Here's an event for dog lovers to mark on their calendars: On Sunday, Nov. 23, from noon to 3 p.m., professional photographer David Jensen is having a launch event for his new book, "When Age Has No Leash -- lessons learned from senior dogs," the second in his "It's Important to Paws" series. The event will take place at Alyeska Canine Trainers, 549 W. International Airport Road.
Rumor has it that some of the dogs featured in the full-color, 160-plus-page hardcover book will be there for the premiere, so if you're looking for the kind of pet therapy that only a senior dog can provide, you might want to check it out and be among the first to see these incredible photos of senior dogs.
I had the rare opportunity to see this project develop from the inside. As a longtime fan of David Jensen Photography, I'm a Facebook friend of his. When he saw that my 14-year-old rescued Chesapeake Bay retriever, Lucy, was injured, he thought she'd be a good addition to this book. In fact, she was the first of nearly 70 dogs that he photographed for the book.
It didn't take long for me to realize that this project is very personal for David. Throughout his professional career, he's volunteered to take pictures of the Friends of Pets adoptions that have appeared in this newspaper since 1989. You don't do that for 25 years without having a passion for it.
Beyond that, David will tell you that he was inspired to do this book by his own dog, 15 1/2-year-old Grizzabella. David and his wife Carol adopted the shepherd/retriever mix when she was 13 years old. It can sometimes be difficult for an adoption agency to find homes for senior dogs, something David would like to see change. Senior dogs are amazing, he says.
"She's just been a great, fantastic dog. Every time something happens, you can see her expression, her passion for life. She's so curious and doesn't think about age."
At about age 15, Grizzabella started slowing down, David says. But she didn't lose her zest for life. In fact, David has been known to physically carry her 50-plus pounds on walks because while she might struggle on her feet, she loves the sights, sounds and smells of her daily walk.
An anecdote from David's press release on the book shows that it's not just the dogs that are special. It's owners and fans of senior dogs who show a level of compassion that always makes him smile.
"Even after the book was completed, I continue to learn from compassionate people and their love for senior dogs," he writes. "Recently, while carrying Grizzabella down the street -- she's unable to complete long hikes the way she used to -- I was spotted by a passing driver who turned his car around to ask if I needed help. I explained that I was 'walking' my 50-pound Grizzabella to a place she's always enjoyed visiting, sniffing and savoring and that everything was fine. I thanked the driver for caring so much. Before leaving, the driver thanked me for helping to maintain Grizzabella's quality of life."
Just a year ago, David published his first book, "It's Important to Paws," to much acclaim. It won the Independent Publisher's gold medal award in the category of animals and pets. Much of the advance funding for both books came through Kickstarter campaigns, and David raised about $17,000 for the new book online in a matter of weeks.
While he described the first book as coffee table reading with anecdotes and images from throughout his 25 years as a professional, this one is more narrowly focused on senior dogs, ages 9 to 18, the vast majority of whom were adopted. He saw it as a mission to get out the word that senior dogs are not just adoptable, they are immeasurably rewarding to own.
"Most people don't want to go to Animal Control because they don't want to see the sad faces. And when somebody sees a book about old dogs, they think 'Oh, that's gonna make me cry.' Well, you might shed a tear or two, but I think people are going to smile at the photos and stories that go along with them."
Indeed, I saw an advance copy, and I didn't get past the cover without the smiles breaking out. On the cover, there's Tula, an 11-year-old Lhasa Apso, stretched out like the amazing athlete she is and leaping almost literally off the cover and into the air to catch an unseen toy. The photo and the dog are equally remarkable.
Inside, you'll find short bios on each of the dogs and a quote from the owners that will make you smile.
David says he has two goals for this book: First, he hopes it will encourage others to consider the adoption of mature dogs; and secondly, he says, is to demonstrate that, in most cases, dogs never think about age.
"Dogs always think they're puppies. We can learn from their point of view."
I'll end this with a few of my favorites quotations from the book:
Polly, Page 15
9-year-old black Lab
What sets her apart: "The first dog who was able to convince me that she belongs on the couch."
Max, Page 33
17-year-old Australian shepherd
"He doesn't know he's old."
Grissom, Page 46
"We can't imagine life without him. He has extended our lives and we would do anything to give that back.
Huckleberry, Page 57
"He owns my heart, runs the household, and melts me every time he looks at me."
Lucky, Page 85
14-year-old Samoyed-husky-golden retriever mix
"Lucky gave me strength when I lost my husband. I had to stay strong for my dogs, and they shared my grief."
Chloey, Page 103
12-year-old Cardigan Welsh corgi
"She's the light of my life. It's impossible to be in a bad mood when Chloey's in the room."