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: ‘personal’



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! :)

 

A Career in Pet Photography – My Advice for Aspiring Pet Photographers

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

I often receive emails from students asking about making a career out of pet photography. Some of them are in business school, others are in photography classes, and others are simply curious! I can’t blame them: it’s a great question, and I admire their forethought, especially since I certainly didn’t plan on becoming a pet photographer when I was a student. So I’d like to answer a few of the most common questions that I’m asked here in this blog post – so that aspiring pet photographers can learn about this spectacular career that I feel so lucky to have!

two dogs in a flower field
1. How long have you been a professional pet photographer?

As of today (May 2017), I’ve been a full-time pet photographer for 6 and a half years! I began in October of 2010, in Pensacola, Florida, and we moved to San Diego in 2013, which is where I’ve built my business ever since.

2. Why did you choose pet photography?

Because I love pets! Haha! Why else would you become a pet photographer?!

Seriously though, I fell in love with photography in college. I mostly shot sports back then, thanks to a field press pass via the student newspaper, but I also tried weddings/events/families/babies, etc. soon after graduating. Pet photography turned out be the perfect niche for me, since I love working with animals more than anything else.

advice for students

3. What kind of education/training did you get/need?

Photography is one of those interesting careers that doesn’t require any professional certifications. I don’t have to pass a bar exam like a lawyer, there’s nothing that says today I’m a photographer but yesterday I wasn’t. (On a side note, I think that’s why this industry is filled with so many part-timers, “weekend warriors” and shoot-and-burners. But that’s a discussion for another time!) So I didn’t “need” any education in the formal sense of the word. But I needed education in every other sense! I’m kind of an education junkie, to be honest with you. I’m constantly studying, and it’s not always about photography: marketing, workflow systems, lighting, posing… the list goes on! I took Photography 101 in high school to learn the basics of how a camera functions, and then worked for the student newspaper in college and learned shooting & editing techniques from my fellow photographers, so that’s about as “official” as my education ever was. Since then it’s been in-person workshops, online videos, conferences and the generous help of people who have gone before me. So to be perfectly honest I needed a LOT of training, but not in the traditional sense of the word. And practice – simply practicing my craft has been the best training possible. When I first started out, I shot as much as I possibly could, and no Photoshop tutorial could ever be more valuable than that.

aspiring pet photographers

4. What do you think is the most rewarding part of your job?

Oh my gosh – the families. The people I work with. Giving them something they wouldn’t have been able to create on their own is an AMAZING thing. I get to create artwork of the most difficult-to-photograph member of the family, someone’s best friend. That’s awesome! You see, before I started my business, I mostly shot sports (at that student newspaper I mentioned). And I went to a big sports school (Notre Dame!) so we LOVE our sports. But at the end of the day, I don’t think landing the front page of the sports section even comes close to capturing the spirit of a member of someone’s family. Dogs have an amazing zest for life, and powerful lessons to teach us humans – to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy life in the moment, to play more – and I think those lessons are worth so much more than an awesome touchdown shot. And when I present a finished album or canvas gallery wrap to my clients, and they start to cry and thank me for a portrait that captures the essence of a family member that won’t be here forever… it sometimes brings me to tears too. Don’t get me wrong – I love the adrenaline of capturing a touchdown or a slam dunk, and I always will – but it simply doesn’t compare to working with pets & families every day. This is an incredibly fulfilling job, more than I ever imagined before I started.

advice for pet photographers

5. Do you ever hire interns or assistants?

I have, absolutely! Running a business is a huge endeavor and I can often use a little help – but I have to be careful not to hire anyone at the detriment of a client’s experience. For example, I don’t use an assistant during my photo sessions, because I want to keep the experience intimate and minimize the distractions. But not all photographers feel that way; many successful pet photographers love to have assistants during shoots. At the moment I don’t use an assistant for anything, but that might change in the future!

6. Is this a full time job?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Yes.

advice for aspiring pet photographers

7. What is your favorite pet to photograph?

Dogs. :)

8. How much does this job pay?

That depends. (But if you’re doing it just for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.) When I first started out, I made less than minimum wage, since I didn’t know how to value my time or how to charge for my products & services. But that was acceptable to me at that point, since I loved starting this business and I relished the idea of working for myself. These days I make well more than minimum wage, which reflects the improvement I’ve made in my craft & my clients’ experience. Your photography business can make plenty of money, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that doing a shoot for $100 (for example) is $100 in raw profit. You haven’t accounted for your expenses, most notably the large percentage that the government claims in taxes. (Don’t get me started on that.) Sorry I can’t give you a straight answer on this one – it’s really up to you!

9. What do you do on a daily basis?

Oh man… so much. Every day is truly different. I might be shooting, editing photos, culling photos, ordering products, quality-checking products that have just been delivered, calling my lab to fix products that have any flaws on them, blogging (!), answering emails, making phone calls, planning events, prepping for events, making posts on social media, learning about effective social media strategies, keeping up with local businesses that I partner with, brainstorming new marketing avenues, checking the ROI of my current marketing, purchasing new supplies or backdrops for the studio, categorizing transactions for my accountant, making sure my bank accounts are in order, analyzing my spending, doing inventory, cleaning/organizing my studio, putting together a surprise or two for my clients, corresponding with those clients and planning their sessions, answering clients’ (and prospective clients’) questions, following up with new inquiries, developing my commercial photography portfolio, enhancing my website, making sure I’m on top of any industry trends/news… the list goes on!

pet photography advice

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring pet photographers?

Study business. I thought owning a photography business would be 90% photography and 10% business. Turns out, it’s the other way around. And you should really genuinely passionately LOVE animals! And also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I just opened a pet photography education resource, with one of my best friends (and local “competition”!) that might prove useful if you’re actually in the beginning stages of starting your own pet photography business. It’s called Professional Pooch and we designed it to help other people turn their hobby/interest of pet photography into a full-time job, like we have!

11. What’s your greatest challenge in this field?

Oooh, that’s a good one. I’m an optimist and I don’t like to dwell on my struggles, and I don’t recommend that you do either – but I’ll answer the question for me personally. I’m challenged by the fact that there are only 24 hours in the day. I’n challenged by wanting to constantly outdo myself and produce better & better work. I’m challenged by the fact that I love my clients but I also value work-life balance. I’m challenged by the aspects of business I never thought I’d have to be an expert in – SEO, accounting, finding & sourcing the best products on the market (and sometimes creating those products myself when they don’t already exist). But I also consider myself very lucky to have a supportive family, a killer work ethic, and awesome clients that I really connect with. You have to take the challenges along with the helpful aspects, since they go hand-in-hand. And besides, what fun would this be if there weren’t a few obstacles along the way?

 

I hope this has been helpful for aspiring pet photographers, no matter where you live or where you’re at in your journey! Good luck! :)

Taking Your Dog to Mexico – Our Story

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

I love Mexico. The beaches, the food, the language, the marketplaces, the margaritas…  pretty much everything south of the border calls my name. (We even went to Cabo for our honeymoon!) And living in San Diego means that I don’t have to step on a plane to visit Mexico, which is pretty awesome – and as a result, my husband and I have driven there once or twice a year since moving to SD 4 years ago. Our favorite town to visit is Rosarito, a small village south of Tijuana that (with its next-door neighbor Puerto Nuevo) serves the region as a lobster fishing hub. We’ve never gone with our dog, though – until last weekend. And I know I’m not the only one who has considered taking my pup south of the border – so I wanted to share my experience, and hopefully this blog post contains the info (and reassurance) you need to feel confident about taking your dog to Mexico!  :)

 

IMG_3361

This was a real vacation – which means I didn’t bring my DSLR! (Gasp!) So you’re going to have to put up with iPhone photos in this post, even though I’m a professional photographer. Because after all, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

 

I had all the normal fears that a pet parent has when doing something for the first time, compounded with the fact that we’re dealing with international borders. Bailey is a good girl but her obedience isn’t perfect, and although she loves people she doesn’t always get along with certain kinds of dogs in certain situations… I knew that there was plenty that could potentially go wrong. But there was also the potential for so much to go right! So after chatting with a few people who said it was “no big deal” to bring their dogs to Mexico, we decided to get past our concerns and take the leap! I suppose we figured that I speak enough Spanish to deal with pretty much any crisis, and we would obviously stand up for our dog and her safety in any situation, so as long as she was with us, she’d be fine. It also really reassured us when we picked a resort that actually had a dedicated dog run; going to a place that’s unabashedly dog-friendly is a huge plus and I highly recommend it!

 

IMG_1071

 

How we prepared: we scheduled a vet appointment for a month before our trip. During that appointment, we asked the vet how she felt about us taking Bailey to Mexico, and what concerns (if any) she would share with us. Our vet was very unconcerned; Bailey has always been a very healthy dog (knock on wood) and there was nothing that our vet specifically warned us about. So we simply made sure she was updated on all her shots, especially rabies, and got a hard copy of her shot records to bring with us.

One quick note about the International Certificate of Good Health Form, # 77-043. We heard various reports about this – my husband thinks it’s for flying with your dog, not driving, and our vet clinic thinks it’s only for interstate travel, not international. We didn’t learn about it until after our appointment, otherwise we would have asked for a copy to take with us, just in case. (Spoiler alert: we wouldn’t have needed it anyway. But if it’s readily available from your vet, go for it!)

 

(Side note: apparently dogs can get passports, too. I haven’t looked into this for Bailey yet, and I’m not seriously considering getting her one at the moment, since A) it seems to be more important in the EU, which we don’t plan on taking her to anytime soon, and B) all the information I can find online comes from companies looking to make a profit from the idea, so I’m skeptical about how beneficial/necessary it would actually be.)

 

What we packed: her bed, toys, food, treats, bowls, 2 leashes of different length, and extra poop bags. (Don’t you love how low-maintenance dogs are?!) We didn’t bring a kennel, primarily because Bailey isn’t kennel-trained (so bad, I know!) and also because we weren’t flying, we were driving. So her seatbelt and our backseat cover were the only transportation-related items we brought, and they’re always in our car anyway!

 

IMG_1300

 

We booked a pet-friendly AirBNB in Rosarito, and about 45 minutes after crossing the border into Mexico (which is so easy it’s laughable) we arrived at the resort and found our room! It was a penthouse suite (#penthouselife) in a resort with a mix of towers and linked single-story houses. I’m pretty sure Bailey would have preferred once of the houses, since she has a deep mistrust of elevators, but she braved her fear and actually loved the penthouse that we stayed in. I could tell she was comfortable there when she started playing with her toys only about half an hour after we arrived! (Although we had 2 loads of stuff to bring up from the car, so she whined and cried when we left to get that second load and she was suddenly alone in a strange new place.Which I can understand. But Bailey is often over-dramatic so I knew she wasn’t actually freaking out, haha!)

Right after getting settled, Mr. Shamrell & I went to lunch at a nearby (walking-distance) hotel. We didn’t bring Bailey because we wanted to scope out the dog-friendly factor first – and to our delight we saw another dog lounging on the outdoor patio! No problemo!

IMG_4065

This is Bailey at that same restaurant, for dinner the next night. Oceanfront dining = relaxing and gorgeous for humans, more seagulls for dogs to watch.

 

At lunch, we asked our friendly waiter if he knew of a dog beach nearby, or at least a beach where we could bring our dog without getting hassled. He said that he brings his pit bull to a beach that was so close, he pointed it out down the coastline! So we ran back to our resort, grabbed Bailey, and off we went!

The beach that we visited in particular was a little tricky to get down to. A lot of Mexican beaches (especially public, unsupervised beaches) can include a hike down rocky, unstable terrain. But we saw a few families already on the beach, so we knew it was doable – and we carefully made our way down the steep “path” and set foot safely on the sand. We also walked past a chained-up pit bull that came out of his sheet metal den and barked at us as we went past, maybe 20-30 feet away. (Which didn’t bother Bailey, but bothered me for multiple reasons.) If your dog is especially nervous about uncertain situations, or can’t handle a quick but steep hike, I certainly wouldn’t recommend the beach we visited. And it might make it difficult to find a truly ideal public Mexican beach, honestly – but I can’t be sure, since we only ended up taking Bailey to this spot for beach time. But she was a total champ and didn’t let any of that faze her! And once we got to the sand, it was a little slice of heaven; plenty of room to run around & seaweed to sniff, while Mr. Shamrell & I relaxed in our beach chairs and took in the view! I can’t even begin to tell you what a great time we had once we got down there! Here are a few maps to our beach:

Rosarito dog beach Rosarito beach for dogs satellite dog beach map

 

And here’s what playtime looked like:

 

On our way back up the rocky path, we encountered a stray dog. He had no collar or leash, and seemed awfully sweet, but we kept him away from Bailey just in case. I would have loved to pack him up into our car and give him some love and a healthy meal, at the very least – he clearly needed both – but it simply wouldn’t have been safe. The poor thing clearly wanted to come with us… but once we waved him off the last time, he trotted toward a few nearby houses, so I’m guessing that’s where he lives. That moment was probably the saddest of our trip.

 

The next day, we decided to hang out by the pool at our resort. There weren’t many other people around, and we found a small grassy area next to two lounge chairs – so naturally Bailey came with us! We put her on a 20-foot leash and secured it to one of our chairs, so she wandered & sniffed everywhere as we read our books. Plus, it was an oceanfront pool, so Bailey had the chance to monitor the seagulls too. We probably wouldn’t have brought her if it was crowded with people, but it was a relatively secluded spot and not a big deal.

taking your dog to Mexico

 

dog in Mexico

Can you believe she never jumped in the pool? Bailey doesn’t really like swimming, so she was content to enjoy the view instead.

 

Because of our success in taking Bailey to the nearby restaurant, and our optimism, we drove to one of our favorite restaurants in Puerto Nuevo the next night with her. It’s called Poco Cielo, and since they also have an outdoor patio we figured she’d be allowed there – and she was! We had another great dinner together (and might have given her a few tortilla chips as well).

 

Last but certainly not least, I know you’re curious about the actual border crossing! I made this video so you could hear the play-by-play with all the details:

 

 

A few questions you might have:

  • How did we get our medical “fast pass”? Okay, don’t be miffed if you didn’t know this before, but guess what… you can get a medical pass at some Mexican spas after getting a massage! True story! There are several spas that have clearance to do this, and certain types of massages that will earn you a “fast pass” to get back across the border in the quicker line, as long as you use it in the following 48 hours after your massage. So we suffered through a massage to get that pass, haha! ;)
  • Why can’t we stop for a doggy potty break while we wait to get across the border? Because you’re constantly slowing moving forward. The line isn’t usually “stopped” for very long at a time, it’s just a long, painfully-slow crawl. So you certainly could leave your car to take your dog to a nearby patch of grass (if your lane happens to pass near one, which is not guaranteed) but someone else would have to keep driving, and then you could catch up with them again pretty easily by walking.
  • How do I find the medical lane? Tijuana is confusing. AGREED. We used directions from Baja Bound – a total godsend! We still ran into a roadblock that threw us off course, but with our T-Mobile plan we get free data in Mexico, and so Google Maps was essential to finding our way back on course.
  • Anything else I should know about driving around Mexico? Get Mexican car insurance. Most American companies will NOT cover theft or break-ins if they happen across the border. We usually go through Sanborn’s but you have several options out there. We paid $95 for 4 days of coverage, and the peace of mind is SO worth it.

 

Mexican dog park

My dog’s crazy-face as she runs around at the dog park at our resort. Pretty sure this is the best view from any dog park in the world!

 

Those are all the stories I have to share with you for now! I hope you found value in this blog post, and if you were considering taking your dog to Mexico, that you feel much more confident about doing it successfully! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if there’s anything else you’re curious about. We had soooo much fun in Mexico, and I think Bailey had a great time as a perro. ;)

 

Our Experience with Terri Steuben, Animal Communicator

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Bailey, Mr. Shamrell & I had a very interesting Saturday morning!

Months ago, I heard of Terri Steuben, a professional animal communicator who lives just south of LA. She visits San Diego regularly often, and I’d seen her booth at a few pet events where I had my own booth as well. Simply knowing about her career was enough to pique my interest – she communicates with animals? How? What could that possibly mean? I was a bit skeptical, to be honest with you, since the idea of psychic/telepathic communication brings up memories of cheap tricks at the county fair & conspiracy theorists who say they were abducted by aliens, haha. I’m not the type to get suckered in by outlandish claims & shock-value advertising… or at least I’d like to think I’m not! But after browsing the testimonials & videos on her website I was impressed – I really was. There were no sensational claims, just happy stories about improved relationships & healed medical issues. Terri seemed to truly love animals, and I got the feeling that her mission is to improve the lives of pets & their owners. Clearly there was something else entirely from what I expected going on here. Mr. Shamrell, on the other hand, is even less easily impressed; he agreed to the consultation but wasn’t nearly as excited about it as I was! I made him promise to have an open mind about it, though, and he agreed that he would.

So we scheduled our meeting, and bright & early one morning, Terri knocked on our door! At first, Bailey was incredibly excited to see Terri & jumped on her lap several times – but then again, she does that with pretty much everyone! :) But soon enough, it became clear that she was acting slightly differently with Terri than the average guest in our house… and then our conversation began.

 

animal communicator

 

We learned all kinds of incredible information. We learned about where Bailey came from before we adopted her at six months old… how she feels about car rides… what’s her favorite kind of food… what she thinks & does when we leave the house… why she hates the mailman… how she feels about the fact that I work with dogs… why she jumped out of an open window one night… how she feels about adopting a new puppy brother/sister… who she likes going on walks with… just about everything! Our questions spanned the gamut from trivial to fundamental, and nothing was off limits. Our biggest question for Terri was why Bailey doesn’t get along with certain dogs; we’ve found that she can’t resist playing with some dogs but will start displaying negative body language as soon as she sees others. We’ve never really understood why Bailey immediately likes some dogs & dislikes others. The answer was surprisingly simple: “she just doesn’t like ’em.” Terri told us about all kinds of non-verbal, non-physical communication that goes on between dogs, and how Bailey can understand the personalities of other dogs much better than we can. So then we learned helpful tips to make sure a negative encounter doesn’t happen in the future, on walks & in dog parks. Sooo useful! Questions like that had been weighing on our minds for months now, so it was a huge relief to get them answered… and then in the next minute we learned that Bailey prefers cheddar cheese (orange) to mozzarella (white)! Silly little things that had us laughing. What an incredible hour!

All in all, it was an amazing & eye-opening experience, and I can’t recommend Terri highly enough. I wanted to share my experience with all of you because animal communication might be something that you’ve never heard of before, or were perhaps skeptical about… and while I certainly can’t speak for any other communicators, Terri is the real deal. I really think that if there’s anything you want to clarify with your dog, or any behavioral issues you want to address, this is definitely a viable route to take. I could go on much longer about everything we learned, but Bailey doesn’t want me to give away all of her secrets! ;)

If you’re curious about a consultation with your pet(s), even if you live far away from Southern California, visit Terri’s website and give her a call. I’m sure she’d be happy to answer your questions! (And tell her I said hi!)

 

My Dog Bailey’s First Surfing Lesson in Del Mar, CA

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

If you’re a fan of the Facebook page, you already know the fun news: Bailey (my dog) had her first surfing lesson on Saturday! We met up with the So Cal Surf Dogs for their regular weekly lessons, and boy – I can’t possibly tell you how much fun it was!! We had an absolutely stellar time – and to our absolute shock & exhilaration, Bailey actually surfed!!

 

del mar dog surfing

 

I kind of still can’t believe that photo exists… My dog can SURF! It was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and we can’t wait to go back for more!

 

The whole day was lots of fun from the beginning: first, the dogs got accustomed to their boards on the beach. The So Cal Surf Dogs instructors were incredibly patient with the dogs, and they made sure not to rush or force anyone into anything uncomfortable. I really can’t say enough for their patience & concern for the dogs’ happiness & safety. They even had a professional dog trainer there, just to watch out for signs of anxiety in the dogs.

 

No anxiety here! Bailey was ready to go!

dog surfing in san diego

 Game face.

dog surfing in san diego

 And after a bit of instruction & reassurance, they sent us out into the water! There’s the handsome Mr. Shamrell with Bailey – he was so great at “launching” her!

fun dog surfing photos

And she surfed!!!

dog on surfboard

You’ll never guess what happened next. Right after she rode her very first wave – all the way to the beach! – I got stung by a stingray.

Yes, you read that right. Or at least the lifeguard thought I “brushed” into one, since I stepped on something poky and it immediately started hurting. So I was rushed to shore, but by the time I reached the lifeguard station, the pain had mostly gone away. I guess I confused the poor lifeguard on duty; he wasn’t sure if it was a bee or a piece of glass or a slight stingray sting that got me… but luckily, whatever it was didn’t stop me from getting back out there! I only missed a few of Bailey’s runs in the time it took for him to inspect my toes. I was too nervous to step out there barefoot, though, so I wore my sandals back out. Which didn’t make walking around very easy, but hey, I felt safer! :)

So while I was on shore, Mr. Shamrell & Bailey kept practicing, and eventually he was able to launch her without the help of our awesome instructor, Gigi. She’s a So Cal Surf Dogs volunteer, and was with us the whole time – and thank goodness, because we would have been lost without her! She was awesome at seeing what we were doing wrong and correcting us, and making sure Bailey was always in the right place & safe. There’s a lot to think about out there: your position relative to the board, your dog’s position, your hand positions, what the water is doing, when the next wave is coming, if there are any people/dogs/surfboards in front of or behind you… it’s not a simple thing!

dog surfing detailed

Here’s what we eventually learned: Bailey needs someone launching her, and someone else about 20 yards closer to the beach saying “staaaaayyyyy” with their hands up! If there’s no one to tell her to stay put, she would often make a break for it:

dog surfing wipeout

 

By the end of the lesson, the president of So Cal Surf Dogs was helping Bailey & Mr. Shamrell with a bit of technique. Looks like Bailey was one of the “quick learners” in the class! (ohmygoshiamsoproudmydogisagenius!)

 

dog surfing lesson

 

 As I shot these photos with my camera in one hand, my other hand was out and I was yelling “stay!” Haha!

fun dog surfing photos

 

I know she looks a bit uncertain in these photos, but I hope no one’s actually worried about her – Bailey was having a great time! I have to think that no one immediately starts smiling and waving the first time they learn how to stand up on a surfboard. Bailey was concentrating on staying up & staying put; she came running back to us after each run, and I figure that if she really didn’t like it, she’d make a beeline for the beach and stay there. She never did that, and was consistently wagging her tail between runs, so we felt good about hoisting her back up on the board each time. (Some dogs were much less sure about staying put on the boards, so they had leashes to connect their dogs to the boards. Got to say, I was proud of Bailey for not needing one of those!)

surf dog

Get this: after she passed both of us, she’d just turn around and stare at us! As if to say, “Mom? Dad? Where am I going?” Too cute! We couldn’t stop laughing!!

dog surfing funny

 

 Like I said – there were a few wipeouts. Not too many!

dog surf wipeout

 

We were all cheering for her! Goooooo Bailey!!

del mar dog surfing

 

My gosh, the coastline at Del Mar is beautiful.

del mar dog surfing

 

 Aaaaand she’s out!

del mar dog surfing

Want a behind-the-scenes look at how we “launched” Bailey’s board with the waves? Check it out:

dogs learning how to surf

Gigi’s help was crucial!

dog learning how to surf

 It was a beautiful, perfect day. So many people were there – Bailey’s “class” had about 8 other dogs, and there were 2 more classes that day!

del mar dog beach

 

del mar dog beach view

 

 Somehow, we always come back to this. Even with a life vest!

dog rubbing in sand

 

Ahhhh. It’s much better naked, apparently.

dog rubbing in sand

 

 Sigh. That’s my dog.

dog shaking in sand

 

If you’re interested in surfing with your dog in Del Mar (obviously I recommend it!), you can get more info & fill out the sign-up form here.

I’m already looking forward to our next lesson, as well as the upcoming dog surfing competition! Benefitting the Helen Woodward Animal Center, the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon is September 8 at the Del Mar dog beach! I’ll definitely be there – Bailey needs a bit more training, I think, before making an appearance at an event like that – but I can’t wait to photograph all the action!

Seriously. I can’t think of a better way to spend your Saturday. We’ll be back out there soon! :)

 

 

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