• ... 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 trusty 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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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 scruffnut a beef tendon to gnaw on, and enjoy the photos and ramblin's.

another sad farewell ~ {tribute video, Toronto, Ontario pet photography}

this morning i want to share with you a slideshow i put together yesterday of Topolino.  this little man was one of the most incredibly well-loved scruffies i have ever met.  it was back in July of 2012 that i first met the amazing Topo and his equally amazing family … his strolling session through the park was one of my most memorable, due to Topo’s lovely and willing nature, but also through the laughter that Melanie and i shared throughout. Topo’s second session came after his difficult diagnosis of pancreatitis , and Melanie chose to bring her little man here to add even more wall pieces to her Topo gallery. Melanie is one of those clients i now consider a friend, and as such, i feel deeply for her loss today as she released her little man from his suffering. i know this struggle, this pain, and the emptiness all too well. i don’t wish it upon anyone, much less the amazing person and spirit i know as Melanie.

yesterday as i put together this video, drank my coffee out of the lovely Topolino ‘namesake’ ceramic cup that was given to me after our first session, my thoughts were firmly fixed on little Topo, Melanie and her entire family … and i cried as i imagined them letting go of him.  it’s one thing to connect with clients and their scruffies during their sessions … but that connection becomes even deeper during the hours of editing and working on the images of these faces, expressions, and movements of joy.  people always say that they believe they can see these dogs’ spirits and characters in the photos that i take … and i now realize that there must be some truth in that, since i DO feel i get to know these scruffies on an even deeper level through their images.

i miss the presence of little Topo on this earth, because while he was here i knew he was taking care of one of my favorite people.

Melanie, i know it may not feel like it, but i have to believe that our lost dogs stay with us.  that their spirit stays with us, surrounds us…  some people will tell you that when you think you see them out of the corner of your eye, lying in their favorite spot or walking into a room, they say that it’s really their spirit.  i’m a little more pragmatic than that; i’ve always believed it’s just the light teasing old habits from my eyes and memories out of my synapses.  but where i do see my Murph’s spirit every day, is in Merrick … and even Morley a little bit.  i believe that our dogs live on in our future dogs … and with our future dogs.

Topolino from illona on Vimeo.

i don’t think Melanie will mind me sharing her words here:
“I am surrounded by the awesome images you captured of Topolino over two sessions. I smile as I look through the many photos and remember. And I cry for the same reason. His spirit radiates from these pictures, a spirit that has been dimmed by pain and discomfort over the last few months.

I am comforted (somewhat) knowing we have made the right decision to end Topo’s suffering. We will be saying good bye to him on Saturday – a day I dread but knew was imminent.

Thank-you illona – for creating so many wonderful memories of my little guy – memories I will carry forever.”

please, whatever you do, please take photos and videos of your animals.  if it’s in your budget to hire someone to create artwork from photos of them, wonderful … but don’t be shy in taking photos of them yourself … crappy photos, blurry photos, funny photos … they will all mean something.  it is so very important to have a visual record of these incredibly important members of our families and our hearts, who are with us for far too short of a time.



Brooke - What a beautiful tribute to what was obviously a beautiful, and much-loved canine spirit. Our hearts go out to Melanie and her family for their loss.

Margaret Chekouras Duerr - This was so incredible. What a beautiful tribute to a sweet sweet boy. His family will treasure these photos and this video forever.

Bobby Clark - Beautiful pics and video for a beautiful dog. Run free Topo!

Jackie P - wow….such a sweet and special tribute to Topolino filled with love!

sweet girl emma ~ {Guelph, Ontario pet photographer}

this is Emma … she is no longer on this earth, but her spirit, i am certain, is firmly planted with her family, and lives on in the young Eleanor whom i had the pleasure of meeting this summer and is working hard to fill her shoes.

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i had the pleasure of meeting this sweet dame for her Honor Session™ a year ago (yes, i’m that behind in blogging but trying really hard to catch up).  we’d just had a lovely snow fall but the temps weren’t too cold for sweet old Emmie who suffered with arthritis.  mom, Dr. Renee Fleming at the Guelph Animal Hospital, had been doing some stem cell therapy on her girl and she really did motor through the woods like a trooper … and certainly gave good face like any well-respecting bulldog!

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Emma even played a little dressup with her fabulous poncho.

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but mostly, she just wanted to go.

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and gave me looks, of course, whenever i asked her to strike a pose.

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… or not give me looks.

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and Emma certainly loved her mom.  that was without question.

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Emma was the first dog to use the scruffy dog settee.  i had spent three years searching for this settee — the right style, the right color — and had finally found it up in Oshawa only a couple of weeks before her session.  i think she was the perfect dog to christen it … and certainly was more than comfortable up on it.  then again, on her booking form Emma was described as “our princess” and “a spoiled bitch” … no doubt, Emma thought her throne had finally been delivered!
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warming up in the car, we headed to our favorite back alley for a few more shots …

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… but of course, Emma was insatiable … having had a taste for her throne, she demanded it once again.

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and finally off to find some graffiti for a splash of color …  and yes, Emma, i think that says “Nipples”.

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thank you, Renee, for allowing me the honor of capturing these photographic memories of Emma.  i can’t describe the deep pleasure it was to meet her and you, to work with you both and witness the bond and love that bound and wove between you.  i know this girl who saw you through your veterinarian college days will forever be in your heart, and her incredible spirit will always surround you with every future dog you welcome into your life.

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Linda - What great photos of this dog.

Holly Garner-Jackson - Such a wonderful session. Rest well sweet girl!

Joni A Solis - Pretty, sweet, snow angel.

Roxanne Maguire - <3 <3 <3 Beautiful, through and through. What a love!!! And SO wonderfully captured by Ilona <3

Renee Fleming - So beautiful – thank you so much Ilona. I miss her like crazy. The beautiful photos you took surround me at work and home and I’m eternally grateful to have them.

Vince Salmic - Wonderful, made me tear-up…

more wintry goodness! ~ {Waterloo, Ontario pet exclusive photographer}

well, there’s no denying that here in Waterloo and across Ontario, it is — indeed — winter.  so as i plan to head out to take advantage of yet another new blanket of snow to shoot a client session today, i thought i’d present you with another wintry blog entry.  this is, of course, a courageous attempt at some serious catchup with blogging from our 2013 sessions.

a lot of people don’t consider winter to be a viable shooting season … yes, it’s colder and we have to bundle up and be aware of the dogs’ comfort … yes, the weather is a little more unpredictable and we have to be flexible with the schedule … but the results are wonderful!  of course, having said that, i will also say that in the winter months i am most typically shooting Starter Sessions and the winter segment of the Seasons Session, so that no one is spending 2-3 hours in the cold!

unlike the spring and fall seasons which book up well in advance, winter tends to have a little more availability.  so if you are considering a session for your scruffy, winter might be a good time for you!  we still have room for a couple of spots!

without further ado, let me present to you Chaos, Axel and Maggie …

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Maggie here was almost 10 at the time of her session.  how sweet is this face?
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and she certainly had lots to say.
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sweet Maggie couldn’t be trusted off-leash, so we used one of the scruffy dog long lines.  of course, this line would typically be edited out for ordered prints and products, but for the sake of showing you what goes on during a scruffy session, i’ve left the line in some cases here.
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and this handsome boy is Axel … the youngest in this pack at 2 yrs.
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i had lots of fun with this boy.
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Axel, as well, could not be entirely trusted off leash so, to be safe, i had him kept on a line as well … as you see here.
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and finally we have Chaos … a.k.a. ball hog, stick hog, rock hound.
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but his true love is his soccer ball …
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thanks, Teresa, for sharing your border pack with me, and for a fun afternoon of shooting!


Linda Leighton - What a beautiful series with my favorite breed! You really caught the spriit of these beautiful dogs!

Holly Garner-Jackson - Haha! Great series!

Brittany May Garrett - Axel is gorgeous against that snow!

Teresa Nicoll - This truly just brightened up this gloomy day. I was excited to see the picture of all 3 of them but to have a whole blog! Thank you Ilon

Michelle Bradshaw - OMD>>>i am in love with all three of these beauties!!! Awesome shots illona!!!

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