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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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

BLOW ~ a special pet photography project ~ Ontario commercial pet photographer

Well, this special photography project has been in the concept phase, then on the back-burner, then in the planning stage, back to the back-burner, then the shooting stage over the span of a year, then the back-burner, then editing, then in limbo while waiting to hear from others, then a return to the back-burner once more … all-in-all, almost three years in the making.

The idea was sparked after seeing my Merrick’s glorious hair blowing in the draft of a fan one hot summer day.  I immediately visualized a series of photos incorporating an antique fan and using the lovely natural-light studio space.  Of course, I spent a few weeks searching online to assure myself that a series like this, or anything similar, hadn’t already been done … and then began the long search for the right fan.  And then that fan needed a nice new paint job.

The first model, of course, was the goober … rocked it like a rockstar, of course.

The following is just a sampling of the amazing models who worked with me on this project … just to give you a taste.  In the coming weeks I will post more blog entries of individual dogs, because there are simply too many to share in one post!

This is Keno, the Borzoi.

… and Sofie, the Chinese Crested.

This amazing face is Traffic, the Bearded Collie.

Obviously, the idea with this project was not to simply walk each dog up to a full-speed fan and photograph their blowing hair; anyone can do that. I was after ‘engagement’ and — as with all of my sessions — individual personality.  It was important to first assess how each dog was reacting to, and ultimately engaging with, the blowing fan, and then to determine how their hair reacted to the wind so as best to photograph it.  I was also after good variety even within the bounds of the studio, utilizing different angles and different pieces of furniture … but always the fan needed to feature in every photo.

I hope you’ll enjoy the variety of faces and engagements with the fan and its blowing.

Chloe the Yorkie wasn’t sure what all the wind was about.

This sweet Dachshund is Heidi, adopted through Dachshund Rescue of North America.  Heidi was 16 years old at the time of this session, and sadly, is no longer with us.  She was here for an Honor Session™ but I couldn’t resist adding a few shots with the fan to immortalize this amazing little dog.

The very handsome Archer is a Scottish Deerhound.

Repeat scruffy client, Luke the Shih-tzu loved the fan.

And this little elf-face is Spy, a Berger de Pyrenes, who is a little super star model.

This Cockapoo girl is Sophie as well, or rather Sophrenia Euphemia … yeah, you better get the name right or you’ll get ‘the look’!

And one of my favorite clients came for a spell in front of the fan!  This is Chewy, adopted through Ugly Mutts.  Today Chewy is struggling with possible cancer, and has lost one of his eyes.  I call him Winky now, and he’s still as handsome as ever.

This absolutely stunning girl is Roxy … and her breeding is of unknown origin.  She was adopted from a rescue in Northern Quebec.

Repeat client Bosco the Brussels Griffon never fails to make me smile.

And Fiona … bestill my heart … this girl is just a doll!  She was adopted through Boston Terrier Rescue and is apparently a Boston / Polish Lowland Sheepdog cross.

And here’s the stunning Viva, another Chinese Crested.

Repeat client Willow, the afghan hound, just couldn’t contain her excitement in the studio.

And Carys, belonging to dog-walker, dog-handler extraordinaire Shannon of Release the Hounds in Guelph was just so bored with it all.

Willow’s brother Dimitri, the afghan hound, was a little more awake for his session.

And this amazing, fringey boy is Whiskey, a fawn Skye terrier!

And, finally, Jack’s butt.

I hope you enjoyed this introductory sampling of the BLOW project.

I realize that a few of the participants are frustrated with the time it has taken for this project to see the light of day, and I apologize again.  A lot of work and organization goes into this sort of thing, especially when trying to fit it into a busy client schedule … plus, 2015 and 2016 pretty much kicked my a$$ on a number of levels personally, which meant that projects like this one had to be pushed to the sidelines.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting more individualized blog posts, and will organize your private galleries.  So stay tuned for more!


Marisa Fazzari - Awesome photos love them all!

illona - aw, thank you so much, Fran.

Cindy Mays - Precious pictures and wonderful work as always Illona Makes me want to bring Harley and Nahla from California so we can add photos with the “fan” -I love them.

Fran Klaas - And I had thought your outdoor photos were the most amazing photos ever! These BLOW images are beyond perfect. Each one is so very individual and the mood unique! You have a gift of genius and I know we’re all so thankful that you share it with us.

wearing your scruffy ~ silver noseprint jewelry | get yours! ~ Ontario pet photographer

As most of you scruffy dog blog-followers know, I lost both merrick and matea this past October.   Knowing that my time with them was coming to an end, I knew I needed more than a box of ashes, a shelf of favorite chewed up toys, in merrick’s case a small collection of hair, as well as canvases and prints and gigabytes of digital images.  I needed something tangible, something I could touch and feel.

I spent long evenings looking at various artists, comparing their work, before finally landing on the amazing Jennifer Cabic of Silverpeanut on Etsy.  I looked at others, but always came back to Jennifer’s work.  What Jennifer does (and other jewelry-makers do) is use silicone molds to capture the details of your scruffy’s nose and then turn it into true, wearable artwork.

Although time wasn’t pressing for matlin and mirabelle, because during the research I had done beforehand I had found artists who were no longer in business, I decided to get all four of the scruffies’ noses done so that they were by the same artist.  Custom jewelry, like any custom art and photography, involves a lot of time, talent, and experience … and this was an investment … (let’s just say that I won’t be seeing any Christmas or birthday presents from my family for a while).

Working with Jennifer has been absolutely wonderful and compassionate.  There was ample guidance through the process of taking your animal’s nose-print … everything was easy.  Of course, in my case, I worried that Canada Post wouldn’t deliver the gel for the molds before i lost merrick, so I was able to get some through Michaels.  Easy peasy.

And just look at the detail and clarity.  That’s merrick’s nose front-and-center; I had mentioned to Jennifer how i liked the hair around his nose, so you can see how she included part of that for me.

So here’s the thing … if YOU would like to get your own scruffy’s nose print, now is the time to do it!

Jennifer is graciously offering scruffy dog followers a discount of 15% on any orders placed before February 28!!  All you need to do is use the code: DOGNOSE (all caps) when you place your order.  Just go to Jennifer’s Etsy page to see more.

A close up of little Mirabelle’s nose.

I’m not sure yet how or if I will be wearing all of them, as they are quite the collection, but I am wearing Merrick’s right now.

I have had a custom, ‘group’ urn made by a dear and life-long friend, but I won’t be able to drive up north to get it until the spring.  At that time I might be incorporating matea’s noseprint with the urn.

I just love these silver noseprints.  They are substantial, without being overly heavy.  And as merrick’s noseprint settles in the hollow of my throat, I can reach up and touch the impressions on warm silver, and I am so grateful to have something more tangible.

So again, if you would like to take advantage of Jennifer’s discount for scruffy dog followers, use the DOGNOSE code on the Silverpeanut Etsy page but make sure to do so before February 28.


Marley ~ DOGS WE’VE LOVED ~ Toronto pet photographer

Meet Marley … 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 beyond, who live on in our memories, in our hearts, our souls, and through the very important photos we create of them.

Sweet Marley was one of my earlier Honor Sessions™, shot in the spring of 2009.  You can see his original blog entry here.  I will always remember Marley and his amazing guardians Tracy and Shawn, that beautiful spring afternoon, their intimate yard scattered with magnolia blossoms, their lovely home, but most of all, their incredible bond with this old boy.

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Marley had some major mobility issues at the time of his session, and surprisingly – with some alternative approaches and therapies which we discussed during his session – I learned that Marley gained a good amount of mobility after his session and decided to stick around for a couple more years in order to welcome daughter Stella to this wonderful family.

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I’m going to share Tracy’s words about this amazing boy, what he meant to them, and the significance of having photographic memories …

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“Like so many of you that are blessed to have a dog in your life, my husband, Shawn and I had Marley.  As life goes on, and we all get a little older, so do our dogs, and unfortunately Marley was no exception. He was 10 years old at the time of our photo session and was dealing with mobility issues and I really wanted to honour him as an integral part of our family.  A picture of Marley, many years earlier, is one of the things that brought Shawn and I together.

When I read Illona’s website and the reason why she started “scruffy dog photography”, I knew that this was the gift I had been looking for Shawn. I wanted someone who would capture Marley’s spirit in a way that you can only do with aging dogs…Illona surpassed my expectations. 

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At the time of the shoot, Marley was really suffering from mobility issues so we couldn’t take him out on a walk or have him run in a field, like he would have done only a few short years ago.  Illona’s kind and gentle way with Marley made all of us comfortable.  She worked so hard to get amazing shots so Marley didn’t have to move as much.  I remember, there were times she was on her knees or on her tummy just to capture that perfect shot. Her patience was refreshing.  Illona just understood so clearly how to be with an older dog.  Her love and respect for dogs was obvious. 

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After 12 years of loyalty, friendship and love, we had to say goodbye to our dear Marley.  We were so happy that he was with us long enough to meet our daughter, Stella, who had just turned one at the time.  He was so loving and gentle with her, even during his last days.  He was such a proud and honourable man, the very best.

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I can’t tell you how grateful we are that we have such beautiful photos of Marley that truly capture his kind and gentle soul.  Some days when I pass the pictures on the wall, tears well up and other days the smile couldn’t be bigger. The pictures prompt so many great stories that we love to share with Stella.  She knows what a big part of our family Marley was, she has even named a few stuffies after him!  

Illona, thank you, thank you, thank you for honouring our boy Marley in such a special way.

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Thank you, Tracy and Shawn, for sharing Marley and your incredible love and bond with me.  It was truly a wonderful experience that I will never forget.  I continue to be absolutely honored to have been asked to capture these photographic memories of your amazing boy.

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Seth B - Such a special way to memorialize such a wonderful member of the family! Marley looked like he had experienced a full and wonderful life! You’re sure to cherish these photos for many many years to come.

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