Bailey And Zoey

Posted on February 15, 2015

What a great day with the very wise Bailey and the very energetic Zoey. I loved them both so much. It was a gorgeous day and they both had so much fun.

Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy!

April {My Mutt}

Posted on December 16, 2014

This sweet girl is a senior, but you’d never know it! She loves to run and play and it was so much fun photographing her! April sure gave me a run for my money. :-)

Turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy!

Goodbye My Beautiful Sunny Girl

Posted on October 21, 2014

My sweet Sunny Bunny is gone. Who knew that a dog could change a person so very much?

unleashedgifts010I can remember the very first time I saw her…in a kennel at the Carson Shelter. She was depressed, sick and when I offered her a treat wouldn’t even lift her head. She must have been distraught because she loved to eat. Loved it! Until the very end food was her very favorite thing. Just yesterday she had a few pieces of watermelon. Yes she adored watermelon. I will miss the mess she made devouring it.

I didn’t think I was going to bring her home. She was, after all, 16 and in poor health. And who in their right mind would want to open their heart just to get it broken in such a short time. My heart couldn’t take it. Or so I thought. And so I passed by her kennel.

But her face never left my mind. She would pop up every so often and I would push it away. Until I saw her again. She was in the same position on the kennel floor. That’s when I learned she was an owner surrender. I knew in that moment that I couldn’t let her die alone in that place. I knew she deserved to die with dignity and surrounded by love.

And just like that, my heart opened and Sunny slipped inside.

In those first days I wasn’t sure how long she would live. She was so sick. A trip to the vet confirmed she was ancient. Her teethGSEF014 were worn down and many of them rotten. She had a tennis ball sized tumor on her leg. X-rays revealed 3 more inside her body. Her eyes were swollen and red. She had arthritis in her back legs. But she was happy. Her smile brightened my day…and her kisses were pure love…even though her breath could knock over a prizefighter.

We decided that we wouldn’t do anything invasive or heroic to stop the cancer. No biopsies, no chemo, no operations. We would just love her and let her live a few weeks surround by joy. A few weeks turned into two and a half years.

And what an amazing few years it was.

Turns out Granny was a fighter. Darrell and I would often joke that she was the energizer bunny powered by love. Or that if she were human, she’d be a 90-year-old woman with dyed red hair and a cigarette hanging from her mouth. A tough old broad.

sunny-on-red-chairShe absolutely loved life. Car rides. Trips to the park. Stealing bones from Petco. Eating…everything. I’m not sure how we found out she loved all kinds of food. Broccoli, carrots, watermelon, just about anything…except mushrooms. She’d spit those out lickedy-split and then look at me like, “Really? You’re going to give me that crap?”

One thing about Sunny that was unusual…her tail never wagged. It just hung there. Her head did the same. She rarely lifted it and her posture was like a sad sack. It earned her the nickname Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. It made me a little sad that she never wagged her tail, but I figured she probably had arthritis in it and it hurt her to move it too much.

And then she met the first neighborhood dog. And wow! That tail wagged a mile a minute. It was the only time it every wagged…when meeting new doggie friends. Until the very end, even when she could hardly walk, if she saw a dog she’d get a bounce in her step and speed up, tail wagging to greet them. Last week she met 3 new dogs on her morning pee and it brought me such joy to see her perk up so much.

She loved Gabby too. So much. And Gabby loved her. Wherever Sunny was, Gabby was right by her side. They shared a bed, even though each one had their own. It’s one of the things I will miss most…seeing my girls together. I know Gabby misses her already. When I got home yesterday I had to move the trashcans and I pulled into the driveway. My car door was open and Darrell was bringing Gabby back from a walk. She was happy to see me, but made a GirlsBikePath006beeline for the car, put her paws on the seat and looked inside. She sniffed and looked around some more. I have no doubt she was looking for her sister.

Later that night, our neighbor came by to tell us how much she loved Sunny…and that during the day, Gabby was crying. God, how sad. Mourning her loss just like we are.

This morning was the first in a long time I didn’t wake up to a Chew Baca like alarm clock. Well…that’s not true. Yesterday there was no alarm either…which is one of the reasons I knew Sunny wasn’t feeling well. Every morning at 6:30 or 7 she would wake us up for breakfast. And she wouldn’t stop until she got her way. When she was younger and still very mobile she would even use her teeth to pull my covers off. “Get up! I’m hungry!”

It’s so hard to believe she’s gone. Neither one of us really thought she would die. She had been on death’s doorstep so many times. The first Christmas with her she had a stroke. It was horrible. She collapsed and 155958_10151139199486516_634817999_nwas immobile, unresponsive. She lay on the floor, her eyes glassy and starring. I was sure it was the end. We picked her up and put her on her bed while we called the vet. By the time we got off the phone she was looking at us, as if she was saying, “Hey? What’s up? Why the long faces?”

She had a heart attack too. And another stroke. And 3 vestibular incidents. And in the summer she was prone to heat stroke. So many times we thought it was the end and each time she bounced back. The energizer bunny. Powered by love.

It’s been a while since she could climb on the couch by herself. Goodness. I remember how sad I was when I realized that she hadn’t been on her favorite chair in months. It was red velvet brocade and much too small for her. But she loved it and would force herself into it. It made me laugh every time I came home and saw her in it.

So many memories. So much love.

When she first came home to live with us, she wanted to eat our cats. I was so disappointed about that. And scared that she actually would. We worked with her for months and finally she was able to be around them. They would sleep on the couch together. All four of them, my perfect little family.

Until one day, Enzo decided to groom Sunny.

(Enzo grooms Gabby every morning. It’s amazing to see him clean her ears, eyes, back. And Gabby loves it.) Sunny did not! SheIMG_8190 was fine with the ears and face, but Enzo decided to lick her nose. His rough tongue must have scared the crap out of her! She let out a yelp/bark that was so loud, Enzo ran way fast as lightening, scared to death! That was the last time he groomed Sunny.

Each memory is so precious to me. I hope I never forget any of them. It’s amazing how they touch us. How they worm their way into our hearts and make themselves right at home. How much they become a part of our lives. And how empty it feels when they are no longer here.

Oh Sunny. You will be missed. You took a piece of my heart with you. You changed me to very core. You made me realize that I do have room in my heart to love an old dog even though our time would be short. You made me open my eyes to all the seniors…to give them a voice…to show everyone that they are worthy of love. You made me complete and I will be forever grateful that I had you in my life. You were so loved…but I know you know that.


Posted on August 10, 2014

Who said underdogs don’t ever win? I started the Silver Hearts project because a very old dog brought the “discarded senior dog” problem to my attention. Yes, my Sunny girl made it impossible for me to turn my back on these beautiful old souls.

I decided to photograph as many elderly dogs as I could with the hope of showing that they still have a lot of love to give. I wanted to show the playful, silly, full of life, happy side of aging dogs…and I wanted to put together a book so everyone could see what I saw in Sunny and other dogs like her.

I did some research about how to get a book published. I was clueless. I had a friend put me in touch with someone willing to answer my questions. Basically he said you need an agent or publishing houses won’t even consider it. He then told me how hard it was to get an agent and while my book sounded like a nice idea, he didn’t think it would be an easy sell and would probably take years to make any headway. I really had no interest in pursuing an agent…sounded like a horrible way to spend my time and all I really wanted was a book to help people see the beauty in these dogs. So I decided to publish it myself.

Next up…research on self-publishing. I wanted a high quality book. I wanted it to be special and beautiful–not a cheap Snapfish-style version. I had designed wedding books before so I knew the quality I was after. Of course I knew it would be expensive. Turns out it was way too expensive for a quality book to print on demand. That’s when I found Kickstarter.

I spent a few months researching Kickstarter projects so I could make the fundraising as successful as possible. I hired Jeff Truillo and Mark McGuire, an awesome team, to make my video. I created my incentives and the project was ready to submit to Kickstarter. Guess what? They denied it! I was crushed. They said the focus was too much on animal rescue and not enough on the art part. So I rewrote my proposal. This time it got accepted.

It started with a bang. Every few minutes someone would donate. The best part was that most of the backers were complete strangers. It made me happy to know that so many supported senior animals. Before I knew it we were more than halfway to the goal. And then it started to slow down. I had one week left to raise the remainder of the funds. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. And I didn’t get to keep any of the money raised.

Still I was incredibly proud that my little Kickstarter was bringing awareness to the old souls, even if I failed to raise the money for the book. The point, after all, was to raise awareness, and I had done that without publishing the book.

People started being inspired to adopt or foster seniors. A junior high student did a project for his school and wrote about old dogs and collected blankets to bring to the shelter. I still get emails from strangers telling me they stumbled on my Silver Hearts project and because of that started doing something to help seniors.

It was the most successful failure ever!!

And then, reporter Laura Coffey stumbled on Silver Hearts and thought it would make a worthy story for the TODAY Show’s website. She believed in the project so much that she became an integral part of what it would become…more on that in a second.

Because of the article Laura wrote for in July 2013, the Associated Press newswire decided to do a story on the Silver Hearts project. News outlets everywhere picked up that one! All over the USA, Germany, Brazil, Japan, and Canada…it was crazy. People from all over the world were contacting me asking how to help. People read about Sunny and decided to open their hearts to an elderly dogs. Every single day someone reached out to me letting me know that they were inspired…and so many animals reaped the benefits.

And then NBC Nightly News contacted me and wanted to do a story. Who knew my sweet Sunny girl would be the catalyst to such an amazing turn of events.

NBC came to my house and followed me around all day. They even came to the shelter with me. NBC News correspondent Jill Rappaport won a Genesis Award for the piece too. That was really cool!

And then Cheryl Pientka, a literary agent in New York saw the NBC News piece. She had just rescued a senior dog named Sasha from Hurricane Sandy and the project touched her. She called me and wanted to know if I’d like her to represent me. She felt that the book would be of interest to publishers. I couldn’t believe it. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that everything would fall into place like this. Of course I told Cheryl yes.

She decided it would be a better sell if each dog’s story was included with the photos so we found a writer–you guessed it, Laura Coffey, the woman who believed in Silver Hearts from the beginning and wrote that very first article.

Cheryl started shopping the project around. She made a list of her top 15 publishing houses. If they all passed on it, she would go to her next 15, and then the next 15, until we got a deal or everyone passed. Well…many of her first choices wanted to publish it. The process was long. The editors each had to bring the idea to committees and meetings and everyone had to agree. During that process several of the publishers decided to pass. Even so, we were so excited to learn that three publishers wanted it, which meant that the project went to auction. (I am clueless about the publishing world, but Cheryl said that was super cool.)

And now I am excited to announce that editor, Jason Gardner of New World Library has acquired our book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts.” The book will be coming out in Fall 2015. It’s pretty amazing!

All because I adopted a 16-year-old dog. (Who is now 18 and still going strong!)


Posted on June 23, 2014

Patches And Princess {My Mutt}

Posted on May 9, 2014

What a perfect pair. Patches and Princess! Princess has the most gorgeous eyes and I love Patches’ smile.

Turn up the volume and enjoy!

Gracie Loves Yum Yums {My Mutt}

Posted on April 16, 2014

Here, there and everywhere. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Sit. Yum yum, please. Stay. Dog barking in the neighbor’s yard? Dash to tell him to shut his trap…there’s a photo session going on! Here. There. Yes another yum yum. I don’t work for free. Sit. Up the stairs. Smile. Smile bigger. Down the stairs. Jump up. Sit. Smile. Yep…Gracie was a natural.

Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the essence of Miss Gracie the gregarious.

Sasha and Ziggy {My Mutt Portraits}

Posted on March 16, 2014

The only way to spend a very hot day in Hollywood is chillin’ with a couple very cool cats…even if they are dogs. :-) Sweet, shy Sasha came out of her shell in about 5 minutes and was such a good girl. She knew I had treats and from then on, she would sit, stay and smile on cue. Ziggy the firecracker was just as endearing. She wanted to explore, explore, explore.

What a perfect way to spend the morning. Take a peek at all the fun. Don’t forget to turn up the volume. Enjoy!

Gromitte Is In The House!

Posted on March 6, 2014

ANOTHER adorable mohawk pup! I knew it was going to be a fantastic shoot when Gromitte decided that I was a comfy bed. LOL I got into position (laying on the ground, of course), mama was putting Gromitte in position and then we were ready…or so I thought. Gromitte thought it was the funniest thing seeing me on the ground and had to come dance around me, lick my face and then sit on me. And she wasn’t moving. :-) No problem by me…I love my clients.

Turn up the volume and enjoy our day in Old Town Pasadena.

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