The company I use for my pet photo greeting cards is called Greeting Card Universe. Besides their top quality cards, exceptional customer service and friendly artists' community, I appreciate them for their review process of submitted cards. Most "print on demand" companies don't have one, and there is nothing more frustrating as a consumer than ordering something online and having the final product in your hand looking crummy. It's quite embarrassing, as an artist, to have this happen too (I know firsthand ... I had a calendar cover in 2009 that said "January through Decmeber")! As a result of the review process, you, the shopper, aren't likely to be disappointed in any card you order thru this company - and you can have full confidence when you use their direct-mailing option as well (sending your purchased card with your custom "hi there!" greeting inside, directly to the recipient ... no more hunting for stamps!).
But with the reviews come frustrations on the part of the artists - sometimes images and designs are sent back for re-working or even denied for publication all together. The GCU Community Blog invited me to be a guest blogger last week and I shared some tips for getting better shots of your lovely furries at home. This proves just as relevent for the pet owner as for the greeting card designer. Check it out by clicking here -> Guest Blog by DogBreedz.net. Of course, I still recommend you visit a professional photographer at least once a year for some heirloom images, too. If you are in SoCal, the Santee studio is open on a regular basis during the week - let me know when you are in the area!
Photos are almost complete from the Gateway Cities English Springer Spaniel Association Specialty on April 30. In the morning I caught some ringside candids of beautiful Springers in motion and stacked for the judge. After the Rescue Parade I stayed close to the portrait booth for some studio shots. This is Peaches - she is available for adoption through English Springer Rescue America and I am IN LOVE with this girl! High energy (of course - she's a Fieldie!) and smart as a whip. I don't think she'd be a good choice for a first time dog owner, and definitely not a dog to hang alone while her human is at work for 8 hours a day. Bored dogs get into mischief when left alone. Peaches has tons of love to give, and that's pretty much a match to her energy level and her smart-savvy. Is YOUR home and life-style ready for a Springer like this one?
Back in 2002 I concieved, founded and ran San Diego Spaniel Rescue - the abandoned and stray Cocker Spaniels in San Diego County finally had an advocate! In January of 2003 I brought the first blind dog into Rescue and my life has never been the same. Lacey was a beautiful 1940's style red/white parti girl and her human owner had passed away. Lacey's blindness was recent - and sudden - swelling in the optic nerve cause irrepairable damage to the nerve and nothing could be done to reverse the sight loss. Lacey took it all in stride - she had only been blind a week when I first met her, yet she still acted like the queen-of-the-world that she was!
Yes, to Lacey it was just another day in her life. But before I brought her home to foster with me, I was anything but calm! A blind dog! What do I do? How do I do it? What about my flight of 12 stairs down to the yard? Help! I turned to the internet and asked questions of people with blind dog experience.
The suggestions that came in were wonderful, and even better - they stimulated my brain to think outside the box and to create some solutions that were specific to my situation. For example - while I didn't have a way to put a gate at the top of the stairs right away, with Lacey's input I went another route. I led her up and down the steps quite a few times on leash, and she quickly proved to me that navigating the stairs was a no-brainer to her (Silly Foster Mom! I know THAT phrase went thru her cute little head many times!). But what I needed was a way to let her know that the steps were coming up - what if she was running and playing with another dog, and didn't know how close the steps were? I had two 12 square-inch decorative blocks, about two inches in width available. I laid them down flat about a foot in front of the steps - she had plenty of room so if she stumbled into them, she'd realize the steps were nearby, yet enough room that when she was ready to go down and play in the yard, she could step over them, then on down the stairs.
Poochie Bells to the Rescue! This was a tip that was given to me and I love it - sighted or blind, deaf or hearing - the Poochie Bells were my best (non-fur) friend for the 8 years I fostered dogs at my old house. I'd be using them in my new home, but it's small enough that I have a clear sight line to the door and can see when Bennett is wishing it would open - even while on the computer. Now, I did start with just a string of Christmas Sleigh Bells hanging on the door from my holiday collection. And you can home-make a string of bells (just be sure your Fido can't chew any off your strand and swallow any - another reason I prefer the commerically made bells from Poochie Bells). When I saw the different designs in the Poochie Bell line of housebreaking tools, I was hooked - a classy look and a wonderful houestraining aid! Still not convinced? Take a look at them here: PoochieBells.com. The company even has cute dog-themed hooks, if you don't want to hang yours on the doorknob. Training a dog to use the bells is relatively easy to do, too. Get your Poochie Bells and let me know your training story!
Next up in the editing queue - ringside candids from the Lake Matthews Kennel Club 2011 dog show in Chino Hills, CA. At this show I spent time following nine breeds (English Setters, Clumber Spaniels, Finnish Lapphunds, Sloughi, Bouvier Des Flandres, Afghan Hounds, Scottish Terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Samoyeds). It was a blustery day which gave some cool looking images for me to photograph, especially with the long-hair breeds - although I can imagine that as an exhibitor or a judge it must have proved a bit frustrating. This is GCH Set'r Ridge's in the Sensation JH (call name Chloe). Owned by Toni and Roger Barbosa of Milestone Setters and bred by Melissa Newman of Setter Ridge Kennels. I love this shot! And I hope to see much more of Chloe - her face is adorable.
I'm still getting a hang of looking ahead to upcoming holidays. While the average consumer may think this means Memorial Day, Shavuot and Father's Day, to the card designer this really means Labor Day, Grandparents Day and Rosh Hashanah. For the REALLY on-the-ball designer, it even means Halloween! Like I said, I'm still wrapping my head around it and am not reaching quite as far out as I should be, yet. With Memorial Day, Flag Day and July Fourth coming up, and Labor Day in the "design NOW!" category, I decided to come up with a patriotic design that can be customized for all the holidays and occasions that celebrate the USA (including cards to thank a serviceman/woman for their duty, welcoming a dear one home from service, and more). This is the design I came up with - in about 3 weeks it should be active and available for sale in all my available breeds. I hope my Patriotic Line suits a need for YOU! The image is already available for customization with your image and your requested text - just contact me for details (no design charges apply for this one).
My Rio Hondo photos will be next after I finish Lake Matthews pix. It was a good weekend for a dog show - beautiful and not too hot. I only made it out to the grounds on Sunday, but stayed to the very end. This weekend I spent time with some of my favorite breeds: Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Clumber Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers and Border Terriers. I also had a chance to see a couple of Toy Poodle and Black and Tan Coonhound friends strutting their stuff in their rings. During the Group Judging, I made sure to have my camera ready during the Sporting, Hound and Terrier Groups. Here's a tease to keep you hanging on until I get to those shots. This is Sylar (CH Lndi's Ott To Be Villain Or Hero) chillin' before he entered the ring to take Best of Breed. Owned/Handled by Star Ott, bred by Linda Cribbs and Star Ott.
I wanted to meet the breed, and boy did I! I had a full day spent with Paula Cignota of Summerfield. I was surrounded by these gentle giants - and the seven week-olds were there to greet me too - how cute can it get! Paula's Rotties are show quality (many are retired champions in multiple countries) and are obedience and agility trained. Did I mention many are herding champions? Talk about your well-rounded canines - these dogs are superstars!
Back in the 80's that song was the theme for the sit-com "Married ... With Children". I just learned this week that the family dog, Tiger, was a natural-earred Briard. Actually, to be honest I also just learned that the breed standard allows for natural ears as well as the more familiar cropped, upright ear. While they can typically be a little stand-offish with strangers (this seems to be a trait shared among the upright herding breeds), it wasn't longer than a "hello" and a sniff that I was the new best friend of these two cuties: Nikki (CH Briaramour's de Moulin Rouge CD, RE) and Lily (Brairamour's Fleur de Lis), owned by Benita Keiss, DVM. This mother-daughter team were charming hosts and I have to admit, I am entirely enchanted with them. Nikki and Lily - I'll be keeping my eyes open for you at future shows and agility trials!
In the May 6 issue of Dog News, I once again recognized a winning dog of the week from when he was in front of my camera. Big Congrats and Four Paws Up for Havanese GCH Bellatak McDreamy (call name Dreamer), owned by John Oakes, Carole Shea, Kathy & Tom Patrick and Jane Samson. Congrats for his Best In Show win at Lake Matthews Kennel Club. My photo of Dreamer was taken during the Best In Group judging at Rio Hondo Kennel Club's 2011 show.
Coming up: May 13 - Studio Mini-Sessions at Su-Et's Kennel in Santee, CA; May 21 & 22 - Ringside Candids at Mt. Palomar Kennel Club in Valley Center CA; May 26 - Ringside Candids at West Coast Cocker Spaniel Specialty Show in Pomona, CA; May 27 & 28 - Ringside Candids at the Mission Circuit in Pomona, CA; May 29 - Private Shoot in San Diego, CA; Contact me if you would like me to capture your dog showing in the ring or for a private photo shoot. The full shooting schedule can be seen on my main website. See you at the shows!