Me with my muse, Bailey!

About Allison Shamrell Photography:

Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Allison, and I work in San Diego, CA, capturing the personalities of dogs and cats of all sizes & temperaments. I do photo sessions on location and in-studio, wherever my clients prefer! My photography style is natural, playful & soulful.

Here on my blog, I tell the stories of recent sessions and events. You might even find an insight or two into the behind-the-scenes side of my business! I hope you have fun looking around!

If you would like to receive a quick little email to let you know when I publish a new post, see the button at the bottom left of this page! Thanks! :)

619-357-6624  ~  Allison@AllisonShamrell.com  ~  3251 Adams Avenue, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92116

Officially Voted the Best Pet Photographer in San Diego, 2014-2016, by the San Diego A-List.

Archive: June, 2017



Dakota, Firefly & Bella Rose! (Horse Photography in Rancho Santa Fe)

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Oh my goodness – I am SO excited to share this sneak peek with you!! I don’t get to photograph horses every day, so this session was an absolute treat for me – and hopefully the photos are a nice treat for you, too!

Dakota and Firely are incredibly gorgeous horses – my eyes basically popped out of my head when I met them the other day after Gemma’s photo session (she’s their feline sister!). So I recently headed back to give them my full attention, and we had a spectacular time together! The boys are both slightly jumpy, so we kept the pace nice & easy, and I did my best to get their attention in a way that was interesting but not scary – and those of you who’ve heard the funny noises I make to get a pet’s attention know exactly what I’m talking about! But their handlers were a huge help, so with a bit of teamwork I think we were able to create some gorgeous images.

Not to be overlooked (literally or figuratively), Bella Rose the miniature horse joined us as well! She kept us laughing the whole time with her adorable antics, since she’s got enough attitude for a full-size horse, that’s for sure!

 

This is Dakota – I can’t get enough of his warm brown fur against the rich green grass. LOVE him.

horse photography

 

This is Firefly! I adore his unique patches and so-dark-it’s-almost-black fur. He’s a big fan of carrots.

horse photography image

 

Of course, this is Bella Rose! She was looking fresh for her portraits – that mane has volume, haha!

miniature horse

 

We have several images of the horses together, but most of them are going to require a significant amount of retouching… so for now, I’ll just share this peaceful moment of the horses enjoying their chance to munch on the soft grass.

horse photo

 

 

Tanya, I’m so excited to get together with you soon!! Emily and Sue, these photos certainly wouldn’t have come together without you – so thank you for being willing to work with me! :)

 

Pork Chop the Hound Mix from Tucson, Arizona

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Life is so unpredictable, isn’t it?

At the beginning of last week, I didn’t know that I’d be meeting Pork Chop, the sweet hound mix, at her favorite spot in Ocean Beach for a photo session.

Pork Chop’s mom didn’t even know that she’d be calling me for a photo session.

But things change quickly when you get bad news… especially if it’s a diagnosis. And I’m heartbroken to say that Pork Chop got bad news at the vet last week. 9 years old is far too young to be diagnosed with cancer… but her mom acted quickly and we met less than 72 hours later. Which is definitely NOT the circumstances in which I would have wanted to meet them, it’s not a scenario I’d wish upon anyone – but in the end I’m so glad that I got to meet this sweet girl and her mom.

Pork Chop lives in Tucson, Arizona – which is a pretty far distance from San Diego! But she and her mom have made the road trip out here several times in the past, so they hopped in the car again and didn’t stop until they reached their favorite place: Ocean Beach dog beach! They love relaxing in the sand and watching all the people & dogs play in the water together. Pork Chop doesn’t run around much; she’s always been a calm, even-keeled dog who’s happy to simply be right by her mom’s side. (Except when they walk around, haha – Pork Chop quickly forms a single file line right behind her mama! It’s like her favorite game is “follow the leader”!) So I joined them for a classic trip to the dog beach, which included a few brief spurts of energy and plenty of rest breaks. (And maybe a little spontaneous crying from her mama – and me, too.) But we had a fun time – despite the circumstances – and I’m loving the images we created together.

 

Pork Chop can still run through the waves! It’s not as easy as it used to be, but she can still move like a young dog!

hound mix

 

You can’t tell from this photo, but Pork Chop really made me work for those ears. She’s a crafty lil’ lady.

hound mix beach photo

 

There’s just something about sandy paws…

hound mix paws

 

… they’re almost as cute as a sandy face.

hound mix close-up

 

Laura, thank you so much for introducing me to your sweet girl. I’ve been thinking about you both recently – I’ll talk to you soon! :)

 

Gemma the Gorgeous Calico Cat (from Rancho Santa Fe)

Monday, June 19th, 2017

I’m so excited to introduce you to Gemma! She’s a gorgeous 2-year-old calico cat, and ever since her parents adopted her from Rancho Coastal, she’s been showering them with gifts to express her gratitude. You know the type of “gifts” cats give their owners, right? Mice and small lizards are pretty common, but Gemma is no common cat. She’s so athletic that she gets to give her parents exceptionally rare finds, like rats (!) and even a hummingbird (!!!) – not to mention she gets pretty creative with exactly where in the house she delivers those gifts! So although her parents might prefer a different way to show her appreciation, suffice to say that Gemma won the adoption lottery when she found such loving, wonderful parents – and she knows it.

When you arrive at Gemma & her family’s house, it’s hard not to be impressed. Gemma has a stunningly beautiful, custom-built home with plenty of sunny patches of light on the hardwood floors that are simply perfect for sunning oneself. Not to mention a yard with grass & flowers to go hunting in, and even a koi pond full of “roommates”! At the beginning of our session, Gemma shyly gave me a tour of her territory, preferring not to pose for my camera quite yet. So I followed her around the expansive living room, crawling on the hardwood floors and making plenty of silly (and rather embarrassing) sounds to get her fleeting attention… honestly, something tells me Gemma just wanted to see me work for it, haha! So eventually she decided I was worth her consideration, and she opened up and posed for the camera like a total pro. That’s what I’ve learned from photographing cats over the years – you’re on their schedule, not the other way around! But I’m so glad I had the chance to meet Gemma, and that she (slowly) came around to the idea of a photo session… the images we ended up with made crawling around on the ground totally worth it!  :)

 

This is Gemma – isn’t she gorgeous?!

calico cat

 

Before modeling, you have to stretch! :)

calico cat photo

We went outside to the garden in the heavenly evening light, and Gemma obligingly looked my way (while simultaneously monitoring the grounds for critters, of course).

calico cat picture

 

Tanya, thank you so much for introducing me to your beautiful kitty! I’m so excited to share the rest of our images with you soon! :)

 

Ekin the German Shepherd! (Photos)

Monday, June 12th, 2017

When I first met Ekin, he was a little shy. He’s gorgeous, smart & attached to his mom Tara – but a bit reserved, the first time you say hello. (And that’s okay! I’m always happy to move at whatever pace makes a dog feel comfortable.)

But then we met up for his photo session, at a local park – and he definitely wasn’t shy anymore! When Ekin goes to the park, there’s only one thing he wants: his ball. So as soon as we stepped on the grass, he started bouncing around & looking at the bag of goodies his mom brought with them, knowing exactly what’s in there! Relaxation? No thank you. Treats? Nah. Training practice? Not on the agenda. Snuggle time? Doesn’t hold a candle to FETCH! So we quickly gave in and let Ekin do his favorite thing. And why not – we were there to play, anyway!

Then we were able to settle in for some slightly-calmer portraits – which was truly only possible thanks to all the training he & his mom have done together. Ekin is her first dog, and she knew from the beginning that she wanted him to be impeccably-trained. This process started back when she adopted him, through grad school (he was her little study buddy as a puppy!) and still continues today. Tara & Ekin are learning that training is never “done”, it’s always a work in progress, but they’ve made incredible leaps & bounds together. Ekin is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever worked with, to be honest. And to show for it, they have an awesome bond. Plus – want to know the best part? Since Ekin is only 2 years old, I know they have a long, happy life ahead of them. Yay – I’m so happy for these two, and thrilled to have met them both! :)

This is Ekin, the sweet, handsome (and lanky) German shepherd. He’s gorgeous, right?!

german shepherd dog photo

 

Then we headed to Coronado beach! We actually went on a separate day, since the weather wasn’t cooperating after we finished at the park, and I’m so glad we both had flexible schedules. Look at that stunning blue water next to the warm tones of Ekin’s coat! I love it!!

german shepherd running

 

It was a stunning afternoon.

german shepherd in San Diego

 

Oh, Ekin. You’re such a good boy. Even with tons of sand in your face.

german shepherd photo

 

Tara, thank you so much for introducing me to your sweet boy! I had such a great time with both of you! Talk to you soon! :)

 

Dog DNA Tests: Our Experience! (What kind of dog is Bailey?)

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

I think everyone who has a mutt is… curious.

Maybe it’s a fleeting curiosity for a moment, maybe it’s a burning desire that never fades. But I think everyone with a mixed-breed dog would really like to know what breeds their dog comes from, the clues to their heritage that may explain their dog’s silly behavior quirks or a rogue white fur spot. For whatever reason, I think that curiosity is definitely there.

Me? I fit more closely into the latter description. I’ve always wanted to know Bailey’s genetic makeup. And I knew about dog DNA tests for years, and had wanted to do one, but no event or reason ever spurred me to make the decision and purchase one… until my husband did it as a surprise for my birthday! That’s right, Mr. Shamrell came up with the best gift idea for me, and sent our dog’s DNA in without me ever knowing. (He’s a clever one!)

He chose the Wisdom Panel DNA test, a major name in the industry that’s available in most big box pet stores like Petco & Petsmart. It cost around $80 and is probably the most commonly-used test on the market. He then (somehow, on his own, miraculously) wrestled our dog into submission so that he could take the saliva sample! Haha – I’m kidding (mostly) – but I have to say that this is the hardest part of any dog DNA test. Instructions to obtain a good sample include swabbing a q-tip on the inside of her cheek for about 20 seconds, and that’s not in most dogs’ plans for the day. So with lots of treats and a firm grip on her collar, Mr. Shamrell was able to wrangle the q-tip into Bailey’s mouth for enough time to take a decent sample. (Hey, other tests are blood tests – saliva is the easy way out!)

Before you see the results, take a look: what breeds do you think are in Bailey?

mixed breed dog dna

Full disclosure: I’ve always guessed Rhodesian ridgeback was her primary heritage. Her face, her body structure, her generally lazy demeanor… and when she gets agitated, a dramatic ridge of fur appears on her back, from her shoulders allllll the way down to her tail. So of course the test would come back with ridgeback somewhere on it… right?

 

The results were delivered on my birthday, so it was a surprise for both of us, and that evening I unwrapped a very exciting envelope to see this:

dog dna test results

 

My initial reaction was: Staffordshire, sure – WHIPPET??? What?! There must be a mistake, that’s ridic- oh, wait a minute. Hold on. That may actually be why she’s only 50 lbs and has such tiny feet. And a tiny waist. And why she can run faster than almost every dog she’s ever met.

Whoa.

That’s exactly what a dog DNA test is supposed to do! They were characteristics that I’d always seen in her, but had always written off as quirks & happenstance. Suddenly, I saw whippet in my dog when I’d never imagined it before.

If there was a cartoon light bulb hanging over my head, it would have turned on. Poof!

 

Whew! It was an exhilarating start to reading her results. But things were about to take a downward turn:

my dog's dna test

What was with all this “mixed breed” nonsense? I know she’s a mixed breed, that’s why I wanted to do a DNA test. And now I was seeing that the test couldn’t figure it out beyond halfway? Last I heard, 50% is a failing grade. I thought to myself, do we get 50% of our money back? (Unsurprisingly, we didn’t.)

 

Wisdom Panel gives their best guess at the “mixed breed ancestry” result, which is good, but they don’t exactly sound confident in these results:

dog dna tests results

 

 

So there you have it. Bailey’s results, according to Wisdom Panel, are 25% Staffy, 25% whippet, and 50% unknown.

Fast forward a few years: we meet a vendor at the Hillcrest farmer’s market with all kinds of doggie goodies at his table. He asks if we’ve ever done one of the major brand dog DNA tests, and when we say that we have, he introduces us to a different brand of test. It’s called Accu-Metrics Viaguard (I know, their website is awful, don’t laugh) and it’s totally unrelated to Wisdom Panel. He shows us the research that says Wisdom Panel has 66.7% reliability, whereas this new test has 99.9% reliability. That was enough to pique our interest – and after hearing that they do all kids of DNA/forensics/paternity tests, etc, and they have a money-back guarantee, we happily purchased the new test kit and trotted off to try again! Nothing had changed in the last few years, of course – and I was coming around to the idea that she may not be Rhodesian after all – but why not get a second opinion?

Bailey didn’t enjoy the swabbing any more the second time around… but this time there were two of us so it went much quicker. And Bailey got a bully stick immediately afterwards, so don’t think for a second that she isn’t benefitting from this little experiment, haha!

 

Well, the results just came in. And they shocked me!

 

viaguard dog dna tests

Take a look at what the different “levels” mean:

doggy dna test results

 

How fascinating. There were Staffy & whippet, consistently making a second appearance – but Catahoula Leopard Dog?? Labrador!? I’ve been in the pet industry for over 6 years and I’d never even heard of a Carolina Dog! Truthfully, the Belgian Malinois wasn’t a huge surprise; I’d always figured she was part shepherd due to her coloring & body structure, I just didn’t know what kind specifically. Jeez – what a surprising combination of breeds!

 

They also sent us this certificate, which will definitely come in handy if we ever move into a rental home/apartment with breed restrictions:

dna test breed exemption

(Sigh. It’s so sad that this has to be a thing.)

Overall, the Accu-Metrics Viaguard test gave us a lot more information, so I appreciated that. Both tests gave us a few pages of medical information about the breeds that were identified in each one – here’s a page from Accu-Metrics Viaguard, for example:

dog dna tests breeds

 

If you have health concerns for your dog as he/she gets older, a DNA test could be exactly what you & your vet need to keep giving your dog the best possible care. I definitely plan on sharing all this info with our vet – so although it wasn’t the primary reason we did these tests, it’s definitely an added benefit.

So there you have it! I highly recommend dog DNA tests, at least for the fun of discovering something new! I certainly can’t speak to their accuracy, but it was a really fun surprise both times. And while Bailey may not be Rhodesian like I thought – or boxer, or German shepherd like so many people tell me – I really don’t mind having a Catahoula/Staffordshire/Carolina/Malinois/labrador/whippet mix, either! :)

 

 

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