Photography and Dog Massage? What's up with that?

August 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I know it seems a little odd, so I thought I'd explain.

I am a photographer.  Photography is an art. 

I am also a canine massage practitioner.  Canine massage is also an art.

Combining the two, to me anyway, is "Art of the Dog".

In 2005, after 12 years of working as a full-time commercial photographer I needed a break.  I bounced around a few jobs for a while, not sure what to do.  I ended up working for a doggy daycare company.  It was there that I discovered my "gift".  I found out that I could calm a room of 15 rowdy dogs without saying a word.  I could walk into the room and the energy would settle from out of control excitement to a relaxed quiet room.  I could make eye contact with one dog in the crowd and call him to me, again, without saying anything.

As I worked with individual dogs I was able to help them overcome anxiety and fears by simply placing my hands on them.  It was instinctual for me.  I let the animal guide my hands.  I could feel tension drain away from them; for some it was a trickle, for others it was a torrent.  I was communicating with them on a completely different level.  It was remarkable.

I soon realized that k9 massage was a real "thing" and that I could take courses in it.  I signed up for the level 100 course at Northwest School of Animal Massage and 8 months later I was a certified small animal massage practitioner.

In 2009, shortly after I returned from my week long practical in Redmond, WA, I left the doggy daycare and started ZuluDog K9 Services; a dog walking, k9 massage and photography service.  I have recently stopped doing the dog walking to concentrate on massage and photography work.

Now, how do k9 massage and photography fit together?  Well, I photograph a lot of dogs, and having the massage skills comes in very handy.  If a shy, tense, nervous or fearful dog comes in for a portrait I will work with her to calm and relax her.  It can take a bit of time for some dogs, but it works wonders.  The resulting photos are of a relaxed, happy dog, not a stressed out mess of a creature.

And there's more.  I have a very active dog.  We had a bit of a scare and thought she may have torn a ligament in her knee.  We were lucky that it was only a partial tear and she didn't require surgery.  I was able to provide massage to her which helped in her healing and recovery and brought her back to balance.  That inspired me to take the 300 level course, rehabilitation massage.

In October I will be traveling to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah for the five day practical portion of my course.  Once certified, I will be looking to team up with area veterinarians to provide massage services to sick or injured dogs and dogs recovering from surgery.  I will also be looking to team up with other dog professionals; trainers, walkers, groomers, doggy daycare centers, service dog handlers, etc., as k9 massage provides many benefits to healthy active dogs as well.

So, the "Art of The Dog" is more than just taking a photograph of a dog.  It's about the entire process and experience, for not only me, but mainly for the dog.  A photo session of a dog, in the studio or in the field, should be a positive experience for the dog.  And if I can help a dog have a great time, with a little massage thrown in, even better! Dogs are like wet cement, how we touch them leaves an impression.


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