Good old dogs are not forgotten
Zonneveld preserves memories of precious pooches before they pass
Pauline Zonneveld created sort of a Valhalla for dogs with her photo exhibit this past April at the West Linn Public Library.
In a large room just off to the left of the main entrance, the West Linn resident placed many splendid portraits of dogs. Wonderful in themselves, these photos are made even more poignant because all of the dogs pictured are now gone. They once made this world a better place. But Zonnevelds unique mission is to preserve sweet memories of those dogs with the people who loved them.
Her effort is called the Good Old Dog Project, and one way Zonneveld had of finding what a great impact she was having came from reading the guest book in the library gallery room.
People leave notes that bring tears to my eyes, she said. They break my heart and make me smile at the same time.
Zonneveld started her project because of a lost opportunity.
I had moved to a new neighborhood and there was this old, old dog I fell in love with, she said. It was wintertime, so I thought I would wait until spring to take its photos. But in the meantime it passed away. I promised that I would never let that happen to me again.
Immediately, Zonneveld started contacting pet shops and spreading by word of mouth the message that she wanted to take photos of elderly dogs. She not only had a passion but a profession.
A native of the Netherlands, Zonneveld was already a proficient amateur photographer from her many travels around the world with her husband, Tom Hooker. As she put it, My camera was my friend. I loved photography for 20 years.
Zonneveld had already earned masters degrees in cultural science and Asian studies. Yet she knew she could be happy as a pro photographer, and she was so right.
There was one more major reason for this major milestone in Zonnevelds life. Five years ago, she became a dog lover herself.
I got a golden doodle named Maggie, Zonneveld said. Before, I had no idea what it meant to have a dog and experience the love, time, commitment and also the friendship with other dog lovers. Now I cant imagine life without Maggie.
Now, Zonneveld knows exactly how other dog owners feel when they contact her about doing a portrait of their pet.
I want to give them something they can laugh or cry about, Zonneveld said. People want to remember their dog at their best. When you take a photo its a matter of patience and time to get the best out of them. I want to commemorate them and show why they were so special to the people that loved them. Ive seen tears and laughter from big men who come in here.
Some dog owners call Zonneveld in plenty of time. Her oldest dog model was 19 years old, and she encounters many older dogs in vigorous health. Perhaps her most satisfying experiences, though, come when she is able to photograph a dog that is near death.
There was this Siberian husky that was 13 years old, Zonneveld said. We were able to make something gorgeous out of it. Its life still shines through.
Humor is a big part of what Zonneveld brings to her dog portraits, like one of a malamute howling and another of a dog who was wearing a sweater after having lost much of its fur.
There is one more touch that makes the portraits even more special. Each one is accompanied by a haiku a saying or proverb that illustrates some quality the dog had in life, such as a memory of a favorite day or an anecdote.
As Zonneveld said, Something that will make you laugh or cry out loud. The combination of a haiku and a photo is a winner.
Besides her intense photographic endeavors, Zonneveld is busy spreading the word about her project. It is set for another exhibition at Umpqua Bank in Tualatin and she is looking for more venues.
Its important to spread the word, Zonneveld said. People tell me, If I had only known about this. I lost a dog last week. Its important that people know what I do.
To learn more about the Good Old Dog Project, go to paulinephotography.com, or call 503-347-7842.
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