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Kiah’s Two Year Anniversary as My Best Friend and Photo Assistant Doggie!

Today is the two year anniversary of the day I rescued my dog, Kiah, on March 25, 2010. Kiah is a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) I was lucky enough to adopt, and she’s become my best friend and Photo Assistant Doggie…

She wasn’t known as Kiah when I got her, she was known as Q-Tip, but I renamed her Kiah (pronounced with a long “i”, not like the cars). She was a very fearful rescue dog who came to me when she was just over a year old, via two animal shelters, after being found as a stray in Kansas. Thankfully, she was transferred to Boulder by a shelter in Kansas, because there is greater success finding homes for rescue dogs in Boulder. The Humane Society of Boulder worked lovingly to socialize her to help her start to overcome her fears from living so long as a stray. Then two years ago today, they happened to list her for adoption on the very day I decided I couldn’t live another day without a dog. Serendipity crossed her path with mine, because it was not just any dog who crossed my path that day, but a Blue Heeler, the breed I wanted more than anything. It has been unconditional love ever since!

cattle dog, blue heeler, rescue dog

Kiah, Day 1, Still Tired from the Move

This is the first photograph I ever took of Kiah, the evening I brought her home. She was sleeping like a baby in her brand new bed, using a stuffed bunny as a pillow. This was such a sweet moment for me. After having been warned how fearful and anxious this dog was from her life as a stray, it was a joy to see her settle in, finally somehow knowing that she was safe and she could relax. She was so tired from the move, she slept for hours. This was a good thing because she was still quite fearful, and not the least of her fears were cameras, so her first home portrait was taken while she was napping. Actually, these first photos were taken with an old cell phone so as not to freak her out too much with a bigger camera. There would be plenty of time later to get her warmed up to the idea of being my Photo Assistant Doggie!

Blue Heeler Australian Cattle dog

Kiah, the Dog Formely Known as Q-Tip (for obvious reasons)

The second photo I took of her that day still makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it. While all cattle dogs have pretty big ears, this dog was so small and skinny from her life on the road as a stray that her ears seemed gigantic. The great news was, she was not only awake from her nap, but had her ears up, not folded back the way she would fearfully try to escape every tiniest noise she heard. She even willingly posed for this photo. Looking at it, I quickly decided it was obvious why somewhere along the road, she was named Q-Tip because it was impossible not to think, “Boy, it’d sure be easy to get a Q-Tip in those ears!” 😉

I couldn’t live with that name though; I wanted a much more unique name and hopefully something Australian. So I did a Google search for popular names for Australian Cattle Dogs. Kiah came up as the #1 name for female Australian Cattle Dogs. It is Aboriginal for “From the Beautiful Place.” While she’ll always be Kiah to me, it is funny that to this day, if you ask her, “Who’s Q-Tip?” she perks up those ears and gets a look like she might be remembering a previous life and special people who were kind to her in the shelter.

It was far too long in coming for me to get a dog; in fact if you’d asked me even a few years ago if I’d own a dog, I’d have said, “No way, my lifestyle is just too busy.” Still, loving dogs as much as I have my entire life, I was tempted and knew if I adopted a dog, she’d become my best friend and adventure buddy. However, the last thing I imagined was ending up with a dog that is also faithfully willing to be my Photo Test Doggie and Photo Assistant! Had I realized this, I might have adopted a dog sooner.

blue heeler, puppy, cattle dog, hiking

Blue Heeler Puppy That Made Me Want a Heeler of My Own

My resolve that a dog would be too much responsibility started to melt when I fell in love with a little Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) puppy hiking with his owner out near Crested Butte, CO in Summer of 2009. I decided if I ever did have a dog, I’d like that breed. Aside from being adorable, like all good herders, that Blue Heeler puppy faithfully followed (herded) his owner every step of the trail. That was the kind of dog I could picture fitting into my lifestyle. Here is a hastily captured photo of that cute puppy “Heeling” his owner along the trail. This is the little dog that blew away my resistance and made me yearn for a Blue Heeler of my own.

I knew I couldn’t handle raising a puppy though and considered it unlikely I’d find such a popular breed available for adoption as an older and house trained dog. Well, fate was on my side, because months later, and two years ago today, Boulder Humane Society miraculously listed on their website “Q-Tip,” a one-year-old Blue Heeler, described as a “fearful but very sweet” dog who needed tender loving care in the right home. I say miraculous because she was not on the site earlier that afternoon, nor did I see any other dogs I thought were right for me. But it was the first day of my Spring Break from teaching and I had my heart set on adopting a dog over my vacation. So I checked their website one more time around 4:00 PM and there she was, a brand new listing. I was hesitant when I read about her fears and anxiety, but she was just so cute in the website photo, and she was, of all breeds, a Blue Heeler! I drove across town to see her and the second I laid eyes on her, I knew there was no chance I was walking out of that shelter without taking her home. The rest is the history she and I began creating as our life together started.

Kiah responded so well to a loving home that she worked through much of her fearfulness very quickly. Okay, she’s still terrified of thunder; I don’t think she’s ever going to get over that one. But she loves people and she’s learned to enjoy the company of other dogs, if they aren’t too aggressive, and she’s learned that the TV can’t hurt her.

cattle dog, australian cattle dog, blue heeler

Kiah One Month After Adoption First Real CameraPhoto

Importantly, since I’m a photographer, Kiah has also learned that cameras and even strobe flash units won’t harm her and over time, she became my initially reluctant and eventually willing “Photo Test Doggie” and even “Flash Test Doggie.” The shot to the left was one of her first reluctant poses for a photo shoot with an actual camera. I have always loved this photo of her.

By summer, Kiah learned that not only are cameras okay, but camping is pretty darned fun too! We went on our first weekend of camping together. She’d come so far that while she still was afraid of thunder, she’d realized she’d be fine if she hunkered down in the tent with her “Security Skunky” like in the photo below. Although silly me not to predict that to a “fearful dog” the crackling of a fire sounds like the firecrackers she just agonizingly got past over the 4th of July. Good news is she sure didn’t mind getting a bit of my hot dogs roasted over that open fire and eventually she even came over near the fire with me.

Kiah and Her Security Skunky on Our First Camping Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was exceptionally good all weekend, staying right beside me while I spent hours taking landscape photographs. She really was the faithful adventure buddy dog I’d dreamed of. And go figure, strangely, unlike thunder, the sound of a train passing nearby thrilled her like there was no tomorrow! It became a ritual I fondly remember as the “Waiting for a Train” game the entire weekend of this camping trip.

Kiah Playing the "Waiting for a Train" Game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, to any concerned about seeing Kiah off-leash in any of these photographs, know that she is amazingly smart and obedient. Somehow, especially in the backcountry, even in settings like the photo near the train tracks in the mountains, Kiah faithfully follows my voice and sight commands 100%. Maybe part of it is that the remnants of being a “fearful” dog make her too cautious to stray from me. Mostly though, I believe it’s just that she truly is a Heeler in every sense of the word. These dogs are born to herd, and I am Kiah’s herd!

A change of seasons brought more growth for Kiah and me. Christmas 2010 was an interesting opportunity to practice pet portraiture with incandescent lighting in the form of Christmas lights. Kiah was very happy to lie underneath our little “Elf Christmas Tree.”  The challenge was, every time I got down on the floor to take the picture from the correct point-of-view, she thought I was calling her over and would run over and lick me (or the camera)! My son, who was visiting for Christmas that year, actually bet me a million dollars that there was no chance I’d get this photo. I really hope he’s close to figuring out how he’ll earn that million, because here it is, only the cutest “Twas the Night Before Christmas” pet portrait ever. Okay, I may be a bit biased, and yes, the color and white balance are off, but seriously, this is adorable! And yes, she really does cross her paws like that naturally…

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Kiah got used to having her photograph taken, it was time to venture into a new realm, because I’d just bought my first Canon Speedlight, and naturally, I needed a Flash Test Doggie. Let me tell you, this did not go over very well at first. Here is one of her first reluctant poses with me trying out my Speedlight. The look on this face says, “Okay, but only if I can have my bunny here and don’t expect me to act happy about it.” But, OMG, she is darling, is she not? And the TTL flash settings worked great!

Kiah's First Reluctant Pose as Flash Test Doggie

Kiah’s First Reluctant Pose as Flash Test Doggie

 

Now, if I thought just a Speedlight was a challenge to get Kiah used to, the real challenge came when I started practicing with a Speedlight mounted on a light stand with an umbrella diffuser as a light modifier. That went over well (NOT)! But by this time, Kiah had learned that every willing session as Flash Test Doggie earns really special treats afterward! I love the soft diffused lighting in this test shot of Kiah. I was also pleased that I achieved the absence of a background shadow, giving me confidence to begin taking portraits of people.

Kiah Umbrella Diffuser Flash Test Doggie Shot

Kiah Umbrella Diffuser Flash Test Doggie Shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better still, I added a second Speedlight and a Lumiquest Softbox III to my practice sessions. Who better to test them out on before embarrassing myself in front of clients with gear I haven’t tested out yet? Needless to say, the multi-light stand umbrella and softbox sessions took lots of extra special treats, especially since I wanted to begin using off-camera lighting in outdoor portrait settings. I not only had to convince Kiah not to be afraid of the gear, but not to run off after a squirrel. The pet portrait below was taken just at dusk, using one Speedlight with an umbrella diffuser as the key light and a second Speedlight with the Lumiquest Softbox III for fill light. While this was early in my learning curve of using off-camera strobe lighting outdoors, I was still happy with this as an early attempt. What’s more, I was very impressed that Kiah not only wasn’t afraid, but she also didn’t run away, instead dutifully posing patiently, again with her signature crossed paws pose. She is the best Flash Test Doggie ever!

Flash Test Doggie with Two Speedlights & Modifiers Outdoors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lest anyone think that Kiah’s life is all work and no play, don’t worry for a minute. During all these months of her being a great Photo Assistant, I discovered that not only is Kiah a faithful PhotoTest Doggie, but she really has become that faithful “Heeler” like the puppy I’d seen hiking in Crested Butte back in 2009. She’ll stay with me and follow me anywhere in the backcountry. So throughout this time, we went on lots of day hikes and she was in heaven! Here is one of my favorite photos of her from one of our day hikes, an image processed with Photomatix Pro HDR using the Painterly effect. The result makes the scene look as surreal as I remember it. This is Kiah in her true glory, exploring in the backcountry!

Kiah Claims this Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiah got so great at being a backcounty adventure buddy that we began backpacking together in September 2011. She got her very own “Outward Hound” doggie backpack and carried her own food, bedding, and treats out into James Peak Wilderness for a two night adventure with me. She was so charming the entire trip, I could hardly stand it! Here is a shot a passerby took of the two of us together with my point-and-shoot camera.

Backpacking with Kiah in James Peak Wilderness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of a cuteness factor of epic proportions, I will forever treasure this photo of Kiah sleeping in our tent the second night of that backpacking trip. She is curled up with her toy “Rocky Raccoon” which she packed in herself, along with her bedding. No question, I got my faithful outdoor adventure buddy, and a precious buddy at that!

Kiah Happily Asleep in the Tent with Her Rocky Racoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Winter came, no need for the fun to end. Kiah discovered that she loves winter in the backcountry too. My “Heeler” truly will follow me anywhere, anytime, especially since she has a fondness for eating snow! We recently went on a cross country ski trip where I was testing out a new Lowepro adventure photography pack I got so I could start carrying pro camera gear on backcountry day trips. Kiah not only kept up even in the snow, she truly was a photo assistant on that trip. Okay, she can’t stand there holding a Speedlight with a Lumiquest Softbox, however, she can carry a Speedlight, plus both of our lunches in her “Outward Hound” backpack! This is just one photo from that trip. More to follow soon in my review of the Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW Photo Pack.

Kiah HIkes Along XC Skiing with Lowepro Photo Sport 200 AW Pack

Today, as I celebrate two years of having Kiah in my life, it is hard to imagine how I ever lived without her!

No, not just because she is more tolerant a Photo Test and Flash Test subject than any human I know would ever be. But I truly have gained an adventure buddy, a photography assistant, and most of all, the best friend I’ve ever had! What they say about dogs loving unconditionally is absolutely true.

Stay tuned for more adventures with Kiah, As Seen by Janine. 🙂

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15 Responses

  1. Allen Ogburn

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing this story. I want very much to meet your furry friend.

    March 26, 2012 at 5:46 am

    • Come on out! You’d totally love her (and Colorado)! I thought about you so much while writing that post. Of course there is so much more to tell about all the cute & super smart things she does, but this was targeted towards my photography experiences with her. Someday I’m going to expand the story as part of a book about a collection of Australian Cattle Dogs and their stories… Janine

      March 26, 2012 at 9:53 am

      • I would love for my ‘Kiah’ and our story to be a part of that book. It really would be amazing. We’re from Australia so would all have to be done over email, that’s if you would like our contribution 🙂
        Let me know if you would like our story 🙂 i would be more than happy to share
        xx

        August 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      • Cheryl Fronczek

        Janine,

        Hello and I love your story about life with Kiah! I can relate because I also have a Blue Heeler named Kiah! I started fostering after losing my Rott Osa and took in Kiah (named Twinkie by shelter) and that was it – I fell in love and could never imagine giving her up. She is about a year now and the sweetest and so much fun! I love your pictures and wish more than anything that Kiah and I could move to a place like that – so beautiful. What a lucky pup!

        Cheryl

        July 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

        • Dear Cheryl, I really enjoyed hearing from you. Your Kiah is lucky to have you – I love when I hear stories of fostering where the person falls in love with the dog so much they keep them. Where do you live? Also curious, how did you come across my blog and my post about me and my Kiah?

          July 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

          • Cheryl Fronczek

            Janine,

            I was surfing the web for info about training, behavior, etc. for Blue Heelers and for some reason I put in Kiah Blue Heeler and your site came up. I really loved your story and pictures! I can tell that you and your Kiah have a very special bond and I feel that way with my Kiah too. I’ve always had dogs and loved them but it’s different with Kiah – it’s like we really do understand each other and I am so lucky to have found her. I live ten miles outside of downtown Chicago and as you can imagine it’s not the ideal place for a dog like Kiah but I do my best. She goes to doggy daycare 3 times a week and has a ball playing with all the dogs and I’m told she doesn’t stop the whole time – she’s known affectionately there as “Crazy Kiah”. There’s a very small area of woods that I take her off leash to run but it’s pathetic compared to your pictures. I’ve been wanting to move for so long to Colorado or Utah but it’s scary thing when your on your own but more and more I’m realizing that staying where your not happy is even more scary! I wish I could send you a picture of Kiah but I don’t think I can attach it here – she is really beautiful.
            Cheryl

            July 26, 2013 at 5:47 am

          • Cheryl, I’d love for you to send me a photo of your Kiah. I had also sent you a direct email message using the email you listed with your comment. Check your email on @live.com to see if maybe my email ended up in your SPAM folder. You can reply to my email and attach a photo. Or if you don’t find my email, send an email to me using the “Contact” page on this blog, using whatever email address you prefer me to contact you with.

            Then we can communicate further & you’ll be able to send me a photo of your Kiah. I’d love to have it and post it sometime in a follow up story. I’m also collecting stories and contacts for inclusion in the book about Cattle Dogs I plam to write someday. So it would be good for us to communicate directly.

            Funny your mention of the doggie day care calling your dog “Crazy Kiah” ~ I’m learning it is kind of a universal Blue Heeler trait. The first vet appointment after I rescued my Kiah, the vet said, “Oh, you have one of these CRAZY cattle dogs!” Didn’t take me long to learn why she’d said that. They really are a little crazy, but it’s a good kind of crazy! They are also the smartest and most loyal breed I’ve ever known.

            I would also would love to communicate more with you about getting brave enough to move to CO or UT, or anywhere else your heart desires. I’ll tell you this for now – I moved here from the East Coast as a single mom, raising a child with autism on her own… And yeah it was a bit scary, but nowhere near as scary as staying in a place where I truly was not happy. Best choice I ever made! I set my intention on making the move work and then made it happen. I just found a quotation today I will share with you: “I dwell in possibility.” ~ by Emily Dickinson. Good way to live!

            Email me soon! Janine

            July 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm

  2. You can set up your very own DIY pet monitoring system by using any simple, off-the-shelf webcam. Even old, unused ones that you may have lying around will work. Decide on the number of cameras you wish to set-up (usually – one in every room that your pet may walk around in, with a maximum of 4 cameras). Once you’re done with this, use a webcam software like GotoCamera that’s easily available on the internet. Some of them even offer a basic version of this service for free. By paying a bit more ( usually, not more than $4 a month), you will get a whole bunch of added benefits such as motion detection, email alerts, mobile alerts, etc.

    July 19, 2012 at 10:11 am

    • I have often believed it would be really fun to monitor Kiah when I’m away. When I come home, it is funny trying to retrace her day by seeing her paw tracks in the carpet and places she’s moved toys. What I really need is a service that firmly says, “That is a NO NO!” the next time she tries to eat yet another (4th) remote control, (yes, she really has eaten three – two TIVO remotes and a DVD remote.) I watch movies while eating late dinners so the remotes smell like food & sometimes I forget to put them up on the shelf… 😉

      July 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

  3. OMG I have an Australian Cattle Dog named Kiah, she was a rescue dog as well, adopted her from the RSPCA 3 years ago. I think the name is fitting considering Australia is such a beautiful place. Aren’t they just the most loyal and clever dogs? You should drop by and meet my fur baby Kiah 😀
    xx

    http://live-love-laugh-interiordesign.blogspot.com.au/

    August 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    • Dayna,

      I smiled so much when I found your comment. It never ceases to amaze me when my blog posts reach people all over the world. Just out of curiosity, just how did you come across my post? I’m really curious to know you you found it.

      It especially warmed my heart to hear from someone who also has rescued an Australian Cattle Dog “fur kid” named Kiah, let alone someone who actually lives in Australia! I’d love if I could drop by and meet your fur baby “for real” since Australia and New Zealand are my top “dream destinations” I wish to travel to for an extended period of time someday. Not able to anytime soon that I can see though.

      Your mention of the Australian Cattle Dog book project has re-inspired me to pursue the project, which at this point has really just been an idea. I have collected the names of a few people with Cattle Dogs I wish to photograph and tell their story in the book. I’d be wonderful if one of those stories was my Kiah’s “soul sister” in the land down under! I would love to hear more about her and about you – I loved reading your story on your blog and would love to stay in touch, so that as I get going with this book project, your story can be included! I have sent you a direct email so that you can have my direct email to stay in touch.

      Hugs & Licks,
      Janine & Kiah in Colorado!

      August 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

  4. James Kaufman

    Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Australian Cattle Dog Community? Our members will love it.
    Members include: ACD Owners, Breeders, Trainers, Rescues and Lovers.
    It’s easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website…
    You can also add Photos, Videos, Rescues and Classifieds if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Australian Cattle Dog Community: http://www.vorts.com/australian_cattle_dogs/
    Thanks,
    James Kaufman, Editor

    September 14, 2012 at 6:42 am

  5. Melissa Drake

    Came across your blog – LOVE Kiah!!!! I am a long time Cattle Dog junkie (I am on my 6th rescue), blue females are my favorite and they are the BEST outdoor buddies. My one and only Sam was my constant companion while completing my graduate research in wildlife nutrition. She would help me find samples in the field and although never trained as a conservation detection dog, i just had to show her what i was looking for one time and she was off to work! We would hike and camp for days, then she would loyally hang out in the lab with me till the wee morning hours while i worked. I will forever miss her! They are so loyal and incredibly smart. As to leashes, if you spend lots of time with them seriously leashes are NOT required. Glad Kiah found such a wonderful home! She is absolutely beautiful!

    March 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    • Melissa, So cool hearing about your experiences with Sam. Everything you mentioned truly sounds like all I’ve learned about Blue Heelers, from my now three years of life with Kiah. They truly are the smartest breed of dogs I have ever encountered! Janine

      March 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

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