April 23rd was the ideal Spring day – birds chirping, 70-something degree weather, flowers blooming, and not a cloud in the sky. I inhaled the fresh air flowing through my screen door while I felt the warmth of the sun as it broke through the dancing leaves outside my window. With all of the beauty and light surrounding me, it was hard to imagine that something as dark and as ugly as cancer lingered in the shadows, ready to pounce at any innocent victim walking by. This time, that despicable cancer had gotten its grubby hands on the dog I was filming that very evening.
Shelby is a lovely mixed-breed pup that has recently been diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing numerous tests (including a biopsy close to her lungs), her parents and their oncologist decided to move forward with chemo and radiation. In fact, her first round of radiation was scheduled the the morning after our session.
That Spring evening, on the drive to Shelby’s home, the pressure to perform began to build. Although Shelby only lived a couple miles away, the short trip seemed to take hours. I couldn’t get there fast enough. The storyline and shot-list I made days earlier played over and over in my head. Voices were also saying, “don’t mess this up…this is so important…don’t mess this up.” Don’t get me wrong, I do this for every session. This was just amplified x 100!
After ringing on the doorbell, I could hear Shelby barking inside. Her oh-so-nice mom greeted me and invited me in to meet my special model. (Oh, did I mention Shelby’s mom is one of the most fabulous wedding and boudoir photographers ever? Yeah, check out Critsey Rowe Photography when you get the chance. Again, no added pressure on a photographer like me. Ha!) Anyway, because Shelby’s parents are photographers, Shelby knew what my camera was. This wasn’t necessarily an advantage. Actually she would prefer the camera to stay out of her face for a change. However, with a little treat motivation, Shelby warmed up to the whole this-is-about-you idea pretty quickly. Awesome!
Before we really began to film, we had to go through wardrobe. Because of Shelby’s biopsy, her back was shaved and she was sporting an interesting ‘do. She doesn’t usually dress up, but for this special occasion, she decided to go with a nice little pink frock. Super girly. Now we were ready!
Adrenaline took over at that point and Shelby’s parents probably thought I was a crazy woman. I had them do things over and over and, just like in any movie, it’s not necessarily shot in an order that makes sense. When nerves or pressure crept in, I would refer back to my shoot-list to make sure I didn’t forget any important elements to the story. After a few hours of filming, it was a wrap! I said my goodbyes and wished Shelby the very best luck for her upcoming radiation session. She then settled in for a peaceful nap.
When Shelby’s Moving Pet Portrait was complete, I didn’t release it right away. Again, insecurities overwhelmed me. I knew parts weren’t perfect – I mean, I’m still learning. I had a lunch date with Shelby’s mom in a couple days and I wanted to make sure she was happy with the video before it went public. May 5th was the day. Noon. At Dish in Plaza Midwood. Press play. She cried. I cried. All was well..including Shelby.
Since first meeting Shelby, she has undergone a few radiation sessions. According to her mom, she is feeling much better and seems much happier. I have no doubt she will continue to improve! I know all of the wonderful positivity and good vibes she’s been receiving over the past few days are sure to help as well.
So if you’ve read this mini-novel, I’m sure you’re ready to meet the famous Shelby. I introduce this special lady and her wonderful mom and dad…
And here is the YouTube link in case the above video won’t display on your viewing device: http://youtu.be/r1uyxbAIgYQ
Here are a few stills from after our filming. This first image shows Shelby’s shaved back and markings for her radiation…