• ... 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 two ... now THREE trusty sidekicks. For more details on illona and the mcscruffies and the newest mcruffles cat, 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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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 scruffnut a beef tendon to gnaw on, and enjoy the photos and ramblin's.

Jack ~ DOGS WE’VE LOVED ~ Waterloo pet photographer

Meet Jack … Mr. WhackyEars and Mr. Personality.  Sadly, he may be one of our youngest entries in the special Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series that pays tribute to those dogs whom we’ve loved in life and continue to love beyond, who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and through the very important photos we create of them.

1 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-122

Not unlike my original scruffy Murph — a Baltimore street dog rescued at the age of 6 months after being locked in a drug house for 17 days without food and water — who was lost at the young age of 4 ½ due to aggressive lymphoma, Jack as well, had only weeks after his diagnosis of cancer at the same age of 4 ½ yrs.

2 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-138
I was shocked to hear through another client that Jack was spotted at OVC’s Cancer Center … and then to hear from guardian-Tegan of Jack’s passing.  I had met him only a year earlier during his scruffy session, and at that time, no one had any idea that this life-loving, kooky-eared, big-hearted, exuberant boy was anything but invincible and in the prime of his life.

3 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-77
One of guardian-Tegan’s most memorable moments from her session with Jack:  “…when you did your duck impersonation and he turned his head to the side as if to say ‘What the heck is that?!’  I also remember how he stood so well for pictures, like he always knew when he was having his picture taken.”
4 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-105
Jack definitely was a poser during his session, and certainly the kind of dog that the camera loves.

5 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-133
6 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-29

When it comes to the prints that Tegan has of her boy, she says:

“I love the ‘everydayness’ of the presence of Jack’s photos in the house, like Jack is always just around the corner. I have some at the front door, and it’s like he’s ready to go for a walk with us. Those pictures embody both our time with Jack and also the things that I love about walking the dogs: being outside, and watching them be the crazy creatures that make me laugh.

I also have one at my desk, which I like to look at when I’m having a bad day. He was such a snuggler, and I like to think that he’s helping me get through tough days at work.  I get teary-eyed just writing these words.

I also gave some photos to my mom and my mother-in-law, who both spoiled him rotten, and it makes me smile when I see him in their houses. As I said, it’s like Jack is always just around the corner, making me smile now, just like he did when he was here.

7 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-48
I love hearing from guardians what their photos and artwork mean to them, especially after their scruffy has passed.  These photographic memories are so vital, and sometimes they are all we have left of our beloved 4-leggers once they are gone … which is the very reason I started photographing animals exclusively 14 years ago and launched scruffy dog photography a few years later … and it is the reason why I take every SDP session very seriously, knowing how important these images ultimately are to each guardian.

8 toronto best pet photographer jack herchenrader-42
Thank you, Tegan, for entrusting me to capture Jack’s spirit, and for sharing your thoughts.  Jack was a truly fabulous and memorable boy, and I know how deeply he is missed.


Claudia - We knew and loved Jack. He was our first “exposure” to pets – what a wonderful experience! Jack was amazing and we miss him very much! He was a gentle and kind soul. We enjoyed him at our cottage – what a happy place for him. (Tegan’s “mother-in-law”)

Kathie Sturley - I so admire how you perfectly sum up our lives with dogs….. So well said and photographed. What an amazing rare talent you have!!

Buster ~ DOGS WE’VE LOVED ~ Toronto pet photographer

Meet Buster, another entry in the special Dogs We’ve Loved series — a series that pays tribute to those dogs whom we’ve loved in life and continue to love today, who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and in the very important photos we create of them.

01 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-23
Buster was 14 at the time of his scruffy session in June 2011.  His guardian Sara and the rest of his family could see that this proud boy was starting to deteriorate and “wanted to get the photos done as soon as possible so Buster would be able to enjoy the experience of being out and about.”

02 toronto best dog photographer buster gasman-351

Buster was an absolute champ during his scruffy session … and I think we ALL had a lot of fun that afternoon.  His incredible spirit was truly inspiring and unquestionably unforgettable.

03 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-139
Sara wrote about her session with Buster:

“I have so many good memories of our session. Buster was so happy that day, and he had so much unexpected energy.  I especially remember him deciding at one point just to start walking towards something he was interested in, and not responding to any of our calls until he had seen everything he wanted to see.  He was so proud of himself, turning to give us his huge smile.  It means a lot to me that I had that day to spend with him, to see him enjoy the nice weather we had, and all the different locations he got to explore and enjoy, and just being off leash and getting to wander around.”

04 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-194
05 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-342
Like every Honor Session™ I shoot, I remember a lot of the moments from my afternoon with Buster.  He was such a trooper, mustering up great bursts of energy throughout his session, but even when he had to lie down to rest he was an absolutely poser … whether at the train tracks, in a meadow of wild flox, down by the water, in the tunnel of trees … and once this boy hit the long grasses he was in heaven, munching the fresh greens like he’d suddenly become a holstein.

06 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-300
What stood out for me was the incredible love his guardians had for him.  These were the young girls who grew up with him.

08 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-263

Three months after Buster’s scruffy session, Sara and her family made the difficult decision to ease Buster’s suffering.  It was clear his time had come when he could no longer get up on his own, and — being the proud creature that he’d always been — Buster refused to accept help when it was offered.

In Sara’s words:

“Having his photos really helped me right after we lost him.  It was a way of keeping him close.  As time has passed, the photos help me remember the little things I loved about him, like the little wattle under his chin, and how soft it was…and how the pink part of his lips were always falling out of his mouth.  I always loved how expressive his eyebrows were, and I love how all of his wonderful expressions came through in the photos.

I still think of Buster often, and I look at his pictures every day. I want to say thank you again for fitting him in with such short notice, and capturing all his wonderful expressions.  Thank you, Illona!”

07 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-309

As always, it was such an absolute honour to be chosen to capture these memorial images for Buster’s family … to photograph his spirit and expression, his fabulous smile and that constant, youthful glint in his eye.  These Honor Sessions™ aren’t always easy but they are memorable, they are sad but joyous, difficult but celebratory … and always they touch me very deeply.

Dog-speed, Buster.  May you be running free of pain and jumping at those tree branches…

09 toronto best pet photographer buster gasman-292


Marylin Scheffer - I’m actually in tears. What a wonderful article and what beautiful guardians and photographs. The pain of the loss of a loved one can be so overwhelming. A beautiful tribute to a much loved family member.

Donna Rigg - Wow. Beautiful photos for beautiful memories

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

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