Just home from a solid day of photography at the Martin Dawe Studios in Slough. As always these are as tiring as they are enjoyable. I'm covered in hair and slobber and aching from scrabbling around on the studio floor trying to get dogs to sit still and put their ears up!
They say never work with kids and dogs, but we had a great time! We had a very photogenic seven year old boy with such a cheeky grin who had an amazing rapport with his serene eight year old Rottie. The big dog was so very careful not to step on the little boy, really gentle and considerate. And we had very cute and smiley baby with the family Giant and Standard Schnauzers. (@pixies_mum from Twitter. Magical photos which she might post on Twitter later.)
At various points the studio changed mood completely and was full of Rough Collies (gentle, quiet but a little bit flighty if there was a loud bang), Rotties - mainly rescue (solid, sociable, gentle and waggy), Pekes (bustling, perky and seemingly very many more than four!) and Irish Setters who fell into two distinct camps (gorgeous and dippy or gorgeous and surprisingly well behaved).
Surprise easiest shots of the day were with the two nine week old Irish Setters. So calm and sensible. They posed perfectly - sitting and staying and just looking adorable from every angle. Just shows you can't always go by the rule book - buying littermates seem to have worked very well in this case, but the owners were very experienced and had obviously put such a lot of work in already.
And the last two dogs of the day - what a treat. Natalie Mangnall with Irish Setter Finnella and Jack Russell Travis. Some of you may know that Natalie is very bravely battling terminal cancer and is enduring lots of unpleasant treatment trying to buy as much extra time as possible.
Even though the treatment would knock most people sideways Natalie always spends lots of time with her dogs no matter how poorly she feels and she has raised and trained her two beautiful dogs to the very highest possible standard.
I have never seen anyone train an Irish Setter to do even a fraction of the things that Finnella did in front of our cameras today. It really was inspirational seeing her work. Everything brain box Travis could do, Finnella could do, too - even though she's only just one year old.
Last time we had Travis at a shoot I asked whether he could put his head between his paws and look sad. Natalie hadn't thought of teaching that command until then and went home and trained both dogs to do this on the command of 'say you're sorry'.
Amazing. And both dogs had mastered a look that melts your heart!
Natalie and her partner came all the way from the Lake District to our shoot in Slough. What superstars. And here I am moaning that I feel tired after my day, I'm ashamed. Natalie really is an inspirational woman.
If anyone wants a dog for acting or commercials I couldn't recommend Finnella and Travis highly enough. I've never encountered better trained dogs even in professional hands. I know how proud Natalie would be see her beloved dogs on TV - it would give her a real boost although I have to say that despite the cards she's been dealt she's such a smiley positive person, you'd never guess. Anyone got any contacts to make a dream come true?
Thank you to everyone who came to the shoot - and to Chloe for organising it all!