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How I Got Started

Every story has a beginning.....

Mine starts with Meg.

December 2016 was a particularly difficult month.  Our elderly Cocker Spaniel, Meg, who's health was slowly declining, and was 17 yrs and 3 months old, suddenly started to go downhill. She had been suffering from Dementia, which up until earlier last year I didn't even know dog's could suffer from.  She was getting more and more confused, walking around in circles and generally becoming disorientated.  She suddenly lost a lot of muscle strength in her back legs which meant she had trouble standing up and balance was becoming an issue.

Meg was the first dog I have ever known properly and the first dog I have ever lived with.   She helped me through a really difficult time in my life by becoming a companion on long walks and someone to talk to when others were not around.  She was also my first 'photographic model'.

When I first met Meg, photography was a long forgotten love of mine that I hadn't worked on for years, beyond taking photo's on my phone as we all now do.  I know that my interest and encouragement in the subject really grew from spending time with her and capturing images that I now treasure.   I remember trying to photograph her as she would run towards me with her ears flapping away and her tongue hanging out and trying to figure out, when I got home, why the images were blurry or the focus point was off.  This is how I have taught myself, through trial and error and animals never do quite what you would like them to do and if they do, it's never when you would like them to do it.  I guess you never stop learning and improving.

Meg was a wonderful companion dog and a good friend, helping those around her, notably our friend Lynette who used her as a test subject for her Myotherapy training and exams.   I am sure she didn't know herself how she was positively affecting those around her but she will always be remembered by a lot of people for many different reasons.

So on the morning of Christmas Eve 2016, after a sleepless and restless night we awoke to find she was having difficulty keeping warm, and that she couldn't stand up.  For want of a better expression, she just 'gave up'.  She had had enough of fighting the illness.   The glint in her eyes had gone and we know it was time.  Andrew and Louise at Oak Barn vets in Shalford were amazing with her, as they always are with all our animals.

Meg was cremated on the 28th December and is now back home with us.  It has taken a while before I could bring myself to write about this as we miss her a great deal and I am sure will continue to do so for a very long time, even the loud snoring that often kept us awake!  In the week before she left us she was still going for 20 minute walks and managed to chase Gemma (our other dog) out of the bedroom growling at her, just reminding her that she was the boss. 

So I feel that I owe it to Meg to work hard on the photographic journey that she started me on, to see where it takes me and enjoy every minute I can with the amazing animals I meet on my travels.  We still have Gemma (our Battersea rescue) to keep us busy and she seems to enjoy being a photographic 'model' herself along with Merlin (our Serbian rescue) who still has a lot to learn about posing, but is photographically a beautiful dog, so he doesn't have to really try too hard.

Funny thing is, what am I left with at the end of the day?

The photographs of Meg that I took over the years. 

Photography of our pets is so important as they really grow fast and are not with us for that long.  It's all we have left when they are no longer with us.  Photographs help to maintain the memory of what was.  So while our loss is painful to process, it is also a great comfort to look through the photo's and remember all the places we went and the good times we had with her.

A funny brilliant dog. Gone but never to be forgotten.  Miss you Meg, 29/10/99 - 24/12/16, RIP.

Meg, with her ears flapping in the wind!

Gemma (on the left) giving Merlin some posing lessons.

Early days creating art for people.

The first animal portrait I ever took, age 11, Penzance, Cornwall.

I couldn't have done this on my own so "Thank You"

Meg, Rocky, Daisy, Honey, Louise Aylward-Smith, Colin Aylward-Smith, The British Wildlife Centre, Laura, Jackie, Ted Forbes, David Lowerson Photography, Darren Bedding Photography, Peter Arciero Photography, Mel Morland Photography, Andrew and Louise at Oak Barn Vets, Odette and Tony at Forbes and Schuster Grooming/Dog Walking, Natalie Thompson and Staff at K9 Development, Mark Cleghorn, Debbie Cleghorn, Jason Pierce, everyone at the Xperience Group for your continuing support and advice, Emily and Hannah at The Training Barn, Julie Christie at Togs In Business and my no means least all the special wonderful dogs and owners that have let me into their lives for a short time to photograph and play with, many of whom are no longer with us.

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