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a life well-lived

sorry to have let the blog languish these past few weeks … first there was the BitDefender software fiasco that required a complete rebuild of the scruffy dog system … then there was the addition of a new scruffy … and finally – sadly – the loss of our sweet scruffy morley.


adopted just shy of  six years ago from the Perth County Humane Society in Stratford, morley was already nine years old when he joined our small pack.  i’d spent a year searching for a small, senior dog to offer a wonderful retirement of good food, a large yard, and lots of hikes.  believe it or not, we were denied adoption of other small dogs by two different private rescues who obviously felt that we couldn’t provide a good enough life … no doubt unable to recognize my abilities to bring a small dog into a pack of one, bad-ass wirehaired pointer. i’m grateful to the staff of the Perth County branch of the OSPCA for not only taking a chance, but allowing an out-of-town adoption.


i’m not sure morley could have found a fuller life … as i hope you’re able to see from just a very, very small selection of the images that document his retirement years.  then again, i think some would argue that morley hardly considered his time with us as ‘retirement’.



although he slowed down in his final year, and his progressing blindness and deafness due to a brain tumor prevented us from taking very many hikes, morley lived his years with us to the fullest.  he even learned to swim for the first time … and i know it was a new skill because the first couple of times in water morley sank like a stone.  three-inch legs don’t lend themselves to extreme dog-paddling abilities.


nor do those short legs offer much purchase when it comes to plowing through the deep snow … and there were certainly moments when morley simply gave up and waited for a free ride, but mostly he took on the challenge … sometimes with a wild and boundless attitude.


and even though his last few months were sometimes a struggle, and his final weeks required drugs to prevent more seizures and take away some of the inflammation in his brain, i work hard at remembering the best times … the times when morley enjoyed the freedom on the trails and was finally a dog in his element.


this freedom required work, of course.  when morley came to me he was a ‘runner’ and an escape artist … that’s how he ended up in the shelter.  the previous owners — when called and told he’d been picked up at large — told the shelter to keep him, that they’d had him only two weeks, he hadn’t gotten along with the former owner’s toddler, and that he was always getting out.  so, some training was required … but, to me, it’s always worth it to see my pack being real dogs.


as for kids and toddlers, morley was always a sweetie with all dogs and all people, no matter what the size …


he made himself at home almost immediately, winning his way into our hearts, and the hearts of so many others through his own photo set on flickr.




it’s difficult to sum up morley’s years with us.  i’m pretty sure he enjoyed himself …


… even in spite of a few setbacks: a splenic tumor and a cruciate ligament tear a couple of years ago … he kept motoring and kept wagging.


he enjoyed  his custom-made stool allowing him to watch the world go by …


although baths weren’t considered prime fun.


and he always tolerated my cameras in his face.



morley will be missed by many …


… but mostly by me, and i’m just so absolutely grateful that i have so many photos to remember him by.  PLEASE, take photos and videos of your beloved pet — today, tomorrow, and always.  document your journey together. and if you’re unable to take your own photos, hire someone.  those memories are so important, and unfortunately i know first-hand how devastating it is to lose a dog too soon and not have very many photographic memories.  this is the very reason scruffy dog photography was born.


having those photos won’t make the immediate loss any easier … but in the long-run they will provide you much solace and many smiles as the memories live on.

i will write more about morley’s passing when i can.  in the meantime, i try to remember him as the life-loving terrierist that he was … through his photos.  if you want to see more of morley’s life, you can find his photos here.

i will also fill you in a little more on merrick — the newest rescued scruffie to join the pack (seen below).


goodbye, my sweet old man. i hope you’ve found murph and are running free.

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  • Robyn ElizabethWhat a lovebug! I LOVED these pictures of Morley. He looked like such a spark plug 🙂 ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl NixonI read this and laughed and cried as I remembered our journeys with the various dogs that have enhanced our lives over the years. The older I get, the more I love my dogs. I’m sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing your babies and talent with the rest of the world.ReplyCancel

  • leesiawhat a beautiful tribute, illona. i’m so sorry for your loss.ReplyCancel

  • illonathank you once again, everyone, for your visits and your generous comments … and for sharing your own experiences and grief.

    morley’s been gone for five weeks now. i admit, it feels much longer than that. i guess it’s kind of like when a loved one goes away for a short period of time and it feels like forever.

    merrick has certainly helped to dissolve the grief and fill the emptiness, but the absence of morley still manages to sneak in once in a while, and my heart literally aches when it does.

    thanks again, everyone.

  • LauraThank you for sharing this peek into the life of Morely. I too suffered the loss of a dear canine companion with far too few photographic memories. And because I channeled my grief in much the same way, by shouting the message far and wide to take pictures of your pets, I can underline your message of capturing the image of those you love. Bravo on your beautiful tribute.

  • MaureenI am truly sorry to hear about Morley’s death and I wanted to give you my deepest condolences. I can only imagine the sadness you and your family are going through. Please take care!ReplyCancel

  • JennOh Illona,

    I am so sorry to hear about Morley! What a dear old scruffy! He will be missed.


  • boboh man… i can’t see the screen — there’s water in my eyes…ReplyCancel

  • KarlaI grew to love Morley from afar after discovering your wonderful photos of him on Flickr. He had more personality than any oher dog on Flickr. I knew that was partially him and partially your talent at capturing him in all his glory. I know you will miss him with your whole heart and soul but I’m so glad you have so many amazing photos to remember him by. I will always remember your precious Morley and feel honored that you shared him with me and so many others. I am thinking of you and Janet during this time of great loss.ReplyCancel

  • Natasha JappI am so sorry to hear about your loss… He was surely full of life and deeply loved, as he deserved! Tchau, Morley.ReplyCancel

  • AdamI am so sorry , Illona, that Morley is gone. You chose great pictures that show his full life. Lucky guy to have gotten into your home.
    Thank you for letting us share a bit of that.ReplyCancel

  • KatieSo very sorry. I feel as if I knew Morley from the wonderful photos of him on flickr. He had such a warm, funny spirit that often made me smile. I cannot imagine how difficult this must be. Your gifts of language and photography help all of us appreciate what a wonderful dog he was. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • dianeIllona, I’m so sorry to hear about Morley. What a sweet little soul he was! He knew how lucky he was to have found you, and to spend his last years in a warm and loving home. The pictures of him are just wonderful, and sure show his character. What a great inspiration!

    Just as you said, having beautiful pictures of your dog is one of the best tributes, and yours of Morley are one of a kind.ReplyCancel

  • RuthOh Illona I’m so sorry for your loss. Morley was one of the lucky ones. Please take some solace in that xxReplyCancel

  • jenniferWhat a beautiful summary of Morley’s memory. As a dog photographer, I too know the importance of capturing every single moment, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Thank you for the reminder that a doggy life is too short and needs to be documented so we can look back and rememebr those precious times with our pets.ReplyCancel

  • Donna BassIm so sorry…this brought tears to me……as Ive lost a few friends myself over the years. Your photo tribute is beautiful and now that my Annie is reaching her senior years I must document how beautiful she is too.
    Thankyou for sharing….Morley will be missed. Yours truly

  • illonathank you again, ALL, for your wonderful words and support … and mostly for enjoying morley on flickr, for sharing his life, and in some cases, taking part in it when he needed you all most.

    your generosity of spirit, thought, and — in some cases — in helping him with his surgery a couple of years ago will never be forgotten.

    thank you again … and again.ReplyCancel

  • Cat S.Oh Illona, I am so very sorry, reading this news brought tears to my eyes, this is such a beautiful tribute for dear sweet Morley, he shall be missed by all of us. I agree, it’s so important to have photographs of our beloved furry ones, I’ve been there, too, regrets of not having enough photos and grateful for the photos that I do have of my modern pack/pride, I look at past photos often, not a day that doesn’t go by I think of those furry little ones that have been in my life. *bear hugs* Much love my dear, this is a tremendous heartache.ReplyCancel

  • jeffSo long Morley. You had a great life over the last six years. It was good to meet you, watch your antics and take part (virtually) in your good life. I’ll see ya around the bend. Illona, I’m imagining giving you a big hug right now.ReplyCancel

  • andreaI am so sorry for your loss, Illona. The photos you posted are just perfect…a wonderful reflection of a truly happy dog and well lived life. The couple of times that I had the pleasure of meeting Morley, he was full of such great character…full of soul. I will remember him always. Sophie and I are thinking of you and the rest of your crew. Hugs.ReplyCancel

  • Anne GeallThis is such sad news. I think because of your beautiful photos of Morley we all felt we knew him…and loved him too. Anyone who has lost a special furry friend knows what you are going through right now. My heart goes out to you.

    Welcome Merrick!ReplyCancel

  • alexaI’m so sorry. It’s so, so, so, SO hard! Just remember that you’re very lucky to have so many wonderful photos of him… I had yet to begin my photography when I lost my special sweetie. You’ll always have these wonderful wonderful photos to look back on- and lots of memories too I’m sure. He was a special old soul.ReplyCancel

  • Scout and FreyjaNo matter how many days, weeks, months or years we spend with someone we love it is never enough – never. Please accept my sincere and deep sympathy on the loss of your beloved friend.ReplyCancel

  • StephanieThis is such a special tribute. My husband walked in to tell me something as I was reading it and the tears were flowing. I can feel the relationship you have with your dogs through your photos…..I envy that.
    People always say to me, your dogs are lucky to have you. Nope. I am lucky to have them.ReplyCancel

  • SandraSo sorry your loss you big friend. I am very impressed from this page that you make from him to him. it’s beautiful. A great memory and the photo’s are so great. He will always in your heart and he is always on all the picture that you taken.
    xxx SandraReplyCancel

  • DeeDeeA beautiful set of photos and tribute! I’m so glad you both found each other and my heart is sad for your loss. I’m glad you have these beautiful images and always wonderful memories of your sweet boy.ReplyCancel

  • Car LeeI had a few tears reading and looking through this blog spot, my older dog is now 13, a constant companion and has been through it all with me. I worry all the time about his age. Looking at this I see your well loved dog and what a wonderful life he has had with you, not now but later you will look at these and remember happily.
    I am so sorry for the loss of your loved dog,
    Car xxReplyCancel

  • michelle & marcoSo sorry for your loss. Please accept our heartfelt sympathies. He looks like a very precious boy.ReplyCancel

  • Les WoodBeautiful tribute to a great wee dog… some wonderful photographs and memories. You’re right, of course – we collected hundreds of pictures of our Ghillie and even then it’s still too few. We collected ours into a photobook, together with a list of our favourite memories of him (strangely enough our very last page also had the words “a life well-lived” and a picture of his last paw-print on the back garden, his last mark on the planet).

    It’s so obvious from your pictures that Morley’s was also a life well-loved.ReplyCancel

  • TamaraI have tears in my eyes also.


  • SweetpeaMy goodness, I am so choked up after reading this dear sweet story about Morley…thank you for sharing all these beautiful images but more importantly, for reminding me to constantly document my fur gal’s life with me – we just don’t get to have them around long enough. Morley and your pack are *lucky* to have such a good human to own!ReplyCancel

  • RachelNow I have tears in my eyes- what a beautiful tribute, he is such a lucky guy. The image of him plowing through the snow at full speed with his gaping mouth made me smile so much, and also the image of him running with the children is so wonderful. Reminds me that I need to take more ‘everyday’ pictures of Zero like these. And videos too, I barely have any of those.

    I can tell he absolutely had a beautiful life. In those 5+ years I KNOW he experienced more love, respect, and freedom than most dogs do in 15 years.ReplyCancel

  • TatyanaA beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.ReplyCancel

  • illonathank you, ALL, for your experienced words and deep caring. your comments mean so much as i read and re-read them. thank you.

    as time goes on i hope to be able to view some of his videos … taken of him in his prime, on the trails, or killing a ball. … when i’m ready.

    thank you again, all, from the bottom of my heart.ReplyCancel

  • Shelly AnnI follow your blog and as a fellow photographer enjoy seeing your new work. I totally feel your pain of loss. I lost my 14 yr.old Kelpie last November after spending 14 yrs with him by my side. You are so right about the photos. I have tons of prints from my film days and even more stashed away on the computer and on disc. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at one or more pictures of him. I have 3 other dogs, but with each dog you share a unique bond that no other dog can duplicate. It may be close but it is never exactly the same. I have no words of wisdom to offer, just my heartfelt sympathy. God Bless.ReplyCancel

  • RogA wonderful tribute to a wonderful little pup.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole MlakarI never never never know what to exactly say at these times because all I ever feel is deep sorrow. I am so very sorry to hear that Morley is gone. You gave him the absolute best life ever and I am 100% sure that he knew that. You are in my thoughts and I hope you find peace and joy knowing he’s in an even more amazing place.ReplyCancel

  • allison f.I was just checking in as I knew he was having a tough time…. I’m so very, very sorry to hear of his passing. There is no doubt in my mind he lived in heaven on earth with you and your pack. Such a sweet little man, it breaks my heart to think of him gone. Love the photos of him…. he will not be forgotten that’s for sure.ReplyCancel

  • MichelleWhat a beautiful, heartwarming, and inspiring tribute to Morley. The collection of photos you selected was perfect to honor his memory. I particularly love the bathtime shot. I’m so sorry for your loss.ReplyCancel

  • jennifer metzgerWHat a wonderful tribute and great collection of images, he certainly was lucky they allowed you to adopt him (regarding the other organizations….I know they mean well but sometimes the reasons people are refused are absurd). Have not known him or you long via Flickr but it is clear he lived the high life.

    I cannot agree with you more regarding you final comments! My first dog was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and had only a few snapshots. I bought my first camera and took tons of (mostly crappy) photos for the next 9 months that I had left with him. When I got Blue, I became slightly obsessed and I don’t think I will be lacking in photographic memories!! To this day, I am saddened by the lack of photos I have of my first dog.ReplyCancel

  • aprilI’m so sorry for your loss… I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a pet. I hope you take comfort in the photos… it’s easy to see how very well-loved he was.ReplyCancel

  • MarciIllona and Family. We are so so sorry to hear about Morley’s passing. Your blog post was a beautiful tribute and a reminder that we need to take daily photos of our furry family members.ReplyCancel

  • JeanDear sweet Morley. We learned a lot and smiled a lot along his journey that was so openly, honestly and brilliantly shared.ReplyCancel

  • LizI am so sorry to hear about Morley’s passing. Your tribute was beautiful. Lots of
    love and hugs from Ottawa.ReplyCancel

  • AshleyWhat a wonderful set of photos for Morley. I’m at work when I read this and felt like I had to hide from everyone and only face my monitor. I dont know if you remember me. I had a wirehaired pointer named Norman on flickr and you commented a couple times about needing more photos of him. I remember when I first found your photos. I’ve never been a big fan of smaller dogs but Morley stole my heart. I could see all of his heart, personality, and gusto coming through each and every photo. I am so saddened to read of his passing but I have no doubts that he had the most wonderful life he could have with you. He couldnt have been a happier dog. You gave him such a fulfilled existence. I cant think of a proper way to end this except to say that Morley touched so many of us and will live on forever in our hearts.

    cant wait to meet the newb doggie 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Annie KinmondThank You for sharing Morley’s life and adventures with us. I think he had a fabulous life filled with love and TLC. I agree it’s important to take lots and lots of pictures of your pets. You never know when they will be gone, and it provides so much comfort to be able to look back on the years gone by…
    I found after my old dogs passed that I started to remember them as the younger dogs they were at their prime. At the end it was all about meds, and trips to the vets and special diets etc… For many years they were crazy Jacks causing trouble and laughter whereever they went! It makes me smile to go back to those younger years and now I almost forget what it was like when they were old… I do know I will never forget them;)ReplyCancel

  • LoriWhat a beautiful tribute to Mr. Morley. I was snorting back laughter looking at his happy photos one moment and choking back a big lump in my throat the next.

    Like many others have said, your photos were some of the first I found on Flickr and they have been such a great inspiration to me to take more photos of my dog and give him a healthier life (we’re a month into feeding [pre-packaged] raw- a decision I probably would never have come to had I not seen your photosets and information).

    He was such a lucky little dog to be in a pack where he was so loved and respected. We hope you are healing.ReplyCancel

  • EmilySuch a wonderful tribute to a magnificent dog. Run free, Morley!ReplyCancel

  • Donald TownsendSad to hear Morley passed away. You are absolutely right. Take pictures of your dogs. I took about 100 of all the pictures I had of my 18 years old Dachshund and made them into a book. Besides that there are calendars I made over the years and a printed canvas. I’m glad I have these.ReplyCancel

  • Susan HumphreysI was devastated when I read that the mighty Morley had passed. His pictures were the first ones I found on flickr, and they could always guarantee a smile, even when I was feeling down. I think he had the most
    wonderful life with you and Matea. I know he will be running free now
    with Murph. It’s so nice though that he will never die in our hearts
    because we have all your wonderful photographs of him to look back on.
    Who would have thought such a little dog with a big heart would have so
    many fans. God bless you Morley.ReplyCancel

  • DarleneWhat a truly wonderful memorial for your dear Mr. Morley. We will never forget him and will often look back with fondness through all your fantastic shots of his life with you. Great work Illona, both with keeping a record of his time and with the love you gave him.ReplyCancel

  • MargaretWhat a beautiful set of photos and tribute, Illona. Yes, he’s missed by many – including me! It’s hard to believe he was 9 when he moved in with you, as you had many wonderful years together. And yes, pictures, videos, pictures and more pictures! I think some people think I’m crazy with all the pics of B&H, but I know I’m not. Or not very. Crazy.:)ReplyCancel

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