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oh, marley

every session is special.  don’t get me wrong.  every dog leaves his or her mark on my heart and stays in my memory, becoming a permanent member of the scruffy dog pack. and every dog i shoot speaks to me … each unique, each bringing to the table new challenges and adventures, smiles and — in some cases — tears.

last week’s Honor Session™ with old man marley was one such case …


whenever i shoot, i like to think that i get to know each dog’s soul and heart just a little bit … through their looks, their energy, their body, and through the whispers that we share during those few hours we engage.  granted, some are busy-bodies and are simply too busy showing off their fetching skills or their selection of toys to really tell me their stories, but in other cases — like sweet man marley last week — there is almost an intimacy in the moments shared that make me feel as though i’ve known this dog for years.


marley is having some mobility problems in his older age, so a lot of our shoot found him resting and me belly to the ground as well.  no problem, i always dress accordingly.  the slow-paced shoot in the comfort of marley’s back yard was, of course, a nice break from some of my crazier, wild shoots where i’m lugging 50 lbs of camera equipment and swapping lenses while standing groin-deep in a snowbank or balancing on slippery rocks in a streambed, for sure.  however, i would have gladly taken those conditions for the opportunity to have met marley in his younger, more vibrant days.  but we take what we can get …


as is typical of my shoots — and especially Honor Sessions™ — i spent over three hours with this boy, and still, during the drive home, i was kicking myself for the shots i wish i’d thought of while i was there.  i imagine most photographers do this.  still, regardless of age or physical-state, marley delivered tenfold.  more than any dog before him, marley churned out one expression after the next.  in fact, his is the largest single-dog gallery to date .  narrowing down the selection of images took me almost a full day as i came back and back and back again to image after image of unique expressions.  and far be it from me to be the one to pick from that myriad of mugs!



the love that owners tracy and shawn share for their boy marley is unmistakable.


they’re much better at this taking-care-of-an-aging-dog than i am.  with every stumble and fall marley made, my heart ached … but tracy and shawn were troopers, rolling with the punches right along with marley, in true dog-like fashion … smiles on all their faces … live in the moment.


and yes, marley was allowed on the bed … although he did need a little help up.




he even introduced me to his “kitty” and his favorite lookout spot by the front window …


then back outside on the deck for a few more treats.  the old man’s still got a few tricks in him …



thank you, tracy and shawn, for a most memorable afternoon. and thank you, marley, for letting me into your big heart to glimpse a small part of your amazing soul.


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  • Nikki V.This brought tears to my eyes! what a sweet post for a sweet dog! I wish we lived closer to you so we could get the wonderful shots you take of our pups. Keep up the amazing work!ReplyCancel

  • RachelThis is such a sweet blog entry. Oh my goodness – these photos are great! I love the purple flowering tree in the background of a couple of these shots. So pretty! I love the tail shot too.ReplyCancel

  • Holly Garner-JacksonAwesome photos of the old man, illona. Love the paw on the bed and the treat catching one.The nose and the hand on the head are exceptional. You rock, and so does Marley and his owners. 😉ReplyCancel

  • illonathank you so much, everyone, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and emotions. and thank you Gramma Marley for dropping in. you’ve got an awesome grandson. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • lauralooking at these pictures of marley makes me not only wish that i knew him better, but makes me wish i had a dog of my own! who ever thought that a series of photographs could reduce me to tears on a sunny wednesday afternoon. thank you so much for inviting us into your heart marley, and for sharing your spirit. beautiful, wonderful work, Scruffy Dog!ReplyCancel

  • marley's grammaThe pictures of Marley are marvelous. Marley,a quiet and kind soul,and loved by all of his family, is normally shy around the camera. I had laughingly mentioned to Tracy to tell Marley to “smile” on the day of his sitting. He looks so relaxed, and you have certainly captured all of his wonderful qualities. Thank you for this. My favourite is of Marley at his favourite spot at the front window.ReplyCancel

  • BevThank you for the beautiful photographic tribute to Marley. My faves are the ones against the pink blooms. Beautiful work.ReplyCancel

  • nickA lovely session here.. senoir dogs really do have that air about them..ReplyCancel

  • andreawhat a wonderful shoot. you captured his expressions beautifully. thanks so much for sharing…i so enjoy spending time here with you and these wonderful dogs. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Marcia AguiarI’m speecheless and holding my tears. You are a great artist, Illona. Marley is adorable and, even not knowing him, it seems to me you’ve captured every subtle detail of his personality. I wish I lived in Canada to have you photographing Rafael and Alice.ReplyCancel

  • MimiYou can see in his eyes that this dog has soul. I’ve been blessed with elderly dogs in my time and each one becomes more precious as the days march on. You can see in the faces of his parents that Marley is a much loved and treasured member of the family. That, in itself, warm my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your photos with us/me. I adore each and every one.ReplyCancel

  • Sarahthese are brilliant, perfect and i am emotional just looking at them.

    what a friggin cool dog.

    are you coming to alberta any time soon 🙂ReplyCancel

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