Okay, this was a fun one. I interrupt my regular stream of human portraits to bring you something a little different!
I got a call in mid January from Jill, who said she found me on Google because she needed some photos of her dog for a magazine. I thought, "Well that's pretty cool!" I love being an equine photographer, Jill sounded so kind on the phone, and we all know how I feel about dogs. So win, win, right?
Wrong. It went more like WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN!
I arrive at Jill's property in Anderson, Tx, to an astoundingly beautiful vista of golden, rolling hills dotted with sparkling lakes. It's 60 degrees and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect winter day in Texas. There's a truck to my left with Labrador Retrievers in abundance, each excitedly barking and whining in anticipation, waiting for their chance to get out and do what they love: derby. For those of you who don't know (I didn't before this), derby is essentially the sport of duck hunting, but the dogs are in the spotlight. I'll do my best to describe it accurately, because it's truly amazing. When I arrived, Danny, a hall of fame winning professional retriever trainer in the states, was running another dog through some drills. A dummy (white thing pictured below) is already hidden about a football field's length away from where Danny unloads the dogs. He brings them to his cue spot, and then at the slightest utterance of a voice command, the dog is careening, I mean booking it, through the tall grass towards the spot where the dummy is hidden. Labs were made to run! Then, suddenly, Danny blows into a whistle once and the dog stops in his tracks, turns, and looks back at Danny, awaiting direction. I literally had to hold back tears watching because if that's not a beautiful metaphor for how we ought to respond to God when He speaks, I don't know what is. Danny has the dog's attention, and he lifts his right arm once. Then, the dog immediately turns and begins to run again, but this time with a trajectory to the right. Danny and the dog are communicating! With his arm Danny says, "a little to the right" and the dog sprints in that direction. Again, Danny and the dog are about half a football field away from each other as this is happening! They repeat this process of whistle, stop, stare, and new direction until the dog finds the dummie and proudly runs back to Danny. Truly, it's absolutely incredible to witness. I was blown away.
So I come to find out that this is why I'm here. Larry, Jill's retriever, has won the Purina Derby Retriever Award, which means she's the best at what I just witnessed in the states! And what's even more amazing, is that Larry is female, and female dogs rarely beat male dogs in this category simply because of the size difference. But Larry is incredibly fast and very intelligent and she, Danny and Jill are and amazing team who happened to beat the odds and win this award, which not only grants Larry the "top derby dog" title, but also a magazine cover of Retriever News!
As I slowly learned more details about the situation, it dawned on me how big a deal this whole thing was and how completely blessed I was to be part of it. What I originally saw as a really cool opportunity I was excited about, was turning into one of the most unique, cool things I've gotten to do in my photography business, as well as a total blessing in my life. I got to meet Jill, who is the loveliest, most genuine, kind hearted person I've met in a while. And I got to meet Danny, who is also deeply warm and kind, and witness how excellent he is at his job how he loves what he does because he cares for and respects the animals immensely. And finally, I got to meet, spend time with, and photograph Larry, who is utterly gorgeous, exuberant, sweet, and wholly happy doing what she gets to do.
As I stood at the top of the hill after the session I had to take a video (below) because I never wanted to forget how blessed I am and how amazing this day in Anderson, Texas was with Jill, Danny, and Larry!
Many thanks to sweet Jill, you have been a joy to work with and it's been a blessing to get to know you. Many thanks also to Danny - meeting you, hearing about your life and watching you do what you love is incredibly inspiring. And finally, many thanks to sweet Larry, because you probably could care less about winning this award because you simply live to do what you love and please the people who love you!