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Clever canines strike a pose

by Promote Shetland -

Scalloway resident and paramedic Kaylee Garrick has been hitting the headlines this week, thanks to her fun and unique pet photography or, as she affectionately calls it, PAWtraits.

Kaylee owns seven dogs, six of which are Shetland Sheepdogs and one Alaskan Klee Kai, which she masterfully lines up in a range of lighthearted poses. Her photographs have been so popular across social media that she's produced a charity calendar, which has raised over £2,000 for The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC) and Bravehound.

"Their names are Fenton, Thiago, Thorin, Gimli, Murphy, Jara and Ghost (the Klee Kai)," she says. "You'll sometimes see eight dogs in my photos and that's because I sometimes include Thorin's sister Fjana, who is owned by my mother (AKA my photography assistant!)."

Kaylee's hobby for canine photography started aged 10, when she began taking photographs of her first dog, Flint: "It was just something that all dog owners do – take photos of their babies! And my one was particularly stunning against the Shetland background. Flint came to a sad end after he was diagnosed with bone cancer – needless to say, the camera went in the drawer after that and I never looked at it again. Then we got Fenton a few years later and it felt natural to pick up the camera once more.

"We originally used the photos to help promote Shetland with Fenton travelling to Edinburgh at one point to meet for the 'Visit Scotland Ambassadog' scheme. Over time, we learned that the pictures were helping to brighten people's day and so started developing images which were more colourful, unusual, and sometimes almost magical."

Kaylee takes her photography inspiration from her natural surroundings and, for the more fun, prop-based shots, TV series like Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders. She says: "The ideas for my shots just seem to randomly pop into my head. I have to keep a list on my phone of all the pictures I want to compose otherwise I quickly forget them. I have loads of fun ones planned for 2020 and can't wait to get started on them."

The hounds are not only hugely photogenic, but very obedient too, something Kaylee ascribes to her gentle handling technique. She says: "We use what's known as a positive reinforcement technique – simply, reward the behavior you want to see. We've recently been campaigning against the idea of dominance theory, which can often become a cruel practice involving "beating the dog into place". We want people to see that love, kindness and building confident canines wins a million times over when it comes to training our four-legged friends."

Most people have enough trouble keeping one dog under control but for Kaylee managing seven isn't really too difficult.

"Many people ask me the question 'how on earth do you cope with seven dogs?'. To be honest, its very easy! They're so chilled, they spend most of their day lazing on the couch. We have a rescue cat named Talis who we adore but honestly, he's more work as all the dogs put together!

"Training is kept consistent with the gang and we do a lot around the house – a lot of the time we turn it into a game so they're learning even when they don't know it. The most beneficial trick I've taught them is to recognise their own names, so if I only want one of them to move then it's possible. This is practiced every day during lunchtime when I line them up and call their names individually to get their grub.

"They love a massive hike through the hills but then again, they do love a snuggle in front of the TV too. Bath day, usually once roughly every two weeks, is interesting... and takes the whole day to complete! They get their mani/pedi done, a bath which includes an initial wash, soak with oatmeal and coconut product then conditioner, and then blow dry with a special dog perfume to finish. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to grooming them!"

The year ahead is shaping up to be a busy one for Kaylee as she heads to Glasgow to complete here paramedic training, while dreaming up ever more elaborate dog portrait opportunities to raise money for charity.

"We plan to make more of our 'PAWtraits', selling them to raise money for the Shetland MRI scanner appeal. Me and Fenton have also started a 'Don't PAWS, Start CPR' campaign to teach people how to do CPR. We plan to visit schools to assist children in learning these essential life saving skilsl. And of course, I'll be working away bringing new ideas in my head to life through the lens."

Posted in: News

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