and it was no different the day I pulled up to Derric's house. Well, maybe a little. I didn't expect to be so... loved. Does that sound as weird as I think it does? I know. But I did. When Dad (Jason) walked me through the back gate, two of the sweetest Beagles I've ever met greeted me. I think I might say that all the time. I mean, most dogs are sweet and loving and any other adjective you'd like to insert. But these two? I don't know. I felt like they liked me. And not just because of my pocket full of treats (that I had to borrow from Jason because my dogs snuck into my bag and ate mine…) No. These dogs were… heart. Soul. Even the cat liked me.
George is another rescue from Much Love. In my notes I wrote about George, "…he was more actively seeking the treats and attention." I think that perfectly describes him. He was energetic, happy and just a delicious sprite!
Derric, with those puppy dog eyes, was soulful and wise beyond his years.
But happy, too. Joyful even.
On the home page of my website I say, "looking into the eyes, for me, is like that old cliche about "windows to the soul' ". I believe that. Especially of these dogs. Unique and perceptive. Sensitive and magnificent. Those windows have seen and been a part of horrors that we don't like to speak about or even think about. How can their souls not be changed forever? Because, as a brave young girl once wrote in a diary, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."
This is the Midwest 10.
Back in February of 2013, 10 male Beagles were rescued from a laboratory somewhere in the mid-west where they had been tested on for almost 7 years. I had the honor of witnessing this rescue and couldn't wait to continue my series with these 10 boys.
I hope you enjoy these "after" stories and please check out the new Beagle Freedom Projects Cruelty Free App. It's amazing!
So, the handsome face above is Charlie. Can you stand it? Seriously. It's ridiculous how cute he is. I first met Charlie (who I believe used to be Desmond) the night he walked out of his cage for the very first time.
That's him on the right. With his tongue hanging out and the smile on his face.
Charlie now lives in San Marino, CA with a wonderful young family and his best buddy, Peanut, a spunky 11 year old Chihuahua.
Together they were able to bring me to my knees (or butt in this case) as they tried to steal the treats from my hand.
Charlie is happy here. The 3 year old human brother, Jacob, loved showing not only me, but Charlie how he rode his bike around the house. In his Superman pajamas and his Spiderman helmet, Charlie and I watched him zoom off to rescue someone in distress. His sister, Lauren (4 1/2) was more laid back as she chatted with me and then went back to watching Disney's Robin Hood (a personal favorite). And every time Mom or Dad entered the kitchen, Charlie did what any self respecting Beagle would do. He followed them.
This is a face that has seen and experienced some of the worst of humankind. But this calm and loving boy has let the past go and now lives for every moment with his family… or a girl with treats and a camera.
It was so much fun having Charlie and Peanut tackle me and love on me. It brings me so much joy.
Oh! And before I forget, July 26th is Beaglemania in Malibu, CA. It will be a "Beautiful fusion gourmet dinner, hosted bar, silent auction and entertainment at the breathtaking estate of Chiquita's Friends. An evening to benefit Beagle Freedom Project, a mission to save animals from laboratory research." I'll be there along with my good friend, Alicia from a+b photography . We'll be the ones with camera's in our hands. If you see us, come say hi. If you're lucky, you might even get a treat.
My brother got married yesterday. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of tears (mostly from him) and laughter and dancing and frolic, etc… Our gift to him was to have their rehearsal dinner at our house the night before. We have a very small house so it would have to be outdoors. But that's easy here in Southern California. Our yard isn't huge but it is a good enough size to hold people who are willing to party.
My family and I had lots of work to do if we were going to pull this off. First off, a new porch was in order. The old one was who knows how many years old and rotting away under our feet. Second, the yard was in pretty mediocre condition and with two dogs, well you can imagine. So, with the enormous help of Missy Fine Events, we knew exactly what the bride would want (forget about my brother). So French Country we went!
Now, I don't claim to be any sort of wedding photographer, or rehearsal dinner photographer in this case, but with all these gorgeous colors I had to whip out the camera and, at least, try.
Isn't my new sister-in-law beautiful?
And doesn't my brother look so happy?
The wedding was a beautiful event and I did not bring my camera. I respected the hired (professional) wedding photographer and cannot wait to see what she captured through her lens. I did sneak some iPhone pics of my daughter as the junior bridesmaid, however. I mean, what kind of mother would I be if I didn't get a pic of that??
In February of last year, I was called to Labs And Friends boarding facility to take pictures of several dogs. One of them was a precious Chocolate Lab named Gracelyn.
A month before, she was found on the freeway standing over her partner, Yellow Lab, Goose, who had been struck by a car. With three major pelvis fractures among the worst of his injuries, Gracelyn was going nowhere without him. A good samaritan was able to get them into her car and to the Burbank Shelter in time.
Not only was Gracelyn protecting her friend, she had just given birth. Still lactating and bleeding, her puppies were nowhere to be found.
The two had been through so much together that we knew we could never separate them. Although they did need to be apart while Goose healed. After 8 long weeks, the time finally came for these best friends to reunite. The excitement was too much for Gracelyn. She bayed and whined and squealed with delight as she smothered Goose with kisses.
Fast forward one year.
Things have changed for these sweet babies. They now reside in a happy home in Woodland Hills, CA with newlyweds, Bill and Winni. They never once thought about separating these guys. The home I visited was so full of love and joy. The dogs I played with this day were much calmer and happier than the last time I had seen them and my eyes filled with tears knowing that this was the home in which they were meant to live.
This is Belle (formerly Gracelyn) today.
And this is Bleu (formerly Goose) today.
Still silly and playful, these guys cracked me up as they drooled for treats and dove in the pool when they were supposed to remain clean for a family portrait. I loved every second of it!
I'd have to put this day under "One Of My Favorite Days". Seeing this rescue all the way through and witnessing such a happy ending… well, as my people say, "I'm a bit ver klempt."
I can't thank Bill and Winni enough for allowing me into their happy home. And special thanks to Debra Sass for making this happen. You're a mensch. ;)
P.S. They also had 2 African Grey Parrots! A first for me!