Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Suzanne Morrison & her greyhounds

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi there! That would be me, Suzanne Morrison, and, more importantly, some of the greyhounds that often model for me; Jovi (foreground), Marvin (of the tongue), Willow (sporting the lovely white coat), Dayna (behind Willow going for the snackies in the pocket), Breeze (far left, wondering how to get around Dayna to the snackies), and Dru (hiding in the back, trying to get Breeze to pay attention to her). I belong to 3; Willow who is 7, Breeze, 4 and Drusilla, 4.

I am a photographer and my company is Backcountry Photography. I do mostly fine art photography and, my passion, shooting photos of the greyhounds. My actual work type of job is at my friend’s business, Aerolite Meteorites, where I wear many hats – staff geologist, product photographer, web designer, operations manager, customer service rep, etc. My friend is co-host of the TV show Meteorite Men so I also travel with him as location photographer, shoot photos for his promotional materials as well as stills used on the show, and assist with promotional speaking and PR events. It is an incredible amount of fun. 

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

This morning we stopped for Horchata at our local Mexican food place while on the way home from playdate at the dog park.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

Always! Though this morning we skipped the sweets and added a breakfast burrito.

How were you and your dogs united?

All my girls are retired racing greyhounds. I’ve been fascinated with greyhounds for a long while and about 3 years ago I adopted Willow. I was instantly hooked. So I started fostering greyhounds, until Breeze came into my life about 10 months after Willow came to live with me.

Breeze was (still is) extremely fearful; terrified of everything and everyone. Best guess is she was abused previous to coming to the adoption group. I wasn’t planning on adopting again because I wanted to help with as many fosters as possible. Breeze shredded those plans during the extensive time we spent working on her fear issues. She learned to trust me and I became hers.

Another 10 months flew by and I went to the kennel to shoot photos of the greyhounds for the adoption group. I fell for Dru the minute she came out of her crate; she was so much like Breeze only without all the fear issues. I didn’t take her home that day though, telling myself that 2 dogs were enough and I really didn’t have room for another one.

For two weeks I successfully convinced myself it was for the best, until I received an email stating she was still at the kennel waiting for a foster home. I picked her up the next day. She and Breeze hit it off immediately and Breeze suddenly had an added boost of confidence just by having Dru around. The two were inseparable. When I finally got around to looking Dru up in the greyhound registry I learned the reason behind their attraction to one another - they are sisters. It was all the excuse I needed and I promptly foster failed. Now her antics make me laugh every day.

Any treat for your dogs on this occasion?

They get snackies for being so patient while waiting for my breakfast to magically appear at the window. When they get home they will get a small snackie to tie them over until they can eat. (No eating for the greys until they have cooled down from their running).

You've got some great photos of dogs on your blog: what’s the secret to shooting a greyhound and not having the photo come out as a blur?

Thank you for the lovely compliment. I would say the secret is practice and patience. I have been practicing for the past 3 years and have learned to time the swing of the camera with the speed of the dogs, what camera settings to use and the best directions in which to shoot the photos. Possibly part of the success with the greyhound photos is because I am like to be in the thick of things. I stand in the middle of the park and capture the pack as they come barreling past me. It also helps that I always carry snackies.

How did your dogs get their names? Do they have any nicknames?

Greyhounds typically have a few different names over the course of their lives; their racing name, kennel name, and adoption name.

Dillon and Willow
Willow’s racing name was BBs Sassy and her kennel name was Sassy. Though she was, and still is, sassy, there was no way I was going to call her that. No need to acknowledge it any more than necessary. My niece had gone to the kennel with me to pick Sassy/Willow up and on the drive home I asked her to think of a name. The two of us are big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans and she suggested Willow. It fit and it stayed.

Breeze’s racing name was Bella Pribilof and her kennel name was Breeze. Breeze had actually been in another foster home before mine and she went by the name Bree. When I got her I preferred something that didn’t reminded me of cheese, so she went back to Breeze. It fits her and it had the added benefit of going with the name Willow if the nature connection is taken into consideration.

Dru’s racing name was Bella Hembrillo and her kennel name was Lulu. That was just not going to work. We returned to the Buffy archives and chose Drusilla. It fit her personality perfectly, as she’s just a little off. Dru also matched Lulu in sound, making the transition easier.

There are a few nicknames. Collectively, they go by The Girls, Sweet Dogs, Sweet Girl, Pretty Girl, and My Girl(s). Breeze will answer to: Breezy, Breezy Breeze, Some Breezy, and Prancey Girl. Willow won’t answer to: Willow Willow or Angel Girl when she is being sweet. (For the “Angel’s kiss” on her forehead. It has nothing to do with temperament or Buffy Verse for that matter) “Dru” is actually the nickname, as Drusilla is her full name. She hears that when she is in trouble. She also gets called Crazy Girl, Goofy or Goofy Girl.

Squirrel, cat, postman...?

Hmmmm. Different for each: Though none would chase a postman, unless it was for a snackie treat handout.

Willow doesn’t really care much about chasing things except toys and other running greyhounds. She does, however, want to say hi to every human, dog, coyote, cat, etc within a 1 mile radius.

Breeze is too afraid of everything to be fully vested, though a rabbit, squirrel or cat running away will catch her attention. She prefers rabbits. She will run from the postman, and every other man for that matter.

Dru, on the other hand, will chase any small animal that moves. The first week I had her I didn’t realize her prey drive was so high and wasn’t really paying attention on our walk. We turned a corner and a rabbit took off straight away from us. She almost dislocated my shoulder trying to chase it down. So, yes if she could, to all things fuzzy and small: cats, rabbits, small dogs, etc.

Tennis ball, Frisbee, squeaky-toy...?

The girls had to learn to play with toys. Willow learned to play with toys from my sister’s dogs then passed her knowledge along to Breeze and Dru.

Willow will play with squeaks; she loves them. She will also fetch (but not always bring back) a tennis ball.

Breeze, is again limited by her fear issues. She will play with squeaks occasionally, mostly in the house when she is feeling comfortable. The restriction is the toy can’t be thrown with any type of force in her direction. If so, she will just run from it and that sort of goes against the purpose of squeaks, I would say.

Dru goes for the squeaks. She loves to chase them down, toss them in the air and shake them until they are dead.

Where is your dogs' favorite place for an outing?

The dog park, no question, followed closely by the river path. We are lucky to have a couple of nice parks near our home. After they run, we go for a walk along the river path before heading home.

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

The girls love the other greys we see at playdate. All are friends, though there are some favorites among the pack, including; Jovi, Charlie, RJ and Dillon. Dru’s best friend is Breeze. She’s like the annoying younger sister. Breeze tries to do the older sister thing and ignore her when they are out in public. It doesn’t work.

What is each dog's most endearing quality?

Almost too many to list.

There are traits of the breed and also individual quirks. Some of the general traits of the breed – the loving demeanor, the power wrapped inside gentleness, the silliness that appears at the oddest times, the regalness, the grace and beauty, the roaching, the quietness, the joy they get in experience something new. I could go on for many more paragraphs, but will practice some restraint.

Their individual qualities: Willow likes to curl up with me to sleep and her lower jaw chatters when she gets excited. Breeze has an indomitable spirit and is light-hearted and fun when it is just us in the house. Each morning she will talk to me from the other room to let me know she is up just before jumping up on the bed to snuggle for about 5 minutes before insisting it is time to go to the park. Dru is downright goofy and prances when she comes in to check on me when I am working in a different room.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

Our residence. If they had a say in things we would live at the greyhound playdate.

What is each dog's proudest moment? Most embarrassing?

So let’s see; Breeze is easy. Her proudest moment is every time she conquers, even in the slightest bit, something that scares her. It could be (and has been) as simple as coming into the house or as difficult as accepting the few trusted human males. Her most embarrassing would be when she fell off the bed in a miss-judged leap and I had to catch her. Shhhh. We don’t talk about it.

Dru’s proudest moments are when she teaches Breeze not to be afraid of something (like a flashlight) or protects her from a stranger (by getting between the person and Breeze to prevent access). Dru’s, maybe not most embarrassing, but certainly, most regretted moments, would be the two collisions in two weeks during runs with other greyhounds. Both times knocked her for a loop and she’s been afraid to run with the pack since.

Willow proudest moment was being in the Festival of Lights Parade for the past few years. She was able to dress up in her coat decorated with blinking lights and bows on her collar; quite jaunty for a lovely night on the town. In addition she worked the crowd and was an excellent greyhound ambassador who encouraged people to adopt retired racing greyhounds. Her most embarrassing. Hmmmm. I don’t think it is possible to embarrass Willow, doesn’t that imply that she would have to care what people think. She doesn’t. Unless you have snackies, then she really cares and will be on her best behavior.

Visit Suzanne Morrison's Backcountry Photography website and the Cult of the Greyhound blog.

--Marshal Zeringue