• ... home of Ontario's premier pet photographer. This is where the photos of scruffy dog photography meet the heart and soul behind all of those fun and wacky photo shoots and the long hours in the digital darkroom ... a behind-the scenes peek into the zany life of a pet-exclusive photographer and her scruffy sidekicks. For more details on illona and the mcscruffies, check out the "about" section.

    What you will find here is the past several years of blog entries -- selected client shoots, sneak peeks, facebook recaps, news and announcements, promos and specials, as well as info on canine health and general dog chat. (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)

    So, grab a cup of jo, give your scruffy a beef tendon to gnaw on, and enjoy the photos and ramblin's.

Buddy ~ DOGS WE’VE LOVED ~ Kitchener pet photographer

This is Buddy, the first in the Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series to pay tribute to those dogs whom we’ve loved in life and continue to love in death, who live on in our memories, both heartfelt and photographic.

Buddy’s guardian Sonia contacted me in March when her boy was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  The rush was on to fit his Honor Session™ in as soon as possible while Buddy was still feeling good, still had some giddy-up in his step and some zest for life.  He was only 12.

01 buddy stacy-183

We had scheduled our session for a Sunday, but that Saturday — while driving home from the vet with one of my own scruffies after one of our late-March ice storms — I was so excited by the iced-cloaked branches and bushes, I sped home fully expecting to put together my gear and my own sick and aged dogs for a mini session in the icy landscape.  And then … I thought of Buddy.  This glorious yellow lab would look even more splendid in the icy terrain, the sun glinting off the last encrusted branches.  So, I called Buddy’s guardian Sonia to see how quickly she could get herself and her old man together.

Alas, the timing was off, and by the time we got to the field I had scouted on the drive home from the vet, everything had melted.

05 buddy stacy-42

Still, we managed to capture a lovely portfolio of images of Buddy in several field areas, and finally the brick alleyway.

buddy stacy-177

06 buddy stacy-119

04 buddy stacy-54

Almost three months after Buddy’s session, Sonia wrote:  “Illona … Just wanted to send a quick thank you for the lovely photos you took of Buddy – he passed away last night and being able to look at all of the different poses and expressions you captured of him is so helpful right now.  Thank you again!

07 buddy stacy-168

Buddy was definitely a one-of-a-kind dog.  I won’t forget his session, his big spirit, or his big, bellowing bark.

08 buddy stacy-89
Dog-speed, Buddy … dog-speed.

09 buddy stacy-38


DOGS WE’VE LOVED … the series

For several years now I’ve had a project on the backburner … well, not a project so much as a book.  Not some big glossy coffee-table photo book, per se — although I have a couple of those in the works as well — but instead, as throw back to my two decades as a novelist, I am writing a book about dogs.  Alas, as any of my fellow professional pet photographers will tell you, this business doesn’t leave much time for side-ventures like writing books!  So, in the meantime, in the same vein as my non-fiction project, spurred by a rash of recent losses of client dogs, I thought I would put together a series of tributes to these deeply-loved souls.

morley p19

… the last image I captured of my sweet, old man Morley McScruffy, euthanized only a couple of hours later due to a brain tumor. Age: approx. 17 (adopted at 9+ yrs)

Almost a decade in this industry — shooting exclusively animals, and 95% of those dogs whose life expectancy is often barely 10-14 years these days — I suppose I should have anticipated the mounting number of losses of dogs.  I didn’t, and as each year goes by, sadly, the losses mount.

And believe it not, many times those loses feel deeply personal to me.  In so many cases, clients’ dogs feel like ‘family members’.  Meeting and working with them during their sessions, talking to their loving guardians through emails and phone calls, is only the first step in getting to know these amazing creatures.  But it is during the long hours of behind the computer … viewing their images at 100%, gazing into their sparkling eyes and their tongue-lolling smiles, one image after the next, one expression after the next, editing through my days and nights … I come to feel a profound and indescribable connectedness to each and every one of the souls I photograph.

So … in an effort to honour these souls who have touched not only their guardians’ hearts but mine as well, I am bringing to you a series — posted on Facebook and then shared more fully here.  Initially I intended to title this series Lost Dogs or Gone Dogs … but let’s be honest: if you’ve ever lost a dog (or any animal), you know they are never truly ‘lost‘, never completely ‘gone‘.  They are always with you in some way.  And let me tell you, if you don’t see it now, you will — one day.  I promise.

Even the title: Dogs We’ve Loved doesn’t quite suit since we never do stop loving them.  But for now, it will do.

Besides honouring these dogs who have passed, what I hope to bring to light with this series — as I have done throughout my career as an animal photographer — is the absolute importance of photographing our beloved 4-leggers.  I don’t care if you hire a professional and turn those images into one-of-a-kind artwork for your walls, or take the photos yourself … just make sure to have those photographic memories captured!  Because whether they are taken by disease, accident, or actually live their full lives, dogs’ and cats’ aren’t with us long enough.  …and they touch us far too deeply to be forgotten.

morley p18

If you don’t already follow the scruffy dog Facebook page, consider doing so in order to get the latest.  And, better yet, subscribe to the blog using the slide-out Subscribe tab over there on the left.  This will send you out a short email alerting you whenever a new blog post has been made!  That way you will always be tapped into the latest!

To see the first in the Dogs We’ve Loved series, check out Buddy’s entry.

** CLIENTS:  I know most of you have shared your losses and grief with me already in emails and phone calls, but if you could send me a quick email to remind me, and add a few words, I would love to post a tribute to your scruffy here if you have lost them.  I want to hear from you.


Virginia Swan - And I had the privelidge of knowing him. He was beautiful in every way.. Very much a loveable guy ????

Morag Reid - I didn’t have nearly enough pictures of our golden Indie Girl when she passed away. She was 13 and still a wee madam. The last picture I have of her was on our sofa, soaking wet and fast asleep. She was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 10; we fought it and won, but succumbed to a different kind of cancer. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with our golden Mackie boy. I took a ton of pictures of him, probably once a week in the last 6 months. He passed away at 16 1/2; he had many health issues resulting from a handshake with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever when he was 9, but he was always so full of energy and joy, right to the last vet visit. He still greeted each and every member of staff even though I knew he was tired and in pain. Such a class act.

the red dogs ~ (Toronto pet photographer}

Meet the two gorgeous red dogs who came from Toronto for their scruffy session almost two years ago!  (Yes, I’m that behind on blogging, but really wanted to share these two with you all.)  Meet,  Baby and Teddy …

01_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-338
Baby and Teddy’s guardians had a big canvas and a bunch of prints in mind for their two superstars, so we headed to the tunnel of trees location for a few epic shots to answer those wants … and there were happy tails all around!

02_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-270
03_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-327
Of course, no scruffy session would be complete without some wild times … and these two siblings hardly acted their 11 years of age … tearing up the scruffy runways no matter which direction you pointed them.

04_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-15
05_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-35
06_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-77
While Baby’s floppy ear was pretty irresistible …

07_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-103
… Teddy’s smile defied description.

08_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-118
09_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-114
10_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-149
We had some fun with the long summer grasses …

11_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-152
12_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-381
And, in spite of Babby and Teddy’s description as “fun-loving, couch potato kissers”, they took to their new roles of ‘supermodels’ very quickly.

13_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-172
14_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-209
15_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-288
And of course, being siblings, taking a few moments out to show signs of affection was not off the menu, as Teddy demonstrated for us.

16_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-379
Thanks, Bernard and Helen, for sharing your beautiful reddogs with me and for entrusting me to capture their spirit!

17_toronto_pet_photographer_baby teddy au-315

S e a r c h
F a c e b o o k
S u b s c r i b e
M e r r i c k