A few weeks ago my aunt Carrie and her husband came to our house to get their dog professionally photographed. They hired a photographer who used to do album art for country music stars, but then he tired of pickup trucks and cowboy hats and decided to switch to pet photography. For a substantial sum he will come to your house and take glamor shots of your dog, and Carrie decided that the time had come to immortalize her dachshund.
This is one of his shots of Kenny Chesney…
…and this is one of his shots of a soulful pug.
Carrie’s dachshund, Lady, is not exactly a canine Heidi Klum, given her short legs and undisputedly plus-sized physique, but she has a certain je ne sais quoi and the camera loves her. She is a veteran of pictures with Santa at the mall and a few years ago she was Miss July on the Memphis Humane Society calendar (I don’t have a copy of that picture, but it’s pretty adorable).
Like most divas, Lady has a rather neurotic temperament. When the photographer rang the doorbell she began frantically barking and bouncing around the house (not that dachshunds can bounce much, but you could tell she was trying). It was perhaps not the strongest first impression she could have made, but Peter the pet photographer is a true professional who understands his market: the people who hire him value their dogs above humans, and the quickest way to win over the owners is to flatter the dogs.
So when he first walked in he took one look at the chubby, overwrought dog and exclaimed, “Oh, what a gorgeous girl! Oh, I just love dachshunds. She’s just perfect.”
Carrie beamed at him, pleased to find a kindred spirit. “She’s very special.”
“She certainly is! Oh, this is going to be delightful. We’ll have to pose her here on the couch – and maybe on this chair – and oh, if you had a red silk scarf to drape next to her it would be just perfect.”
“She’s not very good at doing what she’s told,” my uncle warned him.
“Of course she’s not!” Peter said happily. “She just has her own little personality and that’s wonderful. What a sweetheart.”
Thoroughly charmed, my aunt began giving him advice on what poses he should try for to best capture Lady’s essence. “Sometimes she goes around with her ear turned inside out like this, and sometimes she’ll stand and look at you with one little paw raised up,” she explained proudly. “That’s her signature gesture.”
Peter nodded and smiled and murmured, “Of course! Of course!” as he unpacked his equipment. He unfolded lights and lenses and tripods and began moving them into position. “You know, my wife looks like a dachshund,” he told us as he worked. “Beautiful Italian woman. Her face comes out just like that and she’s got those beautiful eyes.”
Over the next sixty minutes Mom and I kept exchanging looks and whispering “What a pro!” to each other as we watched him handle everyone in the room. It really was quite impressive. He made instant friends with Lady, complimented my mom and my aunt on their good looks and sisterly resemblance, and professed real interest when my aunt showed him pictures of the dog statues she has at her house. (They have two life-size greyhound statues on either side of the front door, and they put wigs and sunglasses on them every year in honor of Elvis’ birthday. Peter pronounced them delightful.)
The whole time he worked Peter was either making barking sounds so Lady would look at him or telling us stories about the time he met Elvis or how he launched his career by photographing naked men for Playgirl magazine. He dislikes the wealthy subdivision he lives in because everyone is blonde. “I have dark hair,” he told us. “They all think I’m a Mexican.”
Lady was clearly nervous throughout the process, but Peter coaxed her through it effortlessly. As he was leaving, he observed, “You know, there are two kinds of dachshunds. Some are completely incorrigible and you just can’t do anything with them, and some are just the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. You’ve got the good kind here.”
And my aunt looked down at her dog, who is anxious and paranoid and had insisted on getting up six times in the night to go outside, and said, “Yes, we certainly do.”
She refused to tell us how much the session had cost her – “you’ll just think I’m crazy” – but I think she got her money’s worth from the experience alone. And this picture perfectly captures Lady’s visionary side: