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Is 2023 really over? Where did it go?
Too often we’re left with that feeling, like we missed out on life while we were busy being busy. I know that’s what it’s like to run two businesses.
That is why, of course, it’s so important to take a look back and see everything we accomplished before we get started on the new year.
2023 in review
Let’s do it by the numbers:
1 – Major surgery
Bella had TPLO surgery to repair a torn canine cruciate ligament in her right hind. Her recovery and rehabilitation put a lot of things on the backburner for me, but we were ready to hit the trails again by May.
1500 – Dollars raised for Pet Savers
Big White Dog Photography participated in Tails of the World, a project in which photographers around the world donate a portion of their session fees to a local nonprofit. The photos are then submitted to a book, created by Caitlin McColl of Australia. Vol. II will be available for purchase this spring.
This is the second year I’ve participated and it’s a good bit of fun. I chose Pet Savers as our nonprofit this year. They’re a clinic in Spokane Valley that provides spay and neuter services at low cost for those struggling with pet care finances.
Some seriously badass women work there too.
3200 – Dollars raised for Companions Animal Center
I decided not to self-publish a book this year. Instead I went with a wall calendar! We started with a photo contest in which dog lovers submitted their photos and had friends and family vote on The Coolest Dog of the Inland Northwest. Submission and voting fees went straight to the Companion Animals Center in Hayden, Idaho. Each of the top 12 vote-getters won a portrait session with me and we created a wall calendar.
All of the proceeds from calendar sales goes to the CAC. Where some seriously badass women work.
You can still get your calendar:
54 – Companion dogs photographed
That’s down from years prior but that’s A-OK with me. Stepping back from the constant hustle of marketing my business was good for me … and for Bella. And oh yeah, that guy we live with. Plus I had a podcast to run and other pet photographers to educate.
Speaking of which …
48 – Podcast episodes published
I didn’t host them all. Some were hosted by the amazing photographers in my network whom I call friends. They are also some seriously badass women. The podcast, One Last Network, is centered on the support and services pet guardians may need as their pets age and ultimately leave our physical world.
It’s an effort to move forward the idea that pet loss grief is normal and natural. You loved your dog that damn much and losing him hurts, FFS. Grieve that time.
21 – Pet loss grief specialists educated
Another big aspect of One Last Network is educating pet photographers all around the world how to be a part of the support system for pet guardians who come to them for end of life photography sessions. With the grief education I did in 2022, I put together my own course that is specific to pet photographers and how they can help their clients understand and manage anticipatory grief.
1 – Dog photography conference attended
Shutterhound is the first (and probably only one ever) conference dedicated specifically to dog photography. No horses, cats or iguanas were discussed during my five days in Las Vegas for this epic event, hosted by one of my heroes, Kaylee Greer. While a lot of the content was directed toward beginners in the dog photography business, I came away inspired to focus more on personal projects, like helping shelter animals find forever homes.
1 – Image in the top 100 of the International Pet Photography Awards
The winners were announced on the final night of the Shutterhound conference at an awards ceremony. My friends Charlotte Reeves and Craig Turner-Bullock ran the show and presented a slideshow of the top 100 ranked images. Mine was in the slideshow. I leaped out of my chair, gave a Judd Nelson fist punch and yelled, “Fuck yeah!” to the shock of many in the audience.
Nothing like that has ever happened before and I was friggin’ chuffed.
One judge said:
I had three other images rank as “professional standard,” one bronze and three silver.
18 – Shelter dogs photographed
And as far as I know, six of them have been adopted, which warms my heart. Photographing shelter dogs takes a special set of skills. These poor animals are under so much stress from living in a controlled chaos. They have been abandoned by the humans they loved and trusted, and their lives exist in a cage with short bursts of time outdoors with the volunteers.
11 – Shelter cats photographed
Cats. CATS! They aren’t as terrifying as I always thought they were.
5 – Epic road trips
I love to travel. I love to see things old and new. My husband and I left Bella behind with friends and flew to Atlantic Canada in August where I introduced him to the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, lobster rolls in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and the sandy beaches on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.
I also got to head to Orlando, Florida, for Global Pet Expo where I networked my ass off with pet-related businesses. Then there was Vegas for Shutterhound, our annual family road trip to the Oregon Coast and finally a weekend in Leavenworth for some model shoots.
I would much rather travel with Bella than leave her anywhere, even if it’s with my husband. She turns 10 in March and every day away from her is a day stolen away from us.
7 – Badass women photographed
I unleashed my personal project to the world last week in this Instagram post:
Next week, I’ll tell you more about it but for now, I am forever grateful to the seven incredible women who had me photograph them and their dogs – all while they … uh, the women, not the dogs … were wearing lovely full-length gowns.
7 – Farewells
We sign up for some difficult moments when we decide to love an animal. Their time with us is too short, so often much shorter than we imagined it would be. Mr. Bojangles, Deniro, Porterhouse, Jake, Jasper, Ruby and Jack Jack are running among the stars now. The humans who had to say goodbye this year all hold a special place in my heart but none more than my friend, my brother’s girlfriend, who lives in New Brunswick and had to let her Jack Jack go. He was one of the first dogs I ever photographed when I started this business and I got to see him one more time in August.
Rest thee well, sweet Jackie.
5 resolutions for me
Now comes the really hard part, the silly promises we make to ourselves, the changes we say we’ll make in the new year.
And give up by the second week of February.
I’m going to keep them simple and achievable. They’re inspired by Bella and the way she moves through the world:
- Take more naps
- Observe the world around me
- Be more in the moment
- Be better at accepting compliments and praise
- Don’t be afraid to bark with a big voice
Above all else, I want to sniff the world around me and pee on all the fire hydrants … er, hike all the trails? This coming year, 2024, is going to be all about curiosity, adventure (duh!) and exploring.
Come along for the ride, eh?