Family Pawtraits — Behind The Scenes
Our Family Pawtrait series featured four different families, unconventional in the sense that one of their beloved comes in the form of a four-legged canine. In support of Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), the campaign aims to raise awareness about the responsibilities of being a pet owner; rising concerns about animal abandonment; and the joys and challenges of welcoming a furry friend into different lives and lifestyles. We organised the shoot across three days, at different locations, each representing various moments of family life and showing how their dogs fit into these different facets — even the small, everyday activities that we tend to overlook.
Day 1 — Paul, Ashley & Pebbles
We met with Paul, Ashley and Pebbles on a Saturday morning at Open Farm Community. The outdoor café area is flanked by lush greenery, providing a serene, picturesque venue for our first shot of the day. It had rained the night before, and we spent the first few minutes cleaning up the space and setting up the shot.
This was our first time photographing animals, and we were worried that we would have problems getting the dogs to stay still, but all our concerns were unfounded when we met Pebbles. She was the sweetest, most cooperative dog you could imagine; partly because of her old age, and her blindness, she wouldn’t move from any position that we put her in, and even tolerated the little sombrero that Paul and Ashley had brought along for her to wear. The trio were real troopers even as the sun started to come out, and the day started to get warmer. It seemed like a completely natural scene on your average Saturday morning — brunch with loved ones, dog dozing away on your lap, with some fresh air and good coffee.
Day 2 — Alfie, Huey Chien & Onigiri; Pat, Rebel & Tails; SOSD Dogs
Sunday proved to be a whole different ball game. The day started off well enough; we first met Alfie, Huey Chien, and Onigiri, as they roared up to the carpark on Alfie’s Vespa. We had been forewarned that Onigiri was quite aloof and not easily bribed to do anything, but she was obedient and calm throughout the shoot. We found that Onigiri would stay still no matter who’s lap she’s put on, without so much of a whine or a struggle; cat-like, indeed, with her dainty, cautious movements.
Although Alfie’s more often found behind the camera rather than in front of it, the couple were completely relaxed on set and in their element, playing the caring parents who catered to all of Onigiri’s needs, feeding her out of a little water bottle and gently coaxing her into her backpack. So far, so good.
Next we headed over to Pat’s house, where a cacophony of barks greeted us at the door. It was the first time we’d been to Pat’s place, although we’ve featured her on Shentonista quite a number of times, and it was just as we had expected it to be — mostly concrete, with plenty of unconventional touches that brought to mind a piece of Singapore, like the old-school, coffee-shop table with the matching chairs.
Rebel and Tails are fiercely protective of Pat, and Tails even nipped us a little when we reached over to adjust Pat’s clothes midway through the shoot. The only way to get the two chihuahuas to stay still, we found, were to dangle treats in front of them. As Pat recounted the numerous, entertaining stories involving her two kids, we came to realise we had come across yet another side to Pat that we hadn’t seen before.
Things got a little tougher from there. We set up our mobile studio in a back alley behind 3Barks Café, where SOSD’s adoption drive was being held, and set out to photograph some of the dogs that were looking for permanent homes. We had thought that photographing children was hard; we found out that dogs were even more difficult to manage.
You can’t threaten to take away a dog’s favourite toy, as you would threaten to take away a kid’s iPad; you can’t tell a dog to stay and let it know that nothing bad would happen to it if you’re simply three steps away, out of frame; you can’t tell a dog to sit right smack in the centre of the backdrop, or to shuffle a few inches to the right or left. Their handlers tried the best they could, offering as many treats as they were allowed to get their dogs to stay put and not follow them the moment they stepped back. There were some dogs that we simply couldn’t photograph because they were too jumpy; to make matters worse, it started to drizzle intermittently; we had to take down and re-assemble our set-up several times.
Nonetheless, the shoot gave us a glimpse into the relationships and trust that had been built between humans and dogs, an intangible bond that’s only bound to get stronger with time. We finally managed to coerce eight dogs into getting their photos taken — through plenty of clapping, high-pitched squeaks, baby-talking, rattling of food packets, and a fair bit of pleading to get their attention — and ended off the day, feeling tired but accomplished, with the hopes that these dogs would find a home to call their own.
Day 3 — Alice, Martin & Billie
The last family to be photographed was Alice, Martin, and Billie, whom we met at Bishan Park on a quiet Tuesday morning. We recreated a scene which we had seen on Alice’s Instagram, in which she and Martin had brought Billie out on a picnic to celebrate her birthday. Alice had told us about Billie’s traumatic past, and how Billie needed time to warm up, so it was a happy surprise to see her smiling almost throughout the shoot.
She was truly a star, and even Alice and Martin remarked that they hadn’t expected her to be so comfortable in front of a camera. Like a seasoned pro, Billie readily got into position, allowed herself to be adjusted into place without any fuss, and showcased her sharp awareness of the lens. All of it seemed to be hard work, though, and right after we finished the shoot, and had moved to a cooler, shaded area to interview Alice and Martin, Billie promptly fell asleep and had to be prodded awake when we were done.
The Family Pawtraits campaign is one that is close to our hearts; some of you might know of our ‘office dog’, Sophie, who’s a regular visitor to the Shentonista/UNIFORM workplace. Being animal lovers, and believing that each dog deserves a loving home, we are honoured to be able to do something small for the hundreds — possibly thousands — of dogs out there that need a family, before it’s too late.
SOSD’s Flag Day will be held on Sunday, 28th February, at *Scape Youth Park, from 9AM-6PM, with the hopes of raising enough funds for when their lease expires in two year’s time. An adoption drive will also be held from 11AM-5PM.
If you would like to contribute to SOSD and support their cause of giving stray dogs a loving, caring home, please visit here. Kindly reference ShentonistaxSOSD when making your donation. The dogs thank you!
View more of our furry friends looking for forever homes on the Shentonista Facebook, here, and see all the posts in the campaign here.
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