The Dog Project, Part I: Rocco

Over the course of the past two years, both of my sisters have moved back to New York, which means that my entire immediate family FINALLY lives in the same state for the first time in twenty years.  It's so much fun when we all show up at my Dad's house, because there's always lots of banter and laughter, kids running around, telling jokes, game nights, and DOGS.  So. Many. Dogs.

A few years ago, my Dad converted the small covered porch in the back of the house to an enclosed workshop, and it's where he spends a lot of his time sitting, reading, and enjoying retirement.  It's a very small space, so we're always laughing about how we all end up cramming in there - five adults, two kids, and our collective five dogs, who have to be within an arm's reach of their people at all times.  They're such a big part of our lives, and I've been wanting to do a photo project with them for quite some time and FINALLY (with the invaluable treat-wielding help of my sister, Carrie) I did it.  It's among my favorite projects from 2017, and one I'd love to carry forward with other pups at some point this year.

Originally, I was planning on posting all of their stories and photos together, but it ended up being a very LONG post, so I'm going to break it down.  First up: Rocco, and be sure to check back for the rest of this series, coming at you over the course of the next few weeks.

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Rocco

Rocco and I found each other almost eleven years ago.  I was nineteen and living in Statesboro, Georgia.  I was working as a bartender, and my friend and favorite DJ was devastated when he learned he couldn't keep his six month old puppy in his new living situation.  He tried desperately to find a home for him, but to no avail, and right before he went off to the shelter, I snatched him up.  In that area, the shelters are maxed out, and everyone was really concerned that he may end up euthanized.  Especially my friend, and apparently, especially me.  

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Those months in Georgia had been eventful for me, to say the least.  I had struggled with so many random health issues that I had become a regular in the ER and could most commonly be found trying to heal in bed.  Add on top of that the inevitable nineteen year old identity crisis and over-complicated personal relationships, and you can understand how that dog and I bonded pretty heavily.  One day, I returned home from work to find that Rocco had dug a hole in the laundry room wall of the house in which I had been living, and I was told he had to go.  At that point, I think I knew that I would also be leaving soon, but was having a really hard time admitting it to myself, let alone articulating it to a bunch of people who expected me to stay.  

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My sister, Carrie, was down visiting, and I was set to drive with her back to New York for a visit.  I was told Rocco would be gone by the time I got back, so when she got there and met him, the thought occurred to me, "he's actually for you!  Happy Birthday!" I said to her.  Rocco made the trip back to New York eventful, to say the least.  We stopped in North Carolina to see an old friend, and after letting him out in the dark backyard, Rocco took off at a full sprint - not realizing there was an in-ground pool right in front of him - and had to be fished out.  It was November.  By far, my favorite memory of that trip was arriving home at my Dad's.  We still had our two family dogs, a black lab mix named Jolie and a dalmatian named Kansas, and hadn't told my dad that we were bringing Rocco back with us.  When we got home, we let him onto the porch with the other two, and when my dad came outside to greet us, he brought treats for the dogs.  He handed one to Kansas and one to Jolie and then stopped with the most baffled look on his face, realizing there was another dog standing directly between them.  "THEY'VE FORMED A HYBRID!" I exclaimed loudly in faux astonishment.  Further proof that my dad is the best: he laughed, shook his head, and went and got another treat :)  

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I was back for good within a month and a half and reclaimed Rocco as my own, much to Carrie's disappointment.  Over the course of the next eight years, Rocco was my sidekick throughout everything: he was my roommate and protector at my first apartment, saw me through every relationship, rode shotgun on countless road trips, moved to Virginia with me, was embraced, loved, and adopted by Sean, and was a guest of honor at our wedding.  He was there to keep me company when Sean was out to sea for weeks at a time, and offered us comfort and peace of mind after our home was burglarized.  He was right next to me at my mom's bedside as she grew sicker and would always make her laugh when he'd leap - all four feet at once - into my lap ("if I fits, I sits!").  He was with us when we moved back to New York, where we spent some time staying with my Dad before finding a place of our own.  By that time, we had accumulated two more dogs and Rocco became really attached to my dad (and vis versa).  When it came time for us to move to our apartment, we decided it was best for everyone if Rocco stayed with my dad where he'd have plenty of space to run around, a generous amount of daily bacon, and his favorite human companion.  It also made me feel better to not leave my dad by himself, even though my dad would definitely roll his eyes at that (hi, dad!).

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I love Rocco's giant Newfie head, and his spotted paws, and the turkey noises he makes when he sees a dog he doesn't know.  He's known for his Eeyore temperament, always groaning and sighing, and whenever he gets his summer haircut, he looks completely embarrassed at being so exposed.  He can be a little funny around people he doesn't know, but when he likes you, he'll excitedly bring you one of his stuffed animals - or once, hilariously, a roll of toilet paper.  Mostly, he's very loved by everyone in our family.

Gisselle & Adrian's Maternity Session
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SPEAKING of babies, I've been shooting mostly maternity and newborns lately.  A lot of the people who come to me for these shoots have done sessions with me in the past, and it's always so great to check in with them.  Especially now, because they've been so sweet about preparing me for the next few months as we welcome our own baby!  

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We did Gisselle & Adrian's maternity session back at the start of December.  I know a lot of people really hope for sunny weather for their sessions, but we had the most perfect layer of thick fog - I was thrilled that they were as excited about it as I was.  I am such a sucker for foggy photos.  I mean, look at it!  What's not to love?!  

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It's also crazy to me that these were just over a month ago, because they welcomed their baby girl not too long ago and I've been working on her photos all morning (I'll share soon!).  Photographing primarily weddings for the better part of 11 years, I'm always commenting on how quickly engagements go by, and now I'm realizing that pregnancies go by even faster.  Which, ya know, with a baby arriving in a matter of a single-digit number of weeks, doesn't freak me out at all.  AT ALL. ;)

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Hey Baby!
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In August of 2014, I posted a (since lost) blog post with photos and details from our wedding.  It was super small, planned in less than a week, and, well, it happened eight months prior.  I really like to tell people big news in person, or at least in a personal way if I don't see them for a while.  While I appreciate social media and how it allows us to keep up with people we know and love, I also don't want one of my aunts, cousins, or long distance friends to find out I got married via Facebook, ya know?  It's nice to see people's reactions and be able to hug them, and at the very least, imagine them finding out in a more personal way.

Early last summer, Sean and I welcomed the news that we are expecting our first baby.  Needless to say, we are over the moon excited!  We shared the news with our immediate families and closest friends, and then gradually started sharing with the family and friends we've seen.  Anyone who we haven't seen was told by way of our Christmas card, which HEY! I actually got around to mailing out this year!!

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Timing-wise, it has been perfect.  I photographed two weddings right after I found out, and then had two slow summer months to finish out the first trimester, in which I basically (and necessarily) hibernated.  As soon as I hit my second trimester, I was feeling better and more energetic as wedding season began, and I worked every weekend from September to early December.  This baby has been so good to me so far already, tagging along to weddings, engagement sessions, and family sessions all over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, with nary a complaint and, for the most part, incognito.  I don't know if it was just perfect timing or if this kid is just crazy cooperative, but during my last wedding weekend of the year, my dress pants fit fine on Friday, and would no longer fasten by the end of my last wedding on Sunday!  

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Since the end of the busy season, this baby and belly seem to be growing by the hour, and I've been getting plenty of rest between my last few sessions, working from home on editing & design work, sorting out the web issues we had over the fall (switching web & email hosts, yay!), and being so spoiled by Sean, the dogs, and the rest of my family.  I have three sessions left over the next two weeks, and then I'm taking a little hiatus from shooting until mid-April to slow down, rest up, and enjoy this transition into parenthood.  Well, sort of hiatus, because let's be real, we all know this baby will be heavily photographed.

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Last weekend, we ventured out in the fresh snow to one of my favorite local spots, Long Dock Park in Beacon, to take some quick photos.  We lasted all of ten minutes, but Sean made me super proud (as always) with his skills behind the camera.  Now if only I could convince him to be my second shooter... ;)

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Happy 2018!
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Happy New Year, friends!  All of these photos are from February 2017, but they seemed really appropriate to share today.  The snow is coming down sideways, and I haven't been brave enough to venture out into it aside from briefly taking the dogs out this morning.  What was supposed to be a busy Thursday has turned into a work-from-the-couch-with-my-feet-up day, staying cozy and warm and FINALLY adding the blog element back into my website.  I've missed you all!

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January is a time for new beginnings, and it has always been a huge milestone month for me, marking two of my biggest anniversaries.  The first is that four years ago this month, Sean and I got hitched!  I'm sure so many of my clients can relate when I say that it feels like we just met and somehow also like we've been together forever?  I can't imagine a life without him in it (wouldn't want to, either!), and I'm really excited for this next year with him.  More on that later though ;)

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The second anniversary is that ELEVEN years ago, I started this little photography business right here!  ELEVEN YEARS.  It's been such a wild ride, introducing me to some of my favorite people and taking me to places I otherwise never would have seen.  Since then, I've photographed hundreds of growing families, learned so much, and really grown as a photographer and entrepreneur.  And human, I guess, too, which is bound to happen when you start a business at nineteen years old!

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A lot of you have followed along with my journey over the years through my typically very active blog and social media, so you may have noticed that it's been pretty quiet around here for most of 2017.  Back in February, I opted to close our physical office space and shop in Beacon after two years, and return to working from home when I wasn't on location shooting.  Curating our collections, having clients and friends stop by when they were in town, and meeting people within my own community (I still live right around the corner) brought so much joy to me, and it's something I really miss.  That being said, I think I bit off a little more than I could chew with running both businesses simultaneously; I was burnt out and overwhelmed.  I took a step back after the holidays, and realized I needed to make some changes and let some things go.  I scaled back in a big way, and spent the next several months focusing on my family, my photography, and trying to restore some balance to my life.

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Of course, there were also some big challenges last year, like when my entire beautiful photography website up and disappeared one day, right smack in the middle of my busiest season (along with my long standing blog, shop storefront, and photo booth page).  Web design is usually something I save for the slower winter months, first because I prioritize getting my clients' photos to them before everything else, and second because web design can be so tedious and time consuming and I am very particular.  To say that was a busy and stressful month would be a giant understatement!

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I'm so happy to have a little down time.  I'm wrapping up my final few sessions this month, and then taking February & March off from shooting before starting back up in April.  During this time, I'm looking forward to updating this space with so many more photos and blog posts, sharing new images from 2017 and reposting favorites from years past, while getting everything in order for all of my 2018 weddings and shoots, which I am SO excited for!

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The biggest, and easily most exciting thing happening this year, though, is on the personal front: we're having a baby!  And soon!  I'll share a few details and some photos from a little maternity session we did over the next few days :)

Happy New Year, all!  I hope yours is off to a beautiful (albeit snowy) start!

 

Jacqueline FoleyComment