The Lyra Memorial

To preface this entry I need to talk about how strange it is for me to be doing any sort of dog photography. I don’t like dogs. I never have. It all stems from an early memory of a black lab pushing me into a pool as a very young kid. It’s one of those memories that is just a couple of image flashes, and it was so many years ago it feels more like a dream. But I do have this memory of fear, and sinking to the bottom of a pool, and my father jumping in to save me. The reality I’m sure was probably far less dramatic. But it influenced how I have felt about dogs my entire life. Throughout most of my childhood I was pretty terrified of them, and the bigger they were the less I wanted to be anywhere near them. Now that I’m an adult I no longer hold a fear of dogs, but I generally am uncomfortable around them. I don’t like them in my space, and they cannot seem to leave me alone under any circumstances. People say, “oh it’s because they sense they you don’t like them, they’re trying to win you over.” Dogs you are pretty dumb animals to try and win me over, if that’s even the case.

Not liking dogs (in addition to not thinking babies are cute), is one of those things that I think impacts you to a certain degree in your life. It seems like everyone likes dogs, and not being able to relate to that feeling in a way ostracizes you a bit. Dog owners just can’t understand it. And how many times in my life have I described the myriad of dog behaviors I don’t like only to hear, “oh my dog isn’t like that, you’ll like my dog.” But I never do. At best I tolerate some dogs. The ones that aren’t interested in me in the least. And usually that means much older dogs. I could also get deep on all of the things dog owners do that I can’t stand, but I’ve actually touched on it here before. In any event, dogs are not my favorites, but usually I’m indifferent.

So why did I do a double big dog photo shoot? Therein lies the good question. My mom’s friend Martha and her husband mark had two huge Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I suppose it goes without saying that they’re huge, all Ridgebacks are. Both of the dogs were pretty old, and both had some health issues. Lyra (the lighter colored one in the first photo) had it worse health wise, and her days were numbered. Martha really wanted to have some good photos of Lyra (and Basho the darker dog) for Mark before Lyra passed away. So she decided to surprise him with a photoshoot. Now I truly had no clue what to expect, surprising someone with a photoshoot can go a couple of different ways even if the purpose of the shoot is a happy one. Doing a dog memorial shoot is kind of heavy, so I wasn’t really sure how Mark would react as I had never met him. The second part of the challenge was this was the second shoot we had done with the MKIIIs and I was a little nervous about that. It definitely sounded like a potential challenge, and lately I’ve been up for pushing past comfort zones and facing challenges.

As it turned out the day went really well. Lyra had bad hip problems, so she didn’t get around very well. But both dogs were very well mannered, and completely uninterested in me – which made photographing them very easy. We took a walk with them first down the block in their Los Angeles neighborhood to kill a little time before the golden hour. Then we headed to Rancho Park, a favorite spot of Mark and the dogs. The dogs played as Mark watched on. As Lyra tired and it got time to wrap up and head back, the light descended on the park in a way that these photos just cannot do justice to. It was for lack of a better word, ethereal.

Lyra has since passed on. But the beauty of photography is that photos never die.

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