Queen B is back in action and she is strutting her walk, hand in hand with her service dog Kadence! Bella and Kadence were recently invited for a photoshoot in Oakville at the Lions Foundation of Dog Guides Canada’s (LFC) training facility for upcoming promotional materials. It is always a pleasure to support the organization that Kadence is from and to also meet Kadence’s old and new LFC friends.
When we arrived at the facility we were happily greeted by two familiar faces, Maria and Ian. Maria is the communications manager at LFC and has been following Bella and Kadence’s journey for a while. For Autism Awareness month this year, Maria invited our family to CBC Kids to share our knowledge and experience with an autism assistance dog guide. You can check out our CBC Kids episode here. Ian is the director of program development and has known Kadence since she was a pup. Ian was one of the staff who led the 10-day training that my husband Peter went to when our family received Kadence in 2015. Kadence definitely recognized her original home. She wagged her tail frantically in excitement, but also knew she had to be on her best behaviour as she was on duty wearing her red harness for Bella.
The photoshoot was led by an emerging photographer, Isaiah Haber. For this week’s blog post I will be sharing my #MomBehindTheLabel platform with him as I always enjoying learning about passionate people who support people with disabilities.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: How did you learn about the Lions Foundation of Canada (LFC), and why did you decide to do the pro bono work for the photoshoot?
ISAIAH: I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, but never had the opportunity to be responsible for anything larger than a fish. When I first arrived at Laurier University, I quickly noticed the overwhelming presence of adorable puppies on campus–many of which were from the LFC. It was through my interest in what I later learned to be the puppy foster program. In my business in general, I try to volunteer my time to a number of charitable events and organizations–both to give back to the community, and to promote my business in a positive way. When I learned about the work that LFC does with service dogs, I was naturally drawn to the relationship between the dog and it’s companion. This led me to volunteer with LFC.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: In the early 1980's Lions Clubs across Canada sought to develop a national project to reflect their service to Canadians with visual impairments. The result was Lions Foundation of Canada and its founding program, Canine Vision Canada, which was established in 1985. Since then the Foundation has grown to include additional Dog Guide programs: Hearing, Service, Seizure Response, Autism Assistance, Diabetic Alert and newly introduced, Support Dog Guides. During this photoshoot you had the opportunity to meet different Dog Guides and their owners. What did you learn from working with each Dog Guide and their owner?
ISAIAH: Before volunteering for LFC, I thought all service dogs to be the same. I had no idea of the wide range of programs that LFC had grown to offer. I was amazed when I toured the LFC training facility, and heard about the unbelievable abilities that these dogs have to care for their owner, just as their owner cares for them. Then, seeing the dogs at work allowed me to truly understand the bond between the dog and their handler, as well as the intelligence of these animals. I even photographed a service dog, as he helped his handler out of their wheelchair, and proceeded to hand them their crutches. Though, my lack of knowledge of these animals also opened my eyes to the fact that there is a lack of awareness about the need for service animals.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: In your line of work as a professional photographer, I’m sure you meet a variety of different people of different abilities, interests, and characters. Bella has severe autism spectrum disorder, and going to new environments can be very challenging for her. Meeting new people and hearing different sounds are a few things Bella is learning to cope with. Having Kadence as her autism assistance Dog Guide has really helped her with her physical and emotional safety. What was your experience like working with Bella and Kadence during the photoshoot?
ISAIAH: My experience working with Bella and Kadence was unique from the other service animals and handlers that I worked with, and will likely remain a stand-out experience in my photography career for years to come. With Bella’s disorder, it is definitely understandable that new environments might be challenging. When taking pictures of people, it is always a concern whether they will appear to be natural, or frightened by the camera–and whether they will cooperate in working with you to get the best shot. When shooting with Bella, I never once had to try in any way to pose her, or get her to smile. Bella’s natural positive energy is vibrant and evident on camera, and she was a pleasure to work with. Her relationship with Kadence is one that can only be truly understood when seen in person, and is largely why I believe there is a great need for more service animals.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: How did you get interested in photography? What do you enjoy about photography?
ISAIAH: I first picked up a camera when I was eight years old at my childhood summer camp, where I immediately fell in love with the creative control that photography allows for. I had the opportunity to develop a diverse range of skills by photographing everything from sunsets over the lake to camp musicals in the theatre. Having started off with old-style darkroom photography, I gained an appreciation for the technical aspect of the art. I think I’ve carried that with me to this day, now having graduated to a more advanced DSLR camera. I still love the ability that photography gives you to create exactly the image that you're going for. Photography is like painting a picture–if you had easy access to infinite brushes and tools, and you could control them with robotic precision.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: What do you find most challenging in this profession?
ISAIAH: As a photographer, I have encountered two challenges constantly throughout my entire career. First, the photography industry is shrinking exponentially. This is thanks to a new wave of technology that has made it possible for the everyday person to take high-quality pictures. Professional photographer are so angered by this that they have even come up with numerous names for this type of person–Momtographers, mammarazi, hobbyist photographer, etc. The real challenge is that it is essentially impossible to compete with, for example, a family or friends who is willing to do the job on their point-and-shoot camera for free.
Second, the photography industry is highly over-saturated. It is very difficult to take a picture that is unique nowadays, because it seems like every subject has been photographed from every angle a million times over. The real skill of being a great photographer is the ability to find a new way to capture something that has been captured by countless others in the past.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: How has your experience as a photographer so far shaped you?
ISAIAH: Working as a photographer has given me the opportunity to work with a lot of different people. Although I do believe that being personable is a sort of prerequisite for being an event photographer, I think my experiences have allowed me to develop my people skills and openness to diversity.
MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: Would you like to share anything with my #MomBehindTheLabel readers?
ISAIAH: Please visit my website and check out some of my other work! You can see my best photos there (all of which are available for sale).
Lions Foundation of Canada's mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them Dog Guides at no cost. To do this, the Foundation operates Dog Guides Canada, a preeminent national training school and charity that assists individuals with disabilities through specialized Dog Guide programs. These Dog Guides are provided at no cost to eligible Canadians from coast to coast despite costing $25,000 to train and place. The Foundation relies on donations from individuals, service clubs, foundations and corporations and does not receive any government funding. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support this organization, please click here.
Thank you Isaiah and Maria for contributing to this week’s #MomBehindTheLabel blog post. Stay tuned to see Bella and Kadence in upcoming LFC promotional materials! Maybe Bella should learn how to stamp Kadence’s paw as their joint autograph...