• ... 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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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.


as my clients – and their dogs – well know, i never arrive at a photoshoot empty handed … well, besides 60 lbs of camera equipment hiked over one shoulder and a fistful of crumpled up mapquest directions.

no, i come prepared.  and i’m not just referring to the extra poop bags in my pockets, for those whoops moments when owners have run out.  we’re talking yummy treats that have never failed to turn around even the shyest of clients …

how i start a session

well, okay, there was that one shiba inu that wasn’t going to be won over with anything short of a belly-dancing chihuahua slathered in cheez whiz.  but generally, even the most shutter-shy pooch can be brought around with Natural Balance’s rolls cut up into small pieces and doled out with good timing.

and then there are the Cuz balls … the complimentary toys which i bring to every shoot … guaranteed to rouse any dog’s attention and drive any owner insane.  whoever invented these nightmares, I LOVE YOU, because even if a pampered pooch has their own collection of Cuz’es, the prospect of a new Cuz — each with their own, distinctive, high-pitched squeal — is bound to send any dog to a new high, regardless of the extent of their own collection. 

and of course, all Cuz balls that leave scruffy dog headquarters are thorougly inspected, tested, approved, and endorsed by morley.


Tamandra - OK, guess I’m gonna have to get one for my guy, and let myself go insane with the squeaking ha ha. That is the sweetest shot of Morley. The terrier with the most Cuz’s wins 🙂

Wendy - I just have to say the words “baby cuz” (it is what we call the little one) and my retriever cross gets excited. They are the best toys ever!

amanda - great photo! LOVE the cuz’s!

saying goodbye

most shoots are fun. some are wild. others are downright zany (stay tuned for the crazy bulldogs and pugs photos coming soon!).

but there are other shoots that i know will stay with me forever … the dog i will never forget, no matter how many wild, zany, fun or scruffy faces i meet every week as a dog photographer.  Beowulf — a.k.a. Woofie — from his Honor Session™  is, indeed, one of those incredible and utterly unforgettable souls.

Woofie’s owner called me after her boy was diagnosed with heart disease … anxious to get photos of the big guy, as well as some shots of the two of them together.  in the three hours i spent with Alma and Woofie in their back yard and on a short but splendid afternoon walk through the neighborhood, the bond these two shared was amply evident as they moved around each other with a fluidity only a married couple of many years eventually finds.

shooting Woofie was an incredible honor, but at the same time not an easy task.  i admit i cried a little on the drive down, knowing what i was getting myself into, but i managed to contain myself during the shoot.  i learned through the loss of my own boy murph that tears weren’t an option until he was gone.  besides, Beowulf was all about nobility and i was determined to capture that, to not let any sadness creep into my approach as i was working.

most of all, Woofie was a dog who reminded me of why i do what i do … the very reason i started scruffy dog photography — to capture for owners those visual memories that i don’t have of my murph.  i hope i have done justice to Woofie … that i have captured his noble spirit and his magnificence..

i received word this morning that Woofie passed peacefully in Alma’s arms at 1 a.m. this morning.  this magnificent, gentle boy was taken far too soon.  my heart goes out to Alma today … the bond between her and Woofie was extraordinarily evident and they shared a deep and tender history.

although he is gone, i still can’t speak of him in past tense.  like my murph and so many dogs before him, i can’t think of Beowulf as gone.  surely their spirits are still with us.  for me, i see murph’s spirit every day in matea and morley.  i hope one day Alma will see Woofie’s in another …

i had full intentions of seeing Woofie again — his vets originally giving him another couple of months– i’d imagined scratching that scruffy chin again, and putting my arms around that deep chest one more time.   this world is certainly far less without this wonderful creature in it, and i know that Alma’s world is definitely much emptier.  Alma, my thoughts are with you on this day, and many more days to come.

Beowulf, i know you are greatly and forever missed on this earth.


Jess Kamp - You defienetly captured his spirit in these shots, he looks like a real gentlman. I must say it was your words that made it real, I almost cried at work.

Susan Stanford - Beautiful photos – a wonderful keepsake for his mom too.

illona - thank you, everyone, for your visits and warm comments. i hope they are of some solance to Alma.

claire - i looked at woofie’s photos with tears in my eyes and was truly moved by the compassionate way you treated his owner and how completely wonderful the pictures are.

i lost my lurcher on valentines day this year, and he had a very similar look to woofie. i was lucky enough to be with my boy for 12 and a half years and wouldn’t change any of it.

my thoughts go to his owner.

Suzie - This big, sweet boy (and you illona) have inspired me to get some pictures taken of me with my cat who is dying. The last picture I have of him and I and together was over 10 years ago. I don’t know how much time I have left with him, but I want some more tangible memories while I can make/take them.

Thank you for sharing him with us here.

My thoughts are with Alma.

KK - ARB – too sad for words; he was such a gentle, beautiful soul. Gorgeous photos that do him justice and will live forever.

Idil - This entry made me cry. I send my deepest sympathies to this sweet dog’s owner. The photos are just wonderful to remember Beowulf by – I know she must be grieving now, but I hope one day she can smile when she looks at them.

Liz - The photos are just wonderful. His story has brought tears to my eyes, it is so hard to say goodbye, and especially when taken too soon.

Susan Strongman - My heart goes out to Alma at the news of Woofie’s death.
He was a wonderful dog, so kind, soulful, and he was certainly a gentle giant.
He always wagged his tail fiercly when he saw my children and I, and greeted us with loving eyes over our fence whenever he heard us playing outside.
Even though he is gone, we will always remember our friend Woofie with fondness.
Writing this note brings tears to my eyes at the thought of Alma’s pain at this time…
Your photos are certainly beautiful, and you can be proud that you did capture the essence of Woofie’s loving spririt.
Thomas, Audrey, Sean and myself (Susan) will miss our friend dearly.

artur - What a wonderful dog and sad news 🙁
You have captured them amazingly!

Holly Garner-Jackson - Alma,
I am so sorry to hear that you have lost your magnificent companion, Beowulf. It is never easy to lose such a friend. Though we haven’t met I can see through the photos that illona has taken, what a wonderful being he is. His essence and soul have been captured so well. I know you will cherish these last photos of him. So sorry for your loss.

Sarah - touching photos. you’ve captured every emotion. wonderful.

i have done the same thing for a couple friends, i took their dogs last photos, it was hard and i teared up, but at the same time it brought me peace, and i too was honoured i was able to capture their friends in the way they wanted them remembered. i know i would want the same for any of my dogs.

to this day they are some of my favourite photos. bitter sweet. but treasured photos.
on my flickr, they are of Bo, Lukas and recently Sam.

thanks for sharing these, they are truly, truly amazing.

allison f. - Gorgeous images of the gentle giant. I know that hurt of losing a lovely bearded friend too, and my heart goes out to those owners. I’m so glad you were able to get a shoot in considering how the time wasn’t as much as expected or hoped for. Beautiful dog.

Marci - you done good. I’m sure she will cherish these gorgeous photos as much as her beautiful Woofie.

Mari - woof.

» saying goodbye »Digital Photography - […] Digital photography by illona […]

sweet, blind fox

meet fox …

… a thirteen-year-old jack russell firecracker who divides his time between guelph and georgian bay.  formerly a wild little man, his recent blindness has slowed him down somewhat and perhaps given him a fraction more sense, but certainly not put a damper on this little guy’s spirit.

he negotiates the obstacles of his new loft condo with great skill, moving with much more caution than your typical JRT for sure, but at least not slamming into walls full force.  … and always looking to dad for direction.

it was an honor to spend some time with this brave little guy and experience the deep love and respect his owners have for him.

thanks for everything you do for this super terrier, Denis and Rachel.


Allison F - Oh Illona…. what a sweet little guy! I love the images you’ve captured. Really gorgeous.

Sarah - these are just so beautiful, you captured these perfect, perfect terrier photos. what a brave little 13 year old, heres to many more years!

donna - seriously, these are AMAZING!!! i love them ALL. really some of my fave images ever.

Puck - i especially love the flat butt shots.

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