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a little peanut from Afghanistan ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

meet Sheena …

these are just a few of the images from our wild, wacky wintry shoot.

this young, energetic, stunning little hound mix hails from war-torn Afghanistan, and has certainly made the switch from sand to snow with the same glee and exuberance with which she seems to tackle everything in life.

for being still under a year old, Sheena — the-crazy-hound-formerly-known-as-Peanut — has been a few places.  rescued by American soldiers at 4-6 weeks of age, she was harbored at Tigger House in Kabul, operated by The Afghan Stray Animal League and Afghanistan’s only animal shelter.  from there, this little monkey was shuttled to Pakistan, then New York, and Buffalo, and finally Ontario, where she lives with mom Laurie and her new pack of two other rescue dogs and seven cats north of Toronto.

this girl is definitely a hunter.  she’s got sight-hound genes … watching the spring-time geese coming in and one of the rare moments she stood still …

… she’s got a nose that won’t quit …

… and she’s definitely got the speed to catch a rabbit or two.

mom Laurie definitely has her work cut out for her with this girl.   “puppy manners” and obedience classes have helped start this girl, but Laurie intends to watch Sheena truly blossom in agility, fly ball, and even tracking.  having harnessed a similar energy in my own girl Matea — 200% hunting drive, rescued wirehaired pointer — i spent a long time after our shoot talking with Laurie about working with Sheena’s drives and ways to eventually successfully have this girl ‘hunting’ and running for Laurie instead of willy nilly on her own, and to be reliable off-leash.  of course, having had to create a harmonious household of terriers, a supreme hunting dog and cats myself, i also gave Laurie some extra tips on safely integrating this ‘sharp’ girl with the resident cats.  but Laurie is already well on her way in choreographing her own harmonious pack dynamics with her crew.

not unlike a number of my clients who can’t be trusted off leash, Sheena was kept on one of the scruffy dog long lines.  you’ll see its appearance in a couple of the images here where i haven’t had the time to remove it in post.

Sheena’s shoot actually originated out of the need for images for an article written for Cottage Dog magazine about the rescue of these Afghan dogs.  when Laurie needed images of Sheena to submit for the article, she came to scruffy dog, making the drive down from Newmarket to shoot here.  i do work hard at finding some of the best light and landscapes. and of course, the most fun for the dogs.

part of Sheena’s ‘education’ is supervised playdates with other dogs.  as Laurie writes: “She began her life in harshness and has the scars to prove it.  She still holds fear for strange dogs and defends herself by taking the offense.  Once she knows a dog means no harm, she pulls in her teeth and plays like a mighty-mite.”

so much like my own crazy girl … although by the age of one my girl Matea was generally far too serious and focused on hunting to have time for play.

although Sheena goes down as being the highest-energy pup i’ve worked with in all my years of shooting, and certainly a challenge given that Laurie has had her only a couple of months and her training is still in the early stages, not to mention the cold and the wind that bore down on us, i certainly enjoyed the challenge of this girl.  constantly moving, running, spinning,  and sometimes leaping right at the camera as though it were a toy, settings and values on the cameras were having to be changed on the fly at every turn to compensate for the light, for the shooting situation, and for whatever Sheena was doing — being a nut …

running flat-out …

or finally standing still for the blink of an eye …

and some more words from Laurie: “Sheena lights my heart and my life.  I will be forever grateful to her rescuers.  There is no better feeling than knowing one has made a difference and I encourage all those who say they love animals to reach out and adopt the forgotten ones, whether at home or abroad.  Not only will you rescue an animal, but also a piece of your soul.”

as someone who also has always adopted and rescued, i can attest 100% to the power of these words.

thank you, Laurie, for all that you do for your pack.  and thank you for introducing me to your beautiful girl.

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  • andi vbAMAZING SHOTS! STUNNING! you have such an eye for this…..wondering if perchance you saw the piece on CBS Sunday Morning called “Best Paw Forward”…about a professional photographer in Dallas TX that shoots pictures of shelter/rescue dogs for their adoption photos….she worked with a daschaund rescue group and after her photos appeared on their website, their adoption rate went to 100%….she has worked with amatuer photographers and pros as well to teach them how to photograph the dogs to put their best paw forward….you obviously need no help in that arena!
    keep up the good work!!ReplyCancel

    • illonathank you, everyone, for your visits and comments.

      and thank you, andi. yes, i’ve known Teresa Berg from Dallas for some time as a fellow pet-photog, and did see the CBS piece on her work. every year I devote several weeks of work to shooting and designing the local Humane Society’s calendar, which raises thousands of dollars for the shelter. i would far prefer to be working directly with available adoptables, photographing them in order to increase their chances of adoption … but as of yet, i have been unable to make a viable connection with a rescue group/organization that can make this work successfully for all parties.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy DeAngelisAWESOME photos! Some of the best dog photos I have ever seen.ReplyCancel

  • BeeZeeBeautiful pictures! What a change in this girl from the pictures of her while still in Afghanistan…almost a different pup.ReplyCancel

  • AnnieJust saw these from Puppy Rescue Mission and they are FANTASTIC! The second one made me laugh out loud! Seriously! Love the energy and personality that comes through these pics. Thanks for sharing them 🙂ReplyCancel

  • SonjaI have done fundraising fro Nowzad – an organization that does rescue work for soldiers in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. I also work with Hopeful Hearts dog resue (Onatrio and Quebec although we also brought in 4 dogs from lebanon a few weeks ago). They are amazing souls!ReplyCancel

  • AnnaFantastic job. I really enjoy your work. She totally looks like she was a challenge, I can understand a tad as my vizsla does not sit still very long while outside… and lately even inside as she currently is attacking a stuffed bear on the couch. I agree on her having some sight hound in her too, or a lot 😉
    Good idea with the nice light long lines too, bet paracord would work well.
    Take care

  • Holly Garner-JacksonGreat shoot, illona. You’ve captured a wide array of this girls wild side!ReplyCancel

  • LindaThese are so stunning. Love them.ReplyCancel

  • JustynaWonderful story and what a beauty she is! The story tears at my heart strings.ReplyCancel

  • TatyanaAhh, I’m in love! What a gorgeous girl. I loved the whole series 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Susan HumphreysLove the quizzical look on her face in the first photograph. These are just
    wonderful shots (as usual!).The scenery is spectacular.

    Susan Humphreys

  • SarahLOVE that second pic, and the fifth, and, well, all of them! You are amazing!ReplyCancel

  • katei love this girl. i know all about those drives and the challenging of directing them, but it is work well worth it. i have such a bond with my malinois and maybe it’s because these drivey dogs necessitate putting in a ton of work and developing a stronger bond than our more easy going friends. illona, as always, beautiful shots. i loved the intensely alert and focused gaze in the shots.ReplyCancel

  • madaboutgreysWhat a stunningly beautiful girl. Well done to Laurie for giving her a home for life. And well done to you for this beautiful set of photographs. You do such fantastic work on those long lines, producing natural action shots that capture the natural movement of the dog.ReplyCancel

  • illonathanks, everyone. glad you’re enjoying Sheena’s images. they are some of my favorite to date. 🙂

    Emilee, if it’s the same type of line, as i advised you in my email, just be careful of how you’re handling it. this rope (like a Flexi line) will burn the skin … i currently have a burned thumb pad to prove it! the shoot two days after this one had me shooting AND having to control the line, and since i never like to “snap” the line on any dog, but rather let it run to an easier stop, i let the line run through my gloved hand while applying pressure … FORGETTING that the pads over my thumbs on my gloves are cut out!! man, that sucker hurt … and a week later, still annoys me.ReplyCancel

  • EmileeBeautiful work, Illona! Sheena is such a lucky girl, as is her mom! And thanks for sharing some photos with the long line! I got some lines just that size a couple of weeks ago and am excited to go out and practice using them. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • JenniferOMG what a nutcase! I laughed all though this shoot. 188 I think is my favorite – the light on those bushes and her is fantastic – but I love her silly expressions in al of them. Great story, hope she comes around.ReplyCancel

  • JackieTalk about a new leash on life! Beautiful photos, as alwaysReplyCancel

  • bublynskiOhhh… what a bright-eyed and absolutely gorgeous little girl!! This series of photos really shows her character – I feel like I know her! She must be from the mountainous part of Afghanistan, as the snow doesn’t phase her at all.ReplyCancel

  • Mel HammondsBeautiful girl and a great story! Her eyes and expressions are exquisite! You captured her spirit beautifully! MelReplyCancel

  • sarahwow, great story! i actually LOL’d at the first crazy shot 🙂ReplyCancel

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