TagService Dog

Happy 4th Birthday, Cooper!

“HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY, COOPER! Vibrant and beautiful is your heart, your soul….as is our love, friendship, bond, and our journey. Thank you for the smiles, the unconditional love and for being my guardian angel. I look forward to many more sunsets with you. Now let’s go get you a big birthday doggy bone!”

Cooper is a very special dog and is a huge part of my heart and soul for so many reasons. And it was through him that The Journey Photography and logo concept was born. I wanted to convey much about, my bond with Cooper and my personal life, which I don’t often share. I’m quite certain that many of you can connect with the concept of the new logo. The concept is “the journey of paw prints on my heart”. I have had a life long journey surrounded by the blessings of many dogs…often a pack at a time. When I found myself facing health issues, it was 4 paws who came to my rescue…an amazing chocolate lab who is now my medical alert service dog. He has taught me that anything in life is possible…and it was through him that I decided to chase my dream and become a photographer, with a focus on my love for dogs.   And that is how the Journey Photography was born. Dogs are truly amazing creatures…they can teach you how to love better, to become a better person, and to never.give.up.hope! And in my case, my guardian angel happens to have 4 paws.

Being a dog photographer in Alaska, has so much to offer. Beautiful landscapes, amazing sunsets…and of course, our amazing fur kids. Here are a few photos taken of Cooper to celebrate his 4th Birthday. And we even got a couple of his little brother, Archer. We are truly blessed!!

Family & Pet Photographer AlaskaAlaska Service DogDog Photographer AlaskaLabrador Retriever AlaskaAlaska Dog PhotographerAlaska Dog PhotographerAlaska Dog Photographer Chocolate LabradorPet and Family Photographer Wasilla and Palmer AlaskaPet and Family Photographer Alaska

Power of Paws – A Dog Dedication

I have spent many days contemplating the subject of my next blog and had many ideas. However, those went to the wayside as my heart feels compelled to blog about the events of yesterday. I do realize, this post might spark some controversy or criticism…but my hope is that it will ignite compassion, touch the hearts of others and most importantly make a difference for our furry, four paw friends in the world. This blog will be longer than most, but I feel it is an important subject, worthy of a share and a read.

I took a trip to the local animal shelter yesterday for two reasons. One, I wanted to sign up to volunteer my services as a photographer to capture the emotion and personality of the animals, share them with the community, in hopes it will help these animals find their forever home. Second, I wanted to check into the possibility of adopting a dog that my friend, who works at the shelter, had told me about. As soon as the dog came in the visiting room, she was excited to receive love and play ball with us. She was a sweetheart and has a very loving soul. We discussed her needs, her history and if she would be a good fit with our current FurFamily. It goes without saying, she stole my heart. After a bit, we said our goodbyes and knew we had decisions to make.

As we were leaving, I stood in the foyer talking with my friend who works there about the volunteer opportunities. Suddenly, I was distracted by a very familiar sound… click.click…click.click….click.click. At that moment, my chest felt heavy and everything around me changed to slow motion. Instantly, our old guy, Sirrus, came to mind (which I’ll share more about in a bit).   I turned around to identify where the sound was coming from. As I turned, I see an old dog, the click.click…click.click of his claws as he walked so slowly, his head down, and he was being led by a vet tech from the kennel area down another hallway. My heart sank as I watched for a moment. I then turned to my friend and asked “where is he going”, even though I felt I already knew the answer. As she replied, “he is old and has cancer”, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes began to swell up with tears. My heart filled with sadness knowing he was taking his last walk…but I also felt anger as I thought to myself, “where the bloody hell are his people?” Obviously he had lived somewhere other than the shelter all of these years…why is this old dog having to die alone? At that moment, I was overwhelmed with the feeling and desire to wrap my arms around the old dog, grab his leash and take him home with me…to embrace him, love him and give him a happy home to spend his final days, even if it were only a few. And then, when his final day was upon him, I’d have the vet come to our home and I would hold his paw, comfort him and he would feel nothing but love as the vet helped him close his eyes for the last time. The feeling was overpowering as I stood there powerless…his fate was already determined. As my tears continued, my sweet friend gave me a gentle hug and a shoulder. I left the shelter in tears, with a heavy heart since and my eyes swell with tears as I write this blog.

I mentioned our old guy, Sirrus. He was our Labrador Retriever and had been with us from 8 weeks old. He was a family dog, although Sirrus would have told you that he was his daddy’s dog (my husband). He followed my husband everywhere and would lay by his side while my husband did work on the computer.   He would chase a tennis ball over and over and never tire. He had a huge heart, a beautiful soul…and loved unconditionally.  The love and bond between Sirrus and my husband was magical.  We gave him a happy home, and through vet bills and surgery, we never ever gave up on him. It was just last summer when he became ill and we had to say our last goodbyes. He had just turned 13. It was the hardest decision of our life as we promised to never give up on him, but we knew it was his time to cross Rainbow Bridge. We had the vet come to our home and we held his paw, comforted him, and he felt nothing but love and saw his daddy’s face as the vet helped him close his eyes for one last time. During his final months, he moved very slow and his claws made a click.click…click.click…click.click sound as he walked across the floor. The click.click was the familiar sound I heard at the shelter yesterday…the sound that took me back to Sirrus…and the same sound that made my heart hurt for the old guy at the shelter, who was going to be alone as he closed his eyes for the final time.

I dedicate this post to the old dog at the shelter… “I may not have known you, but you touched my heart and I was there with you in loving spirit when your eyes closed for the last time”. You, and the rest of the animals at the shelter, inspired me to write this blog in hopes to touch the hearts of others. I also dedicate this blog to our loving old Sirrus, who I miss every.single.day!! My message to the human race of the world – My heart pleads with you; Please NEVER give up on your pets…do not get a pet unless you are willing to be committed to them for the rest of their lives..to love them, care for them, protect them and be there for the in their final days. Please consider a shelter dog or a rescue if you do decide to add a pet to your home. Please spay or neuter your pet to help control the population and to help keep the shelters empty. Please always have a collar and tag on your pet, or a microchip, to ensure they can find their way home.  Consider volunteering or donating to your local shelter or rescues…animal lives depend on it.  To those who breed animals for a profit only…please stop with the backyard breeding and shut down the puppy mills…you are only making the situation worse! Let the responsible breeders who breed for purpose, and breed with health and temperament in mind, handle the purebred breeding. The animal over population, full shelters and full rescues are not caused by an animal problem…it is caused by a human problem. On a final plea; please don’t give up on your old dog or trade them in for a puppy…they loved you unconditionally…you should do the same. Their lives matter!  Animals deserve a chance, but it will take compassion and responsibility of humans to make a difference.

Many may not feel the same about animals as I do…think that dogs feel, have memories, or that their lives should matter just as much as humans. Many may criticize me for the this blog. I can attest to the Power of Paws…the intelligence and love that animals possess.  I’ve always been an animal person, but it was just a few years ago where my journey brought me to a full understanding of their being. I found myself facing medical issues. My doctor suggested a service dog to assist in alerting me to impending episodes and so I could avoid constant medication. To be honest, I was skeptical and it took many months of the illness to convince me to give it a go. So, the journey began…Cooper came into my life.   We spent many days, (equating to years) in training with some of the most awesome trainers around. We had good days….we had bad days…we overcame many challenges…and together we became a team. He is now my trained medical alert service dog. He has taught me so much about the amazing abilities that dogs possess and has saved my life by alerting to my medical issues. It was not an easy transition for me…losing my independence, hearing people whisper and stare because I had a service dog. I faced “non believers” of a dogs ability, dealt with the judgmental and had friends fade away when I needed them most.   Cooper has taught me much about people, much about myself and the true meaning of friendship and unconditional love. He reminded me to appreciate the little things, to never give up and to rekindle my dreams…which is how and why “The Journey Photography” came to be, along with the blessings from a loving husband and wonderful daughter.  Please keep our story in mind before you criticize….this blog is written from my heart and soul.

In closing, I’d like to say, “thank you” to all of you who have taken the time to read this blog…my hope is that it has touched your heart and will encourage you to do what you can to help our fur friends have a better future.  And “thank you” to my friend who works at the shelter. Though I left the shelter with heartache that made me unsure of my ability to volunteer my services, it was through my friend’s love and bravery for the shelter animals that I have found strength to continue forward with volunteering my time to the shelter. I have included a few photos in this blog…one of my husband and Sirrus, taken just before his final days…one of my boy, Cooper…one is of a very dear friend with his guide dog, Sarge…as well as a few other amazing dogs I have recently photographed.

Written with love for happy tails,

Cris

 

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All images ©2015 - 2017 Cris Skinner, The Journey Photography by Cris

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