Snow Day Goes to the Dogs | Dog Photography

Vancouver was hit this year with more snow than usual in the city centre and each time the flakes came down Tikka eagerly awaited going outside to have a good ‘ol romp in the white stuff. Unfortunately being right in the city core, it didn’t build up too much and would turn to slush and then ice faster than she would get her fill.


Dog Friendly winter trails at Mt. Seymour, Vancouver.


It was time to get her up onto one of the local mountains for a proper run in the snow, so we headed up to Mount Seymour on the North Shore for some fun. This area is becoming popular for snowshoers and there is a great little trail system that is dog friendly and very well marked. The paths were well packed down so we skipped the snowshoes this time (but very interested in trying it out soon. Hint.hint…an upcoming post). There were a lot of dogs that had also convinced their owners to take them up the mountain as well, and we were surrounded by pure furry happiness.


On Squirrel Patrol


This mini trip was a bit spur of the moment and we intend to get up there again and spend some more time exploring, take a lunch for the trail and try out those snowshoes. Any tips on snowshoeing with your dog?


Our Littlest Hobo | Dog Photography

‘There’s a voice that keeps on calling me
Down the road is where I’ll always be

Every stop I make, I’ll make a new friend
Can’t stay for long, just turn around and I’m gone again.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find what I call home
Until tomorrow, you know I’m free to roam.’

~ Theme Song: The Littlest Hobo

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Photo of Tikka inspired by ‘The Littlest Hobo’

Who remembers the classic Canadian show ‘The Littlest Hobo’ that aired on CTV in the 70’s and 80’s? Damn, was that a smart dog, coming to everyone’s help physically and emotionally. Finding the lost, thwarting kidnappers, solving crime and patching up broken relationships was all in a day’s work for Hobo. Just check out some of these episode descriptions…Was there anything this wonder dog couldn’t do?

-Hobo rescues a politician’s son from kidnappers.
-Hobo helps an ex-convict pursue an honest lifestyle.
-Because of their parents’ objections, a young couple’s marriage plans appear doomed, until Hobo comes to the rescue.
-Hobo turns health inspector when botulism is discovered at a campground

We all have a Hobo resting at our feet, helping us get through the ups and downs of navigating this crazy world. And I’m thankful that our little one did ‘find what I call home‘ and made her final stop with us after her feral start in life (read more here). A nod to all the rescuers and fosters that open their homes to the Hobos that are roaming, literally and figuratively, and need their own family to settle down with.

If you want a trip down memory lane or want to see a true piece of Canadian media history (not to mention watching an amazing dog actor) here is the first episode.

You can take your dog to Las Vegas! Dog Friendly Hotel Vdara | Dog Travel US

When a family birthday celebration was recently organized for Sin City, I was curious if bringing Tikka on the trip was viable, for us and for her. I had never brought a dog to Vegas and you don’t see too many around when you are in the hotels or out on the strip. Where would we stay…what about the heat…?

Biggest item for the trip was where to stay – had to be dog friendly of course and ideally close to a decent relief area. I honed in on Vdara Hotel next to the Bellagio. Partly because I had stayed here when it first opened and really enjoyed my stay, but also because I discovered the fantastic dog amenities they had planned out since my last visit. Booking online was easy peasy, a few clicks took us to the Vdog booking options and we were set. Within 24 hours, Vdara concierge sent us an email welcoming us to the hotel and acknowledged that I had a dog with me, asking if there was anything I needed. I requested a crate for the room so that I could save some space in my suitcase from bringing Tikka’s collapsible crate and they were happy to oblige (and it’s free). Hey, a girl always needs space for extra shoes that will never actually be worn during the trip…

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Tikka at YVR on her way to Las Vegas

After an uneventful Air Canada flight we arrived on time at McLaren airport, ready for our first dog adventure in Vegas. Tikka and I stepped out of the airport and were overcome by a thick wall of heat. It was hot. Very hot. Burning hot. Did I mention it was hot? If it was a shock to my system, I’m sure it was to her as well, so we promptly got in the taxi line and luckily was in air conditioning within 5 minutes. This is something to be really conscious of, travelling to the desert with a dog and dealing with the soaring heat. During our trip we stayed in the air con whenever we could while waiting on taxis etc.  Throwing the ball around for some decent exercise was reserved for early am and I checked the pavement with my hand before walking her onto it so that we could avoid any burnt pads.

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Vdog swag… score!

Check in was a breeze. The crate was on our file so the front desk called to have it delivered to the room right away. Reception popped into the back and came back with a bag of goodies, something they provide for their doggy guests. A quick trip up the elevator to the room and we checked out our swag: A Vdara blanket to keep, that folds up with a handle, a biscuit and info about their dog program. We laid out the blanket on the sofa, knowing full well Tikka would be up there any chance she got.

The crate arrived shortly after we settled in and with such a big room it was easy to have it out of the way. It was a proper heavy crate, and they provided another blanket to put in the bottom without asking. Vdara’s policy is dogs must be crated if no one is in the room, so either bring your own or let them know when you book that you need one. If crating is a no go for your dog, then they will organize a pet sitter to come and hang out in your room while you gamble or catch a show.

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Vdog Suite at Vdara

Rooms are gorgeous – modern, large and a complete kitchenette with small fridge and hot plate and small dining table, separated from the bed and sitting area. Good open space to brush up on some tricks and bounce the ball around or have a decent game of tug o’ war. The lobby has a small market, so you can fill up your fridge with people snacks or maybe a cheesey treat for tricks.

Tikka is on a raw diet so the fridge is super handy to keep ground turkey fresh from a trip to the grocery store, but we indulged on this trip and ordered from the in-suite dog menu. 3 different dishes are on offer and we settled on a rice and chicken dish.

Room service was quick and Tikka’s breakfast arrived with my pastry selection (* word of caution – Tikka’s breakfast arrived heated up and was incredibly hot, check the temperature before your dog dives in). Even though I ordered a small portion, it was huge (yep, Vegas), so I saved half for the next day and popped it that handy fridge.

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Room service anyone?

A tip for the peoples… Skip the pastries from the room delivery menu and pop over to Aria (3 min connected walk) and indulge in the baked goods and premium teas from Jean Philippe Patisserie. Croissants are flaky and buttery and yum. Nutella brioche? Yes please!

Now here is where Vdara has an edge on other dog friendly hotels in Vegas. Only steps from the lobby is a fenced in dog park! When nature calls and it’s time to pee, no problem. Zip down in the elevator and relief is just a few minutes from your room. There is no long walk to get outside, as unlike most of the hotels on the strip, Vdara has no casino. Calm down gamblers,  Aria is only a  minute away and Bellagio is connected by a 5 min walkway.

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View from our room of the Park and Dog Park at Vdara

The dog park is small, but it’s fully fenced and nicely maintained with two grassy areas that are actually green in the middle of summer. There is a water fountain for people and dogs, as well as poop bags and a garbage can. So this is why this next comment just fries my ham. It’s a small park with a bench. It has bags. It has a garbage can. But there was still a mess left behind! Who does that?!!??!! People, please pick up after your dog…Indeed the hotel is catering to our every need, so it’s only respectful to pick up the poop and not leave it for the staff. We all want more dog friendly hotels, so let’s work together on this and be the type of pet owner that establishments want to provide for. Rant over.

One comment for the hotel is it would be fabulous to provide some mid day shade. The fence is surrounded by beautiful landscaping and lots of trees, so morning and late afternoon provides a lot of shade with the longer shadows, but come 1pm it’s all gone. I planned around this, which was pretty easy to do, but would be a nice bonus to have a tree in the middle or shade over the bench.

Next to the dog park is a small pathway that loops around another small park that you can wander through on leash. Again, these are not huge play areas, but more than enough for bathroom relief and to stretch their legs. Leave your ‘chuck it’ behind, even I can make that length of a throw… 🙂

When we did venture out for a longer romp we headed over to Charles Frias Dog Park. No more than 5 min in a taxi and the driver let Tikka jump right in. Fabulous park that has three enclosed areas and lots of room for chasing and running. Tikka met some locals as did I, and we got tips on the best steak in town and where to go for some great dog hikes in the cooler months.

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Enjoying the view from the air con comforts of our room

No doubt we’ll be bringing Tikka to Las Vegas on future trips, a paws up fron VanDoggo! Nothing better than a wagging tail in your hotel room when you come back with your winnings. And nothing better than a wagging tail when you lost your shirt!







Copper Toned Basil | Dog Photography

I recently had a scrumptious morning romp with Tikka and her new friend Basil at the Derby Reach park in Langely, BC. I’ve been looking for opportunities to get my camera pointed at something other than black fur and Basil was up for the job! This guy found a wonderful home with Kristy and it was a pleasure spending the morning with them both.

Basil in the Fraser River

Basil in the Fraser River

Basil at Derby Reach Park

A healthy romp through the high grass

Basil running along the Fraser River

Serious case of the Zoomies

Kinda loving this last picture – Basil mid way through a round of wave chasing. Half of the dog park visit was spent running up and down the river chasing the mini waves coming in from the boats heading out for the day.


A Dog Is My Photography Teacher | Dog Photography

There are a wealth of photography tutorials online and they have been a fantastic guide as after many years break I have gotten back into photography, but there are also invaluable lessons that my  hairy 15 pound sidekick and photography teacher, Tikka, has been teaching me: Patience and Adaptability.


My photography teacher by my side.


Working with a dog as your subject means that you are executing your photos as a team and it’s all at the pace and desires of the dog you are with. You may have taken them to the location that you want to photograph them, but that’s where it all turns over to them. Are you looking for a quiet portrait and they are chasing squirrels around a tree, or are you looking for an action shot and they have fallen asleep waiting for you to get your act together? This plays into the second lesson of being able to adapt, but with patience you can get the photos you hoped to take that day.

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Waiting patiently in the early morning forest light.

If your dog has the zoomies then take a break and have a good play session to burn off some of that energy. This also helps to perk them up – bring out the best toys and squeakers and get them interested after you have your camera settings ready to go. They key is not to rush the process, be patient and look for what you can do to help get in the ‘zone ‘ of the photograph.

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Tikka waiting in her dog bed while I play with studio lighting for the first time.

Once you are in the ‘zone’, wait it out for the photo you are searching for. Your dog might be distracted by the new surroundings, but give them a moment to settle and keep shooting and that pose you’ve been looking for will suddenly arrive and you’ll have it. It may come with the first press of your finger to shutter, but the best part of having a digital camera  is that it’s no expense to take lots of shots. This was huge for me after so many early years using film and with my new camera I was really precious with the amount of shots I took. Tikka taught me to keep shooting and try lots of settings and it won’t cost her any dog biscuits in the fails.

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Tikka at Halloween dressed as Snoopy .

Learning patience also goes two ways – building a solid ‘wait’ command is a huge help in the studio or on location, slowing the dog down and getting their attention on you for their next command. I’ve learnt not to overdo it – always stop and change spots or give the dog a break before they do and then they will always be a willing model.


Tikka has taught me how to adapt from human height to dog height and how this new perspective opens up a whole new quality of photos… and dog height is basically lying in the sand and mud as she is only 15 inches at the shoulder. Getting down to her eye line makes fantastic shots and people are always surprised at how small she is when they meet her in person.

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Laying in the sand to get personal with Tikka.

It also means adapting quickly to changing exposures from walking through filtered light in the forest to an open area in blinding sunlight along the river to set up a photo. Changing shutter speeds, aperture and ISO to get the right combo keeps you in your toes as you walk along with your dog looking for great places to stop. And also adapting quickly to changing cameras –  depending on what Tikka and the surroundings are calling for I regularly pull out my iPhone as it may be all I bring with me.

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Adapting to our grey cat, Perry, photobombing our shoot.

If you set out in the morning with the intention of getting the exact perfect shot in your brain and not leaving until you get it, well you know how that’s going to end. A frustrating day for both you and your dog. Instead, setting out with a goal in mind and then being able to adapt when the conditions aren’t right or the dog is more interested in joggers etc., you won’t come home pulling out your hair or driving your dog nuts in the process. That might mean you had to adapt yourself right into putting the lens cap back on and having a good walk instead. It’s never a loss as I’ll turn those days into location scouting.

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Always up for a game of fetch and having me practice ‘sports’ photography.


My continuing lesson in adaptability is getting out with some other dogs! I’ve compensated for having a black dog in front of my lens so there will be lots to learn when a white Samoyed fills the frame. So thank you Tikka for teaching me these wonderful tools and being patient with me while I adapt to being more comfortable with the camera.