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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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

lucy mcshortypants ~ {Waterloo, Ontario pet photography}

for those of you who follow scruffy dog on facebook, you’ll already have met Lucy … now, with the heavy fall shooting over, with the rush of Christmas orders completed and picked up, and with the holidays behind us, it’s finally time to catch up on some blogging!  and i couldn’t think of a better entry than Lucy’s.  if this girl and her ears don’t make you smile, i’m not sure what will!

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we started Lucy’s session in her home where she showed me her favorite spots …

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…and her favorite toy, which is basically any plastic bottle.

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but Lucy was ready to go!  …ready for adventure!
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so we headed on out to see what adventure we could rouse up.

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Lucy enjoyed the big woods …

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although she was not to keen on the sappy pine needles stuck between her toes!

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and with 2 1/2″ legs, the long grasses almost swallowed sweet Lucy whole!

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mom and dad told me that Lucy doesn’t care for walks much past the mailbox … but this mighty girl proved them to be both liars!  she ran…

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…and ran!
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and she was a trooper when it came to exploring  new places.

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and she even proved to be a savvy balancer.

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thanks for introducing me to your wonderful girl, guys … it was a honour to capture her images and an absolute pleasure to meet and work with you!

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Jess Kamp - I love your angle, I am a proud dachshund owner so “on my belly – in the dirt” is my go to move :)

Holly Garner-Jackson - Those ears and those sturdy little feet are awesome! Well done!

Norma Rowley - Awesome ! You really captured her beauty and personality.

Robin Schmidt - Lucy Mccutiepants! Every shot heartbreakingly sweet.

Fran Klaas - This may be my very favorite work of yours!

Herman & Daphne Greening - We’re proud grandparents of this beautiful little dog. Lucy really outdid herself. Beautiful work!

Michelle Bradshaw - OMD she’s cute!!! Beautiful shots as always Illona!!!!!!

Donna Rigg - Her family must adore the images you have captured of their beautiful wee girl. I would hate to have to choose just 1 image, they are just so perfect :)

Di Fisk - Such an awesome series. How will they ever choose?

Helen - What a pretty girl and beautiful photos to capture her character.

our annual year-end client roundup ~ 2013 ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

once again, i am thrilled to present you with our annual year-end video.  most photographers put together a year-end blog entry as a retrospective of their year, but here at scruffy dog we started our own tradition over the past few years: a video to celebrate all of our clients and sessions in the past year.

the 4-leggers in this video are all clients from our 2013 sessions.  what you will see is one photo of each scruffy from every session … and let me tell you, that is no easy task: choosing just ONE photo from each client session!  fortunately for some of our clients, one session is not enough, and for those with two (or more) sessions in 2013 — namely our Seasons Sessions — they will appear once for each session.

and the result? over 150 scruffies!  what a stellar year!

unfortunately, with this high number, i am unable to include photos from rescue sessions shot throughout the year … and the slides do go by pretty quickly … so don’t blink!

also of note, with this year’s video (unlike in past years) i have laid out the images in the order that the sessions were shot … this way you are able to follow along and see the scruffy dog year unfold!

as i watch this year-end video back myself, i realize that in spite of many personal struggles and losses this year, as well as some significant equipment obstacles, we had another darn amazing year here at scruffy dog.  i must credit SDP’s absolutely wonderful clients and the many inspiring scruffies that i meet each year.  i am forever and deeply grateful for the spirit and support of not just my clients, but also the steadfast and loyal supporters of SDP over the years.  every single one of you — client, follower, supporter, marketing partner, fan — plays a vital role in making scruffy dog what it is today.

so, thank you.  each and every one of you, thank you.  this is for you!

again, thank you, clients, for being a part of the scruffy dog family and a part of our history. and thank you, SDP followers for your continued support over the years. ENJOY!


Holly Garner-Jackson - Super illona, and your music choices were great. I can’t imagine how you choose from all of your fabulous images!

Lise Charest Fratin - Wow

Keri Lyn Tomal Barham - Absolutely fabulous!

Norma Rowley - I am so inspired by the photos that you post, and the information you share. You make me want to work even harder at my craft, to capture the unique personalities of the animals that I photograph and draw. I’m hoping to schedule either a mentoring session or a critique of my portfolio and/or website in the near future. I wish you and your scruffies a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014 !

Andy Mathis - Love this “a year of scruffies”

Linda Gemmell - I smiled from start to finish…..Thank you

Shannon Taylor - Super! This collection of your year’s clients warmed my heart and put a smile on my face. You have a real gift Illona. I wish you an AMAZING 2014!

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.”

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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!


Michelle Bradshaw - Beautiful stories……

Kelly Pankatz - Best 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.

Norma Rowley - What 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.

Judy Gadsby Belleville - I can’t imagin a more wonderful gift than photos, memories captured by you. Thank you

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