Meet Rio. Rio is an energetic, lovable and mild-tempered Portuguese water dog. Rio’s mom teaches at NAU and loves coming home to her best friend every day.
People who know me often say that I appear more comfortable with animals than I am with people. They are not entirely wrong. Documenting the love between humans and their furry friends through pet photography may just be my favorite thing – ever.
Because Rio has so much personality, I created this little slide show. It’s something I offer as part of pet photography sessions.
About Portuguese Water Dogs
Portuguese Water Dogs come from Algarve – a coastal region in the south of Portugal. Cão de água as the Portuguese Water Dog is known as in Portugal literally translates to “dog of water.”
The dogs are like shepherd dogs. But instead of herding farm animals, they herd fish. The dogs were trained to drive fish into the fishermen’s nets, retrieve broken nets, and act as a courier between ships.
Portuguese Water Dogs rode in fishing trawlers as they worked their way from the Atlantic waters of Portugal to the waters off the coast of Iceland where the fleets caught cod.
Portuguese Water Dogs are known for their non-shedding quality and became famous when President and Mrs. Obama adopted two of the breed – Bo and Sunny.
Why Portuguese Water Dog Makes Good Pets
Did you know dogs can have a sense of humor? I did. And this breed has a very good one. During their fish-herding days, Portuguese Water Dogs were part of the crew. They ate with the crew, were often paid for their services and spent their free time hanging out with their work families. They are prone to acting silly and will repeat behaviors when their audience laughs.
Of course, Rio embodied these traits which is why his pet photography session was so much fun. It’s also why he was captured so beautifully on the images.
Portuguese Water Dogs are fairly easy to train. Some can have an independent streak, so training early (like with any dog) is the best way to ensure success. They respond to praise and treats. Harsh discipline and voices should be kept to a minimum. Personally, I believe that is true for every animal.
This breed has a desire to please. Use that desire to train this well-tempered, well-behaved beauty.
Behavioral traits of the Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water dogs are chewers, and while trainable curbing this behavior can be a challenge. They also get very excited when their owner comes home or visitors come to the house. This excitement often turns into jumping or presenting the visitor with a toy or some other object as a gift.
The breed is also known for its separation anxiety. The anxiety is easily addressed with a plethora of chew toys and plenty of exercise before being left alone. The chew toys may just save your furniture or favorite pair of shoes because chewing is how they express anxiety.
I’ve always felt very strongly that the best way to change the world is by volunteering.
My father had a saying that has stayed with me my whole life….”Contribute what you can, when you can and how you can, whether it be money, time or service…YOU can ALWAYS make a DIFFERENCE. Even the smallest gestures can change someone’s world.” Dad was very wise and I miss him so much. (but that’s another blog post)
A few weekends ago, I held my sixth annual Valen-Tails Photo Fundraiser for Paw Placement of Northern Arizona! I got to meet over 40 sweet and cuddly new furry friends and some of the most amazing pet owners in the world.
Even though the fundraiser just ended, I’m already missing my new friends. Nothing makes me happier than spending the day with animals.
I’m happy to announce that we raised $1,855.00 for this organization to help them continue their important work in the Northern Arizona region.
Currently, Paw Placement of Northern Arizona is working towards bringing a 21st Century Shelter to our area. If you live in Flagstaff, you know we need it! Please read about their vision on their website.
Pet Photography Tips
I have been called a “pet whisperer” by some very kind friends. But I will admit, I do have a special relationship with animals.
When photographing people’s pets, I’m always asked, “How do you do it?”
Here are some of my favorite pet photography tips and some of my favorite photos from the very special weekend.
Use these five pet photography tips when you are trying to capture a special moment with your furry loved one.
1. Focus on the Eyes
You know what they say, “Eyes are the Window to the Soul.” Well, that is especially true for our animal friends.
It’s the eyes that make any portrait memorable. And that is even more true for your pets. Pet eyes are full of wonderful expression and successful pet portrait focuses the attention there.
2. Let Their Personality Shine Through
You know your pet and you should trust what you know. The very best photos showcase the true character and personality of the subject and this holds true for your pet.
Let your animal play, yawn, or even dress up. Get the perfect image out of your head and let the favorite furry subject redefine purrrfect.
3. Surprise Them
You can’t expect your pet to wait for you to be ready to take the shot. Instead, let them continue to play, while you get ready.
Once your camera is focused and your animal is in the frame, call his name, or make a strange sound he’s never heard before and click. The surprise will catch him off guard and give you a few seconds to capture something special.
4. Go to Them
The best photos will come when your pet feels comfortable. Instead of calling him to you, try going to him.
Get down on his level, look him in the eyes and show him your love. That is probably the most important tip I have.
5. Be Patient
When your pet is excited by a new toy or some other excitement, it is often difficult to get the perfect photo.
But when your patient and you let your furball settle down, he will relax and you will end up with a much better shot.
In the end, if you want to capture great photos of your pet, remember they are your people. Let them be themselves and focus on them, not necessarily trying to capture the photo.
In closing, I just want to say Valen-tales is my absolute favorite event of the year. The fact that I can help raise money for a worthy organization while having fun with friends and their tribe is a privilege and pure joy.
The Casey family wanted to come to beautiful Sedona, Arizona for their annual family photos and who could blame them? The red rocks, beautiful vistas, and the gorgeous sunsets are unrivaled in the Southwest. I love shooting in Sedona because at every turn there’s something that will take your breath away. There are many reasons why so many people make the pilgrimage to Sedona…from acclaimed vortexes to the healing waters and sounds of Oak Creek to the peace you get when you find a trail all to yourself. If you’ve never been, make the trip!
Jessica and Gerry are expecting their second baby in December and big brother, Elvis the Bernese mountain dog, and big sister, Delaney are very excited! I loved the custom signs for Delaney and Elvis! But mostly, I adored how much this family loved one another. There’s nothing quite like being able to observe a close family and how they make each other laugh and smile. The Casey family were adventurous and wanted to go to the summit of the Sugarloaf trail and Jessica hiked it like a pro! The views were definitely worth the effort!
It was great meeting each of you! Thank you for coming to Sedona! xoxo ~ Melissa
This past week I got the chance to photograph two of my dearest friends, Jeanine and Stu. These two are an absolute joy to be around; they are funny, sweet, loving and kind. They love their fur-babies just as I love mine and their laughter and smiles will always have a way of making any day brighter. I was delighted to find out that Jeanine’s parents, George and Martha, would be joining us for the shoot. Too often, I hear from parents of adult children…”I don’t want my photo taken…there’s no need…” I happen to think images of an adult with their parents are just as sweet as when they were holding their infant decades before. In fact, I think it’s almost even more precious. The years, experiences, love and life have a way of deepening bonds. I adore these photos of Jeanine and her parents, and I know, she’s going to love them even more in 20 years.
We can’t believe that little Kensie is Four months old! It seems like yesterday that we were at Flagstaff Medical Center waiting for her arrival. We always love using props in baby session and we adore this piece of luggage. Mom, Kristen, found this piece of luggage in an antique shop before she was married and decided to use it as a theme for Kensie’s photo sessions in her first year. Kristen and Adam took this luggage on their honeymoon, so it’s not only super cute, but ultra sentimental. We can’t wait to see you at your six month shoot little angel!
Alexa will be graduating from Northern Arizona University in May with her degree in Accounting and English. Alexa has kept very busy during her college years, she works at Bed Bath & Beyond, is a student mentor for the College of Business and is currently the President of her service sorority. Alexa often works with Paw Placement of Northern Arizona to help rescue animals. Animals have always been a big part of her life so she thought it would only be fitting to share her senior photography session with her cat Jax. We asked Alexa some questions about her and Jax to get to know them a little better.
What is your pet’s official name and how did he get it?
His name is Jax, but when I need to be stern it’s Jackson! When I rescued him he had been named Jackie because he was dropped off to Jackie, who works at Coconino Humane association, on her birthday. My sister’s name is Jacquie, but her name tag at work says Jaxx. I was also watching a lot of Sons of Anarchy at the time.
What is your best guess at your Jax’s breed?
He is a domestic longhair, but looks to be a bit of Norwegian Forest Cat.
How and where did you get your pet?
I lost a cat I had rescued from Coconino Humane Association about five months after having her due to undetected cancer that had developed in her lungs and intestines. Immediately afterwards I was approached by Paw Placement of Northern Arizona to foster four kittens for a week. The day they were picked up by their new foster I went to PetSmart and ended up coming home with him!
Please share Jax Rescue Story:
I have always had the mindset that if there are cats still in the shelter, I cannot have an empty home. Just a week after my cat passed I was looking at all the rescues at PetSmart just browsing, not really with any intentions yet. I had developed a great relationship with Jackie, from the Coconino Humane Association, who often works at PetSmart since she helped me adopt my first cat. I started petting Jackie the cat, and we had an immediate connection through the cage bars! He was such a lovebug! Jackie explained his story to me. He used to live with a family, but when they moved, they left him outside. The neighbor tried to take care of him, leaving out food and such, and he kept trying to get into her house. She couldn’t have a pet, and she began to worry about him so she took him to CHA. The neighbor would still visit him and bring him sardines and brush his long gorgeous hair while he was up for adoption. As I was about to leave Jackie seemed frustrated. One of the other workers had not taken a cat back to the shelter so she did not have room for all the animals at PetSmart. I told her, well, I will take this little guy then, and you will have more room.
If you could have your dream job, what would that be?
I really want to start my own animal rescue, and a foundation for mental health awareness.
How would you describe yourself and your style?
I’m very laidback, down to earth, and practical. But I do enjoy the occasional girly night out, and often you will catch me in some sort of workout attire. I try and be really active these days, mainly so I can eat as many cheeseburgers as I want.
Where do you plan on going or plan on doing after graduation?
I plan on continuing my job with Bed Bath & Beyond as the Customer Service Trainer. In addition to this I will be studying to take the CPA exam.
Where do you think you’ll be in five to 10 years? What do you think you’ll be doing?
I have no idea, and I think it is very exciting! I used to have this ten year plan of everything I wanted to do. But I’ve recently had a new perspective on life and I am just seeing where all these opportunities lead me.
Thank you Alexa & Jax for spending time with us! We wish you the best of luck with your very bright future! ~Kristen