A few weeks ago I carved out some time with Mattie, the Bundle of Paws Photography logo-dog (her schedule is quite full you know) to make some images for the 2015 Christmas card. Preparing to celebrate her 12th Christmas with us, Mattie is no stranger to a home-made holiday set and my camera. I don’t think she even gets excited anymore unless I break out at least 2 flashguns to use for a session…
This year I decided to keep things low key, and use a nearby ottoman covered with a new Christmas red nice soft throw we just acquired – 12 year old canine joints and hips need soft you know! Once I draped the throw, and set about putting the lights together, checking my batteries, radio triggers I realized I was so deep into my process and task that I hadn’t even noticed my model had already sauntered into the room and hopped up onto her perch, ready to go. Apparently I was taking a bit too long to get things ready (apparently she has her SAG card requiring her to be paid by the hour!) so I got this face….
Admittedly now feeling some pressure I hopped into action not wanting to keep the star waiting. Soon after, everything was set, lights were set and home-made bow from Mrs. Bundle of Paws (aka Mattie’s human momma) applied, Mattie set about her work…
As I focused on our girl, it dawned on me we had begun our session with literally no direction from me. All we had was our trust in each other, lots of praise and positive energy, and a willingness to get to work!
Mattie tried pose after pose for me, all the while I’m feeling more and more like I’m working with an experienced human model. You could almost read her face…”Is this what you want?” Her desire to please, even after all these years still shines through. You could practically read her thinking, “If holding my head up isn’t what you want, how about I lie down?” How’s this?
And we continued to cycle through her favorite poses, all the while nothing more coming out of my mouth even than my most soothing and affirmative “Good Girl Mattie.” Finally, after just about 10 minutes of work, she settled into the pose I was looking for…
And there I knew we had the image for the card.
As soon as I said “All Done!” Mattie promptly jumped down, trotted into the kitchen and sat down right next to the counter where her treats live. “I’m ready to get paid” – so it was. Home-made sweet potato treats all around!
The more I’ve reflected on that day – it just kept coming back to me as different from any of the dozens and dozens of times Mattie has been willing to be my model. We always work together successfully (she literally HAS to be the most photographed dog in the world). But we’d never worked together before so wordlessly. And then it hit me, in preparing to make a Christmas gift for others, she gave me the best gift I could ever ask for from a dog. The gift of true trust, love and loyalty. I was acutely aware how lucky Mrs. Bundle of Paws and I were to have had Mattie select us all those years ago on adoption day, and how central she has become to our lives and the deep connection we have developed. Mattie’s actions during our session brought to life her own sense of connection, trust and love to us and in her own way, gave me the best Christmas gift she is capable of giving. I hope during the upcoming holiday season, you will have the opportunity to see those most important gifts that you have, that might be hiding in the everyday actions of your friends, family or even your pets!
Merry Christmas Mattie. And thank you for your gift.
And Merry Christmas to you too!