Bark Pet Photography Blog

Our First Book Signing & Mutt Mingle


Our very first book signing is almost here – and you can BRING YOUR DOG!  Of course, if you don’t have a dog, you’re still welcome to come…we guess.  It’s in L.A., so if you’re anywhere near/in the area, we sure hope you’ll join us.

What: Dog Photography For Dummies Book Signing & Mutt Mingle

When: Tuesday, 11/29 6 – 8 pm

Where: Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, 564 S. Main Street, 90013


It’ll be a great event, complete with all of the fun and fancy details Pussy & Pooch events are known for, like gourmet human and doggie treats, custom adult beverages, and lots of doggie socializing for all of L.A.’s most metropolitan mutts.  Kim and I will be on hand to sign our books (you can buy a copy there if you don’t have one), raffle off a bunch of awesome swag, talk about how to use dog photography to help shelter animals, and more.

Obviously, this is a book about dog photography…and it would make a great gift for dog lovers everywhere.  It also is good for small business owners who want to launch or better their biz.  We devote a whole chapter to how we set Bark up and how we’ve become one of LA’s premeire pet photogs in 2 short years so you can see how we did it.  After all, our methods can be applied to any small biz looking to make a splash.

But more than anything, Kim and my biggest wish for the book is that it helps rescuers and advocates everywhere save dogs’ lives.  We have woven a rescue message throughout the book and devote a whole chapter to how to use photography to make a difference in the lives of rescue dogs.

So come on out and join the fun on 11/29!  We would absolutely LOVE to see you.

We Don’t Sell Photos

We hear it all the time, usually delivered with a mix of jealousy and suspicion:

“So you take pictures of pets for a living?  That must be the best job ever!”

Yes, yes we do (at least for some of our living)…and yes, it is.

But we aren’t just taking pictures…we (humbly aspire to) do more.

What we’re really hoping to achieve with our little endeavor here is to help people capture a permanent sliver of the dog (or cat…or rat…or horse…) they love more than anything…and whose life is entirely too short.

It’s their only fault–isn’t it–that they don’t live forever?

We hope to freeze all of the details–the tufts of fur, the silly freckles, the dirty paws wrapped around a neck–in time so that when time runs out, the humans left behind have something to hold.

A photo isn’t much, we realize, when facing the abyss of grief for our lost pets…but we hope that it can be something.  We hope that maybe…just maybe…a photo we take can offer comfort to a grieving family when nothing else is able to.

And for the pets who haven’t found their families yet, well…we hope a photo we take will be their break.  We hope that our photo will free them from the bars and the cold cement and never-ending sounds of distress and constant looming of death.

We don’t sell photos; we (hopefully) help preserve legacies.  And if we’re really lucky, we help start new ones.

We’re about to embark on a new chapter of our journey.  Our book is due out in a matter of weeks (less in some markets), and we hope to help even more people and animals with it.  And no matter what happens and where this takes us, we will always stay true to our original mission: to get images in their rightful hands.  All of our sessions include prints and digital files.  Always have, always will.  So that you can always have YOUR photos.  YOUR memories.  YOUR legacies.  Cuz when it’s all said and done, we hope to make a difference in someone’s (or many someones’) life.  And that’s really how we hope to make a living.

I'm holding you forever!




A Shy Dog’s Moment

This originally appeared on 8/15/11 on Sarah Leaps.  This version has a lot more photos!

One of the things we love most about our private photo sessions (aside from working with sick or elderly pets) is working with shy or fearful animals.  It’s pretty challenging, but it’s so completely worth it.  We had a shoot like that on August 14 with Oliver.

Oliver’s mom took advantage of our 4-0-Fido deal in the Wall Street Journal and booked a session for her beloved rescue pooch.  She warned us that he was “very timid around strangers,” but assured us that since we were females, we’d probably be okay (“all strange men terrify him,” she wrote in her email).

We let her know that we have experience with timid pups and that we specialize in working with them.  It might seem like we overstated it a tad (I mean, at what point can you really declare yourself a “specialist” in something, anyway?), but given that what we really wanted to say was, “oh, poor baby.  Don’t worry.  We know he’s probably been through so much and his heart has been hurt and we will take care of it.  We love him already and we will soothe him without even touching him and we’ll let him sniff my soul from afar,” we think our response was actually quite tempered.

When we arrived, we saw a medium-sized shepherd/hound boy peeking at us through the back gate.  A gate, we would discover, did not even belong to him.  Apparently, Oliver has endeared himself to all of the neighbors and goes on visits regularly.  His mom fetched him from the yard next door and brought him into her courtyard for the session.

The intro was without bark or growl, but he definitely was unsure.  His tail tucked itself up between his quivering haunches.  He ducked right under the patio table and eyed us from the corner. As is our practice with all timid clients, we extended our “getting to know you period” and spent the first fifteen minutes alternating between chatting with his mom and throwing treats to him from afar, enticing him to come closer, a la E.T.  We let him get used to our smells and voices (though we spoke softly and specifically kept conversation directed at him to a minimum).  He loved the treats and it didn’t take too long before he gently (SO gently!) began to take them out of our hands.  But then he’d run back over to his bed or under the patio table to eat them.  And if we made any movements at all, we’d have to start all over again.  During this period, we didn’t make eye contact with him.  We just let him feel secure and unchallenged so he could nibble freely, trusting that we would not hurt him.  I (Sarah) kept my palm open and low for him to access and never reached to pet him.

Stay away from me with that thing

Poor Oliver, just a few minutes into the session

Once we felt like we had built up a solid enough reputation with Oliver, it was time to break out the camera for him to get used to before Kim started photographing.  The movement of getting it out scared him into hiding again, but the camera itself didn’t seem to faze him, as long as I kept dispensing the treats.  I coaxed him out from under the table and by this time, he was able to stand in front us for extended periods of time without running away (I think he was starting to realize it was a much more efficient approach to getting as many treats as possible).  Since he could now hold a stance within inches of us and the camera, it was time to see if he would allow his gaze to follow the treat–no matter where it was.

I gave him a few more treats in my open palm and started using my voice to praise him, which he appeared cool with.  Then I picked a treat up and held it between my thumb and finger for him to take.  He did it without hesitation.  So I took another and raised it up.  He followed it.  I raised it higher.  He stayed with it.  I placed it right next to my eye, and that was the moment we saw each other.  I rewarded his bravery and quick progress with the treat and we did it again. And again.  And after a few more practice “watches,” Kim started clicking.  I could tell he wanted to dart.  That camera was fine when it was just sitting in Kim’s hands, but now that the huge lens was dangling in the air and pointed right at him, it was a different story.  And I saw his hind legs shuffle.  But you know what?  He didn’t move.  He looked at me.  And the treats.  And he was ready to work.

This might be okay...

This might be okay...

And boy, was he ever!  I discovered he knew how to sit and he’d stand and follow that treat with his eyes like it was his job.  He was focused and found his rhythm and didn’t lose it, even during the “costume” changes.  His moment had arrived!

Throughout our hour together–as so many timid (and non-timid) pets do–Oliver found a side of himself he may not known existed and totally immersed himself in it.  Although it happens all the time during our sessions, that moment never stops being magical to me.  It’s like the universe suddenly shifts. Sometimes it takes fifteen seconds and sometimes it takes fifteen minutes, but whenever that moment comes, it’s worth waiting for.  In that moment, the animal make the decision to stop teetering on the fence and commit with all four feet to this fantastic game that involves treats raining down from the sky with every click.  And more than that, they make the decision to connect. And I guess when it comes down to it, that’s what I’m here for.  I’m here to believe that moment will come.  I’m here to usher it in and bear witness to it.  And to celebrate its arrival like the tremendous accomplishment it is.

Oh yeah, I'm getting the hang of this now!

Oh yeah, I'm getting the hang of this now!

On my personal blog, I write about the Early Believers–the people, organizations, contests, and achievements that saw something in us before we did…the people who–because they believed in us–somehow directly had a hand in leading us to where we are now.  I guess, in a way, I try to serve in that role for all of the animals we photograph.  I’m here to try to help them feel safe enough to share the beauty their families (current or future) see so Kim can capture it forever.

His mom adopted Oliver from a rescue called Thumping Tails that had pulled him out of the East Valley Animal Shelter here in Los Angeles about six years ago.  One can only guess at the horrors he’s had to endure in his life, but there he was, standing in front of us, sitting on command, and–I kid you not–striking poses on his Beverly Hills lawn. Despite his trembling backside, he pressed on.  He trusted us–in less than an hour.  No matter how many times I see it, it always, ALWAYS nearly reduces me to tears.  Animals’ capacity for forgiveness, trust, and love is way beyond my human comprehension.

As part of our pre-shoot correspondence, we always ask our clients if they have any sort of vision for specific shots.  Oliver’s mom wrote to us, simply–and powerfully–“I only have 2 photos…both taken by male photographers…in both, he has a terrified look in his eyes.  My only goal for the photo session is to have a photo of him looking relaxed and happy.”  As you can see,  Kim got some photos that just break your heart with joy, don’t they?   Despite whatever old ghosts continue to haunt him (and shame on whoever put them there), Oliver overcame them.  He’s a beautiful, sweet boy whose mom will now have images to match.

We love that we get to spend time with him and all of the others who just need a little time, patience, and belief shared with them…and we love that we can give the humans behind the animals photographs that are REAL.  Oliver’s mom saved him.  And continues to every day.  And we feel so lucky that we can provide her a keepsake that actually looks like her precious boy.  They both deserve it.  And then some.

I'm a model...ya know wut I mean...

I'm a model...ya know wut I mean...

Rainbows and Love Letters

Well, the end is in sight!  We can’t believe it’s gone so fast…but here we are in the “Author Review” stage already–basically, we’ve turned in all of our stuff and now our editors are filtering it back to us, a few chapters at a time, to look at the edits and changes they’ve made.  They do this by emailing Word documents that track their changes…and because we have 2 authors and 3 editors (who sometimes work on a couple of different computers), the thing ends up looking like a Pride parade puked all over it–but in a good, rainbowy way*.

Editing Makes Us Feel So Gay!


The first editing pass is always taken by our project editor, Vicki.  She checks it for general flow, consistency, and organization.  Then she gives it to Todd, our copy editor, who goes through it with his style, grammar, and mechanics fine-toothed comb.  Then it’s passed on to our tech editor, Jenny (a fellow pet photographer), who checks all of our photography and doggie facts to make sure we’re telling the truth and stuff.

It took us awhile to get used to writing within a well-established style and template.  The For Dummies brand is so successful that they don’t want any of us creative types messing it up.  One false move, and “taking liberties with” becomes “driving a great brand into the ground.”  None of us want that to happen.  Now that we’re into it, and have been for quite sometime, it’s been great to have a whole team of people to figure things out with.  We all stick to our own little silos for the most part, but if we have something to contribute that’s a little out of our wheelhouse, we still pipe up.  Not only do we want this book to be the very best it can be, we just love the process of working it out.

Speaking of that, a BIG THANK YOU to the fans who answered our call a few months back for dog names.  We’ve worked just about everyone into the book and with a couple more batches of chapters to go, it’s looking good that everyone will get their mention (with many of our clients having actual photos in the book)!  And thank you for all of your opinions about the cover shot and random photos throughout the past few months.  Your participation has been vital in helping this book reach its potential!  If you haven’t yet had your chance to influence this book’s future, be sure to stop by our Facebook page–when we need to poll the audience, that’s where we do it!

It’s been an incredible journey so far, and as the pages are coming to an end, we’re getting a little weepy with gratitude aimed at everyone who’s ever done anything to lend a paw.  We couldn’t continue to do this without you guys…and that just means the world to us.  It’s very tear-inducing.  But enough of the waterworks–cuz more than anything else, we’re really, really excited to see how this 320-page love letter to dogs turns out.

We heart dogs times 320 pages


*Congrats and thank you to NY for passing the latest legislation for equality!

So You Wanna Hear How the Writing’s Coming?
March 16, 2011, 7:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As you know, we’ve been hard at work on our book, Dog Photography For Dummies (Wiley, 2011).  We know some of you out there are curious about how it’s going so far.  We also know that some of you out there are hoping to write your own book one day.  Here’s a little peek into our experience and what we’re learning so far.

Working with the big guys

When Wiley contacted us out of the blue, we considered it part luck, but also part hard work.  Wiley found us through the Internet research they did.  We still don’t know what made them put us into the ring over others, but we DO know that they found us because of all of the marketing and business development we’ve done.  Whether you’re a writer, a photographer, or entrepreneur, having a presence is key.

Some might argue that working with a well-seasoned giant when we are but infants makes us extra vulnerable to pooping all over ourselves.  For us, it happens to be very positive so far and we consider ourselves lucky to have this as our first publishing experience.

The vetting/application process was rigorous and lasted awhile, so we didn’t allow ourselves to get too excited.  At each phase, we made it a point to give them what they wanted, when they wanted, with as little drama and maintenance as possible.  We kept our heads down, did the work, went above and beyond where we could to shine, and handed it all in on time. A long-standing, well-established operation such as Wiley needs authors who can work within the proven structure and formula and can meet deadlines.  We figured if we could do that and demonstrate our competency with our own PR and platform-building, we’d have a good shot.

The platform

As we were working on the actual writing portion of the vetting process, we simultaneously tended to our fan base. We were far from a contract, but we knew part of their decision would be based on how motivated and skilled we’d be in pushing our potential book and how big our potential audience would be.

Didn’t put all of our dogs on one bed

With such a (for us) huge prospect in front of us, it may have been easy to put everything we had into the process and then just sit back and hope we’d get it–after all, we’re good people and hard workers, right?  Good things happen to good people?    Well, even though we worked our butts off on it and gave it everything we could, we didn’t stop there. We kept the photog biz moving like nothing unusual was happening.

We kept a lid on it…and so did some of you

Except for our closest circle, no one knew that we were going through this process.  We remained tight-lipped about it.  Even though Wiley hadn’t given us any guidance around that, we decided to keep it to ourselves.  We wanted to both demonstrate discretion and not have to be embarrassed in front of a ton of people if we didn’t get it.  Yes, it’s exciting…and we did feel the need to share things along the way, which is why we chose trusted people in which we confided.  The last thing we wanted was some sort of rogue Facebook status to lose us the opportunity.

Along the way, we got a lot of positive feedback from our Wiley contact…and even when our acquisitions editor called to give us the good news over the phone that we had indeed scored the contract, we didn’t go public.  We waited another two weeks until we had our signed contract in our hands to make the official announcement.  And it was worth the wait.  🙂

The real work is upon us

Now that we’re in contract, it’s all about cranking it out.  The acquisitions editor who found and signed us turned us over to our project and copy editors.  Our deadlines are broken up into quarters, at which, 25% of the book is due.  Our project editor, Vicki, helped us out by breaking our first quarter up into weekly deadlines.  This has been really helpful for us.  As new writers, this has given us a structure by which to train ourselves.  So far, we’ve turned in three full chapters and we’ve got another one due on Monday.

Admittedly, it took us a second to figure out a good working relationship, but now that we have, it’s running like clockwork (like a sleep-deprived, caffeine-hazy clock, but hey, it still tells time).

Kim does all the technical writing.  I do all the intro/scene-setting stuff, banter, and pacing.  It’s nice because the For Dummies books give equal weight to education and entertainment of their readers.  Usually what happens is Kim will take the first crack at a chapter to build the technical framework and then she’ll pass it to me.  I add my “hey, I’m a Dummie too” stuff and do a full edit of the chapter.  If Kim wants to see it again, I’ll give it back to her for a review, and then I do ANOTHER edit before we send it to Vicki.  Last week, we gave Kim a break, though, and we’re doing one of the tech-light chapters.  Roles were reversed.

We should get edits back on our first chapters soon to commence another step–revising.  Even if we totally bomb (I don’t think we will), Vicki is a great cheerleader and organizer.  She’s teaching us a lot so far and is always insightful with her ideas.  Before she hands us back edits, she always says, “don’t worry about all of the red!  You guys are in good shape.”  Tracy (the acquisitions editor) was the same way with us.  I wonder if it’s an editor thing, a woman thing, or a Wiley thing.  Or if we just got lucky?

Once we get through our first quarter (March 21), we’ll only submit chapters on our quarter deadlines…until we reach June!

It pretty much boils down to us needing to keep up this pace of a chapter per week.

Once we get through this first quarter, we’ll probably start working on a marketing timeline (which we hope will include a lot of client and fan participation).  We’re not sure what the formula at Wiley is for that, but we know it’s robust–they’ve got an entire department for it.  Either way, Kim and I intend to work equally as hard on that…cuz writing a great book is one thing, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it (speaking of that, if any of you out there would like to host us for interviews, signings, demos, etc, let us know).

And on that note, it’s time for us to get back to chapter twelve…

We’re Just a Coupla Dummies
February 10, 2011, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

We’ve got some exciting news to share…

…news we’ve been holding in since September…news that is finally official and for sure and awe-freaking-some!

It seems almost surreal that the time has come to finally announce it, but boy, are we excited!


Ready to hear it?



How ‘bout now?  Are you ready now?



Okay…we’ll stop teasing and just tell you.














You read that right!  Kim Rodgers and Sarah Sypniewski have just gone into contract with Wiley Publishing to author the official Dog Photography For Dummies, due out later this year!


Man, it feels amazing to write that.  Actually, we’d rather scream it from the rooftops, but we’ll settle for this.  Might as well get used to writing, huh?


Anyway, that’s the big news we’ve been holding in for far too long, and before we go into sequester for the next 5 months, we thought we’d take a second to let you all in on the secret.  Stay tuned to our Facebook page, newsletter, and various blogs for periodic updates on the process…


And if you want the full story, read on.




In February 2009, when Kim’s company was in the thick of dealing with the recession by reducing staff hours, Kim took matters into her own hands.  Though she was nervous and unsure, she took a leap.  She decided to create Bark Pet Photography as a way to pursue her love of photography and animals.  I was totally on board and helped her get it off the ground.  In a matter of two years, Bark Pet Photography has become one of the premier pet photographers in Los Angeles.  Kim’s work has been featured all over (maybe you saw her on recently), we’ve been able to help all sorts of needy animals, and we’ve met amazing people along the way.


Our success with Bark (along with a few other factors) inspired me to follow my dreams, too.  It took me a little longer to get there, but on September 3, 2010, I submitted my resignation to AIDS/LifeCycle, where I’d been for six years.  I left the only industry I knew (nonprofit) to create my own path—part Bark, part consulting, and part writing.  That last part–the writing part–that’s where my true dream was; the other stuff was insurance (though happy-to-do-it insurance).  I had no idea if I was making the right decision, let alone how I would go about making a career out of writing…but I had to try.


On September 15, 2010, we got an email through Bark’s website.  It was from an acquisitions editor at Wiley Publishing—the For Dummies division (yeah—as in, those ubiquitous yellow and black books that teach you how to do everything from using Excel to building a shed).  They were looking to publish a Pet Photography For Dummies and would we be interested in putting our hats in the ring to write it, she wanted to know?


Um.  Excuuuse me?


What was that?


We couldn’t believe the timing.  If I was looking for a sign from the universe that I wasn’t totally out of my mind leaving a well-paying, respectable job for nothing certain (and I was), I had found one.  And if Kim was looking for a sign that she had managed somehow to become a respected expert in her field (at least in the eyes of one of the biggest publishers in the country), there she had it.


We, of course, immediately told the editor we’d be interested in trying for the contract…and so began the process of vetting: credentials, samples, proposals…it took a lot of hard work on both sides, but now we can safely say that IT’S HAPPENING!


We’re a little nervous, but mostly we are just out of our minds with excitement.  We look forward to sinking our teeth into the process and share with the world all we know about this field.


I, myself, feel extra grateful–in just four short months to the day, (my last day at ALC was October 8 and we signed the contract on February 8–my father’s birthday) I am writing pretty much full-time.  I still can’t believe it.


We’ll see how long it lasts…but for now, we’re just counting our blessings, rolling up our sleeves and diving into this new experience!


PS–we’ll still be taking photography and consulting clients during this time, so feel free to contact us to book us when needed!









It’s P.L.A.Y. time!

Sometimes, it seems that no matter how many different stores we visit, we end up with the same selection.  Unique inventory is hard to come by, even among the boutiques.  That’s why, when we saw dog beds made by newcomer SF-based P.L.A.Y., we had to take the time to write to founder William Chen to give him four paws up for his rockin’ modern design that we hadn’t seen anywhere else.  We totally scored when William wrote back to say he’d let our pack (3 chi mixes and a Pittie) test some of his stuff—4 of the Cotton Candy small dog beds and 1 of their best-selling Urban Denim large dog beds.

Can I just say we all love them?

We use them inside—in fact, I have the yellow Cotton Candy bed on my lap as I type.  Our 10-year-old Kali loves to lie on it while I work…and the Urban Denim is less than a foot from my chair, complete with nesting blankets, in position for 65-pound Delilah, although at the moment, 6-pound Piko has claimed it.


Delilah the Pit Bull loves Urban Denim

Delilah enjoying a rare Chi-free nap on Urban Denim

We use them outside—we’ve got the blue Cotton Candy on our front porch for when Sammy wants to sun or Kali wants to sit on our Adirondack chairs (if the bed isn’t on the chair, she will refuse)…and when the dogs get too yappy in the front, we’ll move them to the backyard.

Piko and Delilah share some Cotton Candy

Piko and Delilah sharing Cotton Candy in the backyard

We steal them to use as our own pillows when we’re watching TV.

We offer them to our guests to sit on during game night—they love them too.

They have stood up to digging, to sliding, to mud, water, and slobber (and dog drool, too).  They haven’t faded in the sun or lost their shape from when I fold them up behind my head.   Also, for this review, I threw one of the Cotton Candy beds in the washer and dryer, even though it didn’t need it.  It came out of the dryer a little “fluffy,” as though the filling got all crazy with the heat.  I’m sitting on it now, though, and it’s going back to its original dimensions.

We can safely proclaim that these offer both beauty and brawn.  Phew!  Nothing’s worse than a hot guy who can’t bench press his own house (what?  What does that even mean?  I think I might be watching too much Jersey Shore).

Snooki and the Juiceheads aside, these beds are the shizz.  They are hot, they are strong, and they are better than tan; they’re green—yep, check out how many recycled plastic bottles go into each bed.

Sammy shows off the Green

Sammy loves the cleverness of how Green the green is

William and his team (including Momo the Pug) are experts in manufacturing, design, and doggies.   They’ve ditched the shortcuts in favor of creating a product that shows off intense attention to seemingly small stuff, like seams, stitching, and thick zippers.   But as our pack can attest to, it’s these little things that add up to big payoff.


The greatest seams on Earth

See how all the seams line up? That little details sets P.L.A.Y apart.

They might be a little pricier than your average bed, but still the deal of the century, as you’ll be hard pressed to find another one that can even come close to competing with P.L.A.Y’s line.  As luck would have it, though, they are running a contest for a FREE bed, so get on in there and git you one!  Now, if only they’d hurry up with the Chicago skyline design

Kali waits for the lap...and Chicago

Kali waiting for my lap...and the Chicago skyline

For more photos of our great adventures with our P.L.A.Y. beds, visit our Facebook page!

Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season…or they might cut you

The TSA is feeling people up, the commercials for 3 am doorbusters are on loop (“Mountain series.  Level 10.  Backwards.”), and weird weather has unleashed itself on all corners of the country.  This can only mean one thing: the holidays are upon us!

Amidst the shopping lists, relatives filing in from far-flung places, and attempts to impress the in-laws, we can’t forget to do some deliberate planning to make sure our pets are safe and sound this season.  You’ve spent all year being good so you can get the XBox Kinect and a trio of Singamajigs; you don’t want to blow it right at the end because you killed Fluffy.

We’ve put together a little list to help you avoid the guilt that comes with being a neglectful parent (though we can’t do anything about the kind your mother will heap on you; sorry), so have at it!

Joking aside, pet safety is definitely an important and serious matter, and if you take a few minutes now to think about things, you can make the holidays happy and safe for everyone.

  • Resist the urge to let the little ones join in on the feast.  They might be pretty successful in convincing you that they haven’t eaten in months with one pathetic look.  Believe me, you’re the one who’ll be looking pathetic when you’re dealing with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting while trying to get dessert on the table.  Worst case scenario, little Kali could end up with a pancreatitis attack, which can be fatal.  Between the sudden diet change and the massive amounts of fat, holiday meals are just plain toxic (and they’re bad news for pets, too).

Cat Vomit sign

  • That goes for bones.  Though they are oh-so-savory and delicious, they are just plain dangerous.  They can splinter and puncture your poor little guy’s insides (that’s assuming he gets it all the way down and doesn’t choke on it first).  Unless you have a Brontosaurus femur hiding in the back of your freezer, bones are a no-no.  Not every pooch or feline (or bunny or snake or bird or pot-bellied pig) will be as lucky as ol’ Snot in National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation.  Instead, give them something that’s designed specifically for your type of pet.

Don't eat the cartoon dinosaur!

  • Snot’s got another little example of what not to do–and that’s the classic trash can rifle maneuver.  Things are going to be a little crazy, and the last thing you need is a redecorated kitchen à la garbage (very urban, but not so chic), which is bound to happen if you leave your pets unattended around the amazing smells of leftovers that are wafting just at their nose level.  Though it certainly led to much hilarity and hijinks in the movie, I doubt Chevy Chase will be sitting at your holiday table so the humor will just be completely lost on everyone except maybe the cat who tore into that sweet-smelling abyss of carcasses and casseroles.  You might as well bite the bullet, throw on a coat, and traipse outside to take the trash out right away and just head that little nightmare off at the pass.  You have permission to gloat as you pass your pet on the way out.

  • Speaking of the way out, if your pet likes to play welcome wagon and greet all visitors, make sure you have a tight grip on him as people come and go.  Also be sure to keep a collar with current ID tag on at all times, in case he gets you back for that little move you made with the trash and darts.

  • Another thing you can consider doing for people who haven’t met your pets before is provide them with a little tip sheet via email, like I did.  Now, yours doesn’t have to be a 6 paragraph essay that details each pet’s personality (yes, I’ll admit it–I’m a little neurotic), but a few pointers sent ahead of time like “don’t bend down to pet Sammy; let her come to you” or “if you value your hands, don’t stick them in Piko’s cage” will go a long way.  Luckily, my family is full of dog people and they understand my neurosis, so the email generated quite a fun thread of discussion that I was included on, instead of secretive “reply-all-except-take-Sarah-off” responses or sudden declined invitations.  Now, I know that while the intros won’t feature any sort of polished choreography, I they will be as stress-less as possible.

  • You might also want to set up a few extra beds or quiet areas in the corners of various rooms for your pets.  Their usual favorite spots might be overwrought with relatives you don’t like and that weird neighbor you had to invite because you borrowed his electric mixer.  Consider also getting some extra toys or something new to occupy your companions while they wait for the party to clear out (who says you can’t buy love?).

This is what I WOULD be doing if you weren't here. Jerks.

  • Don’t forget about their regular needs.  I know this sounds totally basic, but I’ve gone to many a party where I’ve seen dry water bowls or stares locked on the food bag because their owners are too caught up to remember their routine.  To avoid guests going rogue and giving your pet the entire bag out of guilt (like I’ve been known to do), maybe set a timer or put it on your list to feed your pets, take them to the bathroom, and check their water frequently.

Water. Please. I'm. Dying.

This isn’t an end-all-be-all list.  It’s just meant as a little primer to get your wheels turning.  If you have a tip or idea you want to share, feel free to comment; we’d love to hear from you–especially if you can work a movie reference into it.

Be safe out there and happy holidays from all of us at Bark!

“Can’t You Just FALL or Something?”
January 9, 2010, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Birthday Surprise, Client Shoots, Shepherd Mix

We just got back from a great shoot.  And by great, I mean AWE-some (sing it for extra emphasis). I guess we should’ve known we were in for something special when the driving instructions the clients gave us included “our house kind of looks like an office building.”  We turned down their street, and as we drove past factories and warehouses, I got a little panicked.  I didn’t see any offices, any houses, or any office-like houses.  And then I did.  At the very end of a tiny industrial street on the west side of LA, there it stood: 3 stories of beautiful steel and beams–a live/work loft that would make any architect or artist drool like a Mastiff. 

I grabbed a few more gratuitous glances at it as we waited for our security clearance.  See, Kim had to call the clients to announce our arrival because we were keeping the shoot on the down low.  A mother-daughter pair booked us to honor their husband/father’s upcoming birthday.  They’re going to present him with the finished products in a few weeks!

We’ve done surprise shoots before, so it wasn’t anything new in concept.  But what WAS new?  Um…well…ol’ husband/father (let’s call him HF for short) was there.  As in, in the HOUSE while we were shooting.  Yep.  Somewhere in that beautiful structure, HF went about his business, oblivious to us (thanks to Son, who kept him occupied somehow).

Kim and I had a lot of fun with Della and Cody, beautiful Sheppy mix girls.  While Della fronted at first, she quickly morphed into a supermodel before our eyes as she showed us her best Zoolander faces.  Cody was more timid than her sister, but overcame her fear of the c-a-m-e-r-a (yes, you have to spell it; otherwise, she goes charging into her crate when she hears the word.  Cellphone cameras, we’re told, are her worst nemeses) when we let her play ball.

We did the outside shots first, and were about 5 minutes from being done with the den when we heard a precarious knock at the door.  Mom called out, “who is it?”

“Me.”  It was Son.  “You’re out of time.”

HF was apparently on his way up.  Luckily, we had gotten plenty of shots, but we still had all of our lights to pack up.

Daughter started panicking–“well, go stall him some more!”

“No…it was hard enough to keep him out of here for as long as I did!  What am I supposed to do?”

“I dunno…tell him there’s something wrong with your computer and you need him to look at it.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with it!  He’s too smart for that.”

“Come ON!  You’re going to ruin the surprise!”

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know!  Can’t you just FALL or something?”

“What…you want me to break my leg?”

Meanwhile, Kim and I are ripping power cords out of walls and collapsing light stands like our lives depend on it.  I narrowly miss impaling my own eye with one of our umbrellas by a centimeter.  We release the dogs from the den as a feeble ploy to both distract HF and give some impression of normalcy. 

Daughter realizes the futility and goes off to try her hand at keeping HF at bay.  Mom decides she should take us down the back stairs and runs off to make sure she knows the code to the gate.  Son stands by and helps Kim and me exit swiftly and soundlessly.

It was a pretty hilarious sight–I’m tiptoeing down the stairs, praying that the Pelican cases I’m carrying don’t freakishly swing through their glass walls and Kim’s right behind me with her camera backpack and all the loose odds n ends spilling out of her arms.  Mom is waiting for us at the bottom and half-giggles, half-hisses to me over her shoulder, “HOW MUCH DO WE OWE YOU?” 

“THREE FIFTY,” I giggle-hiss back over my tiptoeing. 



We stop outside just long enough for Mom to write the check, sign the release, and let the dogs do a few laps around the car that is serving as our writing desk.  They have no idea what’s happening, but they sure think it’s fun!

We stuffed the check and paperwork in the bag, Mom folded the product catalogue up in her pocket, and we went running off into the industrial-come-residential sunset.

 It was a great way to spend a Saturday evening.  Thank you!

Names have been concealed to protect the mischevious generous.