I took the summer off to be with my dogs. It was so hot here in Long Beach; we just chilled in the bedroom watching TV, playing with squeaky babies, and occasionally dipping in the poolito. It was a good summer. (By the way, it’s still in the mid to high 70s here and it’s December.)
Then, 52 days ago, I lost one of my best ever friends: Jack.
You guys know Jack, Brover of T, of the Jack/T Bromance. The dark soul with the most forgiving heart I’ve ever known. In all my years of living with dogs, Jack was … well, you’ve heard it before. Just don’t have the oomph in me right now to tell that hard luck (but happy ending) tale tonight.
In retrospect, I can see that Jack was ill for almost two years. Probably ready to go for a few months before he finally did. Anyway, I didn’t really want to talk about it, and actually still don’t feel like it much now. But it’s been four months, and (more news) we’ll be moving from SoCal to Kalamazoo in a month or so, so I thought I should check in.
So, recap: Hot summer. Dog not feeling well. Dog died. Moving to Michigan.
I know, this is the weirdest blog post I’ve eve written.
I started my Chalk Dogs Art about a year ago; we shot the first one with antlers on August 30. I’ve been so bad at showing these and explaining what they’re about. As I’m cutting back the number of sessions that I’m taking on and spending more time on personal work, I realize that the Chalk Dogs Art is a really important part of what I do, and I need to respect that and talk about it.
I do the chalk art with my dogs to talk about the shelter dog (and cat) situation and how abysmal it is. (If you haven’t seen what I’ve done so far, they’re on Instagram under my account @tasteslikechalk.) I haven’t yet created a gallery on this site to show all of them off (something I’m working on), but we have a special day coming up in September.
National Pet Memorial Day is September 13. That’s the day we honor our animals, both present and gone (and lord knows I have a lot who are gone, so I’ll be crying a lot that day). Aside from giving your beasties extra love that day, or lighting a candle or visiting a burial spot for beasties gone, why don’t you donate a little bit to the people who are working day in and day out to give every animal a loving home and a place to retain their dignity till they die?
I give a little bit every month to Hope for Paws. Many of you are familiar with Eldad’s and his volunteer’s work. They’ll sit on a curb the whole day to get one animal saved and off the streets for good. Or give to your local shelter. If you don’t like your local shelter (and I hear this a lot from people; they don’t want to support kill shelters); think of it this way, they are probably kill shelters because we keep throwing out our animals. I think there are precious few shelter employees who enjoy putting animals to sleep, so if you’re looking for blame, don’t look their way. /slight rant over
There’s also START. They rescue animals from high capacity and high kill shelter out of the area, to where they’re more likely to find a home. By the way, you can also buy a Winged Dog tee at START, doubling your donating efforts with some money going to START itself and some to Hope for Paws.
Soon I’ll be selling postcards of my Chalk Dogs series, with a big portion of sales going to rescue and the people who do the work that most of us can’t. Here’s the first chalk art I did with T, nearly a year ago. It didn’t have a shelter dog message at the time, but you can believe it will get one when the gallery comes up. (soon!)
Aaiiii! As a photographer, I should have gotten “good” photos of people wearing these photos long ago. But I had was a photo of the shirts in a box (lol, major marketing fail) and an iphone shot of me showing 2 thumbs up (ok, that one was pretty cool). Oh! I also had the diptych of myself in the studio with the dogs, but those were quickies, and really didn’t show the shirts so you could really see them.
SO. My good friends and best models came over for a few minutes last night and we some great photos off of the two of them. I think they’re going to be famous as t-shirt models (for months they were my monthly models for Jusani’s line of shirts).
Becky & Jayson; they’re goofs and I <3 them. I plan on doing more shoots with people wearing the shirts, but for now, I got a great two for one.
For now, there’s only the pitbull with wings tee, but there are more coming. There’s also Winged Dog art in my Etsy shop if you’re interested.
By the way, the Wings shirts are currently for sale at my Etsy shop. Go have a look. And if you’re new to the shirts, here’s page on them.
If you Google “I hate my weird pregnant belly,” you’ll come up with over 2 million hits. If I just enter “my pregnant belly is…” the choices that comes up are: crooked, too fat, and flabby.
The fact that so many women are unhappy with the way their pregnant bellies look is new to me. In fact, I just learned this yesterday. I was 19 when I got pregnant, and I believe my naked pregnant belly was the first I’d every seen. It never occurred to me that it might be misshapen, lumpy, crooked, or fat. I just marveled (and sometimes felt horrified) that a living thing was inside of me. Oh, I had a miserable pregnancy; don’t get me wrong. I was sick as a dog the entire time; morning sickness lasted months; then it was UTIs and every other kind of infection I could get. Suffice it to say I didn’t glow during my pregnancy. But I didn’t hate my body either, and I didn’t think anything was wrong with it.
I’m in my 7th year of this business, and I’ve photographed a lot of pregnant bellies, and I’ve not once noticed the shape of one. Instead, I ask questions: Does it move? Can you feel it? May I touch it? Does the baby ever get hiccups? I’m fascinated by pregnant bellies, and not in a creepy sort of way, thank you.
Ladies. Our bodies are fucking vessels of life! You know how excited you get when you plant a flower or a vegetable or even put an avocado pit in water and it starts to grow? YOUR BODY DOES THAT! How amazingly fucking awesome is that?! My kid is 33 years old and a full foot taller than me, yet sometimes I look at her when she’s not looking, and I remember that she was once inside my pregnant belly and that BLOWS MY FUCKING MIND! I’m now 54, and sometimes I hold my (kind of flabby) belly, or I’ll give it a slap and say to nobody in particular, “this is a belly that has lived.”
I’m going to clue you into something. You know all those perfectly round bellies you see in photos? The ones with no stretch marks, and no lines, and no lumps? Those are rare, and often photoshopped. Why are we photoshopping pregnant bellies to look different than their own true lovely selves?? When you get pregnant and your belly starts to grow, you start to notice that, “eh, it’s not very round” or “it sags so much!” or “it’s so flabby!” you’re comparing yourself to something that doesn’t exist.
What’s the difference between a Perfect Belly and an Imperfect Belly?
NONE, because neither exists. Your belly is, it just is. Love that belly, man. That’s not a belly growing, you know, that’s your child growing. That’s your baby’s foot making it look lumpy, that’s your baby son’s head moving around inside like some alien life form. And that’s SO RAD. It’s life, it’s a life that your body made. I may be naive, but that still blows my fucking mind.
So, how I learned that some women are unhappy with their bodies: A couple, Megan and Robert, came into my studio yesterday for some maternity portraits. The first thing I do when people come into the studio is look at the clothes they brought. When I saw what Megan brought, I noticed that they were all tight. They all hid her belly. So I went into my closet and got this big men’s white linen shirt I keep for such occasions. I told her to put it on, and right away I could see was a bit uncomfortable as I started to unbutton the buttons she had just done up. I put her in a profile and I noticed that she covered her belly with the shirt. Just then it occurred to me that all the times I heard her remark, “I don’t like bare belly shots,” she really meant, “I don’t like my bare belly.” Being the understanding, sensitive person I am, I said, loudly, “I want to see that belly!”
From that point on, Megan began to forget about her belly. Robert was so sweet and so attentive and so INTO his wife, I don’t think he ever noticed that her belly wasn’t the “right” shape. He just knew that the love of his life was carrying the soon to be next love of his life, his daughter. The one for whom that adorable Star Wars-themed nursery is waiting for. The one who will wear his grandmother’s handmade sweaters that his family kept all these years. The little girl who is destined to years of watching “Dr. Who” whether she wants to or not.
As my shutter started to click, love just happened. I was just there in the right place at the right time, and I got some photos of a lovely couple, a wonderful woman with a beautiful belly.
Very soon after they left, while uploading the images to my computer, I texted her a photo and she texted me back, “I never liked my belly, but you made it look good. I love it!” And I told her, no, this is all you. I just took the picture.
Then about 4am this morning, I got another text from her. She’d seen the photo I posted on Flickr, and it gave her the warm and fuzzies, and she thanked me. I crush on Robert & Megan a little bit more today than I did yesterday.
Megan, this post is dedicated to you. I hope it goes viral and you’re the catalyst for many women to change the way they think about their oddly shaped bellies which hold their perfect little people.
I started this chalkboard series with my dog, T, about 2 months ago. It’s been a lot of fun drawing, but also shooting with T. We work closely, and he’s gotten so so good at knowing where his mark is at and how to stay there. He’ll also stay put on his mark while I move around him and, using a treat or my voice, get him to turn his head and look left or right, up or down. Chalk days are good days around here.
One sad thing about Chalk days is Jack. I’ve talked about his modeling/light testing skills before, and how he can’t really sit up for a long time, like I need him to do for the Chalkboard series. I made a special board for him, Old Dog, and that was just for him. It made him super happy to be the center of attention that day (one other thing about Chalk day is the dog who is posing really is the star). I noticed that Jack would be a little down on those days he couldn’t pose. Even though everyone got treats, I was reminded that posing was originally Jack’s job.
So I started shooting with Jack again, at least letting him sit, or usually lay, in front of the board while I took a few photos. They were, for the most part, unusable because he wasn’t on mark, but he loved doing it, and beside the reward of the treat, he just loves working with me and pleasing me. I don’t know how in the world I could have forgotten, even for just a shoot or two, how much that meant to him.
So. Yesterday’s Chalk Day was “When you adopt a shelter dog, you take him from Zero to Hero in 60 seconds.” Clearly, this was a board that needed everyone. T first, so I could positing and get my focus. Jack and Mouse waiting by the front door while T did his job, and they were super happy to get their treats. But when I said, “Jack’s turn!” he flipped! He jumped up and got near the door and pushed it up and he RAN to the apple boxes. Awww, my baby boy. He missed doing his job for me.
He didn’t have to lay down yesterday; not only did he sit, but he stood! For a long time! He stood there until I said, “Good job!” (his signal for “we’re done”) and he *jumped* off the apple boxes and ran to me. It was the best. In fact, it was so great I brought Mouse out.
Mouse isn’t a fan of the camera. This is huge progress, as she started from “hating the camera.” She’s connected posting with treats, and also, she’s a people pleaser as well. But aren’t all dogs people pleasers? I think so, maybe some just haven’t found the right people yet.
Mouse was great. A little skittish, but a good little poser. And she gave me a great smile.
All three of these dogs, my dogs, felt like zeros when I adopted them. Now, they all feel like Heroes. Over time, they’ve built confidence, and they’ve learned that I love them and they’ve eagerly accepted that love, and they’ve returned it! T has a VIJ (Very important job) in the house; Jack has a job, and even Mouse does. They all feel needed, wanted, and loved. They all have warm beds, snuggles, treats, 2 squares a day, and as many toys as we can fit into the every growing toy box.
Most importantly, they have me to please, which they do every day. They truly are Heroes. All the unwanted dogs you see out there, the ones who are labeled “biters” or “aggressive” or “lost causes.” They all need a job, a person to please. That’s what adopting does for them. It gives them a purpose, a job, and love, and that’s what makes them Heroes.
It’s true. When you adopt a shelter dog, he (or she) goes from Zero to Hero in 60 seconds. And you’ve got a spare minute, don’t you?
So here’s the fruition of all the emails and Facebooking; my run of Pittie tees (featuring my own, and yes, copyrighted 🙂 design is in print and will ship soon.
The first design is the Pittie Tees (Dogs with Wings T Shirt).
I’ve gotten loads of requests for the next run, and I’m going to be adding another design. I have a lot, but am going to add them one at a time, because I don’t have the time to become a t-shirt business 🙂
Five dollars from the sale of each purchase of these tees goes to It’s a Pittie rescue in IL. They do a lot for Pittie, and as we know, that breed needs a lot of help.
If you got in on the first run, yay! Your shirt will be shipping soon. If not, there’s always prints at the Etsy store. But more shirts coming; lemme know if you want to get in on that.
Although Jack was my first light tester and my first model, he’s not able to do much of it anymore. He can’t sit for but a few seconds, and standing is very difficult for him. T has taken over modeling. That makes me so sad for Jack. When I have clients here, or I’m shooting self portraits, Jack will always circle my clients if I haven’t light tested with him first.
I’ll tell him to sit, stay, and then I’ll take a few pictures (because he knows if I don’t). Then I’ll say, “good job!” and he’ll walk right out of the studio and go lay on the couch. True story.
I have to constantly remind myself that Jack is an old dog. He doesn’t need a pill every time I see him limp. He doesn’t need to be carried around the house. I don’t need to start counting down his days.
Jack is here. He couldn’t be more present than he is now; than he is still. I know the day when he leaves is closer now than it was when I brought him home, but so what? So is my day. So is yours.
This was for Jack. Nobody else got to sit for this (which, let me tell you, created quite a fuss with T and Mouse).