It’s time to stop looking at puppy pictures and show some respect to some older dogs.
In “Old Faithful,” a photo series created from portraits of older dogs, Toronto-based photographer Pete Thorne captures pets toward the end of their lives, complete with all the wisdom and stories they’ve gained through the years.
“I find there’s so much more character to these shots,” Thorne told The Huffington Post Canada. “You see these lives lived. When people approach me about the project, I get them to provide a testimonial or a bio. I’m looking for telltale features in the face.”
He was inspired to start the series after photographing his grandmother’s 100th birthday last year and realizing the incredible possibilities in photographs of older subjects. He started putting posters up around the city and was swamped with emails almost immediately.
“I’ve had a few of the dogs pass away shortly after getting their photo taken and it was a part of this project that I wasn’t really anticipating,” he says. “I realized how personal it is for these dog owners when they started expressing their gratitude for taking the photo in such a way that honours [their dog’s] life while they got the chance.”
Staffordshire bull terrier, 15
“Before this project, I had never photographed any animals before. The first dog I photographed was Elmo, and he happened to have a bad reputation. At the shoot, I was sitting on the ground, eye level with Elmo, and big lights were about to fire straight into his eyes. His brother was leaning on my shoulder, breathing down my neck, and I just thought, ‘If there’s any excuse for a dog to get upset with me, this would be the occasion.’ But I started shooting and Elmo had a blast. He had what looked like a big smile on his face the whole time.”
Wolfhound mix, 14
“It was so difficult to choose what dogs would make it into the book because I shot more than 300 of them. It feels wrong to have a favourite, but my original old faithfuls—the first 20 or so that I cut my teeth on—were compelling enough to get a lot of people’s attention and make this book a reality. Emmy was one of them. I shot her at the studio in my second-floor apartment in Little Italy. When she arrived, she got really excited and ended up pooping in my roommate’s shoe. That was a funny icebreaker. I have lots of shots of Emmy—not because she was difficult to photograph, but because every time I shot her she would have a completely different expression on her face. It was the first time I started seeing all the possibilities you can get out of a dog.”
“When I’m asked which dog’s story sticks out most in my head, I usually talk about Hazel. When she was first rescued, her eyes were infected and she couldn’t produce tears. Her eyes had to be surgically removed. The vet found five different microchips inside her body from being passed around from puppy mill to puppy mill. However, right after surgery, she bounced back and had twice the amount of energy. Her owners ended up renaming her Hazel, after Hazel McCallion, because they thought she was a tough old girl.”
Labrador-Rottweiler mix, 12½
“Jackson is our cover model. In his portrait, he’s staring right back at you. There’s something so symmetrical about his face. He’s got the classic white eyebrows and white muzzle. He looks intense without being serious. You can imagine that if you’re the dog’s owner, that’s the kind of attention that he would pour on you all the time. When his owners, who live in Toronto, found out he was on the cover of the book, they were over the moon.”
Chinese crested dog, 11
“Colonel Sanders is one of my favourites. He has been treated like a rock star his whole life and travelled all over the place. If his owner couldn’t travel with him, she’d sneak him in anyway. Every time I see him, he’s rocking some new sweater that his mom knit for him, usually in some crazy, gaudy, neon colour. When this project first went viral, a Portland alt-weekly put him on the cover of their Halloween issue.”
“Buddy was actually the inspiration for his owners’ company, Buddy Belts, which makes harnesses for dogs. They found that regular collars stressed him out, so they developed a shoulder harness system instead. Buddy was the spokesperson—or spokesdog? To get this portrait, one of Buddy’s owners, Johnny, was basically on the ground holding him up in the air, while his other owner, Roxanne, was leaning over top of me trying to coax him with a piece of cheese. I was the last person to photograph Buddy. I was really upset to hear that he passed away so quickly after the photo shoot.”
Chihuahua–toy poodle mix, 12
“Hughie looks more like a sheep than a dog. He was a little sweetheart. He arrived at the studio as part of a group from the SPCA in Nova Scotia. I had contacted them because I wanted to highlight some dogs that they might have in foster, and the sponsor brought four little doggies in matching rain coats. Hughie was one of them.”
British bulldog, 12
“Norman was a little curmudgeon, rambunctious to the point of being difficult to shoot. When owners come in, they usually have so many great things to say about their dogs. Norman’s owner was like, ‘Nope, Norman is just kind of a jerk.’ In the book, she writes, ‘I wish I could say that Norman is a loving and happy dog, but he really isn’t and never has been. It’s just not his way.’ Yet the amount of love she has for Norman is evident. He’s had so many medical problems. She would do anything for this dog.”
Wheaton terrier, 15
“Martin has a mop top. He has such poor eyesight and so much hair in his face that he probably just relies on his nose. He was difficult to photograph because he wasn’t able to sit—his hind legs were going out on him. I shot him in Vancouver and his family came out. It was a treat for the kids to go to the studio and see their dog put up on this pedestal.”
Great Dane, 10½
“After I committed to doing the book, I wanted find as many breeds as possible. I was really excited when an owner of two Great Danes in Halifax contacted me. I’ve always loved Great Danes, but I didn’t come across any in Toronto. Downtown, you get a lot of smaller, apartment-dwelling dogs, like pugs, French bulldogs and Chihuahuas. In this portrait of Murphy, only his head is sticking into the shot because he was literally the size of a pony. I have a photo of him standing next to my parents and he’s almost up to their shoulders. It’s incredible.”