For the ten months before I departed last year for points west I worked as a volunteer with Oldies But Goodies Cocker Spaniel Rescue, a wonderful group of people centered in and around the Greater Washington, DC area and completely devoted to rescuing animals that have, for a variety of reasons, lost their humans and then placing them through adoption into new ‘forever’ homes.


As the name of the group implies, OBG focuses it attention on Cocker Spaniels. But it also handles quite a few ‘honorary’ Cockers. OBG is far from the only rescue organization operating in the DC area but it is certainly one of the more productive, placing in a good year as many as 150 dogs into new homes. Many of them retrieved from kill shelters where, had they not been adopted within 72 hours, faced almost certain death.


These are domesticated animals bred specifically to serve as pets for humans. Pets are not toys that can, once their perceived value diminishes, be dumped on the nearest trash heap or passed on to charitable organizations. Or worse dropped at a kill shelter and three days later stuffed into a gas chamber. The yeoman work that OBG and its sister organizations around the country do to stem this tide is admirable but tides are, as you well know, unstoppable. No amount of work will ever be enough to save all these wonderful animals. Still, we try. There is no other way. We humans are all they have. It’s our responsibility, having bred them as our friends and servants and members of our family, to care for them lifelong.


I really loved working with OBG and a couple of other rescue that operate in the area. I wasn’t torn by the years-long human relationships I was leaving behind when I hit the road. I’m not much of a personal, one-on-one type anyway so I knew that keeping in touch via social networks and the like would suffice for my purposes to maintain the connections. But in the few months I’d been a volunteer with OBG I had grown more than a little fond of the dogs whose care came my way.

I fostered half a dozen and fell in love with one, YoYo. I transported dozens from shelters and vets facilities and specialized care offices and between foster homes and to weekend dog shows and at least one to a new (and hopefully) forever home. And I photographed them when I could, trying to get them to put there best face forward since many people initially select their new companions from our group and those like us on the basis of the images we place on the web. It’s not a beauty contest but it always helps to make a good first impression.

Unfortunately I couldn’t continue with this service to the animals and fulfill my agenda, so I had to leave it behind. It hurt to do that. I know I was filling a big need, especially with the long haul transports that are difficult to find volunteers to support. I am happy that I did what I could while I was here. And it was great to get back just in time for the annual Cocker Cruise fundraiser and get to reunite with a ton of dogs and a half-dozen or more of my fav volunteer friends.

Other than that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do much else until I got a call about Clancy and a request to do a shoot for him. I don’t know his full story but Clancy came in from somewhere dragging a leg broken in several places which had gone untreated long enough for the bones to begin to reknit themselves. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The vets – without whose support the rescue group would be hard-pressed to do its job – took Clancy in tow and came up with a fix that in time will have him back to near normal. (I know from personal experience with a crushed heel that near is about as far as it goes.)

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It was not an inexpensive fix, even with the huge discounts we routinely receive from the vets, running several thousand dollars. OBG never hesitates to underwrite these   – and a long list of similarly complex and costly operations and treatments – and subsequently relies on fundraising to source the cost. (If you ever wondered about the adoption fees the rescues impose you’d have only to look at the healthcare costs they foot to understand the situation.)

Fundraisers require promotion. So I got the opportunity to engage with Clancy at Crosspointe Vet in Fairfax Station this morning to capture some images for a promotional campaign on his behalf. Another vol will fold these into a story and present them on the web through various channels. I think the goal is to raise the $4000 surgical and rehab fee.


I have to say that when I walked into Crosspointe this morning I expected to find a despondent mutt whose head would need holding up for the camera. I mean, how would you feel after that experience? I could not have been further off the mark. His head did have to be held a bit – but only to slow him down for a shot. Clancy is one energetic dog who seemed to laugh at the apparatus attached to his leg to keep the bones in place while he heals. I found just looking at the thing painful but apparently Clancy is made of tougher material than I am. With help from Niza, the vet tech, we got some decent photos. It helped that Clancy is very photogenic. I also made an attempt at a video using the Canon 7D but cinematography really isn’t my game. I get another chance at that when Clancy goes for a post-op check up on the 20th. I think I’ll even get to try my hand at doing an interview with the vet. The better I do my part the greater the possibilities Clancy will find a new human to take care of soon. Humans are much more in need of this type of care than they either realize or perhaps are willing to admit.


You might have noted by now that Clancy is also one our honorary Cocker Spaniels – well, he sort of has Cocker ears. He’s a mixed breed of some origin but I think you have to grant him handsome. A very happy animal begging for affection and yearning to return the favor. September 11 is a National Day of Service in US. I am so very pleased to have gotten the chance to fulfill the pledge.

The Clancy video – uncut and unedited – may be viewed by clicking here.

The Clancy stills gallery may be reached by clicking here


Oldies But Goodies

I had the good fortune to become connected with the Oldies But Goodies Cocker Spaniel Rescue group a little less than a year ago and have counted that association among the myriad blessings I’ve been presented with these last few years since Ruth’s passing. Allow me to explain.

Memories and other material and immaterial possessions aside Ruth also left me the sole human-in-charge of the four dogs we included in our household – maybe it was the other way ’round: two American Eskimos (Gracie and Ruby) and two Cocker Spaniels (Corkie and Jake).  For two years we rattled around inside a house that, lacking Ruth, her company, the kids, frequent visitors and the like, had become increasingly overlarge for our needs and overbearing on my daily existence.  The one major advantage it offered  was a comfortable, fenced back yard that allowed the pups to wander at will while I was off at work but over time the emoional and financial budens this luxury imposed began to weigh rather heavily. So I began to toy with the idea of selling the house.

But where to go?

The first solution to come to mind was a large motorhome to house and transport the band. We investigated. Not a good idea. Still the movement to divest the house progressed and eventually occurred and we needed a place to hang our leashes. One of my rental condo tenants saved the day by deciding to move out and buy a house, thereby providing us with shelter in the process.

But – I concluded that the four of us (Gracie had died the previous year) would not fit into this new space and agonized over the prospect of giving up one of the animals. First off, which one? Ruby the Eskimo was the natural answer since Jake and Corkie, though not a bonded pair – far from it – were brothers; we had taken them from the same litter 5 years earlier. But when I mentioned my dilemma to our longtime housekeeper she beamed and volunteered to adopt Corkie, long her favorite.  And this allowed Jake and Ruby and I to occupy the condo on Ivystone Court.

It was comfortable and even though we all missed the backyard for slightly different reasons, there were plenty of trails to walk and we adjusted. Then the wanderlust set in and my nomad period began to emerge. I tried to include the dogs but for various reasons not the least of which was Jake vomiting about every 25 miles – it didn’t work and finding and financing dog-sitters became overwhelming. So I called upon the Eskie Rescue League to find a new home for Ruby – she moved to Long Island and then agonized over Jake. Of all the animals Jake was mine. I had selected him from the litter and spent more time with him, and vice versa – than the others. He was more than just my favorite. I didn’t know what to do.

A friend brought Oldies But Goodies Cocker Spaniel rescue to my attention and after a check of the group I contacted them. When Ruby left for Long Island I was happy for her and for her new human but the day it came for Jake to leave was near heartbreaking. I walked him out to the awaiting SUV and Lisa, the group transporter that day, and tearfully handed him over. It was pure hell; I was more or less bathed in a sense of guilt and self-loathing. Shortly thereafter I set off for what has become a veritable continuous road-trip. But I have had periods of being back in the Northern Virginia area and last December I contacted OBG and asked if I could in some manner be of service. They welcomed the inquiry and put me to work as a foster, a show handler and a transporter and over the next several months I got to take care of half a dozen dogs – including YoYo who I fell in love with – and to do photography on their behalf. That included fundraising events and the big one for me was the Annual Cocker Cruise. I got back from this latest road trip just in time to photograph this year’s cruise also and to reconnect with this energetic group of volunteers.

So, feast your eyes on a slice of what happened when 60-some Cockers and their humans assembled to cruise the Potomac from Alexandria to Georgetown and back on the 22 August.

Click on the Pic to be transported to the entire gallery.



Sunday Morning Maxwell


Taken at Woodwinds Condos

The Perfect Guest


KC the Cocker Spaniel – She’s a wonderful companion. And a great road-tripper.