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scruffy dog’s 2013 Holiday Tribute Gift ~ {Ontario pet photographer, giving back}

as another year winds to a close, my partner and the mcscruffies still tucked in bed on this crisp Christmas morning, i’m taking some time to put together this blog entry so that the recipients of the annual SDP Holiday Tribute Gift can have yet another surprise under their virtual tree today.  if you missed the original post describing what this giving-back feature of scruffy dog‘s is, you can read all the details here.  although we received fewer nominations this year than last (thank you, facebook, for your ever tightening throttle on our feed), we still received several dozen extremely touching and heart-felt nominations, making the decision extremely difficult.  many times i teared up while reading each submission, and to be completely honest, i would love to offer every single one of the nominees a session.

sadly, however, the SDP schedule won’t allow this.  still, instead of choosing the promised one recipient of the SDP Holiday Tribute Gift, and instead of choosing two like last year … i ended up having to choose FOUR! … AND please understand that this was not an easy decision.

i might have been able to choose just one, but to be honest, 2013 has been my own worst year — on so many fronts — and this certainly factored into my decision to give back even more.  i only wish my schedule, my energy and my health would allow me to grant sessions for everyone nominated.  i highly encourage those for whom i can’t offer a session to send the amazing words from your submission to the person you so graciously and passionately nominated this holiday season.  i know they will cherish them.


so, without further ado, and in no particular order, from the mcscruffies and me, here are the recipients of SDP’s 2013 Holiday Tribute Gift…



first up we have Kelly Pankatz.  as the former president of Boston Terrier Rescue Canada, Kelly received three nominations from Colleen Peacock, Tina Daquano, and Wendy Reekie.

in Colleen’s words:

“Kelly has been involved rescuing Boston Terriers for about 15 years now.  She is the Past President of Boston Terrier Rescue Canada, which was formed thanks to her efforts. She incorporated the organization, applied for and received charitable status and was instrumental in growing the organization from a very grass roots bunch of volunteers to a professional organization that rescues close to 100 Boston Terriers in Canada each year.  
The number of dogs that Kelly has had a hand in rescuing must be in the thousands – without her commitment and dedication, many of these dogs would not have survived.  She was very hands on and would take the “unadoptables” into her own home to love and care for.  No matter how heartbreaking the circumstances, these dogs always found a safe haven with Kelly and many still do thanks to her ongoing commitment.
Although Kelly stepped down from the Board of Boston Terrier Rescue Canada this year for well-deserved rest, she always makes herself available to guide the rest of us volunteers when needed.  She still volunteers at events, transports dogs and assists our organization as well as other rescues in Canada and the U.S.  She is a talented graphic designer who uses her talents to create posters, logos and other PR material items for rescues across the country – all you have to do is ask and she will help.”


it would be my honor to work with Kelly to capture some photographic memories of her pack of rescued mcsnorties.




sometimes a nomination isn’t just about the magnitude of what a person has done, like Kelly changing the face of rescue for Boston Terriers, or what a nominee has been through.  sometimes it’s as much about the incredibly heartfelt and moving words written about the nominee.  this is the case for Jennifer Carr.  Jennifer was nominated by both her father, Chuck, and her partner, Ryan.

after losing his first wife, Chuck found solace in long walks with his Bernese Mountain Dog Zoe, and in fact credits Zoe for saving his life.  but with the onset of kidney disease and a heart by-pass surgery, Chuck could no longer look after Zoe the way she deserved.  this is when his daughter Jennifer stepped in.  in spite of having her own girl Grace, adopted from Toronto Animal Services, another big dog, Jennifer took over Zoe’s care, which included many months of illness, vet visits, operations and careful care.

in her dad’s words: “…without a care for herself, Jennifer gave Zoe the time, love and attention that calmed and helped Zoe through her  ordeal. I shall be forever grateful.  Our dogs are with us for just a snap shot of our lives but they have a 3D, Kodachrome, feature length impact on us. Grace is always there for Jennifer and when she had to make room for one more dog in her pack she did so with the ease and grace that is her name and, I think, because she knew she would never be replaced in Jennifer’s heart. Jennifer loves Grace and now  Zoe completely and unconditionally. A SPD session would give Jennifer a lasting memento to remind her of the great love they all shared.”

but Jenn has also given selflessly to rescue, previously volunteering for a number of years with the Calgary Animal Services, and doing what she can for other rescues across North America as far as donations and gifts.

Ryan, Jenn’s partner, wrote an extremely heartfelt nomination … his touching words describing both Jenn and the incredible Grace: “I  don’t know if I can ever fully describe what Grace means to Jenn. Grace truly is an amazing dog. She has even changed me. Many people do not understand the bond that is shared between them (and I for that matter) unless they have had similar experiences and connections with their dog. Grace is our family. Our vacations are planned around bringing her, her comfort is always in the forethought of any planning outings and we really don’t like leaving her period. She is such a good girl.

She is a gentle soul who loves her walks, a belly scratch and a nap on the couch. She is simply the best dog I have ever known. I believe that her and Jenn share so much together just by the way Grace looks at her, tries to paw her or just lays beside her. She is a rock of support and whatever kind of day you have, she makes it so much better with a snuggle or a scratch. Jenn has been through a lot in her life, she went through a very difficult death in her family and Grace has always there to comfort her.”

2011 Easter Lake Edge 086

Ryan and Chuck, thank you for your nominations.  i would be honored to meet Jenn and Grace, and Zoe too, of course … to capture some amazing photographic memories of these girls.




another nominee whom i simply have to meet after reading the nomination sent in by Jess Albrecth, is Laura Penny and her dog Jade.  i’m not sure i can say it better than Jess herself:

“Laura Perry is someone who, perhaps to a fault, always puts other people first. She is constantly reaching out to friends and strangers alike to offer them assistance, yet she never expects or asks for anything in return. I got to know this remarkable woman through my own dog’s illness. Laura helped me through the process of accepting Rosie’s cancer diagnosis. She guided me gently through all of her available treatment options, and gave me hope when I had none.  She administered Rosie’s chemo, and cared for her and loved her as though she was her very own dog.  When the day came where the treatments failed, she lovingly offered me her wisdom and support during the palliative care stage – checking in on us almost daily.  She helped me to cope with approaching death and taught me how to live through it and past it. Something that I never really thought would be possible. Laura goes way above and beyond – not only as she did with my own dog, but with all the patients in her care.

Laura copes with sadness on a daily basis. Not only in her work as a veterinary technician at an emergency clinic and working closely with the Oncologist, but she has dealt with great sadness in her personal life as well. Through it all she manages to keep a smile on her face, she remains positive yet realistic, she gives hope to those of us who feel hopeless and vulnerable. The person who carries her through, the person who is not only her love and support but also her purpose in life, is her best friend Jade, a beautiful 13 year old pit bull terrier. I think a gift of a Scruffy session and having some great prints of her beautiful girl on her walls would be a great way to honour all of the love and compassion that she shares with so many on a daily basis.

I only hope that one day when the time comes to offer Laura a helping hand and my own words of comfort, I can be as generous and eloquent as she has been with me. While a Scruffy session is not something she would do for herself, I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Laura and her girl Jade. She is the true essence of a hero!”


i would love to meet Jade and Laura, and work together to create lifelong memories of this incredibly gorgeous girl for Laura. thank you, Jess, for your nomination.



and finally, i would love to meet Eric Martin, his partner Vince, and their phenomenally brave boy Cain, an Italian mastiff who has recently lost a leg in his battle with cancer.  in the words of their nominator Kelly Stewart: “Eric and his partner Vince have sacrificed many things this year to help keep Cain alive. Cain is their number one priority in terms of time and money. Cain was diagnosed with a very fast spreading cancer that aggressively climbed up the tendon in his back leg. They love him so much and it broke their hearts when they were told that Cains last chance was to amputate his back leg. They spent all their money on his surgery, eric even gave up going home to visit his parents in northern BC because of the cost. Cain is now healthy and thriving and Eric talks so much to me about how much he loves his dog, and is simply grateful that he is alive. 

Eric recently took a very sweet video of Cain playing happily in the woods with his 3 legs. He shows this video to everyone he runs into, I just know that a photoshoot would be so meaningful. Also. His partner Vince is an extremely talented well known graphic artist with an incredible eye for beauty. i just know that they would both appreciate how gorgeous your work is.”


Eric and Vince, it would be a thrill to capture something truly spectacular of Cain for you, to honor his courage, strength, and his bond with you both.




i hope these stories have touched you as much as they did me.   i am very much looking forward to meeting this year’s recipients and their 4- … er … 4- and 3-leggers!  as described in the original Holiday Tribute Gift announcement, please know that the SDP Holiday Tribute Gift is a scruffy dog Starter session, and will be shot here in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in one of our awesome locations … however, your session can be upgraded and/or travel can be purchased.  it is intended for one animal, but adding animals is always possible.  ALSO, because of SDP’s intense shooting schedule, these sessions will have be booked and shot this year before September (when the heavy fall shooting commences) … and the popular month of May is already triple-booked.

again, please understand that choosing the recipients of the SDP Holiday Tribute Gift(s) was not an easy task.  happy holidays to all those who took the time to write their incredible and passionate nominations … and to those who were nominated, giving selflessly to their companion animals, the pet community, rescue, and every other aspect.  thank you, ALL!

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  • Michelle BradshawBeautiful stories……ReplyCancel

  • Kelly PankatzBest holiday gift ever!! thank you!!!

  • Joni A Solis“… 2013 has been my own worst year — on so many fronts..” I am so sorry to hear this news and it seems to have been a bad year for many people which is so sad. I am so hoping that they coming year will be better for everyone on this planet. Thank you for giving back so much and I hope it will make others consider doing the same. We all need to help each other more. Merry Christmas. ReplyCancel

  • Norma RowleyWhat beautiful and touching stories …and such amazing people! I know that each of these recipients will be thrilled to have portraits of their dogs created by Ilona.ReplyCancel

  • Judy Gadsby BellevilleI can’t imagin a more wonderful gift than photos, memories captured by you. Thank youReplyCancel

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